So, I was given a very exciting gift this Christmas- a Starbucks giftcard! (Yes, I know that local is better, but you don't live where I live. Coffee Bandits on Main St. may change this reality- my first mocha there was very pretty, an important quality in a mocha.) The thing I love about my gift card is that it fills a household budget void and makes me feel like I now have the power to make any day special. And with the average cost of the drinks I choose, I have the power to make about 10 days special.
For some of you, this may seem ridiculous that a cup full of chocolate milk and a little bit of coffee can make a day special, but a while ago my family decided to focus our resources on what really matters. The resource of my time was reallocated so that more was spent with little ones and less was spent earning dollars. The resource of our money was reallocated so that debt could be eliminated and freedom to follow God's call wherever could be gained. These weren't decisions I would have been able to make 10 years ago (when I was working more and racking up all that debt- wait, how does that work??).
But someone must have been praying for me like Paul prayed for the church of Philippi. "That your love may become more and more rich with knowledge and all kinds of insight. I pray this so that you will be able to decide what really matters and so you will be sincere and blameless on the day of Christ." Philippians 1:9-10 Common English Bible
Now, I'm able to decide that mochas and turbo-engines aren't what really matters. Neither do popularity or perfect skin. What really matters are the things that free us up to share more and more love, more and more of God. What really matters to you?
Cheers- to a special day!
I think that everyone feels alone sometimes. Being alone in your work, paid or unpaid, can bring loneliness as well. As we were wondering today whether the UCM Occupy Movement was actually sleeping in their tents at night, I wondered what it would have been like to be the first one sitting there, waiting and hoping for a community.
We're reading Philippians Chapter 1 this week in small groups, so I'm thinking about Paul going from place to place- being the first voice to share about Christ, sometimes being alone in his witness. I wonder how often he felt lonely being a lone voice.
I know that I would be lonely if I were doing this work of campus ministry alone. And so as I read Paul's prayer of thanksgiving, I felt an overwhelming gratitude for the students and local Board members who are in this with me. We aren't waiting for community- we already have it. "I'm glad because you have been my partners in the ministry of the gospel..." Paul's affection for those partners was real. I am sure of that because I feel it, too.
Where have you found community in your work? Who are the partners that you are grateful for?
I just wanted to say welcome back, I've missed you. It was great fun to go on campus and see students again- lots of students- everywhere, students! And it was even more fun to talk to some of you and hear about your break and what is in store for the semester. I'm praying for you and I mean that.
And I'd love to see more of you! We can start this Sunday at 9:30 (!Coffee is served!) AM at Merced UMC for worship and then go pig out at the BBQ Pit. You can eat daintily if you want, but the big pig statue outside makes me think that would be inappropriate for the setting. Hope to see you then!
Last year was significant for our Wesley Foundation Campus Ministries. We had our first trip to United Methodist Student Forum in a few years, launched small groups and worship at the UC, held weekly Bible Study at Merced College and our service and fellowship events gathered more students than in the past. Plus, I learned to cook for a crowd by inviting our student leaders over for dinner once a week. It really was a great year. We have been heading in the right direction and I am hoping for a 2012 full of blessings for our students and the ministry as a whole.
Before we get there though, isn't it nice to have a break between semesters? I spoke to many people in the past two weeks who don't have as much time off anymore, who live in the rhythm of the "real world." Time to rest and refresh- use it well and hold onto each day with a spirit of gratitude. See you soon!
Today I sat in a room and listened to presentations from 8 different Campus Ministries supported by our Annual Conference. Some started recently because people in a local church couldn't stand to not have a "place" for the students in their community to grow in faith. I love those stories. I love when people care so much about something that they can't help but act. Even if they feel like they are not the "right" person or if there's no money. They just can't sit by and do nothing in the face of an opportunity. And God does amazing things through their humble offerings of themselves.
Other ministries have been around for a long time and day after day students are blessed and growing and connecting in ways that they wouldn't without campus ministry and we're reminded why they must continue to bring the church to campus.
In case you were wondering if God is still working through the United Methodist Church and specifically through the giving that goes to the Annual Conference, after today, my answer is yes. Without a doubt. I wish that all of our churches could have been there to see the places where their resources are being put to good use. I also hope for a day when more resources will be available for our ministries with students. God is doing amazing things and providing all kinds of opportunities. We're just trying to catch up.
We have been knitting again. The "we" is growing which makes it great fun. My friend Gwen continues to amaze me with her skills at both teaching and knitting. She makes sure I learn something each time. (I have a lot to learn). There have been two completed projects among those of us who are learning- an eyeglass case and a dishcloth. Finishing is a good moment, but we are left to examine our work and see all of the bumps and lumps where are learning is taking place. Striving for perfection seems to be part of the knitting practice.
It's also part of our conversation as our words meander into this and that. We spoke about grace and how the life of faith seems to be one of continual learning and working out the lumps. A student remarked a month ago that we are never done seeking and growing when it comes to living faithfully. The Methodists call it "going on to perfection" and like knitting its more fun when we go together.
This is one of our Wesley House students after 36 hours of no sleep. Literally. And after that drink I'm not sure he could sleep if he wanted to. He's a hardworker (and fun to be around even when lacking sleep). Many students are. This is the season of exam after paper after exam after paper... you get the idea.
In the midst of all the sleepless nights and stressful days it can be difficult to make space and remember that "Who you are becoming is more important than what you are accomplishing." I have this on my fridge and hope someday to have learned this lesson well enough to pass it on to others. For now, it stays put where I see it every day.
At the Merced College Bible Study the students have chosen the book of Ecclesiastes to guide us. This Biblical voice adds a very different perspective to the conversation. "Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had spent doing it, and again, all was vanity and chasing after the wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun." (Ecc. 2:11) and we continue our search for meaning and meaningful work.
Yesterday my friend, Gwen of Knitability, came to the UC campus with me to knit. It was a really good thing that she was there since I picked up my project that had been sitting for over a year and realized I had no idea where I had filed my ability to knit in my brain. Apparently it was waaaay in the back behind many other distant memories because I couldn't even figure out how to hold my needles. Yeah, it was that bad. But, Gwen came to my rescue and as soon as I was set up it all came back quickly. Gwen explained that my muscles would remember how to do this even when my brain seems to have forgotten.
She's willing to help you out with learning to knit for the first time or getting your muscles back into the habit as well. Interested? Leave a comment or send me an email and I'll alert you when we'll be back at the Lantern. I even have some yarn and needles to lend out as you get started. As for me, I'll be picking up an easier project for these sessions (I'm thinking a prayer shawl- basically a very large rectangle) so I can use more muscle memory and the brain power can go towards prayers for the shawl recipient- or for you. If you stop by with a prayer request when we're there you can take home a gift of a prayer shawl of your own.
Last week I wrote about the practice of Holy Conversation that we hope for each year at Annual Conference. Today, I'm reporting back.
One "conversation" has stuck in my head. It began in a session where we were voting on resolutions to send on to the larger church so that our denomination might support something that we value as United Methodists. In this case, it was about food and farming.
The conversation started around a small table of dedicated folks called "Board of Church and Society." With seven or so hard working people around that table they did their best to put a proposal together to stand up for small farms, food safety, children's health, and creation in light of the Farm Bill that will be looked at again by the US government.
However, around that first table, voices were missing. Particularly, the voices of the farmers.
At first, the response to this was anger from many of the farmers in our midst. But as I watched and listened, anger shifted to claiming a responsibility to make it better. One farmer spent hours of time to add to the first voices in order to get a better result. The document was changed detail by detail in order to reach a better solution.
The reason this conversation has stuck with me is because Wesley students are entering a similar one and finding inspiration from the cooperation between farmers and environmentalists in opposing new coal plants in Texas. The film "Fighting Goliath" that portrays this advocacy work will be shown by Wesley Club on the UC Campus this fall.
Maybe this is the conversation that God will use to make a difference in the Central Valley. Maybe we will have a better result for all that we value- humans and beasts alike.