Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Countdown to the end...the beginning...or perhaps a beautiful mixture of both

So. Here we are. I have only about a month and a half left in New Orleans. I can barely, barely believe it. It hit me today like a bullet to the temple. I was just typing up the bulletin at Faith Pres when all of a sudden, I realized how soon I was going to be gone and how much I am going to miss New Orleans. I have met so many beautiful people. This city has captured me with its spirit of resilience and its outpouring of love. 

I have been focused on going home, having my own bedroom/bathroom, seeing old friends, seeing my parents, and figuring out the next step. I have been dealing with a lot of conflicts lately and have lost my grip on the bigger picture.  Today, I can feel the sharp pain of goodbye shooting up my limbs, spreading across my heart as the weeks burn away quickly like wax dripping down a candle. I've had to say goodbye many times in my life. When I left high school, I said goodbye to friends, family, and my comfortable child life. At the end of the summer when I worked at Ghost Ranch, I had to say goodbye to the breathtaking, open desert landscape and the awesome group of people I had met there. When I graduated college, I had to say goodbye to four years of amazing times with amazing friends.  But saying goodbye to this city, this experience, these people...it shakes me harder than I thought it ever would.

I have started to reflect on this year and what it means. The next month will be full of goodbye parties, closing events, last days. I don't want to get caught in the whirlwind of last times/goodbyes/endings but rather hold on to everything that I have become while here. I must look at these people for who they are and what they've given me. I've been pulled out of my comfort zone. I've been challenged. I've made plenty of mistakes. I've had plenty of bad days, plenty of situations I could have handled better. I've been a bad roommate at times. I haven't been super YAV.  I've gotten frustrated. I've lost my way. BUT,  I've also had some incredible adventures, laughed until I cried, ate some amazing food, given back in various forms of service to the city, learned so much about myself and that crazy thing we call life, and formed irreplaceable relationships with people who know the definition of what it means to be radiant and alive. I've seen the way the people of this city celebrate brokenness, wear it like a beautiful crown instead of a scar. I am inspired.

I will be honest. I don't have the next step figured out. It doesn't mean I am lost. I am still afraid, and my humanity shines through every crack. But I am a better, stronger person after being here. I feel like my heart has been rewired, my eyes washed clean, my mind made afresh. Saying goodbye will be difficult, but all I can do now is truly enjoy my last few weeks here and let these people know that they have changed me, left a permanent mark on my heart. There is no time for getting tangled in petty arguments or worrying about the small stuff. There is only time for love, for thankfulness, for looking around me not with my human eyes, but through God's lens and seeing the Belovedness that is in everyone.

"Time is lost when we have not lived a full human life, time unenriched by experience, creative endeavor, enjoyment, and suffering."
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer 

"Surrender all your battles. It's only love that makes us matter."

Bless you all.

P.S- Thursday is my Birthday. Feel free to mail cupcakes or a puppy.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

God is Doin a Nu Thang...You know he's doin it yall

Hope everyone is having a fun, relaxing start to Summer and  the opportunity to be around water. New Orleans is unfolding its thick blanket of humidity over us all as I head into the last leg of my YAV year. (Can’t believe it!!!!) Crawfish boils and swimming pools- I am so there.

After finally reading and thoroughly enjoying Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz, I decided to read more of his stuff. He has a very unique writing style, which can be distracting but overall, I appreciate how he writes exactly what he’s thinking and feeling. He has some honest questions about human beings and why they are the way they are.  I am currently reading his Searching for God Knows What, which is basically his perspective on the bible.  He talks about the story of Adam and Eve and the Fall:
“If man was wired so that something outside himself told him who he was, and if God’s presence was giving him a feeling of fulfillment, then when that relationship was broken, man would be pining for other people to tell him that he was good, right, okay with the world and eternally secure.”
            To me, this concept paints an accurate portrait of the way we live our lives today. We find it difficult to love ourselves and others because we are busy comparing things to every individual out there, and thus our souls our exhausted with the constant competition. Just a simple example when you think about it, Miller points out that thousands of people show up to a basketball game simply to see which team plays better than other. Thousands of us watch reality shows like American Idol and Celebrity Apprentice, shows where one person gets the glory of a trophy and a title.  Human beings are fascinated and consumed with this concept of winning approval from others. All of our choices and emotions seem to boil down to how another human being see us as worthy, as if we are balanced by this invisible scale that measures one’s true value. And if we feel others don’t see us as worthy we begin to unravel and become depressed, insecure, hopeless. Our lives cluttered and clouded with illusion.  Like we are trying to reverse the Fall. 

Are we truly no longer capable of  being who we were created to be, equal in the eyes of the one who made us? Can you imagine the moment you were created, to simply know that you are the Beloved without needing any outside affirmation? Then to look beside you as Adam did when he first saw Eve and see that same Belovedness in another human being? I can hardly imagine such a raw, true feeling. I am innately wired to always be searching for that perfect relationship with God that can mend what is broken inside me, fill in this space that seems forever incomplete. The temptation will always be there, this obsessive need to turn to other beings for some sort of approval that I am okay, that I am secure, that I am fitting the bill. The temptation roars through societies and cultures across the earth. So many people born into the world without that sense of Belovedness, forced to leave the fate of their precious lives in the hands of equally fragile human beings.

Miller also talks about War, something that weighs heavier on my heart each day. He brings up painful images of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, of the children screaming in the streets, of the aftermath. So many innocent lives destroyed, a story that is all too familiar. He states:

“War is complicated. It isn’t black and white. This is what the Bible teaches. And I thought about that for a long time and realized it meant all our civilizations, our personalities, our families, our souls, are walking through the wreckage of a war, running from Tokyo, running from Hiroshima, our mouths gaping, the fire burning behind us…This is Sarajevo all over again, only this time it’s the walls of our hearts that are littered with bullet holes, it’s our souls that are feeling the aftershock.”

I’ve been sitting with these words, and the powerful emotions they bring up out of me, this ache for all human beings and their suffering, flesh on flesh wars filling our history books. Many walk around with physical distortions as a result of war, physiological trauma, and even deeper the war within that Miller is getting at: the bullet holes lodged deep in our hearts shaking our souls. All stemming from that first attack of a perfect and innocent kingdom: The Garden of Eden.

 I am a small human being, a single spoke in the wheel that turns the world, but I can’t help but wonder if this is what was really meant for us. These burdens we carry around, these wars we can't stop fighting. I can barely wrap my mind around God and the Fall and the fate of the human race because of the pain that bubbles up. It may not be up to me to solve it before brunch tomorrow, and the funny thing is as a human being, I seem to be programmed to be curious about things I can’t possibly ever fully comprehend. However, I feel like the more I think about where human tendencies really stem from, the richer my life can become as I aim to reconcile revelations with tangible experiences. 

On a lighter note, please visit this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MUVNuD3MiU for the YouTube video that inspired the title of this post. Make sure you are somewhere where you can laugh loudly and obnoxiously.

“If we could muster a portion of the patriotism that we feel toward our earthly nations into a bravery in concert with the kingdom of God, the enemy would claim fewer casualties for sure”
-Donald Miller

“We all die. The goal isn't to live forever. It’s to create something that will.”- Chuck Palahniuk