Friday, December 19, 2008

The Obama Controversy

Well, it didn't take long for the glowing halo over Obama's head to dull and get slightly askew. If you haven't heard by now, Rick Warren, author of "The Purpose Driven Life" as well as mega church pastor, has been asked to be a part of Obama's inauguration ceremony. You can read more about the ceremony plans here. The reason that this is causing such an uproar? Warren is and has been outspoken about his position against gay marriage. Many gay rights groups worked for Obama's campaign and now they feel they got stabbed in the back. I got an email from the Human Rights Campaign today about it. Rick Warren is one of those who backed Proposition 8 in California which bans gay marriage in the California constitution.

I'm sure you've all heard about the ruckus over Prop 8, but I'm intrigued with the way that things have been playing out in the gay community. I, like many others, was ecstatic when Obama was elected (had tears as I watched his acceptance speech) and angry when I heard about Prop 8. If California can't defeat such a measure, what hope is there in other states? I've already watched similar measures take place in Missouri, which kills my chances at legal marriage in my own home state. The passage of Prop 8 seemed to be the 2 steps back to the Obama one step forward. So I can understand the disappointment and anger that has been felt upon the invitation of Rick Warren to some degree - it's inviting the enemy to the celebratory feast in a way. However, I would remind people, particularly those who are so upset over this, that Obama has always said he would try to build bridges and unite America. He also said he would invite people he knows he disagrees with to work with him - it's how he understands the other side of an issue and takes various perspectives into consideration. Rick Warren speaking at inauguration is one of what I believe will be many such invitations.

Gay marriage and abortion may be the two most divisive issues - at least social issues - in this country. They come up over and over again in political campaigns year after year, and while we tend to have our steroetypes (that Democrats are pro-choice and pro-gay rights while Republicans are pro-life and homophobic) we all know that when you get to know people as actual individuals, it's not usually that cut and dry. I know that I amaze people when they hear me say that I tend to be pro-life (WHAT?! A lesbian who isn't pro-choice?) and I used to vote much more Republican than I have these last few years. Let's face it - most of us aren't cut and dry members of either political party - there are too many issues for all of us to agree on all of them no matter what our ideals and underlying values. The parties have to meet to decide what their official stances are on things on a regular basis - these things are much more fluid than they get made out to be. Obama said up front that he's not a proponent of gay marriage per se (he and Biden seem to be in the "civil union" camp), but inauguration day isn't going to be about any stance on particular issues. It's about celebrating a moment and starting a new administration with a new attitude. The previous administration was a bland mixture - everyone agreed to the same thing, had to play by a party line. Obama is mixing it up - he's inviting everyone to the table and asking everyone to talk with each other. That means the gay activists are going to have to learn how to tolerate Rick Warren and others like him. We can't say we want tolerance and then be intolerant to those who aren't just like us - that's what we usually do but it's not anything different than what's been done to us.

I have a Nalgene water bottle covered with various stickers to make a statement and personalize it so that I can tell which one is mine. One of the stickers that gets a lot of comments is "WARNING: Intolerance will not be tolerated!" Funny, yes, but it also makes a point. When we fight intolerance, it means we have to fight it within ourselves as much as in other people. Injustice isn't just something done TO us, it's also something done BY us. I could start quoting scripture about planks in your own eye while you're picking out dust in someone else's but I think you get the point. Let Obama go with this and let's see what happens. Warren isn't even that bad a guy if he's getting people more involved in fighting HIV and AIDS and doing other good things in this world. Nobody is all right or all wrong, so let's let it go. There are more important things to spend our energy on and we've got four whole years to see what Obama's going to do and what direction this country will truly move.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Five: Windows to the Soul

Sophia posted today's Friday Five after her husband got Lasik surgery. Here are my answers and thoughts related to those windows to the soul - eyes.
1. What color are your beautiful eyes? Did you inherit them from or pass them on to anyone in your family?
My eyes are brown, but have a bit of green and gold to them (depending on my mood, lighting, etc.). They're kind of a mix of my parents' eyes (mom's are hazel, dad's were very dark brown). I don't have (and won't have) any biological offspring so they won't get passed on to anyone. Not sure how I feel about that.

2. What color eyes would you choose if you could change them?
I wish the green and gold showed up more often, so I guess I'd like to have hazel eyes. There are also times I wish they were a really dark brown like my dad and brother's eyes. It looks more Italian. :)

3. Do you wear glasses or contacts? What kind? Like 'em or hate 'em?
I didn't used to but when I worked 911 for almost 5 years, the computer screens glaring at me all night required glasses. I continued needing them for all the reading I did in seminary and know I'm at another job with lots of computer time. I don't wear them at home very often though. I love glasses on other people - almost everyone I've ever dated wore glasses - and don't mind them for myself. I love that they limit the headaches, hate that they get dirty pretty easily.

4. Ever had, or contemplated, laser surgery? Happy with the results?
Never had it and haven't contemplated it. Can't imagine my eyes will get bad enough that it will be worth the cost and risk of surgery but you never know... Trouble has contemplated it but probably won't ever do it.

5. Do you like to look people in the eye, or are you more eye-shy?
Depends on the situation but in general I'm not eye-shy and like looking people in the eye. I think eye contact is an important part of interpersonal communication - it lets people know that you're being honest, intentional, listening, etc. I've been on a couple of interviews where my eye contact was commented on and helped give me that "little something" to get a call back. In this world of Facebook, blogs, texting, etc. I wonder if we're losing numbers of people who do well in person because they don't know how or are just uncomfortable making eye contact. Do we truly believe that eyes are still the windows to the soul? Are we afraid of baring our own souls to others or afraid of seeing others' souls?

Bonus question: Share a poem, song, or prayer that relates to eyes and seeing.
I can think of several songs that relate to eyes and seeing, but I would have to say that my favorites would be "Brown Eyed Girl" (which has been mentioned by many of my RevGal colleagues), "Bette Davis Eyes" (an 80's classic) and "Eye of the Tiger" (another 80's classic and one of the favorites on our karaoke game).

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

This is just so unexpected...

RevHipChick, now known as RevCrystalK, has nominated me for a blog award! Granted, she's one of my best friends in "real" life which will doubtedly make some question whether I actually deserve this award or not, but since each person is supposed to pass this on the another 5, it's kind of a viral phenomenon anyway. My problem now is that I'm supposed to nominate 5 more people and I don't follow that many blogs! Stay tuned - I'll come up with my list a little later...

Of course, as with every Bloggy Award, there are A Few Rules. They are:

  • Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.

  • Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.

  • Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to This Post, which explains The Award.

  • Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we’ll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!

  • Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Fear/Anxiety/Concern... whatever you call it, it still holds us back

I'm writing this piece out of a lot of frustration at work. There is a particular person (who I shall refrain from naming out of kindness) who always seems to be "nervous" about something when we want to generate activity on a new program or ask for partnership in a new venture. One of the things that my job entails is overseeing our Cans for Habitat program. Here in Kansas City, I've figured out that if each person recycles only 10 cans for our program, we'll have enough money to build a family a new house. I know a lot of people who drink more than 10 cans of soda a week so this should be easy!

On Thanksgiving Day, the Kansas City Star newspaper did a
front page article on easy ways that people are helping their favoritie organizations that don't involve writing a check (since money is tight for everyone these days). Lisa Solvay, one of our program regulars, was featured and it's gotten a lot of feedback to my email. I have been wanting to really get this program going but there has always been some reason why the timing wasn't quite right before. Now that I'm getting emails from businesses and people all over the metro area, it seems like the time to really do it -- but wait. One of the things I'd like to do is talk with local retailers or distributors about donating some plastic garbage cans that withstand outdoor conditions to collect cans. Right now we offer free bins and liners to people who want to collect cans for us, but they are made of cardboard and don't last long outside. We can't even use them on our construction sites for volunteers who are drinking soda on site. If I could get, say 10 Rubbermaid trash cans, we could cut holes in the lid to make it clear they are for cans (not trash), and we'd have a sturdy, weatherproof collection bin that could go on our construction sites and be offered to those offices that don't have enough indoor space to add another bin. I have one such business I'm working with right now and I know that people in our office have connections with some local retailers who sell Rubbermaid trash cans but if I mention that I'd like to ask them for in-kind donations, I get shot down.

"I don't know - I'm nervous about asking people for things that are going to a program that isn't really fleshed out yet. We don't know how we're getting those cans yet and what do we do when those trash cans that were donated all get stolen?" This is what I'm up against. I've tried to explain that if we can't offer this option, people may not even collect the cans in the first place. Once they collect the cans we can work out how we're going to transport them to our office (whrer we have a dumpster). At least that's how I see it. I'm not a haphazard kind of person - I don't just do things without any kind of plan in place, but you can't plan out for every contingency ahead of time before you even ask for the basics to get the program off the ground!! Am I off base here? What can I do to overcome these fears that are killing my program before it ever gets going? How do I deal with a co-worker who is uncomfortable asking anyone for anything when we're a non-profit and the economy is putting us in more of a bind that usual? HELP!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Advent Conspiracy

In catching up with the Rev Crystal K (formerly seminarymamma) on her new church blog, I discovered a great organization/web site and I'm helping the viral phenomenon by passing it on here. You don't have to agree with everything in it, but please check out the video below and let me know what you think about it. It's a radical notion, that Christmas was - and still is, or at least could be - something so revolutionary.

I'm still trying to learn more about this group - the website doesn't seem to say much about who they are or why/how they're putting this message out there, but it intrigues me nonetheless. In these economic times, I'm especially curious to see how much people start talking about the "true" meaning of Christmas and ways to celebrate with less money. Do you think this message would play as strongly in another economic climate? Do you think what they're saying makes sense? Is fair? Let me know!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday Five on Remembrance

Sophia writes:This week's Friday Five invites reflection on the theme of remembrance, which is also present in the feasts of All Saints, celebrated in many liturgical churches on November 1, and All Souls--known in Latin@ cultures as the Day of the Dead--celebrated in some the following day.
1. Did your church have any special celebrations for All Saints/All Soul's Day? I believe they did an All Soul's Day service, but I was not there for it. My favorite All Soul's Day service I ever had was in the Catholic church where I did most of my "growing up" back in NJ. They had a large size, beautiful book of blank paper that they set out in the atrium for about a month before the service and invited people to write or draw the names, a story, or something about whoever they wanted to remember. My grandfather and grandmother (not from the same set of grandparents) had died within a few months of each other that year and I loved that I had a sacred place to express what was important to me about them. Some people got very creative in their presentations of their loved ones, doing things like collages and beautiful pictures.
2. How about Veterans' Day? No, we didn't do anything for Veterans Day - that was actually our Reconciling Sunday, where we celebrate our congregations' choice to claim the title of "Reconciling Congregation" (which in the United Methodist Church means that we explicitly welcome all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity).
3. Did you and your family have a holiday for Veterans' Day/Remembrance Day? If so, how did you take advantage of the break? No, my workplace (Habitat for Humanity Kansas City) is closed on Sunday and Monday, so we were already off for Veterans' Day. I used the day to clean the house, do some laundry, sleep in, and run some errands. Trouble, my partner, had to work at Children's Mercy hospital, but was sure to wear her "Veterans for Peace" arm band with her uniform.
4. Is there a veteran in your life, living or dead, whose dedication you remember and celebrate? Or perhaps a loved one presently serving in the armed forces? There are several veterans in my life and I can't think of how I would celebrate one's service more than another one's; they are all people I would hold up for their dedication, sacrifice, and service. That being said, I know the most and have personally been involved with Trouble's service more than that of my uncle, grandfathers, or anyone else's service. Trouble gave me a whole new insight into the life of a military service person and that of their family members (which isn't held up near often enough - they often sacrifice just as much as the service person does).
5. Do you have any personal rituals which help you remember and connect with loved ones who have passed on? Nothing in particular to remember each and every one, but there are certain things that remind me of each of the people in my life that I've lost. Music is something that has always connected with me on a deep and often spiritual level and there are songs that for whatever reason remind me of loved ones that are no longer with me.

Now that you have my answers, feel free to share your own, either in a comment here or posted on your own blog (and let us know in a comment so we can check it out).

I also wanted to take this chance to say thank you to all of the people around the world who give up part of their lives to serve the greater good. I think it's interesting that in this country we have several holidays rooted in military service/events, but there's not a holiday for police officers, fire fighters (although September 11th may be becoming more of something like that), teachers, missionaries, refugee aid workers, Peace Corps and AmeriCorps members, and all the other people who give up a signifcant piece of their lives to serve others sometimes making the greatest sacrifice of all. What does that say about what is valued in our culture? Is it accurate?

Friday, November 07, 2008

Friday Five: Funnies Edition

After an exhausting election here in the states it's time for some spirit lifting! Join me with a nice cup of tea or coffee or cocoa and let's sit back and read the Funny Papers!
1. What was your favorite comic strip as a child?

I don't know if I really had a favorite - I liked all of them! It just made me feel like a grown up to be reading the paper next to my dad after church. I guess if I had to pick, my childhood faves were probably Garfield and Peanuts.
2. Which comic strip today most consistently tickles your funny bone? Isn't it interesting to see how tastes change as we get older? My favorites now tend to be Get Fuzzy, Pearls Before Swine and sometimes Brevity. I guess I grew into quirky humor.
3. Which Peanuts character is closest to being you? UGH! Much as I hate to admit it, I'm a Lucy. The doctor is usually in...
4. Some say that comic strips have replaced philosophy as a paying job, so to speak. Does this ring true with you? I don't know - was philosophy ever really a paying job? HA HA HA! I think comics are one way of dealing with our culture and current events - they're the comic relief of society. Philosophy doesn't tend to make me laugh like the comics do, but I do admit that comic strips are often philosophical.
5. What do you think the appeal is for the really long running comic strips like Blondie, Family Circus, Dennis the Menace as some examples? Like any classic movie, they deal with themes that everyone can relate to - particularly the way children see the world so differently from adults and often shed light on some things we as adults just do without thinking about it. For the record, Dennis the Menace and Blondie tend to grate on my nerves. Blondie, like Cathy, tends to play a little too much on traditional gender stereotypes for me.
Bonus question: Which discontinued comic strip would you like to see back in print? I can't think of one that I really miss that much.

So what about you and your answers? I'd love to hear your thoughts and perhaps learn about some new strips I'm not familiar with. If you have links, please share!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The last one - for now

This is the longest presentation with lots of pictures of volunteers, houses, and our partner families. 2008's been a good year for us!

Not just another Habitat house

This is the second Animoto presentation I put together showing one house pretty much from start to finish in under 30 seconds. This house was even LEED certified! Habitat houses aren't simple boxes on concrete slabs anymore - these are homes that people WANT to live in for a long time.

Habitat KC presentations

I put these together after a class I took and have had so much fun! I just wanted to share - more coming in a few...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Who Owns Ownership?

So I just got done with one of my workshops here at Deaconess Convocation in Nashville and this one was talking about concepts of economic justice. We looked at various Bible passages that refer to the Jubilee year (Deuteronomy 15, Leviticus 25, Luke 4:18-19) and talked about the ancient concept of ownership in biblical cultures. Land wasn't considered something that was owned by individuals - it was borrowed from God, so if God told you to let that land rest, you let it rest. Nowadays, at least in Western culture, we are consumed with this notion of ownership. What's mine is mine and I'm going to make sure that nobody takes it away from me. Think about how many property crimes there are! What if we radically changed how we looked at things so that it was all borrowed from God (after all she is the one who created it in the first place) rather than ours to own. So many conflicts arise from challenges to ownership - land disputes, intellectual property, etc. and people literally die from these fights everyday. Is it really worth it? And who gets to decide who owns what in the cases of disputes?

One of the powerful experiences I had in seminary was going to Guatemala and meeting people in several different cities, visiting with them and talking with them about their lives and their faith in the midst of their political situations. Many stories in Guatemala (and most of Latin America) involve land disputes, some of which go back for generations. Native peoples lived on land which churches, European settlers or govt armies later claimed. Indeed, the US started this way as well! What are the chances for those native people to ever get their land back? Looking at reservations and the life of Native Americans today, I think it's clear - they didn't get much say in the matter. If we really live as the biblical nation so many want to claim us to be, do we really know what that would look like? I think it would be a lot more differnt from today than just allowing praying in our schools!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Traveling madness

October is a crazy month for me. My birthday is at the beginning of the month, and this year I get to go to the Renaissance Festival and to see the Lion King on stage (which is absolutely AMAZING!) all in the same day. I normally work Tuesday - Saturday, but this month I'm also working Mondays to make up for the fact that I have trips on 2 weekends. Oct 10-12 I was in Nashville for a Reconciling Ministries Network retreat/training/strategy session. Nashville is beautiful, the center where we stayed is nice and very hospitable (it even has a labrynth to walk!) and I got to spend time with some great people that I haven't seen in a few years. I learned a lot about what's going on the United Methodist Church and renewed my faith that there are changes coming for the better because of these people. :) I love you guys!

This weekend I'm headed back to the same center in Nashville for a different church group. This is the biannual Deaconess/Home Missioner Convocation (i.e. formal gathering or conference) and I'm really excited about being there. I haven't seen these folks in several years either and the fact that I was just in Nashville at the center makes me feel comfortable - I know what to expect and what I'll need to bring or not.

I get back from Nashville on Sunday evening and then Monday morning I head back out for work. I'm going with all of our AmeriCorps members to Leadership training in Taladega, Alabama. We'll be staying at a church conference center so it should be pretty nice accomodations. I normally love this kind of event, but I'm really bummed that all of this travel is happening all at once. I just want some quiet time to sit at home with my family! It makes me think of people like my father-in-law who travel a lot for their jobs. It's one thing to see lots of places and meet lots of people, but I need more stability than that. I kind of like a routine and knwoing what to expect - not that I don't like spontaneity too, but I need to come back to that something solid and reliable. I think I could handle a trip every month, as long as I got to be home for a few weeks between each one. Right now I'm just looking forward to November and life being a little more calm.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Buddhist musings

I was having a conversation with someone earlier this morning when it occurred to me that we often use the phrase "all good things must come to an end" but we don't really say the same thing about bad things. Instead we might say, "this too shall pass." Hmmm. While they pretty much convey the same thing, we say them in very different ways. We long for the good things to last forever but can't wait to get past the negative - in the end, nothing lasts. In Buddhism there is this underlying understanding of impermanence, but I'd never noticed it in Western Christianity until this morning. I don't think it's the same at all - I think we remember this impermanence when it's thrust in our faces or when we feel like it helps us. For the most part, though, we go about our lives as though we're going to live forever - or at least for a good while longer. What would it mean if we really had an understanding that nothing lasts? Would we hold grudges as long? Would we go out and find that dream job? Would we stay in a relationship that wasn't really working? Would we go to church each week or meditate each day? I wonder...

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Identity Crisis

I've been off the blog for a while - and I'm sorry to anyone who's been checking and even noticed. I've recently been given a new job title and have been trying to figure out how to make that transition, and it's got me doing a lot of thinking this week about who I see myself to be. I'm still at Habitat KC, and I'm glad I'm still working there, but I'm questioning whether there's more out there for me. My new position is that of Outreach Coordinator. I'm still in the volunteer department but specifically focusing on programs that will involve volunteers on more levels - the speakers' bureau, recycling programs, social networking and the website - and I'm taking on the AmeriCorps program as site coordinator (which mostly means massive amounts of paperwork to stay in line with the govt program). As a former AmeriCorps myself, I'm excited about this new role, but this last week was a bit crazy as our new members started their terms and I tried to sort out what had been done by my predecessor and what I still needed to handle.

Aside from Habitat, there have been developments in other areas of my life - areas that I once thought were important pieces of my identity and that I know struggle to maintain. First is my role as a Deaconess candidate in the United Methodist Church. I wasn't commissioned in April which led me to question if that was something that I felt I still wanted or needed. This fall they'll be having their biannual convocation and I signed up to attend, even applying for and receiving a scholarship to go. I feel like I need to be there to maintain some connection to the program, even as I continue to wonder whether commissioning will really mean anything significant to my life. This year they're also adding something new, a theological symposium to discuss the ways that our program is relevant to the UMC and the modern world. They're looking for a variety of people to represent and present perspectives on what the program could and should be as we move further into the 21st century and I had personally been asked to apply for a spot to go. I found myself getting excited at the propect of forming the future of this program and the UMC as a whole and turned in my application to go (if chosen, everything would be paid for and I'd just have to make sure that I could tack another 2 days on after the convocation). I never heard if i was chosen or not - I had to pull my name out of consideration so that I could make a required trip for AmeriCorps training that takes place the same week. I'm definitely disappointed but can't quite tell if it something more than that...

Finally this last week, I was going through some emails that had been backed up in my personal email account and I found an invitation to be a part of a retreat for another church program which is near and dear to my heart - the Reconciling Ministries network. Once again, if i was interested in attending, my way would be paid for at least partially. I was being asked because of my previous training in reconciling work within the church, and because of my involvement with ecumenical work along those lines here in the KC area. What the person who invited me didn't know is that I've recently chosen to leave my leadership position within the KC Coalition of Welcoming Ministries because so much energy is going into my paying job that I'm either not able or willing to be at the once a month meetings anymore. As much as I was interested in attending this particular retreat, I feel like I can't take off more time from work (I'm already taking 3 days off to attend the Deaconess convocation) and I'm not really the person they think I am. There are other people in the UMC and KC area who would be just as well as suited as I to be there, and I hope that one of them gets to go in my stead.

So where does all of this put me right now? Well, I'm wondering who I am and what I'm supposed to be doing. This isn't really anything new for me, but putting it into context with pay considerations, time and a full time job is. I really like working for Habitat KC, but I'm not happy that I have to keep saying no to things in my spiritual life that have been important to me in the past. I'm not sure if those things aren't as important to me anymore, or if they just CAN'T be as important anymore. I don't know if I'm choosing to put Habitat first as much as I feel like I have to since that's where my money comes from and where most of my time is spent. I wonder if another full time job would be any different, or if I'm looking for a full time job doing church work that would somehow allow me to do things with these other groups without as much fallout. Is there such a thing as the perfect life? Do any of us get to be all the things that we want to be?

Saturday, August 09, 2008

And they're off!

I admit it - I'm a complete sucker for the Olympics. I'm a big believer in the spirit of competition (just ask anyone who's ever played a game against me) and sense of global cooperation that seems to hang over the event. Yes, there are still all kinds of things going on around the world (don't get me started on the situations in Georgia, Darfur or Tibet), but whether it's a good thing or not, when the Olympics come around we try to put those conflicts aside and focus on one common event. It's like a gloabl Christmas - no matter what else is going on, you take a breather to celebrate this one thing and then when it's over you pick back up where you left off. Or maybe not.

I remember when they announced that China would be the host of this year's Olympics. At the time it seemed like it was ridiculously far off into the future, but here we are and I can't believe how the timing has worked out. The last four years have brought a lot of changes in China, only some of which were related to the Olympics. Nobody could have predicted the earthquake in Szechuan province or the way the global economy was shifting to mass production on a grand scale based out of Chinese factories. It's a bit cliche, but China really has been working at making it's place on the world stage and the Olympics are playing a big part in that.

I usually go to bed by 10 since I'm at work by 7:45 to greet volunteers in the morning, but last night I did everything I could to stay up and watch the opening ceremonies. I love the grandeur and massive undertaking that goes into the show and China definitely did not disappoint. 2008 drummers perfectly choreographed, a huge LED screen on the floor and a scrim that goes all the way around the stadium?! UNBELIEVABLE! I enjoy the Parade of Nations - getting to see the contingencies from nations I haven't always heard of dressed in a variety of costumes (the US dress wasn't anything notable this year) - but it does go on a long time and I ended up dozing off at one point. I made sure to perk myself back up for the Olympic torch - always one of my favorite parts because you never know what they're going to do. I remember getting tears in my eyes when Muhammed Ali lit the torch at the last US hosted Olympics, and with all that China had already put into the opening cermonies, I knew it was going to be good. I just didn't expect to see a man fly through the air and run in air around the whole stadium! It was very impressive and I absolutely love the torch design itself - modern yet keeping traditional elements. The pyrotechnics were at time a bit overwhelming (I guess they don't have many epileptics in China?) but beautiful and appropriate. This was a huge celebration!

I haven't gotten to watch any of the events today - I am at work after all and Saturday is hopping with Habitat - but I have heard about a knife attack on some family members of an American volleyball coach. Sad. And yet I don't blame China - it's not like they don't have security! There are other things I'll gladly point fingers at China for but for now I'm going to get sucked into the glitter and slick production that is the Olympics on American network tv. In three weeks I'll get back on my soapbox.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Something Old, Something New

Well, today is my last day as an AmeriCorps member working for Habitat for Humanity Kansas City. Next week I'll begin my new job as "Special Projects Coordinator" (or something like that - the details are still being worked out). In trying to process how I feel, it's a mixed bag. I'm excited that I'm staying with Habitat - it's a great organization and we're on the brink of big things around here. Next year is our 30th Anniversary and plans are swirling all around. We're in talks with new sponsors (thank you 105.1 JACK FM!), possible partner organizations and even with the city of Kansas City to try to get things going on a bigger level. It could be huge and I feel blessed to be here now, while all of these things are getting ready to happen. At the same time though, it's not really a new job since I've been here the last 10 months, and I wonder if I could have grown more somewhere else. I only applied for one other job (since this one was pretty much in the bag) and wonder if maybe I didn't sell myself short.

I'm looking at the positives: I know the people here and already have an idea of how I fit into the organization. I know the volunteers and Board members (except the new ones), and have a general idea of what I'll be doing and the direction we're looking for things to go. I'll still be working with the volunteers, but I'll also be focusing on a few special programs - the Speaker's Bureau, Cans for Habitat (our recycling program that raises money) and Youth United (our youth program which is definitely my weakest area - I'm not entirely sure I have a good concept of what we want this to be). I'm sure there will be more, but like I said the details are still getting worked out. It's enough familiar that I'm not worried but enough new that I'm going to be challenged. I think it could be really great. Now we just have to sort things out and let everyone else in the office know what's going on. :)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

AmeriCorps wind down

Well, next week is my last week of AmeriCorps service. As of July 22nd I'm officially done with 1700 hours of service to my country that didn't involve getting shot at or going to a hot, sandy foreign (although I have plenty of respect for people who take that route too). I've been working at Habitat for Humanity Kansas City since the end of August and now I have to figure out what comes next. Habitat KC may want to hire me but there are details that need to be worked out and I know that there are other options out there. We'll have to see what happens; the resume is polished and in writing my first cover letter since this term, I've been reflecting on all the things that I've learned and done this last 10 1/2 months.

Pointers to working with volunteers:
- They're busy, like we all are, so don't put too many expectations on them.
- They're wonderful people who want to make a difference in the world.
- They come in all sizes, shapes, colors, ages, abilities so you should be prepared to have something for anyone who walks thru the door.
- Communication is key! A volunteer can't know something unless you've told them clearly (and probably more than once since very few of us remember anything after hearing it only once).
- Put as much into writing as possible (i.e. position descriptions, meeting minutes, email conversations). It means things are available as a reference for later and it helps cover yourself if something comes up later.
- Say thank you. This can be done in a variety of ways (many free) but does a lot to let people know that you notice what they do and appreciate them.
- Keep people in the loop. Even people who can't come around as often as they'd like want to feel connected to what goes on and something like a newsletter keeps them involved.
- Potential new volunteers are everywhere and all around.
- If you are passionate about what you do, it will show and people will ask you about it and want to get involved as well.
- If there's something that you need/want, don't be afraid to ask. The worst that can happen is that they say no, but you never know who will say yes or give you information for someone else they know would like to do it.

Oh man! Looking over the list above, I sound like a BIG cliche. None of this is really anything we haven't heard before or even that I didn't know before I worked here, and yet none of it has felt so TRUE before. I really love what I do and hope I get to continue doing something like this for a long time.

Saturday, June 28, 2008


WOW! It has been quite a week here in Kansas City. One of my best friends moved to her first church job this week (good luck but I am going to miss the convenience of seeing you!), my mom was in town for a long weekend visit, and yesterday we had a group of 250 volunteers working on our construction sites at Habitat KC. I'm exhausted and can't wait for today to be done so I can just chill and let my brain and body take a breather! On the other hand, each of these events are very positive things and while I wish they could have been spaced out a little differently, it seems to just reinforce to me that there are wonderful things happening around us all the time if we choose to see them that way.

My friend moving away could be a sad thing if I focused on the fact that I won't be seeing her as often anymore ("Mandy Monday" will just have to occur less frequently with a long drive), but when I think about the fact that she is doing what she has been called to do and helping a new community of people live up to their calls as well, I can't help but be impressed, hopeful and encouraging.

My mom coming to visit could have been really stressful if I worried about the house being in good shape (we've had more plumbing problems and now a roof leak) or planning out what we were going to do the whole time she was here, but it wasn't like that. Her flight to get here was cancelled, so the airline put her on a later flight that arrived while I was at work, butI have a great boss who basically told me to just go pick her up anyway. So my mom get to spend the day at work with me! We drove around to all of the Habitat for Humanity Kansas City construction sites so she could see how much goes on for a typical Saturday. She got to meet some of our regular volunteers, a couple of the homeowner partners, and some of my coworkers. She also got some time to just sit and relax in my office reading her book while I worked on my email and database stuff. All in all I think she was impressed with what she saw and even made a donation before she left! We got to spend the rest of the weekend just doing whatever we felt like at the moment. One day we slept in late, sat around talking and went out to the Blue Koi for dinner. YUMMY! One day we visited the Steamboat Arabia museum which I have to admit was a lot bigger and better than I expected it to be! We cooked together, did a little shopping, a bit of talking, and yes there were some times where things around the house took priority (thank you to the Reddi Rooter guy who saved the day), but all in all we had great visit. My mom got to see our house (which she helped us buy), we spent lots of quality time together and I think she had a chance to relax that she doesn't get to do at home.

Then yesterday with the Skills USA group, things around the construction sites started off a bit chaotic. It's an amazing thing to have 250+ high school and college students working with one organization all at the same time, but all the more amazing when you think about the fact that they all came from all over the country and we usually deal with about 50 volunteers in one day. They have a national conference that's been coming to Kansas City annually for at least a few years now, and one day is a planned community service project. Timberland helps put the day together (a huge sponsor for the event) and it takes months of planning from all sides. We thought we had everything taken care of, but "the best laid plans..." One of our construction guys had to go to the ER when his pregnant wife had some problems, 2 of our volunteer leaders didn't show up, buses showed up earlier than expected, some dropped off more people than they were supposed to and others dropped people off at the wrong site. I think it was about 10:15 before we had everyone on a work site with something to do. There was a lot of driving around between sites and phone calls to get it all in place, but it happened. For about 2 hours there was a symphony of construction sounds all around as teams worked on a variety of tasks - building retaining walls, putting up siding, drywall, yard care, soffit, etc. Lunch was another bit of logistic challenge but everyone was fed and everyone was picked up and taken back to the convention with too many hiccups. Many of our staff and volunteers pitched in to make this day happen, and while there were some definite frustrating and stressful moments, at the end of the day we had accomplished quite a bit of work and the kids could see that clearly when they left.

I have no idea where this positive lense of mine came from - last night all I could think about was how tired I was and glad that it was all over. Today though, as I sit here in my office having just completed one more volunteer orientation, I can't help looking back on the last week and being awed at all of the things have gone on. There's a bit of pride in there, yes, but I also know that I was only a small part of much of it. I hope you can reflect on your week and feel a similar sort of satisfaction.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Monday morning

Unlike most people, I love Monday mornings. That song by the Mamas and the Papas is a classic, but I just don't share the senitment. That's probably because I don't work on Mondays - one of the things about working for Habitat where Saturdays are the busiest for me. Today I'm especially happy because I got thru church yesterday without any mishaps. YAY! :) I have a lot of people to thank for that and thought, "why not do it on my blog where they and other people will actually see it so they get the recognition?"

First of all, thank you to trouble for proofreading, bolstering my self esteem, reminding me to breathe and actually sitting thru church when I know there were at least 3 other places she would have preferred to be. I love you, honey!

Secondly, thank you to RevHipchick (she is no longer seminarymamma since she graduated almost a month ago). Not only is she one of my best friends, she's also a great ear for my sermons. This is not the first time that she's listened to my writing and offered great advice to make it a sermon I was okay claiming and proclaiming. She's also one of the people for whom I was filling in this week and had several conversations with me about all the detailed questions I had (because that's the kind of person I am). She walked me thru everything and helped me feel more comfortable, even taking the time to have a long phone call the night before while she was out of town. Thanks, chica!

Thirdly, I have to thank PastorRed since he was the one who actually asked me to cover Sunday morning. He's the interim pastor for this congregation and I know he's still finding his rhythm there. While he was going to be at annual conference he could have asked other people, including retired ministers in the congregation, to cover the pulpit. Not only did he ask me, he gave me time to mull it over. Believe me - I did not say I'd do this very quickly! Thank you for your patience and confidence in me. :)

Lastly, but no means leastly, thank you to the rest of you out there who offered advice, support, encouragement, etc. Some of you are in the blogosphere, some of you are personal friends here in KC or from OKC, and some are family members who are still figuring out how I of all people managed to become someone who would be seen as any kind of spiritual leader. I've always known that I had good people around me and it's in times like this that I'm most thankful for the community God has allowed me to build through the years.

I know some of you have asked what I was preaching about - the lectionary text was Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26 and then I added Hosea 6:1-6 since Jesus quotes it in the Matthew reading. For some reason this congregation generally is only using one text each week (which I have theological issues with, but I worked around it). If you want to read a copy of it, I can email it to you. Just leave me a comment or send me an email. The title was "What do you see?" and generally talked about how we're called to show each other love and mercy because that's what God has already done for us. A basic idea, but one that needs to be heard repeatedly. :)

Saturday, June 07, 2008


Tomorrow morning I get to play preacher and I'm SO nervous! It's always been amazing to me to think that I have the same seminary degree that many pastors receive in order to be ordained and yet I have never felt equal to them in a professional sort of way. There are probably several reasons for this, of course, but mostly I think it's because I've never really led a worship service in that kind of role. The only preaching I've done was for my preaching class - and I don't think anyone would say that I was stellar or a natural at it. Ask me to come talk to a group of people in an office about Habitat for Humanity, I'm fine - I'll even volunteer to do it. But ask me to preach to people and I get VERY anxious. I don't even want to pretend that I have any kind of authority more than the people in the pews. I don't have it and I don't want it - whether I claim it for myself or others bestow it on me. I think that's one of the fundamental flaws with a lot of organized religion - we always seem to be putting a hierarchy on it when I'm not convinced God sees things that way. The only thing I have on John & Jane Doe in the pews is that I've read some books that they maybe have not. And I know there are books that they've read that I have not.

So anyway, I bet you're wondering how I got into this position in the first place. Well, it's Annual Conference weekend here in Missouri which means that all the church leaders are meeting down in Springfield leaving the rest of us to fend for ourselves. Churches all across the state are using "guest preachers" from among the masses of retired clergy, students who aren't yet a part of the conference on an official level, or other oddballs like myself that don't necessarily fit into a neat category. I'm seminary trained but not officially connected to this conference. I haven't been commissioned as a Deaconess yet (hopefully in April that will happen), and even then I will basically get a nod of recognition from the Bishop before claiming my seat on the conference floor. That's one of the cool things about it - I work as a part of the Annual Conference in which I serve, but my "chain of command" it actually outside of the conference hierarchy and lies with the General Board of Global Ministry. So, with no church position and no obligation to attend annual conference, two friends of mine who work at the same church (one as associate minister and one as interim pastor) asked if I would fill in for them while they're gone. I wanted to say no, but there was a part of me that thought, "No, you should do this. You don't get the chance very often and it will be good experience for you. You can grow from this." I dragged my feet on making a decision for about a week and a half before I said yes. And I've regretted it ever since.

Filling in for the pastor and associate is more than just writing the sermon - why didn't I think about that before?! I'm supposed to say prayers and lead activities that I've never had to do before (and in my Catholic upbringing, I never thought I would). I'm the one people will look up to to know when to sit or stand, when to say Amen, etc. and I'm not sure that I have a clue what I'm doing. It's not like I haven't been to church before, but I've never really paid that much attention to what it would be like to be the pastor. My only saving grace is that this is a small church, and when we've been there in the past to support our friends, everyone has been very friendly. I think they know that this isn't something I normally do and will be very gracious. I know that after the fact I'll be able to laugh about it, but right now I'm just dreading tomorrow morning. I know we've got some pastors out there - any advice for me?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Carter Work Project reflections

Now that I've been back at work for almost a week, the bruises and scratches are healing and I feel like I can talk a little bit about the experienceI had last week. To put it succinctly, it was amazing! There were people from all over the world that came together in several sites along the Gulf Coast to work on housing projects contributing to the rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. I spent the week in Biloxi doing what they call a "build blitz" -an entire new house done in a week. Well, it was actually only mostly done by the end of the week - rain the two last days slowed up down and there were some timing issues with contractors that delayed our work inside the house but we did manage to get the exterior completely done in the 5 days we had which was still pretty amazing.

I haven't gone thru my pictures yet, but will put some up eventually. Instead, I have a link to my appearance on the local news in Mississippi. Please keep in mind that this was the 4th day out on site, it had been raining all morning and I never got more than 5 hours sleep each night I was there. Do not get blinded by my beauty - HAH! I never like to see myself in pictures (or on tv) but I have to say that I'm fairly happy with my ability to sound somewhat intelligent and not come off as completely ridiculous.

My house crew was really great - mostly AmeriCorps members from other Habitat affiliates all over the country (and mostly folks who work on the construction sites every day), but also some folks from the Biloxi area and other volunteers. Oddly enough, I had one volunteer on my crew who was from Kansas City - and she's actually come to my office and been thru our volunteer orientation before! We chuckled about that and had a great time the first few days while she and her daughter were there. One of the really cool things about my site was that we had some executives from one of the big casino/hotels in town out on the site. We had no idea who they were - everyone was just working on getting the house done and getting along great until lunch time on the first rainy day and all of a sudden a large number of fresh hot pizzas were delivered to the site. It turned out that one of our guys was actually the CEO of the hotel and he bought lunch for everyone! I did feel a little bad that the other sites watched us eating pizza while they were still waiting for the Salvation Army to deliver their lunches, but it was so good!

The other really cool thing about this project was getting to see Jimmy & Rosalyn Carter working alongside everyone and bringing all of these amazing people together. There was a lot of work that went into coordinating this project and everyone was very humble and made sure to include everyone else in the credit for it all. Jimmy & Rosalynn came around to all of the work sites and took pictures with each crew (I can't wait to see that one), and we got DVD's of the opening and closing ceremonies as well as a "week in review" montage that had some great shots of John Edwards, Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, and lots of other folks who were a part of the project. I know there was tons of stuff I didn't get to see or do (including going over to Gulfport to see what Gulfside Assembly looks like currently) but I felt like I did get to a part of something amazing. Next year's Carter project will be in China/Thailand/Cambodia area - another multi-site project which sounds like it would be an incredible experience. Anyone want to sponsor me to go? How about coming along?

Friday, May 09, 2008

Going to Biloxi - thoughts before I go

This is the beginning of Habitat's busy season and things are really hopping. I can't believe how much goes on each day at this place and it's made me realize just how much I've learned since September when I started here, and yet how much I still have to figure out. We've gotten to the point where we are turning volunteers away because we just don't have enough work sites for them to all work on! Our Saturdays have been booked up for groups for months and are booked all the way thru the fall - which amazes me. And yet, in the middle of all of this business, I'm going on a trip next week. :)

All AmeriCorps members who are serving with Habitat for Humanity get together in the Spring for a big project. It's a little different each year, but this year we're a part of the Jimmy & Rosalyn Carter Work Project. I'm hoping that we get to meet the man himself and perhaps get an autograph! As far as I can tell from the information I've received up to this point, we're going to be doing a lot of work in several places. Some of it is going to be rehabbing homes that were damaged in the hurricanes but salvageable and some of it will be new construction. I'm excited that I'm going to be on one of the construction teams - it will be very different than my usual office position and I can definitely use some sun! Of course, the hours will be crazy (up very early and hopefully not staying up too late) and we'll be staying in a casino hotel since those are the only places big enough to hold all of us in that area. Oh, the irony! The humidity and heat will be considerable but I'm bringing sunscreen and aloe vera gel just in case.

While the luggage and packing list is prepared, I'm not sure that my spirit and emotions are prepared for this trip. I've been down to Louisiana a couple of time to do hurricane relief work and it was disheartening both times to see how little had been done in the time since the storms. It's been more than a year since my last trip and I haven't been to Mississippi before but I have a special connection to Gulfport (which is near Biloxi and one of the areas where we'll be working) and am dreading seeing its current condition. When I made the decision to become a Deaconess in the UMC, I was at a Deaconess Convocation held at Gulfside Assembly, a conference center right on the water that had previously been a church center for the use of African-Americans when the church was segregated. It was a beautiful, spiritual place and I heard it was completely washed away by Katrina (the most recent news I've seen is this article). I want to see and yet I dare not look - like a car accident or Ground Zero in NYC. What is it that compels us to go to these places and stare at the debris and gruesome remnants? I'm going on this trip and am going to do what I can as a part of a tremendous project, but it's not enough. Gulfside is a project of the church and is responsible for finding its own volunteers rather than using groups from other agencies and projects. Who will rebuild them? Perhaps someday I can go back on my own...

Friday, April 18, 2008

BAD Playgrounds

I'm on a new email list that gives out some pretty interesting information. Today's is a link to a blog site February posting that shows pictures of nightmare playgrounds from around the world. You have to see them for yourself, but I think my favorite pictures are of 2 elephant slides where kids come out the rear end of the animal. What are some people thinking when they come up with this stuff?!?! Of course, I've been to a playground here in KC where kids climb all over some animals, including penguins, but it wasn't quite this disturbing... Have anything that comes close to this stuff? I'd love to hear about it!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Easy Ways to Help

In the midst of yet another busy day here at Habitat KC, I wanted to pass along some information that I got about a great website. I have links on the side of this blog for places you can go to click on a button and donate food for hungry, books for literacy programs, save some rainforest, etc. but this one has a little twist. It's called Free Rice and it donates 20 grains of rice for each vocabulary question you answer correctly. I know not everyone is a word person, but it's great way to learn some new words (which may help you in ways you've not yet realized - Balderdash anyone?) and feed the hungry thru the UN Food Program at the same time. Check it out here.

Do you know of some other really good websites that you help worth causes with the click of a button? Share them with me! Maybe I'll make some new links...

Monday, April 07, 2008

Spring Fever

I've been a blog slacker and just wanted to take a few minutes on my day off to let you know I'm still here. :) Spring is almost here - thank God - and I find that there's too much to do and not enough times to do it in. The gardening bug has struck hard with the warmer weather and the fact that I now have a yard to tend. Trouble and I have been having a lot of fun with that! I promise I'll write more later - too much to do for now!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Crying for Oklahoma

I haven't lived in Oklahoma City for about 4 1/2 years now and I have to say I don't really miss it. I have a lot of really good friends there and I miss them, but this story goes a long way in explaining the atmosphere that I am glad I left behind. Representative Sally Kern, serving a distrcit in Oklahoma City, made some remarks recorded in a video that was placed on YouTube referring to the "homosexual agenda" and calling it a worse threat to this country than terrorism. For an in depth look at the story, including a link to the video and comments from some various OK residents you can go to Channel 9's website here. I don't know who this woman is - she isn't anyone I recall from my residency there - but her comments are beyond appalling. To liken homosexuality (and whatever our "agenda" is) to terrorism is dangerous and inflamatory. And she's basing this ideology on her Christian faith. ARGH! How is such hate filled speech Christian? When did Jesus say or do anything like this to ANY group of people? I'm so tired of my faith getting hijacked by people like this and then Christianity getting a bad rap.

Fortunately, there are other people who are willing to stand up to people like this and try to represent a different brand of Christianity. I received a copy of this letter in an email from a friend who still lives in OKC. It was also posted in the comments section on channel 9's website coverage -

Rep Kern:
On April 19, 1995, in Oklahoma City a terrorist detonated a bomb that killed my mother and 167 others. 19 children died that day. Had I not had the chicken pox that day, the body count would likely have included one more. Over 800 other Oklahomans were injured that day and many of those still suffer through their permanent wounds.
That terrorist was neither a homosexual or was he involved in Islam. He was an extremist Christian forcing his views through a body count. He held his beliefs and made those who didn't live up to them pay with their lives.
As you were not a resident of Oklahoma on that day, it could be explained why you so carelessly chose words saying that the homosexual agenda is worse than terrorism. I can most certainly tell you through my own experience that is not true. I am sure there are many people in your voting district that laid a loved one to death after the terrorist attack on Oklahoma City. I kind of doubt you'll find one of them that will agree with you.
I was five years old when my mother died. I remember what a beautiful, wise, and remarkable woman she was. I miss her. Your harsh words and misguided beliefs brought me to tears, because you told me that my mother's killer was a better person than a group of people that are seeking safety and tolerance for themselves.
As someone left motherless and victimized by terrorists, I say to you very clearly you are absolutely wrong.
You represent a district in Oklahoma City and you very coldly express a lack of love, sympathy or understanding for what they've been through. Can I ask if you might have chosen wiser words were you a real Oklahoman that was here to share the suffering with Oklahoma City? Might your heart be a bit less cold had you been around to see the small bodies of children being pulled out of rubble and carried away by weeping firemen?
I've spent 12 years in Oklahoma public schools and never once have I had anyone try to force a gay agenda on me. I have seen, however, many gay students beat up and there's never a day in school that has went by when I haven't heard the word **** slung at someone. I've been called gay slurs many times and they hurt and I am not even gay so I can just imagine how a real gay person feels. You were a school teacher and you have seen those things too. How could you care so little about the suffering of some of your students?
Let me tell you the result of your words in my school. Every openly gay and suspected gay in the school were having to walk together Monday for protection. They looked scared. They've already experienced enough hate and now your words gave other students even more motivation to sneer at them and call them names. Afterall, you are a teacher and a lawmaker, many young people have taken your words to heart. That happens when you assume a role of responsibility in your community. I seriously think before this week ends that some kids here will be going home bruised and bloody because of what you said.
I wish you could've met my mom. Maybe she could've guided you in how a real Christian should be acting and speaking. I have not had a mother for nearly 13 years now and wonder if there were fewer people like you around, people with more love and tolerance in their hearts instead of strife, if my mom would be here to watch me graduate from high school this spring. Now she won't be there. So I'll be packing my things and leaving Oklahoma to go to college elsewhere and one day be a writer and I have no intentions to ever return here. I have no doubt that people like you will incite crazy people to build more bombs and kill more people again. I don't want to be here for that. I just can't go through that again.
You may just see me as a kid, but let me try to teach you something. The old saying is sticks and stones will break your bones, but words will never hurt you. Well, your words hurt me. Your words disrespected the memory of my mom. Your words can cause others to pick up sticks and stones and hurt others.

Wow. Thank you, Tucker, for expressing what I (and I'm sure others) are feeling in response to Rep. Kern's words.

In one last comment, I'd also like to point out that Rep. Kern has been getting many email and phone messages since these comments were put on YouTube - some of which were threatening. While I think her comments were extremely offensive and just plain wrong, I think that death threats are just as wrong. Someday we need to learn how to not immediately retaliate, but take a deep breath and find a better way to handle things. Rep. Kern isn't the only person who feels the way she does about homosexuality, and we can't go around physically harming or threatening those who don't think like we do. When will we learn? How can we do it? What do you folks in OK think about all of this? Has it been a big deal in OKC? I have to say that I hadn't heard much about it here in Kansas City.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Money, money, money

Some of you may have the theme song used on "The Apprentice" in your head; others may have Abba going through theirs. Either way, the theme for this article is moolah, dough, dollars, bucks, the bottom line. Now that I've been working in the non-profit world it has become that much more apparent to me how much money impacts lives. I get disgusted when I think how much we have to have money and the fact that those people who have a lot of it get more power because of it. I LOVE working at Habitat for Humanity Kansas City and they like having me. They want to hire me, but question whether they can because of what?? MONEY. AmeriCorps is funding my current position (through the federal government) and I'm eligible to work a second term thru them, but our positions for next year haven't been approved yet - why?? MONEY. (The new federal budget has majorly cut funding to the CNCS which is over AmeriCorps - which means the entire Habitat for Humanity AmeriCorps program is in jeopardy affecting Habitat chpaters all over the US - to read more about it & take action go here.) We have several potential partners who want to work with our office to build houses but in the tightening economy companies aren't sure they can donate that kind of cash while they're cutting jobs. Others will only come on board if they know that some other group is going to commit. Meanwhile we have families lined up and ready for their homes to be built and wehave to tell them we're not sure it will happen this year because of MONEY.

I've never been a big fan of money - I understand that it's necessary to get those things that we need to live, but I hate the way it often motiviates people to do things that are, in my mind, unethical or in humane. It drives me crazy that people who have a lot of money get to decide which organizations are worth funding while others disappear despite the work they were attempting to do. All I want is to have a job that gives me enough money to buy food, live in a house that's not too big, have a car that works well, pay my utilities and occasionally got out to eat or do something fun. I don't care about having a big vacation to Europe (although it would be nice) - I can take some days off and go camping. I just hate that in order for my organization to function, or for me to have a job in a few months, I'm need to kiss up to people who have the money and therefore decide whether it should happen or not.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Leap for Leap Year

I don't know why but I love Leap Year - there's something very cool about having an extra day in the year! Now I don't know how they came up with putting this day in February (let's face it, 29 days still doesn't make it even with the other months throughout the year) rather than say, June, when we have the sunlight and fabulous weather to truly take advantage of it, but it's still cool. And I guess the fact that it's on a Friday this year is something worth celebrating - I've heard of a couple of businesses offering Leap year parties and special events around town. I don't know if it's really that big a deal or if it's just another reason for a bar to host a party and bring in more people, but I kind of like the idea of celebrating something that isn't a Hallmark holiday. Or maybe this is being viewed as a warm up for St. Patrick's Day (which is a pretty big deal here in Kansas City, MO). I'm probably not going to actually celebrate Leap year with anything special. Fridays are still in the middle of my work week after all. But I think it's a fun idea. HAPPY LEAP YEAR - I hope you get to do something grand with your extra day this year. :)

Saturday, February 16, 2008


I'm sick of winter.
I'm sick of snow.
I'm sick of cloudy days.
I'm sick of coughing.
I'm sick of blowing my nose.
I'm sick.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Lenten Friday Five

I've been out of the loop on Friday Five's lately, but thought I'd jump in on this one since it's a pretty slow morning here at Habitat Kansas City.

Mother Laura asks:
1. Did you celebrate Mardi Gras and/or Ash Wednesday this week? How?
Not really, no. I totally forgot that Lent was starting so soon and, like most of the media, got caught up in the election stuff instead. I guess you could say I celebrated Mardi Gras by voting on Super Tuesday

2. What was your most memorable Mardi Gras/Ash Wednesday/Lent?
I don't know if memorable is the term I'd put to it, but the year I gave up chocolate was very hard for me. It was one of the years I was in college and it seemed like there was chocolate everywhere! A former Catholic, my Protestant friends kept informing me that Sundays don't count in the 40 days of Lent, so it was okay to indulge that one day a week, but that seemed to defeat the purpose so I didn't give in. It did make Easter that much more of a big deal when I got to make myself sick on chocolate bunnies.

3. Did you/your church/your family celebrate Lent as a child? If not, when and how did you discover it? Yes, my family always did the Lent thing. We were Catholic, although not too terribly hard core. My parents fasted for Ash Wednesday and Good Friday (but were told that wasn't appropriate for us kids) and we always had meatless Fridays for Lent. Even my school always served pizza on Fridays and during Lent there would always be a cheese only option (although many people ate pepperoni without thinking about it) - and this was PUBLIC school.

4. Are you more in the give-up camp, or the take-on camp, or somewhere in between? I guess I'd have to say the give-up camp - force of habit. I have taken things on a few years to try something different, and one year it went REALLY well. I wrote a note to a member of my family or a close friend each day to tell them why they were important to me. Several people called me when they received theirs and thanked me for bringing joy to their day.

5. How do you plan to keep Lent this year? Well, like I said before, I was sucked in to the political stuff this week and totally forgot it was coming. Then it snowed on Ash Wednesday cancelling the morning church service I was going to attend so it's really all out the window. I've been staying away from my church lately (for a variety of reasons), so I don't really know what to do with it this year. Maybe I'm giving up Lent this year.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Who does the tax rebate benefit?

There's been a lot of talk lately about the economy and ways that the govt. is working to stimulate us out of a possible recession. I'm not an economics expert by any means, but I can't help wondering exactly how this rebate thing is supposed to help in the long run. I know that I have credit card debt (from buying a new house and Christmas) that I need to pay off and when I get my rebate check, that's where it will be going. How does that help the economy? The credit card company isn't racking up more interest and I didn't spend that money on more crap I don't need from WalMart (not that I EVER shop at WalMart if I can help it). I know most people are probably going to use that money like they do their tax refunds - go buy that big screen tv they've been eyeing or go out to that new restaurant that's been getting so much attention or whatever, but I can't help wondering if that's the best thing to do with it.

I've really been trying to apply a theory of moderation to lots of things in my life - eating in moderation, tv in moderation, etc. and spending is one of those big areas where I know there's room for impovement. I found a website on Simple Living that I really like. It talks about the idea that we can all get by on less than we think we can and how it's responsible (to the environment and to each other) to not buy everything we're told we should have. I think it's great concept but one that isn't easy to live out. They have books they recommend reading, local groups that meet, shopping practices, etc. They also have a particular campaign right now - Don't Buy It - about the ways in which your rebate can be used in ways that are beneficial but not what the government is banking on. If we all continue to go out and buy that SUV, big screen tv, and the latest DVD's, sooner or later we run out of money, space and natural resources. There has to be a limit to our voracious consumption, and that limit could be our own fatality.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Newsworthy News?

I listen to NPR quite a bit. Since I'm driving to/from work roughly the same time each day Tuesday thru Saturday, I'm usually listening to Morning Edition and All Things Considered, two of NPR's flagship programs that mainly deal with news stories. They're longer than a 30 minute TV newscast so they usually go into a little more detail than just a teaser and a couple of sentences, but it always amazes me to hear the types of stories they have - not just how long they are. Of course they, like everyone else, are covering the presidential primaries and the crazy weather across the US, but they also have other stories that I hardly hear mentioned elsewhere. They talked about the situation in Sudan (Darfur) before it made headlines with famous people taking up the cause. This morning I heard another story that caused me to think about a different region of Africa.

story is about Congo and talks about the number of deaths that have gone on there since the civil war in 1998. That war has been over since 2002 but people continue to die in large numbers that now total well over 5 million. The genocide in Rwanda and the recent political conflicts in Kenya are things we've heard more about in this country, but there's been little, if any, coverage of Congo. Why?

The story talks about some of the reasons - these people are dying slower, quiet deaths from things like malaria and malnutrition - the results of the fall out from the war as opposed to direct, traumatic deaths. When the tsunami hit, it was massive and sudden and got headlines all over the world. The situation in Congo is drawn out and lacks powerful photographs that grab your attention. Another reason is simple economics; the US doesn't have any economic or political interest in Congo. I'd imagine another reason is simply that tv newscasts are looking for ratings and only have so much time to tell the stories that are going to draw in viewers.

Why do you watch the news? Are there certain stories that you want to or don't want to see? Have you changed the channel to see a newscast that was telling a story you cared about more than the previous channel's?

I always think that I'm watching the news (or listening to the news) to learn more about what's going on in the world. But when I tune in to a newscast or a radio news show, I'm trusting the people who put that show together to decide on my behalf which stories are worth being included. Can I trust them to show me the stories that are truly important? As a Christian and a humanitarian I can't bear to hear stories of en masse suffering, and I know that if I really knew about what was going on everywhere, it would be overwhelming. A person can only take so much in before you either get desensitized or you shut down (which was part of the reason I could work 911 only 4.5 years), so how do we determine when something becomes newsworthy? When is it too big to ignore?

Saturday, January 05, 2008

To be or not to be commissioned

Well, I missed the first Friday Five of the new year, but I'm not much for New Year's resolutions - I rarely keep them and they're usually the same things every year anyway. This is the end of the first week of the New Year and I'm in a bit of a quandry about getting commissioned as a Deaconess. This is something I started working on several years ago, but now that it may finally be completed, I'm not feeling so sure.

Over the last 4 years as I've been in seminary, I've constantly had to explain the path I was on - who the deaconesses are and what kind of work I thought my call was leading me to do. When I went to my discernment event, there was a moment where things just clicked - I felt like I had found my niche, a place where I fit in within the institutional church (just on the fringe of that institution because nobody really knows what to do with them). I had women telling about their roles in various wars, and tips on things to do when protesting the govt (don't bring ID and make up and a name so it can't come back to haunt you later) - they were amazing!

Yet now that I've had to answer more questions in print and sign my name on the definite "yes" line, I'm having second thoughts. I still have total respect for what deaconesses and home missioners do and I'd still be working in the non-profit world no matter what else I did. I'm not really sure where the uncertainty comes from. I think part of it is questioning whether to become a part of the institution at all. And if I get commissioned, that means I'm forever turning my back on ordination. Just because the church won't ordain me now, doesn't mean they won't 15 years from now. But do I want to be ordained? I know I don't want to be a pastor, but I think the role of a Deacon would be a real possibility. Still, the differences between Deacon and deaconess are up for debate. How much different is commissioning than ordination as a Deacon? In the end I think the only difference is how it gets seen in the hierarchy - a hierachy I don't really want any part of anyway! There's much more respect in the church for someone who is ordained than commissioned, and regardless of what they say for the record, deacons are seen and treated as a secondary level of ordination (they don't get appointments, health care benefits, pensions, etc.). I want respect. I have an MDiv and think I've earned the right to be respected on the same level as my peers who have simply chosen to become pastors. But that title makes a lot of difference. I don't want it to be that way and I don't want to care. I wish I could just do what I feel like I need to do and leave everyone else's opinions out of it.