Friday, December 23, 2011

story of my life

i'm convinced that the best storytellers don't actually know where they're going--they just start writing/speaking, and slowly they piece together a captivating tale...

sometimes words fail us. sometimes things must be said, but finding the words is unimaginable. and yet words come. the words come, and maybe you have no idea what they mean...and yet, they still give you a meaning. it's in these moments where i often find myself saying that a particular situation is the "story of my life." they are the occurrences that seem to follow me around, and yet i cannot for the life of me understand how or why they keep happening.

lately i've been forced to think much about stories--about my story, my family's story, the story of the Church, the story of Jesus.

i've been reading a new fiction book (yay! no school!) that's part of the genre called 'magical realism.' it's hard to explain, but the basic premise is that the magical can happen in the world as we know it. fantastical occurrences aren't just magic; they are the everyday, blending in with our lives so that often we don't even notice it's craziness or absurdity.

i think that's the story of my life.

jesus' story is ripe for some magical realism analysis. in the spirit of this advent/christmas season, i've been re-reading the story of jesus' birth. some of my favorite fantasical moments include: an angel strangely greets you, scaring the mess outta you, and then proceeds to tell you you're going to have the SON OF GOD(!!!) even though you're a virgin; mary responding to this scandalous news with joy and praise (say what?) at getting to do the will of God; angels appearing to the poor shepherds--just trying to do their job, folks--who are thus justifiably TERRIFIED (what exactly do these angels look like anyways? i'm getting concerned...); joseph being told in a dream to flee with his newborn and wife, oh ya know, cause the king is trying to kill. your. baby. seriously, people--what is this ridiculousness?!? then i remind myself that i believe this is all REAL LIFE.

i don't know about you, but i'd much rather serve a God that embraces the extraordinary and fantastic inside the ordinary. because that's the real story of my life--the story of a God who exalts the meek and humble, who uses ordinary people in deceptively extraordinary ways. my story is inherently fantastical and magical in that it obscures and hides its wonder in the very ordinary things that i often overlook.

there's a reason Jesus speaks in parables and stories...magical realism, folks. that'll preach.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

the twilight zone

You're traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That's the signpost up ahead — your next stop, the Twilight Zone.

it's mid-afternoon, and i'm chillin in what looks like a waiting room, filled with comfy couches and diverse array of wall hangings. nothing special or interesting really about the room, but i'm introduced to a man. nothing special or interesting about said man. oh, well, except for the fact that he's just had a body transplant. wait, you mean you don't know what a body transplant is? it's where you get to keep your head, but it's transplanted onto a different body. no bigs.

this man is looking great--walking, talking, the whole bit. all is swell with this episode of The Twilight Zone that is my brain on dreams. except then the other people in the room start telling me that i, in fact, need a body transplant. no explanation is given, but they are adamant. my concerned and confused looks hint to them that i was not all down for this game plan, and so their faces change to looks of sympathy.

"now don't be alarmed," they say to me slowly, " but you're going to be really tall."

more looks of confusion. then they literally show me the legs. the legs of the person's body that my head is now to be attached to. that's when they tell me that the only body they had available for me was...a dude's body. but don't worry, i am not phased by the fact that i would now have male anatomy attached to my head. and the tall bit...well, i could get over that. i was still not ready, however, to go through with this body transplant; just didn't sit right with me. i knew i needed a solid reason to convince them otherwise. what would be a sure fire excuse to get out of this predicament?

"oh, i know!" my dream-self thought inwardly.
"sorry," I tell them. "i just can't go through with this. then i couldn't have any babies."

*wakes up in bed utterly confused

i won't bore you with the bajillion theological/philosophical/medical questions that have been running in my mind sense. but seriously, think about's a fascinating (if also somewhat frightening) thought experiment. and then tell me all your awesome thoughts =) thank you for crossing over to...the twilight zone.

Friday, August 26, 2011

hope and despair

as the summer winds to a close, i can't help but be overwhelmed by my experiences of the past few months and even the past year. i don't even know where to begin.

hope and despair. that's what i've learned, experienced, breathed. degrees and extremes of hope and despair. they oddly enough look and feel quite similar, and can often be found in the same places at the very same time. they're found in the eyes of a room full of people who are homeless but not nameless. they're found in new friendships despite the racial struggles of the past and present. they're found in broken relationships, social and economic divisions, and the people who refuse to let them remain that way. they're found in the courage of the young and the old who yearn and seek for a kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

i am plagued with hope and despair, and i'm okay with that. because hope and despair now have faces and names, praises and prayers, gifts and shortcomings. i'd rather have all that baggage with hope and despair than not have it at all.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

the clothes closet

every wednesday morning, i am the keeper of the clothes closet. inside this tiny, jumbled closet are mounds of second-hand clothes to be given to our folks at grace place. when the door opens each week, you never really know what to expect, but one thing is always promised-an adventure.

last wednesday proved to be particularly interesting. it was my first time running the closet myself, and i was slightly nervous about handling the situations that would arise (because, like i said, it's always an adventure). let me preface by saying this is not an extensive operation we are running. our clothes are very limited-we often don't have enough of certain items to go around, and our sizes are makeshift fits at best. we work with what we've got. it's funny how giving out clothes to people will send your mind spiraling into theological circles. i wrestle with what clothes to give people-is that shirt nice enough or too messed up? would i feel dignified wearing that? does this clothing treat them as an equal brother or sister? and then there are the reactions you get afterwards: there are those who are always grateful for what you can give them, despite my apologies for our limited offerings; then there are those who are never satisfied, and boy, do they let you know it.

my very first clothes closet customer was a new guy to grace place, and for the record, he was already crabby and in a hurry when he approached me. since he was first in line, he got first dibs on sizes we had. i gave him the pair of shorts he asked for, along with anything else, and was pleased to be able to actually give him his size! he, however, was not quite as pleased. i'd already moved on down the list to the next person when he reappeared at my closet door with this lovely greeting: "hey, shorty. hey, hey shorty." oh joy. apparently these shorts (which were actually very nice) were too short-i believe the term "daisy dukes" was used as a description. now i would have loved to roll my eyes and lecture him about proper names and ways to get a lady's attention...but i didn't. i showed him a couple other pairs we had, offered him his choice, and he went on his grumbling way.

but this closet is also the source of joy too. meet kenny. kenny is a faithful grace place attendee, a member of galloway, and probably the only guy who willingly participates on our craft days. he's a mess, but he's a kind, joyful and friendly mess, and thus we love him dearly. kenny decided to sit right outside the closet door that morning, and while i saw him there, i didn't think too much of it. i soon began to notice though that kenny was monitoring the door. every time a guy came up, kenny would remind them sternly that they were not to enter the closet, telling all the newbies the rules. i remember asking him multiple times if he needed anything that morning, and each time he replied "no" with a smile. it wasn't until i was about halfway through that i realized what he was doing-kenny was looking after me. he felt the need to be my protector and helper that morning when he knew i was working by myself.

my heart laughed and smiled at the same time. it laughed because kenny, like i said, is a hot mess. brief synopsis: he's old, walks with a cane, and has a slew of medical issues. but you best believe, if something had gone down that morning, kenny would've been in the middle of it, cane and all. kenny didn't need to be there, but he wanted to. kenny is a living, breathing, messy but honest example of the power of true relationships.

one final note-i'm getting really good at sizing mens' clothing...don't be alarmed if i practice guessing your pants size correctly. i promise it's not creepy.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


some quick thoughts, since it's been forever and a day since i've blogged but it's also past my bedtime...

1. spent 5 days last week at an overnight camp for 200 youth called MissionFest, where they worked at various missions throughout Jackson. i'm just gonna be up front and say that just about everything that could go wrong...well, yea it went wrong for me. my team's bus broke down no less than 3 times, i left a poor girl at the church on the way to our work site, and even caused the overall adult leader to create a new rule after the very first day based on my team. let's just say that i do not feel called to youth ministry, but bless their hearts whoever does. don't worry, i lived to smile and laugh greatly about all of this (and even managed to keep my internship! woo hoo! ;)

2. the Word of God is indeed powerful and does not return empty. during one of the days last week, i spent time with some kids from a rougher neighborhood in Jackson. we were hanging out in their neighborhood and told them the story of Jesus healing the blind man by spitting in the dirt and putting mud on his face. i admittedly was not optimistic about them paying attention to the story, but God gave me the sassy snaps and proved me wrong. 3 young boys, around the age of 10, then grilled me with every question imaginable about God. it was astonishing to me how genuinely curious and interested these boys were--they were thirsty, and all it took was for someone to share some scripture and invite them to ask for living water.

3. lindsey and i pretty much ran the liturgy this past sunday while all our pastors were at annual conference. the phrase sink-or-swim adequately describes this scenario. thankfully i'm a firm believer in the phrase fake-it-til-you-make-it, and folks seem to have bought our confidence. the best thing that came from this sunday though were the encouragements i got from some of my grace place friends. 3 different guys have come up to me since, all beaming about how well i did on sunday. one was even so excited to tell me he saw me on t.v, gushing about how nice it was to have a familiar face on the screen--he said it felt like he was there, like it was home. best. compliment. EVER.

4. in true random fashion, i leave you with this tidbit. i am slightly embarrassed to admit that i have now seen, in marathon fashion, all 3 twilight movies...i blame the youth. but for those of you who have even the slightest idea what i'm talking about, i leave you with two words: team jacob. the end.

grace, peace and hugs to all. more stories to come!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

grace place

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in." ~matthew 25:35

this verse is the foundation for Grace Place, the homeless ministry at Galloway and where i spend most of my mornings throughout the week. sunday through friday morning, galloway hosts homeless men and women from the downtown jackson area for a hot meal and some respite. usually about 60-75 folks come each day, both regulars and new faces. i think it's easy for us as christians to glamorize a ministry like this, to see it on paper and have our hearts warmed and our fists pumped for Jesus. but here's a little taste of the day-to-day life of grace place--the good, the bad, and the ugly.

the good: God's children are truly gathered here. i met "N" my very first day. when i introduced myself, he was so tickled by my name that his whole face lit up with a smile that literally radiates. if i could only harness the light behind that smile, i promise you it could heal souls. i hope i never forget his face. he is just one of many beautiful children here. on wednesdays, we have a worship service and communion just for grace place. it's raw and unglamorous, but this glimpse of the kingdom is a precious sight to behold. it's where i helped serve my first ever communion, and i wouldn't want it any other way.

the bad: you can't be in grace place long without realizing that homelessness effects all types of people--it hold no bounds, it does not discriminate. its causes are as varied as the people it affects. "V" comes often, and we have a fun time joking on each other. it's not so hard to relate to one another considering he's only 21. from our conversations, i'm pretty certain that he sells/deals drugs. it's crazy for me to imagine this young face out on the streets. there's a story behind "V" (as there always is), and i'm praying one of these mornings i'll have the privilege of finding out from him just what that is.

the ugly: in many other countries, christians still believe in demons and their power over people. after only briefly seeing how life-destroying addictions take a hold of people, i'm convinced they're here in our midst too. i say this not to scare anyone but merely to say that sin is a real and powerful stronghold in our lives, one that can capture us before we even recognize it. my second day at grace place, 2 couples walked in shortly after our worship service began, and in my limited knowledge, i knew immediately that they were addicted to drugs (if not also currently on them in that moment). my heart fell. i knew i couldn't do much to help their situation, that i likely would never see them again, that their battle was much bigger than i could ever tackle. but they got a hot meal that day and some new clothes and heard the Gospel preached.

homelessness is complicated. lately i've struggled to think about how i can possibly help in the midst of so much brokenness--where do i even start? the Gospel of Luke has been my company, where i've encountered many stories of Jesus physically healing and helping those around him; and yet, it has numerous mention of those he did NOT immediately help: "yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. but Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed." a gem of wisdom lies in these verses, and i must continue to wrestle with them. what i do know is that for now i can offer a meal, some respite from the sweltering heat, a listening ear and a hopeful smile all in the name of Jesus. i pray God may use these small offerings for the kingdom.

Monday, May 30, 2011

profile: people

oh my galoshes, so many amazing experiences have happened just in the past few days--i will have many stories to share later, that's for sure. but until i've processed more and my thoughts are less jumbled, here's some quick profiles of folks i've met thus far in jackson. this is the first of many posts profiling people, because let's be real, i love people. AND these people are amazing--i'm so stoked to share part of their story. i hope their lives might bless you as they have me, even if you never get to meet them.

Leslie: Leslie loves people with a passion. she currently directs missions and outreach at Galloway, and while she claims she has no credentials for the position, she clearly has the most important one down on lock. my first day i only got to talk with her for about 20 minutes, where she proceeded to tell me about the lives of a couple of the Grace Place guys she's grown close with. Grace Place, by the way, is the homeless ministry at Galloway and where i'll be working closely at this summer--more on that later. basically, in just those 20 minutes, Leslie inspired the mess outta me--talk about sitting at the feet of an amazing woman.

Connie: speaking of amazing women...well you just can't speak about that and NOT talk about her. Connie is co-pastor extraordinaire at Galloway. she will gaze into your soul in about 3 seconds and ask you just the right questions (and probably the ones you didn't want to have to answer). this lady oozes the Holy Spirit, no joke. i heard her preach for the first time this past sunday, and my life will never be the same. never have i seen a female pastor lead with such strength and yet openness and tenderness in my life. to be honest, i've had doubts placed in my head about women being able to preach and lead, but never again will that take root in my mind. mmm mmm mmm.

Ed King: hands down the most humble man i've ever met in my life. and ladies and gents, he has much to be proud of--people come from all over to sit at his feet and learn from his life, and i can see why. if you don't know who he is, google him ASAP ("ed king civil rights"). that's right, he's google-able.

Barbara and Barry Powell: this wonderful couple took me to see joseph and the technicolor dreamcoat at the local theatre--cool point #1. barbara also drove, and while she may be a grandma, don't let that you fool you. she drives stick, and she means business on the road. barry and barbara got married in pakistan, where she was teaching at a methodist girls' school. he casually notes that he "had to chase her far"--baller, barry, baller.

more profiles to come!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


today, as i stood outside the historic downtown Jackson greyhound bus station, i wondered to myself how in the world i came to find myself in Mississippi. i can safely say that i never in my wildest daydream imagined myself here. yet God has a funny way of bringing us to just where we need to be.

As i gazed across the crowd at the greyhound station, my eyes did a double take. here i was, surrounded by Freedom Riders from all over the country, those who had risked their lives to take a stand in the name of justice and equality some 50 years ago. to simply breathe in the thick, hot mississippi air with them was already an incredible experience. but as i took in the scene, as i looked in-between the heads before me, there he was. Dr. John Perkins, casually standing near the front corner of the crowd. now i've read about him, heard him speak at various conferences, even met him a time or two, but that wasn't what gave me pause. as i looked again to confirm it was him, my spirit swelled up within me. the life and work of Dr. Perkins is why i'm now in ministry; it was through the legacy of his ministry that i first encountered the living and breathing message of the Gospel. and there he was, a casual observer honoring those who similarly dedicated their lives to God's work of reconciliation and justice.

50 years ago, the Freedom Riders stood up for what they believed the Gospel truly meant, and what strikes me is that many of them were likely my age or even younger. I can't help but ask myself, where will i be in 50 years? what will i have stood for? the Gospel was alive today at that old greyhound station, just as it was some 50 years ago. as i stood at that place, i remembered how indebted i am to those who have told me their story, who bear openly the wounds of the past for a new generation of seekers of justice through the Gospel.

I hugged a random Freedom Rider as we all dispersed from the event. Poor guy, i don't think he was quite prepared for that. but before he shuffled away with his walker, he simply looked at me and said, "i don't feel any remorse or anger about the past. read some of our stories, even though some are painful and hard. but they are important to know." may i have ears to continue to hear the story.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

history lesson

i've been doing a good bit of thinking lately about history. what do we do with our history, with our past both recent and far-reaching? when i went home right before leaving for Mississippi, i asked my grandma to share with me some of her family history, a story i've not really heard and have been curious about as of late. what is it that makes us want to know where those before us have gone, where we have come from? which stories do we choose to tell, and which do we try to forget and hide?

today i heard and saw a little bit more of the history of Jackson. like all history i've ever heard, it's complicated and messy and full of painful memories. it's surreal to be at my church downtown, surrounded by a past full of the work and lives of Medger Evers, Ed King and John Perkins, to name a few. at the same time, this very church, Galloway, has its own haunting past-an internal and public battle over desegregation that tore apart its congregation in a single sunday. it's a past that has obviously left scars-the remnants of a vibrant downtown now broken and unused; the numerous homeless men and women that daily come for a meal; the racial and economic tensions that still run deep through the very seams of the city. yet Jackson and its people are still hanging on to life, to the vision of those before them who envisioned a new life beyond their history.

to be honest, i'm not sure yet what to do with all this history. it's one that i've been fortunate to hear, see, read about and even experience in other places, but that still doesn't make it any easier to take in. as i wrestle with our history, as i struggle to make it all make sense and not be in vain, i must remember that the remembering is essential. because for all it's pain and sorrow, i'm forever grateful for this history full of the named and the unnamed, for those who stood up for a world they believed in but could not yet see actualized before their eyes. what a beautiful faith legacy for me to walk in and hope in.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

hello, Jackson =)

2 days and 13ish hours of driving later, i'm officially in Jackson, MS! this post will be short, as i'm now well fed and exhausted. here's some quick highlights from my travels:

1. shout out to my faithful musical companions who serenaded me (and had to listen to me sing/belt/beatbox horrendously for hours on end)--special props to Kirk Franklin, Lecrae, Javier, Adele, Michael Buble, and my girl India.Arie for their extra commitment.
2. driven through many an interesting city name lately, my personal favorite being Chunky, MS. there's obviously a story behind that name, i'm sure of it. i also may or may not have a story involving Chunky, MS as well...
3. i apparently missed the memo that MS is in central time zone, thus pleasantly surprising me with an extra hour--woot woot!
4. met some lovely new friends in ATL on friday night and promptly celebrated one of their birthdays with the whole neighborhood at their house. praise God for awesome and faithful people--more on that later when i have my brain back.
5. i just like lists with odd numbers.

aight, folks, more Jackson adventures to come. =)