Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Austin's Finest

Had this been on a Monday, it would have been a Monday's Fabulous Moment, but we missed it by 24 hours and last Sunday, I had an encounter with some of Austin's finest. This might have to become a series for all those, "Wow, I wish it were Monday" moments...

Sunday morning I had to be at work at 9 a.m. It was my sixth day of work in a row and I had been there until 11 the night before. I was tired (crabby) and knew it was potentially going to feel like a pretty long day. 2 hours in, I had already had some uh, interesting, situations to deal with regarding our renters. Yeah, "interesting" is a good word. I was up on the fly rail, 2 members of the company that were here were down on the stage and 2 people in uniform walked through the stage door and onto the stage. Being a city employee, I won't mention what kind of uniforms they were wearing. Use your imagination.

I headed down off the fly rail and walked onto the stage and said, "Can I help you?" One of Austin's finest said, "Yeah, we got a call that something set off your alarm here." I said, "Hmm...that's interesting. I don't know why that would be."

"You didn't call us?"


"And you haven't heard an alarm going off?"


"They said it was something on the ceiling that set it off."


::Pause for everyone to look at each other cluelessly::

Finally I said, "You are more than welcome to go up to the front of the building where the main alarm system console is and check it out.

::Longer pause for our two uniformed friends to stare at each other, then stare at me, then stare at each other again::

One of them then looked at me and said, "What's the number of the address here?"


"We're supposed to be at 1161."

"Weeeeell, I would venture to say that might be part of the problem then."

"Wait, is this the library?"

Pause while I look around for three purposes.

1.To move my head so they won't see my less than successful attempts to not laugh.
2.To give them the opportunity to look around at the theatre and stage surrounding us and determine that that might in fact have been a silly question.
3. Upon realizing that number two was not going to happen, buying myself time to determine whether or not it would be wise to say something along the lines of, "Do you see any books in here foo'?"

Recognizing that I was tired (crabby) and less equipped than normal to deal well with those functioning on an obviously dim operating system, I quickly said, "No sir, the library is next door."

The two of them looked at each other, looked at me, looked at each other, thanked me for my time and walked out the door.

In review, let's not focus on the fact that they were at the wrong address. Let's not focus on the fact that they were on a stage and thought there was a chance they were in a library. How about the fact that they are city employees, standing in city buildings, city buildings that they have been called to serve and protect, and still have no idea where they are.

You made it in by the skin of your teeth my friends, but consider yourselves officially awarded Austin's Finest 2009.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Grace by Saving Jane

is my heart today...

As I wrestle with my emotions...

Someone else posts this:

So, what’s the truth about emotion? A few quick thoughts:

1. I think, in the past, I would have tried to build a case for emotions by saying, “God invented emotions, so they must be good.” But I don’t think that’s an accurate reflection of the creation story. God is an emotional being, and we are made in the image of God, so we have emotions.

God didn’t “invent” emotions as a component of creation! God invented us, and made us with emotions, because that’s a key part of what makes us like him!

2. God is not freaked out, disappointed, surprised, or frustrated by our emotions. In fact, the opposite is closer to the truth. Suppressing our emotions, not giving voice to them, is – in a very real sense – attempting to lie to God and ourselves, something that is contrary to God’s design and desire.
something i found on a blog this week:

In the past, I have tended to restrain my prayers out of respect for God. I am now coming to realize that my in-authenticity is actually an insult, not respect. God knows my heart, and my prayer should not be a facade. If it is, I am only fooling myself.

3. The scriptural caution to us is NOT about having emotions, but about what we do with them. “Be ye angry, and sin not” has lead us to believe that the ONLY valid anger is this thing we’ve made up called “righteous anger.” Whatever. No – Be Angry, express your anger – especially to God; don’t stuff it or bury it. Just be watchful of the actions that flow out of that.

Bottom line: our emotions are a massive gift from God, and learning to be present to them is part of our created design.

Isn’t it totally cool that God gave us emotions? Can you imagine life without them?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Thank you Jesus for lunch breaks...

Otherwise when else would I discover that I have a huge hole in the BUTT of my pants and have the opportunity to change them.

Lessons in Student Ministry: Part Five

I don't know if anyone actually reads this blog anymore besides my mom and Sarah...but I'll keep going for you two. :-P

What I Can Learn From the Amish

Rumspringa. Most literally translated from German to mean "running around." By the sheer nature of me being ornery this morning, I happened to mention Rumspringa in conversation. (No, this isn't normal) But, seeing as how I've had student ministry stuff so extremely heavy on my heart for the past 24 hours, what began as an ornery comment, turned into extensive consideration and thought.

Rumspringa is a tradition of the Amish. While it seems to me that it has been exaggerated a bit in the media as to the extremes in which it's taken, it basically refers to a time in adolescence when students of the Amish culture are given permission to head out into the world, try out anything and everything should they choose, and then decide whether or not to come back to the Amish community and be baptized in the Amish church. Again, I think the media has done a tremendous job of portraying this as extremely common when in fact many adolescents choose not to participate or participate to the level that we assume they would. But nonetheless, there are a number of students who venture away from the simplicity of their homes, head out into society and find themselves tangled in drugs, alcohol and promiscuity.
Theology that I may not agree with aside, there's something to be learned from this and here's how I know...

Between 85 and 90% of those students will, on their own, make the decision to return to their homes, family, way of living, and most importantly, to their faith.

Almost 90%.

Nine out of 10 teenagers who live with no electricity, no vehicles, no video games, no movies will knowingly and intentionally return to that lifestyle while they are still in their teenage years.

They're on to a lot of things that we're missing. But I think this is the biggest one...

They've grown up with simplicity. Family, faith and hard work. That's it. And when they venture out, they can see our world for what it is. Distraction. Frightening distraction. And the more I begin to realize this, the more it frightens me. Because my girls will never know a world free of distraction. They will never have lived in a simple, quiet time and place and while they could in essence make a choice to live that way in the future, how do you really do that when this world is all you know.

Which is, I think, exactly what happens with the Amish. Their world is what they know and anything else feels excessive, loud, oppressive and scary. For us to enter theirs would feel stark, uncomfortable, boring and probably scary because for the first time in our lives we might actually have to be still and listen.

But their world is more in line with the life God called us to and prepares our hearts for. Of course those kids return to their faith because their lives and their worlds match up with what their faith is telling them is real. It's not a wonder that it's so easy for them to believe...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Lessons in Student Ministry: Part Four

Being at a loss...

because that's where I am. Not with my Bible study girls. Or even with the other students I've randomly met in the cafeteria. But now I also spend another day a week at the middle school mentoring, one girl formally and another one who just tags along. And this is where I find myself at a loss...

I know this about them: They are two complete and total sweethearts who by way of the world are quickly headed down a path that could be really dangerous before too long. A path that makes me legitimately concerned for them, for their hearts that are right now trains on a track they don't belong on, and going WAY too fast.

And I'm far too slow to catch up with them. And not strong enough to stop it even if I could.

Today after a little prodding and asking a few "right" questions, came to the realization that there is no one else in their life who is going to stop it either.

And it hit me hard...There is literally nothing but Jesus that's going to be able to save this situation. In many kids' lives, a few right teachers, a decent mom and dad, maybe an older brother or sister can give the illusion of "saving" them. But probably not with these two. It is going to take nothing smaller than an act of God. It is going to take the redeeming love of Jesus not just to protect and rescue them but to turn their hearts toward a desire to live differently.

I was thinking about that for the bulk of the time that I spent with them today. With every cuss word, every New Year's Eve plan, every text message from every boy they shared with me. But there was hope. Hope in their smiles. Hope when they both shared with me how much they respected their grandmothers. Hope when they sweetly asked, "Miss, what are you going to do for Christmas?"

When lunch was over, I walked one of them to her class. She gave me a big hug and I noticed a woman lingering near us, but my student didn't seem to recognize her and I had never seen her either so I didn't pay much attention. I grabbed my student's face and said, "Sweetheart promise me that you won't do anything stupid over the break. That you'll make good decisions. You are way too smart to be doing what you've been talking about doing."

"I promise Miss."

"I'm not kidding. I want you to be careful."

"I will, Miss. Promise."

I hugged her again and she walked away. The woman looked at me and said, "Are you mentoring her?" I said, "Yes. Well, I'm trying to." She said, "Are you taking good care of her?" I chuckled and said, "Well, I'm trying to do that too." She smiled and said, "Good," and walked away.

I don't know who she was. And I don't know that my student does either. But I'm pretty sure she knows my student. So on the days when I'm at a loss, I'll remember that there's someone else out there who wants this kid taken care of. And that it's not by my strength, but by that of Jesus that it's going to happen.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

In Weakness...

An excerpt from "Adam's Story", Henri J. M. Nouwen.

Keep your eyes on the prince of peace, the one who doesn't cling to his divine power; the one who refuses to turn stones into bread, jump from great heights and rule with great power; the one who says, "Blessed are the poor, the gentle, those who mourn, and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; blessed are the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers and those who are persecuted in the cause of uprightness" (see Matt. 5:3-11); the one who touches the lame, the crippled, and the blind; the one who speaks words of forgiveness and encouragement; the one who dies alone, rejected and despised. Keep your eyes on him who becomes poor with the poor, weak with the weak, and who is rejected with the rejected. He is the source of all peace.

Where is this peace to be found? The answer is clear. In weakness. First of all, in our own weakness, in those places of our hearts where we feel most broken, most insecure, most in agony, most afraid. Why there? Because there our familiar ways of controlling our world are being stripped away; there we are called to let go from doing much, thinking much, and relying on our self-sufficiency. Right there where we are weakest the peace which is not of this world is hidden.

In Adam's name I say to you, "Claim that peace that remains unknown to so many and make it your own. Because with that peace in your heart you will have new eyes to see and new ears to hear and gradually recognize that same peace in places you would have least expected."

Friday, December 11, 2009

Hometown Glory: Part Five

No...I didn't forget this series of posts...just got a little distracted. :)
"Home is not where you live but where they understand you." ~Christian Morgenstern

Mr. and Mrs. Taylor
I think these two may have been the first on what became a long list of "surrogate parents." :) And there are more stories than I could even begin to she taught me to play "cheeseball baseball," how I helped him install a ceiling fan in their attic, how they came to St. Louis to surprise my mom and me...the list goes on and on.

I first met Mrs. Taylor when I was in 6th grade. She was my art teacher all through middle school and our friendship started in 8th grade when I was working on the yearbook and pretty much the entire rest of the yearbook staff peaced out about a month before the final product was supposed to be turned over to the printer. My advisor at that time wasn't particularly helpful and by the grace of God, Mrs. T. was always in her room long after all other teachers had left the building. I wandered over there seeking help one afternoon, knowing that she had been the yearbook advisor in years prior.

From that point on and in a few week's time, we spent countless hours getting the final product put together and formed a friendship that has lasted nearly 12 years. Mrs. Taylor had a heart and appreciation for middle schoolers unlike any that I have ever seen, but that I know I learned from and continue to aspire to. But the most amazing thing about her was that she listened and she made herself available. That year was close to the time I started going to and exploring the church, and I just happened to find myself at the church she had been a part of her entire life. Her presence there was one of the reasons I kept going and her willingness to talk to me about it at school was incredibly influential...although I didn't realize it at the time. It was also during that time that my love for theatre was growing and we spent many hours discussing that as well. I remember one day when during class she said, "I have a present for you. Come back after school." When I showed up later that day, she pulled out a cassette tape of the Miss Saigon soundtrack. At that time, I didn't have any show soundtracks and had never heard any of that show. But I listened to it over and over and over again, partly because I loved it but I think more because it was a reminder that this person had thought of me, outside the walls of the school. When you're in middle school, there is little that means more than that.

After I moved up to the high school I continued to seek her help with projects and costumes and spent a lot of time at the middle school helping her with things in our classroom. She was also a consistent influence in my faith. As our friendship grew and we hung out more, I got to know Mr. T. who was also a teacher.

Those two are the kind of teachers every kid should get to have at some point in their lives. They didn't have any children, aside from the many beautiful felines that have come and gone over the years, but because of that poured their lives into their students and their work. They had heart for us that was different, hearts that made us know we were the most important people in their lives. Hearts that I would and did tell everything to. Hearts that made me feel important. When I started performing, I remember getting more excited knowing that they were going to be there than pretty much anyone else in the world and I can't think of anything that they missed.

After graduating from high school, my mom, Mrs. Taylor and I took a trip to NYC and it continues to be one of my most cherished trips. It was a sweet time for all of us.

To this day I have a beautiful butterfly mobile hanging in my apartment that Mrs. Taylor made me. It's one of the sweetest, most thoughtful, genuine gifts I've ever received. I've had a years long love of butterflies, founded in the idea that in Christ we are a new creation, we are reborn. And it seems so fitting that when I see that mobile, the reminder of the path I walked to get to Him, the Taylors are two of the most important people on that journey.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Heaven Song

Last night I got to see Phil Wickham in concert and that brother can write music. There's something special about his lyrics. But this song kind of messed me up. Listening to this song put a spark back in my heart that had been dim for a little while...

You wrote a letter and You signed Your name
I read every word, read it page by page
You said that You'd be coming
Coming for me soon
Oh my God I'll be ready for You

Cause I want to run on greener pastures
I want to dance on higher hills
I want to drink from sweeter waters
In the misty morning chill
And my soul is getting restless
For the place where I belong
I can't wait to join the angels and sing my heaven song

I hear Your voice and I catch my breath
Well done my child enter in, in rest
As tears roll down my cheek
Oh it's beautiful beyond my wildest dreams