Warning – Post Contains Spoilers: Veronica Farrell

So, I’m going to do something I haven’t done before in a blog this year. I’m going to connect a lesson I’ve learned this month to a pop culture reference…

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Some of you may know that the fourth season of Sherlock aired this month. I happened to be re-watching the previous three seasons when I learned it was airing again. I was so pumped! I love Sherlock! I quickly finished the new season and just had to rewatch the finale only days later.

SPOILER ALERT: Sherlock learns he has a younger sister, Eurus, who has been locked up in a secret asylum according to orders given by his older brother Mycroft. She was imprisoned at a young age because her intelligence far surpassed that of her brothers’ and she used it with malicious intent. In the finale, the brothers discover that she may have escaped and in a visit to the prison, they are tricked by her into a violent and demonic game of “life or death.” Sherlock fights his way through the game because he is led to believe Eurus has trapped a young girl on a plane full of people who are drugged to sleep, on a course to crash, and only his completion of the puzzle will save her.

DAAAAAANG, am I right?

Don’t worry, it all ends happily ever after. Er, well, at least as happily ever after as Sherlock can be. Sherlock solves the puzzle, Eurus remains in the asylum, and Mycroft gets a good scolding from the parents.

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I found in this episode, an important lesson brought to me in my time in the Episcopal Service Corps. The Episcopal baptismal vow ends with the question, “will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?”

Over and over I saw how Mycroft viewed Eurus so poorly, as if beneath him, and made judgements based on very limited and extreme interactions with her. Sherlock, on the other hand, simply wanted to know more about her. He worked on the game, knowing it gave him the information necessary to understand her. Upon solving the puzzle, he discovers that there is no girl on a crashing plane – at least not really. The entire time Eurus has been trying to get her brothers to understand that when she closes her eyes she imagines herself to be that little girl in the plane. Surrounded by people who should be able to help her, but can’t, she feels herself tumbling into destruction.

This season ends highlighting a major transformation in Sherlock’s character – his humanity. By becoming accustomed to his own humanity, he learns to see it in another. He felt his sister was worthy of explanation, of understanding, and of compassion. Eurus remains in the asylum, which seems pretty unfortunate for her. However, she gains a brother, a family, and is finally acknowledged for who she is.

I think my connection between this episode of Sherlock and the Episcopal vow is what led to the Netflix-binging. Seeing this message illustrated in one of my favorite shows definitely let it sink in a bit more. I suddenly saw the times when I’ve acted like Mycroft and tried to determine what would be different if I acted more similar to Sherlock. I can think of numerous occasions where I failed in “respecting the dignity in all humans” with my housemates, coworkers, and clients.

Most recently, I find myself noticing this lack of judgement in our government and many American citizens. Therefore, I am sharing my challenge of the month! Feel free to take them on as well!

I will have more challenging conversations with people who have different views than me. No strategizing offense, or defense; simply opening myself up to discussion.

When we don’t have conversations, we put others and ourselves in boxes with strict labels. Start learning about all the stories that make up a person, not just the one you assume. By labeling and confining people we create more tension and disagreement. Start listening to what others have to say. Get to know what goes through their head and why – what you might be hearing is a cry for help.

Attached is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TEDTalk on the danger of a single story. Highly recommend!

“140 Daily Doodles” by Collette Newcombe

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This fall, during our ESC orientation, we focused on creating a Rule of Life. A Rule of Life is meant to  structure the kinds of lives we want to be living in relationship to Creation, God, and self. This is not meant to be legalistic, but to help us pursue the kinds of lives we want to be living with intention and purpose.

Some things in my Rule of Life include:

  • use public transportation, buy clothes secondhand, compost
  • begin each day in prayer
  • do something active every day

AND 140 days ago I told myself I would:

  • “end each day with a painting and reflection”

This is something I have wanted to do for over a year and I finally made the commitment to start. I was afraid I would be too busy, my paintings would be too ugly, I would waste too much paper and it would cost too much—too many “toos”. When you get an idea run with it or it will run away from you. “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert was pivotal in allowing myself to enter into this commitment. Gilbert writes:

“I am a child of God, just like anyone else. I am a constituent of this universe. I have invisible spirit benefactors who believe in me, and who labor alongside me. The fact that I am here at all is evidence that I have the right to be here. I have a right to my own voice and a right to my own vision. I have a right to collaborate with creativity, because I myself am a product and consequence of Creation. I’m on a mission of artistic liberation, so let the girl go” (Gilbert, 96).

I’ve learned that there is a reciprocity between you and the thing you are creating. As much as you’re revealing lines and colors and whatnot on that page, that page is revealing to you the intimacies of the subject you are observing.

I drew a random man at the Episcopal Diocese Convention and left knowing a bit of him even though we didn’t speak. I began noticing how the back of his neck rolled over his collar as he looked up, how he squinted the corner of his eyes to read the screen, how he did in fact have fluffs of hair atop his head where I didn’t notice it before.

On one camping trip I realized I had forgotten my paint supplies before going to bed. I found a stick, scratched the shniz out of a piece of cardboard, spat in the mud, and smothering the scratchy surface with this messy paste. Done.

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I’ll spend an hour or just a minute drawing/painting and on the back of the paper I write a memory, reflection, or quote that I would like to carry with me from the day. I have removed myself from the product, and allowed for this to be about the discipline and process. By reflecting and recording my day I am recognizing and respecting the sanctity of it.

“People don’t do this sort of thing because they have all kinds of extra time and energy for it; they do this kind of thing because their creativity matters to them enough that they are willing to make all kinds of extra sacrifices for it” (136).

I have the ability to decorate my life and so I’m doing it.

225 [or] more days to go.

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Book citation:

Gilbert, Elizabeth. “BIG MAGIC: Creative Living Beyond Fear”. Riverhead Books, 2015.

 

Inside the mind of an Introverted Alabamian: Finale

Still there? Hello? Hellloooo? Oh, good you’re awake.( silence…..) Ok. Best to get started then. This is the culmination of what I’m building too. The reason of why I blogged one idea over multiple entries. What does my story, my challenges, my ideas, have to do with the world?

Well, maybe nothing on a grand scale, but I believe it’s a small microcosm of how we operate. This country/world we live in has complex social issues that cannot be solved through my own words. My purpose is to highlight what already exists. There is no attempt to offer a solution.

Everyday, every single day, we make decisions that affect not only our lives, but the lives of others as well. My parents chose to raise me through the Christian faith within the Episcopal Church. I chose to live away from home in college, Americorps, ESC. Also, if you don’t want to focus on me, think about choices with finances. We make a choice to essentially”trade” a note in exchange for whatever service we seek. Albeit food, a movie ticket, car, home; these decisions shape how we want to live in hopes that it fits within our philosophy.

The hard part with making choices is that sometimes our choices and ideas are not welcomed by others. I’ll reuse an example from my first blog. I grew up in a conservative parish of the Episcopal church. Many would describe the the denomination liberal as a whole. However, my church chose not to host same sex marriage. This affects me because I have a homosexual family member,but I did not immediately abandon the church. I recognize the decision was made based on the politics of the local community of my home town.

Another example , though on a different spectrum , was from a workshop I attended at the convention back in October. This workshop featured two different ministers: an Episcopal priest and a Lutheran pastor. The focus was on a campus ministry that focused on ecumenical practices. The local episcopal church at Boulder lends its space to the Lutheran pastor and the campus ministry and as such the students who are not affiliated with either denomination are introduced to both. What amazed me even more is that the students are not forced to choose a denomination. This ministry was not focused on conversion , which makes me glad. I believe that ultimately, it is up to an individual to join any sort of faith based group.

My final example will not come from previous blogs. This example comes from what I witness from my own eyes. It should be familiar to you, it happened recently. But the biggest example of how we are connected is through our elections. I will not share my political views in this blog.

What came out of a tumultuous election year is that we will have a new President. From my perspective, the election divided many folks. And that division may still persist after the inauguration. This causes a tension that I sometimes worry about. But not too much, it is beyond my control and I have other stuff that I need to do before totally worrying about tension.

I don’t know what the future is going to hold for me, and I do not know what is to come overall. I do know that from my life we are one people. What I enjoyed most out of my Americorps experience was that it shows more of a representation of what the country looks like. I was on a team that consisted of people of different races and backgrounds that come together to achieve a common goal. I enjoy diverse settings because I believe that a diverse environment can bring out the best in me.

That is to say I have not enjoyed ESC; I enjoy this program because it allows me to work in an environment that fills my passion and allows me to focus on myself while living in community.

There is no solution to easing tension. What I believe is that everyone has good intentions to do well and that the different communities across the country can come together. We are one and we are different. I don’t know how to elaborate that even further, but it’s true to me. I guess it goes with E pluribus Unum.

Call me naive, call me foolish, call me a dunce. But this is what I know: no matter how different we are we must find ways to bring out our best selves. We are interconnected through our choices and that may not be perfect all the time, but we cannot forget to listen and find the good in each other.

I hope this gives you insight into who I am. This is not my last blog post;I have another one next month. But this is my last post about this subject. Thanks for letting me trying out this idea. Oh, and thanks for listening. See you next time.

Sermon on the Feast of the Holy Name – John Christian Evans

This is the text for the sermon that I preached on January 1st, 2017, at Saint Paul’s Church in Steamboat Springs. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our Strength and Redeemer.

 

A name can be a very powerful thing, can it not? Aside from giving us identity, the names of others we cross paths with in this life can open us to the many kinds of emotions that color the human experience. At the mention of someone’s name, you might feel a sense of love, joy, or peace. You might feel nothing but indifference to a name. A name can inspire fear, dread, and frustration, reminders of the hurt from things done and left undone.  Religiously, names provide a means of identifying us before God—and identifying us as equal in the sight of God. Liturgically, in our prayers, at baptism, at a funeral, and even when addressing a clergyperson, we use our first name—what used to be called our “Christian name.” And this indicates that God knows us intimately, calls us each by name, and loves us all the same—which is to say beyond measure.

And yet, the name that today that is most known throughout the world, the name that is revered, and is called upon by more than 2 billion people on this Earth, was a fairly ordinary and common name in the Judean region of Palestine during the time of his birth. It is the name’s meaning, though within the scope of the Christmas story found in both the Gospels of Luke and Matthew, that sets it apart for whom God sent into the world 2,000 years ago, born of a virgin. This name, Jesus, has one distinct meaning in Hebrew: savior. Yet he was not named primarily to identify him to God—since he came from God, he was and is God. He was not named only to differentiate him from others. Instead, the naming of Jesus, which we remember and celebrate today on this Feast of the Holy Name, has both human and divine elements at work. The human element is the moment of naming itself: when Jesus was brought to the temple to be circumcised 8 days after his birth as was Jewish ritual, he was given a name which is bound up with his identity, his history, his narrative, his life’s journey.  It is also a divine moment, one that binds his identity with that of God’s. His name derives in part from The Name—the one given by God to Moses through the burning bush. Ehyeh asher Ehyeh: I AM who am; I will be with you as who I am. This child’s name carried and still carries within it the power and promise of the very Name of God.

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In our present day and age, this name is seen, thought of, heard of, and used in so many different ways and contexts. Some may see the name and respond with indifference. Some think of it as unimportant or even foolish to dwell on. Some may have heard of the name, but do not fully understand the teachings and life of this man who bears it. And unfortunately, some defame this name, when they call themselves followers of Jesus, only to mix his name with selfish motivations and agendas based in hatred. However, Paul, as we heard this morning in the reading from the Epistle to the Philippians, proclaims in powerful, even beautiful language that the name of Jesus, given to this child whose birth we celebrated 7 days ago, is “the name above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” We may not bend the knee every time we invoke it, but invoke it nonetheless we do–in moments of ecstatic joy, deep grief, and profound frustration.  This begs the question though: why should we celebrate this day known to many different traditions in the Church, as the Feast of the Holy Name? Why does it matter?

The origins of this Feast’s beginnings can be traced to Saint Bernadine of Siena, a Franciscan monk who worked tirelessly to evangelize and preach the gospel, as well as to promote devotion and reverence for what he called the Holy name of Jesus. This reverence and desire, according to Bernadine himself, is as such: “…This name must be proclaimed, that it may shine out and never be suppressed… We are called then, to preach with a blazing fire…the truth that appeared like a great candle lighting the whole world with its brilliant flame.”  That last phrase, I’d imagine, is a glimpse into what the group of shepherds we heard about in the Gospel this morning must have experienced the night that a multitude of angels appeared to them; and told them of the Christ child, the Savior of the whole human race, that had been born that night in Bethlehem, and who lay resting in a feeding trough in a barn.  Truth appeared, when the Shepherds saw that child—the ultimate embodiment of love, Emmanuel, “God with us”.

My brothers and sisters, this name Jesus, should be celebrated and revered, for its meaning came to fruition when Christ hung from the cross, sacrificing himself, and bridging the link between the divine and the human. He is the way, the truth, and the life: Jesus, the name for which every knee should bow—here on earth, up in heaven, and under the earth. This name bestowed upon him, provides us with a beacon to follow, a leader to emulate, and a way for us to move ever closer to divine goodness, grace, and mercy.

In this world so afflicted by hostility, in this age so plagued by divisiveness, in this time so overwhelmed by name-calling, the name of Jesus provides an antidote to hatred, a cure for violence, and a balm for pain. If we call upon him, the name of Jesus is and will be forever sealed upon our hearts. For Jesus is the salvation of the world, and we are called to minister in his name to the world around us. In our baptism we were claimed, adopted, forgiven, renewed, strengthened, and made members of the priestly Body of Christ, the church. And now we are now called to be the sign of God’s love for others, to evangelize and proclaim the glory of God and the salvation sent to us, just as the shepherds did. That name of Jesus within us compels us to work for justice, peace, and love for all. And the name of Jesus gives us the will and the strength to persevere in this new year, and time of great uncertainty.

Dear people of God, do we embrace that name above all names this morning? Are we signs of the presence and promise; do we make the Word-made-flesh real for those around us? Are we living as those who have been “likened to Christ,” united to him as members of his body through baptism, Christened, anointed with his Spirit, living by the power of the name of Jesus, waiting with joy and hope, ready to inherit with him the coming reign of God?  He was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. He is called Jesus, meaning God is salvation. And he will forever be called Jesus, the wonderful, counselor, mighty God, everlasting Father, the prince of peace.

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Dreading Monday – Mariana

This post is late. It’s been on my to-do list for close to a month, but I haven’t had any idea of what to write. I still don’t, not really, I’m hoping that I’ll find the words as I write them.

Today is the eve of a new year. I’m usually one of those people that makes resolutions that gets pumped about what’s in store, but to be honest right now I’m just dreading the idea of Monday.

Guess I should be glad I’m living more in the present.
A year of service in itself is difficult your boundaries are constantly being tested. You are confronted not only with things you hadn’t realized about yourself, but also you have to deal with some really difficult and uncomfortable issues facing people you come to realize are a lot like you. They were just were born in a different zip code.

This year has been uncommonly difficult for me.  If it wasn’t for the community of Colorado Episcopal Service Corps I wonder if I would have bothered to stay.

My service site continues to be a struggle. Not because of the high turnover rate common of nonprofits, or the difficulties that comes with working with a population battling trauma but because it was not what I had expected.

I had expected to learn more about working with youth in an organization that has been implementing trauma informed care in their programming for years. Instead it feels like I spend quite a bit of time nagging people to do their chores and policing young adults in addition  to cleaning a space that I honestly think will never be clean again unless it’s teared down and rebuilt.

In choosing my service site I chose a field I love, but was comfortable with. And now I think maybe I should have chosen something wholly different, just something way outside my comfort zone.

I’m not being challenged in ways I thought I would be and frankly it sucks.
And I still have 6 months to go.
And unfortunately I am sure my negative energy is felt not just by myself, but others at my site, and the youth too.

I want to enjoy my service and the relationships I’m building with the youth I’m serving. I really do. And maybe I just need to get over myself. Yeah I have a ton of experience working with under served populations of youth but I’m starting to get that that’s not what my site needs.

Which of course sucks for me and my expectations, but maybe that’s the lesson I’m suppose to learn this year.

So here I am midway through my 3rd service year on the cusp of a new year and I’m dreading Monday instead of anticipating all the great things a new year might bring.

And I still have 6 months to go…

At least though the other part of this year, living in community with other young people and God, is really life giving.

And also the mountains.

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