Friday, April 12, 2013

Don't go it alone

In hard times it is important to surround ourselves with life giving community. Don't weather the storms alone.

Monday, February 21, 2011

This book ate my whole head.

I am reading The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron for a small group I just joined. I just wanted to put it out there and say the first twenty-ish pages of this are amazing. That is as far as I have gotten, in part because I read the introduction. (PS- the intro was good too.)
I have two things from the first twenty that have kicked me in the face.
First, is part of a list that Cameron says to read every day to remind yourself of basic spiritual principles of creativity. the whole list is fantastic, but this particular one made me super nervous. I actually felt my heart rate go up.

It is safe to open ourselves up to greater and greater creativity.

AHHHHHH! Eve typing that makes me nervous. Safe? Are you sure? I long for safety/ My lawyer husband tells me I am one of the most risk adverse people he has ever met.... and he is a lawyer. Well poop. he is totally right. I pack my carry-ons just so, so they are easily navigable in case I am suspected of carrying liquids in beyond the proper amounts, or heaven forbid the rouge nail clippers that could be stashed. Today I mentioned to him that I was considering getting an apple cozy. YES. An apple cozy. Like a tea-cozy, but for an apple so it doesn't get bruised in your bag. I thought it sounded brilliant... he gave me the amused/slightly-wierded-out-but-still-love-you look. He's so gracious with my psychosis. After lighting a match and blowing it out, i have been known to run it under the tap before throwing it in the garbage. I don't want garbage fires. I also regularly check my drug interactions online. There are a number of other things I don't stress about, but there are plenty of things I do. Just tonight I stepped outside the cross-walk lines when crossing the road, and due to a convo last night, actually said to myself out loud "ah! contributory negligence!" because if a car were to hit me when i was out of the lines... well it could be viewed as contributory negligence! I AM A MESS!

SOOOooo- when someone claims to me that something is SAFE, especially something that I know I love but that can be terrifying and soul crushing and plain hard at moments, I kind of have a freak out. There has to be some tidy painted cross-walk lines for me to walk in during my creative excursions so that I can't be hit by nay-saying and then told my negligence was contributing. SAFE!? Where's the crossing guard and the zebra walk way?

However, I get it in my head somewhere. If God is the essence and author of all creation and creativity... the true source and light... and God is in some always 'safe' (and I don't mean that in a cross walk way) or good... then it follows that opening up myself to greater and greater creativity would be safe. And good. Not to mention very moral and right. Becoming more like Christ- the God-man... source, light, creator in flesh is our calling and my destiny.

Yes, yes it is, but paint me scared anyhow.

I have learned that God's version of 'safe' is ever clearly not American and ever clearly not backed up with the type of benefits package that may or may not include dental. Safe... yes. But NOT the definition of it that we know well.

Still, I am going to read that everyday, and let it ruminate (like a cow) in my brain stomach.


Alright. NUMBER TWO! This was a good kick in the mouth. Not sure how that works, but I imagine is something along the lines of a kung-fu super fan getting a wicked bloody nose from his venerated hero. I have never been a super-fan, so that is pure conjecture.

Right. Well. The second moment was when reading about two of the tools for recovering creativity. One is the 'morning pages' which i am not going to explain, because it is complicated, and the other is the artist date. The quick and dirty explanation of the artist-date is going out for two hours or so and doing something that furthers your love and momentum of your art.

When this was being explained to me at our small group, our fearless leader told me "this is something you are really good at." This first off shocked me... i have a hard time admitting I am good at things and to be called out right then and there was unexpected. After it was described and what could count as that.. art exhibits, craft projects, a good walk to search for inspiration, trying something new... I realized I generally am pretty good at this.

As i read the book I think I identified why I am good at this. Cameron describes this practice as quality time spent with the thing you love. She likens it to when families our couples go to counseling and are asked "so, do spend quality time together?" This month at NCC we have been going through the LOVE series and one of the things in our resource pack at the beginning of the series was a link to take the 5 Love Languages quiz. i have tried to read that book over and over again without success. Honestly I think my main problem is that the cover is generally heinous in my mind and I feel embarrassed holding it much like i am wearing a grandma sweater. The website is MUCH more pleasing to the eye and I didn't feel as if I had wandered into the thrift store valentine section without a way out. Phew! So I took the quiz, and quality time was my top love language. When I read Cameron's description of this tool I thought "aha! that is probably why I am somewhat innately good at this. I show my love through quality time, and art is something I love." My husband and art galleries are some of my favorite things that, if i were not properly watched, I might add into a song after "girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes."

Sure, this is a pat on the back to me that my creativity is perhaps not completely blocked, and clearly, by Cameron's appraisal, salvageable at the very very least. I am determined not to take this innate good thing for granted, but kick myself into keeping doing it.

So. That's that. This course is eating my face like real Thai food spice. It burns so good.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


Sometimes it is time to put up the white flag and surrender. This past week has been one of those weeks culminating in leadership retreat at NCC.

I love NCC. I love it for a number of reasons... none of which I am really going to mention right now... but there are a number... a big number.

This past weekend was leadership retreat. NCC pours a lot into their leaders, which is part of a sort of food-chain that grows purpose-filled leaders, and strives to make disciples that love Jesus. We have only been back in DC for a week and were pulled into leadership retreat and accepted with open arms. Even though our lives are messy right now, it is so good to be back with people who are working with what they have where they are right this minute. It encourages me. Sure, they aren't perfect, but if they were i would be worried.

As the final session of leadership retreat would down, there was a time of confession asking what we needed to confess to God and give to Him in order to go "All In." I knew that this was occurring at the end of the week-end, in part because I used to help plan this event. Still, I managed not to connect the dots on things God has been working on my heart with this week. I was reading in Mark some more this week. (Let me once again reiterate that i am a lousy Bible reader. I love it when I do it, but i definitely am a binge Bible reader, and still am working on getting better at that. ) This week I read over Mark 8 a couple times. In the first chunk it details a time when Jesus feeds four thousand people from a few loaves and fish... one his oft referenced miracles. Shortly after that miracle, he and his disciples are on a boat and the disciples start worrying about where the bread is going to come from for their upcoming meal because, well, they are on a boat. Nothing like forgetting snacks before a trip in the middle of nowhere. Jesus ends up scolding them roughly saying "Seriously guys? Have you learned anything from the experience we just had together? You honestly are still concerned about bread when I just fed a bazillion people with next to zip." Jesus even asks them how many baskets of leftovers they picked up, and the amounts are something in the neighborhood of BASKETS full. Still, the disciples seem to not quite connect the dots.

The disciples and I have a lot in common when it comes to my tunnel vision. As a literary device the disciples are you and I. Let's not dumb down the brilliance of the complex stories of the Bible. I see myself so clearly in this story this week, because provision is something that I have wrestled over praying for and have struggled to have even tiny faith about. That mustard seed that Christians talk about sometimes seems so intimidatingly real and solid compared to the faith I am trying to belch out of my soul. Like the disciples my eyes and ears have failed to function on the spiritual realm. I have had huge disconnects in seeing God's miraculous provision for me and accepting it. I have even been able to acknowledge it to other people with my mouth but not been able to accept it with my heart and there are a couple big uglies of sinful junk heaps that seem to get in my way over and over again. Pride. Fear. Motives. Those three things keep me from fully living in God's plan for me, and this week I could feel God laying into me about my sin issues in those areas.

I hate talking about sin. Part of me is very "I'm-okay-you're-okay-whatevs-it's-all-good-blah-blah-blah-hippie-hair-and-flowers" and I am coming to realize that that part of me is not sanctified. Sin is not okay, and not only not okay but it is really hard to talk about and difficult to define. What is a sin? I am not talking about what ARE sins... that's an easy thing to look up in a concordance or google the poo out of... but what is a sin. I am pretty sure it was my husband who, when asked this said "anything that keeps you out of community with God and/or others." I have generally tried to use that as a working definition, and it sucks. I want to be holy and set apart, but i am a messy mess. I have a hard time admitting when I am wrong, and I try to justify everything at all times. Somehow my inner self is still 6 years old and has to hit other kids back when they smack me and call people names and cry when i don't get my way. So when God is pushing at my concrete heart get really bent out of shape and upset. Then when I am given a chance to confess these sins that God is pulling out of my death-grip, it is often those very same sins that get in my way of confessing. Pride. Fear. Motives.

When that time came this weekend, I don't think I have ever felt more realistic about my issues, and honestly that seems like the biggest blessing. When God chooses to humble me in public, i usually turn into a crying snotty mess, and I find that extremely embarrassing, like being the kid in the dunce hat in the corner of the classroom. This time since i was paying attention to God working on my heart, I actually had a brain when confession rolled around. On the thinker to feeler scale I am truly a thinker. For most people who know me, that sounds bizarre since i am also fairly emotional, but i do make decisions based on thought and reason and not feelings. I don't trust my guts to tell me what to do, and my feelings lie when it comes to morality. So, having confession while still have a brain that isn't completely drenched in sad and panic chemicals was wonderful. I could truly recognize what it was that God wanted from me and how I was worrying about bread after witnessing a miracle.

Ian and I have been living out of suitcases for about two years, and have never been in serious want of anything important. We've had food, a roof over our heads, and we've been healthy. We've had BASKETS full of blessings above and beyond, and I still I lie awake at night wondering about where my bread is going to come from.

In Mark 9 there is all sorts of crazy that happens. Jesus brings the crazy where ever he goes. About half way through the chapter a man comes to Jesus asking for healing for his demon-possessed son whose life has been threatened by the seizures that happen to him. The father says something along the lines of "if you can heal him, will you please show us mercy and do so?" and Jesus replies "If I can?" (nothing like insulting God incarnate) and tells that man that all things are possible for those who believe. The man's reply is beautiful. “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

This really challenges me and my pissy American-feminism and spoiled-middle-class-brat self. When I insult Jesus by saying "If you can provide for me, then would you please do that?" and God provides for me in a way that challenges the sins that bind me, I respond Him not with "help my unbelief!" but rather with lashing out of temper tantrums because i want a hand-out and not something that helps me. I want Jesus to do my homework and whisper the answers to me during the test. I want God to train for the race and do the weight lifting and puking in the streets and then when my even comes, for Him to pull a Freaky-Friday body switch and let me win the race. What i don't get, pretty much ever.... is that he ALREADY HAS. he took my place in death, and I just can't grasp that because I have not experienced the final prize of his sacrifice.

So here I am at almost 2 a.m. pouring my guts onto the computer, because i need to remember this. i need to remember that i have confessed these things and that God knows that I know because we've been working on this, and now it is time to notice it and let it go in daily life. It's time to not wonder where the bread is, but to exclaim “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” And upon hearing that prayer Jesus healed the boy in the story, and I can trust that he heals me.


Friday, December 3, 2010

when life hands you vintage photos...

... become a digital time traveler!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Pretty sure Matthew 23 just ate my lunch

Well, not entirely. I did have some yogurt for the sake of my digestive tract.
Still, I decided to stay at home on Friday of this week like I was trying to make my practice here in Kenya. It helps me feel centered having a day to rest and work from home. I generally spend the day editing photos and puttering around. Today i felt the need to get into my Bible. I have dropped the ball on that especially lately. I thought i was doing so well, but stress steals my peace and the moment i feel stressed out I turn to a lot of stupid things to return my joy... like television. Culture stress kicks my butt. I hate being followed by people begging for money, getting yelled at to point out that I am, in fact, a white girl on foot, and not being able to communicate clearly or even understand some of the people I care most deeply about here. So I think "shoot... I need some America," and I turn to our biggest export: media. Strangely this is probably the exact thing that causes me the most grief here. People see Americans as being rich, promiscuous, and self-centered and most of that comes from our media, and the rest comes from the bad choices of many individuals, aid groups, and governments mainly.

Today when I felt the itch to get back into scripture I could tell it is because I have been super deprived of it. God's word lives in my heart, and I know that because in weird moments, it moves its' way past my mumbling and lips and says things to people. I am always a little shocked when that happens. I think I have my parents to thank mostly for raising me with scripture, and then after that I think I have classical choral composers and hymn writers to thank. My nose has never been in that book as much as I think it should be. Memorization plans as a child didn't really work for me. I am really really good at committing words to semi-short term memory. This is part of what made me an annoying teenager... when my parents or teacher would say "Bekah, did you hear what i said!?" i would repeat it back to them word for word. totally obnoxious. They probably should have been asking me to paraphrase or contextualize instead...because that might have actually worked out.

Regardless, i got into Matthew 22&23 today, mostly because that is where I left off in October. I am not one of those Christians worth my salt, because I don't think I have ever really gotten through the Bible in one year successfully. I've been trying to keep up with a reading plan, but i still suck at it. I am however one of those people that hardly ever reads a book twice. Probably because when I read a good meaty book, I tend to read the page over three times or so the first time through. It takes me forever to get through even short books... but i do actually remember things and tend to actually use the things I read. Everything from Annie Dillard and CS Lewis to Hemmingway and Roald Dahl has synthesized their way into my world view. So, when I reached Matthew 23 today I really was floored.

i actually love this part of scripture. Mostly, due to the fact that in Godspell when Stephen sings this part of scripture I really can feel it. I did not, however, realize just how much this was tied into what I am doing now and how ridiculous I feel as the hypocrite still trying to work for justice in Jesus' name.

Okay... In Matt. 22 Jesus has just gotten done outwitting the Pharisees in a sort of "kicking a** and taking names" sort of style. It's pretty awesome, and i for one come out of it thinking "yeah! that smart guy over there... I am on HIS team, suckers!" It had to be pretty awesome to be one of those crusty disciples at the point thinking "our teacher is THE MAN!"

But then Jesus lays into his pain and longing for the righteousness of the people he has just schooled. He aches at their actions and groans in longing for their return to the fold of God. It's pretty intense. The whole chapter whirls me around, but there were four chunks that really kicked me this time:

14 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You devour widows' houses and make long prayers just for show. This is why you will receive a harsher punishment.

Part of the reason this caught me, i am sure is that the last version of bible I had probably didn't include it except as a footnote. That confuses me a little, but beyond the this-version-that version discussion, this really stuck me.

I have been praying and keeping in my thoughts one of the ladies I have the privilege of working with here in Kenya. Doro is the backbone of the cafe and she challenges me to be someone of firmer resolve and steadfast character. She doesn't do that by her words necessarily but by her actions and interactions. Doro actually pulled me aside one day and told me I was a 'person of integrity.' That sort of blew my mind, seeing that I am often a world-class flake in my mind. This week has been especially tough because Doro has been 'up country' moving her mom from the family shamba to a new house off the family property. Doro was actually using her week to build her mother a new home. She let me in on a little here ad there about what was going on. She told me she had a 'very bad' uncle that she will have to talk to when she got there. it wasn't until after she left that someone filled me in that this 'bad uncle' was threatening the life of Doro and her mother if they didn't move her mother of the family land. This is fairly typical in Africa, and Ian actually did work regarding the land rights of widows when he was in law school, but it still shocks me. this man is kicking his own old and sick sister of their land. Not only that he has threatened her life and the life of her children. What are we doing about this!? This isn't some hypothetical situation. One thing I have learned in Africa, that if it is happening here, it is probably happening in a more quiet and sneaky way in my own country.

Moving on-
23 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You pay a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, yet you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. These things should have been done without neglecting the others. 24 Blind guides! You strain out a gnat, yet gulp down a camel!

I found this especially fascinating because of the food references. We love spices in our food in this family. i forget that spices were a huge part of wealth... or rather are a huge part of wealth. The spice trade etc etc... Still, thinking of our money in the terms of spices is somehow eye-opening to me. It isn't coins or cold hard cash, but it is more than a piece of paper tied to a hypothetical construct. These are things I can see, touch and even taste. Mint... love it in my tea... dill... what is felafel with yogurt sauce without this? cumin... my salsa always needs a little or a lot. Sure, tithing is great and giving to charity is wonderful, but the gain is part of what is in question here. If we need the exploitation of others in order to have our 'stuff to give back' what good is it? Ian and I had a big talk about our temptations with materialism last night. i won't lie... I love a good fruitful shopping trip. BUT I did learn a few years back that industries are abusing people in a number of different ways. Slave labor, child labor, environmental dishonesty and abuse. Environment may seem like a strange one, but it effects the lowest of the low far before it ever effects the middle class or the wealthy. Dumps, factories, chemical storage sites... these things are often located in areas of low income and damage those people first, not to mention that the potentially hazardous material handling is also left to those who cannot afford to have a better job. Something is very wrong here. We may be giving our 10%, but how are we getting the full 100%? What are we spending the other 90% on? Are we harming others? Maybe not even in a way we can see, but it ways we can't see? We are happy to give to the bell ringer from Salvation Army, but where did that extra change come courtesy of? Have we strained the gnat and missed the camel?

This next one has been getting me for a couple weeks without having even read it in a while.

29 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, 30 and you say, 'If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we wouldn't have taken part with them in shedding the prophets' blood.' 31 You therefore testify against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers' sins!
Blerg! I have often thought about what my life may have been like during crazy historical times, like the underground railroad or the holocaust. What choices would I have made? Sure I nearly venerate those who have gone before that have done amazing things for their fellow man in the face of danger, persecution and death. I visited Wilberforce's grave in Westminster and felt very connected to the abolition movement and thanked God for the work of his people. i have walked by statues of Ghandi in DC and been thankful for those that stand up for the rights of those who are being oppressed and preach peace. I have pasted quotes from Mother Theresa in my closet to read each day.. but what am I doing here and now. Yes. I currently live in Africa working with refugees and women in difficult circumstances, but have i bet the family farm? I don't know. I don't think so. Historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's famous quote "well-behaved women seldom make history," has become a battle cry for feminists the world over, and I love it. In fact I love it and hate it because it challenges me. Am I too well-behaved in my world of development work. There are things at point at that make me feel warm and fuzzy that "no... i am still woman! hear me roar!" but i continue to wonder if I squelch that voice of God that dwells in me, and remain satisfied with high marks in behavior. Am I merely decorating the tombs of the prophets? or am I really trying to dig in with abandon to the mire of life that this world is presenting me. I have said it before, being in this position is much more challenging to my every-day faith than I thought it would be. i have more excuses to let little things slip because "i have been being so good!" Or I can ignore the needs of hose around me in more intelligent ways than I ever knew existed. Am I really daring to be the solution, or am I relishing in my decor or sainthood? That is tough.

Lastly... this:

37 "Jerusalem, Jerusalem! " The city who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her. How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, yet you were not willing!
I see this as one of the most sorrowful expressions of longing that I know of. i want this to be my longing for the people around me and for myself. I want to hear Christ's call to be gathered, and to run. i think of the pain of seeing parents who have tried to guard their children from danger ad vice only to see them continue down a broken and desolate path of self-destruction. How much more does a creator then hurt for the thing he has created that has become destructive in general, and even withe the ability to turn back and become an agent of peace does not?

God! I can hear you telling me you have my number. Don't let me off easy. I am worried about asking that.. but don't know what else to ask.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Saints in Slums

I had a strange experience this morning. I pass by the same vendors almost every morning. There are three men I often say hello to right past the questionable bridge on the dusty road. Joel and his brother are at the bottom of the hill and the man who sells maize is at the top. The man who sells maize told me he wanted to talk to me about something. When this has happened before with people I know or have met they usually want money or a job. Sadly I don't have either to just hand to people on the road. Even the Amani ladies I cannot just hand out cash to. it does not work this way.

So today I told a couple people and asked what to do and the consensus was that I need to listen and then ask God. If he is wanting something i cannot give I should just tell him i cannot. *sigh* this sounds easy, but i find it hard.

So instead of walking back like a grown up and hearing him out I waited specifically to walk with Laurel*, who is one of the dearest women at the place I volunteer. She is Kenyan, but married to a problematic Ugandan man who, for what i can tell, doesn't do much and then beats her. She is just a little older than me in years...27 i think, but she has 4 children and seems very much my elder in poise and wisdom. before the organization wide retreat, i found Lauri studying her Bible while waiting for the bus. Who knows how early she came to be there and read. She amazes me.

On our way back I asked the vendor if he wanted to talk now or wait until tomorrow and he told me it was my choice. I told him i would talk to him tomorrow. I told Laurel what was going on and she told me first to be very careful since I don't really know this man. I know to be careful, but hearing it from a Kenyan somehow makes it so much more legit.

We talked about it for a while and she instructed me that i should hear him out and pray very hard about it and let God tell me what I should be doing. Then Lauri told me how God knows my heart and if I am living and speaking in the Truth that it will set me free. You know, i have heard this phrase "the truth will set you free" so many times, but I don't think I have ever had it touch my core the way it did coming from Laurel. You can sometimes really tell when someone knows a truth they are sharing with you and Lauri knows this Truth. I had that feeling that I was in the presence of a giant of the faith. A giant of the faith who lives in a slum and has a husband who beats her and four children she is scraping just enough together to get by. It was if my heart burst. I almost broke down in tears right then and there. The face of God in this wonderful Kenyan woman. I am so humbled and so in need of grace. Saints in slums. Oh Lord, convict me when I am self important or too pampered and spoiled to know the Truth.

What a day.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

I want to love people better than I do already.

I want to love people better than I do already. This is one of the reasons that I buy fair trade.
I want to love people better than I do already which means not trying to make myself look better than them because I disagree with them.
I want to love people better than I do already which includes not getting upset when someone disagrees with me.
I want to love people better than I do already.
I want to love people better than I do already which is why I want to not get angry at them when they say something that is selfish.
I want to love people better than I do already which means I need to become less selfish.
I want to love people better than I do already which means that I cannot take the easy way out just because it is easy, but only take it when it is right and just.
I want to love people better than I do already which means not getting mad at people when they can't read my mind.
I want to love people better than i do already which will mean stepping out of my comfort zone more often than i do now.
I want to love people better than I do already so I try to think through my decisions and what their effects are.
I want to love people better than I do already which will mean telling the truth sometimes when it hurts.
I want to love people better than I do already so I need to study about love more.
I want to love people better than I do already and I want to be willing to die for them if need be.
I want to love people better than I do already and realize that whatever I have sacrificed now is nothing.
I want to love people better than I do already which will mean saying sorry when I have done something hurtful.
I want to love people better than I do already and I don't always know what that means.
I want to love people better than I do already so I need to learn humility.
I want to love people better than I do already so I need to listen better.
I want to love people better than I do already so I need to be transformed and sanctified.
I want to love people better than I do already and I don't know how sometimes.
I want to love people better than i do already because today I did not love people as much or as fully as I could have and my heart is hurting about it.