Saturday, November 14, 2009

The prospect of moving

It is likely that I will be leaving San Francisco, my home of more than six years, in pursuit of further education. Though, cold and flat, Minneapolis, MN has one of the best programs for Youth Development at a Masters level. I spent the better part of this past week on the campus of the University of Minnesota speaking with professors, grad students, and other connected organization. I was desperate to find a flaw, anything that would send me running from the program or the state so I could justify not applying. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I was enamored by the program, the people, and the campus. Though it is cold and flat, Minneapolis is warmed with community and kindness.

Since coming home to my chilly room surrounded by loud and smelly teenage boys, I have kept myself busy researching possible grant money, and attempting to get a better understanding of the city that I might call home next fall. Beyond sharing a similar language of an urban city, I am under no disillusion that Minneapolis speaks the same dialect. I am desperate to understand the culture, and what breaths life into the midwest city. I am curious, and slightly dreamy eyed at the prospect of gathering new knowledge, and different perspectives.

Though, in all honesty I hold a lot of fear at moving away from what I know. My community, the family I have chosen to be part of, is here. I am supported, and cared for - in turn I support and care for them. We share a common language and though our passions are different they come from the same place.

I suppose it's a bit silly to be thinking of these things with almost a year in between here and there. Yet, it is in this moments, when a decision is being made, does the gravity of everything pull me into a deeper understanding of what I have and could walk away from.

Rarely do I have the joy of choosing between good and bad, true or false. Those kind of decisions are often more clear than the option between good and great.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Thoughts on sailing, drifting, and not drowning (and a bit about the titanic)

I'm not the sailing type. In fact I've never been on a sail boat, unless you count playing on my friend's sail boat in the drive way when we were kids. I have driven a boat before, but that's not really where I'm heading with this.
A few weeks ago I found myself in a conversation with four other single people laughing over the "misery" of our single status. In reality I don't think misery is the right word, but it sounds good, and a little bit dramatic, so I'll keep it. It was observed that many people who we saw as less emotionally prepared for a relationship ended up married long before those whom we felt were deserving of a long term relationship. My friend made a very titanic analogy by explaining in the following terms...

Some people see themselves in floating around in an ocean with nothing to hang onto, so the first warm body they see in a similar situation they grab onto. Both of them cling for dear life. That's how people who we least expect to get married first, get married.

My thoughts... sad but true.

We've all watched the movie or at least know the plot... Jack dies.

So many relationships are born out of fear of being alone. We drift aimlessly into the arms of someone else aimlessly drifting near by. How is that expected to start a healthy relationship, if there is such an urgency to remedy our loneliness? One person won't fix that, let's be honest it's something deeper!

I may not be good at sailing, but I did spend last summer life guarding. Though I spent most of my certification process on heavy pain killers, I remember a vital life saving tactic. Most people who are panicking often make the mistake of grabbing on for dear life. As a life guard, you're best hope at saving the person from drowning and not personally drowning in the process is getting your floatation device securely in between you and the victim. If they grab on to you, get out - for your sake and their sake too. Two people hanging onto each other in hopes to float, will most likely sink, as will frantically trying to grab onto the closest person who looks like they can swim or save you.

Just some thoughts.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

To the San Francisco State University Graduates of 2009

I am so proud of your incredible accomplishment. You are a college graduate. More specifically you are a graduate of San Francisco State University. Many may not be impressed by your school's prestige (or lack there of), but never let that shadow, what you know to be true. You may not be graduating from an Ivy League, heck or even a UC school, but you are graduating with experience, knowledge, and passion. Experience that has prepared you for your next steps in life.
You are not entering into the real world - you've been in it - you are simply taking a moment to look over what the past x amount of years in the real world has handed you, and what may come in the future. You are not ending your pursuit of knowledge, but you are acknowledging this day as a mile stone in your pursuit, of what I hope is truth.
You have become fearlessly passionate people. Pursuing more than just your own betterment, but the betterment of those around you, the communities you live in, and the communities you wish to be a part of. Your passion, earned and acquired, will cause you immense joy, but not without moments of heart wrenching pain. It is in those moments, you will find the most growth, you will dream new dreams, and you will reestablish your passion and drive.

As San Francisco State University Graduates, no matter what circumstances brought us there, we come out of there thankful for the education we received, the experiences we gained, the friendships we made, and the money we saved.
Like the alumni that moved mountains before us, we will move our own mountains. We will carve paths to success, not just for ourselves, but for those around us. We may not have an Ivy League diploma, but we know how to fight for our education. One class at a time, one waiting list at a time, one fee increase protest at a time!
San Francisco State University graduates of 2009 welcome to life beyond your BA. May God let you dream dreams and create positive change where ever you may go. Never forget your experiences, never downplay your accomplishments, and never forget those who carved that path for you (regardless of who they are). In those memories, may you help others find their place of success.

Congratulations San Francisco State University, Class of 2009!

Friday, May 15, 2009

The weight of the world is pretty freakin' heavy

Chaim Potok, in his books The Chosen, and The Promise, broaches the subject of carrying the burdens of other people. He does this through his fictional depiction of certain Hasidim Jewish sects that settled in Brooklyn, NY in the years following the Holocaust. He describes it in such a vivid way, that at times, I too, carried the weight of the characters. If I were a more motivated person I would give you quotes and all that good stuff, but I'm sitting in my office and not in my bedroom.

The heaviness of life can often bog us down. It has this muddy quality that pulls our being into the places we desire to never be and have feelings we would rather push aside. At times this is a lonely place, or at least we perceive it to be. We feel alone in our heaviness. We cope in ways that are often destructive to ourselves and those around us. A past pastor of mine once said, "Hurt people, hurt people." We become wounded animals, feeling trapped in our circumstances, alone, and in danger. We often refuse help until we realize how desperate our circumstances have become. For most of us it is a moment of anguish that causes us to grasp the first warm body that seems somewhat understanding. We cling to them for dear life.

I've had a few moments in my life that I have clung, eyes squeezed tight, gripping tightly to an unseen truth or reality. Often a friend or mentor has been that person I've grasped onto. Not because of their strength in pulling me out of my muddy heaviness, but because they trusted in something much bigger than themselves to help me.

Coming out of those moments, I have found that I try to be there for others, and to be that person who relies fully upon God, that something much bigger than myself, to help them through. I confess, though, that it is a hard place to be. The heaviness of those around me pulls me into mud much thicker than my own. I forget how to reach out for help, to not act like a wounded animal. Helping others requires a strength that I, alone, do not possess. I care too much. I find myself with a weight I cannot bare. At times I feel, in my effort to be helpful, I enable. I carry a burden I was never meant to carry.

I don't want to be a person that finds my identity in my acts, but in my character - a character that reflects the light of something much larger than myself. Nine years ago I made the commitment to learn how to live outside of heaviness. I came into contact and experienced the love and understanding of a God that was much more capable of carrying my weight, and the weight of others. As with most things in life, this is a process, and not something most people, myself included, learn overnight. I am still learning, and that's hard for me to admit. Thankful there is grace in the moments I find myself back in the mud or weighed down by weight I should not be carrying.

So, to all of those who want to save the world, and be there for others. Take care of yourself, and remember it's not about being a savior, but rather doing our best to light the path to the savior.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Gender Roles in Children's lit (and other thoughts around it)

I was minding my own business, and thinking about nothing overly stimulating this morning as I read through my google reader feeds. That is, until I read Janelle Paris' blog about the thoughts she encountered while her boys sung Yankee Doodle. My thoughts of chocolate macaroons (there's a box of them in the office I'm in), and what word would get me the most points in the current scrabble game I'm playing online, were suddenly replaced with feelings of feminist spite (ok, maybe not that strong, but it sounded good, didn't it?).

After writing a brief comment back, I quickly went to brainstorming the books that I had been exposed to as a young child and into my elementary school years. Since I clearly can't remember the books that were read to me as a very young child, I asked a friend of mine what sex and/or gender the main characters were of the books she read her two year old son. I wasn't too surprised to hear that most of the books had male main characters. I can't say that she was specifically looking for books that had male characters since she has a son (I'm sure we'll talk about that idea later), but I'm not so sure that there are many female characters in young children books. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule, but really, what was read to you when you were a young child?

Now, this whole thing got me thinking. What we read to children and later require them to read in school is not only solidifying harmless gender roles, but normalizing the dynamics of power and privilege with (white) males on top. **Now this is completely based off my own experiences and what I've observed when working with children and teens.** Most of the books that we are required to read through out school have male main Characters (especially in high school) - Catcher in the Rye, Of Mice and Men, A Farewell to Arms, The Great Gastby, the Grapes of Wrath... I could continue. Again, there are exceptions - A Tree grows in Brooklyn (something I recently picked up, but that was required for some of my friends), The Bell Jar and a few others. As required reading, both males and females are exposed to the ideas and roles of the author and characters. Is it possible that being read, and required to read books that predominately feature male main characters through out the first 18 years of our life could socialize women into an already male dominate society, and in the same token, socialize men to step into the dominate role?

I'm obviously not the only who thinks about these things... am I crazy for letting my thoughts wander down these paths? Is there anything being done about it (I think yes, but it's small)? What can I do about it? What can others do about it?

Saturday, January 3, 2009

New year, New questions

Something has been simmering in the back of my mind for a few months. As it seems to be bubbling over into my comments I leave on other blogs I suppose I should make mention of it here.

Over the past couple of years I seem to have acquired a group of teenagers. To a few of them I am known by their friends as "the friend who cares." To others, I'm the house parent that gets way too excited about Jesus. Either way, I've recognized I have a significant voice in their lives. My hope would be to engage them in the beginning (or continuation) of a spiritual conversation and journey. However I struggle with providing a path to follow - at least a somewhat structured one. In the past I have been able to invite individual teens or groups of them to church. I've always been very intentional in which churches I've brought them to, as well as doing my best to connect them to others in their age group that might be influential. Here's the thing though - I don't go to a traditional church anymore. My church meets in the living room of an apartment. We're a group of adults generally geeking out about the Bible, theology, ethics, world news and other such issues that can be difficult for teens to pull into their understanding of the world. Let's face it, I can struggle to stay afloat in our conversations, should I expect teens to?

So what does teenage spirituality look like in an nontraditional, dare I say house church setting? Do I pawn them off to another ministry when it's clear they don't feel comfortable in the YoungLife or other various youth group settings? I'm at a loss! One on one I can talk to them about the deeper things in life, but I know life is better in community.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who thinks about these things.