Monday, August 23, 2010

Recent Freelance Work

Even though I've taken an unintentional hiatus from blogging recently, I've still been writing! Here are the links to recent articles on myMISSIONfulfilled. As always, if you know of women in their 20s and 30s who might have interest in reading this missions-based online publication, please spread the word!

This is a How-to article about finding one's calling that I wrote for the college section of the site.

Read "Exploring Your God-Given Calling" here.

And this is a two-part missional Bible study about the Good Samaritan. I focused on the way this parable challenges our expectations about God, His Kingdom, and what He requires of His people. I'm indebted to Dr. Amy-Jill Levine, a sage professor at Vanderbilt's Divinity school and a good friend of my own beloved Jewish Studies professor, Dr. Frank Eakin, at U of R. I heard Dr. Levine when Dr. Eakin (who calls her "A.J.") invited her to speak on this parable at Richmond as part of the Weinstein lecture series. I never got to hear her speak while I lived in Nashville, but I've enjoyed her book "The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus." Our theological persuasions may differ, but she is a brilliant woman who has greatly impacted my understanding of Jesus as a Palestinian Jew.

Read Part I: "More Than You Expected to Give" here.

Read Part II: "The One You'd Least Expect" here.

Thanks for reading!

p.s. Stay tuned for some news about contract work I did with LifeWay recently! I'm working on a way to include the spread here.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

New Year's Resolutions

I know it's August, but it feels like a new year to me! Today/tomorrow is my one year anniversary of moving to Connecticut/starting at Walnut Hill. What faithfulness God has shown me this past year!

As the year mark has been approaching, I've been taking inventory of my life. I'm realizing that in my zeal to connect at Walnut Hill and to thrive in the ministry God's given me there, I have become one of those one-dimensional people; I'm not honing many interests outside of my life at work. I've sort of subsisted this past year on a pattern of ::work at Walnut Hill, eat with people from Walnut Hill, invest in people at Walnut Hill, socialize with people from Walnut Hill, sleep, repeat.:: When did I become that girl?! I'm realizing that I need to--have to!--take better care of myself physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. No buts about it. I love my job, but I need some balance in my life.

On my way home from Illinois two weeks ago, I made a list of things I want to prioritize this year. Like I said, I had been thinking of them as New Year's resolutions of sorts. So when I haphazardly flipped to a New Year's prayer in Valley of Vision (a collection of Puritan prayers I've been reading through) the following day, I took it as a kind of confirmation from the Lord that this is a new year and a new season. I just love the words:

O Lord,

Length of days does not profit me,

except the days are passed in thy presence

in thy service, to thy glory.

Give me a grace that precedes, follows, guides,

sustains, sanctifies, aids every hour,

that I may not be one moment apart from thee,

but may rely on thy Spirit to supply every thought,

speak in every word,

direct every step,

prosper every work,

build up every mote of faith,

and give me a desire to show forth thy praise;

` testify thy love,

advance thy kingdom.

I launch my bark on the unknown waters of this year,

with thee, O Father, as my harbour,

thee, O Son, at my helm

thee, O Holy Spirit, filling my sails.

Guide me to heaven with my loins girt,

my lamp burning,

my ear open to thy calls,

my heart full of love,

my soul free.

Give me thy grace to sanctify me,

thy comforts to cheer,

thy wisdom to teach,

thy right hand to guide,

thy counsel to instruct,

thy law to judge,

thy presence to stabilize.

May thy fear be my awe,

thy triumphs my joy.

So as I "launch my bark on the unknown waters of this year," I desire extra measures of grace and a deepening to take place in my heart as this prayer suggests. And seeking to be a whole person with diverse interests, here are the other things I've committed to pursue as God directs and allows:

Taking care of myself...

-I will make more time for Sabbath rest, committing to pray seriously (and listen) about how to cut back hours at Williams-Sonoma or quit altogether.
-I will manage my hours at Walnut Hill.
-I will seek "the solitary place," as a part of my daily routine, not just rushing through my Bible reading, but relishing time alone with the Lord.

-I will go to doctors' appointments NO MATTER WHAT.
-I will not allow lack of time to keep me from the gym. Lifting for a few minutes or doing a little cardio is better than not going at all.
-I will eat healthier; I will not let busyness be an excuse for noshing on junk!

-Recognizing that God has blessed me tremendously with amazing friends at church, I will also seek relationships outside of Walnut Hill.
-I will find a hobby! I will move forward on getting Aiden to Connecticut, unless God should close the door. I will look for a barn where I can enjoy my horse and also build fun friendships.
-I will connect with my local Tri Delta alumni chapter :)
-I will make time each week to maintain old friendships across the miles.
-I will intentionally seek a mentor.

-I will seek a way to get back in school to work on my M.Div. I will finish my Gordon-Conwell application.
-I will explore areas of theological interest and will read more (and watch the Bachelorette less!).

So there you go. If you consider yourself part of my community, feel free to hold me accountable when I'm letting passion for my job and my church overtake everything else in my life.

Here's to the start of Year Two in Connecticut!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Lessons from a French Monk

As I write this, my first post in months, I'm just beginning to grieve the passing of my Grandpa Russell. It seems surreal: we only lost Grandma a few months ago, and now the tears, the funerals in Champaign, IL and Evansville, IN, the whirlwind of emotions, will all be repeated. As I was leaving the office today, dressed in black but basking for a moment in the perfect Connecticut summer sun, my mind drifted to a plane ride from Chicago to Zurich about this time four years ago.

I was headed to Perugia, Italy via Switzerland and then Rome when I met a man who shamed me in my understanding of death and dying.

He was dressed in a grey burlap robe that touched the floor, and his navy baseball cap looked out of place perched atop his shaven head. At first he struck me as Middle Eastern. It took me a moment to notice the rosary beads and cross draped around his waste in a belt-like fashion. As he slung his bag into the storage compartment, he smiled and made a joke about the small seats, indicating that he would need to get past the aisle seat I was struggling to settle into. I returned the smile as I let him pass and asked where he was from. “I’m French,” he replied, not answering my question directly, but claiming his nationality. I learned that he was a Catholic monk and had moved to Peoria, Illinois, about an hour from my hometown, to live in a monastery there. He was traveling home to France to attend the funeral of his monastery’s founder.

When I offered my condolences, he quickly replied, "For us it's not a sad thing. It's the best thing that could happen." Holding my John Piper book and my Bible, I felt suddenly ashamed. Of course! Shouldn't I, the protestant girl with all the good theology, know about hoping for Heaven?

To my dismay, he fell asleep almost immediately and our social interaction was cut short. But I shall never forget the wise monk who understood the secret of "looking for the city that is to come" (Hebrews 13:14).

I praised God for that Frenchman today as I walked to my car. There are many tears to come this weekend as I grieve the loss of my dear Grandpa in this life. But I am trying desperately to hold on to those words from the Swiss Air flight four years ago: "It's the best thing that could happen."

As Christians, we hold these two things in tension: the bitterness of losing a brother of sister in this life and the joy in knowing that the gospel has achieved its fullness in them in the next life.

The Caedmon's Call lyrics that cheered me in my grandma's death this fall put it well:
there's a Land
where our shackles turn to diamonds
and we trade in our rags
for a royal crown
on that Day
our oppressors hold no power
and the doors of the King are thrown wide

Thank you, Jesus, that you conquered death and the grave. Thank you that you are the resurrection and the life (John 11:25).