Monday, August 17, 2009

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

it's been long and hard. the first night in tulsa caitlin and i went outside for a debriefing and unwinding walk. and we were immediately struck by the way the night air here feels like having a breakdown. i think it's because i've sat in so many oklahoma summer nights and broken to pieces.

it came earlier this year, though. last year it wasn't until july that i completely broke apart, that i found corners of the church to collapse in during small breaks. this year i had two afternoons in the second week where i felt like i simply couldn't go on.

and you know, it's been just what i needed. i prayed yesterday, God help us to come to the end of ourselves and not to fall apart, but instead to trust You there. that's what i need--to see that it's only God in me that can make anything happen.

so yes, i'm bone-tired. yes, my voice is leaving me more often than not. yes, there are times i sit in my classroom and think there's no way i can face the clean-up that needs to be done before the next event which starts in forty-five minutes. but my Redeemer is faithful and true. it says in isaiah that those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength. He proves that to be true every morning when my alarm goes off. He proves it to be true every time another getAHEAD starts. He proves it to be true every time i want to sleep but need to study tomorrow's Bible lesson for another hour.

He's holding me up. i can't do this at all. but He is so strong on my behalf. it says in hebrews 11 of the people of faith that they were made strong out of weakness. i'm growing in faith and He increases His strength in me.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

a wednesday in the life of an intern

Most days are busy. But usually we can count on Wednesdays to pretty much top any other day of the week. (Except during Project 61, but that's an entirely other story!)

8:00 am -- Sarah and I leave the house where we're staying (I am highly medicated as I've been sidelined with a sinus infection the past 2 days).

8:15 am -- Pick-up intern checks from the Shackleford's house

8:35 am -- Pick-up the other Sarah and Rachel from where they're staying

9:05 am -- Arrive 5 minutes late. Misjudged the time again!

9:10 am -- Greet Julie and show her every nook and cranny of the church since it's her first day. I like to give the new intern tours because I show them every corner. I didn't feel really at home here until I had explored every closet, so I make sure everyone has that opportunity right off the bat. And, this way, when I say "the very back closet with the tables," they know what I mean.

9:20 am -- Meeting with Nate and the other interns who weren't there yesterday to get caught up on everything we missed. Simultaneously attempt to help Caitlin with Excel but fail miserably as I don't understand Macs.

9:35 am -- Inspect my classroom, "Class Champion." Joe decorated it for me yesterday. The best part is a Rudolph bear head hanging above the white board with a medal around its neck.

9:37 am -- Help Rachel clean the kitchen.

9:50 am -- Talk to Julie and Rachel about lesson plans for the day and what exactly a day at getAHEAD (our tutoring program) looks like. Try to share teaching tips, but can't really remember any.

10:10 am -- Major getAHEAD meeting with all the interns. Miriam stayed up til 3 typing up 7 pages of notes in a really small font so everyone would know what to do. We now undergo a crash course in the care and keeping of getAHEAD.

11:50 am -- The really fun part of the training--restraining a child safely. Much screaming as we push each other around and much amusement as Chase (kinda short) attempts to restrain Tyler (quite tall).

12:15 pm -- Lunch. Sandwiches, quite naturally. I have American and ham on cheap wheat bread with just a touch of mustard, my normal sandwich unattainable because of our current lack of Doritos.

12:30 pm -- Various last minute jobs to prepare for getAHEAD.

1:05 pm -- Leave to pick-up kids. Only a very vague idea of where they might possibly live.

1:30 pm -- I'm in the neighborhood, of that I'm quite sure. But I'm entirely unsure of where the kids might be. Six phone calls and a few unsuccessful doors later, I have to head back to teach class.

2:10 pm -- getAHEAD should have been going for 10 minutes now, but there are no kids in my classroom. Contrary to intern popular belief, that only happened once last summer. Usually I have at least one. I am bewildered but trusting God as I've been praying all day for the kids that He would bring today. He knows what He's doing.

2:20 pm -- Rachel and I go to the nearby McClure park to hand out more flyers for getAHEAD. There's a lot of people there, and we get quite a bit of interest. We'll see if any of it pans out.

3:00 pm -- Back to the church for Skills Time. Rachel teaches how to be a good friend and a good student. I make friends with a girl named Larissa, rekindle my friendship with Sondra, and haven't stopped being Makaela's friend since the wedding. Rachel makes Joe and I act out good student vs. bad student. I am cast as the good student. I feel my skills in the audition tended more towards the bad student, but Rachel changes it at the last minute. Joe does have that impish grin better suited to mischief.

3:30 pm -- Individual Time with Qwe-Qwe and then Sondra as Rachel has to drive a suspended child home. We read a poetry book (Qwe-Qwe loves poetry) and work on spelling words using alphabet cards.

4:00 pm -- Floor Time. Nate talks about the attributes of God, starting out with immutability. Graham as Kermit makes a triumphant puppet debut. My legs go solidly asleep as I have two 8 to 9 year olds in my lap and another leaning her elbow on a part of my knee that managed to be exposed.

4:30 pm -- The kids leave for home. We clean up our classrooms, do our write ups about the kids we individually "mentored" (a classier word than "tutor" according to our beloved director, Miriam Boone (that was weird.)), and then Caitlin, Rachel and I have a tea party with the uneaten snacks in my classroom. Other interns join as Miriam reads Seymour and Opal out loud. We decide to make story time a Wednesday tradition. Various jobs and brainstorming.

5:30 pm -- Dinner time. Chili with all the toppings. I hadn't realized how hungry I was.

6:00 pm -- Jerusha, Ayana and I go back to where I was earlier so Jerusha can show me where the kids live. The house of the "beaded kids" looks empty, but we leave a flyer anyway and I make a mental note to try later and then to ask Makaela where they're living. The other kids are excited to see us and want to come with us right then and there. We explain that it already happened for today, but I'll be back for them the next day.

7:00 pm -- Mission Memorization during adult Future Grace study/prayer meeting. Miriam and Hannah and I teach the kids 1 Timothy 4:12, Chris leads some songs, Joe talks to the kids about setting examples even though they're young. Much hugging of Rinnah, Annie, Amy, and Alicia. (Rinnah gives some of the greatest hugs ever, even though she's 7.)

8:30 pm -- A little more final clean up while talking to people from the church. Many of the interns play basketball in the parking lot. I'm not dressed right, am still kind of sick, and frankly just don't want to join in tonight. I talk to Dan and Rachel instead

9:15 pm -- Six interns reconvene at Starbucks to do some reading. It's gonna be due soon! As predicted, not much really gets done as we get sidetracked by talking about the day and then all came back to God. And it was good.

11:00 pm -- A wind comes up and blows some notes out of Caitlin's journal. "My RA notes! I'm never going to be a good RA now!" She takes off running as the notes land on the roof. We try to tell her where they landed, but she seems determined to get them anyway. Realizing this, the Sarahs and I take off after her, finding her on the other side of the building looking for a ladder. She is about halfway through shimmying up a drain pipe when someone asks, "But how will you get down?" Realizing the rationality of the question, she comes back down. We stand there for a moment, pondering what to do. Just then, another gust and some papers blow off the roof near us. We all laugh, knowing exactly what they are. I call that the worship laugh, when God just works out something so perfectly that you can't help but laugh. His care is perfect and minute.

12:00 pm -- Back "home." Mind too full to fall asleep. I listen to the Killers and blog instead.

(Note: all times wildly approximate. You think I actually looked at a clock that many times in one day? Seriously now, people.)

Saturday, May 31, 2008

fishers of men

Week One. Only two days of officially interning, but the adventures are already full force. Today I had the closest encounters with cockroaches that I've ever known as I helped the Blankenship family clean Miriam and Nate's North Tulsa apartment in preparation for their return. Rachel and I found frozen cockroaches lining the freezer door--I scraped them off into a rag that she held. When one fell on my arm and we both jumped a little, I said out loud, "It's okay, it's just dead. It's dead." By the end of the afternoon, I was nonchalantly letting the little guys (live ones, mind you) scurry all around me while Samuel and I held the bed together and Malachi tried to figure out how to assemble it. Missions training. I have now successfully conquered the fear of cockroaches. And if our preventative measures worked, Miriam won't have to.

We had "intern retreat" which really meant that we were all at the church learning "Intern Basics" and hearing both the pastors, Joe and Andrew, share their hearts for ministry. I took five full legal sized pages of notes on the things that we're planning to do this summer. My favorite part is a quote I wrote in the margin:

"Archer and Yale? That's not a good area." -- a new intern

"It's a good area for ministry." --Brother Joe*

As part of intern retreat we went out to Comanche, one of the main housing projects that we minister at. Lottie and I went directly to Chene's house, following her niece Ebony on her princess bike. Chene is a 15 year old girl who has really been responsive to our ministry, but also to other ministries involved in the projects. The main one is Victory, which preaches a health and wealth gospel. We're really burdened for Chene that she would see the true gospel and be captured by a view of God that says salvation is all about Him, not about what we can get from Him. Pray for her, and for our ministry to her.

Chene's sister, Ebony's mom, had a baby 5 months ago. Chene and Camille both take care of their nieces. I've never met Ebony's mom. But I finally got to meet her little sister and, of course, quickly fell in love with this precious baby. I sat on their front steps, feeding little Reniah her bottle and talking to Chene about her efforts to get a summer job at McDonald's or QuikTrip. I watched Lottie do bike races with Ebony and a neighbor boy while Rachel and Caitlin talked to Camille. I didn't want to leave when the van pulled up to get us. (I'm rather jealous of Miriam and Nate's apartment in the middle of it all.)

While hands-on ministry is a huge part of interning, it wouldn't be complete without the training that accompanies it. This summer we're studying the attributes of God, learning some hermeneutics, having three weekly prayer times, being involved with all the various Bible studies of the church, studying five books together, and reading other assigned books on our own. I get excited every summer for the books the pastors provide for us to study together. This year they are:

Holiness by JC Ryle
The Attributes of God by Arthur W. Pink
The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer
The Grace of Repentance by Sinclair Ferguson
Crazy Love by Francis Chan

So as not to waste any time, I started right in on Crazy Love. I was struck when he quoted the verse from Philippians which says, "For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ." It hit me that I too often don't realize the gravity of people's positions with God. If they have not been saved, they are enemies of the cross of Christ! And that is something that should bring tears. And action. Because we've been given these nets and told to catch men. He'll supernaturally provide the catch. But we have to be casting the net. (And that is a very incomplete summary of Brother Joe's intern challenge '08.)

I'm excited.

* We call the pastors Brother _____ . Everyone thinks it sounds weird at first. Everyone eventually succumbs.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

back in tulsa...

(Miriam and her flower girls in the bounce house)

It's been quite a while since this blog has seen any action.

Some changes in my life in this past year:
  • My hair is longer
  • I discovered an inexplicable talent for accounting
  • I got new, fashionably modern (and slightly emo) glasses
  • I got in my first car accident
  • I graduated from The Master's College
  • I was a bridesmaid in three weddings of dear friends
The third wedding was this last Saturday in Tulsa. Miriam and Nate's wedding was one of my favorite weddings I've ever been to, but it was also extremely tiring! Since the wedding, Caitlin and Rachel and I have been living together and have basically done nothing but sleep and read in an attempt to recover. We'll be back to the busyness this Thursday when our internship with Springs of Grace Bible Church starts.

One of the things that made the wedding so crazy was the sheer size of the wedding party. Eleven bridesmaids, eleven groomsmen, nine flower girls. The flower girls were Miriam's three youngest sisters, an adopted girl from the church who has Down's, and five girls that we know through Springs of Grace's outreach ministries. None of them had ever seen a wedding before. In fact, when I was picking Makaela up for the rehearsal, her aunt told me that she had never been to a real wedding. It really struck me again how marriage has been so devalued because of sin. Throughout the whole ceremony, Brother Joe repeatedly emphasized the high and holy calling of marriage and the way that it pictures forth Who God is. That was the most beautiful thing about the wedding.

I loved spending time with the flower girls and talking to them about what it meant. I loved Kyra telling me she knew Miriam and Nate were getting married because of the way they looked at each other last summer. I loved teaching them how to walk down the aisle and how to be ladies in their dresses. I loved holding their hands during the humid picture time in the park. But my favorite part was when I drove Kyra home and we talked about the gospel and about how Jesus wants us to live the whole drive.

Talks like that make me excited about this summer's ministry. I can't wait to get involved in the lives of these kids, to go to bed worn out and crying from working to love them like Jesus would, to teach them and give them rides on my back and play ridiculous games all in the hope that they will come to see, to know, and to love Christ.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

life is a crazy mixture of hard and beautiful

...hard to watch the coldness in erica and aaliyah's eyes as their family falls apart around them, throwing bricks through windows, threatening one another with knives, dad beating mom during aaliyah's birthday party and causing the other kids to run home...

...hard to see justin again, this kid i've been praying for all year, to see some growth, some softness to the gospel in his life, and then for him to move to las vegas...

...hard to have a cheerful attitude about picking up the church again...and yet finding the strength to put on a smile and a song and pray for the kids as i clean up another one of their messes...

...hard to love through an excruciating head ache and terrible sore throat...

...hard to walk from door to door in the heat and the humidity, not knowing what encounter is behind your next knock...

...hard to not be broken enough by my sin...

...hard to get in bed after a day where the hours were too long to even calculate and then realize i still have to prepare a bible lesson for the morning...

...beautiful to rest my chin on eddie's curly head during the missionary story and cry over God's great goodness to me...

...beautiful to help qwue-qwue find habakkuk in her bible during church so she could look up her memory verse and then hear her read the whole book to herself at a whisper...

...beautiful to spend a whole evening just miriam and i, making eggplant parmesan in an amazing kitchen, driving with the moon roof open praying and talking about things that matter and how we can be spent for the kingdom...

...beautiful to have a mud fight in the fry's back yard and then have both angel and hosanna grab my hands when it was done and we were rinsed off to show me their kittens...

...beautiful to find strength whenever i read my bible or hit my realize how very much i need to be there more...

...beautiful to see a glinpse of a kindred spirit in ranisha, to work past the bitterness and anger and see her longing for love...

...beautiful to fall in love with the grace that i keep seeing more and more in the lives of the other interns and the saints at this church...

...beautiful to ponder how we can show we're crazy-in-love with Jesus in the broken neighborhoods of north tulsa...

...beautiful to attend my eighth bible study of the week and come away pondering something fresh and amazing about my God...

...beautiful to be told over and over to see and savor the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus...

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

the soles of [my] shoes are all worn down

the girl i babysit was sitting in my passenger seat and staring at herself in the mirror this afternoon. then she started turning her hands over and over in her lap. i asked her what she was thinking about. "my hands are really me," she said with a laugh.

i laughed back and asked her what she meant. she held her slightly crooked hands up next to her face. "my hands look like me. and my face doesn't." it sounded weird at first but i understood. our souls are similar like that...we just understand each other. (who knew that could happen with an emo jewish 13 year old and a 20 year old christian college student?) i knew how she felt...have you ever passed a mirror and wondered who that was inside? i don't look like i feel i should. (and i think you'd have to be made of some similar stuff to mariah and i to understand what that means.) we sat in my van outside of hebrew school and listened to death cab for cutie. and both of us pondered our hands.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

some thoughts in a coffee shop

i'm sitting in java and jazz right's become a second home for me as of late.

caitlin is working on her powerpoint and rachel and danielle on a massive persuasion project. i am avoiding outlines.

there's a couple sitting off to my right and they just can't stop looking into one another's eyes and touching each other's faces. they don't see anyone else. and i can't decide who's stranger...this couple so into one another or me who can't imagine being that wrapped up in one person. maybe someday.

the other night we randomly met a guy in here who had just moved to the area and we gave him the names of our churches. a couple of women have been sitting at a table near me and just talking for the past hour and a half. and as i've asked rachel, "what would it feel like to go to coffee shops without homework?" i can't picture such a state.

i think that's why i like java and jazz. i realize that there really is life beyond college. i see the little kids trail their parents into the store and run around on the newhall coffee company logo on the floor. i watch a small child cautiously tiptoe around the edge of the counter before her dad swoops her back to safety. i see the rushed housewives and the business men looking at their watches and the kids who sit outside and smoke and the juniorhighers out on "dates" and the screenwriters trying to make it big and the couples falling in love or trying to pick up the pieces of a relationship...and i see again that the world is so much bigger than me. and i am amazed at my God who is orchestrating it all.

the barristas here have become friendly faces. rachel now has a usual. someone put up a poem on the bulletin board in the bathroom and rachel and i talk about posting some of our own attempts at poetry. and it's funny how a coffee shop can begin to feel a little like home. it's the people i'm sure. one of my friends finally admitted that she was in love and that's how she described it...feeling at home with him, no matter how far away home really was. that sounds lovely to me.

i'm an expert people watcher. i wonder if you can put that on a resume? i love collecting bits and pieces of people's lives from what they do and say and then piecing together an entire life from that information and my overactive imagination. today i was waiting to pick up kids from bridgeport elementary school and i made up an entire life story for the man sitting on the wall next to me. and i saw dr. wong. that doesn't have anything to do with anything, but i think this is rather a stream-of-consciousness update.

i think maybe why i couldn't imagine being like that couple is that i people-watch even when i'm with those i love most. maybe i even do it more with them.

i haven't eaten all day. today was the day of fasting and prayer for newhall. but i'm not sure this fast has had its intended effect in me. i've been praying for newhall all day, but not in lieu of eating. i've just been praying for newhall whenever i would normally pray for other things...when i'm driving or walking or that little chunk of time between lunch and work. i spent my lunch hour in the caf, just not eating but selling spring party tickets instead. and i spent my dinner time at work. i think i might go get some that wrong? i just feel really tired and i know it's lack of calories. i still have quite a night ahead of me...and a seven o'clock meeting tomorrow morning. i need to figure out how to really fast and not simply skip meals. i do that anyway, just out of sheer busyness.

today i looked at the sky. it's always a better day when i remember to do that. some days i forget and i walk along watching my feet and i forget all the vast grandeur above me. i remembered today and as i walked out of my new testament class i just tipped my head back, looked at the vast blue, and breathed deeply. and at those moments, God sends calm to my heart. it sounds mystical when i type it out, but i promise that it's not charismatic in any non-biblical way. it's just me remembering where i fit in this world and breathing out of sheer dependence on God. i call it worship breathing in my head. sometimes i just take my breath for granted, but i can't when i look at the sky.

i looked at the sky last night too. i was on a beach in la and the wind was blowing as hard as it could and my feet were soaking wet from foolishly standing too close to the waves. i was wrapped in a sleeping bag that smelled like my childhood and the moon was directly overhead. and i just leaned back and breathed.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Skid Row is never the same two weeks in a row.

This last Friday night I met a man named Earl. He's a Vietnam war veteran, a drunk, and a drug addict--and wanting the truth. On Thursday, he and a friend were sitting on the corner of Towne and 5th just drinking and talking like any other day on Skid Row. But his friend got up and walked across the street. And a Toyota pick-up pulled up and a shot sounded. And Earl's friend went to face his eternal fate.

Earl didn't explain why his friend was shot. But he did explain the impact that event had on him. I read Job out loud to him and he started crying. I read John 1 and we talked about the Savior, how our only hope is that of Job, "I know my Redeemer lives, and in the end He will stand on the earth."

He begged us to tell him how he can be sure of his eternal fate...I can still hear his earnest "please, please tell me" ringing in my ears. And so my friends explained salvation, about how we have to make Jesus Christ both savior and lord. And there's the problem. Earl doesn't want to give up his sin. "It's so hard here," he said. And I believe him. It's so hard for me to fight sin living at the Master's College, surrounded by almost every conceivable help to living a holy life. How much harder it must be on the streets of Skid Row, where sin in its basest and most addicting forms is available at every corner.

We talked to him for almost two hours, reading the Word and preaching the truth. And still when we left he told us that he was going to finish his bottle before going to sleep. My heart broke. How could he so earnestly desire to know the truth and still cling so stubbornly to his besetting sins? We tried to show him the true beauty of God and how much more valuable He is than anything else, we prayed for him, we (I) cried as we brought his plight before God. And yet I still can't shake the thought that he's going to sleep tonight on the sidewalks of Skid Row not knowing where he might wake up.

So I'm asking you to pray for him. Pray that God will break the power sin has over him in order to bring Earl to Himself. Please.

Monday, January 29, 2007

even when i don't see...

And again it's been forever since I've written.

And again God has amazed me beyond words. I was struck in chapel today by His grace, by the fact that grace is the only reason for....well, for anything really. His grace is everywhere. And by it I am held.

There was a night this past week that a string of events left me questioning God's hand. A night when I couldn't see why things happened the way they did, and I thought that God was answering my prayers in a way completely contrary to His character.

Oh me of little faith.

I kicked against the goads and tried my hardest to doubt His care. But like I said, I am held. I can't describe how difficult it was for my flesh to open my Bible that night, but I did, and I went to sleep with Psalm 73 ringing in my head.
When my soul was embittered,
when I was pricked in heart,
I was brutish and ignorant;
I was like a beast toward you.
Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.

The next afternoon I read Job...and I filled two pages in my journal with verses from that book about His sovereignty and my human weakness. And I rested in the truth that "He wounds, but He binds up; He shatters, but His hands heal."

But the comfort of the Word wasn't the end of His plans for my struggle. Later that afternoon, the girl I babysit and I had an incredibly hard but incredibly worth it conversation about the story of Job and about the existence of Satan and about the problem of sin and evil and about God's plans for humanity. And God turned my failures and broken heart into something beautiful and hopefully maybe even eternal.

And I am so glad that I am held.