Speaking of Politics

October 7, 2013 — Leave a comment

1529784087_1373614272I don’t really like conflict. I’d rather avoid it, really. I sidestep invitations to it all the time, using my gifts of tact and diplomacy, as well as my ability to just keep scrolling down the Facebook newsfeed.

When other people start discussing hot topics–you know the ones that lead to conflict and raised voices and passionate words–it’s my instinct to either try to diffuse the conversation or leave the room (or hide it on my FB newsfeed).

Yet, conversation is important. We need to talk about these things. We are nation…a city…a Church deeply divided on several issues including politics and race. Obviously not talking about these things hasn’t really helped us get anywhere. Conversation and communication have to figure into beginning to understand the divide that seems to be widening by the day between one side and the other.

The peacemaker in me would rather shut down or shut out conversations that are leading to elevated voices. The realist in me knows that these conversations need to happen. And I feel that if people can be civil and kind and respectful, I’d even like to participate in some of them. But too often I’ve been the victim of personal attacks rather than respectful dialogue.

Politics is the topic du jour. We are entering week number 2 of a government conflict that is affecting a lot of people. People have strong feelings on both/all sides. The media feeds our frenzy.

Not talking about it will not make it go away. Talking about it can lead to uncomfortable conflict.

Here’s what I’ve decided: I will make myself stay for the difficult interactions. I will not ignore them or try to get people to stop talking. I’ll intervene if the words become malicious or hurtful. I will be educated about the issues, yet will try to vet my sources (all media is not created equal). I will not sidestep conversations even if all I am doing is just listening to what others are discussing. I will be respectful of other viewpoints, even the ones I’m tempted to dismiss as stupid. I will pray for our leaders, for people who are tragically affected by this stand off and for good, respectful conversations.

Happy Monday, friends! A new week has dawned and with it, a new chance to love our neighbors.

iphone dump 025October is a big month around here. At the end of October, we’re hopeful that our family will be moving forward toward a more clear goal. We’ve only really stalled a bit in the arena of figuring out what the next year will look like in terms of me returning to school to begin working towards a Masters of Divinity Degree. This is the month I visit two of my options and start to figure out what things might look like as far as application, financial aid and schedule.

This past week, Jason and I visited Dubuque Seminary at the University of Dubuque in Iowa. If we choose this program, I will do a majority of the course work online and visit campus for four weeks during the year to complete the intensive course work that is also required for the program.

This coming week, I will visit Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. If we choose this program, I will commute for all of my classes and complete the entire degree on campus. For those of you playing along from farther away, Louisville is about a two hour drive from Henderson.

I’ve considered other schools and programs, but as of right now, these two are the options I’ve settled upon.

iphone dump 036Once I have all the information I can possibly glean from visiting both places, we can start planning for applying to either or both schools and sit down with church leaders to discuss how either choice would impact the work and ministry I’ve been called to for the past thirteen years.

We also have started considering our finances and scholarship possibilities and potential funding sources for this venture. Because I would be a non-traditional student in both settings, it is less likely that either school would have a lot of scholarship help for my particular course of study. Honestly, the financial aspect has become the scariest part of this leap of faith. It seems like a pretty big hurdle–a dark cloud kind of hanging over all of the excitement of this adventure.

Yet, I’ve simply committed to applying to seminary. I believe that’s what God has called me to do. It costs like $30 to apply, so we have that covered for now.

If God has plans for me beyond the application, I trust that God also already knows how we’re going to pay for it. I’ve taken to reminding myself of this every time that dark cloud threatens my joyful celebration and excitement of exploring my call to ministry.

I appreciate those of you who are praying for us and those of you who are helping me discern as I try to be faithfully who God created me to be. Your encouragement and love fill me with hope.

Ten things that I really enjoy about our home, especially as the temperature drops and winter draws near:

419345_2827645694323_1354493417_32156046_906477541_n1. A fire in the fireplace

2. The smell of coffee in the air

3. Good lighting for reading

4. Sam’s warm head in my lap

5. The couch in Jason’s office–perfect for curling up with a book

6. The crock pot and the miracle meals it produces

7. Our dining room table

8. Windows that look out into the backyard, which is pretty no matter the season.

9. My fuzzy blanket

10. My family all home together

What makes your home especially cozy?

A picture that, for me, also demonstrates God's grace. What a beautiful place on a beautiful day! (Taken at the BIAC over the weekend.)

A picture that, for me, also demonstrates God’s grace. What a beautiful place on a beautiful day! (Taken at the BIAC over the weekend.)

Ten things you can do to let others know they are loved and valued today

1. Stop and listen to someone’s story today.

2. Tip everyone who is tippable today (servers in restaurants, hair stylists, window cleaners…)

3. Write an encouraging note to someone who probably needs to be encouraged. Bonus points if it’s the kind you mail.

4. Donate even a small amount of money to a good cause.

5. Smile at strangers.

6. Forgive someone who makes a mistake that affects you.

7. Forgive someone who hurt you long ago and let them back into your life.

8. Help a parent of young children who is feeling overwhelmed by providing a meal, a cup of coffee or an hour of babysitting.

9. Remind people that they are loved (by God, by you, by others).

10. Ask a child to tell you about the best thing that happened today, and then listen to her/his answers.

Hospitality

September 17, 2013 — Leave a comment

IMG_5400He was probably close to my age. It’s likely he was younger, but he looked a bit older because life is hard and sometimes that ages us, doesn’t it? I don’t remember what he was wearing because he was pushing a baby stroller and in that stroller was a toddler, a boy I thought (I was right), and that’s what I noticed instead. I had just come back from grabbing my lunch at a downtown restaurant when my path crossed their path. They were standing in the doorway to the church office and the dad was sharing a story of which I could only hear snippets. I felt embarrassed for a moment–embarrassed that they may be in the church for help and I had just spent $7 on a sandwich from the new bagel shop.

I caught his eye and smiled and opened my office door. I set my stuff inside and sat in front of my laptop.

Moments later, Kelly, our office administrator was at my door. “Do you have food anywhere that a toddler could eat?” She proceeded to tell me this man’s story: his wife had left him and his children. He was having trouble finding people to care for the children so he could go to work. They were out of food and very hungry.

A few weeks ago, our church staff had a meeting. “How can we be hospitable to people who come into our building?” Our pastor, John Guthrie, asked us.

We tossed around ideas. The truth is, we are downtown church and some weeks we have dozens of people come into our building requesting help with food or utility bills or rent or gas for their cars–things we all have struggled with or will struggle with at some point, I can testify and assume. These are our neighbors, in most cases members of our community. Some are used to asking for help and being turned away. Some have never had to do it before and feel embarrassed or vulnerable.

We decided something that day. Hospitality does not equal money. We don’t have a lot of money, really. We have a benevolence fund that our members support and sometime we have enough to help with the needs of our neighbors. But sometimes we do not have money in our benevolence fund. We could put a sign on the door, I suppose, alerting our community to that information. “Out of Funds.” It might say.

But is that hospitable? We save ourselves the effort of saying the words out loud and I suppose in some cases, people are glad to know before they come in the building…but it’s not hospitable.

Also, what about people who need more than food? What about people who need to share their stories? What about people who are hungry and need something to eat? What about people who would just like a cool place in the summer heat or a warm place in the winter cold? What about people who are thirsty…for water or for living water?

We’re not always great at hospitality. Sometimes we are in a hurry or we are tired or we have too much to do or maybe we just picked up lunch and would rather check facebook and eat it. Sometimes we are weary of all of the stories or we are overwhelmed by the very little we are able to do.

That day we talked about hospitality, we made a plan. We would always answer the door and we will never hang signs that turn people away. We will listen to people and offer our prayers or our kind words. We will have food available–things that we can cook on our stove or in our microwave or just hand to someone to take to eat.

So when Kelly came to my door asking about food, she and I went to work. We filled a bag with soup and tuna and applesauce, I ransacked the nursery for diapers and cheerios and our custodian gave the toddler a popsicle.  Could we have done more? Yes, probably, and there were things I thought of after he left that might have been helpful. Yet, we did try to show hospitality in that moment we had with the father and the son. 

I think too often, it’s easy to forget to be welcoming and kind, especially to people we do not know or to people who cannot help us in return. It can be easy to put people in categories or to think in terms of “us” and “them.”

In the divisive climate of today, it is easy to forget who our neighbors are.

Let’s stop today and ask how we can be more hospitable…in our homes, in our neighborhoods, in our cities and in our nation.  Let’s not forget who our neighbors are.

wonkaHappy Tuesday! Here are ten books I’ve read that were turned into movies that I liked (in most cases, not as much as the book).

1. The Princess Bride

2. Les Miserables

3. The Harry Potter books

4. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

5. Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

6. Life of Pi

7. A Walk To Remember

8. The Hunger Games

9. Where The Heart Is

10. Fried Green Tomatoes (At The Whistlestop Cafe)

Weekend Adventurer

September 15, 2013 — Leave a comment

This weekend was full of adventure…as it seems so many of our weekends have been as of late.

On Friday Night, we went to Hovey Lake and met up with a group from our Adventure Club. Yes, that’s right. Somehow, I’ve become probably the least adventurous member of the Evansville Adventure Club. Mostly I joined because I like kayaking and the occasional bike adventure and I was tired of being Jason’s +1 on every trip.

We kayaked Hovey Lake in the dark.

Photo Credit: Chris Norrick

Photo Credit: Chris Norrick

Hovey Lake in the daytime is probably really pretty. We caught a glimpse of it while there was still some daylight, but for the most part, our evening was lit by the waxing gibbous moon and our head lamps. And a lantern that Jason left onshore at the dock so we could find our way back to shore. Of course, before we came back to shore, some jerkface came along and stole our lantern. Luckily some in the club have better navigation skills than yours truly or it’s likely we’d have been in Hovey Lake until dawn’s early light.

Hovey Lake at night is creepy. There are cypress trees growing all over the lake (in the water). There are also cypress tree stumps that one’s kayak will roll right over before one realizes she’s about to hit them. Asian Carp jumped around our boats (over our boats, near our boats, but thankfully never in our boats) and created excitement.

It was fun. And I love kayaking, so I sucked it up and braved the creepiness.

Around 11:00 on Friday night, we were home, unloading the boats and Jeff and Stefanie arrived at our house. They came to help with Mom’s yard sale yesterday morning and to participate in the Riverbend Academy Art On The Ohio 5K. This is a race that I helped organize. I served as the Volunteer coordinator.

Stefanie and Jeff running through the Pink station.

Stefanie and Jeff running through the Pink station.

art on the ohio blue

Photo Credit: Gisele Purdy

Color 5Ks or Color Runs are fun because as you run the race course, volunteers squeeze and throw color on the runners. You start the race in white. You end the race in rainbow. Obviously this is not only fun for the participants, but it’s fun to volunteer for anything that involves attacking strangers for a good cause.

Here is a picture of the committee that coordinated this race. I only really knew Abbie (far left) before we started meeting several months ago, but the rest of these people (Megan, AJ, Steve, Karrie and Tiffany) have become friends as well.

Photo Credit: Matt Mortis/Abbie Grove

Photo Credit: Matt Mortis/Abbie Grove

Jason’s business sponsored the Yellow station, so he had a group of people working with him to apply yellow powder to race participants.

IMG_5452

 

The Color Throw Countdown after the race

The Color Throw Countdown after the race

Last night, it was time to sit by a fire in our backyard fire pit with family and friends. This morning, we worshiped together and I taught children’s Sunday School–a true adventure if there ever was one. Jason spent the day fixing every little problem in the house (with a little electrical help from Jeff before he and Stefanie left to head north), for which I am grateful.

How was your weekend?

Sam trying to crawl into my hammock on a recent day off.

Sam trying to crawl into my hammock on a recent day off.

Here are ten things I love to do on a typical day off.

1. Drink extra coffee.

2. Catch up on my reading.

3. Nap in my hammock.

4. Catch up on chores (The chores stink, but actually getting things back in order? Awesome.)

5. Use one of the kayaks.

6. Watch TV or a movie.

7. Check in with friends I haven’t seen for awhile.

8. Exercise in ways I don’t usually have time or space to exercise.

9. Cook or bake.

10. Shop.

Spark

September 5, 2013 — 1 Comment

“Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.” John Lubbock

IMG_5376

“Odyssa” and “Bear Bait”

Sometimes, the answer is right in front of your face and you just can’t see it, you know?

I realized today that I had been having this exact problem.

For awhile, I’ve been a bit worried about something. I’ve felt anxious that it seemed that Jonas has not found that thing. Jonas has found a lot of things in his young life…but I worried about him finding that thing. The thing God created him to love or to do…the thing that causes great joy and a spark of life.

Tonight, I realized he’s had it for a long time. I just didn’t realize that was his thing.

It started at Parent/Teacher Conferences at 4:00 this afternoon in his math teacher’s room.

“He talks about hiking and the Appalachian Trail a lot,” she mentioned. “He’s reading this book…”

Jason and I chimed in, “A Walk In The Woods.” (by Bill Bryson–excellent book for anyone, by the way.)

“Yes! That’s it!”

Then his English teacher.

“He loves the outdoors and hiking and the Appalachian Trail, it seems.”

Then his technology teacher. Then his World Civ teacher.

After Parent/Teacher Conferences, we caught up with Jonas, eating a slice of pizza in the school media center and headed to the truck to drive to Evansville to hear Jennifer Pharr Davis speak at the North Park branch of the Evansville Library. Ms. Davis holds the world record for fastest thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail (Hiking approximately 2,200 miles in 46 days) and has hiked the entire AT three times. She’s hiked over 12,000 miles on various trails around the world. Her story is wonderful. After her lecture, she took questions. Jonas asked her some great questions.

He and Jason were second in line to buy her book and have her sign it.

Jason asked her, “Could you make it out to ‘Not Yet’ and ‘Bear Bait?’” He asked.

“Those are your trail names?” She asked. “You’re ‘Not Yet…’”

“And he’s ‘Bear Bait,” Jason said, pointing to Jonas.

“Wait,” Jennifer said. “Were you on the trail this year?”

“Yes,” Jason replied. (They hiked Fontana Dam to Clingman’s Dome during Spring Break.)

“Hey, I heard about you guys!” She exclaimed.

The AT Community is a small community, with about 2,000 Thru Hikers making the full journey each year. Stories are told, names are shared. Jason and Jonas were in the Fontana-Clingman’s area around the time many Northbound Thru HIkers were there. It’s completely plausible that some of the ones they met–Goundhog, Skillet, Crazy Frog, Great Legs or one of the others–might have carried a story or their names with them as they hiked.

As I watched both of the guys I love react to that news, slowly it came together for me.

It really should not surprise me that both ‘Not Yet’ and ‘Bear Bait’ love the same thing. Backpacks, long trails, the community that forms in trail shelters and at campfires, stacks of rocks marking the way, beauty in mountains and landscapes…that is what brings joy and causes life to make sense for them.

Today was a good day.

Worldview

September 3, 2013 — Leave a comment
My sock monkey, Yolanda, has nothing to do with Jesus, really, but she's quite adorable an joyful (pictured here watching TV...probably LOST or Jimmy Fallon if I know Yolanda.).

My sock monkey, Yolanda, has nothing to do with Jesus, really, but she’s quite adorable and joyful (pictured here watching TV…probably LOST or Jimmy Fallon if I know Yolanda.).

I’m someone who often suffers, unnecessarily, from guilt. I feel guilty all the time for all kinds of reasons.

I feel guilty if I talk on my cell phone while I’m driving.

I feel guilty if I eat something I should not eat.

I feel guilty if I skip something I’m supposed to do–work, a meeting, church, etc.

The other day, I felt guilty because I posted something on my blog, looked back at it and the content and realized: Hey, I never mentioned Jesus! What do people think when I write a whole blog and don’t mention Jesus? Do people think that maybe I’m not much of a Christian or Christ isn’t a priority in my life?

[Let's stop for a second. If you actually read my "What I Wish I Knew When I Was 22"" list and decided I'm a terrible Christian, I would like to personally invite you to stop reading my blog. I'm certain there are other blogs you would probably enjoy more and you'd probably get less wrinkles from all of the frowning my blog undoubtedly makes you do. We'll miss you, I'm sure, but you'll be in a better place.]

So when I had this moment of guilt, I started thinking about my blog. And then I started thinking about my life. To me, this is where my worldview becomes relevant.

I’m a Christian. It’s not an activity that I do or how I spend my time on Sundays. Christianity is my worldview. When I encounter other people, I’m called to treat them as though I were encountering Christ. When I make decisions, I make them as I consider what Jesus might do in the same situation or as I consider the teachings of Christ. When I take sixth grade girls to the One Direction movie, I do so as one who has a reason to share joy and love with others.

Everything I do, everywhere I stand, everyone I meet, every blog I post, I do so as a follower of Jesus.

Sometimes, I’ll be explicit about this and tell you all about it. Other times, I don’t say a word about Christ, but I hope that you can see God’s love and light at work in my life. I also hope you always understand that I’m a sinner, well aware of the grace that makes me wholly a child of God regardless of the randomness I post on my blog most of the time.

If you find yourself here at beckydurham.net reading every once in awhile, know I’m grateful for you and your willingness to share this space with me. I hope you know that wherever you are, whatever you’re up to, you are loved.