Lonely But Never Alone

"And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:20b

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Location: Lexington, Kentucky, United States

I'm a new wife and young professional who is intrigued by people and in awe of the Creator.

Monday, November 05, 2007

A Little Bit of Politics

I've been trying to grow my interest in political issues lately. In college I can safely say I didn't know a thing about politics and didn't care to either. Since moving to Kentucky I have graduated to knowing a small little bit and wishing I knew more than I did. The other night I browsed this site at the NY Times and read up on some of the contenders in next year's big election. I have formed some opinions on some issues...not sure this is the right kind of place to express those opinions or not. Don't want to step on too many toes. Well, okay, one thing is worth stepping on toes about. I am saddened to find out that President Bush passed a tax cut (not sure when this happened) for Americans earning more than $250,000 a year (the top 1%) and that there are candidates running who adamantly pledge to protect that tax cut. Now tell me why someone who makes that much money shouldn't be taxed at the same percentage rate as the people who earn a much more modest salary and struggle to get by? This doesn't make sense. Does the government not want to take their money just so they can put the money back into the economy? Excuse me but I think I have to throw up now.

There are candidates that propose to reverse the tax cut given to America's most wealthy. And you know what that would do? That would fund government-based health insurance for every uninsured American at very little cost. I guess I've just been thinking recently while reading Deuteronomy about how God is interested in how His people treat each other on a national level. I think He cares about what the priorities of a country are. I don't want to get into issues of separation of church and state or anything, but I'm just thinking about this obviously as a Christian.

In Deuteronomy 15, God gives the nation of Israel instructions to forgive outstanding debts once every seven years. God also commands His people to take care of the needy in the land. By asking that they forgive debts every so often, God is telling them that there is not to be a great divide between those who have and those who have not. In 15:4, it says, "There shall be no poor among you." While God was speaking to the nation of Israel in this passage, I have no doubt that these words of Deuteronomy are for us too. We have the obligation to take care of the poor and needy and President Bush wants to deny people health care while only serving to make the rich all the richer for it. Now I understand that because it's in the Bible doesn't mean we as a nation and our leaders are obligated to follow it. But as Christians, it is an important thing to consider (especially if our politicians act and speak as Christians). *step off of soapbox*

Let me tell you, Peter is just loving this new-found interest of mine! Hehe.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Relevant Christianity?

I really hate the question of whether or not Christianity is relevant to our culture. The last time I checked, the blood of Jesus was still effective at cleansing sin and giving new life. I'm pretty sure that sacrifice was a once-and-for all guarantee. So I was struck by something I found in Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller:

I don't think any church has ever been relevant to culture, to the human struggle, unless it believed in Jesus and the power of his gospel. If the supposed new church believes in trendy music and cool web pages, then it is not relevant to culture either. It is just another tool of Satan to get people to be passionate about nothing.

Ouch! Brutal honesty! How many times have I been a critic or a "music snob" in a church service? Okay so maybe sometimes it is for legitimate theological reasons...but how often has it been about the small little details? How much emphasis have I placed on trying to make Christianity "cool"? I think this revelation might be why I discontinued my subscription to Relevant magazine, but I think I still have some issues to work through here about why I do what I do.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The poverty of hope

I've been thinking a lot about what it means to love one's neighbor as myself. I've been hearing Aaron talk to us about not merely doing ministry to the poor and with the poor, but we do ministry as the poor. As we seek to love people in the ways God has commanded us to, we do it fully recognizing that we do it out of poverty because the only thing we have to truly offer someone is Jesus. Nothing else that I possess will do one ounce of good except Jesus. Nothing I have is worth anything without Him. I've also been reading Thomas Merton's No Man is an Island. So when I came across this quote by Merton I was especially intrigued:

Supernatural hope is the virtue that strips us of all things in order to give us possession of all things. We do not hope for what we have. Therefore, to live in hope is to live in poverty, having nothing. And yet, if we abandon ourselves to the economy of Divine Providence, we have everything we hope for. By faith we know God without seeing Him. By hope we possess God without feeling His presence. If we hope in God, by hope we already possess Him, since hope is a confidence which He creates in our souls as secret evidence that He has taken possession of us. So the soul that hopes in God already belongs to Him and to belong to Him is the same as to possess Him, since He gives Himself completely to those who give themselves to Him. The only thing faith and hope do not give us is a clear vision of Him Whom we possess. We are united to Him in darkness, because we have to hope.

This idea of living in the already-not yet (thank you, Dr. Dongell) brings up so many emotions in me. As Christians we hope for Christ fully revealed in me, in others, and in the world. But it's not there yet. There are so many mysteries and so many questions. God is truly an enigma although we trust in His revelation in the world.

When I think about loving my neighbors who live in poverty, I sometimes don't know what to do with myself. I end up feeling guilty when the neighbor kids come over to our nicely decorated and well air-conditioned home with amenities such as wireless internet because I know that their living conditions are not the same. I fear what their parents would think if they came in. They would immediately notice that I have never lived in the same kind of want as they have. It would be plainly obvious (if it's not already) that I cannot relate to the economic struggle to survive. It's not that we are living the high life or anything, but it's obvious that we have all of our basic comforts and more covered. This train of thought takes me to a place where I ask questions like, "How can I relate to them where they are?" and "How can I befriend them without it appearing to be a charity case?"

Because we hope for things unseen, we are in poverty. We as Christians know what it means to live in desire of something...we know what it feels like to have the very things we grasp for just out of reach...we all have the same fundamental poverty. And although we live in this kind of poverty, we are also full of the richness of God's promise if we hope for Him. When you have this kind of basic need in common, the economic differences don't seem quite as big of a deal anymore. Now I'm not saying this gives us a chance to throw pity parties for ourselves or say that our lives are just as hard as those who may be living in financial need. It's also not an excuse for us to avoid helping our neighbors to get financial and material needs met. Rather, I feel that doing ministry out of our own poverty allows us the opportunity to connect in a genuine and real way with our neighbors. It reminds us that we all have the same desperate need for the hope that Jesus gives. It allows us to receive Jesus in others just as we seek to give Jesus to others. It reminds us of our own dependence on Jesus and it strips us of any kind of narcissistic need we have to save other people so we can feel special or "righteous." And I would venture to say that the people we come into contact with and develop relationships for Christ with can notice the difference in the mindset.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Things to look forward to

Life has been keeping very busy lately. It seems there are many things to be excited about. Here are a couple of those things:

  • Over the Rhine is playing at the Dame on September 1. For those of you who know, I have seen OTR play more than enough times to satisfy most any other person but I honestly can't get enough of Karin and Linford. Trumpet Child recently came out and it's been playing in my car ever since. It's jazzy and creative and Linford raps a little too. Can't beat that!
  • Peter and I have tickets to see Wilco in Louisville later in September. They're playing at the stadium that the Louisville Cardinals play in. This should be better than seeing them at Tallstacks and having a crowd-surfer fall on my head.
  • God is doing a new thing in our neighborhood. We got together with some other folks who are currently living close to our church or who plan to move close to our church with the intentions of creating a deeper sense of community. I'll throw out my cheesy sometimes meaningless seminary word there. It's really too bad that most of the time I hear talk about community it seems devoid of meaning but at this particular meeting, I was enthralled and felt that longing and grasping for something never quite achieved before. We want to start something with a little bit of structure among the people doing ministry in the neighborhood. We are having dinner together tomorrow night to start getting to know each other a little better. A retreat is in the works for us to answer some questions of what "doing life and ministry together" will look like for us.
  • There is a real possibility I will be moving off of the overnight shift within a couple of months! Hooray!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Late Night Ramblings

I've been kind of living in survival mode lately. Have you ever felt like you are reacting to things more than acting on your own? I feel as if I've been operating on an external locus of control rather than an internal one. I picture this ship sailing on a turbulent sea with no real course of travel just going where the wind and waves blow it. This is me. Whatever the wind and waves may be (work, appetite, need for attention, etc.) that is what I'm being driven by. I have been having a general feeling of apathy regarding many things lately. I can't point to one specific area of life or any specific problem. I've just been apathetic.

And you know what it is? It's two different things.

(1) I think I've lost my bearings a bit. Instead of having my sights set on worshiping and glorifying God, I've been more focused on meeting my own needs. It really sounds cliche and cheesy but it's true. There's a lot of distance between me and Him right now. I have basically told God "That's okay, I think I can handle it on my own." When things were a bit crazier in my life, it was a lot easier to rely on His strength in me to get me through. But now that Mom is back home and doing fine, I'm out of school, the wedding planning is behind me, the identity theft stuff is mostly under control, I've got a steady source of income, and we're settled into our new home it seems a little harder to remind myself that I still need God. I still need God. I still need God.

(2) In my new job I've noticed my tendency to measure or compare myself to my clients. I can look at them and say "Wow, at least I'm not that messed up!" That's awful for me to say but it is true! This is obviously not the right measuring stick to be using in gaging my quality of life. It makes me feel okay about the junk in my life. It gives me a reason to take my own life, action, and thoughts out from under the microscope. Just because I don't cut myself, use drugs, or beat people up doesn't mean my coping skills are completely healthy, right?

There's a real emotive difference between surviving and thriving. Deep down we all know which one we are doing.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Life After School

I'm not a student anymore. I find now that my life is radically, radically different. When I come home from work, there is no assignment waiting for me. I have no tests to study for and nothing that I have to read. While I take great pleasure in this, it leaves me with a very weird feeling. You see, for so long I have found my identity in what I study. I have always found my identity as someone who makes good grades and enjoys learning.

I really like to set and reach goals too. And now as I look at my life as it is I have no short-term goals. None. Instead of having a goal of finishing out my semester well, now I guess the closest thing I have to a short-term goal is to make it to work on time everyday. Sure I have some implicit goals to gain knowledge and skills through my work experience and to treat every patient with the utmost respect and dignity. But I guess those just aren't measured very easily.

And there's this thing lately where I am questioning my choice of profession. I definitely want to work in the mental health field in some capacity, but it's the specific setting and capacity I'm not sure of. I am enjoying being an assessment counselor at a mental health hospital. I am unsure of whether I should apply for state licensure for counseling though. Right now I am not seeing clients more than once. If I got my license I would need to be working as a counselor/therapist where I carry a client load. My limited experience trying to carry a client load was mostly a flop. Granted I was working somewhere where the counseling was free (aka "not much motivation necessary") and the population was not one of my passions. I am just afraid of getting tied into something I don't want to be doing. If I found the right setting I am sure I would enjoy being a therapist. But right now honestly I am enjoying some of the more administrative tasks of the mental healthcare system. My eyes are being opened as well to the great number and variety of positions available in mental healthcare arena.

Did I mention I work nights? It's kind of weird going into work at 8pm and then coming home as it gets light outside. So far it's been easier than I thought for my body to adjust. Praise Jesus!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

"When it's time to change...

...you've got to rearrange..."

Sorry about my Brady Bunch moment there. Thought I'd say hello again. I am graduated, married off, returned from Greece, and now I'm employed. Now you know the reason for my title of this post. I have decided to undergo as many life changes within a month's time as possible. I am like a new person. Convenient that I just finished reading All New People by Anne Lamott.

First off, the wedding went amazingly. It was so perfect and we both agree we don't think we've ever smiled as much as we did on that day. We had so many wonderful friends and family there that helped us out and took part in our celebration. Thank you to all of you...you know who you are. And my beautiful mother was able to be there (after only a small scare in the ER the morning they were supposed to be leaving to come here). I was just utterly blown away to step back and think about all the time that was spent agonizing and worrying about the details of the day and whether or not my mom would be alive, let alone be able to come. And then I'm standing there and I realize that everything has been perfectly weaved together...that there is One who has gone before us and smoothed out everything in order for us to all celebrate and bask in His blessings. I have always thought that I'd be weepy at my wedding, but I was at a place of joy even beyond tears.

Here is one of many wedding pics

And one of me with Mom before the ceremony

And then Greece was absolutely beautiful. We couldn't have asked for a better honeymoon. We have some funny stories but I don't think that any hold a candle to us running through the JFK airport desperately trying to get to our gate on time and my pants falling down in the process. But seriously, we spent the first day in Athens exploring the Acropolis and the parts of the city that were between our hotel and the Acropolis. Then the next morning we took a three-hour high speed boat ride to the island of Sifnos where we spent seven days and nights. Athens was dirty and fast-paced but the island was scenic, vibrant, and laid-back. We happened to be there during what is still technically their low-season which played to our advantage. We tried out a lot of restaurants (eating is a big deal in Greece), did a bit of hiking, spent time relaxing at the beach, and also explored the villages and took lots of pictures. It was the perfect combination of relaxing and being active. I still can't get over how beautiful everything is there. It's like being in a magazine where everything is perfectly designed and laid-out. Here is my favorite image captured while in Greece:

So since we've gotten back we've accomplished quite a lot. I have all the gifts put away and the house mostly cleaned up and decorated. If you know me, you know that I take great pleasure in this task of decorating and nesting. I'm like a kid in a candyshop with all the new stuff and a house to put it all in. I have also found full-time employment at a local private psychiatric and chemical dependency treatment center. On Monday I filled out my application, interviewed, was hired, filled out all the necessary employment records, and took the drug test. It happened suddenly and quite easily. What a pleasant surprise!! A couple of months ago I thought I was not going to be working in the field immediately because I was pretty burned out. Turns out all I needed was to be whisked away to Greece for a vacation and now I'm rearin' to go.

We've also watched the entire first seasons of Lost and The Office. We're making headway on the second seasons of each too. I am so beyond addicted to Lost. But I'm a little behind everyone so no one talk to me about it or I'll get really upset. Oh, and we've caught two mice. Long story. I had no idea I was marrying a man with fierce mouse-hunting warrior skills. Pretty sweet, huh?