Thursday, September 30, 2010

"Once upon a time..."

"Once upon a time...."  "A long time ago, in a land far away...." "Es war einmal...." "Well, this one time..." "There was once a little boy..." "Einmal geschah eine wunderbare Geschichte..."  "When I was your age..." "Did I ever tell you about the time..." "It was a dark and stormy night..."

What is it about stories?  Stories are so important to us that we have a form for them; all the phrases I started this post with are phrases that signal the start of a story.  Different types of stories, but all stories.  Why?  Why do put so much emphasis on stories? We write them in books and read them to our children before bed, we tell them as we gather around the table for a large meal, we swap them around campfires,  we treasure them in our hearts. 
I think we treasure some stories because the relate directly to us.  Stories about our families, how our grandparents immigrated from the Old World to make a new life here.  Stories about uncles who got into mischief at school.  It makes sense for us to treasure these stories. They help shape who we are because they are about our ancestors.  
We treasure other stories because they relate to our faith heritage.  These are the stories we tell our children in Sunday school, the stories Veggie Tales makes into movies, the ones turned into Arch books - David and Goliath, Daniel and the Lion's Den, Joseph, Joshua and the battle of Jericho, The Christmas story, Easter, the miracles of Jesus... I think we treasure these stories because they tell us something about our G-d, the G-d we serve and love.

But what about the stories that have nothing to do with us?  "Cinderella", "The Velveteen Rabbit", "The Little Engine that Could", "Walter the Farting Dog", "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day", "Snow White",  "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe", "Oh, Wie Schön ist Panama", the list could go on and on....Why do we treasure these stories?  Some may be for pure enjoyment, others though...I think we hold on to them tighter than we would like entertainment.  And so many of us hold on to the same stories. I think maybe it has to do with what the stories teach us.

I believe that stories have the power to teach in ways that simple words cannot. I could make a list of the qualities of G-d and tell it to my Sunday School class.  They might remember it for an hour (I'm hopeful), but chances are, they would quickly forget it.  I tell them a story where they can see a quality of G-d and the chances of them remembering it increase greatly.  They know that G-d is loving because they've heard stories about how He loves.  I know my Uncle was mischievous because Mom has told me stories about some of the things he has done. 
We hold stories in our hearts and they tell us something. Earlier this summer, under the recommendation of someone I decided to trust, I began to read "Waking the Dead" by John Eldredge.  (PS:  I highly recommend this book).  Eldredge talks about how myths are some of the truest stories we know.  At first I balked at that. How could myths be true?  But then, after wrestling with it for a time, I realized what he was saying.  Myths and fairy stories are true in the sense that we hold them in our hearts and they speak to the deep parts of us.  I don't have the words to explain quite what I mean.  Read Eldredge's book or wrestle with it yourself.  I think you will find that the stories you treasure most often speak to a deep place in your heart.  I know it's true for me. 

Friday, September 24, 2010

Wonderings on Prayer

Every morning we gather here at the seminary for chapel.  It's a great time of worship, scripture reading and once a week, a celebration of the Lord's Supper.
Every day after chapel we gather in the atrium for a time of fellowship before classes resume.  The pattern is always the same which makes me happy because I love patterns and routine.  First the floor is opened up for introductions...anyone who is visiting the seminary (family members, past professors, significant others) is introduced to the community.  Then there is time for announcements. People share news of what ever events are in the works...ultimate frisbee Friday at 3, apple picking Monday at 2, a guest lecture Wednesday at 1...
Then we move to prayer requests.  I've been here a few weeks now and noticed something...people are quick to ask for prayer: for other people.  People ask for prayer for their families, friends who are sick, communities that are hurting, but seldom, if ever, have I heard someone ask for prayer for themselves.
Why is that?  I'm guilty of it too.  I ask for prayers for Baby Jacob who was born very prematurely and is fighting for his life, I ask for prayer David TenB, who was beaten badly and is recovering from a head injury.  Why can we ask for prayers for others and not ourselves?  is there some unwritten rule about it?
I don't have an answer, I just wonder, and I invite your thoughts on this. Why is that we feel free to ask for prayers for others, but hesitate to ask for prayer for ourselves, even when we desperately need them?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Beauty from Brokenness

Sometimes in life we build ourselves castles.  Not castles of stones, but castles of comfort and castles of familiarity.  We find our security in something that we know.  They are fine castles, strong and tall.
But then something happens and our castles begin to crumble.  It's maybe not fast, but it happens.  Whatever we had found our security in, is no longer secure enough.  Before you know it, all you have is a pile of rubble. And it hurts.

It's easy to give in to despair, to think that all is lost.  But then something starts to happen. 
Something begins to form out of the rubble.  It's hard to say for sure at first what it is.  It doesn't look like what you had before.

But it is a thing of beauty.  
Beauty has come from Brokenness
I can't claim to know how it happens, I just know it does.  Again and again G-d brings beauty out of brokenness.  Grace is a wonderful thing.  Time and time again I build myself a castle of security, only to have it crumble just as many times, and to have G-d give me something even more beautiful.
Would we really know beauty if we did not know brokenness?  
I watched a short video clip today of a precious little boy crawling.  It filled my heart with joy. It would have been nothing spectacular, just a little boy crawling, except that doctors had told the parents of this little boy that it was physically impossible for him to crawl.  The beauty in that video was so much greater for the brokenness.

Being broken hurts, but I want to trust that G-d will, through His grace, bring something of beauty from it. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Little Taste of Heaven

On Sunday I had the opportunity to attend a conference on including people with disabilities in the life of the church. It shouldn't really surprise anyone who knows me well that I was excited for this conference.  In addition to attending as a participant, I had been asked to help lead the worship service at the end.  The people in charge of the communion service thought it would be neat if I signed along with the songs from the front (instead of from my seat like I usually do) and if I signed the communion liturgy. They got me a copy of the songs and liturgy ahead of time and I was set to go.
I got a ride to the conference with a professor, who was also leading worship and facilitating a workshop and we arrived early to set things up for worship.  While we were standing at the front of the sanctuary, figuring out where things were going to work best, someone asked if I was the interpreter.  I said no and that I couldn't hear well enough or sign well enough to be an interpreter, but I'd be signing some during the worship service at the end of the conference.
A few moments later the person who had asked if I was the interpreter came back with two more people.  She introduced them to me, Y and A.  At first I didn't know why these introductions were being made.  The names didn't sound at all familiar to me.  Then I saw Y signing.  Y was the interpreter and A had a profound hearing loss. The three of us starting talking/signing.  We talked about ASL.  We talked about hearing loss.  We talked about which workshops we would be attending.  We worked out a method for team interpreting the worship service.
Y asked me if I had an interpreter for school. I told her I didn't.  She asked why not.  I told her that although I sometimes thought it would be helpful (even on a good hearing day, I can process visual input way easier than auditory input), I didn't think my sign was good enough for it to be truly beneficial. Afterall, I use ASL signs in an English word order. I haven't had enough instruction to learn the ASL syntax, and most the time I'm not with people who care.  I told her that I usually get by reading lips and hearing what I can.
She wasn't overly satisfied with my answer and kept pushing.  She told me about a type of interpreting where the interpreter uses ASL signs in English word order and puts everything on his/her lips as well.  I think she called it transliteration. (I may have made that word up, I'm not sure).  I listened (with both my eyes and ears), but didn't put too much on it.  The conference started and Y interpreted most of the opening announcements and introductions.  A and I watched and I realized that Y was signing in English word order (for the most part) and putting everything on her lips. I understood exactly what was going on, except for the name of one person, but Y told us she didn't catch it either. :)
We divided for workshops.  Y and A were in one workshop and I was in another.  The workshop was great and I got to talk some about inclusion for people with hearing loss and processing disorders.  After workshops we came back together for the communion service.  Y and I took turns interpreting.  I signed the songs and the liturgies that I had practiced ahead of time, Y signed everything else.  As part of the service, conference participants got to share what they learned, popcorn style.  I was sitting at the front of the room, with my back to everyone else and it was a rather large room.  I knew this part was coming and had kind of resigned myself to not knowing what people were saying.  That was before I knew Y was going to be there. Y interpreted everything everyone said.  I "heard" every word.  I felt like I was in heaven.  The entire worship service, I knew what was going on.  I had been able to follow everything and my brain was exhausted from trying to figure out sounds.  I don't remember the last time that happened.
On the way home, I thought more about what Y had said about getting an interpreter for classes, but continued to brush it off.  Then I went to classes yesterday. One class in particular, I struggled to follow what was going on.  The professor, I've been told, tends to mumble.  I just know his lips are very hard to read and he likes to talk to the white board.  There was some lively discussion during class, but by the time I located the speaker, they were half done and I'd missed it. I left class feeling like I wished I'd had an interpreter like Y to put it all in a form that I could understand.
I still don't know if I'm going to pursue getting an interpreter, but it's a thought tucked in the back of my mind. Having worship interpreted in a form I could understand, was a little taste of heaven for me.  Someday, when I get to heaven, I'll be able to understand worship all the time, and that is going to be a good, good day.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

New Room

The view of my room from the doorway
My painting wall and the craft-supply corner being hid by a curtain
"I will lie down and sleep in peace for you alone o LORD make me dwell in safety" Ps. 4:8
I need to find some artwork for this wall yet.  Right now I have a picture from a darling little girl I love a lot.
Books, books, and more books.  There's more in the closet and the other half the cupboard.
Awesome care package from an awesome friend.  The button says: seemed like a good idea at the time
The shirt (for those who don't read ASL fingerspelling) says "Iowa" and is very appropriately in black and gold. 

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Lessons from brokenness

Sometimes I take a picture because it really speaks to me and then I decide that I want to share it with everyone who takes the time to read my ramblings.
So here's the picture:
Actually, you get more than one picture because I couldn't pick which one I wanted to use.
So, here's the thing.  I don't know the story of this tree.  It's likely older than I am.  But by looking at it I can guess some of its story.  It's kind of like reading a book, just without words.  Once upon a time I imagine that this tree was growing up big and strong.  It was probably just minding it's own business when something happened.  What that something was, I have no idea.  Maybe it was a big wind. Maybe it was lightening.  Maybe it was ice.  I'd suggest hurricane (see Love is... for my thoughts about trees and hurricanes), but I know where this tree lives and a hurricane is highly unlikely. Whatever it was, it broke the tree.  The tree bent right over at a 90 degree angle. I can't say whether trees have feeling or not, but anthropomorphize with me here for a moment and imagine that the tree does have feelings.  Being broken like that would hurt.  It would hurt a lot.  That's kind of a big deal.  I mean, one day the tree was big and strong, the next it was bent over and hurting.
Continuing to anthropomorphize, the tree had a choice here.  It could have given up and died.  That would have been easy.  It was hurting, it was broken, life as it had been was over.  What purpose was there in going on?  Or the tree could decide to try and make the best of it's new situation.  It could reach towards the light.  It wasn't going to be easy.  The tree was used to reaching up to the sky for light, for the very light that it turned into food, the light that sustained.  Now it was going to have to go in a new direction and reach out, out over the edge of the gorge and towards what little light it could see.  This was much harder.  The tree wasn't used to supporting its weight in a horizontal fashion.  It had never intended to grow this way.
From the picture you can see which choice the tree made.  It continued to grow and over time, its wound began to heal. Look at the first picture.  The bark has healed over the original wound.  New bark has been formed.  It wasn't easy and it took time, but it happened.
It made me think about my life.  Sometimes "something" happens and it hurts.  It hurts a lot and I have to make a choice.  I can either give up and quit, or I can keep going, keep fighting, keep struggling to reach towards the light and the life that it gives. Sometimes the "something" is really big and it hurts more than I think I can bear, but I serve a G-d who cares for me, even more than he cares for the trees (check out Mathew 6). No matter how bad the "something" is, He is going to provide the healing.  This is something I can rest in.

PS: I was trying to find a song to go with this, but I couldn't remember/find the one that spoke my heart, so no song.  Sorry!

New beginnings

So I've been really bad at updating this.  I'll try and do better in the future. These last few weeks have been full of new beginnings and there are more to come.  I've begun new classes, new friendships have begun, I've begun life in a new town and soon I will begin a new internship
I've finished my first week of seminary classes and started my second week, which means I've had all of my classes at least once.  Most of them are pretty good.  There is one in particular that is a tad on the overwhelming side, but I'm sure I'll make it through (and it's not Greek!).  A couple of them are even fun and we get to do fun learning activities to help us learn about learning. Today in that class we got to play with a toy truck. Last week we talked about alien abduction.  It's classes like that that make me wonder why I wasn't an education major. :)
I'm getting used to living in Holland.  From my perspective, Holland is a very, very big place. Lots of places for me to explore.  Thankfully, the streets are laid out in a relatively easy to follow manner and I can easily find my way back to 13th street (where I live).  I've learned where I can see the sunset from, and where the grocery is, and where I really ought not to walk after dark, and may have even found a church home for the year.  I even got a library card!
Living in a new place does present some interesting challenges. One of those challenges is finding food that is "Joy-Friendly".  I had it pretty much figured out back in Canada and in Pella, but here it's all new. My first trip to the grocery lasted about 2 hours while I went through the entire store checking ingredient labels and searching for options.  There are apparently a few health food stores that I want to check out too, but I'm not getting my hopes up.  I'm already starting a list of things that I miss from home/need to bring with me next time I'm home (Joy-Friendly bouillon, Herbamere, etc).  I miss cheese, but I can't very well bring that across with me since it gets grumpy if it's in not in the fridge.
Another challenge is cooking for myself in a kitchen that is not my home kitchen.  I can cook, but I'm used to cooking within different parameters.  I'm used to having everything I could possibly need on hand and cooking for half a dozen to a dozen people and not having to really worry about how much food costs.
If any one has any suggestion on cost effective, Joy- Friendly cooking (if you want the complete details as to what makes something Joy-Friendly, let me know...the short list: no nuts, eggs, gluten, corn or dairy), please share!  right now we still have a farmers market twice a week so I'm taking advantage of fresh fruits and veggies and have even put some blueberries up for winter.
I should go study some Greek vocabulary words and then tonight I'm meeting with an ASL choir over at Hope to explore the possibility of signing with them this year.  Even more new beginnings. :)