Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Standing In the Need of Prayer

I am a nervous wreck right now.

There have been a LOT of HUGE decisions made in the last couple of days. I brought my computer today with hopes to sit and update you all during sessions this afternoon, but I haven't yet found the strength/energy/ability to do so.

If you read this today (Wednesday), please pray. Pray hard. Pray for the future of our church. Pray that we might be united. That we might truly engage in Holy Conferencing and that we will allow the Holy Spirit to work among us. That we may, as a body of The United Methodist Church, give a faithful witness of who Christ is calling us to be.

I'm not entirely convinced that happened this morning. Yet I remain hopeful and pray that this petition - number 80449 regarding paragraph 161.G (that I referred to in an earlier post) will pass in its amended state. I pray the majority report passes, as it will not only take away exclusive and negative language, but also acknowledge that we have come to a loving, Spirit-guided place of peace in agreeing to disagree.

We are working through this petition. Please be with us in prayer as we discern and discuss this important, life-changing matter as we prepare to (possibly) make changes in our United Methodist Book of Discipline.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Prophetic Worship at General Conference

There is at least one thing that has greatly impacted the experience of General Conference that I only just realized I have failed to mention thus far. Worship.

Worship has been absolutely amazing. From opening worship with both amazing music, an incredible sermon, and the awesome opportunity to share communion served by the bishops with a couple thousand others, worship is the one thing that has consistently been holy and awesome and life-giving. We have prophets among us, folks!

As with all other going-ons, I believe the highlight of the great sermons we've heard was that of the prophetic voice of Bishop Minerva CarcaƱo. She preached about reaching to the outcasts and named things like immigration. She made bold statements, such as "Jesus is not an American, German, Filipino, Liberian, or even Nazarene. Nor is Jesus beholden to U.S. immigration policies or the policies of any nation."

Several times during her sermon, she had to break to make room for the abundance of applause that broke out. The cameras showed both enthusiastic, supportive smiles and cheers, and upset, arms-folded-across chest folks who couldn't believe what they were hearing.

What do I believe? Well, for starters, I know this Good News she brought us was prophetic. I know she is right in saying that the kingdom of God is greater than any national boarder we have adopted, and that it can overcome even any fences we may build. We may live in America. On some level, its important to be a "good American" (though many of us would certainly differ on definitions of that), yet there are things that are far more important. It is of utmost importance that we are - first and foremost - good followers of Christ who are reaching out to our brothers and sisters across the world, whether those in Africa or Europe or islands in the sea... or in our border nation of Mexico (or Canada... but as she pointed out, we don't seem too worried about building a fence on the northern border).

An unexpected phone call made me late this morning, so rather than attending worship, I had the opportunity to spend time in the prayer room (for those of you who are here and haven't been there yet... you should check it out. Its beautiful). Therefore, I did not make it to worship this morning for the first time. With that exception, I can say that all of our worship has been absolutely amazing, and I have truly been convicted by the words our Bishops have brought to us. I have been equally blessed by the coordination of the rest of worship, including through skits and through music led by Marcia McFee and Mark Miller. Singing in the seminary choir was great... and I'm looking forward to partaking in worship yet again with the young adult choir on Wednesday morning.

Worship. The center of our lives. The center of our conferencing. The center of what makes this conference HOLY. Transcripts are being printed in the DCA every day... which probably means it can be found online, etc. (I don't know where). I recommend you check it out. Even if it isn't quite the same as getting to be hear and feel the Spirit move with the words, I hope you can get a glimmer of the hope we are sharing and experiencing this week.

Pictures on IRD & RMN websites

Its been drawn to my attention that pictures of the MoSAIC Witness (the drum circle) have shown up on the IRD's website (IRD is the conservative, right-wing group). There are also lots of pictures in the MoSAIC flickr account.

None of them are flattering, but I thought it was funny that nearly the same pictures have shown up on both sites. I am surprised there are so few comments on the IRD website. I suppose they assume anyone looking at their website recognizes such a statement is terrible without their telling us so. Regardless, I stand firm in being a proud part of this movement.

One Step Closer

The Committee I have been monitoring (Discipleship) finished our legislation early, so I took advantage of the "free" time to sit in on the discussion happening at "Church and Society 2 - Human Sexuality." The bulk of our discussion was in regard to a change in the Book of Discipline, paragraph 161 G. The amendment would take out all that is written there and insert the following:

Human Sexuality

We recognize that sexuality is God's good gift to all persons. We believe persons may be fully human only when that gift is acknowledged and affirmed by themselves, the church, and society. We call all persons to the disciplined, responsible fulfillment of themselves, others, and society in the stewardship of this gift. We also recognize our limited understanding of this complex gift and encourage the medical, theological, and social science disciplines to combine in a determined effort to understand human sexuality more completely. United Methodists, along with other Christians, have struggled to find principles for applying traditional teachings to contemporary understandings of human sexuality.

We recognize that sexuality is part of the larger human mystery, to be received and acknowledged in grateful responsibility. We reject all sexual expressions that damage or destroy the humanity God has given us. We deplore all forms of the commercialization and exploitation of sexual relations, with their consequent cheapening and degradation of human personality. We call for strict global enforcement of laws prohibiting the sexual exploitation or use of children by adults and encourage efforts to hold perpetrators legally and responsible. We call for adequate protection, guidance, and counseling for children thus abused. We believe that the Church family should support all families in providing age-appropriate education regarding sexuality to children, youth, and adults. We challenge all members of our community of faith to commitment, integrity, and fidelity in their sexual relationships.

We know that all are God's children and of sacred worth; yet we have been, and remain, divided regarding homosexual expressions of human sexuality. Faithful, thoughtful people who have grappled with this issue deeply disagree with one another; yet all seek a faithful witness. We continue to reason and pray together with faith and hope that the Holy Spirit will soon bring reconciliation to our community of faith. The fire in our disagreements points to a deeper human mystery than we knew. We believe that the Spirit has brought our collective conscience to acknowledge this mystery more honestly, and to make our claims with greater humility before God and our neighbors. We therefore ask the Church , United Methodist and others, and the world, to refrain from judgment regarding homosexual persons and practices until the Spirit leads us to a new insight. In the meantime, let us seek to welcome, know, forgive, and love one another as Christ has accepted us, that God may be glorified through everything in our lives.

This paragraph is of course not perfect, but its a HUGE step in an incredible direction! Most importantly, it removes the sentence that used to say "homosexuality is incompatible with the Christian teaching."

This session was one of the most intense discussions I have ever been a part of (well, I was listening, as I have no voice on the floor). I shed tears 3 times... both for good and bad reasons. As I looked around the room, I was aware that there were few others who were not moved so much at some point in the conversation. My stomach was in knots the whole time. We were inspired and broken, encouraged and insulted. We discussed our differences and our similarities, got angry and expressed love... this decision has a HUGE impact on the future of who we as United Methodists will claim to be (in writing), and as we unceasingly prayed for the Holy Spirits discernment and action in that room, I know we were heard.

This was truly an opportunity to see what Holy Conferencing can be like. There were speeches for both sides. There were memories of light comments such as "...I don't think "transgenderism" is a word..." There were intense, moving witnesses from both those who do and do not affirm this change. A man stood and talked for several minutes about the importance of Scripture as the center of our lives and that we need to prayerfully trust in what it tells us... that Scripture needs to be the center of who we as Christians are. So... we should SUPPORT this change. Another man stood up, and though he does not support this change either, he was VERY clear (and sincere) in expressing his genuine love and appreciation for the stance others were taking in approving this amendment. As he told his own story of his struggles with homosexuality in his younger years (he is now in his 70s), I truly caught the hearts and minds of everyone on both sides of the issue, uniting us as he was able to show us what it is truly like to have an "open heart, open mind" even when we strongly disagree. Friends, THIS is Holy Conferencing!

The above amendment passed 39-26. It will go to the floor soon. I pray that it passes... I hope you'll pray about it too. As we pray, let us pray that it will be as peace-filled and hopeful as the moments we shared yesterday were. I pray we continue with this amazing, HOLY conferencing, especially in regard to issues such as this that are so important and difficult for so many of us.

I could write for hours on the speeches and motions, etc that were shared in during this day. To understand its incredible impact I believe you really had to just be in the room. If you are around, I anticipate it being a similar debate when it hits the floor for the larger body to vote within the next couple of days. I will definitely update with how it goes here...

New Members Elected to Judicial Council

I am writing this morning as I watch a debate on whether or not to give $3 million funding to help pay for education (seminary) at schools in Africa...

This morning was a HUGE day. 5 new persons (2 lay, 3 clergy) were elected to the Judicial Council. This was something I've been a bit worried about, as this was a huge part of the controversy around the IRD (Institute on Religion & Democracy) giving out cell phones to Central Conference Delegates. The results? ALL the elected members (and 11 of the 12 alternates) were nominees from the Council of Bishops. For progressive United Methodists, this was a HUGE victory!! Those elected were:

Lay Leaders:
1 - Angela Brown
2 - Ruben Reyes

1 - Kathi Austin-Mahle
2 -F. Belton Joyner
3 -William B. Lawrence

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Drum Circle Continues

After an amazing night with the drummers on Friday evening, I was excited to return to them on Saturday.

Worship on Saturday morning was great. I was honored to be a part of the Seminary Choir (even if it did mean I had to be up after only 3 hours of sleep!), and although we were only able to practice once, it went GREAT! Worship was fantastic, complete with a GREAT skit and an energizing sermon by a Bishop.

I skipped the Plenary to join the drummers for the last couple hours of their witness. Great conversations with folks walking by with questions ensued, and by 10:30 I had shifted to one of the big drums for the first time. After only about 30 minutes, my hands began to hurt and I was amazed at others' ability to do it for so long! But then I realized the level of adrenaline this experience gave was well worth it, and I was far from ready to stop...

Different from the day before, today, the press were everywhere. At first, this made me a bit uneasy. We didn't know where they from or where the pictures would end up. I have no idea how my conference (and my Board Of Ordained Ministry) will feel about it... do I really want to allow myself to be the center of this controversy? Then I realized those were all the wrong questions, as I do believe with all that I am, that this stance is the ONLY one I can take in good consciece. If they ask how I feel about this issues, I would be honest anyway. So rather than have it be a reason to turn away or not take part, I would rather show that I am passionate and willing to take a stance for things I believe in. So I drummed on... and did not stop for nearly 4 hours...

As leadership of the event shifted in and out, working on their AMAZING behind-the scenes stuff and preparing to pack up, I found myself trying my best to do what they had done so well for the 22 hours previous to that... keep cheers, songs, drum beats and energy going. I also discovered that I'm incapable of keeping a rhythm going and talk/sing/chant at the same time. We sorted it out, though, and I had a great time doing it. I invited folks to join us (and about 15 did) as we marched with the drums and song to the church, where lunch was had and a rally began. Speakers were great. People came to listen. Then we gathered outside...

With a drum (this time a bucket with some drum sticks), we headed out the door and back down to where the witness had been held. We marched in 2 directions, wrapping around and giving witness to different people as we met in the park. We sang the whole time... "we are marching in the light of God..."

As we met, more speakers spoke and tons of people - press and TONS of supporters (and a few from the Good News/IRD, of course!) joined us. In total, I would estimate there were about 250 people present. It was beautiful. It was holy chaos.

As we parted, groups of about 20 broke off and went to each of the rooms where legislation was happening. They sat in silence for quite some time outside each room to pray. To pray for "holy conferencing" and for the movement of the Spirit within the rooms. We KNOW the Spirit has been present among us, and the witness of 350 people at the rally on Saturday is a testament to that. Not to mention the fact that I spoke to countless others later in the day that said they didn't even know the rally was going on (how is that possible? I forget I am surrounded by RMN folks so much that I assume everyone knows what's going on!)... I wonder how many would come out if all had known?

It was another holy day. A beautiful witness which I am thankful to be a part of. I'm excited to see what more feed back we'll receive from it. To hear what others are saying, to hear stories of others' experiences of it. The Drum Circle has been one of the most powerful witnesses I have ever been a part of, and it made me excited and proud to be a United Methodist. I cannot help but to wonder what others' experiences are, and so I am on the search for where they too may be sharing their experiences of it. As I find them, and hopefully find pictures of it too, I will try to post some. The pictures might not come until after my return to Chicago next week, but they'll come all the same.

... there was LOTS of excitement today as I sat in on committee meetings. I hope to update on that tomorrow. For now, I must get some precious sleep before another long, emotional, exhausting day tomorrow. Keep praying, friends! We're being heard!

Firday's Drum Circle Witness

One of the most amazing witnesses I have ever been a part of was the drum circle hosted by MoSAIC (Methodist Students for an All-Inclusive Church). I have to admit, as I heard about this witness a couple of months in advance, I wasn't sure how I thought it would go. A good idea for sure, but I had NO idea (did anyone?) it would be as successful as it was.

Just before noon on Friday, MoSAIC set up a large (white sheet) sign with their logo on it in the park across from the main entrance of the Convention Center where General Conference is being held. There was also a sign that made a statement about a need for full inclusion of all Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, and Queer persons in the church. Once the drums began, the continued for 26 1/2 hours... a peaceful witness (NOT a protest!) of the great need for inclusiveness in The United Methodist Church.

When my legislation let out on Friday night, I went to support them with intentions of drumming for about 20 minutes before heading home for some much-needed sleep...

Only about 5 minutes after I showed up, some men from a local Baptist Church came to talk to us. They came out of genuine, Christian concern that what we are standing for is not in line with the teachings of the Church and of Christ. They came to teach us the "right" way of reading Scripture, to make us understand the error of our ways, the sinfulness of things like homosexuality, drum beats and dancing and of having women speak in public places, taking leadership roles in the church... all things of the devil for which we are going to hell...

I sincerely enjoyed taking time to speak with these well-intentioned men with whom I completely disagreed. By chance, I had my long hair down, was wearing a dress, and was using only an egg shaker for the "beat" when they came by. This proved to be very helpful of them being willing to hear me out, as I clearly am more of a Christian than my sisters in pants with short hair...

This short conversation lasted three hours and developed into some thought-provoking questions from both sides. I even became the focus of their group as they became far more flustered than I and had to rotate/take turns talking to me because they didn't know how to respond once they discovered that I was not only as well versed in the Bible as they were, but also comfortable speaking with them and able to do so with genuine love and without getting upset or angry. I really do appreciate their genuine love for others and their concern for salvation, believing with all that they are that this is the place Christ has called them to be. Who can deny the call they have, the passion they share, and the dedication they offer? I completely disagree with them on most things, but was not about to allow our conversation to focus on those things. Rather, my hope was that they could see the things we share- a love and dedication to living our lives for Christ. A believe that Holy Scriptures are God-breathed. A conviction of the importance of evangelism and sharing that love and compassion with others in the world...

I spoke with my Baptist friends for about 2 straight hours. I then stayed another 2 hours... a time during which I shared in fellowship, song, drumming, dance, and prayer (oh! the powerful joy of the opportunity to pray for such a group in the middle of this witness!! I felt so privileged to be invited to do so!). Throughout these 4 hours, I think I talked to every one of our visiting guests of honor (the protesters), as they kept asking the new ones to come and talk to me as they arrived. They all had great stories to share. I hope they were able to learn something from me as I was from them.

Just before I left, someone brought flowers for them as a sign of peace, of the love of God we truly desire to share with all people. One at a time, they refused to accept them. As I left, I took flowers to each of the men I spoke with, thanked them for their time and asked that they continue to pray for me as I would for them. That one day we would be reconciled and united as one body in Christ. None of the men would accept, few would even shake my hand. Until the last man I came to. He was also the first I spoke to that evening... (paraphrased...)
"Brother," I said, "please accept this gift as a sign of our shared love for Christ. As a sign of the peace he brings to us, as a sign of the covenant of new life to which we both cling to and as a symbol of our unity and love for our God."
"Why do you keep calling me brother?" he asked me. "How do I know you're a Christian if you're a part of all of this?"
"I guess you don't. Only Christ knows what lies on our hearts. But like you, I believe I too am saved. I know that I have accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior, and I know that as a professing Christian, there is no other person or thing I would rather center my life around. I also know that the passion for a God you professed to us here tonight is undeniable. I know that even though we disagree on some pretty important issues, we can agree to disagree... but that we are still united in the one body of Christ. And as children of God, we are called to love each other as brothers and sisters in Christ..."
"so you are saved?"
"If that means do I accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior, then yes."
"Ok then. I guess you can call me brother."
"Thank you, brother. I'll be praying for you, and hope you'll continue to do the same for me."

He took the flower, I shook his hand, and walked away. Truly, this was a holy moment and a huge moment of reconciliation and peace between us. The Spirit was on the move, and no one could stop it. I am honored to have shared in this moment, and was sad to have to leave when I did, knowing that I was truly in the presence of God in that place on Friday night.

As I continue to pray for unity and full inclusion in the Church, I also pray for my brothers who paid us a visit that night.

First Ever Young Adult Adult Address

I mentioned the other day how great the First ever young people's address was. Today, in The Daily Christian Advocate (the official daily news of General Conference), transcripts from the past couple of services, including that address, were printed. With hope that you can get a tiny glimpse of an idea of how and why this address was great, I'm sharing with you here the concluding words of that address, which the six young people said together:
It's not about action. There is action all around. Beating each other down, pushing each other around. No! It's about interaction. The future is about the call to follow Christ, the call to better ourselves. So believe! Believe in us. Believe that the future of the church is in good hands, and be with us now. Jesus calls us on the journey. We're ready! The time is now. Let us begin!
Sharon Brown Christopher then concluded the service for us, which she began by these words of support:
Did you hear it? It's not about action; it's about interaction. It's about the call to follow Christ. The youbg people of The United Methodist Church are ready. Are you?
The future, my friends, is NOW. We are ready. We are hopeful. We are taking action through essential interaction. Lots is happening here at General Conference. I can't wait to share it with you. Right now, they're voting on whether or not to change the agenda for today. If we remain in plenary, I'll post again very soon as I watch plenary from here. If not, I'll be heading back to the Discipleship committee to monitor.

Peace, Friends. I hope you're still praying with and for us.

Friday, April 25, 2008

General Conference is Underway!

I am at The General Conference of The United Methodist Church in Fort Worth, Texas.

I wish I had more to update on all that is happening. I will say, though, that the BEST part thus far has been the AMAZING witness by our young people yesterday! We are HERE, we are INCLUSIVE, and we are NOW - not just the FUTURE of the church!

Lots more to report on good and bad alike... and I hope you are checking the General Conference site for updates, as well as random blogs such as the MOSAIC blog which is being updated regularly.

Today is going to be a busy day, and I am excited/anxious/scared to death about what may go over in the next week, but as was addressed yesterday, the time is NOW!

Pray, friends. I'll update if I can.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Preparing for Endings and New Beginnings

Spring has finally arrived, and for the first time today, I was uncomfortably warm. (read: warm, not hot). This is a beautiful, wonderful thing, and I am looking forward to putting away all of my winter clothes for a while!

In just about 3 hours, I'll be holding my final Bible Study with the wonderful community I have gotten to know so well at Dignity Diner. I must say I am quite sad to be leaving, and even more so knowing that the future of what I have begun is as of yet up in the air. I hope we can get it sorted in time to pick up again in the fall...
We'll be talking tonight about the importance of being a light unto the world. I came to this group with many hesitations, lots of uncertainty and questions, and with that a great deal of excitement and hope to bring the light of Christ to them in a new and engaging way. As I leave, I am once again reminded of the many blessings that come with being a leader and a minister. Blessings that begin by hoping to share, and end with receiving far more blessings than I could ever have offered. I have learned a great deal from this group and the life experiences they have come to share, and for that, and for the spirit of fellowship and friendship they have offered me, I am blessed.

When I return home tonight, I will be laundering, writing, cleaning and packing... The United Methodist Church's quadrennial General Conference begins tomorrow in Fort Worth, Texas. I will be attending as a monitor for the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women. Primarily, I will be sitting with and monitoring the Discipleship meetings... I am really looking forward to the Conference and am excited to play a small part in the huge decisions that will be made (even if I can't vote). I anticipate it is going to be a wonderful, exciting, scary, heart-breaking, God-filled, Spirit-moving, awe-full opportunity for which I am thankful to be a part. Offsetting the legislation with beautiful witnesses that will happen, the opportunity to sing with the all-seminary choir, and the great number of friends I will get to see and (hopefully) spend time with, and the voice in the back of my mind that is nervous about not getting school work done kind of fades away... if need be, there are always extensions - this opportunity is too important to miss.

Monday, April 21, 2008

A Busy Weekend at Holy Covenant

This past week was a long, but amazingly fruitful, weekend. My only regret is that we could not have planned events better...
I spent Friday night at a gathering for the interns and our site committees. We had a great hostess (who chaired one committee and put the other 2 together), shared in a meal together, and engaged in conversation that varied from what it means to be a teaching church, to discussing both what we have done well and could do better next year for Holy Covenant's interns. While we struggled to stay on topic for much of the night, overall I say it was a fruitful conversation.

Saturday we had a (protestant-style) retreat - which means we called it a retreat but worked all day. We are working on a new vision and mission statement for Holy Covenant, so gathered as a parish (28 folks came!) to discuss what that should look like and how to convey that (both in picture and words) to both church people and non-church people. With an inclusive mission that includes evangelizing and outreach, it is important we can reach both crowds of people. This was a VERY long day, but again, also VERY fruitful. It was good to leave at the end of the day feeling as if much had been accomplished. I look forward to seeing the "final project" at a charge conference in early June.

Sunday, worship was great. What will perhaps be one of my most memorable moments at Holy Covenant, we got to share in the most holy moment and ceremony of an adult baptism. This is something that does not often happen in a United Methodist Church, for more often than not, we baptize infants. I think I had forgotten how powerful a profession of faith can be, and was blessed by sharing in this beautiful, meaningful, heart-felt moment. Tears were shed (both by the baptized and the congregation who was moved by it), joy and the presence of the Holy Spirit were undeniable, and a beautiful, incredible testimony was offered. It was a holy and life-giving service, and a great reminder of the depth of meaning of the promises we have made through our own baptisms.
With the Spirit so bold and present among us, it seemed only appropriate to continue the conversation and fellowship into the afternoon. A lovely lunch of 8 of us gathered for a meal and great conversation. I love opportunities like this to get to know new folks and see a different side of the "old" ones. I am going to miss our tradition of having lunch together every Sunday when I leave next month...

After sticking around the church in an attempt to get some work done, we (the Mission and Outreach Committee) had our second "information night" on immigration. An important issue that affects ALL of us, I really appreciate that the congregation has both expressed interest in this issue AND shown up for a couple extra hours on a Sunday night to learn, hear stories, and engage in conversation. Somewhere between 25-30 folks showed up, with which I am very pleased. It is good to see steps taken toward the action it is so easy to talk about. It is great to be a part of a congregation that really cares. It was a blessing to hear the story of one man from Mexico who is directly impacted by the terrible wages, changing laws, and heavy discrimination we too often forget.

This was a very long, busy weekend. But I am blessed by it. If it is any tell to the number of blessings we shall come to in the two weeks to follow at General Conference, I cannot wait.

(Photos courtesy of Amy and Ronna!)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Ride:Well Tour

Family, Friends, and Readers of this Blog:

I have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a member of the support staff on a bicycle trip from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. The goal of this cross-country trip is to raise funds and awareness for Blood:Water Mission and the 1,000 Wells Project, an initiative designed to bring wells, sanitation projects, and health clinics to underdeveloped communities in Sub-Saharan Africa. I will be joining beneficiaries of this program and stopping in towns to enlist churches, businesses and individuals in active support of this project.

The Ride:Well Tour is scheduled for June 6-July 28. More information about this ride and Blood:Water Mission may be found online at There you will also be able to see my profile page and read my trip journal during my tour.

In an effort to keep all donations raised throughout the summer going directly into grassroots projects on the ground in Africa, each member of the team is required to raise enough money to pay for their place on the team. This means I need to raise US$3,000, which includes $1,985 that will go directly to Venture Expeditions (the company running the tour), pus plus an additional US$1000 for other costs such as airfare and my cell phone while we're on the road.

I will meet my fundraising goal if 30 of my friends and/or family donate $100.00 each.

All donations to Venture Expeditions (the company running the tour) are tax-deductible. If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation for this trip, please make your check payable to Venture Expeditions and mail it to:
Venture Expeditions
350 W. Burnsville Parkway,
Suite #200

Burnsville, MN 55337

If you would like to help me offset my other costs for the trip, I have set up an easy way for you to donate online through Paypal. Simply click on the button on the right of this page, and all donations will be wired to a special account I have set up for the Ride:Well Tour. Please know that any funds raised in the manner that go over and above expenses I have will be donated back to Blood:Water Mission and the 1000 Wells Project.

If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me, or leave a comment here and I will gladly contact you.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Mission Holiness

A fellow seminarian sent this to me, and I think its well worth sharing. An entertaining article, to be sure... and since Garrett fairs so well, I thought I should make sure everyone knows we're the holiest United Methodist seminary, haha.

Read the article here: Mission Holiness Rankings of UM Seminaries

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Preparing for a Journey

The following is my first entry in my "blog" on the Ride:Well Network page. I am looking forward to the opportunity to get to know folks more, and have enjoyed a bit of time roaming around their sites and hearing about their journeys thus far...

I love the opportunity to occasionally go through everyone else's blogs. Its great to see the dedication and struggle and work everyone is putting into this trip so far in advance. Its going to pay off, friends- keep up the good work! The endless comments and questions about which bike/pedals are best and the day Mike accidentally went to far on his bike against the wind both ways (which, btw, reminded me of "I used to have to walk to school in the snow barefoot, uphill both ways!" haha)... all great stories and great testimonies to the kinds of experiences we'll share this summer.

I, for one, am not biking, so my experience of sharing in your stories is a different one. I have a few reasons for not biking... partly because I thought I would have other plans for the summer and when that changed, I didn't feel like I would have time to train, etc. Regardless, I am excited to be a part of the support team and getting to know everyone better. I've been thinking a lot about the trip, and this week I've begun to realize some of the different kinds of challenges I will face as a part of the team who is not biking. For example: after being in a car all day, I too am going to want to get some exercise! But I imagine that will be at the bottom of the priority list when we break each night. Anyone with great ideas of how to keep moving in a car is welcome to request them. I'll have seven weeks to test them out!

I was also thinking about how hard everyone is training while I was at the gym this morning, and in an almost- solidarity with the sweat and tears you'll shed, I decided to switch from my typical cardio (elliptical or jogging), I got on a bike for the first time in over a year. It was a bit rough, but I cranked up the resistance and pushed hard for about 7 miles. and I have to tell you - it felt great.

I'll be far from in shape to ride across the country in just over a month's time, but I'm looking forward being a part of this journey all the same. For those of you who are riding- keep up the good work! We'll be on the road together in no time...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A Beautiful Day!

I'm stuck in that rare, in-between moment of not having anything to do. It has been a very long time since I encountered such a moment.

Church this morning went pretty well, all things considered. Both Vince and I were a bit nervous about our sermons - it was pretty intense to preach on Biblical Authority! In preparation, I found myself more concerned with the precise words I chose than ever before, because it can be such a touchy topic! Ask me about it any time, and I'll have plenty to say about why Scripture is SO important and why we DO have to read even the most difficult passages that we don't know what to do with! But ask me to preach on it in 15 minutes? That was a LOT harder than anticipated! (unless, of course, you saw me last weekend... by then I had realized how difficult it was going to be!) If nothing else, I think it would be a great small group topic. I probably have enough to say on it to talk for a several-week session, but I bet even one night in the midst of others would be highly beneficial for any parties invovled.

Mike Kurtz, a friend from my home church in South Dakota, is in town this weekend for a work conference. It was great to have him with me in worship here this morning! Its a crazy thing when my very different, set-apart worlds collide with one another. That was the first time, I think (other than my sister) my home life of McCook ever collided with my lives elsewhere... at least, on my turf. I've taken people home, of course. But it was good, and I am glad for the opportunity to share a bit of what I'm doing here with someone who knew me and saw my gifts for ministry long before I would (verbally) acknowledge them - we were on SPRC together when I was in high school! It was good to catch up with Mike and hear a bit about the going-ons at McCook UMC (they're getting a new pastor! I think this will be a good thing!) over lunch.

In a hurry to leave the house this morning, I grabbed only my computer and no books for work to do this afternoon. I'm still at church, as I feel I need (want) to go to women's group tonight, and I decided it probably wouldn't be worth it to go all the way home only to turn around 2 hours later. I thought the amount of work I had to do on my computer would be sufficient, but it turns out I'm done earlier than anticipated! This is good news, and also a bit disappointed because I am usually quite productive while here! Alas, it has been good to finish the little work I did bring, catch up on emails, chat with my mother and, of course, update here. Now I've got just under an hour before the group meets, so I think I'll go grab a cup of coffee and actually read the newspaper for the first time in a long, long time. (I usually read it online)

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Gift of Friendship

One of the best gifts life offers is the gift of friendship.

Last night was the 40th birthday of one of my best friends here at Garrett. She's one of those people everyone loves, and since she manages the Cokesbury bookstore on campus, that says a lot, as everyone knows her.
To celebrate her birthday, she invited folks to gather at our local pub. It was such a success/ great night! I have never seen so many folks come out! Mostly Garrett folks- including our very own Dean of Students, Dr. Pamela Lightsey, who didn't come for a casual visit, but stuck around for a couple solid hours. I was also glad to see Holy Covenant folks come out- ironically enough, the biggest surprise was Darrius! We certainly wish he'd come out and be social more!

Most importantly, it was clear Kim REALLY had a great time... and she liked the book I made for her. I love the few opportunities I take advantage of to make fun yet sentimental gifts... in this case, a photo album/book filled with pictures and notes/pictures from friends, reminiscing of the times we've shared, what a wonderful gift Kim is to our community, and that, of course 40 is not old, but only the beginning of greater things to come.

I am pleased with the outcome and had an awesome time. I hope everyone else did too! Thanks to all who came out and made it a success! And a special thanks to everyone who helped me out by donating to my cause of book making/money raising for the gift!

... I hope we can gather again soon, friends...

Friday, April 11, 2008

Good News

A health update... evidently Randy (my step dad ... see yesterday's post) has been released from the doctor with a clean bill of health. I don't know any further details, but it is good to know this was "just" a scare... and I hope its a reminder that he should be cautious and take care in the future, too...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Celebrating Life... and the Need of Prayer

Its been a crazy week. I’m so busy and so overwhelmed with things to do here in my life in Chicago that I haven’t been doing great at keeping up with family and friends at home. So I didn’t hear until Monday that Randy (my step-dad) was in a bad car accident (not his fault) that could have easily been fatal… and I thank God that everyone walked away from it okay… (though the cars didn’t… but they’re replaceable!).

It was great to take time out for worship on campus last night… and as is usually true, the message and music was right-on, just what I needed. I thank God and celebrate in the opportunities I have to be a part of such a community.

This morning (see below!!) I had my interview with my District Committee on Ordained Ministry. This was a BIG next step towards my ordination process, and I passed with flying colors!!!

Then this afternoon… I spent it on campus, sheltered from the rain in the library basement as I tried to get my reading done for class tonight. I missed a call from my younger brother… only to hear from him 3 hours later and hear more “wonderful” news from home (insert sarcastic tone). Randy (step-dad who was in car accident on Monday) was sent home from work this afternoon with severe chest pain… I just spoke with my mother, and after seven hours of running tests, they still don’t know what’s wrong. They really wanted him to stay overnight, but true to his stubborn self, he refused. So he’s going back at 7:30 in the morning to have more tests run, hoping to discover the root of whatever caused that kind of pain…

We don’t know anything more for now… while the doctors are afraid to definitely rule anything out, they don’t think it was a heart attack, which could both be really good and, well, not so good. So until there is something more concrete, I just ask for prayers for Randy, my Mom, and our family!

…and for peace of mind for me as I’m trying not to get weighed down by heavy thoughts such as these that I can do nothing about. Rather, I need to keep working on my papers, my sermon for Sunday, etc…

I am a Certified Candidate!

This morning I spent 45 minutes anxiously waiting for my phone to ring… I had my interview with my District Committee on Ordained Ministry. This was the next “big” step that I’ve been working on for nearly three years. This was the final of many steps I had to take to become a “Certified Candidate for Ordained Ministry.”

To be a Certified Candidate means a lot of things for me. For one, it means I am well on my way to ordination. It means that when I graduate next year, I am able to be Commissioned (a probationary minister). –One has to be certified for a year before that can happen, then I would serve as a commissioned (probationary) pastor for three years before being ordained. If I did not pass today, I would not be eligible for Commissioning next year.

On a different note… but also important… it also means I eligible for a scholarship from my conference next year… This is very good news!

My interview? I was a bit nervous about it being over the phone, and other than that being a bit awkward, it was a breeze. They had minimal questions about what I had written, followed up on only one “concern” (which I anticipated… my procrastination!), and were generally excited and hopeful about me returning to the Dakotas for ministry upon graduation. I also discovered that they’re aware I’ve become somewhat of a “poster child” at Garrett, as I was told they were passing around copies of “Aware Magazine” (Garrett’s Alumnae magazine) that has my picture/article about my trip to South Africa. That showed up in a few Garrett publications… I was amused to discover they found one! Haha.

So… I celebrate today! I am excited to progress through the process and affirmed to know that the 12 (11?) people sitting around the table during a blizzard in Sioux Falls, South Dakota unanimously voted to certify me, believing that I do in fact have gifts to offer the church.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A Day to Celebrate

Taking this moment to share a time of celebration. Celebration for new life, for healing, for the miraculous recoveries and for hurdles we overcome.

In the midst of my own struggles and challenges with daily life and all that is required of me as a seminary student, an intern and future leader of the church, as a friend and as a sister.... I celebrate the gift of life and the healing hand God blesses each of us with. As a friend prepares to leave the ICU tomorrow after 3 weeks of strength and courage and recovery after a huge surgery, I am thankful.

I count my blessings, and seek to remember that even when I am burdened by papers to write, sermons to preach, and interviews to survive, there are bigger things at work behind all of this.

In all things, God is present, active, and alive. For that, I am thankful.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Peace-filled Night

Thunderstorms. Oh, how I love thunderstorms!

The flashing bright night sky of lightning, the sound of nature as thunder roars, and the freshness of the water that pours down. The life that will spring up as a result of the much-needed nurturing of the land... the smell of that fresh rain, new life... Ideally, I would love to curl up under a light blanket with a chic-flick and a couple good friends, free from worries and work and the stresses of class, work, papers and sermons waiting to be prepared. I guess we can't have it all!

Tonight is a perfect night for this kind of peaceful reflective mood, though. Especially after the great (crazy!) day! I went to a great lecture, had a great meeting, enjoyed the (brief) company of friends I rarely get to see... and then of course had a lovely time at Dignity Diner, even if I had to be late!

Dignity Diner... it never ceases to amaze me how great that community is. They always pull through. We were short volunteers tonight, so a couple regulars jumped up and asked if they could help. Then they put everything away in a timely fashion too... and did so with smiles and grace and genuine joy in the opportunity to help out. Bible Study was AWESOME- TEN people! One of my regulars wasn't there, and another left b/c he wasn't comfortable with the big group. Of those ten- only four had EVER come before! Praise God for new voices - and they were more than willing to share! I believe it was a fruitful conversation, and am definitely better for it.

As sad as I am to be leaving in a couple of weeks, I hope the great conversation we had tonight can be the light I need to make the best of the two weeks we do have left together. I also continue to pray for an unknown person to step up and fill this role... its heartbreaking to think of how far I've come, and that it is going to cease to exist as soon as I leave...

A Beautiful Day

Today is going to be another beautiful day of springtime weather and sunshine... and I cannot wait for it! Even on weeks like this one, when I am running from meeting to meeting, spending hours sitting to research and write, my life is made better by the sunshine. The small glimpses of the shinning sun I get while I walk from home to class or from the el into the church are not as much as I would like, but its just enough to give me the breath of fresh air I need to keep me going!

I had a WONDERFUL time in South Africa last summer, but since it was winter there, it also means I never really had a summer. Now, that is making me appreciate this warm, spring-like weather even more. Anticipation of a real (HOT!) summer for the first time in two years is definitely something to be thankful for! I'll be on the road in the dessert for much of that... and I can't wait!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Cubbies Win!

I know I've said it a thousand times, but I really do LOVE Chicago!!! Even more, I love it when I am able to take a day off and enjoy pieces of all the city has to offer.
One of the things about this wonderful city, is that it is the home to my beloved Cubbies. I *LOVE* baseball!! It is something from deep within, reminding me of the many, many days I spent at the ballpark as a child watching my brother play. I love that it is a relaxed, low-key game that makes it a great social activity. I love that it can be as low key as you want it to be, as missing but a moment will not throw you off the rest of the game... yet at the same time, if you want it to be high-energy and really get into it, the crowd around you is almost always supportive of that! Not to mention Wrigley Field is amazing, with a GREAT atmosphere unlike any other park I've been to.

Today, I went to see the Chicago Cubs play the Houston Astros... and the CUBS WON!!! 9-7! This was the first game I went to that the Cubbies actually won! It was VERY exciting!!! My hope is that even though time this semester is winding down quickly, I will manage to find time to go to a couple more games before I leave for the summer. Its a simple, FUN, always memorable activity... and living this close to the field (I pass it almost daily on my way to church), I have NO good reason not to go to more games!

... and for those keeping track, THIS is going to be the year! ;) We're off to a fair start... this was our second win this week!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Summer 2008

Well, friends, a decision has finally been made!

This summer, I will be joining the Ride:Well Bike Tour as a member of the support staff for the cross-country (LA to DC) bike trip. The goal of the trip? To raise money and awareness for Blood:Water Mission. My role in this is not yet clear, though it may include a number of things from driving the support vehicle to running errands and picking up groceries, to things that fit in line with my gifts... like helping to lead daily devotions and the like. More than anything, this is going to be an adventure of the unknown for me... and if you know me at all... you know that's a good thing!

This will be a fun, wonderful, rigorous trip to be sure. If nothing else, it will be an adjustment to move into camping daily and getting up with the sun! The map of where/when we'll be traveling is available online here. If you are in/around any of the places we're going through, I would LOVE to see you!

One thing I have to do (in a VERY short amount of time!) to be able to go on this trip is raise quite a bit of money. As the goal of this trip is to raise support for Blood:Water, all bikers and volunteers must raise their own support to go on the trip. Inclusive of flights to LA/from DC, all transportation, lodging and food during the trip, my cell phone on the road and related expenses, I am seeking to raise my estimated need of $3000. That is a LOT of money in a LITTLE bit of time, but I really believe this is where I'm called to be for the summer, so I also believe it is possible. I am hoping for a couple of big sponsors, and a couple of smaller ones. Don't let the big number scare you... its as simple as 30 people donating $100!

PLEASE let me know if you or some one/agency you know would be interested in donating. Because the money is going through an agency, all donations can be tax-deductible! I will have more information soon, hopefully including a place to donate online. Until then, please check out the Ride:Well website (or feel free to contact me!) for more information... and watch for updates on my profile!