Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas Mystery

Christmas is coming the goose is getting fat!

So lately the ministry life in Racine has been very hectic. We have helped with 3 different Christmas pageants, had heaps of Christmas cards to send out, & shopping to do on top of our regular schedules. I have been doing a lot of recapping on this year & how weird it's been. This year is definitely one to remember.

At the beginning of the year I fell in love, I graduated undergrad. in May, I had a pretty easy summer with a wedding & spoke folk, my heart was broken at the end of the summer, & then I started team life which is an adventure all of it's own. The one constant thing in all of this has been my faith & God's love that I just really some times have a hard time believing in how amazing it is.

Earlier this week I was fed up with most every aspect of my life. I wanted to quit or so I said. The thing is I never really wanted to quit. I absolutely love the ministry we're doing here & the people we work with of all ages. Even after a stressful day because of whatever reason I enjoy it. Ministry is my life, serving God & others to share His love, that I don't understand, is my passion. I had hit a huge brick wall and couldn't keep going. Thankfully through much prayer & great friends I am working around this wall.

My week got even a bit crazier the next day. I was talking with a good friend and told her that even after all the chaos I still had a strange gut feeling that I needed to go on the winter Spoke Folk tour in Florida. I have been thinking & praying about this tour for a few months now & had so many reason why I shouldn't go and had myself convinced that I wasn't able to go. She suggested that maybe I should explore that weird gut feeling a bit more so I got done talking with her & called my good friend that is the tour director & told him my story. I cannot believe the one ministry that has changed my life so much I was denying myself to think about going on another tour. I decided a few days ago that I would be joining the FL Spoke Folk 07/08 tour because I really feel that is where God wants me.

Yes, it's crazy. I'll be home for two days & off to do more ministry. I have not been this excited about ministry in a long while. God works in awesome mysterious ways! I have no clue what this tour or the 2008 year will bring for me, but I don't need to. Today is what's here & I have given it my best. I pray that everybody has a great Christmas & Happy New Year. You don't need a new year on any calendar to have a fresh start. Each day is a fresh start because of the grace of God.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Are you ready? 20 days left

Life is here & now; it is right in front of you, behind you, all around you, & in you.

Each day people are starving, people are homeless, people are being shot at around the world. Today the big news is a shooting in Omaha, Nebraska. I'm sure this isn't a big news report around the world, but maybe it is. These things are only a few things that start to get a person down in spirit.

This isn't the season of low spirits though. It's advent, a time where people are awaiting the birth of God's son. The son of God that saved our lives. How could anybody not want to be prepared for that celebration? I know, not everybody believes in God, but I have personally explored other religious beliefs and Christianity is the only one that makes any bit of sense to me. The funny thing is that it is not the tangible facts that make me believe, it is the unknown & the unexplained. The miracles such as baby Jesus grew up to share & the simple miracles of people that still believe in a world of terror & harm. This is a world made of humans who only long to have all the answers so that things may not be horrible in any one persons world, but the thing is that no one human has all the answers to the shootings or the hungar or the homeless.

Are we prepared for baby Jesus to come? I have a secret that shouldn't be so much of a secret and hopefully it isn't. Baby Jesus, He's here, He's been here, all around, for hundreds of thousands of uncountable years. How crazy cool & confusing is that?! Baby Jesus is the reason we as humans have life so that life that is here & now & in front of you & behind & all around you & in you, all that is baby Jesus which in essence is God & the holy spirit. So when things start to seem so hard as they some times seem to this time a year more than other times, no matter what you believe, know that there is a HUGE celebration called Christmas ALL over the world celebrated in many different ways for the birth of this baby who left a powerful impact on the world & that you are invited to join in just by acknowledging that the life in and around you is yours given to you. It is a gift worth celebrating and giving thanks to Jesus by knowing each day that you've done your best in all you've been involved with no matter what & shared that bit of Jesus with all those you interacted with. Be joyful for all that you have.

My team & I are joyful for all the wonderful people we've been blessed to meet through Youth Encounter, through Racine, in the churches we're working with, and the worship services we've been able to go to. Each day may bring a different challenge, a different hungar, homelessness, shooting, but each day God is with us breathing into us giving us reason to be joyful. Be ready!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

sound of melodies

can you hear the sound of melodies?

This weekend my teammates and I went to see Casting Crowns, Leeland, and John Waller. John Waller is a new artist and was pretty good. Casting Crowns are inspiritational in their music & passion to serve & Leeland really was amazing. One of Leeland's best known songs is Sound of Melodies and in it they ask God if he can hear the sound of melodies being sung by His children. It was a really powerful hearing the song live.

Lately the sound of melodies in my life have been various. It has been the little things that have kept me singing in a sense. There is one little boy at Emmaus, our Wednesday church, that is a joy to work with. One particular Wednesday we were playing Connect 4, a classic game and he was so funny. It was a simple thing and just the laughter gave me reason to want to continue giving my time to the ministry. Then for Thanksgiving we, my team & the Wed. church, helped put together Thanksgiving baskets heaping with all sorts of food for different families in the area. It was such a blessing to not only be able to help donate the food needed for the baskets, but to help deliver them to a few families. There is so much love shared just in a smile and a few "thank you Jesus!"

The worship at the concert the other night was phenominal. The worship last night with several people that have been on a Youth Encounter team was great too. It's amazing to know how my sound of melodies is reaching people and most importantly God because I know all the people I've met have sang to me. Cheesy, I know, but that's how it is. If you are reading this you have helped shape me into who I am today whether through good or bad and I thank you.

Some upcoming funness with our team or other updates is that we have hosted a few of the traveling teams in the last month and one coming to us this week as well. It's been really good for us to interact with these friends since we are all working for the same organization and we only get to see them once more at debriefing next August. I'm very excited about this weeks team because one of my best friends from undergrad. is on the team. We have Christmas pageants coming up and our weekly schedule has become more busy with ministry opportunities such as helping with the Christmas pageants. We love this season & sharing the joy & anticipation of the celebration of the birth of our savior & are blessed to be able to share it with so many people.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

one day

One day there will be one Christian body, one people who have put aside all their different teachings all their different thoughts & do nothing but worship God. one day.

I wish that day were today & then I think "why can't that be today?" It can be if we communicate, but then maybe it takes less communication with one another & more communication with God. Today was a rough, long day of ministry.

I have been doing a bit of traveling lately on our days off and it has been good for me to get away & reflect from the ministry that my team & I are doing here in Racine. My first weekend away was to visit a seminary in Chicago. It was a wonderful weekend that I was blessed to be able to spend with one of my best friends from undergrad. It was one of those lightening bolt weekends where I came away feeling confident that seminary is where I'm meant to be next year. It is where God wants me. Seminary wiill better equip me to do God's work. So I came back to WI on fire to do whatever ministry came our way as best as I knew how. This last weekend I visited good ol' C-bus where I surprised a good friend & also got to visit many other friends & family along the way. I still can't believe I drove that far by myself on my days off, but I did & was rejuvinated in spirit. I came back to the Mosaic Racine home not fearing it, but more anxious to see what God has in store for us. A good anxious that turned into a bit of frustration today.

I come off of days like today and wonder what went wrong & where & why people didn't just say what they were thinking. Don't get me wrong, ministry was still done and I know we're making a difference in the people's lives on many different levels, but people lost focus of God today. Maybe they had an early wake up call, I know I did. Maybe they had personal things stressing them out or hadn't gotten enough sleep and weren't feeling 100%. I can only pray that God remain the center of all the ministries around the world. It is best to uphold our brothers and sisters in Christ in attitude and action & help one another to grow in our weaknesses.

This weekend I'm off to Purdue to enjoy some crazy tradition with my big brother. No matter where I'm off to, I'm always coming back to Racine for at least the next 10 months. Being in ministry I'm learning that I can't be too picky about where I'm working, because no matter where I am or who I am with, God is present & there is heaps of unfathomable love to be shared with one another.

one day all this silliness won't matter, but God's love is infinite and will always matter.

Monday, October 22, 2007

not so manic mondays

For just over a year if not much longer I have had practically nothing to do on my Monday's. Last year during school, both semesters, I had evening classes so I wasn't busy till 6pm & I believe before that I didn't have anything on Mondays. I worked occasionally, but my hours with admissions weren't always consistant because you never know when somebody needs a tour of campus.

This morning I was woken up at 4:30am by my silly teammate who often speaks in her sleep quite clearly & loudly & also occasionally does other funny things, such as wake up & think it's about 12 hours later than it actually is. This morning was one of those sleep walking times that I had not experienced before. She came to my room to wake me up because she needed to get her van to the shop down town & she thought she had missed her appointment be a couple hours. I had to tell her what time it was about 3 times before she realized that it was still dark out & that she was sleep walking. I chuckled at her & went back to sleep. This was only a continuation of a very silly day, just several hours after we had gone to bed.

When it was actually time to get up I reluctantly did so because if I had not lead her to the auto shop so she had a ride home I could have slept for another hour or more. I got up though & as I was driving I realized how I've felt a bit captive lately. I know it seems silly because I've been able to go visit friends randomly in the area & the next 3 weekends I'm traveling to a different place each time. I love variety in my day, but I also like waking up, making myself presentable, & going out with a purpose. Right now our mornings are very laid back, but I think I'm going to start getting up certain mornings & going out to just be up & ready for the day. All this makes me wonder how frustrated God gets with us some times when we just simply stray away from our faith.

There is always going to be silly things distracting our days & faith. Some times even at weird hours of the morning! These things may distract me & make me question different aspects of my faith, but God is the only true & constant thing that has ever been in my life. It is because of God that I have been blessed with each breath, with each friend, with each adventure and even though I squirm most when he's holding me still in one place I think that's when I'm reminded me most to just stop & be & acknowledge my breathing. "Be still & know that I am God" is one of my favorite verses from the Bible, it's not about building us up as wonderful people who are loved beyond comprehension or all the sins we commit each day. It is about simply acknowledging God who will never give you more than you can handle.

Monday, October 8, 2007

a trail of Jesus' ministry

Today I went with Anthony to his home church. He had mentioned a few people that I was glad to meet, but the one person that really took me & didn't let go, seriously, was Pastor Reggie. Pastor Reggie is a pastor at a camp in WI so he doesn't get to preach at the church very often, but everybody loves it when he does.

Anthony walks up to Pastor Reggie & they great each other with a hug and telling each other how good it is to see one another & then Anthony promptly introduces me. Yes, I was the mysterious friend this morning that some thought I was his girlfriend, others didn't have a clue, & we joked that I was his wife. We thought the last one would really throw people for a surprise loop since he hadn't been to church there since last Easter! He introduced me as his teammate, Julia, and Pastor Reggie & I shook hands & then kept shakking hands & still Pastor Reggie didn't let go of my hand & a few minutes later he still didn't let go, but we all kept on talking. At one point in the convo he mentioned to me that he was praying for me & that is why he was still holding on & was going to continue to do so until I told him to stop.

This blew me away. The man had just met me & knew nothing about me, but he was praying for me. He was Jesus with skin on amongst many other people that I met today. Pastor Reggie took my hand as God does in our lives on a constant basis and wouldn't let go. Like I said, it took me a minute to realize what he actually meant since he was carrying on a conversation with Anthony & I at the same time. I didn't want to tell him to stop, prayer is needed & much appreciated always & knowing that a complete stranger was doing it on the spot was so obvious that God was there with us & surrounding & protecting each & every one of us.

After Pastor Reggie let go of my hand & Anthony went on to talk with a few other friends that had approached us, Pastor Reggie turns to me & says, " You have ministry written ALL over you child! I saw it the moment I turned around & saw you walk in. It was like you were leaving little foot prints of Jesus every where you stepped!"

wow! seriously, for somebody to just point out that they see Jesus in your being, wow! I thanked him for the encouragement & prayers & told him he didn't know how much it was needed or it meant. How often in our lives do we stop & pray for somebody we just met on the spot and hold on to them to let them know we're there for them & so is God? Some yall might, but I'm a Lutheran, so you know that's over stepping some sort of boundary right? Ha! Yes, I am breaking out of my Lutheran shell, I have been for a while, but it's been a very slow process & I'm constantly excited to learn what God has in store for all that surrounds me. God is present & real in all of our lives, even if we don't aknowledge it & that takes my breath away.

I hope that yall have people in your life like Pastor Reggie & realize that you are Jesus with skin on too, so use it!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Badger Badger Badger Mushroom

Life is continuous here in Racine. So much has happened yet it doesn't necessarily seem like anything worth reporting. Talking with a good friend we decided that God is using us to understand transitioning and learning a great deal of patience in life rigiht now. I just recently read somewhere or heard, I don't remember which, that God doesn't grant us patience, He gives us things in life that make us learn patience. I found this very interesting because I had never thought about it like that. It makes sense though. Patience is an emotion like any other that you choose at some level. I'm definitely to just sit back & let God's work be done in, through, & around me.

We have started our Wednesday evening program at Emmaus and the first Wednesday was very overwhelming, but the second was a tad better. Many of the children we're working with come from home lifes that I have only heard about, but never witnessed. I could get wrapped up in the fact that their home lives may not be ideal according to societies standards, but really all I can allow myself to do is be a person of God's love when I'm with them & pray for them when I'm not. Our Thursday night programming is picking up some with mostly high school youth. There is a group of girls that are all juniors and seniors and they are VERY lively. It's exciting to go from one dynamic of young elementary age to older youth. Occasionally we get to work with elderly as well & I really enjoy that because they have so many great stories.

We have been surrounded by a great group of pastors and coordinators and people within the churches. We also have been blessed with the occasional visitor or two such as my parents coming last weekend. My teammates & I have all gotten some of our belongings and really made or started to, make our rooms our places so it's much more of our home now. We had an installation service a week ago and were gifted with pray shawls that are georgeous! God is present in everything around us, some times we need to slow down & just be & acknowledge that God is there in the small things, not only the big "aha" moments. Today Anthony & I went to Zoe Church, an African American church and it was a great experience. The congregation was very welcoming and the music was amazing & I don't know that I've ever received so many hugs in my life outside of Spoke Folk. so once again my thoughts are scattered but here they are.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Happy Damnit

At Barnes & Noble after a long day one of the first books Anthony finds is a book that’s main part of its title is “Happy Damnit.” We thought it was pretty funny and decided that it was written just for us! Then I started singing “Dontcha be a grumpy, when the road gets bumpy, just smile, smile, smile!” It’s from the movie “Where the Heart Is.” It’s amazing the calming effect a good chai can have on me. Seriously, I take one sip & remember to breathe & I think, “the world is all good.”

If only it were this easy & didn’t cost money & weren’t so many calories to remind me to stop & breath. God’s love is free, but somehow that seems to be the hardest thing to fully accept some days. I’ve really come to the conclusion that if I were meant to understand some things like love & life & ministry & people then I would. God would give us all that knowledge & life would be hunky dory & grand.

We find comfort in the silly things like chai, a good conversation, a worship that seemed to be planned just for you, or watching funny movies like what we’re watching right now. Ant & I are watching “Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat” with Donny Osmond & I’m not sure if he’s supposed to be Joseph or Tarzan. I’m pretty sure I have never seen this movie, but I’ve seen the musical done a couple of times.

This is a random post just to say that God is crazy & enthralling & I don’t know that I’ll ever really know what He’s thinking or doing in my life, but it doesn’t really matter. If anything it makes life more exciting. No matter what I’m gonna be happy, damnit!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

My drugs of choice

My first drug of choice is Jesus, hopefully that's obvious. My second though I shouldn't even have to specify as much, but it is a chocolate frosty from Wendy's. SO good, however, they should've never made vanilla even an option. Seriously, what were they thinking? Dave Thomas is probably rolling in his grave!

It seems like SO much has happened since I last had a chance to write, but really it hasn't been that long. The teams are all moved to their new homes now. Our parsonage is great and we have some fun furniture. Eventually I'll have to post some photos on here, but I'm not on my own computer currently. The walls are very white though so my teammate, Anthony, & I have spent some time making a collage of random magazine clippings on the wall. We're also planning on putting up the traveling team posters when they get printed, so that'll decorate another wall. Then we're going to have a wall for quotes & such.

We have been doing a lot of orientation between Redeemer (where the parsonage is) & Emmaus. We go to Our Saviours for the first time tonight so that is exciting. All the churches have a lot going on with different ideas & different ministries. We have been well taken care of with several people taking us out for lunch & dinner as well. Oh, I almost forgot to mention that I was surprised by Miriam Kline at our sending service. It was great to see her & have her play mom for the evening. Back to life in Racine though, all the pastors & congregation members have been so welcoming & I'm really looking forward to continue learning of what God has planned for our year here with all of them.

Dad & Mom are visiting next weekend & bringing me stuff from home so my walls won't be so white & scary. I need color in my life! My very good friend Melissa is visiting this weekend & I haven't seen her since January so that's exciting. We are hopefully going to be graced by another Spoke Folker who lives nearby & actually went to school with my teammate. I'm sure there is heaps more I could type about, but I can't think of it right now. If you would like more detail be sure to ask & I'll do my best to say more. This roller coaster needs to turn right side up & slow down a bit for a while!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Bloody Murdy

This is my new call name, Murdy for short, as I was freaking out one night as we were roaming around the church & my teammate, Anthony was teasing me because there's a bat roaming free around here that nobody's been able to find & I'm terrified of bats & I got so worked up that I said if I saw the bat I was going to scream bloody murdy. Yeah, I meant bloody murder, but it didn't come out like that. My teammates have definitely learned that I have my own language & way of saying things especially when I'm sleep deprived.

Another week of training down! This week we spent 3 days in the YE office building taking a class through Youth Specialties with around 20 other youth worker people from around the states. It was interesting. I actually met the former pastor of Bethel Lutheran (the church in Noblesville that I attend in the summers while living down there). He now lives in the UP. Gotta love the small Lutheran connections! The last few days have been spent in different lessons/classes at the church here in Stillwater. We've learned a lot & been challenged a lot. Tiger McLuen and a few guest speakers were the ones that taught at the class earlier in the week & then TJ Anderson is the pastor here & led the sessions that the wonder Lisa RK didn't lead. Lisa is the Mosaic team boss basically. I know that's not her technical title, but she's great & actually my prayer partner for there as well as Amber. We decided to have prayer partners within the Mosaic community since most of the other teamers, actually prolly all of 'em only had that week to get to know theirs, not 6 years like Amber & I have had.

This week I've questioned a lot if I've been placed in the right area or am doing the right thing. It's really scary as I rarely question what I'm doing to this extent. I know that God is working constantly in, through, and around me though. It may be hard to see some times, but He's there. I really wanted to be placed with the Ohio State team, but I know that would've been a comfort thing since I would've been working with college students. Working in Racine is going to be a challenge, not necessarily bad, but it'll be new. A good portion of the people in Racine are unemployed & I lived the last 4 years of my life in a very wealthy suburb of Columbus. I may be questioning what I'm doing, but I am very anxious and excited to get to our site. We only have a few days left here with the other Mosaic teams & then on Thursday morning we'll be heading across the river & on into the cheese state for the year. I like cheese!

Tomorrow some of us are going to church at my friend's Kristen's home congregation & then spending the afternoon at the Mall of America (none of us have money or any need for anything though) & then going to Kristen's house for dinner & Upper Room for worship. Hopefully I'll get to see some SFers tomorrow or later this week. I've invited a few to the sending service & I haven't invited you & you live in the area then it'd be great to see familiar faces. The sending service is at Trinity Lutheran in Stillwater, MN Wed. Sept. 5 at 7pm. Anyway, it's about time for Last Word so that's it for now. God's peace & love!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

NEVER reverse the van

This is one thing I learned this week even though my team doesn't get a van. The last week has been a whirlwind & amazing & low & loving & just good ol' times with old friends & lots of new.

Amber & I had a fun trip to Chicago area & got to visit with some good Spoke Folk (SF) friends & then had a long time in the airplane on the ground b/c of weather & other fun traveling stuff. We finallyl made it to Minneapolis though to meet up with the wonderful Jeremy Nilson. I actually got to see my good friend Luke from CAP in the airport as well which was really exciting. He's on an international team this year.

I can't even remember everything from this week 'cause it's been lots of long days. Amber (my friend from Ft. Wayne that's on the Great Lakes team & also mentioned above) randomly got paired together as prayer partners which is funny 'cause we've known each other for nearly 6 years & there were 50some other people that we'd never met. Today the CBTs (Community Based Teams) had to leave the traveling teams so that was really sad. We are now in Stillwater, MN for our training for the next week and a half & the other teamers are at Camp Luther Dell. The benefits of being on a CBT is we will hopefully be able to see a few of the other teams when they're on the road.

Life is good 'cause God is good & He amazes me every day with his love. Off to evening worship!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Habari za ashabooi?

That is Swahili for "How are you this morning?" However, I have always been better at speaking foriegn languages & not so great at spelling so I am almost sure that I did not spell it all right.

Life is a bit crazy right now with being home for the week & organizing my belongings here only to pack a chunk of them all up again & leave for 4 months. I'm uber excited for what God has in store for my team & I though. Despite all my aprehensions & anxieties, I know that this is God's thing & not mine entirely. I say entirely because I do believe in free will. A good friend of mine said to me not too long ago that in life we have to work with what's in front of us at each moment & do what needs done to the best of our ability because at the end of the day the only person we have to deal with is ourselves & if we did our best then that's all we can do. He of course said it much more elegently.

I'm going into this year with Youth Encounter with joy, broken, skeptic, loving and learning to love deeper, wanting to get into the hearts of all those I work with and live with and learn their stories, & relying on God to lead the way & have faith that I won't lose that confidence in God.