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Today’s schedule at the Mobilization to End Poverty (M2EP) was packed full of speakers, congress people, preachers, music, laughter, tears, and love.  I took about 20 (small) pages’ worth of notes, and I want to be able to take the time to really process all the things I heard today and post something interesting and cohesive.  So I’m going to wait on that.  Right now I just want to reflect on the last event of the day, the Koinonia Coffee House that was held for “emerging leaders” attending the conference.

It turns out that I have a huge crush on Donald Miller, who was the speaker at tonight’s Koinonia coffee house (interesting note: apparently “koinonia,” usually translated as “fellowship,” also necessarily implies some impending action).  Having read a lot of Miller’s work and his blog posts, I was half expecting him to be somewhat more dry in his speech and in his meeting of the people at the coffee house.  To my pleasant surprise, he was kind and sweet, his face soft, and his voice inviting and friendly.  He spoke about telling a story with our lives–one that would be interesting to watch if they were movies.  

Don told us that a good story involves a “character who wants something and is willing to overcome conflict to get it.”  He also noted, however, that the character’s character must be shown to be good or we don’t care what he gets.  He must do good things with a good motivation for us to want the best for him.  He told us that there was conflict even before ‘the Fall,’ that Adam–walking in the garden with God Himself–was lonely.  Don noted that many people think they must be totally fulfilled by God and aspire to do so before joining in marriage with another human.  He laughed as he said he thought that was impossible, that God just isn’t meant to fill our every need, that God doesn’t want to, and won’t, date us.  “The #1 way we consume stories,” he said, “is through each other.”  Not through movies and television and music and media.  We invest in each other and each other’s stories.  …It was quite beautiful really.

In the q&a session afterward, one of the women in the crowd shared about feeling like she was bouncing from ministry to ministry and not feeling like that left her being able to make a palpable difference anywhere.  Don has this advice: “It’s ok, in your 20s, to feel like you’re practicing.  You’re still figuring stuff out.”  He went on to tell us how it took him til he was 33 or something to start the mentoring project.  That was probably the most encouraging thing I heard all day, pertaining to my own personal situation.  It’s ok for me to be practicing and building experience for what it is that’s coming.  

I’ve been dreaming about starting a community center in my neighborhood back home.  There’s an empty building on Atlantic that I want for it, and there I want to help kids with their homework, and feed them carrot sticks after school.  It’s just a dream right now, but right now it seems palpable.  Don noted that “it’s in the doing that we are changed.  Not in the thinking and planning and dreaming–in the doing.”  

Amen. So be it. May God give me the faith to jump.

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I’m in Baltimore, waiting for the bus that will take me to the train, that will take me to my best friend’s house, where I’m staying for the conference this week. For those just tuning in, I’m attending the Sojourner’s Mobilization to End Poverty Conference until Wednesday this week. I’ll be hearing some pretty amazing speakers, possibly even including our president.

This morning waiting for my flight, I was reading some of G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy (which has taken me far too long to read), and came across this passage:

There is one thing that Christ and all the saints have said with a sort of savage monotony. They have said simply that to be rich is to be in peculiar danger of moral wreck. It is not demonstrably un-Christian to kill the rich as violators of definable justice. It is not demonstrably un-Christian to crown the rich as convenient rulers of society. It is not certainly un-Christian to rebel against the rich or to submit to the rich. But it is quite certainly un-Christian to trust the rich, to regard the rich as more morally safe than the poor. (G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy)

Chesterton’s thoughts struck me. Here I am about to embark on a three-day journey learning solely about poverty and how we can stop it, and then this passage comes up. Before the passage, Chesterton notes the idea that perhaps those with greater resources are more fit to govern those lacking. Chesterton then goes on to say that perhaps wealth isn’t what makes us more suited to govern, it just opens us up to a great deal of moral instability.

Hmmm. I do not consider myself a rich person, except in quality of life, but I suppose in the grand scheme of the world, I am a queen. I work quite a bit, but as a result, do not have to worry much about how much money I am spending (although I do stick to a detailed budget!). I can pay my rent, feed myself perhaps too well, enjoy a beer now and then, and even have money left over for such luxuries as tshirts, iPods, and Macbooks. Looking at my own wealth in this way makes me feel guilty. I have been blessed (although I hesitate to use that word – google “open theism”), and all these blessings leave me feeling…helpless.

I guess my big hope for this conference is that I am changed—motivated. I want so badly to be in the forefront shaping this world and giving all I’ve got. I confess that all too often I am held back by insecurities, worries about my own well-being, and selfishness. I am so looking forward to being able to have more information and learn about what it is others are doing in the face of such a problem as the poverty people in our nation and our world are facing.

I hope that you will keep me and the other conference attendees in your prayers. Pray that we are changed, and pray for the leaders of the conference, that they are speaking God’s words.

Peace.

We drove around a little extra to hear this beautiful song last night:

I roll the window down
and then begin to breathe in
the darkest country road
and the strong scent of evergreen
from the passenger seat as you are driving me home.

then looking upwards
I strain my eyes and try
to tell the difference between shooting stars and satellites
from the passenger seat as you are driving me home.

“do they collide?”
I ask and you smile.
with my feet on the dash
the world doesn’t matter.

when you feel embarrassed then I’ll be your pride
when you need directions then I’ll be the guide
for all time.
for all time.

(death cab for cutie)

I can’t go to an opera without bursting into tears at least once.  Is that normal?

For most, I assume not.  Many seem to find opera inaccessible and boring (sidenote: if you think that about opera–GO SEE ONE. then decide. geez.).  For a while, I wanted to devote my whole life to it.  That is a big thought!  I was ready to sacrifice having a family someday and normality and safety for art and culture and travel and loads and loads of practice.  It was the practice that got me in the end, and the yearning for something more stable.  I can’t even describe it, but something deep inside me wanted more.

Then a couple weeks ago, I went to a friend’s senior voice recital, and she was fantastic.  I went home, watched the dvd from my own recital from a year ago, and bawled my eyes out.  What the crap!?  Really. Just crying.  Snot, the works.

Then today a friend of mine who thought all her life that she’d go to seminary told me she decided she’s going to grad school for voice.  What is my instant reaction?  Jealousy!  I am envious that she has the drive.  (Even though now I am the one heading to seminary…)

And that’s just it.  The drive.  I lack it.  I lack the motivation and discipline to spend 4 hours alone in a practice room every day.  It’s just not going to happen for me.  I gave it my best shot, and it turns out I’m not cut out to be a diva–at least not an opera-singing one–and although I know in my heart that’s not my path…I am envious of those who are made for it.

So now what?  I guess I need to just be prepared to lean on the Lord to swallow the jealousy and dive in headfirst to whatever it is that’s on its way.

I am constantly haunted by these words:

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” (-Annie Dillard)

Constantly.  As I watch forty of my weekly hours pass sitting in an old desk chair staring at my computer or practicing my zen breathing to keep myself from becoming overly frustrated with one of my customers, I can’t help but wonder what I am doing here.

I am twenty-two, wildly passionate and just as wildly lost it seems.  Just a year out of college, I am constantly bombarded with, “Oh, so what are you doing now?”  I find myself trying to make my job sound more interesting than it is.  I’m working for the orchestra!  I’m really enjoying it.

I am treading water.

Fortunately, my job gives me a lot of time to read my daily digest of blogs.  Jon Acuff, author of Stuff Christians Like, wrote this article on his 97 Seconds with God blog.  Jon reminded me that even after David got called to be the king, he went back to the fields to be a shepherd a while longer.

This is a pretty comforting thought.  I know this stage in my “career” isn’t going to be forever.  I am working nearly full-time for basically peanuts with no benefits.  Not that money is really the goal, but I would love to have a job where I could pay all my bills without waiting tables on the side.  If David had to tend sheep, maybe I can sell tickets to some cranky old people.  And let’s be honest people, even Jesus was a carpenter before he was out preaching the good news.

At the same time, however, I feel like I am wasting time.  How I am spending my days is sometimes troubling, and I find myself floundering when someone asks me what it is I really want to do with my life.

I want to love people.  I want to feed the hungry.  I want to see justice happen here.  I want to make music.  I want to be a good listener.  Someday, I want to be a loving wife and mother.

Can it be good enough for me to be in a field right now?  Hopefully good (read:  more interesting) things are on the horizon.  This fall I am hoping to start a seminary program.  I am thirsty for reading and lectures and ideas and papers.  Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?  I can’t wait, and I think that must be a good sign.