During our first week in Colorado our very kind and gracious dinner hostesses blessed our new start in Colorado with a beautiful poem (a term loosely used in this case) by John O’ Donohue out of his book To Bless the Space Between Us:
For A New Beginning
In out-of-the-way places of the heart, Where your thoughts never think to wander, This beginning has been quietly forming, Waiting until you were ready to emerge.
For a long time it has watched your desire, Feeling the emptiness growing inside you, Noticing how you willed yourself on, Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.
It watched you play with the seduction of safety And the gray promises that sameness whispered, Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent, Wondered would you always live like this.
Then the delight, when your courage kindled, And out you stepped onto new ground, Your eyes young again with energy and dream, A path of plenitude opening before you.
Though your destination is not yet clear You can trust the promise of this opening; Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning That is at one with your life’s desire.
Awaken your spirit to adventure; Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk; Soon you will be home in a new rhythm, For your soul senses the world that awaits you.
It was an interesting experience for me growing up in a home that has always been “funny” about religion, but nonetheless it was an experience I enjoyed especially when considering the idea that O’ Donohue mentions in the introduction to his book that blessings evoke a sense of belonging not only between people, but also between us and the divine within us, around us, and above us, “a gracious invocation where the human heart pleads with the divine heart.” I have very often over the course of my life struggled with belonging, never truly feeling a part of anything. And that played a huge part in my decision to be a part of Colorado ESC.
Living in this intentional community and discovering my relationship with God and the divine, is definitely new ground for me. And yes the road ahead might be difficult , but it is a comforting thought to think about not only the blessings I have received in the last couple of weeks from the people I have met so far, but also from my boyfriend’s family, and my own family and friends.
I anticipated having a lot of firsts during my year of service with Colorado ESC, and in five weeks I can already name a few. However, earlier this week, I had a first I’ve been waiting on for a long time – I went out and shot some photos using a camera I finally treated myself to. An old friend that (fortunately) lives nearby gave me a quick lesson and a housemate was also by my side to help. It was a rather spontaneous outing, meaning my first lesson was on night photography – a unique introduction.
This evening managed to sum up how I currently feel about the Colorado ESC program and my first impressions about the year ahead. This is a new, unfamiliar and adventurous time. It’s a time to take risks and do things a little unconventionally. Eight hours earlier that day I would not have imaged capturing beautiful nighttime photos crouched on pebbles along the bank of a river around a borrowed tripod, constantly stepping in invisible puddles while trying figuring out how ISO, aperture, and shutter speed all interact in low light settings. But there I was, in the moment, capturing the moment, enjoying the moment. I learned a little and gained a lot and I’m extremely excited to use this new hobby as an extension of our year-long disposable camera assignment. While finally christening my camera with its first oh-so-satisfying shutter clicks I came to realize how this year, each day, each moment here in Colorado through the ESC program I am undergoing my own christening and I can’t wait to see how I develop.
The image on the left is my only successful photograph from my nighttime photography lesson (also my last shot). The image on the right is one of the first shots I took when I finally had all the pieces for my camera.
At the end of my run this afternoon I sat by the river. There were fly fisher[wo]men scattered about and mountains bordering my view. I sat there thinking and praying for a friend back home when two dragonflies interrupted my thoughts. They seemed particularly intrusive, and left an impression in a way that most dragonflies do not, so I looked up the meaning of these insects when I got home.
I searched for a reliable “.net” or “.org” to reveal to me the mystery behind these messengers. I couldn’t find such a site, but “dragonfly-site.com” sounded legit enough. I read: “The dragonfly, in almost every part of the world symbolizes change and change in the perspective of self realization; and the kind of change that has its source in mental and emotional maturity and the understanding of the deeper meaning of life” (http://www.dragonfly-site.com/meaning-symbolize.html). That’s a lot of pressure. Although, I feel that the conversations, books, and spiritual practices that I have already been provided through the Colorado Episcopal Service Corps are leading me in that direction.
My friendships back home have changed from picnics to phone calls. The leaves are transitioning from greens to yellows. My bed has shrunk from 53”x74” to 38”x75” and the number of my new home address has multiplied by 4.44.
A lot is changing around and within. I am beginning to grasp what it is that I want to take with me and I am beginning to let go of the things I want to leave behind as I enter this new space.
I almost didn’t include this sunset photo because I thought it would only add to the cliche. It really is beautiful though and I think I’ve seen more sunsets in the past three weeks than I have all year.
Hello blogger world. This is the first time I wrote a blog so I hope this goes well. Recently ,I’ve thought many big ideas that overwhelmed me; I thought that as ESC members we needed to write a grandiose essay on the complex social issues that exist in the world today. It is relieving to hear that is not the case. So instead, I will write what I know about( in the general sense) and feel comfortable sharing with you, the reader. My big idea is to describe our interconnectedness in the world and how both action/inaction influence our daily lives.
Before I dive into that topic I will share with you some of my background. I was,… wait I should probably tell you my name. My name is Evan Brock and I am from Fairhope, AL. Fairhope is a small coastal town in Baldwin County and it sits along Mobile Bay. For most of my life I called that town home, primarily because that is where my mom lives, whom I decided to bugger in June of 1992. Like many folk in the U.S. A. , religion was introduced at a early age. Even though I was baptized at a Methodist church, I grew up within and was confirmed in the Episcopal Church. My ‘home’ church was St.James Episcopal. Through the church I was introduced to voluntarism, music,
and socializing with my peers through youth groups and camp retreats. I guess , no wait..yes, the church did and still has a important role in my life.
Even though I do not attend St.James as much I still have a piece of it in my heart. With that being said, as I grew I became more aware of my surrounds and of the culture. Though a conservative congregation St.James is part of the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast. But growing up, I didn’t know the difference between a conservative or a liberal. Life was fairly simple in terms of my view of a child. I admit I can be naive, or at least I try to be. In my opinion, life can be simpler if we treat others with dignity and respect. Most of the time many social issues bog me down if I think about it too much. I do not deny the existence of issues, I just need to breath sometimes.
Growing up, I became more aware of individuals who do not believe in any type of religion. I do not wish to generalize the reasons of why people choose not to believe; however, what I have learned from others is that of the fallacies and absurdities that are included in religion. From my experience in the Episcopal Church most of the congregates are Caucasian, but we are welcoming to everyone. Also the denomination is comprised of many affluent individuals. Christianity has many different denominations and non-denominations that are created based on either genuine interpretations of the bible or as a way to make money so that egos are filled. I understand that Christianity is a imperfect religion made of imperfect people, but there are times where I must scratch my head.
In addition, I understand that I am not always right with my conclusions. In the previous paragraph, I did not provide enough evidence to support my claims. Everything that I stated is based off my general observations. I believe that at some point everyone must be open to some constructive criticism. That does not mean to disbelieve the current faith, but to try and find some type of truthfulness in this existence. I do not deny the existence of God, but I wonder what should or should be included in religion.
With that being said, none of the statements that I mentioned detract me from strengthening my faith. I do believe that there is a God in this existence and I do believe that anything in this life is possible. Now, that opens the door for a chance of no existence of not existing; however, that is a risk I am willing to take. After all, isn’t religion trial & error?
So with that being said, serving in Episcopal Service Corps will allow me to continue to try, try, and try again. Who knows, maybe I will keep trying until my last breath. So far, this trial is going well. I am enjoying the company of both Centennial and St. Columba House. Currently I am slowly acclimating myself within my house-mates and within Steamboat Springs. So, what have I done? What non-profit am I serving under? Well, I’ll have more on that on my next blog post. Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten my main idea. I am trying something out with this blogging system. Any who, until next time.
I remember vividly when I first laid eyes on the town of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. It was Saturday, August 20th, 2016, and I had put nearly 1800 miles on my Jeep to move in and begin my new life with the Colorado ESC. I was more exhausted than a hound dog that had spent an entire afternoon chasing after a rabbit. Even though I was sick to death of seeing yellow lane lines and bland white speed limit signs, I kept my eyes peeled as I reached the top of the hill on Colorado-40 that unbeknownst to me at the time, would be where I would first see this new “home” of mine. And the view certainly didn’t disappoint. It looked like one of those wide panoramic shots from the Lord of the Rings films, showing a gorgeous landscape dominated by rolling green mountains, with a bustling yet almost storybook-esque town down below in the valley. My heart warmed up a bit more as I gazed out at this beautiful piece of creation, and said quietly to myself a couple of times, “Home. Home.”
“Home” is a word that has a lot of catch-22’s for me personally. The reason why is that throughout my near 23 years of existence, I have lived in a total of twelve different towns and cities, and five different states total, including Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The longest amount of time I ever spent in one general place was the four years I spent at Berry College in Rome, Georgia, from which I graduated this past May. It was at Berry that for the first time, I began to understand that home isn’t necessarily just a place where I have have a roof over your head. Home, for me, is where I know in my heart and mind that I am supposed to be in order to pursue God’s call on my life.
As I begin the first stages of “adulting” in my life here in Steamboat Springs, it becomes very easy for me to become swept up in all the anxieties and uncertainties that come with the post-undergraduate life. The ever-present bane of many young people today, student debt, hangs over my head, and a “game of loans” is coming this winter. Having to pay rent, utilities, and a whole host of other responsibilities will become part of my life after ESC. Probably the biggest uncertainty of all is that I don’t know exactly where I will end up a year from now, even though I am planning to remain in Colorado. And yet, despite my normal tendencies of constantly planning ahead, thinking about what tomorrow or even five years from now will bring, and my own attempts to control the outcome, I know that no matter what happens…I am at home. I am where I am supposed to be at this time.
Human beings have always leaned towards the tendency of wanting to try and completely control their environment and things around them, particularly if such control makes things easier. Just take a look at any of the smart phones we use to send messages to someone on the opposite side of the world in mere seconds, or the Google search engine that we use which can provide millions of tidbits of information. When these means of control fail or don’t provide the answer we desire, a subsequently large amount of frustration tends to be the general reaction from most if not all of us, as we literally or metaphorically throw our hands up in despair. I must admit that at times in my own anxiety and frustration regarding the uncertain aspects of my life, I have thrown up my hands in despair towards God as I would towards my laptop or my iPhone. I know what I feel called and led to do with my life given my own passions, abilities, and experiences that forged me into who I am…and yet, God has never provided for me the intricate blueprint of how my vocation is going to manifest itself.
The prophet Isaiah put this reality into words when he described this facet of God’s relationship to humanity: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). This passage, although forward and direct, is not one in which God simply says, “Know your place and shut your face”. It is anything but that, I’d propose. It is God providing both consolation and assurance in the midst of all the uncertainties of life. God, in his mercy, love, and compassion for each of us, doesn’t provide the full picture of our life’s journey. Instead, he provides an essential promise, which throughout the Holy Scriptures, the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Christ, and the witness of the apostles, martyrs, and saints, has continually been fulfilled: “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isiah 55:10-11).
How do I know these words to be true in my own life? How can I even dare to suggest that despite all my failures and shortcomings, my sins and imperfections, and the anxieties and shortcomings which plague me, that I am even worthy of such a word from God’s mouth that will never return empty? I can firmly say that this is true because of where I am, where God has led me to, in this new place that I call “home”. I am getting to live in community with other young people, who like me, have just enough foolishness to believe that we can change the world. I am surrounded by mentors who despite my rough edges, believe in me and want to help me on the journey. I am getting to work with an organization that combines my love of the outdoors with my passion for mentoring, teaching, and empowering others. And, to top it all off, I am getting to do all of this in the best cowboy ski town in the USA, which happens to be in one of the most gorgeous places on earth: Colorado.
Despite all of the burdens and junk I bear from my mistakes and beating myself up over them, God kept the promise he made through the mouth of Isaiah to me. I have a home. If a loving and merciful God can do that for me, the “chief of sinners” as Saint Paul would put it, then the same God is at work in your life as well, whether you realize it or not. You have a home—where are you are now in your life, is exactly where you are supposed to be on life’s journey towards God’s special purpose for you. So take heart, and be reminded of another promise: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). Or, as the character of Chirrut Imwe, a blind warrior from the upcoming Star Wars film “Rogue One” sates defiantly to a squad of Stormtroopers who threaten to take his life in the film’s trailer: “I fear nothing. All is, as the Force wills it.”