Tag Archives: fellowship

Day 39: I missed another day.

I did. I failed yesterday. I was “round two” sick. It seems I jumped back into my normal routine too quickly after Monday and Tuesday’s horror show, and I paid for it by sleeping horribly on Thursday night and spending most of Friday on my couch. Every time I got up to do something or try going to work, I had to sit back down sixty seconds later because I was light-headed and fatigued. Awful.

So I apologize. My wits were absent and I didn’t have it in me to write, I guess.

Today, however, I was back to normal! I guess all I needed was a full day of true rest and recovery, because today I spent an hour and a half at the animal shelter and ran eighteen (!) miles before taking the train downtown for coffee and conversation with a dear friend and her other friend.

And what a blessing! My friend, Lindsey, brought me and Karen together because of our mutual interest in environmental ministry. Karen is working to buy space for a community garden and hopes to involve children and local churches in the process, and Lindsey hoped my plans to write a youth creation care curriculum for my seminary project would benefit her. She could be a test site and also a source of inspiration for me: what did she need or want from a curriculum? What would be useful to her? What could I give her? What feedback could she give me? Perfect.

For two hours we talked and laughed over soy chai teas (so yummy I may dream about them tonight) and very expensive dark chocolate (supporting small farms in Honduras is worth it). It certainly wasn’t fancy or exotic or wild, but goodness, what a good time! I learned, I laughed. I loved spending time with Lindsey, whom I always enjoy, and I loved meeting Karen. What a cool woman! She’s so honest and down to earth and genuine, yet so impassioned and so optimistic about her goals. Amazing.

God is sending people my way in droves as I think more about this project. And it’s beautiful. What a great God.

Day 27: my future?

A quick anecdote:

A woman I work with was walking two of her friends, a married couple, around the office today on a little tour. They stopped by to say hi and said they were from Portland, Oregon.

“Oh, awesome!” I said. “I’ve always wanted to go Portland. I’m a vegan – “

“SO ARE WE!”

Immediate friendship.

It’s such a blessing to meet fellow vegans. When I decided to go vegan, plenty of people warned me that it would be a lonely life. I went into this fully aware that my fellow kale munchers were few and far between, but it’s given me a great appreciation for the rare occasions when I do bump into them. This couple was no exception.

We exchanged a few stories about our decisions to go vegan and the cookbooks we liked before they launched into tales of the vegan clubs they frequent in Portland. My face hurt from smiling so much. What an inspiration to see a happily married couple in their sixties engaging in an active vegan community! It was amazing!

I confided in them that I harbored fantasies of spending a week this summer working on a farm sanctuary with rescue animals, just shadowing the staff, working hard in exchange for learning about their work. This incredible couple immediately listed half a dozen sanctuaries near the Portland area and offered to ask their vegan friends if anyone had a connection.

See, it’s little things like this that make me believe God is at work in my life. Here is a random couple I’ve never met who just happened to be touring the office at a time when I’m not usually at my desk. I randomly mention my vegan diet, and suddenly I’m a hundred steps closer to my dream of working for an animal sanctuary.

The older I get, the more I see how God works. If you pray sincerely and often and regularly take small steps toward that which sets your heart to dancing, God takes care of the rest.

I’ll keep you posted. Keep your eyes peeled for God in the details. He’s there.

Days 21 & 22: room in the inn.

I didn’t write yesterday. Let me tell you why.

Snowstorm Saturn hit Chicago with a vengeance yesterday, and my work building closed at 2:00 p.m. I assumed I’d spend the entire evening snuggled up at home with books and movies, maybe cook myself a nice dinner, catch up on bible study readings.

And then my phone rang around 6:00.

The storm was still rip-roaring away as my boyfriend Jackson explained that his friend from college, Laura, was stranded at the airport due to a canceled flight. She had called him in search of help and, hopefully, somewhere to stay other than an expensive hotel or – worse – the airport floor. Jackson lives 45 minutes away from the airport in good weather, so his hands were tied, but could she possibly stay the night at my place?

I live a hop, a skip, and a jump from the airport and have driven through over half a dozen Minnesota winters, so I was a perfect candidate for the job. I got dressed, shoved the growing snow pile off my car, and drove slooowly to the airport to fetch her.

It never really occurred to me that I was doing something a little crazy. Looking back, I see I knew nothing about Laura other than some fast facts from Jackson, and now I was going to let her sleep on my couch, which isn’t even separated from my bed by a locked door since I live in a studio apartment. She could’ve turned up her nose at my vegan kitchen. She could’ve complained nonstop. She could’ve spent the whole night texting or facebooking on her phone. She could’ve been all manner of awful.

But she was Jackson’s friend, so off I went. And let me tell you, what a blessing!

Laura was a fun, easy guest. She was an adventurous eater and picked risotto from the list of dinner options I rattled off because she’d never had it before, giving me the gift of speaking in my love language. She was interesting and friendly and a very enjoyable conversation partner. She left absolutely no trace in the bathroom other than a perfectly folded towel. She was totally game to Skype with Jackson while we had dessert so he could “hang out” with her too. She slept under a fleece tie blanket on my couch without complaint. She was a good sport about our 4:00 a.m. wake-up call (so she would beat the airport rush). She was, in a nutshell, a fun, unexpected blessing.

The bible is full of stories about taking in the weary traveler, opening your home to others, sharing what you have with those in need. In this culture, we don’t have much opportunity to show this kind of hospitality. Hotels and express travel remove the need for stops along the way, robbing us of the joy of caring for someone this way.

This is why I’m all the more thankful for the opportunity to share my home with Laura for even a short time. What a rare gift to welcome a fellow sister in Christ into the inn when so often we have no room! And what a blessing to drive away from the train station this morning with a new friend and a renewed sense of the way God brings his people together to care for each other.

So… I didn’t write yesterday. But I think my excuse is valid.

Has God given you a surprise opportunity to care for others recently? Tell me about it!

 

Day 17: empty words.

You know how sometimes people talk and talk and talk but they’re really not saying anything?

Yeah. That.

One of my bible groups is starting a new book, and we watched the intro video tonight. It was very cozy, snuggled up on the couch together, eating vegan peach sherbet and drooling a little. And then this… video started.

It was just jabber. Just catchphrases like “capacity building” and “soul cleansing” and “living authentically,” all buzzwords that look catchy and inspiring but essentially mean nothing unless they’re surrounded by action and purpose. And trust me, in this video, they were not.

Suffice to say, it kinda ruined the moment. I mean, here I was, spending my Friday night at bible study, cocooned in the love of God and my sisters in Christ, and this video just killed it. Babble that turned the pursuit of right relationship with God into a cheap self-help quick-fix. I was disappointed.

However, as with all bad things, a lesson came from it. I watched that video and thought, “Maggie, don’t ever let yourself talk like that. No fancy words that resonate only because they’re completely hollow. Be real, Maggie.”

I took a technical writing class in college, and my professor talked about the status and power of language. She talked about how high-powered companies use superfluously complex language in their manuals and documents to give an air of importance, when really the souped-up lingo leave their employees befuddled. It’s an attempt to make pretty that which needn’t be pretty, and it winds up being a detriment to the companies since their employees can’t find in common ground in these words that are supposed to bring them together.

Do we lose God this way? Do we try to dress him up in thesaurus gems when really he just wants to be Dad or friend or teacher or, you know, GOD? I think it’s okay to step back from theology texts and fiery sermons and just talk about God with the same frankness that you discuss what you had for lunch. Is it fancy? No. But… is it real? If you strip the superfluous, yes.

So that’s my mini-pledge to myself as I bang out this post at 10:30 p.m. on a Friday (yeah, I party like a rock star): cut the crap. Skip the fancypants lingo. Just talk to and about God with common words that ground the people rather than divide them by how many English classes they’ve taken. Be plain. Be accessible. Be real.

Day 12: birthdays.

If I even have readers at this point, you may have noticed that I skipped blogging yesterday. It was my birthday and I didn’t feel like making time. Since it was my birthday, I’m letting myself off the hook. One missed day is fine, right?

But I did spend some time thinking about birthdays in general, and how much we build up the idea of the perfect birthday. There needs to be a perfect party with the perfect mix and number of guests, a perfect playlist in the background, a perfect level of enthusiasm for all games, and a perfect spread of food. Expectations are so high.

Historically, I’ve let those expectations have a huge impact on my emotions. Will enough people come? Will we have enough fun? Will I feel sufficiently birthday’d when the sun sets? This year’s plans were slightly derailed at the last minute, and I spent a good hour in a tizzy, panicking that everything would fall through and no one would come and the few attendants wouldn’t have any fun. This is an important day! It can’t fall apart! It must be perfect!

The night wasn’t exactly what I pictured. It was just a few friends, hanging out and eating vegan food and talking and playing games. But when I went to bed, I realized that was all I needed.

Birthdays aren’t about one day. They celebrate a whole year, and looking back at my day 10 post, I have a lot to celebrate. There’s no way a single day can live up to 364 other days of awesome, and that’s okay. It’s just a day, a day to remember and celebrate and be thankful for what God gave you in the last year and for the fact that he gave you another whole year!

And really, your birthday should be about doing what makes you happy, even on a micro level. I ran fourteen (FOURTEEN!) miles on my birthday, so I celebrated with a sense of accomplishment. I cooked all sorts of treats, so I celebrated with the joy of creating food for others, one of my greatest loves. A dear friend from high school traveled to Chicago for the event, and my friends gathered in my little apartment, so I celebrated with fellowship with the ones I love the most. All of my favorite things happened on my birthday, so who cares that they didn’t happen on a massive scale?

My birthday is hardly over, either. I still get to celebrate with my work friends tomorrow (with more food, of course), my friend AJ is taking me out to supper on Tuesday, and I still have a few cards coming in the mail. A birthday is really several days of small, joyful celebrations.

I’ve learned that birthdays don’t need to be massive operations that cause stress and disappointment. They can be celebrations of love, joy, and memory that commemorate a whole year of life with a few friends. That’s what I got.

And that, dear people, is enough.

Day nine: love languages.

My friend recently asked me what my love language was. And it caught me off guard.

I didn’t really know how to answer. I’ve never been great at waxing poetic about my emotions and usually can’t muster up anything more than “I love you” in a serious relationship. I hug like a champ and happily dole out shoulder massages to any who call upon me, but I don’t really consider that my love language. I like giving gifts at Christmas and birthdays but don’t ascribe much to the practice of exchanging material goods outside those occasions.

To be honest, the answer came to me much sooner than today. But I laughed out loud at myself today when I thought how long it took for me to figure it out.

My love language is totally food.

I show up to every bible study with bread or cookies or hummus. I constantly hustle my boyfriend out of the kitchen when he’s over for supper because I want to cook for him. I regularly bring treats to work for my colleagues. I always volunteer to provide snacks for church fellowship events. I love the hands-on aspect of cooking and baking, and I love knowing that what I make will be fed to those I love.

This evening, I made spicy white bean dip, peanut butter cup cookie balls, chocolate chip cookie dough balls, and chocolate chip cookie dough blondies, all of which I will bring to church tomorrow night for our Friday night coffee house worship service.

It feels like feeding the sheep to me, like feeding the hungry hundreds with bread and fish. Just providing for the most basic needs of my brothers and sisters, making their nourishment a little more special, feels so good and right to me. It’s how I say I love you. Some people say it through music, through volunteering to balance a budget, through giving gifts. I say it through food.

Take and eat. This is my love, given for you.

Day five: eagle-eye worship.

 

I officially earned my keep at church by agreeing to run the slides for worship this morning. I camped out in the sweltering balcony with my friend James, who was running the sound board. Check out this sweet (blurry) set-up.

Image

My job was fairly simple: switch the slide. At crucial points in the sermon, worship songs, communion, I clicked a few keys and made sure the correct image appeared on the screen. Other than that, I was free to exchange snarky comments with James and enjoy the service.

Now, I’ve never been much of a back-stager at church. I’m usually right there in the pews with everyone else. Being a pastor’s kid, I was occasionally roped into serving communion or teaching Vacation Bible School, but the technical side of church was never my job. This experience of being physically removed from the rest of the congregation was completely new to me. It also answered a question I’d had for a long time.

As a kid, I always kind of wondered what we, as a congregation, looked like to an outsider. We sang and recited prayers and crossed ourselves with no discernible audience. Yes, we were singing for and worshipping God, but still. What would a passerby, a random audience member, think of our performance?

Today, I was that audience. An outsider, separated from my fellow churchgoers by a laptop and a few flights of stairs. I did sing along and listen to the sermon enough to switch the slides on time and sneak down to take communion. But for the most part, I was free to watch.

I didn’t see anything particularly earth-shattering. But that’s the amazing part. It didn’t matter. It didn’t need to be earth-shattering or mind-blowing, because it just needed to be real. And it was.

We’re just a group of humble people in a simple room. All we have to offer is our togetherness and our voices, and with that we can produce the most beautiful, genuine music. We certainly wouldn’t land a record deal, and we number too few to really bring down the house, but the one who’s listening doesn’t care about that. God, our most enthusiastic, team spirit-y fan, is throwing roses on the stage and begging for an encore. We’re giving him the gift of our love, our praises, our humble voices, and that’s all he wants to hear.

It’s a beautiful thing to see, even from the less-than-holy vantage point of an overheated balcony, and I’ll be glad to see it again. But I’m looking forward to next week, when it’s not my turn to run the computer and I get to sit among my fellow worshippers again. Because now that I’ve seen how good the show looks from the audience, I want to lend my own humble voice to the choir. We put on a good show. I want to be a part of it.

Day three: Christian Fellowship, or why I’m going to bible study on a Friday night

When I was in college, Friday night was party night.

Everyone dropped everything to crack a beer, hit the bars, go dancing, make out with a stranger, and generally get wild. The next morning:

“I feel like shit.”

“Why did we go out?”

“WHO did I kiss last night?!”

“I’m never drinking again. I mean it.”

Repeat weekly. Ad nauseum.

I’ll be honest: this was never really me. I would drink one beer, maybe two, but I hated being intoxicated. I’d dance but I kept all my parts to myself. I usually grew bored of my drunken peers and befriended the token Shy Friend so I’d have someone to talk to.

Sometimes there would be an hour of really fun dancing or a surprise heart-to-heart with a friend as the night was coming to a close. But for the most part, I still woke up on Saturday morning feeling like I hadn’t really done anything worthwhile the night before. Even though I never had a hangover and I still had my wallet, phone, keys, and panties in my possession, I couldn’t call the previous night a success.

Fast forward to Friday, February 1st. I left work at 4:00 and went home to being cooking a meal. I made spicy white bean dip with pita wedges and lemony green pea risotto with roasted red peppers. My friend Michelle came over early to chat, and she chopped parsley and grated lemon zest for me so supper would be ready when our friends arrived.

By 5:30, there were five women seated around my little living room, eating supper and sharing how our weeks had been and what was going on in our lives. We talked about boyfriends and exercise schedules and troublesome students (there are several teachers in our group). Once we finished our meal, we began our bible study.

Yes, bible study. On a Friday night.

While other young women were swilling cheap beer out on a sweaty dance floor littered with sequins from their dresses, we were sprawled across my living room, flipping through heavily-annotated books and searching bible apps on our phones in search of verses applicable to that night’s study. We shared our struggles and our celebrations, and we prayed for each other. We were home and (in my case) in bed by 10:00 p.m.

When I woke up the next morning, I didn’t have any crazy stories to share or the phone number of a dashing gentleman or blurry smartphone photos of drinks or dance floors, proof of a life engaged in hip social culture.

But I felt fed. I felt nourished.

I spent my night sharing my thoughts, my struggles, my joys. My fellow women and I engaged in conversation about our lives and our faith, things that matter every single day. These women made me laugh and made me think, gave me hugs and gave me praise for the meal, listened to my reflections and listened to my prayer requests. Michelle lent her hands to the meal, and the others helped clean up. We were a group, a community, a family, sisters in love and in Christ.

My friend AJ recently expressed her decision to intentionally seek and prioritize Christian community. “It nourishes me,” she said, “and makes my faith a bigger part of my life.” AJ didn’t want to put her faith life, her role as a daughter of Christ, on hold for other activities that she knew didn’t fulfill her in the same way. So she started looking for God in every hour, even those normally dedicated to knocking back beers and shaking one’s proverbial money maker.

I should note that she shared this at a Friday night worship service at my church, which she was attending in favor of bar-hopping.

So maybe bible study on a Friday night isn’t the coolest or craziest or most exotic thing I could do. Many people prefer the thrill of a darkened bar and a pounding bassline. Power to them, I say! I gave it a fair shot, but I’ve chosen otherwise. I choose homemade meals, girlfriends in jeans and sweaters, intimate conversation, and my bible. I choose the nourishing word coming from the mouths of those who love me and whom I love. I choose Christian fellowship.

And that, good people, is why I’m going to bible study on a Friday night. ON PURPOSE.