Mar 30, 2009

contemplative vocation

when i went to college the first time around to study photography, i always knew in the back of my mind that the art of photography was not going to me my life vocation. rather, it was a bursting passion that i wanted to understand more of.  for 2 years i learned of proper lighting techniques, the world of commercial photography, the vast artistic possibilities with photoshop, color balancing, and lived in a dark room with hardly noticeable red safe lights to guide my way from chemical to chemical. i loved every day of this radical adventure.

as i said, there was a quietly breathing intuitive understanding that photography was not going to be the main source of labor in my life. today i have created  my own small and humble freelance photography business that is equally a form of relational ministry as it is an extra way to financially support myself . i am now a 5 year alum and i think i am beginning to taste what it is that god has been leading and preparing me for since the day i dared to say 'yes' to following after him. spiritual direction.

last spring i spent an afternoon strolling through encinitas with 2 of my students. we popped into a used bookstore to see if we could dig up any buried literature treasures. the girls went directly to the romance novels while i searched for the poetry section. i had to get on my knees to find the tiny corner where poetic jewels were kept, but the pain of crawling on crooked wooden planks was well worth the value of my findings. hidden in the over-powering presence of works from poe, dickenson, and whitman lay the mystical words of st. john of the cross. at this time i had never heard of him, but for one reason or another i picked him out of the crowd and opened to the middle of the book. with a few short words i was captivated. 

"how tame and loving
your memory rises in my breast,
where secretly only you live,
and in your fragrant breathing,
full of goodness and grace,
how delicately in love you make me feel!"

it was the colorful lyricism of st. john of the cross that fanned the flames of my interest in the journey's of mystics and spiritual directors alike.

i am currently reading through thomas merton's book; "spiritual direction and meditation". as i turn each page that is filled with the brilliance of wisdom gathered from a life of prayer and pilgrimage, my thoughts wander to the hope that this is the sort of rhythmic ministry god is drawing me into. all through college and the years that have flowed out it it, god has been providing relationships, experiences, pains, joys, and revelations that lead me to clumsily trust this full-bodied hope of learning and living as a spiritual director. 

Mar 27, 2009

drivin' the one

poppies of orange blanket the mountains
and dress the coastal roadside
with their contagious smiling faces.
the paved snake hugs
each tight curve 
that belts around the looming cliffs.

i roll the window down
letting the breeze run through my fingers.
the company of a dear friend
and my nikon draping around my neck
convinces me that
this joy
is a taste of the kingdom.

satisfaction and gratitude
drip the ink from my pen
as i cross off
"drive along the 1"
from my list of things to do.

Mar 26, 2009

a gander into an insecurity

i spent a significant amount of time alone during the summer of 07. i was brand new to california and hadn't yet become enveloped into my present community. this was a special summer on many levels and in it existed moments of true contentment. on one particular day i spent an entire afternoon at balboa park, simply sitting under the warm sun writing and reading, and capturing with my nikon everything that gripped my attention. while soaking in that restful lazy day i had a thought. 

see, there are times when i grow insecure about the quiet ways in which i operate. quite frequently i take the position of silent observer. i love to daydream and let my mind run free. this is largely due to the fact that i am an internal processor and it is this characteristic that surfaces my aforementioned insecurity. while wasting away that one afternoon in the park, i wondered; "could i ever be truly confident with my gently isolated musings while in the presence of another?" the temptation for me is to believe that people will only want to be around me if i have profound things to share, if i magnetize them with wit, or if i carry on with bewitching stories of bountiful interest.

why do i write of this today? because i am on a coastal road trip with my very dear friend laura, we are heading up to san francisco. the first leg of our trip commenced with non-stop chatter but after a while the talking subsided and i was entranced by the beauty surrounding me. silence now fills the car. though i am fully enjoying the peacefulness of our time together and relishing in the artistry of the pacific coast i can't help but wonder if laura wishes i were more of a colorful conversationalist. 

here is the curve ball of the whole situation. about a month ago i was sharing with laura and a couple of our friends about this strange self-uncertainty i carry. the next day laura sent me the most encouraging and beautiful words of love i have ever received. in this note she said that i ought not feel insecure about this facet of my personality because my very presence is more than enough. she answered a deeply embedded question of doubt with the dazzling radiance of truth. truth that i am presently praying to by radically touched by once again.

Mar 23, 2009

things that move me

there are outward expressions of trust, devotion, obedience, and desire that never cease to bring me to the beautiful place of shedding tears. when i experience these touching moments, i am living out loud the make-up of a flamboyantly pure ISFP (thank you meyer's briggs) -  i am living as god created me to live. being a thorough sensing, feeling, and perceiving woman it doesn't require much to radically move my soul. a conversation with a friend, a solo walk along the cliffs, the sun on my face or a genuine embrace is all that is needed to draw me into the softening power of love. but today i speak of 2 specific decisions of bravery that are the driving force behind the movement of the holy spirit as it streaks its way down my cheeks. communion and adult baptism.

last night at church there was a lovely woman, maybe in her 60's, that made the commitment to follow after the heart of christ and she crowned this new life choice with baptism. i sat alone in the far transept of the building and watched in tender amazement the courage of this woman. her husband accompanied her to the front of the congregation, holding her hand every step of the way (he began following christ a litter earlier than she). i adored watching the husband support his wife - the joy that he carried and the respect he held for his bride was positively radiant. i was delicately overwhelmed.

in a similar fashion, the act of receiving communion stills me. as i gaze upon the line leading to the table of communion on sundays tears are sure to form in the pockets of my eyes. something full of wonder takes place when a community of people gather together to take the bread and the wine of christ

there is an ancient jewish tradition of marriage proposals that is the foundation of my own receiving communion. when a man found a woman to whom he wished to betroth, he would construct a marriage covenant which he presented to the intended bride and her father. to see if the woman accepted the covenant, a glass of wine was poured for his beloved and he waited to see if she would take the cup and drink its proposal. if she did accept, the man would then leave her saying, "i am going to prepare a place for you. i will return for you when it is ready." while the man was preparing a room for them in his father's house, the bride was also preparing by making herself ready for his return, during this time she would wear a veil to show that she was spoken for. now that is romantic.

when i sit back and contemplate the collection of generations lining up to receive communion i meditate on the acceptance they are exuding to the marriage proposal of christ. with each hand takes the cup and drinks i can't help but cry. there is nothing more lovely than to witness such an outward expression of partnering as the bride of christ to our bridegroom.

Mar 9, 2009

a hint of sadness...

earlier this year my boss had our youth ministry department take the strength finders test. i absolutely dig the self-discovery process and learning about those who are closest to me. taking a take a test that unveils your personal strengths was as delicious as scrounging through the minnesota twins pro shop or spending all day in the apple store. what i learned about myself is that i am (in no particular order) empathetic, positive, a learner, bold with input, and... "is that the red or the white?"... "ah, i can never remember that!".... adaptability! that's it. as i read through the descriptions of each of these strenghts i quickly realized that they were quite a perfect match to the ways in which i operate.

holding a positive outlook on pretty much everything in life, it is rare that i crumble under the weight of the negativities that swirl about our day to day routines. my tendency is to gaze at the very best in people, draw out the joy in most situations, and strive to see the beauty in the midst of ashes. this strength of positivity however, does not blanket the existence of sadness - which is the very emotion i seem to be finding myself in these past couple of weeks.

in three short months my adventure in california will be over. i will be saying goodbye to the students that i deeply love, my community, diana - who has become so much more than a roommate, my completely radical boss(es), the breath taking pacific view, and the entirety of this incredible journey of maturity.

two weeks ago my friend laura began printing out the incoming applications and resumes to those that are seeking to fill my position when i leave in june. i always knew that this job wasn't permanent and that june would eventually greet me at the door, but at the same time i never knew it would come so quickly. as laura was organizing all the papers of applicants my heart grew heavy. i sat there at my desk and began, for the first time thus far, to literally feel the pains of having to say goodbye.

i think what makes this process the most difficult is that only now are things moving from surface level to things of depth. the relationships with students that i have been investing in the past 21 months are now way past "hello my name is" and dwell in the "can i share something with you?" level. after working with my boss for 9 months i feel as though we are just now getting into a rhythm with how we operate. and i am growing comfortable and confident in the unique ways that i give and lead in youth ministry; which is guiding my students into the mystery of prayer and through a contemplative approach. it hurts to think that i am soon going to be done with all the things and people that i have invested in and received from over the past two years.