"Everyone has been made for some particular work, and the desire for that work has been put in every heart. "

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

God's not going to do it on his/her own

  There is a homeless gentleman named Sean who I see quite frequently when I go downtown.  He usually is somewhere on the Magnificent Mile between the Walgreens and Water Tower Place.  I first met Sean with my dear friend, Laura, back in June.  Whenever I see Sean, I try to stop by and say hello.  I don't always have the ability to do more than that.
   A few weeks ago I stopped to say hello to Sean as I do, things were different with him.  He seemed beaten down by his life circumstances. His friendly, jovial disposition was gone. What he said that night has stuck with me and really caused me to think about what we are called to do in this life and who we are to be.
    Sean told me that he was mad at God.  That despite all the prayers he has prayed and all the prayers others have prayed with him and on his behalf, he is still out on the streets.  He went on to say that God is not going to do all the work on his/her own of getting him off the streets.  God calls upon people to make it happen and carry out his/her work in the world.  We are to be God's hands and feet in the world--the ones who do the physical action of trying to make a difference (and not just with homelessness but with all sorts of issues in this world).  We are to be co-partners with God to carry out the good works as expressions of our faith.
    In the time since Sean shared his hurt and anger with me, I came to realize that we can't rest on feeling good that we said a prayer for those experiencing homelessness, giving money or food occasionally.  These are all good actions, but much more is being asked of us. We are being asked to get down and do the messy work of our faith.  To reach out to those whom society has cast aside as not being worthy of our time or attention.  Most importantly, we are to be co-partners with God and listen for how we can best love our neighbors because God isn't going to do it on his/her own.  We have to help.   

Monday, November 12, 2012

Nudged by God into action

I am in awe of God's power to move us into action. 

Tonight I had a sense of God's powerful "nudging"--a push into action.  It happened this evening while I was walking home from class.  Normally I have friends who drive me home, and who, once again, graciously offered to do so tonight.  However, I felt a desire to walk.  

About half way home, I encountered a gentleman named Lawrence who was asking for money.  I have seen Lawrence  in the neighborhood before. He's a friendly man.  Tonight, he asked me if I could give him just $2 to catch the bus to the homeless shelter for the night.  It was the only way he would have to be warm this evening.  I had no money on me and told him regretfully so.  At that moment, I look down to see Lawrence's hands, callused and cracked from long exposure to the wind and cold of the day.  In that moment, I was moved by God's "nudging" into action.    I didn't stop to think.  I didn't question my actions.  I simply took off my gloves and handed them over. His genuine look of gratitude was enough thanks for me.  I looked back after I crossed the street to see Lawrence with gloves on his hands and a smile on his face. 

I thank God who works in wonderful and mysterious ways for prodding me into service at that moment.  I was struck by the immediacy with which I felt this sense to do something.  It was never about me.  It was about being called by God to serve a beloved child in need--my mere presence and response to God's call met one man's need on this November evening. We have no idea what difference our actions, large or small, could make in the lives of others. 

Yet, I walked away from this encounter with Lawrence feeling as though there is more that could be done.  I now leave it with you all, in what ways can we serve those in need both monetarily but also, and perhaps more importantly, how can we go beyond that?

Leaving behind all the questions we may have within ourselves and that society as a whole prompts us to ask about those experiencing homelessness, let us remember this: 
this man is a human being, a beloved child of God, created in the image of our Creator just as you and I have been.  He, under no circumstances, deserves to be out on the streets on a mid-November night with temperatures below freezing.  He too deserves warmth, shelter, and place to rest his head.  As do all people in this world struggling in the face of poverty and homelessness. Let us pray that they find shelter and that we may be agents of change in this world to bring this about. 

As Jesus said in Matthew, 25:34-46,  34 “Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who will receive good things from my Father. Inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world began.35 I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me.36 I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me.’

37 “Then those who are righteous will reply to him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? 38 When did we see you as a stranger and welcome you, or naked and give you clothes to wear? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

40 “Then the king will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Get away from me, you who will receive terrible things. Go into the unending fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 I was hungry and you didn’t give me food to eat. I was thirsty and you didn’t give me anything to drink. 43 I was a stranger and you didn’t welcome me. I was naked and you didn’t give me clothes to wear. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

44 “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and didn’t do anything to help you?’ 45  Then he will answer, ‘I assure you that when you haven’t done it for one of the least of these, you haven’t done it for me.’ 46  And they will go away into eternal punishment. But the righteous ones will go into eternal life.”

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Reflections on seminary, my call, and interfaith dialogue

So first of all, hello! I know it has been ages since I have written!  I suppose I felt at a bit of a loss as to what to write about, and I wasn't really certain that anyone was reading.  However, I have a question that was posed to me today that is weighing heavily on my mind that I would like to put out there in the hope that it will trigger thoughts and conversations of value in others (and hopefully with me).  

I am in the midst of my second year of seminary as a Masters of Divinity student. I came to seminary with the idea that I would not be pursuing a traditional ministry path in the parish, which I still have no intention of doing.  I do not feel as though this is where God is calling me or where my strengths are.  However, I did come to seminary with the (what now seems crazy) notion that I should pursue homeless and hunger ministry options because of my work as an AmeriCorps VISTA member and the experiences I had at a local homeless shelter during my time as a VISTA.  I wholeheartedly thought this was what I was being called to by God.  That all came to a crashing halt this fall after a series of less than ideal experiences and interactions with what was to be my field site for the year.  Among the experiences, I was told by one individual from the organization that no one would ever take me serious in homelessness and hunger outreach because I am white.  While I have no way of knowing if this is true, it certainly did make me question my ability to be effective in ministry of any form really.  Other events ultimately made me call into question whether this organization was really the place for me, and whether this was really where God wanted me to be serving for the next 9 months.  Turns out, its not! 

In the midst of all the chaos of this, I had a profound, yet challenging conversation with a pastor from the church I attend here in town.  He told me at one point that some times God closes doors on a call. Straight forward enough, right? Well for me, this came as abrupt and a surprise.  It was something I didn't want to hear. I came to school with homelessness and hunger as part of my plan. That is what I thought I was called to do.  I planned on it.  I like having a plan. God shouldn't just change the plan like that. What was I supposed to do if he closed the door on this call? Just get a new one? How? Who does that? Really God? I already came to seminary. What more do you want? 

Needless to say, I wasn't happy with this pastor's statement to me about doors closing on a call. My initial reaction was frustration, and not even with God at first, but with the pastor.  I didn't voice that to the pastor, but I did to my family.  How could he say that?  Looking back on it now, there is incredible wisdom in that simple statement. God truly did close a door on a part of a call for me.  He simply showed me an even better, more incredible opportunity for me.  This call, one to engage in interfaith dialogue and work, is one that has been budding since college for me. (If you want to know more about this, please ask.)  I just failed to recognize it as a call to a form of ministry.  I thought of it as an academic interest instead.  I couldn't be happier with my new field site and the work I am doing to address the hate crimes against minority religious groups in the country.  The whole experience this fall has opened me up to one of the mysterious ways in which God works in and through our lives to guide us to where we need to be in our call and ministry if we are just open to it.  I am so incredibly thankful for this guidance and transition in my discernment.  It is so much better than I could have ever imagined, and I feel truly blessed by my experience so far with my field site.  

So onto this question that I've been pondering for the last 9 hours.  In a discussion with my field site supervisor today, we were talking about the differing views of/approaches to interfaith dialogue by Christians.  It is interesting to note that my field site supervisor is a practicing Muslim, and I dearly love that we are engaging in interfaith dialogue as we discuss interfaith dialogue! Besides that, she is an incredible and inspiring woman.  We noted 3 main positions on what seems to be a continuum of sorts.  

  1. There are the people who think that we should have absolutely nothing to do with people of other faiths or "unbelievers" as some refer to them.  (I particularly detest that term as one who does have meaningful relationships with people of other faiths.)
  2. There are those individuals who chose for whatever reason to not really engage with people of other faiths but do not seem to have a strong feeling one way or another against it. 
  3. There are people more akin to myself who actively and enthusiastically engage interfaith dialogue and have relationships with people from other faith traditions.  
From there, my supervisor proceeded to ask about Jesus. What sort of people was Jesus known to interact with? Did society in his day approve? Well, NO! He challenged the status  quo.  In fact, he completely flipped the status quo on its head.  We as Christians are called to love our neighbor.  We are all beloved children of God.  Then THE QUESTION came.  The one I can't quit thinking about...it just keeps running through my head.  How do I answer this. How do I respond? How do we act as Christians today in light of it? What does it mean in light of my call? So here it is...
Jesus was the one who showed love to all the "wrong" people.  Who are those people in our society today?  Who are the people that Jesus would befriend? Who are those that our society looks down upon as "other" or somehow "less than"? 

Now, what are we going to do about it? 

P.S. I know it is really a series of questions.  She only stated it as one. I added a few for clarity. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

You know you are a nerd and take school a little too seriously when...

So I had a bit of a minor revelation today about my love/possible obsession with school today while setting up my new (functional) printer and testing it out.

Here is some background info on the revelation:
In case you didn't hear, I decided to pursue my Masters of Divinity degree at McCormick Theological Seminary beginning this month. As of now, I am about 2 weeks into classes as a seminary student. Additionally, as some of you know, I have often said that I think the ideal job for me would be to be able to get paid to take classes at colleges and universities around the world. At the end of each term, I would critique the overall class experience and provide extensive feedback for the instructors on ways to improve their courses and better reach their students. Awesome--I know!!!

Listed below are the top ways I realized you should know you take school seriously. See what you think!

  1. Your desk is about 3 times larger than your kitchen table. (See picture for proof)
  2. You are willing to move into your new apartment without a bed but get rather anxious at the idea of not having a desk where you can study.
  3. You color coordinate the binder and spiral notebook for each class with the name of the classes your are taking (as you are best able). For example, my binder and spiral notebook for Intro to Biblical Studies are blue because Bible starts with at "b" as does blue. (Yet again, see picture for proof.)
  4. You have more pens, pencils, and highlighters than can fit in 3 pencil bags, a small 3 drawer set, and a pencil cup.
  5. You LOVE buying any sort of school and office supplies. Need evidence of this? Just refer to # 3 above. (I know others who match this description...Wendy! :-) )
  6. You color coordinate your assignments for each class in your planner based on the color of the binder for the class (again as you are able--yellow presents a bit of a challenge).
  7. You have a planner and actually use it.
  8. You spend 20 minutes in the store looking at planners to try to find just the right one. So long in fact, that the sales reps starting asking if you need help locating anything because you look lost.
  9. You read so much your dog sleeps in your lap because she needs more quality time with you in some way. Oh, and she becomes your book rest.
  10. You are stressed about classes and the only thing that will calm you down sufficiently is to organize your binders for each class.
  11. You realize all of this, find it funny, and decide to post it on the web for the world to see!!!
So there you have it. My top 11 reasons as to how I know I am a nerd and take school a little too seriously! :-)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Hello out there?

This came to mind today after completing my most recent post...is anyone out there actually reading this?

Blogs seem like this potentially awesome way of sharing your life experiences with others. I can't help but wonder this after seeing my 6 (ish) followers listed. Does anyone really care? Or is my blog more of a way for me send thoughts about my life into an endless oblivion? Is it essentially an online journal--one that keeps me from getting to those deep, challenging emotions--just in case someone actually does get around to reading it?

We have all these incredible technological advances, and people always say that we are better connected because of them. I can't help but wonder if this is really true. Are we really better connected? Or do we just think that? How well do you really know your "friends"? Do they really know what is going on in your life? Is technology just a means of keeping people an arm's length away from us at all times under guise of "being connected"?

Thoughts? Remarks?

I would love to get people's feedback on this.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Approaching the finish line

15 days. That is all that is left of my VISTA year (including weekends). Where has the time gone? In some ways it seems just like yesterday that I attended PSO (Pre-Service Orientation) in Lombard, Illinois before officially starting as a VISTA (volunteer in service to America). I have spent the last 11+ months volunteering/working as an Iowa Campus Compact AmeriCorps VISTA in the Office of Service-Learning and Campus Engagement at Coe College (long title, I know). It's hard to believe I have just a few weeks left.

So much has changed in the last 11 months--personally, professionally, academically, etc. I came into this position knowing that I had not fully completed my education. I think I have known from a young age that I would be going to grad school. I just didn't know what degree I would be pursuing. Philosophy? Religion? Student Affairs? Seminary? I think it is quite possible that I considered all of those and several others during my time here at Coe. Choosing what field to get a master's degree in was no small feat for me. I have diverse interests. I had a hard enough time picking a major as an undergrad. In fact, I couldn't pick just one. I picked two! :-)

Perhaps deep down I knew that I would go to seminary. It was one of those things I couldn't really ignore no matter how hard I tried. When I first started to seriously consider attending seminary, McCormick in Chicago wasn't very high on my list. As the hours of research continued and the more I learned about McCormick, the more I was drawn to it. An opportunity presented itself for me to visit the campus for their Inquiry into Ministry event back in February. Going to visit a school just a few days after a major blizzard is ridiculous. I DO NOT recommend it for anyone. In any case, I fell in love with school. I knew that it was the place for me. With less than a month until applications were do, I put my application together with as much care and precision as time would allow. Weeks later I got the joyous news that I had been accepted to McCormick. There was not a doubt in my mind that this was where I wanted to be.

So now here I am--just a few short weeks from completing my time as a VISTA and only a few short months from starting at McCormick. I am at that point where I am getting both excited and nervous to go to McCormick. I am excited for the school work side of life. The thing I am most nervous about is living in Chicago. I'm sure it will be great. I just have never lived somewhere that big. I suppose this follows the trend in my life to try bigger and better things. I am looking forward to seeing where life takes me as I begin this next chapter of my life.

I don't know that I can fully communicate all the things I have taken away from my time as a VISTA. I made some good friends. I learned valuable life lessons about handling difficult situations, people, and students. I gained a better understanding of the need to give back to the community. I narrowed down my area of interest for a career path. I came to know more about myself and the person I want to become. I think the most important thing I have gotten out of this whole experience is that you can accomplish great things (that you may not necessarily think you can do) if you just try. Don't question it--just DO. I did so many things during my time as a VISTA that I never thought I would do or do well. The best example of this is successfully co-presenting at the Iowa Campus Compact Mini-Conference and feeling great about the finished product. I never imagined that I would be told that people were inspired and were able to take something away from a presentation I gave. I HATE public speaking, but evidently, I'm not as bad at it as I originally thought I was. So lesson learned. Give yourself a chance to succeed before saying it is something you can't do. (Thanks for pushing me to do this, Mandi. I don't think I ever would have if it weren't for you!)

Thanks to all of you who have supported me and been with me on this journey! I wouldn't be who I am today without your participation in my life. I wish you all the best of luck in your future endeavors. It has been a joy getting to know you and work with you.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Friends Come and Friends Go

I have always known that friends come and go in one's life. It seems like a natural part of life. There are some friends who are meant to be there for a long time, and then there are others who are only in our lives for a short time. Then there are those friends who you think will be there for you for a long time, but life sometimes has other plans for those friends.

I am thinking of one friend in particular. I met this individual my first few days at Coe. Things seemed pretty great. We had a lot in common, hung out all the time, and got to know the inner workings of Coe together. I always imagined that she would be one those friends that I would have in my life for years to come. That all seemed to change right around the time I graduated from Coe. Suddenly our priorities in life seemed completely different. I was worried about what I would be doing with my life after college, and she was worried about who her next boyfriend would be.

I realized that we were drifting apart and wasn't completely thrilled by that. We had been good friends for 2 years, but that doesn't seem to matter anymore. I don't have anything against her. We just have different priorities now. We drifted apart. That happens in life. There is no reason to have animosity towards one another. Just like there is no reason to be rude to the other. Obviously, there is no reason to go out our way to interact with one another. However, if we cross paths, please don't just ignore my existence. Being rude and turning your back to me does no good. It just makes you look like an ass. I hold no grudge. I would like to be able to say "hi" and ask "How is life going? Congrats on getting a job for after graduation!" It would be completely sincere, yet I feel like you wouldn't believe me. I am not asking for us to be friends or to hang out like we used to. Can we at least acknowledge our shared history and common humanity? Is that too much to ask?

I know we will probably never speak since every time I have seen you lately you glare at me like you wish the earth would swallow me whole on the spot an then turn your back and ignore my existence. I just want that to end. I want for us to be able to acknowledge and accept where we are at in life. We both need to move. Just don't be an ass. Ignore me or not. Just don't be completely rude. You are a better person than that. Please act upon that. Your current friends deserve better than that. Show them what kind of person you can be even if you won't act that way around me.