Friday Five: Transformations

Mary Beth writes:

I’m looking forward to a good summer…I am taking on some new challenges, I have a new church home, and overall I feel like I am moving in some new directions. When I saw this picture, I felt a kinship with this woman (though I cannot to a lotus pose like that…not yet, anyway).

Sculpture is called “Expansion” by Paige Bradley.
You can read more about it and its creation here.
For today’s Friday Five, share five occasions or events in your life that have been turning points…when you have felt like a new thing was being born. You can refer to the birth of children, career, your kitchen garden, or whatever moves you. 
1. Summer at Hume Lake, 1998
I spent the summer of 1998 as part of the worship band for the high school camps at Hume Lake, up in the Sierras north of Fresno. I had graduated college, was working, but not really in a career, feeling like I was at a dead end in most aspects of my life and then I got a call on a Monday asking me to drop everything and spend the summer at camp. I left that Saturday. That summer I learned more about worship than I did during my entire undergraduate degree program – BA, Creative Arts in Worship. This summer job also led to my move to San Franciso and eventually contributed to my decision to go to seminary and study Worship Leadership.
2. Trip to Kenya, 2001
When Dr. McCoy announced that there would be a trip to Kenya for worship leadership students from the seminary, I knew I was supposed to go. (I knew the way you know about a good melon. Because I can always find a reason to quote When Harry Met Sally). This was my first trip overseas and I don’t do anything halfway. Hop over to Mexico or Canada just to warm up the passport? Nope – I’m goin’ to KENYA. I raised funds, went to meetings, bought travel necessities and a conservative wardrobe, and learned some Swahili. I went with no expectation other than to take in the experience and make it part of me and that’s what happens. There’s something about Africa that is warm and vast and comforting, lulling you into feeling like part of the landscape as if you’d always lived there. Atl least that was my experience. I saw the poorest people be the people with the most joy. I saw generosity, beauty, talent and love. The food was great too. I was officially bitten by the travel bug, as they say, and am determined to return to other parts of Kenya one day.
3. Living in San Francisco, 1998-2012
I lived half my 20s and all of my 30s in San Francisco. My first time there was on a high school choir trip when I was 14 or 15 and I swore I would live there one day and I’m so glad I did. During this time I went to seminary, had several jobs, started what could be called a “career”, explored my ministry calling, developed great friendships, and essentially became myself.
4. Employed by Large Retail Company, 2007
In March of 2007 I began working for a retailer who is based in San Francisco. I started in the corporate office as an admin because at that time in my life, I felt that I could have a generic job and live out my calling in my off time. It was during this time with this company that I came to understand that I need to have a more integrated approach to job and calling and that there are many aspects of my God-given identity that can be translated into a “secular” job. Other than a stint teaching in a public school, this was my first job outside a church or Christian company. At this point I was, let’s be honest, really sick of Christians. I wanted to be around “normal” people. Turns out my company has a lot of Christians in it, which was disappointing at first. I’ve made friends and been given opportunities that I would never have otherwise. I love working here and look forward to what’s next.
5. Trip to Egypt, 2013
In April of 2013 I had the ridiculous opportunity to travel to Egypt. Like the trip to Kenya, when the opportunity presented itself, I just knew I would go. There was no question. It was so amazing to see things I’d studied in seminary, to see what is happening there socially, politically, and economically and to meet people who are trying to do good there. I met some people that I know will be friends for a long time. There are some aspects of this trip that I am still figuring out and learning from. The experiences I had on and because of this trip will continue to reverberate for me for a while.

Call to Prayer

Something has been rattling in my brain since my trip to Egypt and an embarrassing incident here at work brought it back to my mind. Those of you who know me in real life know that I don’t exactly exude grace and composure. When I’m caught off guard, EVERYONE knows it. Usually there’s some flailing of limbs and incoherent exclamations involved. It’s super graceful. Today I was feeling a little crabby because of some work frustrations and as I’ve been doing a bit lately, I decided to eat my feelings in the form of some Kettle Chips and a Coke. I went into the breakroom and almost stepped on  a young man who was face-down on the floor. In that split second, I couldn’t figure out who it was, and then, whoever it was, had he fallen down? My first reaction was one of those incoherent exclamations that I’m so famous for, and as I made my noise I realized that he was praying. Then after that, I couldn’t stop apologizing. He just shot me a sideways look and kept praying. In an Elaine Benes-esque moment, I wondered if I should leave or go ahead and purchase my junk food. I went for the machines. I’ve decided to go ahead and call our HR Hotline on myself. I probably won’t get in trouble. It’s anonymous.

The reason this brought to mind my recent trip to Egypt is that when Mubarak was president, he decided that the Call to Prayer that happens EIGHT TIMES A DAY beginning at FOUR AM wasn’t loud enough. Now it is. Cairo is a more moderate city, so when the call to prayer goes out you will see some people observe it and some go about their day. I’m acknowledging that I experienced this as an outsider, and I’m sure that the locals don’t even hear it most of the time. Eight times a day. Come ON.

There are those who think the sound is ugly, and no, it’s not exactly melodious, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call it ugly. There is something inherently beautiful in an entire city being asked to stop to center themselves in prayer. I’m not advocating that any government dictate how and when to pray, but I like the idea that regular times of prayer are built into the daily rhythms of life. I wish I had the discipline to do it for myself.

There are those who will also say that it’s an empty ritual and doesn’t mean anything. Maybe, but that’s possible in any religion and is a pitfall of being human. I’m reminded of a quote from Out of Africa where Denys is explaining to Karen why he prefers animals to people. He says that everything is brand new to the animals but it’s only “man that tires of it. It’s only man who does it badly.” True. Not only would it be a discipline to keep a regular prayer schedule every day, it would be a discipline to keep it from becoming a meaningless habit.

Can you imagine how different the world would be if all of us, regardless of our faith traditions, stopped eight times every day to center ourselves in prayer and seek God’s guidance? It might be a world with less need of Kettle Chips and Coke.

God’s Official Language

Acts 2: 1-13

1-4 When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force—no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them.

5-11 There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world. When they heard the sound, they came on the run. Then when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were thunderstruck. They couldn’t or the life of them figure out what was going on, and kept saying, “ Aren’t these all Galileans? How come we’re hearing them talk in our various mother tongues?

Parthians, Medes, and Elamites;
Visitors from Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia,
Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia,
Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene;
Immigrants from Rome, both Jews and proselytes;
Even Cretans and Arabs!

“They’re speaking our languages, describing God’s mighty works!”

12 Their heads were spinning; they couldn’t make head or tail of any of it. They talked back and forth, confused: “What’s going on here?”

13 Others joked, “They’re drunk on cheap wine.”

This Sunday is Pentecost, so while I have been thumbing through my closet trying to figure out what flame-colored ensemble I’ll be wearing to church on Sunday, I’ve also been thinking about the meaning of the story.

My first experience of this story was that it was a miracle of languages. God made the people able to speak other languages miraculously so that everyone could hear about Jesus. Super efficient, I think. They’re all in town, why  not hit them all at once? Later, I began to understand this as a miracle of hearing. God speaking to people in a way that they can understand shows God’s passion for communicating the message of the good news of Jesus.

Pentecost is a big deal. It’s the fulfillment of ancient prophecies, the birthday of the church, and an event that tells us a lot about God. A few things have stood out to me in this years’ study of the passage.

1. They were all together in once place

This passage takes great pains to remind us that there were Jews from all over the near and known world who had come together for the celebration of Pentecost. That God chose to send the Spirit at this event both underscores Christianity’s Jewish roots but also God’s global plan for the message of Jesus. It’s also seen as sort of a close to a parentheses that began with the Tower of Babel in Genesis. In that story, the people of earth gathered together for the purposes of their own pride and fear of moving out into the unknown. God scattered them by confusing their language and now God is bringing the people of the world back together by eliminating the barrier of language. The difference is that the people were gathering for the purpose of celebrating God’s activity and not their own.

2. The wind was “violent”.

In the days following Pentecost, the mid-west was ravaged by tornadoes the likes of which have not been seen. The entire town of Moore, OK, was literally blown away, leaving nothing but rubble and devastation. The images of what happened there have become associated with “violent wind” in my head.

3. The word of God was all anybody could hear.

God has to drown out our chatter and force us to hear what God wants to say. If you think about it, God did that one time and look at the history what happened.

4. What is God’s official language?

We like to think that we speak “God” fluently, and, more arrogantly, that we understand “God” perfectly. The truth is that God is at work in the entire world, not just in the part of the world where I function most comfortably. The only way to be transformed is to be open to hearing God in another way, in a way that is unfamiliar and sometimes uncomfortable, but still very clearly God.

On a personal note, God has swept through my life and blown away somethings that I believed were cast in stone, as native to me as my native language. They’re gone now, replaced by light and warmth. The wind that blew was warm, gentle, and not violent in that it was destructive, but violent in its power and impact.

Friday Five: Be On Your Way

Deb writes:

RevGal Jan is under the weather, so we are swapping weeks for the Friday Five. (Feel better, Jan!) Actually, I want to thank her because she inspired me when she recently shared this poem by Rumi:

It’s your road, and yours alone.

Others may walk it with you,

but no one can walk it for you.

A road in Bavaria.

I reflected on this poem for a while and thought about some new “roads” that my progeny are beginning. Both are graduating (one from high school, one from college). I am also looking at a possible new “road” in a much hoped-for job. It’s been a winding path to get this point!

So in thinking about our life’s journey, and the rhythm of our lives, here’s five questions on this theme…

1. What “road” is in your immediate future? 

The road in my immediate future is a new one. It’s unfamiliar but not scary, well lit, but obscure, warm but unknown. I’m kind of excited about it.

2. Where have you been “traveling” a lot lately — and are you going back there? 

The last 8 or 9 months have been traveling the road of adjustment to a new context. The last month in particular has been a crash course in new places, experiences, and people, and it’s all been amazing. I’m not a person who goes back and

3.  Who are your fellow travelers? 

You hate to name names because what if I forget someone? Here are some: Jill, Lilyan, Mom, Anni, Momi, Stephen, Kenny, Heather, Kyle, and the girls from 40 Forward. They know who they are 😉

4.  Who are the unintentional companions (or hitchhikers) that you find on the road with you? 

I think I’ve only had pleasant hitchhikers for the most part. The women from 40Forward with whom I traveled to Spain last year have become companions that were unexpected and so pleasantly surprising. I’ve also had some unexpected companions, mostly in a work environment, who have been unwanted companions, but I learned more about myself and how to (or not t0) function in a professional environment than anyone else, so I’m thankful for them. I just don’t want them on my journey for very long 🙂

5.  As a family, we always recite “the traveler’s prayer” — a tongue-in-cheek petition as we pull out of the driveway (“Lord, whatever we have forgotten, may it not be important!”) What have you forgotten lately, and did it matter? 

If I knew, I wouldn’t have forgotten it, no?

BONUS: Share a photo of a road you’ve traveled. Or of traveling companions who have made the journey special. Or perhaps there’s a song or another poem that suits your journey. If so, please share!

Here’s a picture from a recent more literal trip to Egypt with some of my traveling companions. From far left, Me, Jill, Sophie (Jill’s Daughter), Monagirls in egypt

Friday Five

revkjarla writes:

Hey there gals and pals!
Happy Friday Five….and although I don’t have a theme for this Friday, I do have five questions for you to ponder upon:

1.  If you could hear what someone is thinking for a day, who would you choose, and why?

This is difficult, but a good question. On the one hand, there are some men who’s thoughts I’d like to hear but I’m afraid that there would be some level of disappointment if I listened for a whole day. I’d also be intrigued to hear the thoughts of some politicians whom I do not respect. If I could hear what they were thinking, perhaps I could muster some sympathy for their positions, or at least some respect for them. I think if I have to decide on one person, I’d say Hillary Clinton, just so I could find out if she’s running in 2016 🙂

2.  If you were trapped in a tv show for a month, which show would you choose, and why?

There are shows I love and shows I’d love to be trapped in. I love Mad Men, but would not want to be trapped in it for a month – a bit dark. I’m going to go with The Newsroom.

3.  If you could do any job in the world for a day, what would it be?

I’d like to be a political journalist. I love following politics and I feel like the journalism standards in this country are pathetic. I’d like to be inside for a day and see what’s going on.

4.  What are you loving right now? 

I’m listening to the North & South trilogy and I’m on the second book, Love & War. It’s amazing.

5.  Use these words in a sentence:    bless, cheeseburger, chihauha, skipping, Georgia.

The chihauaha was skipping all the way to Georgia, just so she could bless the cheeseburger.