Red Rock Canyon

I am in Las Vegas!ImageAs an aspiring United Methodist Church young clergy person, I am attending a conference here in Vegas today, tomorrow, and Saturday. The Relevance/LEAD conference is at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas and is geared towards equipping young adult clergy and lay leaders for effective young adult ministry. I am looking forward to a weekend full of learning and fellowship, and bringing back this wonderful knowledge to my home congregation.

Another amazing thing about this trip is that my very good friend from high school, L, and her husband have been living here in Vegas for the past few years, and I have not seen her in all that time. So I’m spending valuable and precious time with her exploring the local Vegas hangouts. It is a much needed respite from the current stress of my “real” life.

One of the places we explored yesterday was Red Rock Canyon in the Mojave Desert.Image(See the tiny people in the bottom right corner? This formation is HUGE!)

We spent close to three hours driving along the 13 mile route, stopping every few miles to get out and hike the trails. We couldn’t have asked for better weather in February. I wore a t-shirt and some yoga pants and was quite comfortable. This landscape is one of the most awe-inspiring places I have been to.

Which brings me to my February “Pic of the Month.” For this month’s awesome place, I choose the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. (http://www.redrock.org/)Image

Here are some more pics of the scenery and my mad climbing skills…ImageImageImage

Today we are planning on going down to the Strip, so be looking for more pictures tomorrow!

As always, cheers to you today and everyday!

Inspired

I just cannot stop browsing through Kalyn’s blog.

(Here’s the link in case you missed it last time: http://kalynroseanne.tumblr.com/)

She has inspired me to be brave. So I’m posting a poem I wrote several years ago. When I look back through old poetry, I often feel the need to change this or that, or just delete it all together. But this one has stuck with me. Will you leave a comment and tell me what you think of it?

The Zoo Keeper

I refuse to move for the ever-present fear

of losing you.

I must remain a statue, aching from solidity.

You are the bird that perches upon my head,

ever prepared to soar

away in the blink of an eye.

The ocean sways in the storm above us.

But we swim unperturbed in the darkness below.

The grandfather clock chimes two in the morning.

You snap my image with your Nikon.

I laugh into my coffee cup.

You pinch my foot.

We keep on swimming.

You are the pillow that suffocates my sleep.

Clog my nostrils, stifle my breath.

I can taste the fibers of the expensive thread count,

a taste of captivity

always associated with you, the zoo keeper.

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Heck, while I’m at it, might as well share a silly haiku. Haikus are fun and easy and sometimes powerful (not necessarily mine, but you know, the good ones). I wrote this one last semester while feeling bored in a lecture.

I love to write haik-

(Damn.) Now I begin again.

Or maybe later.

Pretty much sums up my forever struggle with writing!

Peace to you friend.

I found a beautiful new blog today.

This afternoon, I came home from church ready to buckle down, put my nose to the grindstone, and attempt to swim my way out of this black hole of stress induced despair brought on by TOO MUCH HOMEWORK. So naturally I found myself on facebook.

While browsing around, seeing what my friends and family are up to, thinking to myself that whatever it is, it’s gotta be more interesting than pneumatology (I actually find pneumatology quite interesting, but honestly, I need a break), when I came across this post:

“Sometimes you’re 23 and standing in the kitchen of your house making breakfast and brewing coffee and listening to music that for some reason is really getting to your heart. You’re just standing there thinking about going to work and picking up your dry cleaning. And also more exciting things like books you’re reading and trips you plan on taking and relationships that are springing into existence. Or fading from your memory, which is far less exciting. And suddenly you just don’t feel at home in your skin or in your house and you just want home but “Mom’s” probably wouldn’t feel like home anymore either. There used to be the comfort of a number in your phone and ears that listened everyday and arms that were never for anyone else. But just to calm you down when you started feeling trapped in a five-minute period where nostalgia is too much and thoughts of this person you are feel foreign. When you realize that you’ll never be this young again but this is the first time you’ve ever been this old. When you can’t remember how you got from sixteen to here and all the same feel like sixteen is just as much of a stranger to you now. The song is over. The coffee’s done. You’re going to breath in and out. You’re going to be fine in about five minutes.” The Winter of the Air

Heart stopping and perfectly accurate of my present mid-twenty-something condition. I wanted to know what “The Winter of the Air” was so I google-searched it. This blog popped up:

http://kalynroseanne.tumblr.com/

If you love lovely writing, please go visit this girl’s site. She certainly made my day more beautiful.

Cheers!

New month, new writing stuff!

Folks, we are officially one twelfth of the way through the year 2013.

25 update #1: I took a picture of an awesome place yesterday, so I didn’t miss my January deadline. Hooray!

It’s only a camera phone photo, so it’s nothing fancy. But I think it’s a great place to start documenting the many awe-inspiring places of my life.

ImageThis is the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

It’s a mouthful of a title. But a big place that does such big things deserves a big name.

I am currently serving as a chaplain intern at the Children’s hospital, and let me tell you, it has not always been sparkly and vibrant. In fact, it can be downright ugly and heart stopping. But Good God Almighty, it is a beautiful place.

It’s beautiful in the conventional sense in that someone (or more likely a very large committee of someones) put a great deal of time and effort into designing the building itself. The halls are swathed in “rivers of healing and ribbons of peace,” or some similar saying. It basically means that there are a lot of swirly, flowy, ribbony type elements that make you feel more like you are in a children’s art museum than a hospital. Plus actual patient art can be found on nearly every wall of every floor. There are bright colors, photos, artwork, child-friendly statues, blown glass light fixtures, butterflies, and animals everywhere you look. It is a truly stimulating and sensual experience to walk those halls every day, no matter how tough things may get physically, emotionally, or spiritually.

But it’s also beautiful in the quality of people that occupy the space. The medical staff, social workers, child life specialists, chaplains, receptionists, volunteers, and everyone else who gives their time and energy into making sick kids feel better each deserve a Nobel prize. Seriously. I sometimes look around at these people and think, “This is what the Kingdom of God looks like.”

But I think what has been the most amazing, most inspiring, most affirming thing in my personal experience working in this hospital is my work with the patients and families. I have been present for everything from broken bones to chemo, trauma, and life-support removal. These are real people in real pain, and it has taken me a while to realize that they really know God. I think I had expectations when I first started that I would be serving as more of a teacher, reading scripture and calming fears and anxiety with prayer. I am a master of divinity student, after all. I have deconstructed and reconstructed my theology every which way. I thought I was ready to provide pastoral care. (If you are wondering, you are never ready until you actually do it.)  I vainly thought I could help bring God to these families. I was so so wrong.

What a surprise, and yet how perfectly consistent with everything I believe, to find that God is always already there, and has been there long before I walk into a room. I don’t “bring” God anywhere. I walk in, I listen, and what unfolds before me is a powerful and miraculous story of pain and suffering, which is always infused with great amounts of faith and hope. It is a testament to the human spirit and God’s strong desire for relationship with us that faith can still be found in these places of deepest hurt. I am constantly amazed at the resurrection and new life I see all around me, every single day.

The Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital is a living and breathing miracle here on earth. Even when patients die (and they do die because we live in a world which is continually being redeemed, and we wait for the Kingdom of Heaven while we actively seek to build it), the glory of God and the redemptive work of Christ is still present. This is not to say we don’t hurt and cry and scream our hearts out to God. It’s just to say God can take it. And thank God for that.

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25 update #2: I think I can say that I successfully made a new friend in January. If we want to get technical, she’s been an acquaintance since last semester, and I didn’t really ask her to be my friend until today, Feb. 1st, at the end of our discussion class. It went like this:

Me: Hey, um, S?
S: Yeah?
Me: We should get coffee sometime. Or grab lunch or something.
S: Yeah, we should!
Me: Ok, Fridays usually work for me, but I have to finish a paper.
S: Well let’s do next Friday. Fridays are usually the best for me too!
Me: Ok!

I realize now that this would have been a good place to stop the conversation, smile politely, and say something like, “Have a good weekend!” Instead…

Me: Hey, do you mind if I put you in my blog? (Immediately horrified I even asked her this. What kind of weirdo am I? Ok, I can fix this.) I mean, I just need a new friend. Can you be my friend this month? (Not helping myself out at all. I am sooooo lame.)
S: (smiling), Haha, yeah, that’s fine, I’ll be famous! Let me know when you post it!
Me: (in my head: I KNEW I liked you for a reason! You don’t care that I’m weird!)

Thank you Lord, for S.

Anyway, even though it’s February, I’m going to count S as my January friend. Because I can.

The end.