Friday, November 25, 2011
Saturday, November 5, 2011
Not just anything, though. We're all thankful for friends and family (or we should be). We all appreciate a good meal. The November Gratitude Challenge is about more than that. Its about remembering to be thankful in moments that catch you off guard. Like... why might you be thankful for screaming children or the train car that was so full I had to wait for the next one even though I'm already running late. Its an opportunity to take time and use energy to be reminded of the gifts and beauty of life that we encounter each day.
So I've taken the challenge. At least half of the time, I remember to post what I'm thankful for on Facebook (I'm also keeping a journal). One example is that as I curse the cooler weather that is rolling in (cold = less cycling = sad!!), I have stopped to appreciate living in a place that has four distinct seasons again. The red and gold of the leaves are absolutely radiant! It literally took my breath away as I rode my bike to work one cool morning... I rolled up to work with the nation's Capitol a few blocks directly in front of me, colorful surrounding me on all sides, paving the way as I rode along. I couldn't help but stop and take a moment to appreciate the simplistic, everyday beauty I encounter and so seldom stop to appreciate.
When its possible (and I'm not on my bike), I'm even trying to take photos of some of these things. Like this photo - again of leaves as their radiating color stood boldly against the bright blue sky as I came up out of a metro stop near my house.
Isn't God's creation amazing?
Consider this an invitation to join me in the challenge. November is a month that we Americans think about being thankful because my favorite (secular) holiday - Thanksgiving - is just around the corner. But lets not let it just be for a day this year. Lets allow it to seep into us for the whole month of November... lets let it shape us and become a part of who we are beyond needing a holiday to be thankful.
Let us be thankful together. I'm thankful already for the way it is shaping my daily life.
Sunday, October 16, 2011
Why was it a great day?
First, its a great weekend: my friend Lyzz (from the '09 Ride:Well Tour) is here to visit! She arrived on Thursday morning and didn't leave until tonight (Monday). That being said: yesterday was an especially stellar day.
The morning started by meeting my friend Anna for a coffee (straight espresso for me!). Then we were off to the occasion of the morning: The White House garden party. Evidently, the White House opens up its garden twice a year (fall and spring) to "special guests." By invitation only, the "general public" are invited into the White House grounds to see the gardens. My friend Anna is a senior staff person for a Senator, and through work she obtained tickets to this party and kindly invited me along - also saving a ticket for my weekend visitor. :)
Entering the White House grounds was surreal. As crowds gathered on the sidewalk two fences and a street away from the beginning of the grounds, we passed through security guards by simply showing them a slip of paper and letting them look in our bags. The next thing we knew, we were looking at trees on the grounds planted by presidents past. As we stood next to the East Wing admiring Jacqueline Kennedy Garden we saw a big fluffly black dog appear: sure enough! It was Beau - the first dog!
The grounds were beautiful and I am greatly appreciative of such an opportunity for a tour. The gardens, the flowers, the trees, the vegetable garden, the naval band playing, the incredibly friendly staff and volunteers - all of it - was great. A huge thank you to is in order to all the volunteers who put the event on: and of course to Anna for thinking of me as a worthy guest!
Leaving we kind of thought to ourselves: now what? How does one spend a day when we've already been on the White House grounds?
Back to Plan A, we decided. Originally, Lyzz came this weekend so we could go to the official dedication of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior Memorial. The first memorial in DC to an individual who was not a president (and not white), this is an event that has been much anticipated since its original opening in August - when this event was canceled due to Hurricane Irene. We were late, but hoped it would be ongoing and decided to take our chances as we began the 2 mile walk to the memorial.
Fortunately, we arrived to discover it had not ended. As we drew near, Lyzz wondered aloud, "is that James Taylor? He can't possibly be playing live, could he?" She excitedly ran ahead and I caught up to her in time to discover: Yes! James Taylor.
Seriously: James Taylor? Does it get better than this? As we soaked in another song he announced it would be his last and we sighed as we realized we missed most of the set. Surely the event was over: it was nearly 2pm.
After a stroll through my favorite memorial (Theodore Roosevelt!) and then to see the new MLK Memorial, we eventually walked our way back through part of the national mall. We landed in a pub for dinner before finally making our way home where we had ice cream for dinner as we crashed lazily on the couch watching a movie.
Pretty close to a perfect day, if I might say so myself. Or at the very least, a memorable one!
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
What does all of this mean?
That its time to drink more tea, of course!
I've been LOVING drinking lots of rooibos tea that reminds me of "home" in South Africa. A touch of sweetener and a bit of milk (soy or almond, of course), and its perfect!
Recently, I've also been on a Chamomile kick. A friend shared her favorite brand of tea a few weeks ago, and it was so good my mouth waters for it just thinking about it!! (I mostly use bags, but as usual, they say the loose tea is better! I just need a nicer tea pot).
So rather than hold out on you as I sip my tea this morning, I'm going to encourage you: get some! I (obviously) highly recommend the chamomile tea from Adagio Teas. But to be fair: I haven't tried the others yet. I did order some peach iced tea... but I haven't tried it yet. Looking for a sweet deal? Leave me your email address and I can email you a $5 gift certificate for first-time customers.
I know I sound like an advertisement: but 'tis the season to drink tea! So I'm just doing my part to help you along. The gift certificates are free to send - and who doesn't love free money!? :)
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Sunday, September 25, 2011
There are downsides to every major change, of course. This change comes with a huge financial burden of eating whole, organic, natural (and lots of raw!) foods that unfortunately cost more than the oh-so-easy processed foods (and we wonder why America is so overweight!?). It also requires a lot of time and intentionality, meaning that most of my evenings are spent cooking.
Fortunately for me, I love to cook, and while it of course would be nice not to HAVE to do it every day, it often provides a great form of stress relief. Which means I should be entirely stress-free after the past month! ;)
This weekend has been particularly busy as I have spent the weekend trying out new recipes. This weekend I have made for the first time (or the first time allergy free):
Sushi (with veggies: raw fish at home seems to risky!)
Homemade vegetable broth
Carrot soup with tofu (delicious!)
Vegetable stew (with sweet potatoes!)
The best part? ALL of these foods - except the sushi and mayo - freeze well! So I've made big batches, divided it up, and now I can have "convenience food" I can actually eat!
I've also made turkey burgers and sweet potato fries. These - with a salad, of course, will be dinner tonight.
Sure... its better fresh (though not necessarily with the soup!), but now I can have options on nights I just don't feel like cooking. Like the good 'ol days. :)
All this talk about food... I'm off to eat my delicious dinner...
Thursday, September 22, 2011
I leave you with the words of a friend who was intricately involved with Troy's case for years, and whose words are more eloquent than my own.
They're Going to Kill My Friend
by Rev. Karl Kroger
(Written for the Pierre, SD Newspaper (www.capjournal.com) for September 23, 2011)
As I write this, a man I deeply care about is about to be executed. Unless a miracle occurs, when you read this, Troy Davis will be dead. Despite overwhelming evidence that casts doubt on his conviction, the powers that be in the state of Georgia are not concerned. Though Troy Davis and I have never met, I consider Troy Davis my friend. What do you do when someone is about to kill your friend?
Three years ago, while helping with a colleague’s youth retreat, I felt the call of God to help save a man’s life. In between the boat rides and the campfires, I could not stop thinking about the very real possibility that Georgia might execute someone who was innocent.
It seemed as if very few people even cared that the criminal justice system might have gotten it wrong. It seemed as if a flawed conviction only mattered, if it personally affected you. For most of the people and most of the churches in Georgia, permanently punishing the wrong man was not important.
But it was important to me. How as a society could such an ugly distortion of justice be tolerated? Furthermore, what if it was you or me, who was wrongly accused of a crime, and no one cared? Wouldn’t we want people to wake up and demand that all the facts be taken into account?
Praying for God to lead and guide me, trusting in the Holy Spirit to convict my heart, and compelled by Jesus’ command to love my neighbor, I surrendered myself to God to be used for the Kingdom. And so began my intense battle to save Troy Davis’ life.
Soon I began calling upon people to pray, to fight, and to offer advice. Within days, I recruited a few seminary friends to join me in the fight. We then rallied our seminary and our entire university, joining in with the people all across Atlanta, the state of Georgia, and around the world.
Momentum began to build and we started working with other organizations already fighting for Troy, including the NAACP, Amnesty International, and Georgian’s for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. The state was committed to killing Troy Davis, but we were determined to do everything we could to stop them.
And because of our actions, the intervention of the courts, and miracles, we did; three execution dates were put on hold. The instantaneous shouts of joy and songs of praise on those days were glorious! Millions of people worked to save Troy Davis’ life. We marched and we protested, we held vigils and we prayed, and we wrote letters and hung banners on the freeway.
All of the details of the case, the trials and appeals, the four execution dates are too lengthy to expound upon here. You should know however, that Troy Davis was found guilty of killing a cop, Officer Mark MacPhail. His death was wrong and is extremely tragic.
This week I watched as MacPhail’s daughter Madison, just a toddler at the time of her father’s death, spoke about the pain of growing up without a dad. She said there was something not right about living beyond your father’s final age. He died when he was only 27 years old.
As a Christian, I take seriously Jesus’ commands to love God and love my neighbor. Love, peace, kindness, and goodness are fruit of the Spirit and they are values of the Kingdom. They are part of the ways of God and they stand in contrast to murdering and executing people. Christians don’t all agree on that unfortunately, but surely we can agree that executing someone who is innocent or who has a strong case of innocence is stupid, unjust, and evil.
I grieve for Troy Davis, for his mother Virginia who died last year. What privilege to have known, embraced, and prayed with a woman of such grace and love. I grieve too for Officer MacPhail’s death, and for the pain his family still bears. May God bring healing and comfort to them.
Tonight my friend is scheduled to die. My heart breaks, but my hope is in Jesus Christ. And I know Troy’s is as well.
Rev. Karl Kroger's extensive work on behalf of Troy Davis began as a Candler School of Theology student in 2008. This advocacy inspired thousands to get involved with Troy's case and eventually led to Karl being awarded with Emory University's prestigious Humanitarian Award in 2009. Karl now resides in Pierre, South Dakota, where he is the pastor of Southeast Pierre United Methodist Church.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Like any other American I’ve ever talked to, I still remember vividly every detail of this day ten years ago. I remember where I was at 9:47am EST. I remember what I was wearing. I remember who I was with. I remember how I felt, and the overwhelming confusion and disbelief I experienced as the day seemed to move in slow motion.
It amazes me how much I remember about that day, and how the days, weeks and even months that immediately followed seemed to do so in slow motion. I was, after all, still a child. A youth of 17 years that thought I was all grown up and ready to take on the world. I had just begun my senior year of high school, and I was excited about venturing out into the world I (thought I) knew as I prepared for graduation the following May.
Yes, I remember it all with amazing detail. And yet it isn’t the details alone that I keep thinking about today: its how those details shaped, molded, changed me from the inside out. And in a strange way that I haven’t quite figured out how to articulate, I can’t help but be honest and say that I am grateful for the ways I have changed as a result of this terrible tragedy.
My eyes were immediately opened up to a world beyond my local community: I’ll confess I’d never gone out of my way to engage with national or global news, and it wasn’t readily available in the small, contently isolated town I lived in. For the first time, I realized there was a world of people out there who hated my country I’d been raised to love, and even more difficult was the realization that those people also hated me, purely because of where I was born. They didn’t know that really, I was a good person and didn’t want to do anyone harm. And they didn’t care about the individual stories of the people in those planes, the World Trade Center, or the Pentagon, either. Following from this realization, I also had another first: for the first time, I began to question our administrators, Republican politicians (I’d been raised to always question Democrat ones), and “defense” techniques.
I had a lot of questions.
The most powerful questions I immediately and unexpectedly faced came from my adversity to the hatred I was surrounded by. In the following days, weeks, and now years, I heard many racial slurs and ethnocentric statements referring to all people from the Middle East - especially “those Muslims.” I admittedly didn’t know the first thing about the Middle East or the politics around it. But Muslims? I kept hearing how terrible and hate-filled and anti-America they all were… and yet I couldn’t forget the details of my morning of September 11.
I couldn’t forget that since it was my first day back to school post-knee surgery, I got there early so I didn’t have to fight the hallway traffic on my crutches. I was just getting settled when my friend Basim came running in going on about details about some big accident at The World Trade Center in New York City. He turned the television on and we watched in horror as one building burned… and seconds later we watched the second plane go into the other tower…
I remember the details of lots of emotion, horror, confusion and fear that followed. I remember crying together with that small class, Basim included. and I remember that he was as confused and sad as any of us. I also remember that Basim seemed to fill in gaps for the many questions I had in my admittedly naive awareness of the world. You see: Basim already had a global perspective. I’d never thought much of it before, but Basim was from Pakistan. And he is a dedicated to his faith tradition: Islam. I had always respected him for this, especially in our white, “Christian” community.
So if Basim (and his family) were the only Muslims I’d ever met, and they were great, trustworthy, honorable people: then how could the world suddenly be afraid of and full of hate toward all Muslims? That certainly wasn’t my experience…
My naive questions have proven to be incredibly formative in the years since then. Instead of buying into the fear I’ve been sold, I have continued on living my life... working adamantly against that dreaded 4-letter F-word: Fear. Instead, I work toward living into Faith... and the love of ALL God has called us to...
I made the mistake of stopping and watching television for about 5 minutes this morning. I took a moment to mourn with the mourners. To listen to the sad voices reading names. To hear an interview clip from “the last survivor” who was pulled from the rubble. These stories are moving, and sad, and did their job of making me emotional, bringing me to tears as I relived those dreadful moments with the rest of the country…
and then I walked away. I couldn’t watch any more. I don’t want to forget (I never could) - but it isn’t healthy to re-live it, either. It was a terrible enough day to live through once. We can’t do it every year. I know I can’t. Not even on the 10th anniversary.
But I couldn’t let my sadness go, and I couldn’t figure out why.
So I moved on and walked to my boarding gate to take a seat. That’s right: my boarding gate. Today, on a day that most of my fellow citizens are most afraid to fly, I am not only flying, but flying into Washington DC’s National Airport: where my plane will touch down on a landing strip right next to the now fully-repaired Pentagon…
Why fly today? For one, I’ll be honest: it was convenient. and I didn’t really think about it when I booked the flight. I did realize it in plenty of time to have changed it: but why? To let fear win? I do not believe in fear. Especially not this irrational, media-induced fear we have been sentenced to live with. On the contrary, lets be honest: security is so high today that it’s probably one of the safest days to fly.
So I am on my plane as I write this. And as I do so in an intentional stance of my rejection of the fear many want me to have, I do remember those whose lives were lost in 2001. But my sadness does not stop there.
Instead, most of my sadness is focused on the survivors. It is wrapped up in remembering victims of the fear-induced hatred that has engulfed and changed so many of my fellow American citizens.
The country I live in and that I am proud to be a citizen of is one whose citizens spent hours building sandbag walls around every house in my home community when they were threatened with flood waters. It is one that wasted no time arriving to help victims of the multitude of tornadoes that hit this past spring… And that took care of and celebrated with my teammates and I small town after small town when we were hot, hungry, thirsty and exhausted while riding our bicycles across America in the heat of summer.
That is my favorite picture of the America I love. It is vast and diverse and embraces the joy of community as we were able to realize that really: no matter where you come from, we are more alike than different.
The America I truly love is the one that opened my eyes up to the reality of the world as I watched the Twin Towers fall. As I watched people on the other side of the world dancing in the streets because we were suffering (an image I regrettably saw in reverse when Osama Bin Laden was killed…), I knew what it felt like to be on the receiving end of such hatred for the first time. Living in my naive bubble in my small town in South Dakota, I really did not know that people hated our country, culture and people until that day.
So as we look back an talk about “10 years later” - that is what I keep thinking about. About how fear and anger have consumed much of our society. I wonder (perhaps hope?): is this the same as it has always been, and my eyes are more open to it now? Or, is there something we can do to stop it.
It all starts with one. As I sit aboard my American Airlines flight into DCA, I renew my pledge with you - all people of the internet (who are still reading). A pledge to do more to “act justly and love mercy” - and to walk HUMBLY with the God who has been so full of love, justice, and mercy for me.
Won’t you join me? I promise, the world will be a better place...
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
It did occur to me as I rolled my nauseated and exhausted self out of bed for a 5:40am bike ride that this might not be the best day to start. But then I decided I could probably find an excuse not to start every day if I looked for one. So: there’s no time like the present.
I’m not gonna lie: I think its going to be tough. Not because its impossible, but because while I’m detoxing I’m also starting a new routine of supplements that I have to take. And on days like today, when I wasn’t feeling well anyway, it seemed impossible not to be thinking about the food I could (or could not) eat. All. Day. Long.
It also doesn’t help that the day just plain started off wrong: I eat cereal for breakfast every morning!! Its a routine I’ve had for years and LOVE. I don't even eat the sugar-packed ones: I am partial to Weetabix and Puffins Peanut Butter and Honey Nut Cheerios (ok, maybe more sugar in those). Sugar-packed or not: they have some… and they’re processed, naturally.
Detox = no processed food.
This will be good for me, I remind myself.
But my rhythm was off. The oats didn’t go down well with my upset tummy so I didn’t finish them. Which means I was hungry early.
A snack? No… I didn’t really have anything at the office I could snack on. So I settled for an early lunch. Of a (delicious, actually!) salad.
The problem? Salad doesn’t have as much sustenance as I’m used to, and I ate early… so I was hungry again by mid-afternoon. I’m sure there are options out there, but today, I’m feeling whiny and hungry and sickly (and sorry for myself, clearly).
But I’ll get there. God willing, I’ll get there. Just be patient with me, I say to myself over and over again. And now I ask it of you: this might be a long two week detox… and a difficult road thereafter. So won’t you pray with and for me? I have committed to always remember in my prayers as I cry out for my own “struggle” of so many foods I can’t eat… to also remember those who have no choices. Who are hungry and struggling to find food at all.
My prayer today, then, is that my restlessness into gratefulness. I have sought answers to being unwell for a long time now: I am working on being grateful for it. And most of all… I am seeking to be ever mindful of the many blessings and privileges these “challenges” represent. With every lettuce leaf I lift, may we I be praying (we be praying together) for those who have not even that.
...and of course I’m human, and therefore also praying for my self-pitied self, that I would grow into a place of genuine contentment, honest, and coping with all of these changes in my life.
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Being able to do something, of course, doesn't mean it will be easy or pleasant. But do something I shall anyway.
I've been on a "get healthy" - from the inside out - kick for about a year now. I decided I'd had enough of feeling "ok" being the standard, while many days brought less than that. In January my efforts led me to discover a severe dairy allergy: after having entirely removed all dairy product from my diet for 7 months now, if I have even a little it causes a severe, immediate reaction. To think I was poisoning my body all this time!
Since I still haven't been feeling up to par and all symptoms haven't all gone away, I've been running more tests and doing more research. I've been seeing a great doctor who specialized in holistic health (since regular doctors kept telling me I was fine and weren't interested in even testing for other allergies!). Today, I got results back from a hormone profile and from allergy tests.
...SURPRISE!?! We found LOTS of stuff to "fix!"
Perhaps the best thing about the "allergy" tests we did is that they weren't testing for immediate reactionary allergies. Instead, we did blood work and tested for "intolerances." Similar to the oh-so-familiar lactose intolerance many people have, we discovered my body has built up 17 intolerances. SEVENTEEN!! (Lactose is not one of them)
Some of these reactions were stronger than others: the goal is to eliminate the strong reactions from my diet for a full year, while beginning with only 6 months for the others. We can retest in a year or so if all goes as planned.
So... the moment of truth: what am I reacting to and needing to avoid? At the very, very top of my list of strong reactions:
That's right... Freaking sugar! What ISNT sugar in? I can absolutely, easily avoid adding sugar to my diet. But eliminating it ALL - even in my favorite processed foods like sugar!?
Needless to say, I’m struggling a bit with not only the idea of such an adjustment, but with the practicality of if. I am determined to find a way, though… so I invite and welcome any extra prayers on this journey as I prepare to embark on a new journey of restructuring my entire diet… a task that I will easily admit is quite intimidating. But I know I can do it…
Of course… I’m always open to suggestions, recipe sharing, or folks who want to try it for a few weeks as a means of support! I promise to support you as you have supported me… and look forward to seeing results from this next adventure of life!
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
One year ago today, I met my friend Emily. One year ago tomorrow, I met her parents and my good friends- Jen and Matt.
One year ago on the 11th, I was celebrating with the world as the 2010 FIFA World Cup came to a close. I remember that day vividly: the cheers, the celebrations, the crowd of somewhere around 40,000 people from all over the world gathered to watch the Word Cup Final - Spain vs. Netherlands - on a big screen at the Sandton Fan Park. Indeed for me, that was a great day.
The next day (Monday) was filled with sorrow as we heard news that there had been two terrorist attacks in Uganda: bombing aimed at similar groups who gathered joyously to celebrate this world event. Groups who had no idea how much their lives were about to change.
On Tuesday I woke up to news that one American had died. Not just any American (it wasn't the nationality that hit me so hard)- he was a friend of many of my friends. I didn't know him well, but I had met him once. It was suddenly much, much closer to home. and I felt connected to this tragedy in a way I didn't understand. I desperately wished I could do something, but like most tragedies around the globe: there was little I could do from far away except pray. I did a lot of that...
Around lunch time I became restless and had "had enough." I felt claustrophobic in our house (we weren't working at this point, as it was our first full week off from SHADE). So I informed my roommates that I was going out to the mall where I would browse and sit in a coffee shop and read my book and just be "out." They agreed this was a good idea, so before we knew it, we found ourselves sharing lunch in a coffee shop with our books and half-written letters lying beside us. It was a day that was filled with good conversation, with the company of friends who challenged one another but were good for each other, and above all: it was good for our souls.
Rachel had been in contact with folks from Pennsylvania, who gave us word that a couple of other Americans had been on a Mission Trip (from a Methodist Church) and were in critical condition. They were to be flown down to Joburg where they could receive better care than the bursting-at-the-seams hospitals in Kampala.
Before we knew it we found ourselves looking for complete strangers in a South African ICU. The nurses were kind and we told them why we were there: American Missionaries who were asked to visit the Americans and offer support until their family could arrive.
I'll never forget that night.
We met Joanne, Emily's grandmother, and her greatest concern was over her grandaughter. We assured her she was nearby and resting well... as we had just been to see her. Emily... was sleeping when we arrived. We prayed over her. Then, at the prompting of a nurse, we gently woke her to say hello, to pray with her. I can still hear that quiet, sweet, scared voice like it was yesterday. The thought of it has literally given me chills.. I wrote a little more about that day in an old post you can find here.
The days that followed were unexpected. We showed up in the morning to greet Emily's parents, sure they'd want to know who had been to visit their daughter. We immediately knew who they were when they walked out, as it was winter and Matt was in shorts and flip-flops: straight off the plane from America. We introduced ourselves and intended to leave, only leaving behind a number "in case you need anything" - but honestly not sure we could offer them much. I'm so glad we were wrong.
Emily had evidently been asking where her "3 angels who came to visit last night" were: and there was a bit of relief to realize she wasn't crazy, and I imagine they measured us up to be normal enough - at least for 3 girls who choose to live in South Africa.
So we stayed. We took some "dubers" (Matt’s favorite word for foreign currency) and got them a local phone... and then stayed for lunch. And dinner. And lunch and dinner almost every day for the next 4 weeks…
To my Kerstetter family: you have been an incredible blessing to my life. Thank you. I love you all.
Friday, July 1, 2011
Rob: They gave me one of those little phones. They put their names in it, so I just have to open it and go to their name and it just calls them all on its own! Its great for people like me who are getting older and have no memory.
Me: Yea, I’m the same way. If I can’t remember anything now - and I’m only 27 - then I can’t imagine what it’ll be like when I get older.
Rob: Yea, you are in trouble all right…
Oh, all-consuming, wonderful (and terrible) technology… how would we live without you!?
Thursday, June 16, 2011
There are different types of anger, of course. I affirm anger that is productive. Anger that leads to addressing systems of injustice. Anger against injustice that can be ….
People who are angry and ready and willing to fight about resolutions or policies of our Church. People who are angry when they intentionally exclude people from God’s church. People who react with anger as they seek to be “inclusive” - even when that inclusivity comes at the cost of excluding those who disagree with them…
For the first time (that I can remember), I was uncomfortable taking communion today. I was torn as I realized how uncomfortable I was. Torn because I was uncomfortable with the situation, but then also uncomfortable that I was so uncomfortable. What kind of witness was I making in my own inability (refusal?) to walk away? What would have been the better, healthier decision?
You see… today, I decided to take part in a communion service with a group of folks who were intentionally welcoming “ALL” people to the table. In theory (and usually in practice!) this is something I stand with and for. I believe our church needs to continue working in this direction of radical hospitality, welcoming “only” those whom Jesus welcomed in his ministry: everyone. That’s it. No categories. No “except,” no, “but what if…” - just everyone. Yes, those lack of exceptions even include and move beyond one’s sexuality. Really, truly, with all of my being (even when its hard) and at the core of my being, I believe: Jesus’ intentionality in uses phrases such as “the least of these” means that he loves and welcomes ALL of US. There is no “them.”
So… Have you ever had the experience of reading something and understanding it one way, then later having someone else read it to be something entirely different? Today, that is how this service felt. The liturgy was beautifully written. The songs were well chosen. And yet somehow, today, something in me (call it the Spirit!?) moved. I was uncomfortable not with the words, but with how they were spoken. I was uncomfortable with the words (that we didn’t sing due to music being played behind us), “they will know we are Christian by our love…”
I was uncomfortable as I asked myself…
Would those around us know we’re Christian? We didn’t exactly invite everyone. That is: you were not invited if you did not agree with our “inclusive” stand.
… and so I ask: is that love?
A huge part of my call to ministry is a commitment to dialogue. How is this conducive to that?
...To be clear: this is not to reflect poorly on the individuals holding the service. It was a nice service. But today, it stirred something within me that made me angry. And that kind of anger has no place at the table. My prayer is for my own healing. For my own journey toward perfection. For my own desire to love better. As I sit here at an Annual Conference with over 2500 other United Methodists, I can’t help but to wonder how many people among us have been excluded… and how can we journey together to be the truly welcoming and “radically hospitable” church we claim to be?
I am grateful for the journey… and that I am not the one who is expected to have all of these answers. I am grateful for the God of love and Grace who carries us, forgives us, and loves us: even when we are not living up to the call on our own lives to do the same.
Monday, June 13, 2011
About 9 years old, she was well spoken, respectful, and a bundle of positive energy. She was mildly bashful when first introduced to me, but when I was trying to leave 10 minutes later, I was not allowed to walk past her without engaging in conversation.
Not just any conversation, though. She was referred to me by (Pastor!) Jeff, who I imagine was as surprised as I was when she asked him, in the midst of all the flooding and chaos going on in the McCook Lake/Dakota Dunes area:
What a profound question, my darling. If only we knew what went through God's "mind."
Perhaps the reason I find myself still thinking about this conversation a day later has to do with the intense and thought-provoking conversation that followed. I found myself challenged by the honesty and genuine questions of a (9year old?) little girl. She wondered aloud, "will we be wiped out like all the people except Noah?" as she also made astute observations like, "when I am sad it is like it should be crying outside. and when I am unhappy a storm... when I am angry a Tornado (etc)." Is that how God works, too?
I began with the most well-known story of a flood: she was well acquainted with Noah and reminded me (in her words) that there, too was a story of God seeking vengeance on God's creation for all their wrong-doings. I asked her if she knew what happened at the end of the story and was promptly told, "the ark was left on dry land, but even they were stranded on top of a mountain!"
Searching for the message of hope offered to us, I asked, "Do you remember the rainbow at the end of the story? Do you know what that means?"
"That God was angry and we should be careful."
I wasn't sure what was worse: that we teach our children the difficult pieces of stories to instill fear in them, or that it seemed there was no sign of hope in a story that really ends with an ultimate reward offered to us: a covenant with God. How great that we have a God who offers us hope and love and makes promises to us that are not dependent on anything we do?! God covenants with us purely because God cares!
We talked about the rainbow and its promise and she was entirely unfamiliar and so she continued, asking equally thought-provoking questions. Eventually, I found I could leave her with only this:
God loves us and when we are sad, God is also sad. It is not always that God wants bad things to happen, but sometimes they do. It is then that we should remember how much God loves us, how God even sent Jesus to show us that, and because of Jesus, we know that God really does understand how we feel. So when we are sad, God is sad too. When we are hurting, God is hurting. When our homes flood, God is cries with us through our struggle and is sorry that we have suffered and lost so much. God does not want bad things to happen, but God does want to help us find hope and to offer us strength as we find ways to pick up our lives and begin anew.
That, my friends, is why we have the rainbow. and today… my rainbow and reminder of hope came in the form of a little girl...
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Let me rephrase that: its been a much-needed great week for me!
Why, you ask? Oh, nothing out of the ordinary. Just a combination of small things. Things that are meaningful to me. Things that bring me joy.
Things like feeling more settled in this city I am foreign to. Things like connecting with new friends, and experiencing the joy of new relationships beginning. Things like hearing the stories of strangers (becoming friends) and how their "normal" lives are full of love, faith, passion and joy.
Things that, this week, have added up to help me shift from "doing ok" in this "foreign city of Washington DC" into a place of "settling in" in this place I am coming to call "home."
Why the sudden shift, you ask? I'm so glad you did.
On Saturday I went looking for trails but didn't find any, so after searching and riding in circles for about an hour and a half, I decided a 10 mile ride was sufficient and went home. I was eager to ride more, though, so I signed up for "Bike DC" - the annual ride that benefits the Washington Bike Association and helps do things like put more trails and bike lanes in. I even got up early for it - I had to be there to register by 6:45am.
|Sassy Sisters cycling group at Bike DC|
I intend to ride my bike to work tomorrow. I look forward to ways my bike shall continue to be an integral part of my life DC, and I am thrilled at the "new life" (positive energy!) I am getting at having it back in my life.
I always knew I missed my bike... but only this weekend did I realize how much. I am just grateful that as I discover this, I am also discovering a community that is just as excited to ride with and support me.
Its good to be back in the saddle.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Monday, May 16, 2011
I for one am glad Holli has returned to this place we (at least I) currently call home. I am also grateful for some of the things she returned with: a rolling pin, a commuting bike... And most of all...
Friday, May 13, 2011
So today, in honor of the G-ETS graduates (but especially the women), I am wearing my red shoes. Red shoes that need broken in but have been worn on only one other occassion: my own graduation. (Why red shoes? My friend Amanda wrote a great blog explaining this great tradition. Read about that here.)
My hats go off to you, Garrett grads. I am so excited for the ministry that shall follow this day you have worked so hard to get to. May God's grace, peace, love, and especially JOY follow you in the days ahead!
Friday, April 22, 2011
During those two weeks, I have moved into my new home, managed to get everything unpacked (almost: I have one box of books left to shelve), explored my way around my neighborhood, learned to navigate the metro and bus systems, and started a new job where I feel like I’ve truly “hit the ground running.”
For the most part, my days off have been spent shopping by day (for everything from bedding and curtains to food and basic household items) and settling by night (unpacking, cooking, hanging curtains, etc.). While it has “only” been two weeks, I am completely exhausted by these things. I feel like I have done nothing but run around! and I have been in desperate need of a true day “off.”
Today is Good Friday, so my office, affiliated with the Methodist Church, is closed. It feels weird that Good Friday - a day in the midst of the crazy-busyness that is Holy Week - would be a day “off.” Alas, I realize today that is one of the blessings of being a “lay” person. I have spent time thinking about all that is today in “Good Friday” and will go to church tonight, but in the interim, today really is a day “off.”
I woke up around 8 and stayed in bed: simply because I could. I got up a while later feeling rested and refreshed. I spend the morning dodling around in my new home, having a late breakfast, checking email, reading a few friends’ blogs I’ve fallen behind of. Really doing one of my favorite things on a day off, easily defined as: “nothing.” Or, as I like to call it: “self care.”
As the day grew close to noon I decided to progress into some delicate, slow-paced productivity. I washed the dishes, swept the floor. When I began to do so, I plugged my iPod into the stereo with a new cord I finally managed to buy this week. As the music filled the apartment it felt good and right: I did play one of my favorite energizing playlists, of course!
But that’s when I realized I was missing something. It took me a minute to figure it out, and as I was thinking about it the phone rang. I turned the music off and answered my phone. After a short conversation, I reached to turn the music back on, but that’s when I realized it: The thing that was missing, was the silence.
I spend all week with noise. As an extrovert, I celebrate that I am able to either always be talking to people or have my music playing while I work. As I walk (or take the bus) home from, work, my life is filled with the sounds of others around me.
This morning I realized that my time alone in the apartment was special for one reason above all others: for the first time, I was granted true silence without interruption. A silence that provides not just time for reflection, but also an opportunity for clarity and refocusing.
Truly, this is what taking sabbath is all about. Even if it comes on an unexpected day like Good Friday.
I know I won’t keep the music off forever: I probably won’t even last the afternoon. But for now, I appreciate that the only sounds I can hear are the clicking of the keys on my keyboard and the dishwasher running in the kitchen.
Truly, on days like today, there could be no better sound than the sound of silence.
Thursday, April 21, 2011
This is a place I have instantly begun to feel at home in. After only having attended once before (on Sunday), I already recognized faces and even remembered a couple of names. I found the place incredibly familiar and didn’t really feel like a visitor. It is an incredible feeling to have that feeling in a church. Especially in a city that is in so many ways still foreign to me.
It could be said that it is common for a service of footwashing to occur tonight: Maundy Thursday. It is the night that we not only remember Jesus’ last supper and sharing of bread with his disciples, but it is also the night that Jesus humbled himself - and his disciples - and washed their feet. Jesus didn’t just invite that his disciples - and all of us - follow his lead and humble ourselves as servants: Jesus commanded it.
That always strikes me. That Jesus commanded something: and yet we only really talk about it and act on it once a year. It got me to thinking about other ways we figuratively “wash one anothers’ feet.”
I was thinking about this as I went up to have my feet washed by the Deacon of the church: my good friend Jason. I observed the care with which he poured the warm water on my feet, and how delicate and intentional his hands were as they “worked” to dry my feet. This process really is humbling and beautiful.
Then came the hard part: I sat down.
Let me be honest: especially as Holy Week has arrived, I have missed serving in a church. Crazy, I know: but while all of my clergy friends are running around fretting, my life has carried on “normal” and my only focus on the holiness of this week came tonight: at a service I thought about not attending because I was so tired.
So as I sat in my pew half thinking about servanthood and Jesus’ commandment, I was also half thinking about wanting to be more actively involved in leadership (and leading worship) in a church.
That’s when it happened: I literally had to restrain myself.
I saw my Deacon friend Jason kneeling, sitting before the bucket with water and clean towels, waiting to wash others’ feet: but no one was coming. We had finished: the last person was having their feet washed by the pastor on the other side of the room. But Jason just waited. As if he didn’t notice.
And the longer he sat there, the more I thought, “I should go over there. Someone should wash his feet.” The voice telling me to do so grew louder and louder as I contemplated what to do. Was this the voice of God telling me to go and bless him in this way? Or was this my other voice: the one who wants to be involved. The one who has a hard time letting go. and most of all: the one who has a hard time just being served.
I didn’t go.
I wish I could say it was because this last part occurred to me in time to be content and listen more closely to Jesus’ command to be humbled and both serve and be served.
But I can’t say that.
All I can say, is that I didn’t go because about the time I had convinced myself it would be okay and I wouldn’t be stepping on toes in this new (albeit homely) church if I did so, the music stopped and I realized the others had finished.
Before I knew it the candles were extinguished and the alter was being stripped.
Before I had time to finish processing, people were starting to leave in silence.
Silence that came too quick. I knew it was coming, but I wasn’t ready for it.
But all the same: it has arrived. let the night of prayer and fasting begin as we move onward toward Good Friday...
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
At times like these, I get overwhelmed with how much I have to catch up on, as I don't know where to start. This only makes me fall further behind, and it seems to dig an impossible hole of blogging doom.
Now is one of those times. I even have several half-written blogs I thought about fixing up or even posting as they are. Then I decided that was a bad idea.
So here's what I'm going to do: nothing.
Unfortunately, there is just going to be a great big gap in this blog of mine, and if I get to it later, I'd like to say I'll update more and catch up here on the transition of life back in the US. But if I'm honest, I'd also like to say: that probably won't happen.
In short, here's a summary: I miss South Africa and my family there heaps and heaps, and I think of them every day. I look forward to when I can visit (or live there) again - hopefully sooner rather than later.
Fact 2: Some days are harder than others.
Fact 3: I also really like living in Washington, DC.
Fact 4: I am grateful that weather in Cape Town is similar to weather in DC, only we're going into summer, and them into winter. (DC wins!)
Fact 5: I believe my new appointment at MFSA is going to be full of challenges.
Fact 6: I feel up to those challenges, and feel like my strengths and gifts are a good fit for the needs of MFSA at this time.
Fact 7: That fit is really scary, as it will force me to work beyond my comfort zones.
Fact 8: Working beyond where we are comfortable is where I have seen the Holy Spirit most at work. I am really excited about this!
That's enough facts for now. More later.
Saturday, March 26, 2011
I have the whole, quiet house to myself for the first time since returning to South Dakota. Which means I have several consecutive hours of peaceful alone time for the first time in… over a month?
So: how did I spend it?
Watching soccer, of course!
Tonight the USA played Argentina in a friendly match here in the US - and for the first time in my soccer-loving life, I am living somewhere that has access to a channel that will actually play the match! So you better believe I had the TV set on ESPN 2 hours in advance.
Did I mute it and do something else while waiting for the game to come on?
Glad you asked! The answer? No!
Why would I? How could I? Not when on Sports Center was: a pre-season Cubs game! YEA Cubbies: So glad you beat TX! :)
After the game? I eventually lost interest because they were talking about March Madness, and for whatever reason, I dont have the fever. Or really follow basketball at all.
But then… who needs it with other great games and superior sports to follow?
For those wondering: USA and Argentina drew at 1-1.
and the Cubs? Yes. This is the year!
Friday, February 25, 2011
So here I sit. Waiting with sadness and grief of what I leave behind. Focusing on the joy (and positive growth from the sorrows) of all that has passed and become a part of me over the past 18 months. And reveling in excitement and anticipation for all that lies ahead.
Because today, my heart is full of grief as I have bid many people I love farewell.
I am nervous as I consider the questions associated with the ways I have changed from the inside out. Change I may not recognise for years to come, but which begs questions such as: how will 'home' feel different as a new person enters for the first time?
And despite all of this, I am confused and grateful for excitement as I prepare to board a plane to Ireland, where a new country and an old friend await me for a week of adventure. I am thrilled that I shall soon be reunited with family and friends I have not seen in a year and a half, not the least of whom include new additions such as my nephew Quintin.
So a cloud of emotion surrounds me today, and only one word seems to describe how they are linked:
Monday, February 14, 2011
Are you ready… ?
I am moving to…
I will be working for…
The Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA)!
My job title will be…
“Associate for Movement Building” - with an emphasis on young people!
Which is a fancy way of saying…
My focus will be on participating and leading events that foster theological reflection on social justice work… including but not limited to planning national events, working with social media outlets, engaging in education and witness of social justice issues...
Basically, I’m going to get to do three of my favorite things: invite and engage in dialogue, share theological reflections, and figure out how to turn those in to actual change and do-ing of social justice. And not just locally, but across the United Methodist denomination.
For lack of a better word to describe this job description I come up with only: AWESOME.
Really, truly: I could NOT be more excited about this placement! In so many ways, I feel it is perfect for the place God has been calling me to, and the ways God has been speaking to me: not just lately, but over the past several years.
The moment I read the email inviting me to consider this as a placement, a smile washed across my face and I was instantly excited about how apparently perfect this placement seemed. As time has passed and I have had time to further consider this placement over email and phone conversations with staff at mfsa, I have only grown more confident in this assignment.
Indeed, God’s hand has been with me in my journey to here, and indeed God continues to bless and encourage me. After a couple of years of chaos and confusion, I am exuberant as I consider the new direction my path is taking me, and it is with great anticipation that I prepare for what shall be written in the next few chapters of this crazy book I call my life.
I hope you’ll join me and continue to follow me here as I make my transition and enter into a new form of ministry over the next couple of years.
Sunday, February 13, 2011
Friday, I met a friend who lives on the other side of town for coffee… to bid one another farewell.
Today was my last Sunday at Plumstead Methodist Church.
Time is running away, slipping through my fingers quickly, slipping away before I realize it has passed.
I have begun saying farewell. I have had many “lasts.” And at the end of next week, I will depart South Africa.
It is strange that this time has come, and it still doesn’t feel entirely real. In part, I am grateful: that makes it easier. On the other hand, I wonder if this denial of sorts will not only make adjusting to life back in the US more difficult.
I am going to miss this place. These people. This climate. The smells, the sites, the sounds. There is no place like Cape Town, my favorite city in the world.
And yet… while I am sad to be going and refusing to think of the people I will miss the most… I am also really excited. Excited because of what is yet to come. Excited because I know God has called me to what is next. Excited because this ending, as with all endings, also brings with it a new beginning. And the new beginning that awaits me in the US is certainly one that God has called me to.
And so, while I am sad and torn and a bit numb when I think of leaving, I am left also joy-filled, for if I were to leave this place for any other or for any reason, it could only be because God has called me to do so. I am grateful to find myself in that space.
So where is this next place that I’m heading to? Watch this space and I’ll make that announcement here in the next couple of days… :)
Monday, February 7, 2011
Monday, January 31, 2011
These are just a few of the things I've been "doING" lately.
I am finding that with each passing day and each passing task, I am drawing more near the final time I will be "doing" these things here. In this place. With these people.
And somehow, while I'm sad to be leaving, I am also beginning to greatly anticipate whatever is "next." I look forward to answers to that question soon, hopefully as soon as this week. And while I look forward to that, I also realize that I have learned in the past few weeks that it is possible to love a place and long to stay, but also to consider the alternative: that the time has come to go.
So I am working hard this week to continue on "do"ing, but also seeking to "be." To be present. To take a little extra notice of my surroundings. To smile and laugh more, and to soak in all that I am surrounded by now that I know I will greatly miss when I return to the US in just over a month's time.
Perhaps the next few weeks will bring with them photos of some of these people and places and sites and views that I am soaking up so that you can share the beauty I am surrounded by with me.
Saturday, January 29, 2011
Near the top of that list for me were two things: Camp as much as possible, and visit Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa where the two oceans officially 'meet.'
Today is a peaceful and perfectly beautiful day, and I am grateful to be doing both of these things. While Jessica and Greg take a nap, Lisa and I sit in the sun reading our books while a cool breeze blows over us. The only sounds to be heard are from the waves crashing against the shore 100m away, birds singing, or the occassional laughter from the few other campers nearby.
Life is good.
Monday, January 24, 2011
In fact, I more than don’t like it: I’m completely opposed to it.
I used to say goodbye to people and places in my life, and every time, no matter how hard I would try not to, I get all worked up about it. Because when one says goodbye, it feels like there is a finality to it that just makes me uncomfortable.
So I don’t say goodbye anymore. And so far, this has worked out well for me. I bid people farewell, and say things like, “until we meet again,” but I don’t say goodbye.
I can’t, really, because it either hurts too much or feels like a lie, as I have a hard time believing in the finality that I unintentionally attach to the word.
Because on more than one occasion, I have bid someone “goodbye” believing it was likely we would never meet again. Friends who live overseas are sad but realistic examples of this. And yet, here I am in South Africa, living with a family that has become my own, proving my point precisely: when I left South Africa for the first time in August 2007, I did not believe I would ever return. I figured I would never see them again.
But then: God certainly does have a sense of humor, and here I am.
And so, as I prepare myself - my whole self - for a parting of ways when I return to the USA in a few weeks’ time, I am not preparing myself for saying goodbye. This time, I believe we will meet again, whether it is in person or in spirit, or through email or photos or perhaps through my dreams when I miss this wonderful place so much. And so, for all of these reasons, I am searching for ways not to say goodbye, but to say “thank you” for all this country - her places, and most importantly her people - have offered me.
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Where I come from the US (or more specifically the UMC), you don’t preach often unless you’ve been ordained. So while I did learn a bit about preaching while in Seminary, I haven’t had a lot of opportunity to practice.
Well, here I am, and here is the good news: I survived. Better news? I LOVED it! (shhh!)
As it turns out, this big, scary, exciting opportunity to preach and lead worship regularly, is something that I love to do! I cannot begin to describe to you how great it is to feel affirmed in this huge piece of my calling into ministry.
The truth is, I was intimidated and nervous and perhaps even anxious about preaching (enough that I actively avoided opportunities to preach in the past). Plumstead changed this only because there was a need that I could help to meet: and how does one say no to that? Yet what started as a need led me to discover that the more I was preaching, the less it felt like a “task” - and the more it has begun to feel like a “calling.”
Just as I’ve begun to fall into routine and realize the joy I receive from this type of ministry, I came to another realization:
This morning was my last Sunday preaching at Plumstead Methodist Church. and I don’t know how long it might be until I’m in a post that allows me to preach regularly again.
There are many, many ways my time in Plumstead has been a blessing to me. Today, I am grateful for this opportunity - and this revelation.
So though I was not ready to say goodbye to you today when you surprised me with a parting gift, to you, Plumstead Methodist Church, I say: Thank you.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
And now. Now that it finally feels like I am in the right place at the right time with the right people. Right when it feels like that: it is time to start preparing to leave. I am trying not to count days or weeks, but its hard, especially knowing that tomorrow marks 5 weeks until my departure.
I’m not ready to leave, that much is certain. And yet, as I read through the Gospel stories set before us for Epiphany, I am reminded that when we are called - when we are asked to “follow” or “come” or “believe” - we are not asked to do so on our own time, in our own convenience, or in our comfortable spaces.
We are not called to come at our leisurely, comfortable paces, but “immediately,” as the disciples did when Jesus first called them.
So I must also acknowledge: our God who called me to South Africa, is now calling me home. I still do not know what lies ahead of me. and I have no idea where my next placement will be or what I’ll be doing.
But I trust.
It will not be easy. I know that wherever I end up, it will take me a while to find my rhythm again, and to make it feel like home. And yet I also know, deep down inside, that though I do not think I’m ready (or want) to leave, it is right.
And though it is not easy, I must trust in that knowledge. For if there is one thing I have learned or been affirmed in over this past year, it is this: to always trust my God-given instinct: even when it is not easy or comfortable or “safe.”
Right now that instinct is reminding me of my call and commitment to return to the US. To the US where another adventure of another unpredictable 18 months awaits me…
But until then, I shall remain here. Taking in every moment of joy, every breath of the fresh ocean breeze, every extra view of the extraordinary Table Mountain.
Today, I am happy to be where I am. And so, rather than focus on where I will be, today I choose to acknowledge but not focus on the fact that I am leaving.
Today, I choose to find joy in my growing gratitude for being here, and being able to just be.
Saturday, January 15, 2011
Today, my dear friend Emily has exchanged vows with the love of her life, Michael.
I wish with all of my heart I could be there to help them celebrate. To see in person the smile that I know only Michael can bring to Emily’s face. To share in the joy they will exude today as they make official their pledge to share their lives with one another: with the one person who makes the other happier than any of us have ever seen them.
I could not be happier for you, Michael and Emily. And today, I say, with all of my heart and from across an ocean: Congratulations Michael and Emily! I love you!
Sunday, January 9, 2011
So, with one exception of a road trip to Minneapolis with 8 of us piled in a van, I didn’t grow up going on family holidays.
Now: fast forward to my present life. I live with a family that has taken me in as one of their own. As Pete was moving to Pietermaritzburg, a road trip was in order to take a few things there, including his motor bike and the truck. So: roof tents in order, back packed with amazing precision by Jess, and into the bakkie 5 of us went, with poor Pete struggling to keep awake as we slowly made our way from one side of South Africa, to the other.
It has been an adventure learning to fall into the natural rhythm of the family’s holiday “routines” - if you can call them that. Their “routine” basically includes plentiful coffee (and thus toilet) breaks and stopping off for petrol or to take photos or to see unique shops or anything else that is felt like in the morning.
As long as you understand three things, life will be grand when on holiday with the Grassows:
|Visiting and drinking freshly roasted Terbodore|
Coffee was definitely a highlight!
2. Coffee is important and should be consumed regularly.
3. Nothing and no one moves faster than a leisurely pace.
Needless to say, I’m having a great time!