Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Years Worth Of Memories..

Where do I begin?
A year of life has passed. 
It doesn’t matter where you’re at,
times still pass
Whether you’re on this side,
Or that side,
A day ahead
A day behind
Time still passes.

As I grow older this reality smacks me in the face repeatedly. 

Well lets start where we left off, this last year in Grahamstown, South Africa at the Holy Cross monastery has been absolutely amazing for so many reasons.  I’ve spent so much time alone in prayer keeping myself company and meeting some incredible people.  The spiritual formation that has occurred is unreal.  I did a great deal of learning about the person who I am, what drives and motivates me.  I’ve gotten in touch with where my passions lie, and having to improvise when all of the outlets for my passions are taken away and I’m in a completely new context.  Having to learn how to ignite my own flame when there are no external stimulations. 

Please believe that this was not easy, when doing intrapersonal work sometimes it feels like its an uphill battle, and right as you are about to make it to the plateau you loose your footing and slip further down than where you started. There were times during this last year where I fell deep down into myself.  And would have frankly been stuck for much longer than I was had it not been for the people around me.  It is said that God makes presents Himself in groups of people.  That is because the more different people there are the fuller image of God we see.  Life is about living with people in community.  Living with Monks who take life long vows with one of the cornerstones of those vows being community living, its hard not to let a little of that intentionality of being in community rub off on me. 

During my time in Grahamstown I have met some truly remarkable people, who have truly remarkable amounts of courage and strength.  The staff and faculty of the school became my family,  the school has 4 teachers and 5 other staff members.  The Brothers (monks) of course were always there to support me and be a wise supportive presence when I needed help digesting. The children, oh the children, they can see into your soul, and unlike adults children aren’t afraid to comment on what they see. I can always count on the children to lift me up and keep me energize or to call me out when im being a diva J  Away from the monastery out in Grahamstown or around the country I also met people my own age who come from completely different, some time similar, backgrounds than I do.  It is inspiring to think that people who are from the opposite sides of the world could have so much in common and can love on each other so hard.

So welcome back to my blog to find out how its been going.  It’s been a while since we last spoke.  Know that I have been trying to get in touch with the authentic experiences and circumstances that make these previous and following blog post come to life. 

Very much love,

Life at a Monastery

Take a look at a video about the monastery.  Im in it so watch it all the way through! :)

Sermon: What are you looking for?

Gospel Reading- Isaiah 49: 1-7

I would like to open up with a moment in silence, and in this moment I would like us all to reflect on the only question Jesus asks in todays Gospel reading; What are you looking for?

Author of time and space
We come before you in this time of praise
We ask you for your divine intervention
In each of our lives
I pray that you would make yourself known
In a way that only you are capable of doing
I pray that you would call us to live lives
That are glorifying to your holy name
And I pray that we would trust in your purpose
Enough to live those lives

Our reading today from Isaiah opens up with, the Lord called us all while we were in our mothers’ wombs.  I wasn’t available at that time to take the call, but I told God that as soon as I was born I would give him a call right back.  Now when I say born I don’t only mean a physical birth.  I also mean an emotional and spiritual birth.  This second birth usually takes place many years later.  But still, God calls us, before we are even ready to accept that calling.  But even sill, God calls, God knows, in fact God is, the inevitable. 

The themes that I want to introduce today are; purpose, trust and control.  The first bit on purpose.  Our purpose, in life, for life, comes from God, our purpose is God.  I mean why do you think he was calling us in the womb in the first place?  Not to use up some airtime.  He was calling to place in our hearts, as they were growing and developing and being formed and taking shape the purpose that will drive us through our lives.

 God called John.  God gave John a purpose.  And John says himself, he didn’t know, he had no idea.  He knew that God called him to baptize people with water in the name of a man who had yet to make himself known.  Now if God had called me to dunk people under water in the name of a foretold messiah, I might have had to do a double take.  You want me to do what God?
 That’s not what John did.  John said, after me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.  I myself did not know him, but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed.  Talk about trust ey?  Talk about being driven by a purpose, a purpose given from God.

John had no idea but he put his trust in God.  John should be an example to us all, we aren’t doing our own stuff independent from God.  Everything we do is to the glory of God.  Looking back at our reading from Isaiah, it says; you are my servant in whom I will be glorified.  But I said I have labored in vain.  I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my cause- and I think we can change the word cause to purpose and it would read- yet surely my purpose is with the Lord and my reward is with God. This part of our passage screams trust, the kind of trust that John shows by baptizing people in water because it is what God called him to do. 

Something that im realizing in my own life and working through is that when you are at your core trusting God and the purpose God has set for me, for us all, ultimately we are giving up control.  The two do seem mutually exclusive, you cant trust in the unknown and then at the same time try to control everything around you, try to control your purpose.  

Back to Isaiah again, it says that I have labored in vain.  I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity.  That’s control right there.  That is what our controlling minds will lead us to believe, that even though I try my hardest, I expect to produce the best but I still only can produce nothing and vanity, the fact that we think we are in control over our own labor and efforts and results enough to change our outcome is at the core not trust.  The trust comes in when the passage continues with, yet surely my cause is with the Lord and my reward is with God. 
This is accepting the first statement as is, but then moving beyond to a place of acceptance.  Saying that my cause, my purpose is the Lord and my reward is with God.  And that’s enough and is the ultimate expression of trust in God.

Trust is contagious.  Our gospel reading ends with John standing with two of his disciples and they watched as Jesus walked by.  John says look, here is the Lamb of God.  The two disciples heard John say that, and they started to follow Jesus.  Now, if we can pause here from the story for a second.  Because of John’s trust, in God, in Jesus, in Gods purpose for his life he was able to pass that same trust along to his disciples who immediately began to follow Jesus.  To wherever he was going.  

We opened up today with a moment of silence, we sat upon the only question that Jesus asked in our Gospel reading for today.  What are you looking for?  Jesus turns to these men who out of nowhere begin to follow Him and He asks what are you looking for?  Jesus didn’t ask who are you guys? What do you want? OR the most obvious of questions, why are you following me?  Jesus turns asks them and asks what are you looking for? 
Now what speaks to me just as loudly as the men’s reply is their actions.  They absolutely trust that this man, Jesus, is the Lamb of God.  So they give up control, trust in the unknown and begin to follow.  What is seems to me that the men are looking for and the reason they follow Jesus is because they are looking for purpose.  Jesus asks what are you looking for and their actions scream we are looking for purpose. What they actually said was, where are you staying?  To which Jesus replies come and see.

If I can ask Jesus’ profound question one last time; what are you looking for? I pray that all of our answers if asked that same question would be, we are looking for you.  We are looking for God. I pray that when Jesus asks what we are looking for we would say, my phone, because God’s been trying to call me since before I was born to tell me the purpose he has for me and I need to answer that call.  Amen.

The Monks

They say trying to get all the brothers together for a photo is like trying to have multiple cats take a bath at the same time.  It is possible but boy does it take a lot of hard work. I wanted to make a post dedicated strictly to them.  They are each one of them very unique and they have their talents and specialties besides all of them being disciplined and extremely faithful.

One of them brother Roger is a master spiritual director, brother daniel is the house grill (braai) master come BBQ time, Brother Timothy is a man of extreme personality  and is quite the southern gentleman,  Brother John is the house poet who I've heard the story, once for a sermon recited a poem on the topic of the gospel reading for the day, Brother Julian who has taught me more about balancing a school budget than i could have ever learned from any degree on high finance :) And brother Josias whose heart for children and engaging in the world overflows from his entire being.
I want to thank each one of them for their hospitality and allowing me to pick their brains for a year relentlessly.

Well like i said next to impossible to get all the brothers together for a picture, i almost did it, here is everyone minus brother john who was out of the country at the time these photos were taken.

Life on the Playground, Its Real!

Boy oh boy, the things that happen out on the playground are incredible.  The life lessons that are taught, the "life long" friends that are made when you are in the 2nd grade, the absolute drama between those life long friends. No words can explain how magical it is.

Extra Curricular

Every so often the school would have extra curricular, whether that means a field trip to the local aquarium with a guided tour by the legendary Basil Mills, who is the towns renowned outdoorsman.  Or A school play, and this year's play was about Sepho the hunter and his adventures hunting.  We even had a traditional day where everyone came dressed in traditional Xhosa clothing and celebrated the culture with music, food, story telling, and dancing.

South African Animals

Just a small glimpse into the animals that populate the country of South Africa.  Given most of these photos are taken on game reserves so despite movies like madagascar  elephants dont just cruse the streets next to lions, well at least not in South Africa :)