Mostly Just Pretty Pictures

I’ve had a lot on my mind and heart that I was thinking of writing about this month, and now that I’m sitting down to type, I’m really just not feeling it.  Suffice it to say that I have been experiencing the peace and freedom of Christ a lot lately, and it’s wonderful.  Being less passive in my interactions with God is helping me immensely.  Who knew?

Also, I got off my butt this weekend and went for a hike.  Nature is pretty.

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Shred Everything

Today as a house we brainstormed brief mission statements and the only thing I could think of was “Shred everything.” It’s a phrase that has been stuck in my head for the last few months, thanks to an anonymous person on the internet. “Shred everything” is something that you’d expect any rad snowboarder to say. Every time I come home from a day of riding on the mountain, Rachel asks, “Did you shred all of the things,” before I even come up the stairs. Usually, my answer is, “I shredded some of the things.”

It’s remarkable how much this catchphrase is accurate to how I feel about my ESC experience right now. I’m making a lot of friends by being out shredding on the mountain, but it’s also a good metaphor for other things as well. In the last few months, as I’ve been settling in to my role here, I’ve had to completely shred my expectations (expectations that I thought I didn’t have at all…wrong). I expected to move here with other adventurous, outdoorsy types, but instead I got two wonderful roommates that nurture my introvert self, push me to see the world and my spirituality differently, and challenge me to care about the history of a place that is brand new to me. It was becoming difficult to continue to hold up my expectations of immediate friendship, exploration, and belonging. In the interest of making friends, exploring, and belonging I’ve been slowly shredding my expectations for this year. Let the shredding continue.

Home -Sarah Meeks

I was worried before the break that coming back to Denver would be harder after sleeping in my own bed and seeing my family, friends, and dog. Somewhat surprising to me, I felt at home as soon as I stepped into Denver Int’l Airport. Part of this owes to my job entailing many airport pickups. But as I boarded the light rail at the airport and took in the Christmas lights as I unloaded at Union Station, I felt warmly welcomed back into this, albeit temporary, home. My room has accumulated some cozy accents on its walls. I regularly use my library card, enjoying having a book waiting on hold for me, chatting with the librarian when I go to pick it up, and dropping it back off again. Overall, I have really settled in quite comfortably to life in Denver.

But my home rests, and perhaps always will, in Mississippi.

 

Home. This idea holds a bittersweet taste tonight. Mississippi, the place I was born, grew up, and dearly call home, elected a white supremacist. A woman who makes light of lynchings and promotes confederate imagery. And my heart aches.

As my roommates and many others with whom I am close have come to learn, I am very sensitive about the derision of my state. For me, Mississippi is family, friends, football, school, beautiful landscapes, and warm sunshine on my skin. Mississippi is my home and so much of my identity lies there. My home means understanding the troubling and disgusting history of my state and the complexities they have created and perpetuated, and working actively to dismantle the systems of injustice that exist there. The ACLU has a poster that reads, “Vote like your rights depend on it.” Whenever I am voting in Mississippi elections, I want to cross out the “your” and replace it with “our.” The success of my home depends on the acknowledgement that our decisions deeply affect the rights of those with whom we share this beautiful state. It is an injustice to vote for your rights and not acknowledge the collective us on which the success and hope of our state depends. We cannot continue to ignore how your vote affects the rights of our people.

 

I knew not to, but I typed into Facebook the NYT’s article posting the results. And then I clicked on the comments. I found exactly what I knew I would. “I am proud to not know a single person from that state.” “I will never visit this state.” “Let us not invest a penny in this state.” “Mississippi is what it has always been.” “Join the civilized world.” “You deserve her.” “Can’t we dump these dead beat states?”

I understand the sentiments of frustration, rage, bafflement, and deep sorrow towards my state. But you with your scathing words must not realize how horribly degrading these comments are both for those suffering under the oppressive systems in Mississippi and those fighting tirelessly to overcome them. You must not realize how incredibly hypocritical your urges to abandon our state and its people are. How you are further suppressing those suffocating under its systems. How you are pushing people to the extremes. Making the red, redder. How you make the people fighting for justice lose their faith and feel like breaking down and quitting. How can we win when no one is rooting for us? How can we win when we are so utterly divided?

 

Mississippi is troubled with outmigration of young adults when they find there is no work for them here, when they find that their progressive political ideologies cannot be supported by the systems of the state, when they want more than anything to not be embarrassed or defensive when they announce where they’re from. So they move. And when we move, our state doesn’t.

Lately I have been struggling with this question. I have always loved to travel and experience other places and cultures. I love living in a city with unlimited opportunity at my fingertips. I love the ocean. The mountains. The diverse landscape of our country and beyond.

But the work on which I have embarked this year, coupled with the criticism of my home that I have met along the way, have urged me to wrestle with this dilemma. Who am I to defend Mississippi, the state for which I hold so much love, if I succumb to the tempting call to “get out?” Who am I to learn so much from my state and take those talents elsewhere? Am I willing to endure the constant criticism, frustration, and sorrow that comes with committing oneself so deeply to this cause?

 

 

Passivity vs. Proclamation: An Experiment of Sorts

Hi friends!  Just a warning, this blog post is kind of just going to be me “thinking out loud” about a new strategy for fighting the darkness that too frequently wells up in me.  I struggle a lot with apathy, which leads to hopelessness, anger, fear, etc.  Really fun stuff.  And I’ve never been too good at fighting it.  I tend to be a “woe is me, why is this my life?” pity-party drama queen, and it’s not a good way to be.  The sermon series at a church I’ve been attending the last few weeks has been both convicting and encouraging, and I think that the truth I’ve gotten to hear is maybe the Lord’s wake-up call to me on a better way to fight my demons.

We’ve been going through Psalms, which I love for the intensity of all kinds of emotion.  Anyway, a few weeks ago the lesson was that we should “elevate our praises over our problems.”  Well, butts, that hit home.  Then this morning was about how God will never forsake us, but will hold us up despite anything and everything.  Duh, right?  That’s all over the Bible.  The thing I’ve been missing, however, is that we are to actively seek God, and proclaim His promises in the midst of our crap.  Butts again.

I don’t do that.  When I start falling into the “depths of despair” as Anne Shirley would say, I know in my mind that God will rescue me, but the words on my lips are not confident proclamations of His salvation.  No, rather they are word of hopelessness, and begging God to take away my suffering.  This isn’t wrong in itself, but my approach has always been one of passivity.  I just tend to lay in bed wallowing in my pain until God decides to lift it from me.  I want Him to do all the work, without me having to do anything but whine.  Being honest with God is extremely important, and complaining to Him is more than acceptable when that’s how I feel, it’s just that I can’t stop at that.  It’s been pointed out at church that David, in the midst of his hopelessness, sadness, and fear always still proclaimed that Lord’s promises.  He would be in the darkest hole, crying out to God in anguish, but he never neglected to acknowledge God’s promises and faithfulness.  Wow.  That ain’t me.

Now here’s what I’ve been thinking:

The Lord promises us peace and joy through Jesus, and he promise to never leave us, and He tells us that we are more than conquerors.  More than conquerors.  I can’t even comprehend the power that comes along with that, and yet, through the Holy Spirit, I have access to this power.  But I have to act.  And that’s what I’m not so good at.

Today I’ve come to the realization that when Jesus rose from the grave, He defeated not just sin, but all of the evil that comes along with it.  The apathy, blues, fear, anger, and pain that plague me were all defeated the instant that the stone was rolled away! (That’s a nice, tent-revival-y sentence, huh?)  But wow!  What power!  Though I myself still have to stand and fight, these things have already been defeated by the One who calls me His daughter.  So long as I call on Him and His truth, I can stand and fight.

So, my resolution as of today is to do just that, call upon the Lord for the deliverance that I know He will provide with faith and a willingness to act.  I’m going to try to put off my passive attitude of “Lord save me while I do nothing” and take on one of confidence in Him, and in His ability to work in me for the coming of His kingdom on Earth.  The Lord is indeed quick to deliver me, but I am not exempt from actively seeking Him, as I wait for deliverance.  Instead of passively waiting for things to get better, I’m going to try instead to boldly proclaim God’s peace, joy, and salvation into my life, and run to Him, because I know that He is right by my side, fulfilling His promises and empowering me to rise above the darkness that He has already defeated.  I’m excited for this new outlook and course of action, because it already seems to be a more righteous path than that which I have taken before.

Come at me apathy, I’m more ready for you than I’ve ever been before!

Readers, if you care, stay tuned for the next oh-so-exciting update on my life (sarcasm).  Thanks for letting me “think out loud” as it were, and I hope that there is something of truth or encouragement here for you as well.

 

Rachel Pozzo

Perfect Freedom of Single Necessity–Megan Helbling

Our group therapist tells us that there’s really no such thing as a plethora of emotions; only four base emotions: happiness, sadness, fear, and anger. I think that my story of moving to Colorado might be summed up by how I experience all four of those emotions in regards to this crazy thing called Christianity. I used to feel great joy, and excitement, and hope at the promises of the epiphany and the reality of the resurrection. But that happiness is often dwarfed by fear: fear that none of it is real, after all, and fear that I’m wasting my Sunday mornings on church instead of bottomless mimosas or a later alarm, or fear that maybe I wasted a fancy liberal arts education on an ancient thing that is silly and unhelpful. These doubts then evoke a great sadness, because I want to rejoice in the richness of the Christian tradition and belief: I just fear I might not be able to. Coupled with that sadness is a deep anger, at the exclusion and oppression and evil that the Church has created, perpetuated, and remained complicit in since its conception.

 

My faith hasn’t always been so conflicted. An evolution occured since my whole journey with Christianity began sweetly and joyfully, full of healing and hope, at a summer camp in high school. Since then, and especially during my senior year of college, I realized how much each emotion had grown in conflict with another, and felt myself becoming someone who was curious about Christianity intellectually, but too bitter and antagonizing to embrace ideals like grace and forgiveness and compassion towards my enemies or the oppressive structures of this world. I chose the Episcopal Service Corps because I wanted to give this whole Jesus thing one last shot: to see if I could find people who still joined Jesus in overturning the money lenders tables in the temple, while also stooping in humility, kissing the white supremacist, homophobic, and patriarchal pharisees’ feet.

 

Annie Dillard writes, “I would like to learn, or remember, to live…. We could, you know. We can live any way we want. People take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience–even of silence–by choice. The thing is to stalk your calling in a certain skilled and supple way, to locate the most tender and live spot and plug into that pulse. This is yielding, not fighting…yielding at every moment to the perfect freedom of single necessity (Living Like Weasels, Dillard).” As much as I sometimes want to fight it, I reluctantly admit that Christianity might be that most live spot in my life, the most tender and vulnerable pulse that evokes in me the deepest and most carnal emotions of joy, fear, sadness and anger. Like Dillard says, I want to learn to live life alive: yielding to the instincts that enliven me to serve and enact change. My callings should make me feel alive: a calling should not lampse into a boring or tedious part of my weekly schedule. My hope is that this year will be a journey towards finding out whether or not Christianity is my single necessity: and if so, yielding to that impulse as though it’s the only thing that will keep me alive.