Sunday, October 16, 2011

Finding my faith in the Wilderness

1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. 3 The tempter came and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread." 4 But he answered, "It is written, "one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.' “5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 saying to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, "He will command his angels concerning you,' and "On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.' “7 Jesus said to him, "Again it is written, "do not put the Lord your God to the test.' “8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; 9 and he said to him, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me." 10 Jesus said to him, "Away with you, Satan! For it is written, "Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.' “11 Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

This story took on new meaning after YAV transition retreat.  I have heard the scripture interpreted many different directions in many different sermons. When I heard this particular passage something inside me clicked. I don’t know if it was because of where I was (Ghost Ranch in New Mexico) or because of the people I was with (my fellow YAVA) but this scripture has taken on new meaning for me.

I finished one year of service and jumped right into the next one. I did this because I felt a call to do a second year but I also believe I chose to do a second year was because I was scared. I was scared of going into the wilderness and the temptation that I would face.

The wilderness has come anyway. Before transition retreat I thought of the wilderness as a negative place to be. No one around. No one to talk to. Nothing to do. Something to fear. I left transition retreat almost a month ago and I just now comprehend what my wilderness is and why it is necessary for me to grow into who God wants me to be.

Wilderness is a time of growth, a time of reflection, a time of learning and accepting the tasks God has set before you. For me those tasks are becoming clearer every day.  MY wilderness is not a physical wilderness such as Jesus’ but it has been more of a mind set and a place in my heart. I have been seeing myself alone abandoned by God. I have been yelling at God “I CAN NOT SEE YOU!”  When If I had been paying more attention to what has been going on around me I would have seen God more often than not. In the new relationships I am forming at Metro Carering. In the hundreds of clients we see everyday that would otherwise go hungry, be evicted or lose power. It is in the face of the client who is so grateful to receive a can of tuna that they cry. That is the face of God in my wilderness.

Jesus   ministry came from his wilderness journey. It came from him being alone listening to God, seeking God.

I am in my wilderness Journey right now. Mine has been more than 40 day and I am not sure how much longer it will last but what I do know is that God is here with me in the wilderness waiting to send his angels down when I am ready to accept them .

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

standing for 8 hours

This is my first full week working at Metro CareRing (MCR). Metro CareRing is a hunger relief organization that operates one of the largest food pantries in Denver. Last year, Metro CareRing provided 131,698 hunger relief and self-sufficiency services to low-income and homeless individuals, offering food, nutrition and healthy living education, utility and transportation assistance, employment readiness programs, and identification documents (from First 2 weeks Meg (Since we have the same name) and I went through orientation along with another full time volunteer named Taylor. We learned how to do everything from intake at the front desk, Client Care Providing, and pantry staffing. This is far different than what I did last year working it a business professional office. Instead of wearing nice clothes to work I get to wear Jeans and a t-shirt that I don’t mind if it gets dirty. After the two weeks of orientation we got to choose where we think our skills could be best used. I chose the pantry.

I fell in love with working in the pantry. I am the Primary Pantry staff. Ryan my supervisor works in the pantry as well but with me back there he can do more of the daily tasks. In the mornings I restock the shelves and get ready for the food orders which start coming in about 9:45-10:00 after the clients have gone through intake and counseling. When it is backed up or I am done stocking the shelves (for the moment) I fill food orders until October 11, that is when we are switching to the full client choice model (FCC) in FCC the client will be able to shop through the pantry as though it is an actual grocery store. They will have a volunteer with them letting them know how many of each item they are allowed to have. An example of the change will be something like this:

As it is now: I choose what type of canned fruit, vegetable and soup the client wants.

FCC: I will walk along with the client and tell them you can pick two cans veggies, fruit and soup.

I think this is an important step as an organization. This allows the client to have autonomy which helps them maintain their pride even though they may not be in the best of living or financial situations.

We are done filling food orders between 1:30-2:30 depending on how many clients came in that day and how long we have been closed to walk-ins. We can close to walk-ins at anytime during the day depending on the number of volunteers who are helping that day. If there are not a lot of volunteers everything from intake to filling the orders takes longer so we can get backed up relatively quickly. After all the orders have been filled the volunteers that are left and I clean up and restock for the next morning (as much as possible so I don’t have to do it at 8 am the next morning)

On a typical day we will fill 100 client orders with house sizes ranging from 1 person to 15 people (children and adults). The volume of Clients is what makes MCR one of the largest food pantries in the Denver area.

I never imagined that I would enjoy lifting boxes, restocking bags of rice and beans (which are not always sealed so it spills all over the place.) filling food orders for complete strangers and cleaning as much as this. I have truly fallen in love with working here. Who cares that I am on my feet for 8+hours or that I’m covered with random crud by the end of the day. This job is rewarding in many ways that I cannot fully put into words.

 I am grateful for this placement

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Thursday, September 8, 2011

sea level to 14,000 Feet! SAY WHAT!

So once again it has been way to long since I have blogged and I apologize for that! So let me give you a quick update on what has been going on.

I finished my year in New Orleans and Moved out on the 8th after our closing retreat. My year in New Orleans was amazing, difficult, surprising and rewarding all at the same time. I met great people who I hope will stay in my life forever. I was pushed mentally and physically past my breaking point. I am a different person now than I was a year ago

I was able to go back to Texas for about two weeks before I had to leave for orientation for my second YAV year. Even though my time at home was short a lot happened. I had to unpack and repack my entire life. I had friends and family to catch up with. Doctors appointments and trips to the DPS office.

Saturday before I left at about 9pm I got a call from my dad. His mother passed away. This was earth shattering. My mom's mom had passed away at the beginning of April so I was still not through the grieving process. I still have not had time to fully grasp either one of their deaths

I left early Monday morning (2am) to catch my 7 am flight in Austin to head to Orientation in Stony Point New York. I was excited to see Friends from placement and YAVA (YAV Alum.)

I loved Orientation. The fellowship was amazing. I met new Friends and had small group discussions about how to put my faith into practice.

While I was in NY I survived an earth quake and a hurricane. (Never thought I would experience a hurricane right after I left New Orleans!) It was amazing to see the way the YAV community came together with the Stony Point Staff to help make the grounds secure. The Hurricane hit late Saturday afternoon which caused a few disruptions to the schedule. The room that I was staying in leaked so I got to change a room which was a good thing because I went from sharing a room with a twin bed to having a single room with a queen bed.

Many of the flights to the placement sites were canceled or delayed. Fortunately mine was on time and I arrived in Denver around 4pm Mountain time on Monday the 29th. Chad, a fellow YAV, met the other three people we would be living with in Denver. One of the aspects of the Denver site is that it is partnered with the Mennonite Program DOOR (Discovering Opportunities for Outreach and Reflection). Their year long program is called Dwell. So technically I am a Dweller and a YAV (I may refer to one or the other but I am both)

I live with 4 other people. Chad (the lone male) Johanna, Sarah and Megan (she goes by Meg to make life easier) everyone arrived by Tuesday. We began to settle into our new house on the Westside of Denver. Since it was a new Community in a new house there was a lot of work to be done. First off was deciding who would share rooms. Chad obviously got his own room and Johanna brought her dog Hawkeye with her. Meg has her own room and Sarah and I share a room. The house is bi level. The upstairs will be somewhat of the community outreach center. We will tutor the neighborhood kids, teach /learn to cook and basically be a resource for our neighborhood. Downstairs will be the Dwell community space. We will have community time down there and it will be where we go to be together as a community. As a house we had to unpack the house (dishes, furniture exct.)

Thursday our house, Antonio (our coordinator), his family and the DOOR National director and his family all went camping in Bueno Vista. (About 2 hours outside of Denver.) Once we got into the mountains I could feel my spirit sort of breathe a little.

I had never really been camping before (in a tent without running water and outside). I had to learn how to set up tents and our camp which in itself was a challenge. I also quickly discovered the elevation difference. By the time night fell it had become cold. Most of the nights we were there the temperature was between 40 and 50 after sunset. Being from Texas (via New Orleans) I was not prepared for such cool temperatures in August/September.

Friday we met for the first time as a site and told our faith/life stories to each other. This was a time for us as a house to come together and really begin to get to know each other. After lunch and a nap we went to the continental divide (where the water goes to the pacific or the Atlantic) we drove to 12,000 feet and then hiked to the top.

I have never been much of an athletic person so the hiking along with the altitude caused problems for me. I fell within the first few feet and skinned my knee. I was short of breath and light headed. I wanted to give up. I tried to give up. Johanna and Sarah kept with me encouraging me. About halfway up the rest of my community was waiting for me. I stayed behind and caught my breath with Antonio .once again I tried to give up. Antonio Pushed me. He literally pulled me the last few feet up to the top. I am so great full that he did. Once I got to the top I was greeted with hugs and congratulations form the rest of my community. I have never been so proud of myself. It was not long hike but for me it felt like I had just hiked 10 or 15 miles. We stood around and took some pictures and then we started the hike back down (which was much MUCH easier).

Saturday Antonio, Sarah, Johanna, Chad and Meg Woke up early (5 am) to start the hike up Mount Yale, a 14,000 foot mountain. I bowed out of this one. I was nervous about how the community would react to me not participating in this hike but they were all supportive of my choice.

Sunday we all went to The Mount Princeton Hot Springs to relax and take a shower (Running Water!) Monday we packed up and headed back into Denver. I can now say that I know (somewhat) how to camp. I actually think that I enjoyed it (okay I know I enjoyed it and cannot wait to do it again)

That's all for this post. I will post later (hopefully within the next few days about how my first week of work and using public transportation is going) I will also add pictures of the mountains (I took over 100 so be ready)

Till next time

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Real life is not Summer Camp

This past Sunday was YAV Sunday at Faith Presbyterian church on the Westbank. Each of the YAVs had a part of the worship service and then we split the sermon amongst us. I have decided to put what I wrote as my blog post. I have added a few things

Our scripture passages were:

Psalm 13:

1How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2 How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? 3 Consider and answer me, O Lord my God! Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death, 4 and my enemy will say, "I have prevailed"; my foes will rejoice because I am shaken. 5 But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. 6 I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.


Roman 6:12-23

12 Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. 13 No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. 14 for sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. 15 What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, 18 and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification. 20 When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. 22 but now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. 23 for the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord

Real Life is not summer camp

A year of service while living in an intentional community seamed like the easy choice for me after graduation. I kept saying to myself “oh this will be GREAT! It will be like summer camp all year long! We will sing songs, read the Bible daily and just become one with God!” needless to say I was a little surprised when what I had expected to be a year long summer camp experience became real life. Soon after the year began we all went our own way with our job and with new friends that we had met. For me that meant working 8-5 as a Chaplains assistant.

My real life, non summer camp, intentional community soon became more hard work than I could ever have imagined. I quickly became homesick. In November I was in a car accident. I felt alone, afraid and betrayed. I began to shut down. I stopped trying to bond with my community. I was in a rut.

Reading Psalm 13 I can relate to what David was going through. “Why O God are you hiding from me?” “Why have you forgotten about me?” “Why is the enemy winning?” “WHY?” I am here! Doing YOUR work! Showing strangers YOUR love and your letting the enemy win! Even though I had all this anger and frustration built up inside me I continued to try and trust in the Lord. I was growing physically, emotionally and spiritually ill. I had no clue that by shutting out my community I was becoming my own enemy. I was doing exactly what Romans 6:12 warned us not to do: 12 therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions.

I was letting my anger and frustrations have dominion over me.

As a Chaplains Assistant I visit patients on a regular basis. This job in by no means easy, in fact many days it can be overwhelming. I remember many days I would come home and cry for hours about the stories I had heard. I was constantly around people yet, I felt completely alone. Soon it was Christmas, then January, then Mardi gras. Still I was feeling alone. I had shut down and shut off my community.

Life was taking me in so many different directions I welcomed the spring retreat that we were going take in April. I was thinking I would be able to relax and re energize my self… I was partially correct. The first night we go to the cabin in Mississippi I was able to relax. The next day the hard work began. I was emotionally pushed with our discernment activities. And during the Afternoon free time I participated in “Get Fit with Kathy”. She had me running around the lake, doing crunches and all sorts of other stuff that I can’t remember. I had enough. I had a complete breakdown during the middle of the workout session. I don’t remember what I said or why I broke down. All I know is that something inside of me changed that day. My heart was softened. It was clear to me. I had become my own enemy. I was the reason I was not happy. Me! Not anyone or anything else.

I went back to work on Monday feeling refreshed and renewed. I had a major breakthrough and nothing was going to stop me from growing even more…That afternoon I got a phone call from my mom. My grandmother had just passed away. I was devastated. Because of my community I was able to go home and spend some time with my family. I came back a week later expecting everything to go back to the way that it was before the retreat. When I got to the airport Emma and Katie where there to pick me up. On the drive home they made me laugh and cry and just feel loved. I had never felt love like this from my community before. They knew my sins, they had put up with me shutting them out, and they knew all my dirty laundry and decided to love me anyway. I had finally seen that by shutting them out I was shutting God out.

A year of service while living in intentional community has changed my life in was that I did not know or expect needed to be changed. My heart was softened. These 6 people (and 1 dog) have changed my life

Tasha has taught me to not always be so serious.
Evan has made me take a look at the larger picture and see how what I do affects the world around me. Lauren has made me See that I am a good person.
Emma had taught me that It is okay to speak up for myself and have my own opinions.
Katie has taught me how to love with a pure heart.
 Kathy (and Thomas) showed me that I am stronger than I think I am or ever could be
. All it took for me to see this was a little bit of trust. Trust in myself, Trust in my community and Trust in the Lord.

Psalm13 5-6

But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. 6 I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Callings: to a Place OR to Action

I have gotten into the habit of writing posts after what I consider to be life altering events. This is yet another one of those posts.
As you may or may not know I applied for a second YAV year. I had interviews with two sites, Hollywood and Denver. Both of my interviews were AMAZING! I felt equally called to both cities. This calling confused me. This time last year I thought I was “called” to be a YAV in Denver yet here I am in the great city of New Orleans. In October I thought I was “called” to Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Yet again in March I felt a “call” to Kenya for my second year. So here I am feeling called to two cities and my track record for understanding my calling is Me 0 God 3. So I decided to do the only thing that I knew would work. I prayed by myself and with others and left the decision of my “call” up to God.   I can officially say now that God wants me to be in Denver (just a year later than I anticipated)!
I cannot wait to experience a new city and an actual winter! In Texas and New Orleans there are really only 2 seasons. Hot and hotter (as most of you know) so 4 seasons is going to be AMAZING!

For those of you who have been following me on Twitter or Facebook you might have noticed recently a lot of posts about something called 10A. I knew nothing at about this issue until this summer at General Assembly. It was the hot topic of the plenary discussions. For those of you who do not know what 10A is it is an amendment that will change the PC (USA)’s book of order that will change the qualifications for ordinations. It makes the following changes .

Those who are called to office in the church are to lead a life in obedience to Scripture and
In conformity to the historic confessional standards of the church. Among these standards is the Requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness. Persons refusing to repent of any self-acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin shall not be ordained and/or installed as deacons, elders, or ministers of the Word and Sacrament.

 This will be Changed to!

Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to
submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life The governing body
responsible for ordination and/or installation shall examine each candidate’s
calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for the responsibilities of office. The examination shall include, but not be limited to, a determination of the candidate’s ability and commitment to fulfill all requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation Governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.

I believe that the amendment that passed the 87th presbytery (which gives it a majority of votes and ratifies it!) is a major step towards equality within the church. We can finally practice what we preach. We as a church preach love and acceptance as long as it fits within our comfort zone. 50 years ago the people we not wanting to accept were the African Americans.  However over time the majority of places accept them for who they are . Children of God. It is my prayer for the church, not just PC(USA)  that we learn to love and accept everyone for who they are. This means allowing them to become candidates for ordination and allowing them  to become ordained if they feel such a call has been placed on their life. Everyone has a call placed on their life. Who am I to deny them that call.  This is a tough topic . Love however, is an easy topic. We are called to love everyone. This does not mean love only the straight people or only the white people or the legal citizens. Loving everyone means loving the Gay person, Loving the African American or Hispanic and loving those who are here trying to make a better life for themselves.
Micah 6: 8 He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Thus ends this post of callings and love!

*the opinions that I am stating in this BLOG do not reflect the opinions of  other YAVS or other members of PC(USA).  These are my opinions  JUST FYI!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Drink... or better yet Gulp!

AS I sit on the couch in what has become known as the blue house I can’t help but think about how my life has changed drastically since my last blog post (and it’s only been a few weeks instead of a few months). I posted my last blog post after returning from one of the great aspects of being a YAV… RERTEAT! WOOT! I had so much fun I do not even know where to begin. I was pushed both spiritually (which was the point of the discernment retreat) and Physically (Thank you Kath Lee and No I am not being sarcastic). I went out in a Canoe for the first time! I played amazing games that included licking an Oreo and sticking it to my forehead (crazy right!) I came back not only feeling closer to my community and site coordinator than I did before but I was also spiritually refreshed… Both of which I would need and continue to need

I wrote and posted my last blog post on April 3, 2011 and on April 4, 2011 my grandmother passed away while at a dentist appointment. It was not expected, as you probably guessed not many people die at the dentist office. I was able to fly into Bryan on Wednesday to be with my family. I was not expecting this time at home to be easy but I was not expecting it to be as difficult as it was. With overwhelming grief it was almost impossible to get any sort of rest. People kept calling, texting and facebooking their condolences. Don’t get me wrong I am grateful for all of those who contacted my mom and me but after a while I just did not know what to say anymore. It got to the point where I was only answering calls and texts from specific people. Most of who were family members or members of my intentional communities here in New Orleans. It was at this moment I noticed something I had never even paid attention to. I came to New Orleans expecting to gain an intentional community (the Blue House) but in fact I have gained three separate, but equal intentional community. I gained the obvious one of the Blue House but then there is my Church community at Metairie Ridge Presbyterian Church and my community at Ochsner in the Pastoral Care Department. Without each of these communities I would not have been able to make it through these past few weeks.

My community at MRPC was unexpected. I did not expect to find such a loving church home as quick as I did. I have been welcomed into MRPC. I have become a member of the church community. I have been asked to do fellowship after church, lead children’s worship, be liturgists and most recently I lead a four week Bile study on Max Lucado’s book Outlive your Life (life of course being said with my Texas accent.) I have met wonderful people at this church including my mentor Karen.

I expected to have an agency placement that I would like but not one that I would fall in love with as much as I love Ochsner. I have become close with everyone in my office especially Mrs. Pat the Administrative Sectary. She and one of the other Chaplains Sheryl have become what I call my NOLA mom’s. They both look after me and greatly care for me physical and spiritual well being.

My community at the Blue house has not always been the best. I am sure none of my housemates would disagree with that. Once the honeymoon stage was over it was rough seas for a long time. For the first few months I was not as open and honest with the community as I should have been. I let the issues that I came in with hinder me from growing in multiple ways. I finally took the advice of my community and sought out a counselor. I have been seeing my counselor regularly working through my issues, some of which I did not even know that I had. It took until recently for me to become fully honest and comfortable with my community. I believe I was able to do this because I was becoming fully honest with myself. Once I broke down my barriers that I had subconsciously set up was I fully able to grasp the amazing gift that is the intentional community of the Blue House.

As we quickly approach Easter I am reminded of the sacrifice that Jesus made for me on the cross. I have learned through this year just how hard sacrifice is (and I am not sacrificing my life on a cross for the World’s sin). I am merely sacrificing a year (okay two if you count the next YAV year that I have signed up for) of my life. Through this year I am doing what Jesus did throughout his ministry. I am loving others for who they are, living simply Loving God and living in an intentional community. None of which are easy. All of which are rewarding in numerous ways. I am reminded of the Story in John where Jesus meets the Samaritan Woman. He was thirsty so he asked her for a drink fully knowing who she was. She had been married to several men. Now she lived with a man who was not her husband. Perhaps nobody would talk to her. Jesus spoke to her. He had a habit of talking to people no one else would. He asked the woman for a drink. She protested saying he should not be speaking to her for he was Jew and that he did not even have a bucket to draw the water. Jesus then proceeded to tell her of Living water. Once you drink of this Living water you will never be thirsty again. She then begs Jesus for this Living water wanting to know how to get this water. She does not know that the Living Water is sitting right in front of her. Jesus Christ is the Living water. We remember this Living water this Easter and every Easter as we celebrate his resurrection on the Cross. We once again take a drink of the Living Water.

We come to the cross this week thirsty, weak, and with crusted over hearts due to the years trials and tribulations. Let us once again take a drink, no, take a gulp of the Living Water that is Jesus. I am blessed by having the opertunity to take a gulp of the Living water on an almost daily basis. Every time I drink I find that differnt parts of me are more thirsty that I origianly thought.

Totally just figured out that I strted this post out with the intention of saying how much I love my intentional communities but I ended up in a totally different place.

I love when the Holy Spirit takes over!

See Ya next time!

On a side note: I am less that $500 away from my fundraing goal! please prayerfuly consider donating to this year that I am serving in New Orleans!
 Any Donations can be sent to
Kathy Lee
Presbytery of South Lousiaia
3700 Gentilly Boulevard

New Orleans, LA 70122

Enjoy these photos!