Saturday, September 15, 2012

First Impressions: Seminary

Sometimes I still can't believe that I'm in seminary. These past few weeks haven't felt real. I don't really know how to describe it. I've never been in classes before that opened with prayer and the professors actually wanted to hear our opinions & thoughts. When I was in undergrad at Trinity, I felt like the professors just asked us questions to make sure that we had done the readings. Granted- when the subject one studies is accounting, there really isn't much room for interpretation and opinion. That's how companies end up with fraudulent accounting and suspect business practices.

I am currently enrolled in 4 classes: Pilgrimage in Faithfulness (PIF), Intro to Biblical Studies, History Survey 1 and Sexual & Domestic Violence. PIF is a course that all entering first-year seminarians are required to take. We are going to discuss subjects like baptism, communion, etc. From my understanding, the course is designed to not only orient us with the other opinions and viewpoints that our classmates bring, but to also make us evaluate what we ourselves believe. Intro to Biblical Studies is just that...and introductory course to studying the Bible from an academic lens. This is not the most exciting of courses, but I know that it is going to be invaluable for me since I only took 2 "religion" courses in college: Old Testament and World Religions. Neither of which taught me how to write an exegetical paper (a critical study and evaluation of biblical text). History Survey 1 is the first of 2 required Christian history classes that I need to take. So far it has been fun to learn about the early Christians!

Sexual & Domestic Violence (SDV) is my "fun" course for the semester. I think the best advice I received from my advisor & other McCormick students was to register for a course that I actually wanted to take vs a course that is required. Instead of Greek, I chose to register for SDV. For those of you who don't know, I took a course on international human trafficking when I studied abroad in Copenhagen. Although the class material was upsetting and disturbing, the information I learned is invaluable. These things (human trafficking & sexual and domestic violence) happen and extremely prevalent in our society. When they are not discussed, the issues do not go away. Instead we are just ignorant to them and people around us get hurt. I know I have more to say on this topic, but that is a different post for another day. For now, I'll just say this: sexual and domestic violence happens to people across political lines, sexual orientation, ethnicity, economic status, religious beliefs, and education. The victims of domestic violence should never be blamed. Men are not the dominant partner in the typical heterosexual marriage and clergy should never tell someone to put their marriage before their own personal safety or the well being of a child.

On a more positive note, I love living in Hyde Park. I actually feel at home here. Lately I came to the realization that if I do not feel at home somewhere, it is hard for me to adjust and enjoy new experiences. That was one of my biggest roadblocks to overcome while at Trinity. I lived in San Antonio for 4 years, but I never grew to think of it as home. Likewise, even though I lived in my YAV house for an entire year, it was never a place that I felt comfortable, relaxed and safe. Unfortunately, these times in my life were also times of immense personal growth. It was an emotional and spiritual struggle that was only increased by my feeling of displacement. I am so thankful that McCormick is an open, welcoming, and affirming community. I have already made some great friends and I am looking forward to the next 3 years with a positive & optimistic outlook. I am excited to learn and discern God's call alongside these amazing people! 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Friday Favorites: Week 2

This has been a busy week! I started off the week in San Diego, CA visiting Rebecca. She is awesome and I had a really great time. We went to the beach, which was awesome because my ideal vacation revolves around spending time at the beach. While we were there, we saw the biggest waves! Ok, they were probably only 6-8 feet tall, but I have never been in the ocean with waves that large. It was a really interesting/terrifying experience. Rebecca and I also watched all of Downton Abbey: Season 2 when I was visiting. It was awesome. :) And we went to the Titanic exhibit at the San Diego Natural History Museum. It was a lot of fun--especially if you enjoy looking at old things that have been eroded way under the ocean for 100 years. Balboa Park is one of those iconic San Diego landmarks (think Air & Space Museum, the San Diego Zoo, etc). I love visiting the park even for a short while.

I have done quite a lot of packing/cleaning/purging of my room the past few days. That was one of the reasons for the trip home. However, it has been really weird going through all of my old things! I came across a lot of old trinkets that reminded me of middle school, TAMS, high school & the first 2 years of college that I seem to have forgotten in my old age. It was both nostalgic and therapeutic to clean it all.

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Favorite Charity: Locks of Love
They estimate that 80% of their donations come from kids wanting to help other kids with cancer.
photo credit: locksoflove.org
Favorite Pin (one I am most likely to actually do...): Pineapple plant!
DIY of the day! Did you know that you can simply plant the top of a pineapple in a pot and grow another?
(via Planting A Pineapple — Tickled Red - StumbleUpon)
photo credit:  http://modcloth.tumblr.com

Favorite Thing I'm looking forward to in Chicago: The Doughnut Vault 
This place is THE BEST! Seriously...you need to go here ASAP. I don't care if you don't live in Chicago. They have specials every week--the birthday cake one is my favorite!
Doughnut Vault Specials Calendar for 8.14.12- 8.18.12

Coming up we’ve got the roasted almond glazed doughnut for our Tuesday special. And on Wednesday is the bright blueberry old fashioned. Thursday we’re doing double chocolate yellow cake, oh yeah! And Friday is the Mocha glazed with coco nibs— perfect with a cup of $1 coffee. And then Saturday is birthday cake, because it’s our favorite doughnut gal’s birthday, so be sure to wish her a happy one if you’re in the vault on Saturday.
photo credit: thedoughnutvault.tumblr.com

Favorite Late Night Snack: Pistachio Almond Bluebell Ice Cream
photo credit:  http://bluebellreview.blogspot.com/

Oh.my.gosh. This candle is my favorite, and it is currently on sale on the website. I hope you all know that I am showing extreme financial restraint for not buying any!!
Frosted Cupcake 14.5 oz. 3-Wick Candle - Slatkin & Co. - Bath & Body Works
photo credit: bathandbodyworks.com

Favorite TV Show: Downton Abbey
 I don't even know where to begin. This show enthralls me. I love the characters, plot and set. The scenery is amazing. I go in to a weird trance when I watch this show and don't want to do anything else. If you haven't already seen this show, you need to stop what you are doing and watch it. Season 1 is available on Netflix & I know that Season 2 in on Amazon Prime. Both of these things have 30-day trials...which is plenty of time for you to watch both!
Click to watch a preview
photo credit:  http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/downtonabbey/season2.html 

Favorite BBQ Joint: Hammond's BBQ
If you live anywhere near Glen Rose, TX then you need to check out Hammond's!

photo credit: the amazing Janalyn from 8twenty8 Studios

Friday, August 10, 2012

Friday Favorites- Week 1

Good morning! One of my favorite things to do on Friday is read all of the Friday Favorites blog entries. Since I am also a blogger & love Friday, I thought I would jump on the bandwagon. 

Favorite Song: My House by: The O'My's (a Chicago band!)


Favorite Recipe: Grilled Ratatouille Pasta 


Favorite Photo: Port Issac, Cornwall
Aerial photo of Port Isaac, from Facebook, August 2012

Favorite Quote: 
Discovery consists not in seeking new lands, but in seeing with new eyes. ~ Marcel Proust

Favorite Snack: Peaches


Favorite Rant: NBC's treatment of the Olympics




Favorite Thing to Watch: The Olympics!!


Favorite Customer Service Moment: Amazon.com's customer service is ah-mazing! 
Seriously. My Kindle was broken & they were shipping me a new one (which is awesome). But then I realized on Monday that they were mailing it to Chicago...when I am currently in Texas! Yikes! But I called, explained the situation, and they shipped me a new one to Texas that day. It is especially nice since I am flying to San Diego to visit Rebecca today & I hate flying without my Kindle.

Ultimate Favorite: Today I am flying out to San Diego to visit Rebecca!! :)

Monday, July 30, 2012

July Devotion

Text for this reflection | Luke 21:1–4
Reflection 
While reading this short passage of Jesus witnessing the poor woman’s offering, I am reminded of a scene I myself witnessed just a few days ago. I was waiting for the bus when I saw a homeless man ask three young women for some money to buy food. They handed him change from their pocket, which could not have been more than a dollar or so. They were holding takeout boxes from the restaurant they had just left but did not offer them to this man. As they walked off with huge smiles on their faces, I felt myself becoming upset with these women. It was obvious to anyone watching this take place that they felt righteous in their actions. To me, it seemed like they hadn’t really done anything! What good does a few pennies do when you could afford to give so much more or something else more valuable—your time?
While reading this story in Luke and reflecting on what I witnessed, I realized that I was in the wrong for judging what someone else gave. Although I am able to donate my time to help those less fortunate than myself, that does not mean I am given free rein to judge others. I think this short passage is a healthy reminder that we all should give as we are able to and remember that it is not up to us to decide what another can or should give. Just as the rich men in the reading for today probably deemed the poor woman’s offering as unworthy or not enough, I was judging someone else’s offering without truly knowing their story.
Prayer 
Almighty God, you alone know what is in our hearts. You alone know what we are truly able to give. Always I pray that you may guide my actions. Grant me the wisdom to give as I can and the grace to accept others’ donations of resources or time without judgment. Amen.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

4th of July Reflections


In our reading for today is Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist. For some reason, the image of Jesus being baptized brings to mind the children I see playing in the water gushing from broken fire hydrants. I think that if Jesus was to come to Chicago today, he would not be baptized in Lake Michigan, but instead on the street from the water of a broken fire hydrant. Because the neighborhoods of broken fire hydrants need Jesus’ ministry…all places need the message of love, but I believe these broken neighborhoods could use a little extra help. I read in the news today that there were 15 people were shot between the hours of 5:30 pm and 11:30 pm yesterday. One of the people shot was a little girl…just trying to cool off in the stream of water from a broken fire hydrant.

Tonight, all across the country people are celebrating the 4th of July. But I am having a hard time mustering up my “Go America” attitude. Right now there are people shooting off fireworks all around my house. They are beautiful, but they sound like gunshots to me. 250 people have died due to a gun shot wound. Sure, some of them might be gang related, but that doesn’t mean those men/women/boys/girls deserved to be shot. When will the violence end and freedom begin? How is the west-side, south-side and north-side of Chicago any different than the 3rd world countries we read about in the news?

In her reflection of today’s reading, Donna Gray wrote, “Jesus said that he was the good shepherd and that the sheep would know his voice. In fact people who know sheep husbandry explain that sheep do know and will follow the voice of their good shepherd. They know the difference between the voice of their shepherd and another who might lead them to places other than the paths of righteousness. I love Jesus' words, for they ring true.”

Her words made me think: Where are we in the midst of this violence? Are we following Jesus’ words or are we choosing to be baptized in Lake Michigan instead of the broken fire hydrants of Chicago. What can I do to help stop this senseless violence?

I celebrated the 4th of July by having lunch with Kiva, Potts, Jana (Kiva’s old roommate from college who is visiting) & Rachel (a girl from Grinnell College who is interning at 4th this summer & I was worried she wouldn’t have any fun plans!). I grilled sausages & made salad, corn on the cob, baked beans & peach cobbler for dessert! My salad was a red, white & blue salad. It has been my favorite salad for the past few days—strawberries, blue berries, goat cheese, balsamic vinaigrette, cashews and spinach/arugula. YUM! You need to make this salad ASAP if you know what’s good for you. Then Kiva, Jana and I went to a White Sox game. They played the Rangers & it was a really fun game! (Chicago won btw in case you were wondering) Then I came home to make today’s daily video and wrote the reflection above. Tomorrow is back to work as usual.

Sorry for the downer of a blog post. I truly am eternally grateful for those who sacrifice their lives to defend our country. I thank God every day for Rebecca, Alex, & their peers. And I hope that everyone had a blessed day.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Post-Workcamp Reflection

I was asked to give a reflection of my workcamp experience on Sunday. The Senior Highs led the 4:00 worship service at Fourth & the sermon was us reading our reflections. So, here is my reflection on the workcamp. I might post more information regarding my experience at a later date, but for now, this is it. Below is a picture of our group. If you want to watch reflections by the youth & see pictures of our work during the week, go like the Senior High's Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/seniorhighs. You should also like the Housing Development Alliance's facebook page & view our photo's on their page 
The group in our fancy orange t-shirts in front of 1st Presbyterian of Hazard, KY

Hello! My name is Sarah Bennett and I work here at Fourth Church, normally with the middle school youth. During our week in Hazard, Kentucky, we all learned different things, but what stuck out to me most was that this week was a lesson in patience. It seems almost every day there was something that required patience. We had to be patient in the van during the 8-hour long van ride to Kentucky, with other members of our workcamp on and off the worksites, during meal preparation time,  & with ourselves while learning new skills at the worksites.

The adult leaders were assigned to the same worksite for all 4 of the work days. I was at the house that was the closest to being completed. When we first arrived to the house on Monday, it still looked very much like a construction zone. The walls were bare and the floors were just plywood. By the time we left on Thursday, all of the walls had been painted, the flooring was down, the kitchen cabinets were installed and the interior doors were going up. Although we were not doing anything as major as re-doing the roof of a house, our job was still very important, as we helped put the finishing touches on someones home.

Alison, the other adult leader at the worksite, and I were especially lucky because we were able to get to know the homeowner during our time working on her house. Talking with Robyn reminded me that patience is important. Its ok with Robyn that her house is taking twice as long to construct because unskilled volunteers are doing a lot of the work alongside the carpenters. The important thing is that her house is being constructed!

Even though our lives only crossed for a short period of time, Robyns stories and attitude towards life have deeply impacted me. Almost every day Robyn told us heartbreaking stories of what her young family has already been forced to endure, and yet she said it all with a smile on her face. It was truly a testimony to the strong faith she and her husband share. There is no doubt in her mind or mine that God is present in the construction of their new home. I only hope that I can take Robyns enthusiasm and patience and apply it to my own life.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Sometimes Funny

I just wrote Kiva and Potts the most ridiculous email. Since I am procrastinating (I have to film a video for today and finish my academic writing sample which is due to McCormick tomorrow), I figured I would share my email with y'all! Kiva likes to tell me that I am "sometimes funny". There is some inside joke about it that involves her sister (I think) and a book on the Enneagram that her mom has. I'm not sure what exactly it all entails. I've have to get the details from her... BUT! I think it definitely applies to me. This is very typical of the types of emails I frequently send them. 


Oh, I guess I could give you some background information so you aren't confused. We have an AC window unit that has been spitting out water lately. Since I grew up in Texas and didn't have a window unit, I had no idea what the problem was. And I have been too busy recently to google it. However, I finally searched online for the answer and BAM! Just like that the AC unit is up and running again. Well, Potts and I had to fix it first. But then it was up and running again.


Ok, I will delay you no longer from reading the ridiculousness that is a late-night email from me.
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Subject: Kiva & Potts, meet Pete & Anne: our trusty, dusty window friends!

Hello friends!

I thought I would compile all of my knowledge on the AC Window Unit into an email. Here is what I know:
  • Our AC unit has an air filter. Who knew? It was completely gross and black. But I cleaned it. According to the owner's manual (which I found on the interwebs) this filter is supposed to be cleaned every 30 days. I say we at least check it weekly.
  • Water is supposed to drain out the back of the AC unit, but for some reason, ours doesn't have that. So instead it collects in a drip tray inside. We will need to check this and make sure we are adequately draining it. At least weekly I would suggest we take the window unit out and let it drain. This is a 2 man job, and Potts and I have already done it. So Kiva, make sure one of us is there to help you! Put 2 towels on the floor to catch all the water that will inevitably come out of the unit. While it is draining is a perfect time to clean the filter! Just clean it with warm, soapy water. Then make sure it is completely dry before putting it back in the unit. I just sort of waved it in the air until it dried off. Luna got a kick out of it.
  • Water hitting the fan is ok...but it is a sign that we will need to drain the drip pan.
Fortunately, this has significantly increased the air output from our lovely AC Unit, which I have lovingly named Pete (short for Peter)...just now...as I'm typing this. Pete is much happier now that his air filter isn't clogged with gross, black dust. He currently working hard to lower the temperature in the living room. Hopefully Pete doesn't break down again before you get home Kiva! I am sure he will be happy to see you. Now we know what was making him sick, we shouldn't have so many problems. 

Ok-- off to film a video for today and then bedtime! (Tomorrow I will be checking Pete's sister, Anne (short for Andrea) , to see if she needs to be cleaned.)

Yours truly?
-Sarah

June Devotion


Today’s Reading | 2 Chronicles 8–9Psalm 72  
Text for this reflection | 2 Chronicles 8:12–14  
Reflection 
Always with the burnt offerings! One thing that has stuck out to me so far while participating in the “Reading the Entire Bible in a Year” jouney is that the Israelite’s default worship mechanism seems to be burnt offerings. This is something that I was aware of prior to embarking on this year-long endeavor, but it nevertheless manages to amaze me. I can imagine Solomon saying the words of Psalm 72 during his offering, but I have a hard time putting myself in Solomon’s shoes. I can’t picture myself getting the same spiritual renewal from burnt offerings as I do from a more modern-day “traditional” service, such as a TaizĂ© service.   
When thinking about the practice of burnt offerings, I also can’t help but think about how the Israelites would react if they witnessed how we worship today. I am sure they would find our religious practices just as strange as we sometimes view theirs. Yes, there is much to be said for public displays of faith, like burnt offerings or attending church every Sunday. However, it is repeated throughout the Bible that God did not just want burnt offerings. Instead, these early worshipers were asked to simply keep their covenants with God.  
I am not saying that God wants us to skip out on the Sunday morning worship services. On the contrary, I believe that worshiping alongside others is an important aspect of being a Christian. But attendance alone is not enough—we must put into practice what is heard from the pulpit.   
Prayer 
Gracious God, thank you for a world that is filled with diverse religious practices and for the rich history of our ancestors. Please help me remember to not take a passive role, but instead to be active in my faith. In your Son’s holy name. Amen. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Poverty Tourism

What? ANOTHER blog post? I know, crazy, right? Or maybe it would seem that I have too much time on my hands? False. I can assure you, I most certainly do not. There have just been so many "bloggable" things happening lately.

Yesterday we had a community activist come and speak to us (aka me, Kiva, Potts & Krista) on the topic of "poverty tourism". Sadly, I cannot remember her name. Yikes! It is an interesting topic- one that I quite honestly had not really thought of before this year. Poverty tourism is basically the idea that people come to experience the poverty of a specific neighborhood and then return to their middle-class or upper-class home. That is a very general, open-ended, and vague description. Hopefully you get the point.

Specifically, this topic is very applicable to the Discover groups that DOOR hosts in the summer. Most of them come from average-ville, white America and have come to educate their children on poverty. But is it ok to use someone else's home to do that?

She (our speaker) referred to Isaiah 61:1-4 as a frame of reference for this conversation. Here is is from the CEB (which I have grown to love over the year!)

   The LORD God’s spirit is upon me,because the LORD has anointed me.He has sent meto bring good news to the poor,to bind up the brokenhearted,to proclaim release for captives,and liberation for prisoners,2 to proclaim the year of the LORD ’s favorand a day of vindication for our God,to comfort all who mourn,3to provide for Zion’s mourners,to give them a crown in place of ashes,oil of joy in place of mourning,a mantle of praise in place of discouragement.They will be called Oaks of Righteousness,planted by the LORD to glorify himself.4They will rebuild the ancient ruins;they will restore formerly deserted places;they will renew ruined cities,places deserted in generations past.

If you look at the text grammatically, the people who will rebuild the cities are the ones who are living in them. Using this lens to read the passage, we are supposed to help stir up the residents and give them resources. But we are not supposed to do the work ourselves. I am not sure exactly what my opinion of this is. I will get back to you on that one. But I think the main point is a good one-- in order to change these "ruined cities, places deserted in generations past", we need the help of the ones living there.

Our speaker raised 3 good questions that I still need to process. Unfortunately, I will not be able to meet with my house and Krista when they discuss this month's book (When Helping Hurts) and the questions raised during our discussion yesterday. I will be in Kentucky on a workcamp with the senior high group. These questions were put forth to us, as year-long service people, living in an economically-depressed neighborhood, surrounded by people who might not have the same background as us. (My background for this would be as a middle-class, white girl from a small town in Texas. I am college educated, was raised by both of my parents and in a church.) The questions were:

1. What does it look like to the people living in the neighborhood when you come to the neighborhood?
2. What does it say to the people living in the neighborhood when you come to the neighborhood?
3. What does it say to the people from where you are from when you come to this neighborhood?

These questions have come to me at a particularly interesting time as I am getting ready to be a leader on the Senior High Workcamp next week and as I finish the final planning stages of the Elevation Workcamp in July. Like I said before, I am still processing what I believe on this topic.  I have more questions than answers. What do you think?Have you gone on a workcamp or mission trip and felt like you were more of a hindrance than a help? What does it look like to "proclaim the year of the LORD's favor" but not actually help them rebuild the cities? What does this mean for our church? Should our youth ignore the needs of the community outside their own? Should we just be preaching in the streets instead of climbing on top of roofs and fixing houses? 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Busy, busy weekend!

Seriously- when does it all end? I thought the summer time was for relaxing, not baking into the wee hours of the morning! On Friday I came to the church to help the Senior Highs bake up a storm for their bake sale, which took place today. I was there for over 6 hours and didn't get home until around 1 am. I was, how do you say, completely exhausted. At PAWS on Friday I was actually really busy and was on my feet for most of the day helping to host a visiting volunteer group from Discovery Communications. Then I did a few adoptions (that reminds me...I need to do those follow-up phone calls tomorrow...)

Since I was so tired, I didn't set an alarm clock for Saturday morning. Which meant I didn't wake up until almost 12 pm. I cannot remember the last time I slept so late! After waking up and making a delicious brunch for myself of turkey bacon and french toast, Kiva and I went down to Hyde Park to visit the Smart Art Museum.

2 side notes:
1. I LOVE BRUNCH. Not sure if you guys know that about me...but there it is. Almost every morning I make a warm breakfast for myself. I've been on a breakfast taco kick lately, but was definitely feeling the french toast on Saturday morning.
2. The Smart Art Museum is not the Smart-Art Museum. Aka, the art is not intelligent art. I was expecting really brainy art...or art that was actually a robot or something. Nope. It's just named after some dude who's last name was Smart. Still cool, just not as cool.

I've been to Hyde Park a lot lately. I like it, which I know I mentioned in my last post, but thought it was worth mentioning again. Kiva and I found the Oriental Museum that is down there after the Smart Art Museum. IT IS AWESOME AND IT IS FULL OF SUPER OLD THINGS AND IT IS FREE! The free part just might be the best, but the old stuff was cool too. There were a lot of plaques next to things that basically said, "This is so old, there are only 2 left in the entire world. We have one and Egypt has one." Ok, clearly paraphrasing...but you get the idea.

Kiva and I then decided to mull over our lives. Clearly this was done with fried pickles and a beer...or two. More about the depths in my psyche that we daringly plunged into later. That is a blog post or 2 all on its own.

Sunday aka today was the bake sale! We raised over $2000 towards Senior High Workcamps! I am really excited to be able to go on this year's trip as one of the lady sponsors. We leave on Saturday. It is promising to be a great trip and I am sure I will have much to report after we get back!

I had a few housekeeping things to take care of in my office (aka make the daily video for today & write my devotion for July that was actually due on Friday but I spaced out and completely forgot about it), so I am still at the church...12 hours after I arrived. I am finally on my way home shortly.

Tomorrow should prove to be an interesting experience. I am going with one of the Discover groups to their site for tomorrow in order to help Krista (my site director) critique the DOOR program. For those of you who have absolutely no idea what I am talking about, don't worry! All will be explained. I am a YAV. YAV has a partnership with DOOR (Discovering Opportunities for Outreach and Reflection). DOOR has year-long service people that live in the house with me aka Kiva. They also have a week-long opportunity for various church groups to come to Chicago, learn about the city and volunteer. It is with one of these groups that I will be volunteering with tomorrow. We are going to Ada Niles, an Adult Day-Care center. Like I said before, it should be interesting!

I hope all of you fathers out there had a wonderful Father's Day! :D

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Worrywart-ville, Population: moi

Lately I have been sort of stressing out about starting my M.Div program at McCormick. I think there are a few reasons for it.

Change scares me. Not in the debilitating way it terrifies others, just a slow gnawing feeling in the bottom of my stomach that eats away at me over time. Yikes, dramatic much? Ok, so its not actually that bad. I am just someone who gets nervous easily. Change makes me nervous. Starting a new program is change. Therefore, new program = nervous. Which, when I think about it, isn't really that abnormal.

I have to move. As of right now, I have a lot of stuff in my room that I'll need to move and I don't have any means of transportation besides the CTA. I can't be too sure, but I don't think it is realistic for me to try and move furniture via the green line and the 55 bus all the way to Hyde Park. Adding to my concerns is the fact that I don't have anyone to help me move. Most of my stuff is feasibly carried by 1 person, but there are a few things that require at least 2 people. Granted, I haven't asked very many people to help me and I am assuming that I can find at least 1 or 2 people to help with the move, but still. Worry-some nevertheless. If there is anyone reading this who will be in Chicago the week of August 20th and wants to help me move: let me know! :)

I am not a religious studies major, gender studies major or humanities major. I know that this is not a requirement for seminary, but I still worry that my base-line level of knowledge is different (aka lower) than my future classmates'. Hopefully once classes start this fear will dissolve into an appreciation for different backgrounds and experiences. That's pretty much what I am banking on since I doubt my knowledge of Income Tax Law will be much help in my Pilgrimage of Faithfulness course.

I do not know anyone at McCormick. Ok, this is not entirely true, since I have met people that study or work at McCormick. HOWEVER, it is still a concern. My class is only 35 people. Hopefully in that class there will be people I get along with and connect to. But I still worry about starting a program like this without knowing others. I do have "2nd degree friends" who will be there. Aka I know people who know people who are starting at McCormick in the fall. If there are any future McCormick students reading this: I hope you are cool! :D

As of August 2012, I will be unemployed. I am actively searching for and apply to various jobs in Chicago, but have not heard back from any of them. I did get a grant to cover 7 courses for next year, which is awesome (!!) but still technically leaves me with the cost of paying for 2 courses and living expenses. One option I have come up with is to just take 7 classes (3 each semester and 1 Jan term) next year instead of the typical 9 (4 each semester and 1 Jan term). This might be a smart idea since I have been out of school for a year. Also, I want to avoid student loans. However, that still leaves me with a serious chunk of money to come up with in just a few short months. If there are any millionaires who want to give me money or people who want to give me a job reading this: please feel free to email me!! ;)

I think that pretty much sums up my reasoning for being stressed.

All of that being said, I was at McCormick today and I am also really excited to start my classes soon. Rachel Wells, who was a YAV in India and just recently returned to the states, is visiting the Chicago site. She wanted to take a tour of McCormick so we headed on down there this morning/afternoon. It was great being on the tour again and seeing the building from the perspective of an incoming student vs a prospective student. Everyone I have ever met who works at, studies at or an alum from McCormick is awesome. I don't know if I could have picked a better seminary. And, I absolutely adore Hyde Park. Even when I visited for the first time in November and it was cold, windy and snowing, I still loved it.

All in all, my stress < my excitement, which I take as a good sign.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Pictures Galore!

I was sorting through some of my pictures earlier today and thought that I would upload some to my blog! I never take as many as I intend to...even though I have an iPhone. Ah well. Please enjoy looking at my photos from my YAV year so far!

Deep dish pizza!!

This is quite typical for us :)

Beautiful scene from the deck of our cabin on the Elevation Winter Retreat

Um...not quite sure why I was doing this...but the skyline is pretty! :)

We saw Ferris Bueller's Day Off at Wrigley Field!

That is Kiva under the bag...this is what happens when we try and garden

Me, standing in front of the cabin we stayed in for our opening retreat waaaay back in October

So beautiful...I miss the quiet and serene campgrounds

We celebrated my birthday/Thanksgiving in San Diego. This was a restaturant
that had you cook your own steaks! I loved it, but I think Dad was unimpressed.
Paying to cook your own food isn't exactly his cup of tea.

Rebecca, Mom and I after our Thanksgiving Day 5k

Woo!! Thanksgiving with the future Mr. & Mrs. Alex Hydrean :)

SAN DIEGO! I love this city...so excited to be visiting tomorrow!

I am really excited that June is almost here! Tomorrow I fly out to San Diego and Rebecca's wedding is in 1 week! Now I'm off to buy the supplies to make their gift...I'm always leaving this until the last minute!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

May Devotion


Text for this reflection | 1 Corinthians 14:1–12
Pursue love, and use your ambition to try to get spiritual gifts but especially so that you might prophesy. This is because those who speak in a tongue don’t speak to people but to God; no one understands it—they speak mysteries by the Spirit. Those who prophesy speak to people, building them up, and giving them encouragement and comfort. People who speak in a tongue build up themselves; those who prophesy build up the church. I wish that all of you spoke in tongues, but I’d rather you could prophesy. Those who prophesy are more important than those who speak in tongues, unless they are able to interpret them so that the church might be built up. After all, brothers and sisters, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I help you unless I speak to you with a revelation, some knowledge, a prophecy, or a teaching? Likewise, things that aren’t alive like a harp or a lyre can make a sound, but if there aren’t different notes in the sounds they make, how will the tune from the harp or the lyre be recognized? And if a trumpet call is unrecognizable, then who will prepare for battle? It’s the same way with you: If you don’t use language that is easy to understand when you speak in a tongue, then how will anyone understand what is said? It will be as if you are speaking into the air! There are probably many language families in the world, and none of them are without meaning. So if I don’t know the meaning of the language, then I will be like a foreigner to those who speak it, and they will be like foreigners to me. The same holds true for you: since you are ambitious for spiritual gifts, use your ambition to try to work toward being the best at building up the church.
(CEB)

Reflection
Having been raised in the Presbyterian church, I have never found speaking in tongues to be the deep and spiritually meaningful part of a worship service that I know it is to some people. But “speaking in tongues” also has the potential to be interpreted in different ways. For example, it could simply mean that the speaker is not being clear. Unclear speech can happen if the one speaking refers, for instance, to obscure theologians without context or uses vague terms that the audience does not understand and that are misunderstood and not defined. Unclear speech can also occur when the speaker does not make clear points or arguments and instead just prattles on and on.
I believe these instances of unclear speech would fall under the umbrella of “speaking in tongues” that Paul refers to in our reading for today from 1 Corinthians. This type of oratory does not build up the church, but instead only builds up the speaker. Instead of speaking in an unclear manner, we should try and actively work to communicate effectively to our audience using a clear language.
This challenge is not just for the pastors, ministers, and priests of the world. We, as Christians, have been challenged to be uplifting and supportive members of our congregations. However it is that you are involved, make an effort to use clear language and ideas. It is only by lifting up others in our words and deeds that we can hope to make a change in the world.

Prayer
Lord, I want to accept the call to be an uplifting and supportive friend to those around me. Please bless my words and actions so that they are not just self-serving but also encourage and build up others. Amen.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Faith House's Daily Reflection Video Debut

I had to make a daily video the other day for work (obviously...I spend a lot of time working on those) but I wasn't in the mood for it. So instead I made my housemates join in on the creation. Check out the video below to see it! :)


In other news, Denis has left us for the sunny beaches of California. He felt like his time in Chicago was done and that it was time for him to leave. That means we are down to just 3 people in the house. We are housing 2 cats from PAWS right now, so we are actually back up to 5 beings living in the house! :) They are adorable (the cats, not my other roommates) and I will hopefully get a chance to post pictures of them soon!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Huzzah!

I have very important, future-life-plans news! I was accepted to McCormick Seminary! I am very excited to start classes in the Fall. That's really the only information I have to update y'all on (in regards to seminary...). I am also applying for grants to help me fund my 3 extra years of learnin'. If you know of any grants, send them my way!

In other news, I went to my first Cubs game yesterday. It was really fun....even though the Cubs lost and it was actually pretty cold and cloudy for the entire game. I got the tickets for free (!!) from someone on the Youth Committee at Fourth. (Thanks Janet!) I took my friend Elena with me. She is a graduating Senior from Loyola. I met her back in September at PAWS. She is awesome and I am sad that she is moving back to Boston in a few days. But I guess I'm a Cubs fan now! If I plan on staying in Chicago long term, it was a choice I eventually needed to make. (Cubs v White Socks)

Today we had our sexuality discussion with the kids in youth. Kiva (one of my amazing roommates) came and helped facilitate the discussion. She works at a domestic violence prevention agency in Oak Park with the Teen Program. Specifically, she goes into the middle schools and teaches the kiddos about body image awareness, the dangers of sexting & dating violence, and more. The discussion went really well -- I was highly impressed with how well the kids handled the topic. I also had to make today's daily reflection video and had the kids work on it before we started. (Then I edited it much, much later...) Here's the link if you want to go check it out!

Then after Elevation was done, I bopped on over to the Angel's With Tails (AWT) event. AWT is a semi-annual event PAWS hosts downtown. They, along with other rescue groups in the Chicagoland area, bring dogs, puppies, cats and kitties down and take over the storefront area along Michigan Avenue. Well, typically they have it along Michigan Ave, but for this specific event Chicago asked PAWS to move it to a side street. I guess they have had trouble in the past with the sidewalks being too crowded. We were along Oak Street (mainly) today in the designer stores. It was a lot of fun helping out--even though it was pouring for most of the day. Chicago hasn't had many thunderstorms since I've been here, which I am not too happy about. (I love lightning!) But today the phrase "torrential downpour" would have accurately described the weather. Even with the rain, PAWS alone still adopted out over 40 dogs and cats!

Afterwards, I grabbed a quick dinner with a friend from PAWS and then headed back to Fourth to make the video linked above. For those of you who were wondering, it is 1000x easier to make these videos using an iPad than it is to use my laptop! You can say what you want about Apple as a company, but they know what they are doing when it comes to simple video editing software! I despise the "editing software" that my PC has. I'm sorry, but Paint has been the same since I used it on our old Windows '95 computer. You'd think eventually Microsoft would stop changing the look of the Office suite and instead fix up Paint! I just don't understand the choices they make sometimes....

Finally I hopped on the train and made my way home. Just in case you were wondering, the drug dealers of Chicago use the CTA to get around and move their product instead of just cars. I guess they're concerned about their carbon footprint as well.

**Side note about the Subject of this post. I started using the word "huzzah!" as a joke a few weeks ago. I recently realized that I now use it as a normal part of my vocabulary. I just thought I would update you, dear blog reader. Have a wonderful night!**

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

April Devotion


Passage for Reflection: Mark 6:30-44
Jesus feeds five thousand people
30 The apostles returned to Jesus and told him everything they had done and taught. 31 Many people were coming and going, so there was no time to eat. He said to the apostles, “ Come by yourselves to a secluded place and rest for a while. ” 32 They departed in a boat by themselves for a deserted place.
33 Many people saw them leaving and recognized them, so they ran ahead from all the cities and arrived before them. 34 When Jesus arrived and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Then he began to teach them many things.
35 Late in the day, his disciples came to him and said, “ This is an isolated place, and it’s already late in the day . 36 Send them away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy something to eat for themselves. ”
37 He replied, “ You give them something to eat. 
But they said to him, “ Should we go off and buy bread worth almost eight months’ payg and give it to them to eat? ”
38 He said to them, “ How much bread do you have? Take a look. 
After checking, they said, “ Five loaves of bread and two fish. ”
39 He directed the disciples to seat all the people in groups as though they were having a banquet on the green grass. 40 They sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41 He took the five loaves and the two fish, looked up to heaven, blessed them, broke the loaves into pieces, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42 Everyone ate until they were full. 43 They filled twelve baskets with the leftover pieces of bread and fish. 44 About five thousand had eaten.


Reflection:
I definitely empathize with the disciples in this story. First Jesus sent them out in pairs to teach and heal people. When the disciples finally got back to Jesus, they were excited to share with him all they had done and seen. However, there were so many people around, the 13 could not enjoy a meal and tell their stories. Jesus tried to find a secluded area so the disciples could rest, but the crowds followed them.

In classic form, Jesus saw that the crowd was spiritually lost and he began to teach. The disciples were clearly frustrated when Jesus told them to feed the crowd of 5000. How were they to do that? Weren’t they in a secluded place, far from a town or market? And who exactly was going to pay for all of this?

The disciples missed the point and it makes me wonder if we are still missing the point today. Yes- Jesus could have sent the crowds away so he and his disciples could share stories and a meal. But that wasn’t the point of his ministry. It occurs to me that perhaps helping those who are hungry and in need of spiritual guidance is more important than one’s personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Prayer:
Holy and loving God, help me recognize the loaves and the fish that I should be offering to others instead of keeping to myself. Amen.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What Do I Want Out of Seminary?

Tomorrow morning I am visiting McCormick Seminary. As of right now, it is my top choice for seminary. Lately, I've been thinking a lot about what I am looking to get out of an M.Div program. I'm not quite sure yet how all of this meshes together, but the following things are ideas that have been floating around in my head:

  • What does it mean to be Presbyterian? To be Methodist? To be Catholic? To be Lutheran? Why do people choose one denomination over another? Frederick Buechner likens it to team mentality over a difference in theology. He writes that people choose one church over another for superficial reasons. And that they don't really know what they believe. I definitely fall (somewhat) into that camp. This YAV year has been especially amazing for me because it has forced me to think about some of these things in a way I've never thought of them before. I am slowly formulating in my mind what my beliefs actually are and how they fit in with the Presbyterian Church (USA). 
  • What does an open dialogue between people from different denominations look like? An actual open dialogue- not just tolerating the other's beliefs but actually trying to understand and accept. There is a huge difference between listening to what someone is saying and actually hearing what they have to say. This year I have had cross-denominational conversations, but I am not sure if I was listened to or heard. And vice versa, I'm not sure if I was listening to or actually hearing what was said. 
  • How would that play out in worship? Especially if most of the differences in church denominations is not actually theological differences, but instead differences in styles of worship? I want to explore other ways of worship. What about a worship space that is used more than just Sunday mornings? Why can't we have a space that also allows for people to relax, have fun & enjoy being around other people?
Right now I am also reading The Screwtape Letters. I found the book when I was about 12 years old in a closet at First Pres- Granbury. When I read it back then, I had no idea what I was reading. Now that I am reading it again, it has helped me formulate some of the above. Anyway- that is just a little of what I've been trying to process over the past few weeks and put into words. 

I am really excited for my visit to McCormick tomorrow! I'll try and post something about my thoughts on the school tomorrow. 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Read the Bible in a Year

Hey y'all! You should probably go check out the Fourth Church Youth's YouTube page. We are uploading a 90-second reflection video everyday. We have been doing this since January 1st, but I just haven't gotten around to posting about it yet.

Although it creates more work for us, I do love this idea. Though I am not sure how many of the kids are watching the videos daily. If you have some time to spare- go check out the videos! My favorites are the ones that the kids make.


The video above is the one we made on the Elevation Winter Retreat a few weeks ago. The videos follow the same passages for reflection as the "Reading the Bible in a Year" devotions. If you want more information on those, check out the Fourth Presbyterian Church's page for more information.

I know this sounds like an advertisement for Fourth...and maybe it is...but I just think it is a great resource that should be spread beyond the Fourth Church congregation. :)

Seminary Update: I am visiting McCormick Seminary on the 21st. I am really excited for my visit!! A lot of the people I work with are graduates of McCormick and absolutely loved it. There is a grant available to allow YAVs to visit Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary and I have emailed Admissions to try and set up a visit. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

March Devotion

Passage for Reflection: Psalm 26

  • 26 Establish justice for me, LORD ,
  • because I have walked with integrity.
  • I’ve trusted the LORD without wavering.
  • 2 Examine me, LORD ; put me to the test!
  • Purifyu my mindv and my heart.
  • 3 Because your faithful love
  • is right in front of me—
  • I walk in your truth!
  • 4 I don’t spend time with people
  • up to no good;
  • I don’t keep company with liars.
  • 5 I detest the company of evildoers,
  • and I don’t sit with wicked people.
  • 6 I wash my hands—they are innocent!
  • I walk all around your altar, LORD ,
  • 7 proclaiming out loud my thanks,
  • declaring all your wonderful deeds!
  • 8 I love the beautyw of your house, LORD ;
  • I love the place where your glory resides.
  • 9 Don’t gather mex up with the sinners,
  • taking my life along with violent people
  • 10 in whose hands are evil schemes,
  • whose strong hands are full of bribes.
  • 11 But me? I walk with integrity.
  • Save me! Have mercy on me!
  • 12 My feet now stand on level ground.
  • I will bless the LORD
  • in the great congregation.




Reflection
A few weeks ago one of my friends posted on Facebook a clip from a Primetime ABC segment of “What Would You Do?” The show is about testing people’s reactions to everyday situations. The different scenarios usually revolve around some sort of injustice but always involve props and actors and never actually put anyone in serious danger. In order to get an accurate and honest response, the people observing the scenario do not know it is staged. The clip that my friend posted dealt with racism directed towards interracial couples. I think the true glory of “What Would You Do?” comes from the show’s ability to make us reassess our own priorities and values.

Psalm 26 can be used in a similar way. David makes a bold statement about his unwavering trust and how strongly he holds to his moral beliefs. Can we say the same? Oftentimes I worry we as a society are too complacent with the things happening around us. Psalm 26 is a great passage to use as a mirror. How do your past actions align with your own morals and values?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, grant me the strength to honestly evaluate my actions. Often it is easier to look the other way or walk on by while injustice happens around us. Give me the courage to stand up for what I believe in and to do your will. Help me stay strong and walk with integrity. Amen.



Tuesday, February 28, 2012

You Told Me So...

I have been terrible about updating this blog recently. My goal is to do better now that my hectic month of February is over. But yesterday I had a very strange/life-changing experience and wanted to share it with y'all.

I was on my way back to Chicago with the Fourth Church middle school youth from our Winter Retreat in Wisconsin. We were in the van driving away from the camp and I was thinking about my graduate school options. I have been in the process of applying to graduate schools to get my master's in accounting. Where to attend grad school has been on my mind a lot lately, so it wasn't unusual that I was thinking about it. What was weird and disconcerting was that I suddenly had the sense that I was not on the right path. My head starting pounding and I couldn't hear anything but the blood rushing to my head. I was completely overcome with emotion and had to try really hard to keep my composure since I was in a van full of people. The only thing that kept running through my head was the sense that I should be going to seminary next year.

I know it sounds strange, but this really did happen. It's hard to describe...and hard to talk about. I have felt called to do things before, but never like this. I felt called by God to go on my first mission trip back in middle school. I felt called by God to work as a camp counselor one summer in high school. I felt called by God to do a year of service here in Chicago. But I have never felt such a strong calling before. The skeptic in me tried to convince myself that I was just sleep deprived, worried about going back to graduate school for accounting and excited about how well our retreat went. But the other part of me cannot accept these things as reasons to not listen to my experience. So what if I was tired? Maybe I am worried about going back to school for accounting because part of me knows deep down that isn't what I'm meant to do with my life. And who cares that I was in a good mood because the retreat went well? Experiences such as the one I had do not happen all the time. Isn't everyone always complaining that God doesn't speak to them clearly enough? I am pretty sure that more than once this month I have said something along the lines of, "Why doesn't God speak through burning bushes anymore?" This might be the closest thing to a burning bush that I'll ever get.

I have thought in the past of going to seminary. Well, let me clarify that statement. For about a year, I have been considering seminary. It wasn't until I went to the YAV Placement Event in March of last year that I even considered seminary. Prior to March of 2011, seminary seemed like a distant place filled with stuffy old white guys who just sat around debating the merits of Calvin. Now, I know there is a lot wrong with that sentence, but when I was a kid that image got into my mind somehow and never seemed to work its way out. As I got older, I realized that these stereotypes of seminary from the 1850s were not accurate, but I never considered myself as someone who would fit-in at a seminary. I thought theology would be boring and just semantics. I was worried the things I believed would not be accepted or ok. The list goes on and on....but more recently I have been wondering if these reasons were valid or just excuses.

For me, February has been the month of Vocational Discernment. I went on 2 different vocational retreats and have spent a lot of time thinking about life, the future, vocation, my calling, whatever you want to call it. I have also had many conversations with people wondering if seminary is in my future. Since I work at a church, I wrote off many of their questions as just them wanting to make me go to seminary. I would hate talking about my plans for the fall because it always made me really nervous. If I had decided on a Masters in Accounting, then why wasn't I happy? Why wasn't I excited to share my plans for the future with anyone? When everything fell into place about my YAV year here in Chicago, I felt like I was always talking about it! I was so excited!! So maybe that feeling of dread that came over me wasn't just nervousness about the future. Maybe I should have listened to that little voice in the back of my head sooner.

I am always telling the kids in Elevation that God speaks to us through every day situations- and I honestly believe that. Unfortunately, I was apparently too stubborn and boneheaded to pay attention to the signs in my own life. I basically needed to be slapped upside the head to get the message. To those who kept asking me about seminary and not accepting my reasons as actual answers, thank you and you were right. Please feel free to say, "I told you so!" the next time I see you. Your questions, though unwanted at the time, are now very much appreciated.

As of right now, I do not know where I want to go to seminary or what I want to do with an M.Div. HOWEVER, I am not going to let that be a deterrent any longer. It is no longer the 1850s- the student population in seminary is more diverse. My thoughts and ideas are just as valuable as someone else's. Theology is not as stuffy as I thought. (Granted, I still think it would be really easy to get caught up in the semantics and not actually have a conversation about anything real, but that is beside the point.) The skeptical part of my brain will just have to take a rest for a little while. Man, who knew that 3 minutes could change your life so drastically?

If you have any questions/comments - feel free to email me. Additionally, if you have any reading suggestions to help me to figure out this new path, please let me know!