stream of consciousness involving podcasts, frozen pizza, and running

i listened to a podcast friday while i was grocery shopping that made me stop between the shallots and garlic. i made an ugly face. “UGH.”

can’t remember what the guy’s name was but he was saying that if you want to meet a goal, you shouldn’t go public with it. as soon as you publicize it, subconsciously you’ve already met the goal. and you stop trying. or something to that effect.

i scowled between produce bins at the podcast dude because i recently went public with my exercise goals. last month i plastered my face on Facebook — like you do when you’re working out on a wednesday evening and looking for a high five, a hug, a word of affirmation so you feel less shweaty gross and more shweaty awesome — thinking, “yes. this is it. i’m turning over a new leaf RIGHT NOW. THE TIME IS HERE. CARPE DIEM SELF.” i declared to my Facebook friend world that i was sticking my stake in the ground and completing an Olympic triathlon by the day i’m 30. (may 22, 2017.) and there in the HEB aisle i thought about how during this past week of 100+degree weather in houston i ran ONCE in preparation for a 5K on saturday–the next day. the morning after grocery shopping. i thought about how i had been wishing i never signed up for some stupid race during AUGUST in Houston.

who am i? really. what person makes this impulsive decision? 

i picked up a couple shallots. some were squishy. imma guess from this unreal humidity. i tossed the squishy ones to the side, grabbed some decent ones,  and turned back to my cart. i wondered…

so have i self sabotaged? will i follow through with my public goals? or am i pretty much categorized already and boxed in by some statistic? who is this TED talk guy anyway? on what authority does he tell me these things through my earbuds? 

y’all: i went home and ate a frozen pizza. I WENT HOME AND ATE HALF A FROZEN PIZZA THE NIGHT BEFORE A 5K. seriously. i bought food to cook in bulk and freeze. food on the paleo side of things. whole food. food that would meet the Whole 30 day challenge. and i also put a frozen pizza in my cart and went home AND ATE IT. before needing to wake at 5AM for a 5K.

who are you? seriously. you’re eating a pizza and watching netflix. do you even care about this race? do you care about your body? what are you doing? 

so yeah. that was my friday night. i went to bed later than probably what i could have.

the next morning my friend, brother, and community member Russell and i headed to the race. i was feeling grumpy and nervous. i didn’t feel like i ate bad pizza the night before but i was embarrassed that i had had PIZZA. i didn’t tell him. [hi, Russell. now you know.]

i could go on and on about the morning. how we warmed up. how lovely it was to watch the sun wake up and greet downtown Houston. how we stood in line to use port-a-potties. i’ll spare you.

but the moments when all this came together: when my feet hit the pavement with other bodies, other human beings like me who may or may not have had frozen pizza the night before (probably not. but maybe.). when my mind was unstuck by traveling with others in all their quirkiness seen in their coordinated team t-shirts, their particular gaits, their facial expressions, their laughter, their silence. my body remembered how to do this when i was in the pack, when i was part of something greater than me and my time on the treadmill and my Facebook updates.

going together for the sake of the process, not the sake of my achievement and time. that was the gift i received yesterday morning. i told some friends this past week that i hate running. it’s kinda true. i find it rather boring. they encouraged me to find something else: swimming, kickboxing, Crossfit, anything. haven’t made any decisions yet on this dilemma. but i have decided this: i believe there Is something powerful about sharing one’s goals with others. about sharing conversation. about sharing laughter and tears about them. i’m not sure i agree with our podcast friend. see, seeking to meet goals in community–like by running yesterday in downtown Houston with 400+ other folks–transcended my pizza blues. no shame felt. more love and grace and kindness and acceptance and encouragement.

10K Saturday September 12 in Bastrop TX with my friend Hillary. prayers, kind thoughts, and encouragement welcome. [i’d love to hear your goals too.]

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transition and taize and time

transition takes time. moving and relocating and adjusting to a new city and state and building life with others and learning to love and learning to be loved take a long time. like, really long. not eight weeks. not six months. not a year and a half. not two years. i’m learning it takes an unknown length of Long time. and then, truly, transition is never ‘over’.

it’s a cycle: of beauty. of joy. of grief. of pain. of growth.

In God alone my soul can find rest and peace

In God my peace and joy

Only in God my soul can find its rest.

Find its rest and peace.

during taize prayer tonight with my community at Westbury United Methodist Church, i was struck: this is not a forced rest. this is not a forced peace. ‘in God alone’ takes time. it takes gentleness. it asks for wrestling. it welcomes it All. and when the rest and peace come – like tonight – it is such a sweet gift. i don’t want to cling to it, for it is not mine. it is Gift.

when i started this blog last Lent, i was trying to force myself to transition. i was desperate for peace. but i really couldn’t write. there have been words of others though that have been immense Gifts to me. like John O’Donohue. i’m writing more these days, but I want to share with y’all tonight brother John’s words of blessing for The Interim Time. they have been a means of grace for me during this Long time.

When near the end of day, life has drained
Out of light, and it is too soon
For the mind of night to have darkened things,

No place looks like itself, loss of outline
Makes everything look strangely in-between,
Unsure of what has been, or what might come.

In this wan light, even trees seem groundless.
In a while it will be night, but nothing
Here seems to believe the relief of darkness.

You are in this time of the interim
Where everything seems withheld.

The path you took to get here has washed out;
The way forward is still concealed from you.

“The old is not old enough to have died away;
The new is still too young to be born.”

You cannot lay claim to anything;
In this place of dusk,
Your eyes are blurred;
And there is no mirror.

Everyone else has lost sight of your heart
And you can see nowhere to put your trust;
You know you have to make your own way through.

As far as you can, hold your confidence.
Do not allow confusion to squander
This call which is loosening
Your roots in false ground,
That you might come free
From all you have outgrown.

What is being transfigured here is your mind,
And it is difficult and slow to become new.
The more faithfully you can endure here,
The more refined your heart will become
For your arrival in the new dawn.

taize candle

devotional: samson + galatians 2.20

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And the life that I now live in my body, I live by faith, indeed, by the faithfulness of God’s Son, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

me and Samson

When Samson was eight years old, his father died. At this young age, he was left to care for his four siblings as his mother is mentally disabled. Despising neighbors would hurl stigmatizing words at Samson daily. Words of hurt. Words seeking to drain power and curse all life in Samson. “You’re nothing. You’ll never be successful. You’re an orphan.”

When Samson was eighteen and his family was near death by starvation, he joined a three year program that envisioned the life Christ could live through him. ZOE is an international ecumenical organization empowering orphans to start their own businesses while in Christian community with other orphans to become financially secure and sustainable. Today in the beautiful hills of northern Kenya, Samson lives a life that has turned words of curse to words of life. He owns a cow, 5 goats, 2 rabbits, and he has built his family a starter home on land that he rents.  He has plans to buy land and build a larger house for his family, including community orphans that he has adopted. All Kenyan neighbors know Samson’s successful tree seedling business, have come to admire him, and even send children to him to be mentored.

When I met Samson, I was struck by how he is a blessing to others. He told me about how he used to attend Sunday school before joining ZOE but didn’t realize that God could actually touch his life. That God in Christ would come to him through relationships with others. That the presence of Christ in community could and would transform his life. He beamed while saying, “I know that I can trust God!” Now because Christ lives through Samson, he lives compassionately and cares deeply for those treated unjustly. He intentionally employs old women and men who are discriminately unemployed and need to provide for their children.

Samson has been crucified with Christ and it is no longer orphan Samson who lives, but God’s son Christ who lives in him. And the life that Samson now lives in the body, he lives by faith, indeed, by the faithfulness of God’s Son, who loves him and gave himself for him.

Almighty God, 

Thank you for the life and witness of our brother Samson. Please heal the places in my life where words of curse have been hurled, too—and please replace those words with words of life through Jesus Christ. May I joyfully discover the power of Christ in me and through me and in others and through others today. Amen.

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DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

1. What strikes me most about Samson’s story?

2. How does my story connect with Samson’s?

3. What does it look like for Christ’s power and life to replace my own today?

timid at this blogging thing. practicing.

on february 2-11 i pilgrimed to Kenya to meet and sit with and listen to and witness young people who are orphans and participants of ZOE–an empowerment organization providing holistic support, teaching, micro loans, and encouragement for orphaned young people in Kenya, Rwanda, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Liberia, India, and Guatemala. the hope and transformation these youth are receiving and practicing is astounding. they are living Resurrection.

there’s been much to process, reflect upon, marinate, mull over. i’m taking it slow and, i hope, prayerfully.

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as you wait with me for more words on a page about ZOE, here are some words i wrote while journeying from Maua to Samburu to Nairobi by beautiful bumpy van ride. i was sitting in the front passenger seat next to rafiki Walter, a man with a wonderful laugh and cheerful giving spirit. [and yes. i thoroughly enjoyed teasing him as i do my brothers.]

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there’s something about pilgrimage—honoring space by being in it gently yet bringing my full self, listening Fully to stories, receiving hospitality with genuine enthusiasm, witnessing Christ among us.

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i want to see more places, but also return. i want to see more people but in a way that honors the rafikis i meet and make and tend to. i want to grow in understanding and experiencing and practicing relationship.

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i hope i can travel again soon. i hope to pilgrim each day. i pray i am open to growing in discipline daily that will shape me more and more into holy loving Pilgrim.

27 april 2014 sermon: an Easter people

preached at Westbury United Methodist Church on Sunday, April 27, 2014.


When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. – John 20.19-31


 

Jesus Christ appears to his brokenhearted and grieving and confused disciples.  Those who had learned from him, who served alongside him, who came to know God through Christ the Messiah among them.  Who then watched the One who said I am the way, the truth, and the life die.  Imagine the room— door barred, bolts drawn, locks set where the disciples were hiding as the Gospel of John says, for fear of the Jews—can you feel the heaviness, the sadness, the anxiety of the unanswered question of: what now?

Then—here is Christ.  Jesus steps through a locked room and stands with his friends.  And he says—Peace be with you.  He offers himself—the crucified and risen Lord—so that they may know peace and be with peace and be at peace.

Brothers and Sisters—this peace for the disciples does not mean the absence of questions or the absence of struggle.  What it means is the presence of a God who surprises disciples. Defeats death.  Makes all things new. Offers eternal life yet again.

John Wesley points out that when Jesus appears to Thomas, “Thomas not only acknowledges him to be the Lord, as he had done before, and to be risen, as his fellow disciples had affirmed, but also confesses his Godhead, and that more explicitly than any other had yet done. And all this he did without putting his hand upon his side.”  That is, that Thomas who struggled to believe and questioned his friends’ testimony of the presence of a risen Christ ends up being the one who explicitly exclaims in scripture, My Lord and My God.

Brothers and sisters, in our Christian tradition we’ve come to name and know this disciple as doubting Thomas.  As the one who was absent when Christ appeared to the disciples and then was a doubter till he saw with his own eyes.  But friends, Thomas makes plain the deep struggle of our faith journey.  Of life with Christ.  Of having seen before, of knowing Christ, of witnessing Jesus feed thousands with a couple fish and few rolls, of God walking among them raising the dead to life, of healing blind and crippled people who begged for coins on the road and at city gates, of setting free those stuck in deep patterns of sin and oppression.  After all this witnessing and life with Christ, then witnessing the grotesque crucifixion of this One who preached and showed and lived and offered eternal life.  So here is the struggle Thomas shows us: tasting and partaking of the One who is eternal life and then for Eternal Life to seemingly shatter before one’s eyes.

So yeah.  Of course Thomas says—I won’t believe eternal life exists until I can feel it—him once again.  I won’t believe my Lord is alive until I can put my finger in his side.

Yet then when Jesus appears in the locked room once again and encounters Thomas, our brother doesn’t have to touch his side.  Perhaps his comments about needing to put his hands inside Jesus’ wounds is less about a crisis of faith and more of his deep love for Christ his Lord, his deep sadness of Good Friday and Holy Saturday.  His deep longing for Easter.

Elie Wiesel, a Jewish-American brother from Romania was deported at age 15 to Auschwitz with his family.  He survived horrors as a teenager and lives now to write and speak and teach and work for peace and reconciliation.  Today he’s 85 years old, a man who’s still going strong, has been given the Nobel Peace Prize, a man whose writings are read by our high school students.  Elie says—I belong to a generation that is often felt abandoned by God and betrayed by mankind.

Yet listen to his words:

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”

Thomas was not indifferent about life and death.  The disciples were not indifferent about life and death.  The disciples and namely Thomas WITNESSED the worst death possible—the death of their Lord—and ACHED for life.  Their witnessing, their honesty, their suffering, their aching, and longing and pining for life invite us today to embrace our identity as Easter People.

Easter People who know the pain of denial, rejection, and failure.  People who remember wounds and hurts and the sting of sin.  Yet people who are not overcome by fear of death.  People who are not swept away by indifference.  For we are people who hear and smell and taste and touch and see Eternal Life in everything. We encounter Christ, and we encounter Christ again and again.  For in this world that’s longing for the fullness of Easter to happen on earth—for the kingdom of God to come and everything to be made right and new again and again and again—we HAVE to encounter Christ again and again day by day.

See, in this world we annually retell and  relive the story of death and life through the rhythm of Lent and Holy Week including the horror of Good Friday, the silence of Holy Saturday, and the Joy and inbreaking of the risen Christ on Easter Sunday.  We have to encounter again and again for our journey with Christ is a struggle—not of indifference but tension, as Brother Thomas honestly shows us.  We are in Christ so we’re learning and relearning through disappointment of sin and joy of God’s faithful goodness to perceive a new creation.  We are given a new birth through our baptism into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  Into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading—that’s full and perfected work of peace within ourselves as individuals, with each other as community, with all peoples and creation, with God our Maker.  We are Easter People—those who know the peace of Christ through life and death, faith and doubt, light and darkness, whose senses are being tuned by the Holy Spirit to recognize glimpses of Easter everywhere.

Friends, if you get a chance to come spend time with us at Los Arcos Apartment Complex, you may get a taste of this tension I’m speaking of.  Los Arcos is a microcosm of the kingdom of God here in southwest Houston.  Of people from all corners of the earth learning to live in peace with each other.  Coming from places of incredible war, pain, loss, destruction—seeking refuge as refugees, seeking home as immigrants, seeking life together as even persons born and raised in Houston Texas live at Los Arcos.  As my friend and brother, one of our FAM young adult refugees testified recently in telling his story, It is Good to be together.  Yet, y’all there’s an intense struggle.  When war and trauma and domestic violence and addiction and depression and lack of jobs and lack of food and lack of space and quiet shape the lives of us as creatures, Easter peace can feel distant.  Foggy. Fuzzy.  We’re really struggling right now with how to be together when violence is being learned by five years olds—and it’s really hard to reason with these little ones.  We’re really struggling with what to do with being Easter People—people who celebrate Christ together on Sunday but ache on Monday when it’s hard to choose life when death seems heavily present.

If I could just see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, then I can believe again.  Believe that Jesus understands and knows suffering.  And death.  And resurrection.

This need for daily Encounter with the Crucified and Risen Christ, my brothers and sisters, is why we Easter Persons are Easter People.  We need each other.  We need community.  We need one another to experience Peace of Jesus Christ.  Thomas encountered Jesus and experienced peace with Christ in the presence of fellow disciples.  Friends who listened to his questions.  To his struggle.  To his pain.  Friends who stayed with him to figure out how to choose life when death hung in the air.  Friends who sought God together in the struggle and encountered Eternal Life through Jesus yet again.

Easter People, nada te turbe, nada te espante.  Quien a Dios tiene, nada le falta.  Nada te turbe, nada te espante, Solo Dios basta.  Nothing can trouble, nothing can frighten.  Those who seek God shall never go wanting. God alone fills us.

Christ alone fills Us with peace.  May we continue living this season of Easter, dear ones, by encountering Christ day by day with each other with space for questions, space for sitting together, space for Christ to enter our locked rooms and surprise us with joy and peace beyond explanation.

learning to experience Pentecost daily

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[originally written for & posted via Exploring God’s Story pastor’s blog.]

Acts 2 explains the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon the twelve apostles—there was a sound of rushing wind, there were tongues like fire that rested on each person, and they were given ability by the Holy Spirit to speak in all languages present so the diverse gathered crowd understood what was being spoken.  Bystanders were amazed, perplexed, and even judgmental of what was happening.  Then Peter stood with the apostles and preached to the crowd.  Following the preached word, about three thousand people converted, were baptized and added to the community.  Those who believed lived together with all things in common, worshipped in temple and in their homes, and the Lord added to their numbers day by day those who were being saved.

God invites us to actively participate today with the Holy Spirit’s continuation of this Day of Pentecost.  Of listening to the rush of the Spirit, of feeling the fiery presence of God, of hearing the Word through languages represented by the gathered community.

Through FAM, I’m learning to experience Pentecost daily.  Sometimes I’m more in tune to sensing the wind and the fire and the word.  Sometimes I’m less so.  However, regardless of my sensing and tuning and getting it, the Holy Spirit is making Pentecost happen in southwest Houston.  I’m most struck by this Day of Pentecost when I’m with others at Los Arcos and the Reserve at Bankside Apartment Complexes.  When we gather in each other’s homes, we worship.  We praise God by reveling in each other’s presence.  We give thanks to the Lord by sharing food and drink.  We honor God by honoring one another–by Congolese refugees welcoming American citizens into their apartments and offering them water and Fanta; by Swahili-speaking women listening to English-speaking women, straining to understand their words, and laughing and shaking their heads when they can’t.  By kids from Texas, Burundi, and Mexico spending time with one another and working hard to love each other as friends.  When we listen to each other’s favorite worship songs on Youtube, not understanding every word [or sometimes, any word except Mungu (God)] because it’s in our friend’s language.  

On Sunday November 17, 2013, Westbury UMC and the FAM community worshiped as a church for all people with more than enough love to go around by gathering at Los Arcos Apartments. By gathering together outside the walls of a church building, we experienced God with one another and celebrated how the kingdom of God is breaking into our neighborhood. We began by gathering in the WUMC Sanctuary at 10:45AM for words of praise, prayer, and instruction; thereafter we shuttled over to Los Arcos. Our time at the apartments followed the structure of FAM’s weekly Wednesday Community Night. We had a time of song, prayer, and testimony; we shared a meal together; we got to know one another through activities including banner and quilt square decorating, face painting, and chalk art. We ended with a time of thanksgiving and benediction at 1PM. It was a beautiful day.

Leading up to this day, the FAM community gathered together week by week in each other’s apartments.  We ate doughnuts, drank juice, talked about the hospitality we share with each other, danced to Youtube worship songs, and delegated who would do what on November 17th to welcome Westbury UMC folks to Los Arcos.  We shared what we had in common.  We broke bread and ate with glad and generous hearts.  We praised God while having the goodwill of all the people.  And we prepared for the movement of the Spirit.  While being caught up in the very present wind, fire, and languages.

click here to see FAM living room worship at Los Arcos

The Holy Spirit is doing something pretty remarkable in southwest Houston.  We’re still searching for words to articulate it clearly.  But we can say this: Mungu ni kubadilisha sisi.  God is changing us.

this lenten journey

i’ve been led up to this season of lent by a longing for deep centeredness. for reorientation. for some sort of equilibrium that sticks. 

during the past…i’m not sure how long, actually…i’ve been living from a place of disorientation. like there’s water in my ears. feeling jolted and jarred inside about 90% of the time. as if i’m stuck in that weird nauseous moment right before being sick—where there’s that odd yet familiar sense of ‘oh my gosh when will this end i just want to throw up so i can feel still again.’ 

it’s an uncomfortable place to be. 

culture shock. growth. loss. grief. joy. community. solitude. loneliness. silence. noise. fresh connections. rusty connections. learning.

for nearly two years, i’ve been running from writing down my thoughts and feelings and reflections. these 40 days of lent i’m living into the discipline of writing. of practicing boldness in sharing with God and others the words that are rumbling around inside me. of giving up control over what i feel like is mine. of my fingers letting go of digging into themselves so they can feel the Hands that hold them.

i do pray the water seeps out of my ears so i can hear more clearly and feel less plugged up…but i’m not sure it will. this dizzy season may be a long one.  instead may i listen and write and learn to hear the Word through this weirdly disorienting water.