Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Year-end thoughts

As a writer (in my own way), I can’t help but try and put some year-end thoughts down on paper. This year could write a book by itself. I’ve traveled more than 30 thousand miles in my little yellow beetle, and if only I could quantify the emotional, intellectual, and spiritual journeys 2008 has taken me on, I’m sure it would amount to a number greater than the miles my odometer states in my car.
I’ve attempted several times to write something about this past year. As I am rarely brief and short winded, the endeavor has often led into a haphazard rambling mess. So to keep it readable, I’m just going to go for a few lessons learned.

On Passion

Passion is unpredictable, and can lead you to many different places, it can be volatile, jealous, and self-seeking, yet God given. It must be held in an open palm, but not let loose. Somewhere in 2008, I realized I had neglected my passion. In an effort to remember what it was I found myself driving across the country to spend another summer in eastern Michigan. It wasn’t until the end of the summer on a road trip where I found myself in Atlanta, GA that I reclaimed that passion and found the peace to come back home to San Francisco.

On Faith

Faith is yet another intangible that is more easily misplaced than expected. I spent a greater part of the year nursing the wounds that can sadly come with sharing faith in a community. While God is unchanging, people do not have that privilege. Even though I left my church, I can thankfully say I did not leave God. Unfortunately, bitterness settled into my wounds, and my relationship with God and the church as a whole suffered. There came a dark moment that scared the beejeezees out of me, when I realized that losing faith and my relationship with God wasn’t about leaping off the deep end, but rather small quiet steps. Thankfully the end of 2008 saw more steps towards God than away. My bitterness has edged off (I’m not very good at holding grudges for too long), and I’m reclaiming my faith.

On People

People come in and out of our lives. They just do. Sometimes, for better or for worse, people leave when you least expect them to. Other times, people stay when you wish they would just go away. And again, other times you get to do the coming and going. I did a lot of coming and going this year. So, in this moment I’m going to apologize to those who I left. There are a few people I couldn’t have made it through some painful times without, and I don’t think I took nearly enough time in letting them know how much they meant to me. Thank you for being there, and I’m sorry if I didn’t let you know at the time. With that said, I could say something similar (perhaps without the apology) for people who have come into my life this year. God does not leave you high and dry. He created us for relationship, so I’m sure it’s no mistake, as some go, others come.

I think that’s as brief as I can get for 2008. I’m looking forward to 2009 – the changes, the challenges, the triumphs, and the growth.

I hope everyone has (or had) a safe new years eve.

Monday, December 22, 2008

ramblings from your daughter across the ocean

This morning I read a facebook note by a teen that I had the opportunity to work with this summer. Tomorrow, the 23rd is the 11th anniversary of his father's death. 44 years young, just a year younger than my dad currently is. He states, "All I know, is that life is pathetically short." I don't know if this is what finally tipped my need to get in contact with my dad, but it struck something deep. So in honor of the memory of his father, and the memories I don't have with my living father, I wanted to share the email I wrote to my dad.

Hey Dad,

So you've come up a few times in my conversations with friends as of late, so I figured I should drop you a line, and let you know I've been thinking about you. The problem is, every time I get the urge to call or write you, I never really know quite what to say. It's always such a long time between the times that we communicate.
This past Wednesday my friends and I were celebrating Advent and we lit the candle of Joy. A friend of mine asked us to share joyful moments, and beyond small moments of joy for the week, I though of the first visit I had back to England when I was 15. It was such a difficult trip, emotionally. I was so angry at how poorly our relationship had been for the first 7 years I'd been living in the states, and I really wanted some resolution. From our conversations over the weeks that I was there, I gained a sense of anticipatory joy. Maybe not joy in the moment, but the hope of future joy in a possible relationship with my dad. I realized as I shared that story with my friends on Wednesday, that some of that hope and joy had fizzled out. We are so horrible and keeping up with each other, and honestly, I don't know what a relationship with you looks like. I feel like the whole father-daughter relationship that kids expect is unrealistic for us to have. Then again, the whole grown child and father relationship doesn't work well for us either, because I don't really know you. Again, neither of us are really good at keeping up with each other.
Sorry if this is completely out of left field (baseball terminology), but I thought I should share my feelings with you... since, well... you're the other party involved. With all of that said, I thought it might make sense to let you know what's going on in my little piece of the world. So here goes...

The next two pages consisted of a long rambled monologue of my current life in San Francisco, which I will spare those who end up reading this.

Life, on this earth feels "pathetically short" sometimes. There are days that I don't want to face the broken relationships that exist in my reachable reality. However, there are days, and people that remind me of the preciousness of life and no mater how messy relationships get, God created us to be in them. Yesterday, we lit the fourth candle of Advent symbolizing love. Hope, peace, joy and love for the coming celebration of the birth of Christ.

It is in this very moment, that I'm starting to grasp onto an idea of what the Christmas season could possibly mean. While I push against what Christmas has become, and the strangeness of all our many traditions. It pulls deeply on my soul that celebrating the birth (even though it's not really at the right time) of an unsuspecting saviour that didn't quite fit the idea of the Messiah in that time, is a powerful and sacred thing.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What's your focus?

“In my thinking, church doesn’t exist for the benefit of its members. It exists to equip it’s members for the benefit of the world.”

-Brian McLaren, A New Kind of Christian

This quote might just incapsulate my greatest struggle with the church right now. Sadly, it is not my only frustration – but a big one. The thing is, how is this measured? Can one church equip one person and not another?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

election night

I will post more at a more reasonable time, because 6am comes too fast and I do need to sleep at some point in the very near future. Tonight was a moment in history that no one can take back. America has elected an African American as their president. The words he spoke were beautiful and awe inspiring. I hope even those who did not choose to vote for him, could hear the passion and drive he has for this country. Not to mention, the beauty that surrounded him. Each person listening to him in person, had their opportunity to view history in the making. I felt it while sitting in my living room surrounded by 8 teenage boys, my coworkers, and the volunteer tutors. The adults, more so than the teens let the reality of what was happening soak into us slowly. Most of us, admittedly had tears in our eyes. The teens whooped it up by encouraging people through the windows - even buses honked their horns.

I'd attempt to sleep at this point, but I live so close to one of the biggest epicenters of the controversial California Prop 8 that helicopters haven't stopped covering the area since 9pm.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Church buildings

From the pages of my journal 10/29/08

When I was a young child, about five or six, my mom allowed my neighbors fro across the street to take me to church with them. It wasn't too far, maybe two or three blocks. It was a big, old Methodist church, at least that's how I remember it. For all I know it could have been small and quaint. I have fond memories that almost feel like dreams now, of playing hide and seek after service - usually opting to hid under the choir pews, or up in the raised lectern thing. This church I've decided, was also where my love for coffee came about. Without fail, coffee and tea were available in the back of the sanctuary after service. As I wasn't accompanied by an adult I could have my fill of either beverage. Since tea was regularly available with my babysitter, Audrey, I drank coffee at church. Though it could hardly be called coffee after all the sugar and cream I poured in.
From what I can remember, I was greatly loved at that church, and I'm sure they made every attempt at seeking out my mother. She came once, when I received a Precious Moments Bible, and a copy of Lucy Atwells' first book of prayers - keepsakes I have long since lost track of. My last memories of that church are captured in photos I have somewhere at my mom's house. A few weeks before I turned eight I had a combined Birthday and going away party in the basement, that was used as a multipurpose room, just a week or so before I moved to America. I've never been back since. That was a little over 16 years ago. 2/3 of my life.

I am reminded of those memories as I lay on the ground of the chapel in my house. It might be the smell that brought them, but I think it has more to do with the dark wood pews and ornate furniture that you would typically find in Catholic, or old traditional churches.
Funnily enough, my first thought as I took in the view from my low vantage point (laying on the ground of slightly raised but carpeted "stage"... is it called a stage in a church?), was where I could hide easter eggs in this room.
It's strange that I don't feel the same way towards the ornateness of old chapels, churches and cathedrals as I do about the more modern ornateness of newer, "high tech" churches. In the beauty of old churches, I see the attempt of humans trying to create an alter o the Lord. The painted tiles, stained glass windows, decorative wall hangings, and carefully carved wood fittings. Each an attempt to please the Lord. However, I am not disillusioned enough to believe that this was the soul purpose, or was it? Were these beautiful things added to draw more people to the church, to attract the purses of the wealthy. To make them more marketable?
What was the original purpose of the church? Was it to be a place that people came to list? When I wa about the church I suppose I mean the church as a building. Was it the result of Christians regularly gathering in the same location for the purpse of corporately worshiping God, praying for each other, and having the opportunity to catch up with the neighbor that lived a little too far away to see on a regular basis? Was it meant to represent the Jewish temple? Did it become a place where those who sought out shelter, food, or an ear, could find what they were looking for?

When did churches slowly start drifting away from that? When did they start closing their doors at night? Was it because they we're being vandalized, or did the vandalism occur because they closed their doors? When did we forget what Jesus said and did for the poor, the meek, the downtrodden? Yet as a body, most of us quickly become uncomfortable when an unbathed man walks into the sanctuary. We grow frustrated that our pastor spends more time helping people that come to his door from the "outside" seeking help, than the time he spends preparing for his/her Sunday morning sermon. Maybe, just maybe, his/her service to others is one of the ways he prepares his heart for Sunday.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The love experiement

This week I joined the love-daily experiment facebook group that fellow blogger Missio Dei is conducting with his emergent cohort (sort of like a Christian small group, or for those InterVarsity readers, an intense GIG) over in Sac-town. The task is simple in words, but in practice can be hard to execute. The idea is to "commit to not going to bed for the day until we intentionally loved our neighbor."

It is day two, and I'm already struggling. However as I was discussing with a friend last night, I don't think struggling is always negative. I'm struggling because I recognize the difficulty in the task. Even in the small things, like when I go to mental curse the drivers that keep parking their cars partially in front of our driveway when I'm trying to back out the minivan. Is that love? I quickly lose patience with the teens after they've hurt my feelings and continue to push boundaries. Out of my frustration with them I didn't cook a warm breakfast for them this morning, instead I put milk and cereal out. Is that the best way to love them?

Often times it is easier for me to show kindness and love to a complete stranger than it is to a friend that's getting on my nerves, or a person that has hurt me in the past. I don't think I'm alone in this sentiment. It's acknowledge by Jesus that it's an easy task to love the ones who love you back. My thought is that strangers haven't given you a reason not to love you, so it makes it easier in a way. Even if it's uncomfortable because they may not be as clean or as socially accepted I can grasp onto my understanding of Jesus and his love for people. People who have hurt me, however, it takes some serious effort.

It's a familiar passage, "The Good Samaritan," in Luke, along with the concept of Loving your enemies, from Matthew 5. I wish I could say I do an excellent job, but I don't. If nothing else participating in intentionally loving others, will continually remind me to think before I speak, or at least reflect after.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

a quick thought on pain

Life hurts sometimes. It just does. We have found so many ways to try and escape the pain, to avoid the inevitable sting it brings. We wreathe beneath its weight, wishing to be numb. Yet when numbness comes we long to feel again. A part of our soul breaks, I think, when we pull away, and avoid our pain. So often we long to feel only the goodness of life, the joy, the hope, the love, the kindness. We rebuke anything that could pull or tear at those moments. Rightly so! Yet, it is important to acknowledge that so much of our pain is caused by those who we deeply love, those that we put hope in, those that kindness should be given and received in abundance. Our pain comes from missed steps, forgotten hope, and unspoken words. Pain is part of human being. Avoid it and we slowly lose who we are, live in it and the same occurs.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A confession

Sometimes I forget that Jesus actually lived.

I know that's a pretty basic concept in all that is Christianity, but honestly to slips my mind. I'm not sure it has more to do with always acknowledging that Jesus was much more than just a man, or if it was the plain old miraculousness of his life, or just the sad reality that there is this underlying perception in my surrounding culture that maybe Jesus didn't even exist. Blasphemous, I know, but who hasn't run into somebody who simply refuses to believe that Jesus even walked on this earth? With those three ideas swirling around in my atmosphere, I tend to get caught in perceiving Jesus as a very intangible magical person - a bit like Peter Pan or Frodo Baggins. Sometime Jesus becomes merely an archetype.

These past four weeks I've spent looking at the Gospels with a group of people who basically want to relearn who and what Jesus was in a historical context, without over spiritualizing it and trying our best to put aside our preconceived notions and beliefs. Each Sunday night we get together and discuss what we saw, and what it could have meant (again, in a historical context). I confess that though my intention was always to read the whole gospel before Sunday night, it never happened. Needless to say, that meant I usually missed a big chunk of the death, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Granted, we usually discussed this in the group, but I never personally read through it.

It wasn't until I sat down in my usual spot at Starbucks this morning, and read through a few of the last chapters in a few of the gospels that I remembered, rather I again acknowledged, that Jesus was real in the flesh and blood sort of way. While he was more than that, he was human.

My moment of realizing that Jesus did live was as I read John 19. The conflict between the "Jewish officials," and Pilate, for some reason, made it real. The back and forth conversation as to whose responsibility it was to kill Jesus and the position that Pilate was caught in, being a roman official juggling an angry mob, Roman authority, and the claims of Jesus' identity. helped me see Jesus as a man. For me, Jesus came to life through Pilate's eyes. A very stressed out Pilate.

My Sunday experience part 1

Honestly, I've dreading going to church lately. In fact this past Sunday, after a two week hiatus (it might have been three), I finally forced myself to go to church. I went to a church I used to attend a couple years ago, and found a seat up in the balcony. I'm not sure how other churches with balconies operate, but the only reasons I find to sit in the balcony is because your: a) running late and all the seats in the main sanctuary are taken, or b) you don't really want to "engage" with people. I fell into the second category this week. I didn't want to smile and shake people's hands with the knowledge that neither of us knew each others name two years ago and neither of us will remember the other's name tomorrow.

In part that was one of the reasons I ended up leaving that church. It was too big, and I couldn't come to terms that I wasn't part of the community of people that I would sit next to on Sunday morning. I loved the sermons, they were relevant, and usually challenged me personally. I enjoyed the group of people that I got to know through smaller ministries that they had, but I found myself sitting next to different people every week. Shaking hands, smiling, sitting down, listening, and leaving every week.

I feel awful feeling this way towards a church. A church that is so good at drawing people in and connecting them with other people in the community - a church that really manages to be inviting to outsiders and personally challenging for "the regulars." Yet for some reason, I never truly felt comfortable amidst the high tech lighting and sound. This week I found myself looking at a flat screen monitor just above my head wondering how many meals that could make. Then, looking at the spiffy new card stock bulletins with the perforated edge that attached to the "guest card," and thinking about how many fall into the trash can on the way out.

It would be easy for me to say I have no choice in feeling the way I do. These are my personal feelings, that have been birthed out of many other experiences that have shaped my faith and understanding of the church. I wish that, on Sundays like last Sunday, I could simply walk into a church and enjoy it for what it is - that I didn't look up at flat screens or hold the bulletin and think about the money they spend on it. Perhaps these are reasons why I've pulled away from a more traditional idea of church, and why I haven't found a church to commit to since my sad departure from my previous church (not the one I attended on Sunday). Perhaps it is the reason why I find myself sitting on the floor of an apartment on Sunday evenings discussing Jesus' life through the gospels in a historical context, instead of over spiritualizing it and creating a Jesus that didn't even exist.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Still alive and thinking

... Just having a difficult time getting those thoughts onto paper.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

You chose to be Christian?

Not too many hours ago I was sitting in my kitchen of my job that I'm about to leave (which I chose not to), playing cards with a co-worker. The topic of High School extra curricular activities came up. After rambling off everything that didn't have to do with church (mostly because I'm afraid to be overbearing in my faith) I finally mumbled, "and then after I became a Christian I got pretty involved in church stuff."
To my surprise, it surprised him. He was surprised that I chose to be a Christian. It wasn't something that was forced upon me, nor was it something that I grew up in (however that's up for debate, as I went to school in England when I was a younger child). Christianity, for me, never really had any obligations or family ties like he felt his Jewish faith did.
I suppose what really surprised me about his reaction, was that in my circle of Christian friends, it's almost 50/50 for those of us who grew up in Christian home and went to church regularly, and those who somehow managed to end up in the foyer of a church, scratching their head thinking, "Ummm how did I get here?" I fall into the latter.

(Maybe I'll finish this thought later).

Friday, September 19, 2008


I am a human doing
I am a human did
I am a human going to do
I struggle with being

Being implies that I simply am. Being does not allow me to impress you or anyone with what I can do, or disappoint with what I can't.

You know what I think? I think God let us call ourselves human beings for that exact reason. We can't do anything but be to be loved by Him.

I wonder though, where does love come into it? If I'm talking about being and more so about God, love sounds like it should enter into the picture.

Now love is tricky because I have it in my mind that we show people love with our actions, but that would be doing. Can I simply be love?? I don't think so, I think that would imply that I am God.

Perhaps it's a matter of reflecting. Reflections are much clearer if what they are being reflected in is still. So, would it make sense, to allow God's love to reflect off of us by simply being who He created us to be, rather than doing all the time?

I think it's too late for me to be wandering down this train of though.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sometimes easy isn't easy

Today, I turned in my resignation in a job that I just started. To me it sounds thoughtless and irresponsible, and I suppose in a way it is. In this moment I feel awful and afraid. Awful because I have let people down, afraid because I might have made the wrong decision.
Scared because all of a sudden the bottom has dropped out beneath me. Suddenly I know exactly where my God is, and I have been too stubborn to turn around and look him in the eye.
In reality I try so hard to do things by myself, like a stubborn child who hasn't figured out how to tie her shoes. No mater how hard I try by myself to live my life I get it all knotted up or get no where at all.
Today I feel all knotted up in the midst of no where at all. And as much as it hurts, I'm ok because I have started to realize where my priorities are and where they should be.
With that said, it is time to simply sit on my hands, shut my mouth and listen.

Sometimes the easy way turns out more difficult. Sometimes opportunities that are placed in your path are simply distractions in pretty wrapping paper.

**Update: I ended up not leaving this job**


There were really only two kind of days of the week I did not like lifeguarding this summer. The first was clearly the last shift. The last shift of the week meant cleaning the bath/changing rooms. It wasn't even so much of cleaning than it was keeping others on task so you didn't end up doing it all yourself. The second type of day was the first day of the camp session. While the first day had it's positive aspects - excited kids, and refreshed counselors - it also meant it was the day that I was most likely going to have to jump in.
You see kids (especially younger ones), generally get overly excited. Mixing over excitement and water that goes above their head is rarely yields good results. More often than not this equation equals what I, and the rest of the lifeguards this summer, referred to as "bobbers." Bobbers are kids that find themselves in water too deep to stand in (either from accidentally drifting, or jumping into deeper water). Once this occurs bobbers will bounce up and down trying to stay afloat, or in some cases not even recognize that they are in any sort of danger. At that time, with a mild sense of frustration yet overwhelmed by compassion and adrenaline, I or a fellow lifeguard, would have to jump in and get the kid to safety. Once at the side of the pool, our job was to make sure the child was ok, and send them on their merry way. More often than not we would point out a visual marker for the kid to stay on the other side of when they were playing in the pool. Usually it was the bathroom door or the ladder. A few more times than I'd hoped, I found myself having to tell or pull the same child into shallow water more than once.

Upon coming back home to look for a job, I can't help but feel a little more compassion for the child I had to pull out of deep water more than once. After all, isn't that what God does for us when we jump into things too soon, or make decisions based on the wrong premise? Or just blatantly ignore his direction.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Home to the fog... and a bit about gravy

I suppose it would have been wise to at least mention that I was going to be without regular internet access nor have sufficient time to truly sit down and write something meaningful this summer. However like many wise thoughts I have, they tend to get lost somewhere between my mind and my mouth (in this case my fingers).

So where have I been? Well I've been in Michigan working at the same summer camp I worked at in 2006 (the summer before I started this blog). I'm not sure if I mentioned that I was going or not, or what led me to go, but that's where I was. Without going into a long drawn out (and probably boring) account of my summer (which in reality wasn't boring at all), I will just leave it up to my current affairs to bring up thoughts and stories from my summer at camp.

This past week back in San Francisco has come in short eventful spurts, most of which had to do with being a tour guide to a friend of mine from Russia (a fellow camp worker). I think we managed to see most of San Francisco, including Alcatraz (one of my top five favorite national parks in the US), Pacifica, and the Redwoods, all in a matter of 4 days. *Note* so I said short bursts but really, it's been a pretty busy week in hindsight* In the midst of being a tour guide, and seriously considering applying to work at Alcatraz (found out I couldn't due to my lack of US citizenship), I was trying to secure a job. An organization had been courting me since I haphazardly gave them a cut and past copy of my resume with my contact information, before I started my week long road trip back to CA from MI. I honestly wasn't all that interested in the position, but I figured it would be a good opportunity to get into the swing of all things business casual and interview-y. After a few brief phone calls, and a 30 minute phone interview, I was invited for a four hour interview and observation... yes four hours!

After going over the job duties and organization history, I was asked to observe and interact with the teens and staff if I felt comfortable. As I'm not one to just sit and/or stand in the way, I asked if I could help with anything, and that's when the gravy came in. The woman who I would be stepping in for simply threw it out there "Hey do you know how to make gravy??" Now growing up in a family that takes their holiday meals more seriously than the reason we observe them, there was at least one thing I knew how to cook, and it happened/happens to be gravy. For some reason I was usually tasked with stirring the gravy, and making the whipped cream at most family functions. Needless to say, I was glad to have a task but a little nervous, feeling that my possible job was on the line. Thankfully I must have made decent gravy because I now have a job.

It wasn't until I saw the passion that the staff had for what they were doing that I really started to take the job that I had been offered seriously. In fact, I almost canceled the interview. A bigger reason for my hesitation in taking the job had much more to do with my fear of moving in than anything else (I think I might post a bit about that later). After some prayer and conversation with my mom and some friends I decided to take the job with the safety net of keeping my apartment for the first two months just in case it was the wrong decision.

So there you have it, an excuse as to why I haven't written in a few months, and a very short update on what's been going on!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Belated thoughts on Mother's Day

I'm thankful that I can look and my mom and know that she is an amazing woman. I can see her for all the sacrifices she made for me, the knowledge she passed along, and the love that continues to show me in her own way. I haven't always been able to do that. I have often focused on the pains in our relationship. More often than not, I have overlooked the times that she went above and beyond to care for me. Instead, I saw the occassions she let me down, or hurt me. Now, as I'm getting older I can

I sat in chapel today as one of the "higher ups" gave a belated talk on Mothers Day. As a not so unexpected surprise, he spoke about the Proverbs 31 woman, and even compared a mother's love to 1 Corinthians 13. Most of us oooed and ahhed at the right times as he went through the outstanding characteristics of our mothers, and gave examples of how mothers exude patience, protection and a hardworking spirit. However, at our tables, we also bemused ourselves with times our motherly parental unit missed the mark on those biblical standards (think for a moment about the phrase "keeps no records of wrongs"). Don't get me wrong I love my mom (regardless of our struggles), and I'm sure most of us the room did too, but can I be so bold as to say, perhaps we expect too much? I can't help but think of two ways that lining up our mothers against the standards of Proverbs 31 of 1 Corinthians 13 can negitively effect both mother and child.

As a woman, and hopefully a mother in the future, Proverbs 31 personally makes me want to crawl into a hole. Ok that's a little strong, but let me explain. I struggle to set reasonable expectations for myself. In other words, I can be somewhat of a perfectionist in certain areas of my life. That long list of duties, turned expectations, often feels like a ball and chain. By the time it gets down to verse 30, "Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." I am so overwhelmed, I can hardly see the redemption of knowing that at least I have that whole "fearing the Lord" down for the most part. I feel a little less intimidated by this whole talk of love... I like to love, and I enjoy the idea that God comes along side us and shows us how to love. Still, I know that as I go through that list, I am sure to have short comings.

Monday, May 12, 2008

love and commitment

(wrote this 4/29/08)

I went for a walk on the bluffs of Pacifica this past Friday. I didn't particularily want to spend all that much time by myself but I was bound and determined to get a nice hike in. Honestly though, it was probably best that I had a bit of time to reflect and just enjoy the awe inspiring wonder of Northern California. As I listened to Matisyahu (my favorite Hassidic Jewish Reggae/Rapper) and contemplated Jesus, I was overcome by a sense of love. I am in love with Jesus. Not just a small crush, or high school romance. I love Him. I want to understand His every move, His culture, His family. I want to know Him better than I know my friends and family. This isn't necessarily the first time I've felt this way, but I think it's the first time I really looked at the disconnect between how I feel about Jesus, and the lip service I give Him.

This issue...
As much as I love Jesus, I am rediculously lame when it comes to engaging in that relationship on a reading and prayer level. I lack commitment in the worst possible way, oh and discipline. I look for anyother way to get my hands dirty with the Lord's work. Lay Ministry, Biblestudy, Youth work, outreach, giving... anything that gets me engaged with people and engaged with what Jesus did during his time on Earth. Sit me down with a Bible and two hours of silence and I will squirm around like a Kindergardener who needs to pee. I will honestly spend more time finding the intriquecies of the corner of a wall, than talking to my God, or reading about His people. Tell me nothing is sick and twisted about that??

I don't think I'm alone in this paradox

Quick update

I'll probably continue my little journey of my thoughts on women in ministry at a later date. I was feeling a little pressured to come up with a well thought out analytical paper on the subject, and that pressure made it really hard just to write my thoughts down. Not to mention, I had a few things I wanted to write about, but I hate leaving things half done. All that said, I'm shifting gears a bit.

This week is my last week in San Francisco until August. As I type this, the reality of the next few months is still surreal. I haven't quite figured out if I just can't tap into how I truly feel about all the changes in my life, or if I'm actually at peace with the whole thing. Believe me, I've most definitly had my moments of panic and fear, but the past couple of weeks have been eriely calm on the emotion front, and dare I say cheery. I think I'm going to stick with the idea that God has supernaturally circumvented my normal anxiety feedback loop and has replaced it with a deep sense of peace. Amidst the peace, however, I am really busy, and I'm wishing that I had planned this past Friday as my last day of work. In between a high school graduation ceremony, band concert, and soccer game, I'll be spending every moment outside of work packing, cleaning and catching up with friends.

All of this said, I may not be able to follow through with all that I'd like to blog about.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Women in leadership (part 2)

I might have intended to go in a different direction with what I posted yesterday, but I had ended up having an interesting conversation with a friend of mine last night.

I'm wondering if some women even recogize that in their church they might not be considered for certain leadership roles, not because they don't have the aproppriate giftings or skills but merely because they are a woman?

A friend of mine was explaining a weird dynamic that's been happening between the church leadership and her role as a ministry co-leader. More recently, she had been having some difficulty with her co-leader who had been upset that she had not cleared an informal group get-togther. The activity had been discussed as a group while everyone was present (including her co-leader) and she took the intiative to follow up and get the details on paper. She was sincerely confused as what she had done wrong, they were co-leaders. From what I can gather her co-leader felt that she should have asked his permission to send out invitation, and the pastor asked if she was specifially "tasked" to do so.

My friend, was confused mainly, because had she have done the same thing at work - taking the initative and scheduling the get-together - she wouldn't have met any opposition, in fact she might have been praised for her initative. Yet, at church she can't figure out why this, what seems to her, "weird dynamic" occured.

We discussed the structure of the ministry she was involved in, and her official role and expectations, and there seemed to be a disonance in some of it. While she was expected to be a leader with equal leadership, and duties, she felt she was being discouraged in taking the initative in more than one occasion. She also felt this underlying expecation of continually clearing thing over with her co-leader, but the same was not expected from him. The list goes on.

I had asked at one point if maybe her co-leader was intimidated at all by her. She mentioned that someone else had asked the same thing, but she wasn't sure why he would be intimidated. Then I finally asked what I had wanted to ask for most of the conversation. Did she consider the possibility that it might have to do with being a woman in leadership? Turns out that it hadn't even crossed her mind! I asked a bit about her church leadership (outside of the ministry she was co-leading in) and what roles women had and such. Honestly I don't think she had ever sat back and questioned any gender relations in the church. She grew up nominally but had become "committed" several years ago, but she never thought anything of the gender dynamics of a church. I almost felt bad for bringing the topic up. Now she must start wrestling with the some of the same questions I've been confronted with in my own life.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

women in leadership (most likely part 1)

Google Reader is a Godsend. Just thought I should start out with that, because had I not finally given into trying it out, I may never have found a community of bloggers that think and write about the things I have such a hard time putting into words.

Yesterday I found Janell Paris' blog discussing her thoughts on women in leadership in the emerging church discussion. Well that's my very broad synopsis on the post, and I probably give it very little justice so you should probably just read it for yourself here.

Lately I've found myself wrestling with all that is women and their role in the church. Not that I haven't always questioned the existence (or lack there of) of a female presence in church leadership, but as I grow in my relationship with God and do my best to discern His Will for my life I can't help but struggle with feeling limited. Most of the limitations are mental, and have much more to do with where I'm at spiritually and emotionally, but I do need to acknowledge that some of these limitations come from the cultural context of a male dominated (patriarchal) society.

As far as where I've stood in the past with women in leadership in the church, I've pretty much held every view, and I'm still trying to figure out what on earth I think. My current stance on the issue has been greatly influenced by my amazingly liberal and secular schooling from San Francisco State University.... the (sadly unrecognized) birth place of many a protest and social/educational movements, as well as my current involvement with The Salvation Army (seen by most, who actually know it as a denomination, as a place that is accepting and even encouraging of women leadership). I suppose you could say that my schooling primed me for relearning that women are capable leaders, and The Salvation Army showed how that could be done in the church. The Army also revealed that, while women can be accepted as leadership, it's a hard road to travel down, and you continually have to push to have equal footing. That pushing often results in undeserved stress and backlash - I have a feeling this applies to most settings, not simply in the settings I've seen it in.

My most current round of conversations on women in leadership have been with a good friend of mine, Matt. We happened to be co-leaders for an InterVarsity Bible study during college, and he is now engaged to a friend of mine. Surprisingly, the topic of women in leadership didn't come up until last fall when I visited his church's young adult group with Emily (his fiance). Turns out they were going through the book of 1 Timothy, and not by anything but divine appointment it happened to be the week they were talking about Chapter 2. While the person speaking had managed to sidestep the hot button verse, "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent." By focusing the lesson on men needing to step up (frankly I was a little miffed because the whole thing was directed to the male audience when the majority of his audience was women). Needless to say the first thing I asked Emily (Matt's fiance) after the closing prayer was "Where does Matt stand on all of this?" Emily was raised in the Lutheran church so women in leadership was normal for her. She assured me that Matt was open to women on leadership... and so began the conversation.

Over lunch last weekend, I caught Matt up to speed with all the changes in my life. I expressed how much discouragement and condemnation I had felt and received, much of which had ultimately pushed me to make the decision to leave my current church. None of the discouragement I had felt, at face value had to do with being a woman, but I think some of it might have been rooted there. He shared with me his frustration at people in the church not encouraging each other out of fear that the person receiving encouragement might become prideful. He also said something along the lines of women getting an even shorter end of the stick in regards to encouragement, because in so many settings, their roles are restricted. We mutually agreed that it was our responsibility to continually encourage others and let them decided whether they should be prideful about it. I know that I left lunch that afternoon, feeling lighter than I had coming into it.

To Be Continued...

Monday, May 5, 2008

I'm swimming inside of my head

I haven't really had a chance to verbally process all the thoughts that are going through my head, so it might be unwise to simply flush them out in the form of a blog at this present time. So I'm going to attempt to breifly throw a few things on to paper (so to speak), with the hope that I can write more on them later.

So far I blame Google Reader, Brian McLaren, my friend Matt, and my break up with the church for the onslaught of theological ramblings that have taken room in my, already cluttered, mind.

Thoughts on why we are so obsessed with labeling and naming everything, and how that effects us today. (isms and scisms)

  • Language development
  • Adam labels the animals
  • Biblical times religious legalism meets Jesus
  • Modern religious practices and mentalities forget Jesus

Finding the balance between structure and unstructuredness (did you know there's no antonym for structure???). My desire for structure meets my desire for more freedom. Why I can't stay in a box but keep looking for one to live in.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Yesterday I prayed and the list of decisions

Back in October, the 29th to be precise I posted in my xanga "Yesterday I prayed.... and now I'm confused."

I can't remember exactly what I prayed about but it must have got me thinking because all of a sudden I decided that I wanted to go to Michigan in December and visit camp (I'm sure it's in one of my journals). This must have been my rash decision I made near the end of the year which prompted me to not make any decisions until December 5th (the day I got back from my weekend trip to MI. In my absence, my coworkers drafted a list of decisions that I should make once I came back. The day I returned they handed me this list in all it's glory. Well somehow it resurfaced yesterday and I thought I should post it. In hindsight some of the list is a bit amusing (at least to me, but maybe not to anyone else since most of it has to do with what's going on in my own little world).

Leya's life-altering list... [decisions to make]

1. Become an Officer [Salvation Army pastor]
2. Journey to the holy lands
3. Adopt a family [a Christmas program with The Salvation Army]
4. Become a big sister
5. Volunteer every night at a different corps [Salvation Army church] to assist with kettles
6. Get married and settle down
7. Join a cult (see No. 1)
8. Become a vegan [was for a short time]
9. Become a youth pastor at lighthouse [my now, old church]
10. Embrace a life of vagrancy and travel the world, helping those in need [honestly, I'd love to do that]
11. Dedicate your life to curing cancer
12. Become a pop star
13. Avenge the death of someone
14.Move to Texas and become an oil Baron[ness]
15. Spend 5 minutes every day making a down syndrome child smile

So there you have it the list that my friend from work came up with while I was off trying to figure out how to get Michigan out of my mind. Yeah, I guess that didn't work.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Dating the church

Just a quick thought

In my process of finding a church I have thrown out the term "church shopping" and replaced it with "dating the church." This came about as I was thinking about the heartache I am left with from my most recent past church. It didn't feel like I had merely lost a pair of my favorite pants, or even a sentimental object of my past. I lost a relationship with a community that I thought I was a part of. Actually, that I was a part of. Church, for me is much more about the relationships and sense of community I feel and build with people. Do I have an intimate relationship with the things that I shop for? No. And that's how I came to the idea of "dating the church." I'm looking for a community that I can commit to, and it can commit to me. This requires me to get to know the church and the community with in it. I get to learn what makes it tick, what it stands for, and even a bit about its weaknesses. The church, well the people in it, also get to know a bit about me.

As with dating people, it can be really difficult.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The orange light of death

To break up the seriousness and lack of silliness on this here blog, I have come to tell you that my car is sick! *sigh*

An orange light of death turned on as I exited Peet's coffee this morning. Yes, orange, the light was orange! How twisted is that? When I realized that the light didn't turn off I went for my car manual to try and figure out what this little picture was all about. Turns out it's MIL indicator... something to do with engine emissions or something. It went on to tell me that I should contact an authorized VW mechanic and if it was blinking that I should avoid fast acceleration and high grade hills. Did I mention I live in San Francisco. Yeah I'll work on avoiding hills and fast acceleration! Ummm, right... I guess I won't be heading up Lombard St. or merging on to the freeway in the near future.

Luckily I'm taking my car in for it's 40,000 tune up, so I just schedule it for a week sooner than I had planned. Hopefully the tune up will get the blasted light to turn off.

Waiting at a red light

Jonny Lang - Red Light

You sing a song
While sitting at a red light
You think of home
While sitting at a red light
Too slow to roll
Put your life on hold
An open path
With nowhere to go
You start to wonder
While sitting at a red light
You can run a red light
Give up at a red light
You break the mold
When running through the tolls
Speeding through your whole life
A chance to breathe
While sitting at a red light
You look around
Reflecting on your life
A chance to think
Am I drinking too much
Should I keep going
Lose the life that I love
A second glance
When coming to a red light

As I am a big fan of the "Just go" mentality and way of faith, I can't help but notice that God often has to put on the brakes when I try and speed ahead of His plan for me.

Did I mention I'm impatient? My best friend can attest to this. One of the biggest superficial challenges we come up against in our friendship is our differing views of time and/or time management. While I am most definitely a huge procrastinator and lover of the last minute, I get things done, for the most part on time. I hate being late, and try my hardest (with usual success) to honor time commitments. At the same time I don't like to schedule things too far in advance because I want to keep myself available for last minute changes... I'm full of contradictions, I know this. My friend on the other hand is quite the opposite, and it causes me more strife than it causes her. I'm honestly little bias but we love each other and we work around our time management views (most of the time). But back to the whole lack of patience thing...

Every city or town has that one intersection... you know, the one that always seems to turn red when you near it? And the traffic gods have decided that your car would be the unlucky one to sit all by it's lonesome and endure the endless minutes until you have paid penance for running the yellow the past 10 times you've hit that intersection or perhaps it's payment for not quite stopping at the last stop sign. It's inevitable that Murphy's Law and Karma have their role in the intersection, and your friends have even admitted to the strange coincidence of the light and their driving transgressions. Ok, so maybe you don't have one of those intersections, and maybe you're thinking I'm trying too hard on this illustration... but I promise you, if you're ever in Daly City, CA there's an intersection on John Daly Blvd. that I'm making these statements upon. Ok, I'll get on with it (as you can tell I'm having difficulty staying focused)!

Since I won't have a job when I get back to the Bay Area in August, I'm starting the preliminary browsing of job search engines (idealist, craigslist, and a few ministry focused engines). This process is both exciting and exhausting. Hours of reading job positions, organization's websites, reviews, requirements, doctrinal statements and the like. This process is causing quite a bit of mental anxiety. Questions come up, "Will I be able to find a job I love? Will I be qualified? Will I make enough money in this job, to live in my apartment? Will I have to move?" The list of questions continues. As anxious as I get, I keep testing the job outlook waters. Here is the problem... the jobs that I really want to look into cause the most anxiety! Not the good type of anxiety, but the type that causes me to doubt my abilities, my passions, and ultimately my confidence that God has it under control.

Then it hit me, this morning, maybe I need to have a bit of healing in my life before God can hand me the responsibility of doing what I love to do... cultivating relationships, encouraging others, coming alongside people and loving them the way I think Jesus would have wanted me to. I'm a little aggravated that God allows this anxiety to come over me when I think about these things, but I need to let my present relational wounds heal and past emotional scar tissue be broken down again. As with all things, I'm just ready to move on and God's telling me to slow down and wait for a bit. So now I'm stuck at this red light that has no one else around and the only thing keeping me there is sense that God is asking me. No one will catch me if I run through it, but I'll probably feel guilty about it later. So for now I will sit at my red light and consider it as some down time to regain my confidence in God and myself.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

First thoughts on "the emerging church" (w/update)

As my search for a church community continues I can't help but consider the emergent/emerging church. The questions is though, what is the emerging church??

No really, what is the emergent/emerging church?

It feels so ambiguous and trendy. Some people love it, other's hate it, but honestly I haven't really been able to pin down a good definition, and no one I've found seems to be willing to define, what some have called a Christian "sub-culture." What I can say, is that I feel drawn to it.

What I can gather so far...

It's not a denomination, nor is it non-denominational. The emerging church exists within many denominations (including non-denom... let's be honest, it's a denomination... but that's a whole different topic). They are seeking genuine relationships with people and with Christ. They want to dig deeper, think critically and chew on the meat of the gospel by putting it into action. These are things I love, and am drawn to, but part of me has reservations. Here are some questions that come to mind...

Is the emergent church just going to be come a new denomination?

Is the emergent church more a way of life rather than an establishment?

What exactly is the goal of the emergent church?

I've started reading blogs and websites on this whole emergent culture, and started discussing it with friends and coworkers. I'm not sure where to go with this, but I'm intrigued.


The more I look into all of this emergent vs. emerging vs. missional vs. tradtional vs. fundimental vs. evangelical, the more I'm resistant to dealing with it all.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Ready, set, go! No really, GO!

"If we wait for the moment when everything, absolutely everything, is ready, we shall never begin."

- Ivan Turgenev, novelist, poet, playwright

I could probably write in metaphors for ages (as some of you know this first hand), or you know, I could just forget wandering aimlessly around the proverbial bush and get staight to the point. Like how I did that??

I find myself, and a lot of the people I know waiting for the right moment. Just waiting, thinking that it will come, that God will provide the exact moment that He wants us to get off of our butt and do something with our lives. Be it, making a career change, writing that paper for class that you were given an undefined extension on, quiting a bad and/or unhealthy habit, having a tough conversation with a friend or loved one, losing weight, the list could go on forever- I think we all have something to make a move on. Some of us are so concerned about waiting for the perfect moment that we forget to actually move. We live in hindsight, thinking, "Oh, maybe that moment, just there, that passed me, was the moment I was supposed to do something. Well, next time I guess."

I can't help but think we only get so many of those "next times" before we completely change the path of life that we're on. This is probably where that whole freewill issue comes into play, and the "plans that God has for us," which many Christians bring up in their conversations when we think about the choices we've made, and those we will have to make in the future.

See the thing is, trusting God or simply making tough decisions (about things we want to do, or about things we don't) has much more to do with faith. No matter what you believe in, or how you believe, the idea of faith is pretty universal. It's the hope that what ever you're doing, or who ever you believe in is true and right, and some how things will turn out ok. Sometimes making decisions doesn't mean waiting for the "perfect timing" ... that one moment where everything seems to line up. Maybe just maybe it's more about mustering up the faith, gumption, or grabbing onto that tiny thread of hope, and jumping. You may not be ready for it, the people around you may not be expecting it, but the changes that come with whatever you had to do or say, are probably worth the moment of fear that comes with doing it.

With that said, if for any reason, you are waiting for the right moment to do or say something... I challenge you to just Go.

(cross posted from facebook and other such social networking facets)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Changing it up - work, church, summer and beyond

crossposted from my facebook, so it's a little more filtered (so to speak) than this blog tends to be (different audience I suppose).

Hmmm... how do I start this? (I guess I just did...)

So yes, I'm going to be out of town for a couple of months. Why, you ask?

Well, I'm making a few changes in my life. I realized about a month or so ago that where I am is not where I want to be. While I've been where I am for a reason - work, church, and such - I've been struggling with the ever present issue of where does God want me to be? What does God want to do in my life?

Without getting into the nitty gritty of that struggle, I came to realize that while I have been doing what God wanted me to do in my current location and situations, He has been asking me to make a change. You see the thing is, I like the idea of security and stability... alas, not as much as I like the idea of being who I am and most of all what God has in store for me.

With that said, a friend of mine asked me, "What do YOU want to do?" A week later, and kind of out of the blue, and replied "Michigan." Two summers ago I worked at a camp with a team of amazing people. I don't know how to explain it, but it was the most "me" I'd felt in a long time. Long days, short nights, craziness and the sorts.

Thing is making a choice to go back to Michigan for the summer meant leaving my job. So, I'm leaving my job with The Salvation Army, to go back to camp for one more summer (well it's a Salvation Army camp, but different area... it's hard to explain). With this said, I don't know what happens after. I intend on coming back to San Francisco (I'm keeping my apartment), but I don't have a job... there goes that whole idea of security and stability, at least for now.

As far as church, I made the decision to leave my current church and look for a new one. It was a very difficult decision, but through it I am learning a lot about self worth, ministry, and grace. I'm thankful I don't really have to make a commitment until I get back to the city, so it's nice to take my time and enjoy other people's services and find a place where I fit well with the community and leadership. *On a side note to that, if anyone has any church ideas, please let me know.*

So the plan as it stands...
My last day at work is May 16th. May 17th I head out to Michigan by way of Interstate 80... with my mom. I'll be in Michigan by the 22nd and at camp on the 23rd. Camp officially starts (well orientation) on June 1st and closes August 2nd. I'm guessing I'll be back in San Francisco mid August, as I would like to take a little more time in driving back... check out some sights... enjoy the peace. After that... who knows.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

say what you need to say

Say by John Mayer

Take all of your wasted honor.
Every little past frustration.
Take all of your so called problems,
Better put 'em in quotations.
Say what you need to say (x8)
Walkin' like a one man army,
Fightin' with the shadows in your head.
Livin' up the same old moment
Knowin' you'd be better off instead
If you could only...Say what you need to say (x8)
Have no fear for givin' in.
Have no fear for giving over
You better know that in the end
It's better to say too much,
than never to say what you need to say again
.Even if your hands are shaking,And your faith is broken.
Even as the eyes are closin',
Do it with a heart wide open.(Wide Heart)
Say what you need to...Say what you need to say.

Somewhere along the line we're told or we learn by example that talking about what's going on in our lives or speaking up for a friend or loved or even for ourselves, is a bad idea. It brings up that big "V" word... vulnerability. Suddenly, by saying something, we open ourselves up to the mercy of others. Unfortunatly for most of us, or at least my peers and the people I come into contact with, the times that we have been vulnerable, we don't get the response we had hoped for. If we're reaching out for help, we get pushed away, or told we're not worth it, or that we don't need help. If we're letting someone know how we feel about a person (especially in a romantic situation), we run the risk of not having those feelings recipricated (in not so pretty terms, we get denied, shot down, etc). In short, when we open ourselves up to another we run the risk of being hurt. If it doesn't go well the first few times, we start to build up walls and become less inclined to "say what we need to say."

Over the past few weeks I've realized that I haven't really been saying what I need to say. I've had a pretty tough few months. Like most if not all recent college graduates, I'm still trying to figure out what on Earth I want to do with my life. This past year has lead me through many "growing expereinces," and in the past month I have made the choice to change my job, my church, and temporarily my location. Call it my quarterlife crisis if you want, but I have had to do some serious life inventory and spring cleaning. I'm absolutely petrified, and like a good Christian, I'm struggling through by being completely inconsistant in my prayer life, grumpy about going to church, and basically wallowing in my fear. Ok, so maybe I'm being a little mellow dramatic about it, but honestly I'm freaking out about all the change I've just thrown upon myself. However, through all these changes I'm finding my voice again. I'm learning how to speak up for myself, and the people around me. I'm facing conflict, and to be honest I might be stirring up a few people's lives by being honest about the hardships I've faced, but I'm saying what I need to say. I'm doing what I think I need to do, and I'm trying to be respectful but honest in the process. So, thank you John Mayer, for yet again putting another song in my soundtrack of life.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


I'm restless. I suppose I always have been. 4 years here, 4 years there. One summer doing this, one summer doing that. I figure it's just a matter of growing up on the move. England, Colorado, California and different places inbetween and during. Sometimes I wonder though, am I running from something, running from myself? At times it is clear to me, that I am avoiding something that God is trying to place in my life, at other times I feel like God is trying to move me somewhere. Often I am so confused that I simply stay put for fear of mishearing God's voice in my life.

Last night I went to a prayer and worship evening. As I was discussing with a friend from work, earlier this morning, I was hesitant in going because I had an idea of what it was going to be like. Alas, I gave up bitterness, and all that comes with it, for Lent, so I decided this would be a good thing for me to go to. If nothing else, it would prove that I am making an effort to experience the "diversity in which people express their relationship with God" (was that the exact phrase I used last post?). I felt a little out of place, surrounded by young adults (half my age, half teens) croweded in the medium sized front room of a closed coffee shop. It felt like a high school God experience all over again, not necessarily a bad thing, just slight dejavu.

Later that evening after worship and a talk, Gary, the speaker, looked at me and asked point blank "Can I pray with you?" Now you have to understand, I can be pretty sensitive about how people ask if they can pray for one another. I've been approached by people who want to pray for me because they don't agree with something I've done or believe, they usually say, "I'll pray for you." In a pseudo-concerned pitying way. I have often found myself biting my tongue before I say something snide, or potentially hurtful. In this case I didn't get defensive, and he wasn't the man to say something like "No sir, I would not like you to pray for me." So I smiled and laughed a little nervously while responding, "How could I say no?" After briefly asking me what church I attended, if I lived in The City and if I knew about the Holy Spirit, he prayed for me.

I can't remember exactly how he started or exactly what he said through out the prayer. What I do remember is key words. Missions, Travel, Teaching, Made equal, Compassion, Unfullfilled, More, something to do with Relationship and Go. I've never been prayed over prophetically, so it was a new experience. I didn't fall to the ground, pass out, laugh or cry uncontrolably, but I did feel peace. He brought up a lot of things that I had just stopped questioning about, or had on hold because of where I was at right now.

I suppose the word Go stood out to me because it's what I have been struggling with for about a year and a half now. Go, or perhaps follow might be the best way to describe it. Just Go. Get up and go, and all through it I've asked where and how? I've admired the way in which people such as Peter, Andrew, James and John, just stopped what they were doing to follow Jesus. Yet still there were men who couldn't do that like the rich young man in Mark 10. As an indecive person who bounces back and forth from spontaninaity to strictly planned, I find myself bound somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. Stepping out in faith to follow someone I don't know and to who knows where is something I want to do, but I struggle with leaving behind what I have (which has less to do with material attachment and more to do with commitments and responsibilities). I would love to just Go or follow or something, but I don't know where or when or how. So "go" is what stood out.

As I am still processing the evening and there are many words I feel the need to disect I feel it would be unwise to leave out the scripture that God had me mulling over for most of the evening. Jeremiah 1, it's a passage I've led Bible Study on, and something that I found so itimate and empowering, how the Lord could touch the mouth of a young man to speak out in boldness and love. I thought it was something I should have read out to the group, but I held back, and while I still think I should have read it outloud, I'm starting to think God is trying to bring this scripture to me, for me.

So far this Lenten season has brought me to places much more spiritually mature than I think I am capable of handling. Yet I am trying my best to listen carefully and focus on what it's really about... not what I'm giving up but what I'm striving towards.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Lent struggles

Last Wednesday marked the beginning of Lent, a time of self-denial that symbolically parallels the 40 days and 40 nights that Jesus spent in the wilderness. The Lenton season ends Easter Sunday, the day we celebrate the resurection of Jesus.
But back to the personal meaning of Lent and all this self denial talk. This year I didn't want to do what I have done in the past. One year I gave up TV, another I gave up MySapce and sugar, and I think I did all three last year, but I can't really remember. These habits I gave up for 40 days (actually more if your counting Sunday's) were good for me. However the purpose of denying myself these things was supposed to draw me nearer to God - in essence, force myself to focus on God and call on him for strength. Instead of spending time reading the Bible or praying during the times that I would be participating in the activities I denied myself, I spent my time doing other unproductive things or eating other unhealthy snacks (enter salty/savory goodness). Clearly Lent wasn't working the way in which it was intended (like many other religious practices and me).This year, I hope will be different.

This year I spent almost a week mulling over the possible things I could give up. As I am trying to be healthy (ok, maybe it's because I'm paying for a personal trainer and I'm sick of looking at more of me than there should be), I thought about giving up unhealthy foods... namely chocolate or other sugary goodness. However, this shouldn't be something that I give up for lent to be spiritual, but rather something I should give up to be healthy and not simply for 40 days. So sugar/chocolate was a no go. Then there was internet related habits... facebook, podcasts, email, blogs, google (ok I only just thought of that... yikes that would be scary), but surprisingly I don't feel too addicted (ok that might be a small lie), but lately they have been tools that I have been using in deepening my relationship with God rather than sucking it dry, so I chose not give those up. My next thought was to add a discipline, you know the normal, reading the Bible, praying daily, meditating... all that good stuff. As I have tried making those disciplines happen for new years resolutions or other such "commitment" days, I decided those were yet another thing that I couldn't just add for the sake of needing something to give up or do. By Shrove Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday) I was at a loss. I really wanted to do something meaningful.

I jokingly thought I should give up bitterness, but then I thought about it. Bitterness tends to get in the way of my relationship with anyone, especially God. I tend to use it as a defense mechanism, and a reason for not being open to different forms of worship or praise. I've noticed in the past few years I have built this wall that has stopped me from really enjoying the diversity in which people express their relationship with God. Ok wow, that sentence is way too spiritual for any earthly good. Let me unpack that, as I will mostlikely forget what I was trying to say.

Enjoying the diversity in which people express their relationship with God... Let me try and put it into an unchristianese format (as it is not necessary to understand Christianese to be a good Christian... sounds like a good future blog post). Every person has a different way they like to interact with God. Like how people pray... some pray with large words and intensity, others with a specific voice, some call God different names like Daddy (I have a hard time with this, but that's my issue, not theirs), some even pray in tongues (a different, spiritual, language that some parts of the church don't believe is a modern spiritual gift and others do). Those different ways of prayer show diversity in how people communicate to God through prayer. Worship is the same way, you've got hymnal books, "contemporary worship music," brass bands, acapella, gospel, dancing, flags, the list goes on. Again, another example of diversity in how we express our relationship with God.

I get frustrated when people put their relationship with God in a box - when they feel that there is only one way to have a relationship with God. Then again, I tend to have my relationship with God in a similar box. I want to interact with God in a particular way, and if someone else says I'm doing it wrong, or I should do it differently, or with more or less of whatever I get frustrated - no, bitter. This bitterness starts out small, then grows into an ugly beast that pretty much strangles any hope of a good relationship with both people and God. I was getting so offended by people who made me feel that my relationship with God was inadequate I just became bitter about the whole situation and stopped being open to they ways that they experienced God. So my hasty half serious thought about giving up bitterness took root, and grew into my serious Lent commitment. I will deny myself the ability to become bitter.

Well it's been less than a week, and I have had to take some very big steps to start cutting bitterness out of my life. I've had to endure Women's camp (which wasn't bad at all), work on a relationship with someone who hurt me (I again was reminded that grace is freely given to God, and that I should be willing to at least entertain the idea of viewing people from that perspective), and I am going to try out a different way of worshiping and praying tomorrow evening. I can't say I haven't slipped along the way. I have had moments of bitterness and frustration, but I have sincerely tried to put those aside and simply allow God to put me in the right place at the right time, and keep my mind open to how He wants me to respond.

My roommate left a prayer in my purse last Tuesday night (the day before Lent began). She didn't intend for it to be something that I would focus on during this season, rather for encouragement after she heard about the day I had. Looking back on this past week, I am tempted to believe that God very purposely planned out this Lent season for me. I hope I am hearing him correctly.

Prayer for Peace
Lord, preserve me from fighting your battle in my own strength. May I never pull up the precious wheat with the tares. May I triumph, not by frantic striving with the forces of evil, but by keeping my eyes securely fastened on You.
I ask that you make of me an expert peacemaker. Help me, in the power of the Spirit, to clear the path of obstacles to making Your peace - real peace - in Your Body here on earth.
-Leanne Payne

Monday, February 4, 2008

troubleshooting life

My friend Chris is amazing with computers. Much like a doctor with a disease, he looks at the symptoms and searches for the underlying cause. There are very few issues that he can't seem to fix. Granted there are the occasional miraculous computer recoveries that he can't take credit for. For example, my old ipod was pretty much dead, and I had come to accept this unfortunate event. However, I really wanted to try and recover all the music I had on it, as I used my ipod as my music storage so as not to overwhelm my laptop's hard drive space. Meaning, most of the information on my ipod was not backed up elsewhere. He did his normal Chris thing, and researched the product (he's not a fan of apple, so he sought out other people's opinions). After he found out common issues and troubleshooting computer stuff and what not (I am not a computer person, and I'm sure there are technical words for stuff and what not). Needless to say, after all that work, the ipod was unresponsive. We closed it up and called it quits, but then the miracle. we plugged it into the computer one last time, and there it was all of the information, all of my music waiting to be copied and saved. Neither of us could explain what happened, it was merely a technological miricle. We quickly copied the info, went out and bought a new ipod and transfered all of the music back to my new ipod.

Unfortunatly not all computer's Chris has attempted to fix had happy or miraculous endings. A friend of ours, AnnE, has a computer that never ceases to remind Chris that he is not God, even when it comes to maters of computing. He can merely treat the symptom and hope that it lasts long enough for AnnE to do what she needs before something goes wonkey again. I believe he also had to retire a few of his sister's computers and his.

Another thing that should be noted - computers come with servicing manuals, specific to the brand, and design in of the computer. In my last computer befuddlement, my laptop had to be opened up and taken apart, piece by piece, to get to the fan, which seemed to be working below optimal standards (in normal speak, my computer was being noisy and overheating). Chris, being the wise person that he is, and probably by previous experience, took apart the computer with pen and paper, and manual at hand - labeling each area and screw to ensure that they made it safely back in their correct place. When he got to the fan, we found the source of the noise and overheating - a large amount of dust and grime had made it's home there. After we cleaned out the dust, Chris went to work putting my laptop back together, following the manual, specific to my laptop, that he had downloaded in the beginning of the process. The end result - cool, quiet laptop that stopped complaining (for the most part).

I wish it was that easy, rather logical, in regards to troubleshooting life. It doesn't come with a brand name, model specific manual, nor does it have a user-friendly customer service hotline. Now the response to that, which I would hear some Christian say, would be, "Oh the Bible is our life manual, and God is the "user-friendly customer service hotline." Well, I believe there are lots of encouraging words and guidelines in the Bible that life can be lived by, and God is always there, but let's be honest (or at least this is how I feel), The Bible can be cryptic, and God can be just as hard to understand. Today I don't want the "you just have to be more in touch with Jesus" response or the everpresent "dig deeper." Have you ever been there? Life just doesn't seem to lend itself to logical means or explaination. Like my ipod that had the unexplainable "healing" or AnnE's computer that can't be diagnosed beyond it's symptoms, life doesn't follow the manual.

This past week I felt and continue to feel like AnnE's computer. I see the symptoms, but I can't quite figure out what exactly is going on. I make steps to diagnose and treat, yet it doesn't seem to get the right results.

This I will leave unfinished for the time being...