Cities, Airports & Friends 2015


Cities

Seattle, WA*
Camano Island*
Scottsdale, AZ
Camp Spalding, Newport, WA
Bell Bay Campground, Harrison, ID
Malad City, ID*
Bluffdale, UT*
Hurricane, UT
Los Angeles, CA
Fullerton, CA
Santa Rosa, CA
Prairie Creek State Park, CA
Bend, OR
Battleground, WA
Leavenworth, WA
Edmonds, WA*
Orcas Island, WA

Airports

Sea-Tac
Phoenix Sky Harbor

Friends/family visited on the Big July Road Trip

Barbara,* Ed,* Kara, Major, John, Linnea, David, Professor Hovsepian, Jenna, Nathan, Catherine, Lily, Herman, Shem, Monty, Michelle, Dave,* Elaine,* Noelle, Laura, Camille, the smallest Vergeer-Cresap, and everyone at Family Camp: Katie, Mom, Dad, Marilyn, Jim, Allison, Eric, Aiden, Caleb, Heather, Matt, Owen, Braylen, Naomi.

*indicates repeat visits.

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Our God Who is in All, through All, and with All.


We say God is grandmother and they say God is father.
You say God is dove and she says God is goose.
He says God is superhero and I agree.

I want God to hold me, and God can.
You want God to free you, and God does.
They want God to fight for them, and God will.

They need to know that God is for them, and so in God they find an advocate.
She needs to know that she is made in God’s image, and so she draws God as woman.
I need to know that God is with me, and so I see God’s face everywhere I look.

May we bring our images of God to a common table and dump them out like so many costumes. May we enter the fray, elbow deep, to find a garment that comforts, one that delights, and another that disturbs. May we try on the various images for size, with respect for the one who brings it as well as love for the One who inspires it. May we receive one another’s offerings as an invitation to a fuller image of who God is—and who our neighbor is that holds such surprising and provocative images of our shared Creator, Savior, and Friend.

May we celebrate that God is all we imagine. May we be grateful that God is so much more.

Pointing to God

Drawing God

There’s a modern legend of a young girl attending a Sunday school class. After the lesson, the girl sits down and begins furiously drawing a picture. Her teacher approaches and asks what she’s working on.

“I’m drawing a picture of God,” she says.

Charmed (and might I say a little smug), her teacher replies, “But nobody knows what God looks like.”

Sincerely and patiently, the little girl points out, “That’s because I’m not finished yet.”

Story adapted from Peter Gomes, as described by Rev. Michael W Hopkins.

Just Power Walking My Little Heart Out


Partnering with Youth to Exit Street Life.” This little statement is the product of a recent project I worked on at New Horizons—developing a tagline to describe just who we are and what we do.
It turns out the words “New” and “Horizons” could be used to describe any number of things. Imagine you and I were to meet on a blind date. I tell you I work at New Horizons, but before I can follow that with any kind of explanation, your mind immediately jumps to visions of me as an aerobatics instructor or maybe a teacher at a progressive vegan montessori preschool, neither of which–while interesting in a terrifying way–exactly comes close to what it is I actually do.
And so we set out to capture a few simple words that are a bit more descriptive. After several rounds of brainstorming and voting with staff, volunteers, and youth, I approached three youthin leadership positions and gave them three options to consider. They looked at me, they looked at the slips of paper, they looked back at me, and they said, “Annie, these are ****ing brilliant.”
Oh wait no, that’s not at all how it went. Actually, they immediately threw one out as completely useless and tore apart the other two. But then they started piecing the words back together and in just a few minutes they handed back what now serves as our official tagline.
One of the ways I’m partnering with youth to exit street life is by participating in this year’s SeaFair Torchlight run. That’s right! On Saturday, July 26, I’ll be out trotting around downtown–not because I love physical exertion, but because I love these young people who show up every day and, in big and small ways, invest in their own futures.
I’d love for you to participate with me in any of the following ways:
  • Sponsor me! My goal is to raise $750. You can track my progress and make a donation through my personal fundraising page.
  • Join me! Grab your tennies and run (ahem, power walk) the 5k with me. We can form a team or compete against each other. There will be fabulous raffle prizes and nifty New Horizons bracelets (!!) for folks who raise funds. All the details are on theNew Hoz website.
  • NEW option: sponsor a young person! A handful of our clients would like to participate. You can pitch in $40 to help us cover their race registration fee.
  • Pray for our young people! The three I mentioned above are in our six-month job training program. One will be graduating in a couple weeks and the other two are halfway through. Please pray for them in this season of learning, growing, and exploring.

Thanks, thanks, thanks!

A Failure of an Evangelist


Sitting around the dining room table with friends, a bottle of wine, a communal plate of brownies, and Settlers of Catan spread before us. A lot of really great news has been shared at that table: Getting into graduate school. Deciding not to move to Minnesota. Putting an offer on a house for the first time.

If I do my best to look at this objectively, most of this news probably doesn’t sound all that great to most people: Literally billions of people decide every day not to move to Minnesota. It’s not even news. But for someone who would be heartsick to lose two dear friends to the Great White North, I was ecstatic. It’s good because it’s personal.

OK so personal news is good, and it’s easy to share exciting life developments with people I like. What about the Good News? I mean, that’s tricky, right? Really, who am I to say my news is better than yours? Probably safer not to say anything at all. George Hunter, however, in his book, The Celtic Way of Evangelism, paints a different picture—one of a ministry of hospitality that makes the notion take on a more palatable flavor. Evangelism? No, thanks. Friendship? Yeah, probably.

If I imagine my home as the monastery Hunter describes and guests as people who just need a break from the daily grind—much like I myself need—it actually seems quite natural. Greeting people warmly on their way into my home (or into my life) simply requires a different level of intentionality. It’s actually just bringing to the surface what I already believe: that Jesus is in them and they are worth my full attention. Hunter even says that if the abbot of a monastery is fasting, he will stop to enjoy a meal with a guest.That’s the kind of relational priority that I’d like to achieve one day.

I imagine I have a plate of brownies. The moment when I realize I want each of my companions to have a brownie as much as I want one for myself is when I know I’ve come to recognize God in each of the faces around the table. It’s a bigger-picture view that goes beyond myself. A little different from my natural inclination, but very, very good when I’m there.

That said, I have zero percent success rate as an evangelist—at least as an evangelist for Jesus; I’m pretty sure I’ve sold at least a couple people on vacationing in Iceland. I love the people at my table. I want to be a good friend to them. I doubt I’ll panic if they never become part of a church or pray a prayer asking Jesus to reside in their heart for always. In short, I don’t feel a sense of urgency with regard to the state of their souls.

While there was one specific time when I first prayed that special prayer with my Sunday school teacher in the early ‘90s, I’ve prayed it a million times since, a thousand different ways. The grappling with what I actually believe started long after that date and there is no end in sight. In fact, my best grappling occurs around tables with friends who grapple too. The gathering and grappling feels like it most resembles what Jesus spent his time doing anyway (as long as there’s food—that guy was always eating).

I pray that my friends experience the grace, hope, love, and peace that I find in God. For me, this prayer is a natural expression of my love for them. If they ever pray, I hope they pray for me too. Either way, I’m blessed by their presence in my life; for welcoming me to their table and allowing me to welcome them at mine. Whatever comes of that—for any one of us—is in God’s hands.

Nonfiction


Well, if you really want me to choose just one—oh, OK you do—well then I’d have to say scuba diving because of the sharks and also the lack of oxygen and also the fact that my other biggest fear is the dark because you just don’t know what’s out there, and not only what’s out there but what’s right next to you when you think you’re sleeping next to someone you know in a tent on a safari but then you roll over in the middle of the night and put your arm around a lion, or worse, a hippo, which is actually the most dangerous animal in the world, given its amphibious nature and also because of its sheer size, which I’d compare to a steam roller, not unlike the one that nearly ran me right into traffic when I was biking here this morning which obviously I wouldn’t normally do on such a hot day, ever since reading about the speed at which hyperthermia can creep up on you, but like I was saying, you can’t let fear rule your life, because if I spent my life worrying about the fact that more Americans are killed each year by their water heater spontaneously exploding than by the demonic spirits living in their garage, you’d probably find me living in a shack without running water, and that will never happen because I live in a city on account of the deranged psychopaths roaming the woods at night—and no, I have no intention of being chain-sawed into bite-sized pieces while I sleep, thank you very much—so as I was saying, if I had to choose, I’d probably say, yeah, that’s my biggest fear.

Written as an exercise at a workshop I attended last week. The assignment? Write anything, as long as it’s all one sentence.

The Spice of Life


Fear. Life is nothing without it. The anxiety. The drama. The perspiration. These bring meaning to existence. Nothing else. There’s no success without risk. No joy without pain. No light without shadow.

Fear. Stepping over the threshold. Out of the known. Into the unknown. Out of your own head. Into another’s shoes you go. With anxiety and drama. And the perspiration.

Fear. The Essence of love. Choosing connection with the body. The companion. The world. Clutching doubts as security blankets. Thus cloaked for the outdoors. Without the layers, totally naked. And that just wouldn’t do.

Grace. The acceptance of fear. Affection for self. The whole self, even doubts. Even failure to step out. Also, laughter at the drama. And the perspiration. With care for the anxiety. Assurance for more thresholds tomorrow.

An exercise from a writing workshop. Can you guess the assignment? All sentences must be five words or less. Not my best, but a good brain workout.

Kale is the Answer to Everything


I’m sitting at the kitchen table, scrolling through some of my class notes, trying to envision this paper I’m supposed to write, and this is what I find:

Heuristic. A net that captures a large amount of data—a useful netting, but always incomplete in what it can hold. People who operate with heuristics are wiser. Does a specific tool for praying capture all that prayer ever was or could be? Of course not, but it’s a helpful tool.

One heuristic I use. The super food diet. They’re not the only healthy foods to eat, but it’s a helpful framework to track how I’m doing—did I eat more kale than cake today? OK, I’m on the right track. Is kale the only good thing for me to eat? No, I would die. Literally.

YIKES. When did I get so weird? Wait. Don’t answer that.

Bonus! Found this later on, in reference to the book of Job:

It’s not Satan. What would he be doing in heaven, and why would God listen to him? That would be crazy. He’s a son of God and reports to God. He’s “the Accuser,” reporting on people to God at the annual meeting. Annual meeting? I guess it’s safe to assume he was Presbyterian.

No idea. Not a damn clue.

Challah as Freedom


Challah as Freedom

As if practicing Sabbath wasn’t hard enough, I recently decided to bake challah from scratch as a creative representation of the gift of Sabbath for God’s people.

Having to slow down and allow the bread process the time it required was just the challenge I needed/dreaded. The idea that bread takes just precisely as long to make as it takes became a kind of mantra for me over the days leading to the execution of this project and I started to apply it to other things. I sat down in a coffee shop with a stack of books, determined to finish this section in an hour, that section in the next thirty minutes, and also dive into a third book and then get on to the rest of my day. The fact is, sometimes it’s two hours worth of reading, not one or half of one. It takes as long as it takes. So I take a deep breath, take off my watch, grab another cup of tea, and settle into my reading. (Which sometimes lasts upwards of 20 minutes before I give up and go into the office.)

It has been suggested that the Sabbath means spending time and resources in ways that don’t make economic sense. Raise chickens oneself, make furniture by hand, or not utilize available technology. I would have accomplished a greater number of tasks had I purchased a couple loaves of bread instead. But as I began the baking ritual, taking one step at a time, intentionally slowing down and taking a methodical approach, I found myself becoming more spiritually, mentally, and emotionally calm. I experienced a real freedom from anxiety that I did not expect. A freedom that (probably) can’t be purchased at the grocery store.

Come and See


Last week, I went to the Grand Canyon for the first time. I can’t figure out why no one ever talks about it. It’s enormous. And actually very cool.

As we drove into the park, my sister pointed out that if you didn’t know what was coming, you could easy go right by it and never know it was there. Her comment reminded me of a post I wrote about color last year. There’s just a lot out there that we don’t know about, and it’s a little exciting to think of what else there is to discover along the way. If only we would choose to look for it.

While it’s unlikely that someone will discover the next, grander, canyon while walking in the woods near their suburban home, like color, there’s a lot of minutiae left to explore. Thank God we live in the age of TED talks so I can learn about it all on road trips instead of having to do the scientific research myself (after all, who has the time?).

It’s been about a week since this visit to the GC, but I keep thinking about the wooded paths that parallel the canyon rim. They are safe and well established. Hundreds of people would have walked along them to carve them into the ground and create that defined way for me to follow. They’ve given it their stamp of approval, so I know it’s safe and will get me to where I need to go. Likewise, if I went through life unable to recognize blue as a distinct color from green, it would be OK. I would still get to where I needed to go. But neither way provides the complete picture.

I decided to start seminary the hard way and am taking a class on Sabbath during this first term. I’m having to face the reality that I can’t do everything and practice Sabbath. (Some would even say I can’t do everything, period.) Some things must be left unfinished in order to pause for a day. The good news is I’m learning that my ability to complete a to-do list is not what makes God love me. God loves me because God created me and I’m enveloped in that totally irrational parental love for one’s child.

If I stay on the safe, well-established path for the rest of my life, God will still love me like crazy. But if I veer off the path, it opens up the possibility of discovering something very different. I would have new eyes for the world, and a bigger understanding of who this God is that created both the forest and the canyon.

My sister imagined pioneers making their way west and stopping to camp for the night. One person wanders off to scout the area and comes running back, shouting: “GUYS. Come and see! You’re never going to believe this.”

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