Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Spring in Seattle, vol. 2 - The Sound of Music

As I mentioned on Monday, this is a series of recaps from the last few months on my work with RUF at UW. 

A huge and exciting part of spring quarter was that RUF at UW decided to record a CD of hymns along with two local churches - Grace Seattle (where I attend) and Greenlake Presbyterian Church. Because of my involvement in RUF leadership as well as my own musical interests, I was heavily involved with this hymn project throughout the spring. We have over 50 people involved with this project, and so there was a lot of coordination that took place in order to make this move forward. 

We had a vision for this project that it would be a way that we could celebrate the musical gifts among our students, connect our students to local churches, and that the album could be a gift to the community and to the campus. Many of the songs on the album have some element of originality to them - either original tunes or original lyrics or both! We are very excited for the project to get through the post-production process and be able to share it with you all soon (fingers are crossed for September 2012).

In order to make it available and be able to hand the album out on campus and give it away in churches, we ran a Kickstarter in order to raise money to cover recording and production costs so that now the album can be given away for free! The Kickstarter was successfully funded, and you can read more/view our video if you click that link. 

Here are a few pictures from the recording process, and here is a link to the project's Facebook page where we will post additional updates as we have them, including release date and possible CD release party! Exciting stuff.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Spring in Seattle, vol. 1 - Ch, ch, changes!

I am embarrassed at how belated this update is, but am excited to share with you about the spring quarter adventures that this blog has been waiting to hear about. 

I'm going to spend a few posts talking about different things that have happened over the last few months, so bear with me as this update is not a complete one. One of the large news items of the spring quarter was that the UW RUF campus minister, Ryan Hughs, and his wife, Amy, announced that they would be moving at the end of the quarter to Fort Collins, Colorado. They love RUF and love the UW but accepted a call to restart an RUF ministry at Colorado State University and felt that this was where they needed to be this next year. This was big news for us to adjust to, but we were excited for them and glad to be able to celebrate them as we spent good time with them together in April and May. 

This also left a pretty obvious job opening on our RUF staff team (the only RUF staff members at UW are me and the campus  minister :) )! While there were a few options for me in terms of possibly transferring my internship to another campus, I made the decision early on that I was going to stay and finish my second year at the UW. There are a lot of reasons for this, which I would be happy to talk to you about more, but what it boils down to is that I really felt that I could be most helpful and most valuable to RUF at the UW this next year as we walk together through this time of transition and change. I'm excited to be able to help the new campus minister and the students adjust to one another and continue the ministry of RUF on the campus here. 

At the end of May, after interviewing a number of wonderful candidates, the RUF committee offered the campus minister job to Drew Burdette, a recent graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO. Drew and his wife, Jessica, will be moving to Seattle in August and we are very, very excited to have them here and to get to know them better. Here's a cute picture of them:

Please be in prayer for Drew and Jessica as they work to get their support together this summer and prepare to move across the country! 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Future and a Hope (Yakama, 2012)

Since UW gets just one week off of school in the six months between January 3rd and June 3rd, spring break is a nearly sacred time of rest and relaxation for the campus. The week before is final examinations from winter quarter, and the week after is the start to spring quarter and a whole new set of classes. For a lot of students, this vacation is just about the only thing keeping you mentally and emotionally intact as you deal with the stress of school and the bleakness of winter in Seattle. Despite this need for respite, 13 students from our RUF volunteered to raise several hundred dollars each and travel to central Washington to spend their vacation working to serve the Yakama people on the White Swan Indian Reservation. This is a trip that a group from UW RUF takes every spring and one that I had heard about all year long as the students love to go. I mean, really. They love it.
When we go to Yakama, we work with a mission called "Sacred Road." SR was started by Chris and Mary Granberry, who have been working with the Yakama people for about 9 years. The Granberrys moved their four children to the reservation from Alabama after Chris took a trip there in 2001 and was struck by the overwhelming needs and heartbreaking brokenness of the people there.
Our team of 15 (students + Ryan and I) met up with teams from Alabama and California to spend the week in White Swan (there were about 33 of us altogether). We were able to participate in several areas of Sacred Road's work and ministry there on the reservation, the first of which was a worship service at their new church building on Sunday morning. Their church is very appropriately named "Hope Fellowship," and this became something of a theme for our entire week working on the reservation.
After church and lunch on Sunday, we were able to visit the museum of the Yakama tribe there on the reservation. This was a somber time as we got to hear about the ways the tribe has been very, very wronged and how the ramifications of that continue to have devastating effects on their way of life and their ability (or inability) to thrive. Wrongs perpetrated by Christians have left a bad taste in their mouths toward Christianity, and they continue to be plagued by the effects of rampant drug and alcohol abuse and an inescapable cycle of generational poverty. Combined with our Sunday morning study on Micah 6:8, we ended the day Sunday with a great longing in our hearts for justice to be mercifully done in this place.
Some ways that Sacred Road is seeking to do justice is to meet some of the physical needs of the community. For us, this meant we spent the week working on a couple of construction projects that involved providing brand new roofs for two families in White Swan. It was hard work, and I couldn't help but be moved by the students' willingness to work hard and was wonderfully delighted at how much fun we had working and serving together. We finished both roofs earlier than planned, and were able to help Sacred Road get some other projects done in the community - including chopping and delivering firewood to a number of families, installing a new window at a home, and cleaning up some outside areas by picking up trash. It was cold and windy most days, and at one point even snowing, but everyone pushed through to help get done as much as we could.
One of the most profoundly beautiful parts of the week was getting to see the relational ministry that Sacred Road does day in and day out that is so central to the work being done there. At the heart of this work is an inspiration found in Ezekiel 37 - where the Lord breathes life into a field of dry bones. It is no stretch to think of the Yakama people as being in a place that seems to hold no promise of life for them - it is a place where death is too close a friend, and most families have experienced the death of a close family member often and recently.
But as we were able to participate with Sacred Road at youth group and at kids club (their youth group has been meeting for 3 weeks and has 50-60 students coming and 20-25 in small groups; kids club is a VBS fun time at a park that met every afternoon where we could play with and love on kiddos for a few hours), it was a time where I found myself, for the first time on the res, staring hope in the face. In Ezekiel, the Lord breathed life into bones that were dead - long dead - and when I stood back and watched kids club happening around me all I could see was life. What is so beautiful about what Sacred Road does is that they are not seeking to have the solutions to every problem the Yakama people face, nor do they pretend to be able to right every wrong that has been done against them. But what they can offer them is hope - and this hope comes only through the gospel of Christ that can say to them "You have value, you are loved, you are redeemed, and this life is not the end." And what I saw in the youth, kids, and adults we were able to spend time with was that there is life being breathed into them. What a beautiful picture of the hope we must have when it seems all else is lost - even we who "have so much" have nothing if we don't have a faith in the love and grace of Jesus Christ.
Chris Granberry very beautifully said to us the last night we were in Yakama that we "did not need to worry - the Lord is still at work after you leave." This is so important for us to remember - because the Lord's work does not depend on us! That makes it all the more important to not drown in our despair when we think of these things, but to be encouraged and to rejoice to see the Lord working and changing lives. As I thought about this and reflected on the week, the future, my ministry with RUF, and the ministry of Sacred Road, I was reminded of this beautiful promise of the Lord from Jeremiah 29 that I believe, more than ever, is true for the Yakama tribe:
"for I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for peace and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope."

Friday, March 16, 2012

Spring Break, Sacred Road, Yakama

Hello dear friends,

Tomorrow, Ryan & I are leaving with 13 students to go to the Yakama Indian Reservation, which is about three hours east of Seattle on the other side of the mountains. This is a trip that the UW RUF takes every year for Spring Break to partner with the Sacred Road Ministry there on the Reservation, which is run by Chris and Mary Granberry. I'm so very excited to go on this trip, and this is primarily because of how passionate our students are about this ministry and their desire to go again year after year. This will be my first time on the Rez, and so I wanted to share some reflections that were written by a UW Alum, Randy Ferreiro, who has gone on this trip many times. Please be praying for our team and for those we will be working with on the Rez this week!


Reflections on the Rez

This is an account of the things I did, saw and thought about over spring break in the Yakama Indian Reservation and since.

Miguel- There was a young boy at Kid’s Club, starting on Tuesday, that I did not recognize. I went over to talk to him, and asked him his name. He told me he was Miguel, he was 7 years old and that this was his first time ever coming to Kid’s Club. We went over to the cement and started drawing with chalk, and I asked him a number of questions about school and his family. It turned out he was learning his multiplication tables in school (first grade), but so far he’d only learned the ones. I asked him if he liked math, and he said he did, and that he knew he needed to learn a lot, because he wanted to go to college and learn how to build houses! I called Mike D. over to meet this contractor-in-the-making, and Mike asked Miguel a couple questions. Would he build out of wood or steel? Steel, so the houses would last longer. Big houses or small houses? Big houses; but some of them would be for poor people, because they had no money, but deserved a place to live. I was blown away by his matter-of-fact tone and his absolute selflessness. And then I remembered the statistics. Very few kids from the Rez ever get to move off it. Even fewer of those go to college. In all likelihood, Miguel will never get the chance to pursue his dream. And why shouldn’t he? Enter struggle-of-the-week number one: Do I trust that God is good when He says that He is? Do I truly believe that He will provide for those in need, that His ways are pure and right, and that everything is in His hands? I am perfectly comfortable saying that I do. But when confronted with the bleak reality of a broken world, do I really?

Jason- This was my third trip to the Rez, and for the third year I spent at least part of the week playing with Jason. I’m not sure how old he is – 5 or 6, maybe – but he’s very small for his age. And he has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, of probably middling severity, and can’t communicate particularly well. And he’s gotten into the habit of hitting people (and pulling beards – ouch!). And, and, and. Jason is not the only child with disabilities, issues, whatever you’d want to call them. And I must again struggle with whether I truly believe in the goodness of God, and in His provision.

But one of the greatest gifts I have received over these three trips has been Jason’s huge smile and his precious laugh. It is one of the purest, most joyful things I have ever heard. And I am humbled by the ease with which he can be amused. By how simply holding him is enough. And I am struck by the basic human needs of these kids: to eat, to drink clean water, and to just be loved, plain and simple. And if you take a second to see past the snotty nose, the defensive attitude and the unruly, unkempt hair, and just love them as beautiful children, created by God, I swear to you that the love you will receive in return will be the among the strongest, purest and most focused you have ever felt. But are you – am I – willing to sit in the dirt and blow bubbles, or sing incredibly repetitive and obnoxious jump-rope rhymes all afternoon? Can we swallow our pride enough to lose at kickball, miss the tetherball, fail at foursquare and lose some marbles? Will we, as the girl in Chris’ story did, continue to play with the girl who accidentally peed on our arm and not make a scene? What will we do?

The work site- The work site this year was a little disjointed for me; the first day I sort of helped with the scraping on the main house, and I dug up a rosebush that was in the way… Besides that, it was kind of like a kitchen with too many cooks in it. :-) Tuesday I was part of a smaller, breakaway team that went to gather and split some wood, and Wednesday we painted the benches and table legs in the dining room at the Longhouse. Friday, Chris grabbed Joseph and me to help him load up some construction debris from his house into his truck and take it to the dump. That was pretty fun, and a really good time to get to know Chris a bit better, and pick his brain about what Sacred Road is doing on the Rez.

The Longhouse- One of the things I got to ask Chris about was some of the traditions of the Yakama in relation to the Longhouse and their beliefs. And some of those things were so amazing. The one that made me think most is this: When they are having a ceremony in the Longhouse, they begin with everyone circling the dirt floor in the same direction as the Earth rotates. This is to acknowledge that the creator has set things in motion and has a particular direction, and that they want to align themselves with his direction. And while their creator may not be our God, what a beautiful expression that is, and how easily applicable it is for us.

Dancing- There were two stories of dancing that were shared over the course of the week. One was a negative view of the ways that white people treated the Indians, and one was a beautiful story of the ministry of Sacred Road.

The first story goes something like this: There was once a mouse who was befriended by an elephant. As the mouse’s birthday approached, the elephant, with the best of intentions went about planning the greatest party he could conceive of. When the time came, the elephant invited the mouse and all his friends over for the party, and they started to dance. They danced and danced, and the elephant thought everything was going swell. He cried out to the mouse, “Mouse, isn’t this the greatest dance party you’ve ever been to? Mouse?” As I’m sure you can surmise, the elephant had stepped on the mouse, crushing the life out of him. And I’m sure you can also surmise which animal represents Indians and which represents the white folk. Trying to force another culture to “party” like we do can never result in the continued vitality of that culture.

The second story is of Chris Granberry and Chuck Clevenger having gone to, I believe, a powwow. At the powwow, Wendell, one of the elders of the tribe, asked Chris and Chuck to come forward, along with a respected dancer from the community, and dance. Blankets were placed upon the ground, and the dancer led Chris and Chuck around them in a dance, eventually lifting the blankets off the ground. Days later, Wendell explained to Chris what that all had meant: Wendell saw Sacred Road as dancing around the Yakama people and lifting off, as the blankets, the sorrows of the people.

The dichotomy here is clear: When we come to someone who is different from us, in whatever way, Christian or not, do we try to force them to be like us, and so trample them, or do we learn about them, and love them, and so demonstrate to them the gospel of Christ?

History- As most of you probably know, I am somewhat of a sucker for history. I find it fascinating, especially when I can learn if from the source. And one of the things I thought about a lot on the Rez, and really have thought about for a while is this: It is difficult to know where one should go when one has no real concept of their past. I strongly believe that the almost paralytic state of white society as a whole is due to the fact that very few of us have any real concept of our history, familial, cultural, national or racial. And something that I took away from what Wendell was saying is that some of the identity crisis that the Indians face is the tension between not forgetting the past and not living in the past. But I think that the not-forgetting-the-past part is key; for without the past, the future means very little.

The Team- One of the best parts, to me, of being part of the Church is being able to go nearly anywhere and have instant community. Whether you’ve met someone before or not, if you both love the Lord, there is an automatic aspect of fellowship that is unparalleled. It doesn’t mean you’ll always get along, but it does mean you’re on the same team, as it were. And every year, the place I recognize this phenomenon most is on the Rez. People from across the country come together for one week and leave with bonds and relationships that are maintained year-round. Crossing the boundaries of age, hometown and denomination, these 40 people work together hand-in-hand and are able to love one another and the Yakama people as a single unit. And every year it blows me away, and every year I love it more.

Beauty and Brokenness- One of the main themes that Chris and Ann Marie talked about this year was seeing the dual reality of the beauty and the brokenness on the Rez. Each year that I go, I think I see more and more of the brokenness of the people, and less and less of the beauty. And yet neither one is the whole story; both are there. And if I look closely, I see much, if not most, of the brokenness reflects that which I already know. Really and truly, the brokenness of the Rez is not so different from the brokenness of Seattle. It is simply more obvious and more easily observed. When I think of the brokenness on the Rez, I think of abuse, suicide, drug and alcohol addictions, fatherless children, homelessness and hopelessness. Tell me those aren’t problems here. Hidden they may be, but I have, in my relatively short lifetime, encountered all of those things numerous times. I’m not saying the Rez is not in desperate need. What I am saying is that so is our very own city. Our neighborhood. Perhaps our very own home. My heart yearns to go back to the Rez, to serve and love the people. I know that many who have gone feel the same. But do not forget, in the meantime, that you are here in Seattle for a very specific purpose. Do not focus so much on where you are not that you forget the importance of where you are. And remember: Christ has come to perfect that which is beautiful and redeem that which is broken.

I could ramble on for many more pages, but those are my thoughts in short(ish). My final encouragements are these: pray for the Rez, Sacred Road and its staff and God’s will to be done. And, if you haven’t been … go.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Long-Belated Update and a Leap Forward

Perhaps you can take it as a good sign that it's been over a month since this blog has been updated - in that it means that days, nights, and weekends have all been busy and computer time has been limited. I also had some computer technical difficulties this month, which I'd like to assume contributed to this as well.

The winter quarter has not just flown but has jetted by at speeds fast enough to break the sound barrier (the Puget Sound barrier, if your pun senses were really tingling just then). Next week is the last week of classes and the following week is final exams just before Spring Break. Unreal to think we're nearly to the 2/3 mark on the year.

You'll hopefully find it encouraging to hear that there is more good to tell than I could possibly write in one post - the Lord has been at work in some truly beautiful and unbelievable ways.
  • We had an incredible RUF Winter Retreat near White Pass in the Cascade Mountains in January. About 20 students joined us for a weekend in the snow and in teaching on the concept of evangelism - how to love our friends and communities well and to show love and grace to them on a daily basis and how to intersect some hot-topics in our society with the beautiful truth of the Gospel. It was awesome to see students engage with these ideas and to think about them in practical and tangible ways.
  • Honestly, so much of the beauty of this quarter has been in the little things. It's been in seeing students love and care about one another and about their campus more and more. It's been conversations with students where they say "Wow, I had never seen that in the Gospel before!" It's in hearing from new believers the way they are seeing God at work in their lives. It's from seeing our attendance at large group increase and seeing new faces each week. It's laughing and crying with students and experiencing life with them. I wish that all of these things were measurable or that I could recount every time a student has been blown away by the truth of the Gospel or understanding Grace for the first time.
  • Two of our students - Kyle and Tom - have applied and interviewed to do the RUF internship next year! I am so excited and encouraged by this and am thrilled to know that they will be participating in this incredible work over the next two years. Please be in prayer for them as they prepare for this big change and as they wait to hear where they will be serving!
  • There's a group of alumni and grad students who have been getting together about twice or month and I have been so thankful for this source of Christian community! Praise God for providing these friends for me and pray that we will all be encouraged by one another and by our time together.
We have Large Group on Leap Day tonight - which won't happen for another 28 years!
Leap for Joy!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Some Thoughts on The New Year

There is something very beautiful about newness.

A newly fallen snowfall.

A newborn baby.

A new beginning.

A new creation.

The start of the new year is something that people around the world have celebrated for thousands of years ---- why? Because the idea of being new is so incredibly appealing.

People long to get a new start. To begin a new regimen. To create a new habit. And for all of these, it is understood that newer is better.

2011 has set the bar pretty high as far as years go. In the realm of milestones, it may have been a record-breaker. I had all sorts of new experiences, including graduating from college, getting my dream job, moving across the country, meeting an intern class full of best friends, and working my first year out of college. Friends got married, had babies, moved away. Others took new jobs, or began graduate school. I made plenty of terrible mistakes but learned plenty of lessons and was reminded so regularly of God's grace that it became an impossible reality to escape.

So now it's time for a new year to begin - a year that looks to hold a few less changes and transitions but that promises bright hope and continued adventure. In most respects I don't know what to expect, but I know that the Lord is at work in my heart and in my life and that newness is the way the Lord shows his continued love for us.

There is a part of growing up that is really difficult. Things change rapidly and in some ways you don't like. But there is also something profoundly beautiful about growing older. The constant newness is a picture of the way the Lord is at work - and the way that he is drawing his creation back to himself and towards a time when it will all be made entirely new. Right now we can only see bits and pieces and heaven is only alluded to - but things like the start to the new year remind us that we were made for newness. The old things will pass away, but we know even in our heart of hearts that the oldness is broken and unfinished. The New Year is beautiful because we have a deep longing in our hearts and souls for a New Heaven and a New Earth. And guess what?

It's coming.

Happy New year.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Very Merry Christmastern

After recounting all of this semesters extraordinary events, it was hard to prepare to leave the home I made over the last three months. There were details to be arranged, gifts to be delivered, laundry to be done, rooms to be cleaned, and flights to be caught. So, naturally, there was no time for sleep to be had.

But returning to Oklahoma for a short visit has been wonderfully refreshing and encouraging. I was able to spend about five days in Norman/OKC with my college friends and cronies. As I mentioned to several people, "I've never been to Oklahoma for a visit - I've always come home to stay." Feeling as though a time limit had been set on all my conversations because of this made me spend the first day feeling rather disjointed (this may have also been due to delirium caused by lack of sleep). But after the first 24 hours were finished I fell right back into the swing of things - being in Norman just feels so natural! It was great to see faces I've missed and to laugh and cry with some of my dearest friends in the world - I, of course, extended about 100 invitations for people to come visit me in Seattle and sweetened the deal by offering my sofabed at no extra charge. :)

Being home in Tulsa has been great. It's great to spend time with my family, and some of our oldest and dearest friends still live in this city. I loved celebrating Christmas with my church home at Redeemer. I'm thankful for sweet friends who have been praying for me and loving me even from afar. I even got to spend time with a few former interns who helped pave the way for my own internship - all three of which are now at seminary with their spouses. Seminary in my future? Feeling more possible every day.

However, being home has also given me time to process this semester and to be thankful for the ways the Lord has blessed me this past year. It has made me anxious and excited to go back to Seattle and to continue the work that the Lord is preparing for me to do there! I am grateful to be feeling rejuvenated but also grateful that I have a job that I love and a God who loves me. Being an intern is unlike anything I've ever done before and the Lord is teaching me and demonstrating his love to me in ways I could have never imagined before now.

Mild, He lays His glory by - born that man no more may die.

The beauty of Christmas is Christ! He is life and light for us.