Saturday, February 28, 2009

slumdog confessions

last night i saw "Slumdog Millionaire." yesterday afternoon i had a mani/pedi that cost $50. the contrast sickens me.

in my defense, the $50 was an exorbitant gift certificate from my dad & stepmother. for Christmas i had asked for a manicure gift card, which would have cost $15 at the place nearest my house. yet i ended up with fifty--and i had to spend it all at once. i wanted my nails to look nice for all the hand-shaking i will be doing this weekend at my scholarship event at Emory, but now i have a pedicure that no one will see. and i just sat there, feeling guilty while i was pampered. i've never enjoyed pedicures, it's just too weird for me for some poor person to be polishing & scraping & massaging my feet while i sit there reading a magazine or watching Oprah. and as i try & try to commit myself to Christ's call to selfless, humble living, i always seem to catch myself enjoying, or at least experiencing, a lifestyle that is luxiourious and extravagant and vastly unnecessary.

and then, of course, enter" Slumdog." how easy it is for us to forget that there are places in the world where people live in trash dumps and injustice reigns. while i sit in my massage chair with someone painting my freaking toenails, someone a world away sleeps on a pile of trash. where is the justice in that? what have i done to deserve anything better than the so-called slumdogs? why did God choose to create me as an American, while others were chosen to be born into the third-world? these are the questions that plague me time & again when i am snapped into a realization that poverty is real, suffering is real. when am i going to do something about it? when i move away from the neighborhood of $50 manicures & venti frappachinos? when i finish my graduate education that will cost thousands upon thousands of dollars? when i find that someone who is ready to embrace a lifestyle of 'less is more' and to move with me against the grain of American culture? i hate being in a place of stasis--is that even where i really am? i could forever make excuses about now not being the right time to embrace the lifestyle of Jesus Christ.

i want to thank my friends Betsey & Luke, and Kristen W. (and others of you) for being my examples of this lifestyle of less. your stories & experiences rock my world, and your strivings to truly live in accordance with Christ's call is nothing short of inspiring for me. i pray i would have the courage to one day take a similar step of faith.

"Jesus looked at him and loved him....'Go, sell everything you have & give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.' At this the young man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth." Luke 10:21-22

Saturday, February 21, 2009

stepping forward

sooo, it's been a big week! i'm glad to finally have a minute to step back and take it all in. this morning i did a bit of volunteering at a habitat for humanity house, and it wore me out! so i feel that my current respite, complete with pajamas & bed, is justified...and it gives me a chance to catch up on blogging.

my latest news: i've been accepted to both Duke & BU! I am absolutely thrilled! I was babysitting yesterday & got a phone call from both admissions offices within an hour of each other. BU also let me know that I am being considered for merit scholarships there, & will find out more about that decision in the next couple of weeks. Of course, I also have the Emory scholarship interview in a little over a week--so maybe I'll have a real basis for decision-making in the near future.

the other bighead line of my week: i've been offered another part-time job! and it is TOTALLY and COMPLETELY a God-thing. Here's why: my pastor asked me to step in as temporary youth director. (We're currently searching for a more permanent youth leader, and another young woman has been doing the interim work for a few months, but she is unable to continue).

Now if you know me and/or have been reading this blog since its inception, you know that youth work is a little scary for me right now. Because I ran away from it (for lack of a more appropriate term) this past summer & that decision, though the right one, sent my life into a spiral. And I'm still reeling from it. But I believe that God has ordained this job opportunity for "such a time as this"--I really do. He's prepared to redeem me from the stigma I've associated with youth work. I have an ideal situation with a church family with which I am well acquainted. God is ready to heal me, once & for all, from the unwarranted shame & sense of failure I feel from my situation in Kentucky. This is an act of redemption, and a call to faith--because I am at once terrified and thrilled. I am not, however, hesitant--the moment I opened my ears to what God had to say about this, I had confirmation.

This is also an exciting bridge to my future--this summer I am hoping to work for an urban ministry organization that hosts youth groups in week-long domestic mission trips (the final big part of my week--I officially submitted my application for this position). Also, I don't doubt that this job will be an extremely eye-opening experience for ministry preparation in general, as I prepare to begin work on an MDiv. Culminating the past, anticipating the future--like I said, a job for "such a time as this."

Though it's always true, it's beautiful when we get these glimpses of how intricately involved God is in each of our lives. He orders each of our experiences, opportunities, thoughts, fears, hopes (etc) to allow us to glorify Him and follow His will. What an amazing God we serve, who ever cared to love us and know us.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

the latest

i'll go ahead & state the obvious: way to go Heels! there is nothing much better in the world of sports that beating the dookies. and i don't think that will change even if i end up attending grad school and become, at least partially, a dookie myself (shudder).

speaking of grad school, i haven't heard back from anywhere else besides candler. that's probably best, because i know the decision will complicate itself rapidly. and i already have plenty to think about: i've been studying up on the ordination process over the last week. my pastor gave me a little United Methodist-endorsed book about ministry possibilities, including the ordination process. it was neat to look through the book & ponder all the career opportunities that were suggested. i'm leaning towards sticking with lay ministry, which was my initial intent. still, i'm going to follow my pastor's advice and begin the inquiry process, because i'm not going to shut the door on this myself when God may still yet be calling me to ordination. but right now, that's not where i'm headed. i know that i can do a whole lot of good ministry as a laywoman. and i don't really like the idea of a bishop or a conference having control over where i can work and where i can live (though the job security is a big perk, without question). the problem is, i start questioning whether i really should be applying for an MDiv, since the goal of the degree is usually ordained ministry. it doesn't have to be, but that's how this whole thing started--at Duke the admissions director made it seem like an oddity to earn an MDiv without ordination. so i'm going to move forward & see where God leads me. every day, i pray "Lord, in the ways I serve you today, give me the discernment to know what you would have me do for my life's work." and i know that prayer will be answered.

as i write this right now, i'm waiting on a call (i think...) from princeton seminary--an interview for the MDiv/MA dual program. that would be a really sweet program to undergo because it pretty much caters to exactly what i want to do. we'll see if they call..a specific time wasn't set, so i'm just keeping my afternoon open & impressing myself with my lack of anxiety.

this weekend--singing in a valentine's day concert, while simultaneously supporting the whole anti-valentine movement. my hot date on saturday night? i'll be with not one, but two boys. they're three and one. we'll probably drink apple juice & watch dora the explorer before an early bedtime.

i did, in fact, receive several boxed chocolates and one long-stemmed red rose from my bevy of preschool admirers. so i guess valentine's day this year isn't a total wash...

Friday, February 6, 2009


here's the news, you'll hear it here first (unless you're facebook stalking me of course):


Hooray! This totally blindsided me because my application wasn't fully complete until this past Monday, the deadline. I had most of my materials in several weeks ago, but was missing a couple of I didn't expect a decision so quickly, but there you go! gets better:

I've been invited as one of thirty-six selected applicants to attend "Leadership Candler" where I'll be interviewed for big time merit scholarships!! God is so good! And I'm just on cloud nine, absolutely, because suddenly, in the span of a few hours, I'm not only accepted to Candler, but have scheduled a scholarship visit, airfare, accommodations, and meals included. A million things are running through my mind, like--"okay I have to ask off work for a few days, but surely my boss(es) will understand for this reason" and "well, maybe sunny southern Atlanta WOULD be better than Boston" and "do I have enough business casual outfits for 2.5 days of meet & greets with faculty bigwigs and interview committees?" and "wow, is this really happening to me?"

my visit is scheduled for March 1-3, less than a month away! who knows what else will come out of the woodwork between now & then, what with 3 other applications being out & about--but this first bit of news back is extremely exciting and encouraging! perhaps pieces of my future are slowly falling into place as we speak. and i know whatever happens, God will truly guide and provide for all the journeys i am preparing to take.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

what's the value?

i know i've said it before, but i really love my Sunday School kids. they continue to blow me away. and to be honest, last night as I was planning my lesson for today, I wasn't incredibly excited by the Bible story the curriculum provided, and I wasn't sure if my activities would hit their mark. But then this morning, as I was getting ready for church, I was just overwhelmed by a call to pray for my day and the ways in which I would be serving God and the Gospel. It was sweet because God really showed up today--I could sense it, and I think the kids could, too.

Our character trait of the month, which I always get to introduce, is "fairness." I came up with a little activity to introduce the concept. Last night I gathered several items from around the house: some play Monopoly money, a roll of quarters, a small diamond ring, a beaded ring, an old cassette player, and a digital camera. I laid all the items out on the floor and asked the kids to arrange them according to value. They all pretty much agreed in a ranking that you would expect, but then, without my prompting, they began to slowly mix things around, understanding that items that may not have as much monetary value as others could still be valuable for other reasons. One suggested that the walkman could be a collector's item. I then mentioned to them that the beaded ring came from Belize when I was there on a mission trip, so that added a lot of sentimental value for me.

Then I made a change that would drive at the heart of the lesson. I proposed to them that each of the items represented a person--the diamond ring could be a rich person, the money could be a banker, the beaded ring a craftswoman from Belize, the cassette player a homeless person. Now how would we arrange them according to value? Last night when I came up with this object lesson, I truly expected them to "get it" right away and protest that we couldn't "rank" people because we're all the same. But God wanted to use this activity in more powerful ways. To my surprise, the kids did try to rank the "people" in terms of value. Originally, they again took it literally, and ranked the wealthiest people first. I asked, how would God answer this question? I definitely was expecting them to throw out their system this time and declare that all were equal in God's eyes. But again I was surprised as they virtually reversed their order and began to see how people of less "earthly" value might be of more value to God. They were really, really thinking.

As we wrapped up, I gave them the "solution"--without claiming to have God's answers, of course (though being their Sunday school teacher gives me some credit, right? ;). I pushed all the objects/people into one big pile and we talked about how everyone was equal in God's eyes because He created all and Christ died for all. That doesn't mean we're all the same, but we are all equal.

This eventually led into some really interesting discussion, self-prompted by the kids. They brought up slavery and women's rights and Martin Luther King, and we even talked presidential politics! These are fourth graders--they are amazing! And our Bible lesson, James 2:1-5, 8-9 really hit home. It talks about not showing favoritism, with an example about a rich man and a poor man coming to a church meeting. I think the earlier activity opened their eyes to exactly what God was saying in this passage. God truly spoke to them, and that gets me excited! What makes me even more excited is that He was able to use my lukewarm enthusiasm and quickly transform it into something significant. It's astounding to imagine the many ways in which God can use us everyday if we're only willing to first ask Him and then to keep our eyes & ears open.