Thursday, May 30, 2013

Water, Holy Water

Greetings from our little family vacation in a state that isn't land locked. We have spent this week in a quiet water community in Florida. Just before we started our journey down here, I commented on how in Kentucky, it gets hot and summer arrives, but summer never really happens. I grew up on the Jersey Shore, not that deplorable show, but the real shore were summer days were spent on the beach and long warm summer nights were always spent with friends in the back yard or on the boardwalk. Summer for me is a way of life not merely a change in season. That way of life hasn't happened in my experience in KY, maybe it happens if you aren't living on a mostly empty campus and have friends who live off campus, but we really don't. There are less pools and no ocean so that makes it difficult.

Last night I sat out on my mom's dock doing a little reading for summer classes and that's when it hit me. Summer happens here, we have been out on the boat, sitting poolside, beach, barbeques, and family. There is something about that salt air that you get even the faintest hints of when you live near the water that is just life giving. I started thinking more about water and my deep connection to it and longing for it. When people ask how I like KY I almost always respond I miss the ocean. It's not just the ocean though, it's the bay, it's life in a "water community", it's the pools that weren't mine but were open to me any time I wanted to use them. It's safe to say I love the water. I love to be in the water or even just near the water. It gives me life...

That's when it hit me, maybe my connection with water is even deeper than that of my physical self. Maybe it is all the way down in the depths of my soul. I have always said I feel so close to God when I am near the water. It's the first place I can remember really experiencing God in a way that filled me with awe and wonder. This week as I spent time doing the things that are familiar and make me comfortable and happy I noticed how much water just makes me feel whole.

It isn't a new idea, Baptism uses water for a reason. That's when it hit me maybe water is so life giving to me, because deep down in some unconscious place it makes me remember my Baptism. My identity not just as a girl who loves when summer happens and all the water it brings but as a beloved child of God.

There is something Holy about water. 

Today I am grateful for water, what it symbolizes, the life it gives and the rest it brings.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Feces, Drug Deals & Broken Glass

Let me tell you about how much I love my job. I get to hang out with some amazing kids twice a week. On Sunday its with the younger kids, elementary school age and on Tuesday I get to hang out with middle school age kids. Of course I am teaching them as they go, mostly I find myself teaching them that they matter, which can't be overstated, I am convinced of it. The world tells them regularly that they don't matter and they aren't good enough. I might just be one girl, but I will fight everyday for them to know the world is made up of a bunch of crazy liars who are afraid of the power they will have when they believe in themselves.

Sunday was our last day learning on Sunday morning for awhile, so I pulled my ace in the hole, the lesson on Play as Sabbath. I went out Saturday evening and bought for the church a bunch of simple toys for out door play. Frisbee, wiffle ball, nerf football, bubbles, you get the idea. Then like the neighborhood I work in often does, I got the surprises I wasn't expecting. I knew all I had to work with for outdoor space was the parking lot which gets a lot of drive through traffic, so I took the kids to an out of the way corner. It was hot, especially with the blacktop reflecting the heat back at us. I wasn't out there for 2 minutes when my nostrils were filled with the distinct sent of human urine baking in the sun. I couldn't locate the exact location so I moved the kids away from where it was strongest. It also wreaked of dog poop which I couldn't find, Paul later told me he saw it. Then there was the broken glass and rusted razor blades. Now my safe spot was even smaller. The next surprise was that the kids didn't know what to do with a lot of what I brought out. I had to teach all but two of them how to play net less badminton. Most of them still don't know that it works better underhand. Then one of the birdies got stuck on top of the construction trailer, Paul later climbed on top of our van to get it.

Tonight we were supposed to go walk a new pedestrian bridge in town, but with bad weather predicted (it never showed up) we opted to have movie night instead. Tonight because it was a special night Paul and L got to come with me to work. L snuggled up with my single youth group member, maybe this is more of a mentoring relationship. We watched Monster's Inc. had dinner, snacks and ice pops. It was our end of the year celebration brought indoors. Half way through the movie I got up to walk around, I am always there at this time of night but I don't usually work in a room where I can see out to the main drag through the neighborhood. So there sat L and my student, sprawled out on a sleeping bag on the sanctuary floor, sharing snacks and watching the movie. Paul near by playing with his phone. I looked out the front window only to witness several drug deals at what the congregation calls "the drug house". All this with kids out there playing.

I wanted to throw up, something inside me got equally upset, angry and disappointed in the world. How is it that some children grow up in this neighborhood and others just 15 minutes away are at their private $150 an hour lessons for something or other? They have never seen a drug deal go down while the kids I work with are surrounded by it. I realize in that moment that my kid is one of those privileged kids who doesn't have to live with this in her face. She will eventually see it because she comes to work with me but she gets to go home to her safe home where people are quiet and not roaming the streets to find relief from the heat that is built up in their unairconditioned homes. She doesn't have $150 private lessons though, we try (and often fail) to keep her grounded in things that have no material worth.

My head started spinning, how does a neighborhood end up like this? What is the root cause of all this poverty? What will break the cycle for the next generation?  How is it that some people choose to deal drugs and others end up watching movies in church sanctuaries? How is it that some how some kids get tons of fruit and veggies and other healthy whole foods and others get stuck with a steady diet of boxed mac and cheese and hot dogs?

It was an odd moment with so many fleeting thoughts that reach down to my core. There are many surprises and frustrations even after a year of getting used to life in my new church/work home. I have another year with these fine people and challenges and all I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. Doing ministry is different now, I have to change and rework everything I have ever done before this point. It's alright though because I am doing what I most long to do, teaching kids they are loved, they matter and they are someone who can make something wonderful of their life. We don't often say much about God, we are busy with homework help and building trusting relationships but God is in it. You know small goals to start.

Today I am grateful for the work I am blessed to do and for all those who told me I was somebody before I could believe them and who even though the odds were stacked against me cheered me on and didn't write me off. You have given me unimaginable gifts that will be passed on until I leave this life.

Dear Future Parishioners

To the people who I have not yet met that I will serve as pastor in a few years. First I want to say that I think about you from time to time, I pray for you, even though I don't know who you will be. I spend my days studying all sorts of Presbyterian things, most recently it has been the creeds and confessions that are a part of our church's constitution. They are supposed to help us sort through our beliefs in times like these when we can't find the answers.

Why would a tornado hit a school full of children? Where is God in that? Why wouldn't God save the children?

I want you to know your future pastor is watching the images from Moore, OK and crying her eyes out this morning while holding her own daughter tight. We are snuggled on the couch with our dog, Trin, and we talked a little bit about the tornado. I am with you, in not understanding how God is in these moments when parents grieve for their children. Even with all this studying, all this preparing, all this growing in faith and in doubt, I still don't understand, I still cannot explain, why these things happen. I could talk about providence, free will and grace but that just doesn't seem proficient. None of them will make our pain go away.

What I do have is the hope found, for me, only in faith and I know that in these terrible times that God is there with those who grieve, even if they are so distraught and rightfully angry they don't want to acknowledge God, even if they cannot find a reason to believe in God ever again, I believe God cares for them deeply and is mourning with them.

Fellow sojourners, let's wrestle with our doubt, anger and unanswered questions together. We will be the better for it.

Today I am grateful that God is there in those moments even when we can't make sense of what is happening.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Saying Goodbye...

It is our first day of summer vacation we celebrated our last day of school on Friday. So from here on out its me and my lil lady having lazy summer days at least for a few days. We have had a very lazy morning sleeping in and not getting out of our jammies. As we lay in bed snuggling and playing I began to hear laughter outside. I didn't think much of it, it was graduation weekend and there are still lots of families that are here and getting ready to make their departures. We made our way from the bedroom to the living room where I had opened the blinds hours earlier, during a precious few hours while L was still asleep and I got to just be. Outside my blinds there was a goodbye in progress, laughter, hugs, probably some tears I couldn't see. I didn't mean to be all voyeur like on this group of friends goodbye, I just happen to live where my huge windows show me lots of things that happen on campus.

I heard the car doors shut and laughter faded into some sort of quiet, I might say a holy quiet, that quiet that comes when you are saying goodbye, or until we meet again. The sudden quiet caught my attention and I looked out the window again. There was one of my upstairs neighbors in her car, backing out of her parking space for the last time. Her friends formed a line on the sidewalk to see her off. I didn't have time to grab my camera, but the scene was beautiful in a very raw sort of way, I wanted to capture it from my "outsider" perspective. The driver was smiling and waving. Her friends stood, one with his shoulders just a little slumped, emotion in his body. One blowing kisses in a "goof ball" sort of way, emotion in his actions and humor. One stood watching, talking to the one who stood with his back facing the car, perhaps too painful for him to turn around and see her go. These are all my assumptions of course, I could be completely wrong. These aren't people I know very well although as I think about it, I wish I knew them better.

This is a group of people I have seen get into and out of my neighbors car so many times in the past few years. They aren't my close friends, we haven't shared meals, or many stories but in the way that they have come and gone over the last few years they have been a part of the rhythm that happens around here. Now our rhythm will change and we won't be able to put our fingers on it, because it's one of those things that you notice but not really. When it stops happening you will know something is missing but what?

This whole scene unfolded in a moment of time, it wasn't long before L pulled my attention from the window. In the past few months as this group of friends started to accept that their days together were limited, I have seen them post photos and work at making memories of the friendships they will cherish from seminary. I was touched by this moment that I just happened to witness when I looked out the window. What was it about this moment that wasn't mine that touched me?

Perhaps its that this weekend I shared my joy at seeing people's families arrive to celebrate with their graduates. Campus was full of impromptu graduation parties. Today the families are beginning to give way to the moving trucks. Our friends and neighbors who have graduated are beginning their journies on to the next place in their lives. And we are left with this space, for three months were the apartments around us are empty, where we mourn the people who we have come to love living with and we know there is the hope of the new people who will move in come the end of summer. In these first moments though and on those long summer days we are left with the empty space. In this moment this morning, I began to think about the people I will leave behind, the ones that have walked with me, the ones we celebrated holidays with, the ones who ate L's birthday cake. Then I thought about the ones I haven't gotten to know and I would like to know, some are already on their way to another place, but I have a year to get to know others. I shall make the most of this time. It wasn't lost on me either, that this afternoon my girl and I will stand in a similar way and wave goodbye to her very first best friend for the last time. After a weekend of playing with each other they will again have to part ways and learn to live with the space that is left.

May you be blessed this day with moments you didn't intend on witnessing.

I am grateful for these days with all the emotion and reflection they bring.