Archive for category Reflection

Communion

This past Sunday morning I was reminded of the simplicity of community and the unity that can come from it. Within the Episcopal tradition, communion is provided every Sunday. In our church, we leave our pews and line up to receive the bread and the wine, the body and the blood of Christ, at the altar. You stand or kneel, shoulder to shoulder, with your fellow church members in prayer and reflection as you wait to receive communion.

While some Sunday’s it can be easy to go through the motions when getting communion, this past Sunday I could not ignore the amazing love of God present in the chapel.

Out of the quietness of communion, a sole individual began to sing from the altar. The words uttered were from the spiritual “Let us Break Bread Together.” Slowly more and more members began to join in together, singing in unity, these lines:

Let us break bread together on our knees, (on our knees)
Let us break bread together on our knees. (on our knees)
When I fall on my knees with my face to the rising sun,
O Lord, have mercy on me.
 

Let us drink wine together on our knees, (on our knees)
Let us drink wine together on our knees. (on our knees)
When I fall on my knees with my face to the rising sun,
O Lord, have mercy on me.
 

Let us praise God together on our knees, (on our knees)
Let us praise God together on our knees. (on our knees)
When I fall on my knees with my face to the rising sun,
O Lord, have mercy on me.

Sitting there in the pew after taking communion, my heart warmed to the knowledge of the presence of God and his love that was emanating throughout the church. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we sat there in unity together, breaking bread together. All I could do was smile, while my mind went to a passage in Acts about the early church:

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” – Acts 2:42-47

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Connection by Josh

Hand me down dreams

The fate of destiny preplanned

The world sees me

Screams there’s no hope

You can’t succeed

I begin to think why try

Desperate I yearn

To achieve

To attain

To belong

To matter

Ignored by the educated

Community binds me

Community bids me

Come experience unity

Community says we will fight

For dignity

For hope

For love

For triumph

The fate of my destiny not pre-scripted

The world I see

Screams you matter

There’s hope

There’s love

Though I may be hard to find

The callous of society

The disrespect of poverty

Attempts to keep oppression secret

Make claims that change

Cannot exist here

Where I grow up

Community comes along side

Community pushes back

Against bad policy

Against drugs danger and crime

Community embraces

Community chases away fear

Community is mother

Father

Sister

Brother

Grandma

Grandpa

Auntie

Uncle

Neighbor

Friend

Stranger

Seeking to uplift each other

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Facing Brokenness

It has been a while since I wrote my last blog. At first unintentionally and as the time passed over the past month and half, I began to purposefully ignore my blog. I needed some time off. I needed time to figure out life, figure out what I’m thinking, figure out what I am feeling.

Numbness and stagnation are some of the best words I have to describe how I have felt over the past several weeks. Life has been busy. I have found it much easier to go through the motions than to face my internal frustrations. I have found it easier to immerse myself in the constant activities and events going on around me than face these issues. Two weeks ago when I left for a week off, I felt worn out, tired, and broken.

During my week off, I kept telling myself I needed to get back in the game and leave this numbness behind. Maybe if I just got some rest and relaxation it would all be better. But as the week continued, I realized that wasn’t enough, and upon returning to Atlanta I felt more rested but still numb, stagnate, and broken.

But then it all broke through, the question that had been in the back of my mind, fighting to get out. Where was God?

Living in a neighborhood where most people live around the poverty line, addiction is all too prevalent, and various forms of violence occur frequently can be taxing. Constant conversations with a group of girls I’ve gotten to know about the issues of race, which seem to never end on a good note. The frustrations building over a school system where it seems too obvious that certain schools and neighborhoods are easily ignored. Watching people I have worked with in the drop in help center come in again and again because after 6 months they still haven’t followed through with appointments, directions, and tasks. Dealing with the hardships that come with living in community. Where is God?

The feeling of continuous unanswered prayers. And while there have definitely been blessings and doors opened over the past several weeks, they haven’t been the prayers that have been most pressing on my heart. How do you face a God that has continuously blessed you and shown you the way more obvious than anytime in your life when you still feel frustrated? Still feel hurt? Still feel so broken?

But then the other night it hit me. I will ALWAYS be broken.

So I sat there in prayer and reflection realizing that God has carried me this far and he will not let me fail. I felt the comfort that only HE can bring, and I knew amongst all my ongoing feelings of hurt and frustration that he is right there beside me, guiding me, and loving me. So while the question still lingers of, Where is God? I face each day and take each step with the faith that he’s got a hold of me.

 

 

 

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The Throne by Josh

There will be a time when reconciliation is achieved

That time is not sometime in the distant future

That time is not just heaven but earth now today

Reconciliation can and does ring true in the hearts of

People who have seen a better approach to living

The fellowship of brotherhood will unite

Compassion peace and neighborliness

Eliminate the path so wide that hate has carved

The saint and sinner

The one who fell down and by grace tried to get back

The wounded

The poor

The rich

The young

The old

Black

White

Asian

Jew

Terrorist

Atheist

Approach the throne of grace that overflows

The desire of love seeks to reconcile

By the life example of Christ

Only in sacrifice and love for other above self can this be achieved

The doubtful

The homosexual

The self righteous

As I live each day in hope

That love in my life pours out onto and into the lives of others

 

“The Throne” by Josh

 

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Free Clinic Experience

My career choices and my current lifestyle are built around the idea of serving others. Rarely do I find myself on the receiving end of these services. Over the past week I have had the humbling experience to be in that spot.

Two weeks ago I found myself with a horrible toothache. Due to the limited coverage of the insurance offered through Mission Year, I found myself last week looking for dental clinics that would take uninsured patients. After calling around to all the clinics I know that take cash payments, most didn’t have appointments until March or April. Finally I got into a clinic last week, which took me 1.5 hours to get to on public transportation. The appointment itself lasted no more than 30 minutes, and I left feeling very frustrated. After taking films, the dentist came into my room for all of maybe 2 minutes, didn’t even look in my mouth, and told me I needed a root canal, which meant coming back in and paying them several hundred dollars for the procedure.

Determined to get a better opinion I started all over again making phone calls to the clinics seeing if there was any way I could get in sooner. Finally I realized that my best choice was a free clinic located in downtown Atlanta called St. Joseph’s Mercy Care. On Tuesday’s and Thursday’s they have a walk in emergency dental clinic, and people start lining up around 6:30 to 7 am to be seen when the clinic opens at 8:30 am. As with many free clinics, you must prove that you are a Georgia resident and that you cannot afford to pay for the services on your own, so I spent Monday night making sure I had all the right documents to take.

I arrived at the clinic at 6:50 am and I was the fourth person in line. At 7 am they let us inside to sign-in and sit and wait until the clinic opened. At 8:30 am they announced that the dentist was running late and wouldn’t be in until 9:30 am. After sitting there for 3 hours, at 10 am they called me to the window and told me that I wouldn’t be seen until 1 pm so if I wanted to I could leave, get some food, and come back. Opting for this choice I left.

Arriving back at the clinic around 12:45 pm, I was called back at 1 pm. The dental assistant and dentist were very friendly and talked with me about what was going on. They took some films; the dentist actually looked in my mouth and talked with me about my options. The cavity looked like it was close to the nerve, but she offered to go and attempt the filling. If it seemed to close to the nerve she would put in temporary filling and I would be referred to another clinic for a root canal. Thankfully the cavity was smaller, and they were able to place a filling. I walked out of the clinic by 2 pm.

While this was a first time experience for me, I realized that this process is exactly what many of the people I work with go through when I write them healthcare referrals to the various clinics around the city. I was humbled and have grown a deeper appreciation for the patience some of these people can have with this entire process. This experience also confirmed why I want to go back to school to be a nurse practitioner and work in similar clinics. There is a strong need for these free clinics and the healthcare professionals to staff them.

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Dream Big

Why are we so afraid to ask God for what we want, to ask Him to fulfill those BIG dreams? What stops us? What keeps us from muttering those words to God in our prayers? Is it the fear of rejection, of possibly hearing no? Or is that we’re afraid that when God hears us ask, He may actually answer?

Our culture us taught us to dream big, strive after your goals, and pursue that “American Dream,” yet so many of us are living day to day afraid to really take that step forward and pursue those dreams. We sit around and go, well God has provided me with A, B, and C so I just won’t ask him about D. Maybe we sit there thinking, well he has already provided me with so much and I don’t want to ask for more. Or maybe we sit there thinking that He hasn’t answered those other prayers, why would he answer this one. And even more so we’ve been taught by others that those dreams don’t fit the norm, that we don’t fit the norm, so we feel unworthy and unwilling to ask.

In the Bible, Solomon became king of Israel after his father David passed away. In the beginning of his reign he followed the Lord closely and followed his statutes. One night in a dream God appeared to Solomon telling him to ask for whatever he wanted. At that moment instead of asking for wealth, glory, or the demise of enemies, Solomon humbly proclaimed and asked:

“Now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” (1 Kings 3:7-9)

Solomon prayed to God from the depths of his heart for a dream and a desire to govern over the people of Israel in a way that honored God. And at that moment, Solomon’s desires met up with God’s desires for his life. And God blessed Solomon with not only the knowledge and the wisdom he’d requested, but God provided further by blessing him with the riches and honor he hadn’t asked for.

At times it can be hard to imagine that simple requests, such as Solomon’s request for wisdom, can open doors beyond our imagination. Sometimes all God is doing is standing there waiting for you to ask, to realize that you are worthy of the blessings that He can provide. At times God will say no to a prayer, but be patient and keep praying because God will open up new doors and lead you toward new dreams.

So don’t be afraid, pray for those big dreams and see what happens. Don’t worry about what other people think. If Josh and I had done that we would never be doing Mission Year right now. God will never let you fail. We let ourselves fail by not turning to God and recognizing the support He can provide.

So dream big.

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Vocation

Vocation, what does that word mean to you? Is it a calling to a certain career, to follow a specific passion, a call to service and Christian ministry? By definition the word vocation comes from the Latin work vocare which means to call or name, to invoke. Vocation is defined in the dictionary as:

–          A particular occupation, business, or profession; calling

–          A strong impulse or inclination to follow a particular activity or career

–          A divine call to God’s service or to the Christian life

–          A function or station in life to which one is called by God

So what is vocation? Is it just one of these definitions or is it all of them combined?

This past weekend I spent time at a retreat with the other Atlanta team members for Mission Year and people from various other service corps in the Atlanta area. The focus of the weekend was to discuss this idea of vocation, especially related to the idea of what comes next after this year. Entering the retreat I was very hesitant. Josh and I have been married for almost 2 years, I’ve worked as a RN for the past 2.5 years, and we already have a good idea of what is happening after Mission Year. We left full time careers to do a year of service because we felt that it would be a great catalyst in to the type of lifestyle we felt God calling us to.

For the majority of people attending this type of background was far from their reality. Due to being a married couple in service corp for young adults, you find yourself frequently interacting with single young adults in the same or similar programs that are at very different places in life. Many questions were posed about what’s next – graduate school, applying for jobs, continuing a 2nd year of service, moving home or staying put.

I questioned was this conversation of vocation really meant for me?

What hit me the most was a talk by a speaker Anton Flores (check him out at alternacommunity.org) where he used the story of God calling Moses in Exodus 3 to discuss the idea of vocation. God knew Moses, knew his inner thoughts, desires, and fears. God knew that Moses, even with his weaknesses, was the one for the job to save His people from Egypt. Moses was content where he was at, but God knew of something more and something better.

So I have what I am passionate about and what my gifts are, but where those two intersect, is that my vocation? Or is my vocation the intersection of those with what God needs of me? That point where my needs and wants meet exactly up with what God’s needs and wants are for my life. Vocation is more than a mere calling or a career path, it is a transformative power God has placed on your life that says, “Come follow me.” A calling that you cannot ignore, otherwise the questions of “what if?” will just eat away at you.

Josh and I decided to do Mission Year because we couldn’t ignore the calling that God had placed on us. We both come from careers of caring for others and we are both very passionate about compassion and love for all, but we knew that we couldn’t keep on living our lives the way we were and be content. We knew deep down that God was standing their beckoning us forward saying, “I’ve got better plans.” While our time so far has been full of ups and downs, I know with every part of my being that this is where God wants me and where he wants us as a couple. I didn’t come to save the community I’m living in. I came to learn, to love, and to be loved. I came to be a neighbor and nothing more. To live out what Christ taught to the best of my ability.

As Dr. Howard Thurman once said, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dreams

Senior year of high school the most common question a person receives is what their plans are after they graduate. If college is the answer, they’re most likely asked what college and what major. Upon reaching senior year of college, the same questions are heard again, except the questions are career focused. After spending two weeks visiting friends and family in Ohio, the most common question that Josh and I heard was what our plans are after our time with Mission Year.

For a person who would love to plan out my entire life, who would love to reach set goals by the age/time they’ve been set for, I have realized how open and unplanned life seems right now. And for the first time in a long time it feels great to be able to say so. Over the past couple months I have realized how important it is to be focused on the here and now if you ever want to reach the goals and the dreams that you have. If I am so focused on the end goal I miss the amazing opportunities all around me, the chances to truly live and love.

Over the past week I have been asked by multiple people in various ways what my dreams are for the rest of the year and beyond. While still trying to figure out exactly where I want to go with my career as a nurse, I have spent time reflecting and praying about what my dreams and hopes are for my time with Mission Year and beyond.

After much discussion and prayer, Josh and I have decided that we would like to stay in Atlanta, specifically Peoplestown, after our committed time. Amidst various transitions over the next year, like Josh becoming a full time student, we have thought about what would be best for us. Also, and most importantly, we want to have more time to develop the relationships that we are currently building in our neighborhood this year. Amongst so many unknowns with life right now, we both feel a strong calling to stay put and invest in our community. We also hope to build a strong support system for ourselves as we pursue this.

When I look over the past several months and forward to this year, I have realized a strong passion and desire to really dive in and dig deeper with some of the young teens I have gotten to know. I want to connect more with some of the young adults and provide them with a network of support so they can grow and develop into strong leaders for their community.

A collage I made this past week for Mission Year showing my dreams for this year and beyond

At many of the community meetings I have been to here, there is a common discussion about needing to get young adults more involved. Outside our team, most people that attend are in their 40’s and older. The issue of getting the young adults involved is the age gap. When I think about wanting to attend an event, I am more willing to if invited by a peer or a mentor just a little older versus someone who is several generations older. I would love and dream to see the young adults getting involved and influencing not only their peers but the younger teens and kids to get involved too.

At times this dream seems daunting; however, as abolitionist and humanitarian Harriet Tubman once said, “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”

 

 

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Peacemakers

Around the Holiday season we are filled with the constant reminders to focus on love, joy, and peace. I recently heard a sermon centered on how to find authentic peace amidst our world of constant conflict. While discussing that peace seems to be fairly absent in our world, the minister focused on the idea that Christmas is a time we celebrate the coming of Christ, the Prince of Peace, into our world, and as he continued he pointed to the idea that the real and authentic peace is only possible through Christ.

A key part of the sermon was that we must personally know Jesus Christ to understand that real peace is possible and that it is a personal experience. You must find peace through your relationship with God. Also, it is necessary to know that this peace being offered through Jesus Christ is permanent, will never change, and will never leave. And that is where the message was left, that real peace is possible, personal, and permanent.

As I sat there listening, I began to think is simply understanding the peace Christ has to offer and accepting it enough? Aren’t we challenged to take this peace out into the world? If I have found a personal authentic peace, shouldn’t I share it with the world? Shouldn’t I help, through the peace of Christ, find a way to have peace for all?

My greatest struggle wasn’t just what I was hearing in this one sermon, it was the fact that I had grown up hearing similar sermons. And over the past several months, I have learned that Christ is anything but the “personal Jesus” I had grown up learning about. Through various readings and reflections over scripture it has become evident to me how much God values community and seeing His people working together, loving one another, and sharing His love with each other.

In Matthew 5:9, one of the beatitudes, Christ states, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (NIV). Blessed are those who work to bring peace to others, not merely those who have found their own and live in peace. One of the ways we are able to accomplish the task of sharing peace with others is sharing the message of God, sharing His love and desire for reconciliation between men and between Him and man. (Check out 2 Corinthians 5:18-20)

So my hope for you this Christmas season is to recognize the peace Christ is offering and that you share it with others. I pray you recognize the call God has given us to be peacemakers, to be just and righteous.

For to us a child is born, 
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this.” ~ Isaiah 9:6-7

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Patience is a Virtue

We all have heard the line that “patience is a virtue.” But deep down inside each one of us, we hear that line and scream “I’m done with being patient!” In our society of instant gratification we have become programmed to believe that everything should happen when we want it to happen, our life plans should occur exactly how we planned and at the exact time we planned those events to occur. But life has slowly but surely taught us that no matter how much we scream on the inside (or outside depending on who you are) life just doesn’t work that way.

Outside of the uncertainties of life, it is easy to find a sense of control over what is going on, but those moments of waiting can be agonizingly long. We sat and waited for those test scores to come back in high school, the letter to come saying we got into college, and the day we walked across the stage with that diploma and could declare we were done. We sit constantly counting down to that next vacation, the next time you get together with your best friends, you or your family members wedding, until the end of the work day or work week, etc. Our lives have been a constant cycle of counting down to what is coming next.

After recently writing about enjoying the simple joys in life, I began realizing how much I am counting down until our move to Georgia. In my head I have very specific dates and check points plotted out along the way to help the countdown go faster. July 12th is when we get to find out exact placement between LaGrange and Atlanta, who we are living with, and possible service sites. July 30th is our farewell cookout for family and friends in Columbus. August 6th is our farewell cookout for family and friends in Wooster. August 19th is my last day at work. And finally September 2nd we move into our new place in Georgia.

As I looked over these dates I realized how much I was missing the point that I am trying to tell others. How can I be counting down between one event to the next, with the end goal of our move to Georgia, and not be missing the simply joys of life all around me?

Over and over again through out the Bible we are taught the virtue of being patient and waiting on the Lord to act. We are taught to find comfort in those times of waiting, to stay steadfast in our prayers, and worship our Lord. Just check out a few of the many versus:

But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint. ~ Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV)

Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. ~ James 5:7-8

What I have found most important during this time of waiting and learning to be patient is not only enjoying those simple joys but the ability to reflect, learn, and grow closer to God. Over the next 2 months I know I will have days that I sit back and wish that our move was closer, especially after those long, awful days, but I am learning that through those times God teaches and provides and that He has a purpose for this time of waiting.

Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We would like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet, it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability – and that it may take a very long time. Above all, trust in the slow work of God, our loving vine-dresser. ~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

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