Thursday, January 29, 2009

Life in the headlines

I adore what I do for a living. As I watch others who are unhappy with their job or looking for the next great career opportunity, I find myself incredibly thankful to be right where I am. Growing up, I was the kid who didn't have the faintest clue what I wanted to do with my life. In the sixth grade, I declared what I wanted to be a singer. I am proud to say that there was a year or so I wanted to be a writer — unfortunately, by high school I ruled out that ridiculous idea. I was going to be a youth minister. No, a missionary. Being a missionary is good and vague. All you have to do is move to a foreign country and love God. Surely THAT is the job for me.

I've been a full time journalist for over four years now and still feel the need to pinch myself to see if it is real. Someone pays me to write and put stories and photos on a page? REALLY?

In college, I remember aspiring writers joining the newspaper staff and complaining about how boring newspaper style was. "You can't even use adjectives — where's the creativity in that?"

Is there something more creative than climbing into someone else's brain and digging around to learn how they view life? (And look, Mom — no adjectives!) I enjoy writing about people — figuring out how to express on paper the essence of a person. I haven't figured it out yet, and perhaps that is what keeps pulling me back to the next story. And, of course, everyone has a story to tell. And I've learned that often the most fascinating people are the one's who don't think they have a story.

So I hate to break it to you doctors, lawyers, teachers, singers and, yes, missionaries. I have the best job in the world.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

In retrospect...

Had I known when I wrote it that my blog on Guatemala would end up in the BGCM E-Newsletter, I would have expressed my deep appreciation for allowing Word&Way -- for allowing ME -- to join the team in early January. I certainly have a much clearer understanding of the BGCM partnership and hope I'm able to transfer some of what I've learned to W&W readers. While this blog is not affiliated with Word&Way, I think I can speak on behalf of the staff in saying that we are truly grateful for the relationship we have with BGCM.

I hope you'll enjoy the coverage in the Jan. 29 issue. It represents just a small portion of the great work you (well, we -- I am a BGCM member!) are doing in Guatemala.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

YES WE CAN!

"Tis a gift to be simple, tis a gift to be free..."
I'm not sure I thought about those words in terms of our country before. The gorgeous arrangement played by John Williams, Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, Gabriela Montero and Anthony McGill at the presidential inauguration has certainly changed that.

I am watching Barack Obama take the oath of office while sitting in my office and feel ready to jump out of my skin. Can't imagine what my friends on the mall are feeling right now.

I am thankful for the hope and imagination that Obama brings to the White House -- both, as it turns out, are simple and freeing gifts. May they be used to inspire a nation toward justice and peace-making.

Monday, January 19, 2009

On overcoming

On MLK day, I can't help but think about Glide Memorial Methodist Church in San Francisco. At the closing of each Sunday celebration service, everyone joins hands and sings "we shall overcome TODAY." A church that will not wait on society to catch up, but marches ahead to do the work of God's justice NOW.

This afternoon I attended a packed out service at a local hospital. I like MLK services -- since moving to the Midwest, such services are the only time I get to be a minority of sorts. My friend John Bennett was the invited speaker. He is the first white guy I've ever seen speak at such an event, and one of the few I know who can pull it off. John's heart beats for justice. The woman who introduced him read off a litany of the organizations he has either helped found or played an integral part in -- the list of groups doing good is astounding, but I think it was also unnecessary. It seemed everyone in the room knew John. Many, perhaps, have served alongside him for years in one organization or another. He is a soft-spoken, graceful sort, but with compassion leaking from all his joints.

After the service, a pastor friend and I chatted about what it takes to live with that sort of love and dedication. Barack Obama speaks of telling his children that Martin Luther King, Jr. dared to love somebody. And perhaps taking the time to love somebody is where it starts. It removes the distance of merely loving humanity and requires one to actually do something about that love.

Amy Errett, in speaking about her involvement with the social ministries at Glide Memorial Methodist said, "This is not ivory tower stuff. This is how the world changes."

It requires getting dirty. Martin Luther King, Jr. wasn't afraid to get dirty. Instead, his deep love required him to jump into the trenches. I, too, hear a calling for the trenches. And I confess that my fear and self love have kept me from the hard work that exists there. Our nation -- our world -- still cries out for justice. Are we willing to step down from our ivory towers in order to seek it?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Searching for change

I tried to notice everything in Guatemala — the sights, the sounds, the smells (and perhaps other things that do not necessarily begin with "s."). And while I remember the strange curving incline leading to the women's restroom in the airport, the slapping sound and smell of tortillas being made, the dogs, cars and rooster that invaded my sleep, I know that my week in Guatemala is but a glimpse of a beautiful culture that is drastically different from my own.

Our trip was focused around a two-day conference in Quetzaltenango. Approximately 75 pastors, spouses and layleaders from the Western area of Guatemala gathered for fellowship and training, led by their Missouri counterparts.

My role was to play the part of journalist. I watched, photographed, listened and tried to place myself in the position of those gathered in the room. My new friend Vinicio often commented that this experience would change my life. And while I smiled and nodded, I couldn't help but wonder what he thought would change. While the language was different, the meeting was essentially something I could find in Missouri — talk about spiritual maturity and spiritual gifts. Good information, but nothing I hadn't heard many times before. We weren't out walking with Calcutta's lepers or sharing stories with African refugees, we were merely conferencing in Latin America at a hotel that issues TV remote controls with the room keys.

A day later, it hit me. And the answer was so obvious, the authorities should revoke my journalist's license (but please don't, I'm not qualified to do anything else!). The info was old hat to me, but it was revolutionary for the pastors in the room. In Guatemala, theological training is a luxury. Most of them — and the pastors before them — relied only on the Bible. They didn't have commentaries or theology books or Sunday School materials. They hadn't been taking spiritual gift inventories from the moment they could read. This was new. And it was life changing.

Our fearless leader, Gary, shared that these meetings were probably the only time many of the pastors had stayed in a hotel. And for many, it was the only time they were guaranteed three meals a day (plus snacks!). In a nation where survival is still a large part of life, conferences aren't on the regular schedule.

I had overlooked the volcano and its fiery rumblings. And I can't help but wonder how many times I've been scalded by the lava I never saw. Christ calls us to care for our neighbor's need, and I find I've been traveling with a blindfold on (much like the salsa that covered my breakfast eggs, so the yolks wouldn't stare at me!). It's humbling. And may it, in fact, be life changing.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

New beginnings

This blog has probably been a long time coming. I started a blogger page to post updates while training for my first marathon (and continues to be a hit or miss running blog), but my non-running thoughts tend to be scattered to the wind with no place to land. 

While I don't expect to have much of interest to say, the writer in me likes to say it anyway and the small organization part of my brain prefers to have all those sayings collected somewhere. This blog shall act as such a receptacle.