Tag Archives: prayer

Flatbread Crackers & Cheese

DSC00988One time last semester, life was falling in pieces, or at least I thought it was.  I really can’t remember why I was upset.  I just know that I was in my spot on the Dennison steps, legs dangling a few feet above the heads of students walking below.   Judy came along behind me, and speaking the universal code that is I wish I could help but really can’t, she gave me food.  Flatbread crackers, tomato sauce, and shredded cheese has been my thing ever since.

I work on deadlines.  I always have.  Pretty sure the over-achiever, ambitious timelines I set fall in rhythm with my own heartbeat.  Supposing this connection were true, it would explain why not meeting deadlines of any kind, include my own, sets my pulse racing.

Watching an idea larger than I can properly explain come together has been the achievement of my academic life.  Admittedly, there are things far more important.  Likewise, a few dozen mostly coherent pages doesn’t really count for anything truly “academic.”  While its stolen my life, interests, time, relationships, sleep, and is about to get away with my sanity, a thesis is an exercise, not book.  If I’m a lucky, a dozen people will actually read it, and half of them will be either paid to do so or share my bloodline.

And yet, it’s all I want tonight, because it still matters.  The sophomoric (literally, cause I was a sophomore) Thursday night stomachache of fear and tension and not actually being fully convinced of my ability to make my deadline is setting on with prodigious force.

I spent most of the day camping out in the CSS library, a location with the unique advantage of being unoccupied, large enough to pace, and far enough away from anything that matters to yell at my computer without disturbing anyone.  The introduction I wanted to complete on Thursday is finally written and the rewrite of Part I is at last underweight, but the gaps, unwritten conclusion, edits, and eight days I have until I need a complete draft rise on my shallow breaths.

I’ve never run a marathon before, but I’m pretty sure this is the intellectual equivalent, and I’m doing it on flatbread crackers and cheese.


Start it Right, SB: Day 1

I think it takes a lot to freak me out in church.

Now, don’t take me as cocky.  I believe in an all-powerful God that moves.  But somewhere between John Wimber’s Power Healing in the 10th grade, high church liturgies, charismatics services to Catholic mass, praying scripture, foot-washing services, and purple kool-aid (cause there was no grape juice or wine), it is not that often that I am made physically uncomfortable by instruction given in the church (note the important difference between this and movements of the Spirit).

But tonight was the night.

Not that I don’t have a ton to learn, but I usually bust down the door with a charge and a smile.  I’ve dealt with the awkward moments when you are suppose to pray with the people sitting around you… when it happens to be a big group of guys.

And yeah, I’ve learned how to explain what’s happening to people who know nothing about what it really means to be in a relationship with a living God when something unexpected starts happening.

I’ve navigated awkward group prayers when nobody knows when to end, and have tried to train younger friends how to respond to unanticipated circumstances that make you throw your plan out the window (cause there are times when the Spirit moves and that’s what you gotta do).

But a prayer fire tunnel?  (think that’s what it was called).  I’d never seen that before or read about it, much less participated.  I was a little nervous.

But it was so cool.  A big group of leaders formed two lines and reached out to lay hands on people as  they walked through the middle.  So it was personal prayer, but it really had a cooperate flow.

In the end, prayer is prayer, which is just talking to God, but there is something incredibly cool about praying in different ways.  I love how we always do something different for our prayer weeks at WesCF.  There are countless ways to come before the Father and exploring them as a group is always meaningful.

The way home was amazing too.  Abe and I were dreaming up stories and laughing most of the way back.

FYI: This is how you start spring break 🙂

A love letter to Papa

I don’t really remember when it was that you first told me that you read my blog, but it meant the world to me that it meant something to you.  Your comments are my favorite.

It was like when we first got you a facebook, and you went crazy.  You were connected to your kids and your grandkids in a way that you never had before, because even though we were spread all over the country (and at times, the world), you were in our lives.

I chuckled and told my mom about that one time when you emailed me because you saw a facebook photo of a guy with his arm around me.  You just wanted to know who he was.  I smiled because it was just an old friend on graduation day, but I loved how much you cared.  And trust me, when there finally is a guy who’s putting his arm around me, you’ll be one of the first to know.

Remember when we went to the Father/Daughter Ball together?  Dad took Mychelle, and I had the pleasure of being escorted by lovely grandfather.  I wore my red prom dress.  We danced, even though it made you really uncomfortable.  I always felt a little bad because I thought I pushed you too much to do it.  But you danced wonderfully, and I was proud to have you as my partner.

When I was a little kid, I always liked listening to you talk at holiday gatherings.  I actually preferred it to playing with the other kids, unless you were talking insurance.  That conversation always bored me, but other than that, I liked what you said.

I didn’t say much when I would listen, because I was mostly just learning and didn’t feel like I had much to contribute.  But as I got older, I started talking too.  I took so much pride in the fact that you actually listened to what I had to say and considered it valuable information.  You can always tell when people listen and don’t really care, but you did.  And even more than that, you listened like you thought what I had to say was intelligent.

I feel like that was a transitioning phase.  When I was really young, you always played board games with Andrew and me.  I schemed 4 way trades in Monopoly, inevitably taking advantage of Oma who always seemed willing to trade 2 railroads for something like Baltic Ave to please her placating granddaughter.  We played Flinch and Clue and Junior Bridge too.  You and Andrew always won the games, but they were fun.

So when I was little, we played games.  When I got older, I listened to you talk.  Then we talked together.

When I heard you were sick today, I was very scared.  But the truth is, almost more than any hurt you were going through at the time, I was thinking about the day (whenever that day is) that you will go and literally hang out with Jesus for the first time.  It didn’t mask any pain or concern about you at the hospital or how Oma was doing, but it was a transcending peace.

I’m by no means ready for you to leave me.  I don’t think I’ll ever will be either, but it was still a really cool and powerful thought.

I’ve had the great pleasure of being born into a family where I’ve had two relational grandfathers.  I remember talking to my mom about what kind of pastor you are.  She always emphasized how good you are with visitation and showing your love to people.

I see that in how you take care of Oma, always putting her first.  Whoever I marry is going to be a lot like you.

I love you Papa. Please get well soon.

God bless the librarian.

He completely changed my day.

Every Monday, I have a write up to do for introduction to law.  The first assignment was last week, and it wasn’t too hard.  However, I did spend a good portion of Thursday just reading the three pages of text, but come Sunday night when I went to write the answers, I had no problems.

With the disruption in my perfect study schedule (I was sick Thursday, Friday, and Saturday) and the continued absence of a proper study corner, I did not have the opportunity to pour over my analysis of the text this week.  The assignment is technically optional, so I forced myself to let it go.

I knew it was the right decision, but I felt so out-of-place.  That pathetic fear of failure still hasn’t quite left me, so I spent a good portion of my one hour morning commute praying about it.

Class was hard.

After class, I took my  I’m-going-to-tackle-all-my-problems right now attitude and went to the library to try to renew my textbook, despite not knowing how to say “check-out” and assuming that the book was probably overdue.

It was, and standing there in all the morning discontent, my Spanish skills regressed about 4 weeks, and I understood next to nothing.

God bless the librarian.

It turns out that for each day the book is late, a hold is placed on your account for two days.  That means I would need to return my overdue textbook and not be able to take it out again for sixteen days.  I explained to him that I didn’t understand that books can only be checked out for a week (that nuts!) without renewing and he responded –via google translate, since I was a little too flustered to understand anything.

The librarian looked up at me, smiled, said “It’s your first time,” lifted my 16 day hold, and handed me by book back.

How’s that for an example of answered prayer?  All that morning fear and frustration that I was working so hard to get rid of melted away with his patient helpfulness.

A little bit of love

goes a long way…  Sophia (the 5-year-old) and I had a nice chat after dinner.  I told her all about Indiana and my home, and she drew me a picture of my family.

You know how you hear random bits of conversation in the the mumble of voices in a crowd?  I’d never heard one of those in Spanish before today.  It felt so foreign, because instead of hearing little bits of random conversation, I just heard sounds.  My brain hurt trying to pull individual voices out of the crowd.

I walked into the building I thought my first class was in to that mumble, but with a deep breath and a quiet prayer, I walked straight outside to a quiet corner beside the building.  Those ten minutes of silence outside the chaos made all the difference in the world.

I thought about my dad’s attitude on Black Friday.  On a day of insanity, commercialism, moody/tired shoppers, and exhausted employees, he commits himself to blessing as many people as he can.  Then, I thought about my commitment to attend law school, and how I came to feel at peace with that decision.  It was about living for the good of the people that will be there and in my life afterwards because of my education, and not the academics itself.

What I learn here at UC3M is really secondary objective for this trip.  How I live is far more important, so nuanced scheduling problems, confusing websites, and language complications really shouldn’t rattle me.

Today, I found out that I misunderstood some advice I was given about classes, which made the schedule I was up half the night completing worthless.  I had to rework everything in about 20 minutes.

In the end, I think the whole marathon schedule rewrite worked out for the better.  I have a better combination of classes. There’s also this warm/smiley feeling I get  when I can sit and listen to someone talk for a long time and understand almost everything.  I had that feeling a lot today.

That said, there’s still a lot more new things to come.  But if I can take it one day at a time, with a focus on what actually matters, and a little bit of love, I’m sure I’ll do fine.

Circling Third

So I’m not quite sure what the mileage was that I put on my new tennis shoes today, but needless to say, they are thoroughly broken in.  My last two teams arrived last night and this morning.  The day started with a hike to the Staten Island Ferry, which we take because it gets within several hundred yards of the Statue of Liberty.  I walked them down Wall St, by the famous Wall Street Bull, in front of the New York Stock Exchange, to Federal Hall (sight of Washington’s inauguration), past Trinity Church, through St. Paul’s Chapel, and to Ground Zero.  …And that was all before lunch 🙂

I’ve been taking teams all over the Greater New York area alone all summer, but this was the first time I led (with the new intern) the big trip through parts of the city that I don’t often go through.  (read: my father should finally believe me when I say that I know how to read a map. [love you dad]).  Jeff was picking team two up at the airport, so we really were on our own.

After lunch, I joined the team on the citywide prayer walk, which I must admit is by far my favorite part of iServe.  I like hanging out with the kids when they are able to connect to God in the chaos of Manhattan.  Its more than just being able to tune out of the craziness and focus on God, it’s doing that and then realizing how badly the mess around needs Him.  I like that.      

The evening hours were spent hanging out with the Getz’s on Roosevelt Island, which was great as always.   I am thoroughly beat though.  I can’t believe that the summer is basically over or that I’ve been here since mid-May.  That seems so long ago.

View from a Rock

Today was an interesting continuation of yesterday, and by that, I don’t even think I’m quite sure what I mean because I am still digesting it all.  I’m interacting with these ideas that are so extraordinarily larger than what I am currently capable of understanding.   I’m not entirely sure what to do about it, and that is, of course, a great thing.  It means I have so much to learn.  It means I am keenly aware of my own limited knowledge, but, still, wow.

This afternoon I had one of those few times where I was actually able to fully tune out of the world and just sit in silence, think, and pray.  It was a really cool continuation of everything I was thinking about and exploring yesterday.   I should have been exhausted, but I just wasn’t.  After lectures this afternoon, I kicked off my heels, put some shorts on, and walked the whole 50 feet between the hotel and a beautiful harbor.  I found some large stone benches and while I was initially leeching internet from Johns Hopkins and listening to music, my quickly ipod died, so I was left in quiet.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how I pray and what I pray for.  While sitting out on that big rock I tried to remember how Biblical characters talked to God.  In one sense, it seems as though it is and should be casual, just because He’s always there, but in the same sense, we are also talking about the Creator of the universe.  Out of fear of preaching Christian platitudes, I’ll stop there, but the apparent contradiction truly baffles me.

Somewhere between watching the ships, sliding out of my flats, and lying down on the big rock I became really overwhelmed with all the ideas and events that like my questions about prayer, seemed contradictory.  It was just like I couldn’t mentally compartmentalize all that I was trying to understand in my head or answer any of the few pressing questions that I’ve been contemplating lately.  For whatever reason, I looked up an old verse that I used to read a lot in high school.  Close to that verse in Zephaniah  I came across two lines that stayed with me for the rest of the day.  Now, I am throughly hesitant about taking Scripture out of context, but those two lines were just the calm my brain needed.

“He will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing” Zephaniah 3:17

That line about quiet just got me.  Like His love just covered all my thoughts and questions.  I went back to my room and laid down on my bed and just had this image of Jesus sitting beside me and singing a lullaby as I finally rested.  And for the rest of night, whenever those same questions came back to me, I just repeated that verse.   And the evening proved to be amazing.