Thursday, August 30, 2007

Great is Thy Faithfulness

I have been reading Eric's blogs on here and have been sitting quietly inspired. I too have just begun seminary – here in D.C. at Wesley. Much like my brother Eric, I felt on the outside and somewhat alone. However, I knew I had brothers and sisters in Christ all around the country who were going through the same thing.

OnFire is a very interesting faith community. We are all United Methodist and believe strongly in social justice and young adult ministries. One of the things I love most about OnFire is our diversity. When I think of this group, I imagine what it would be like for Jesus to be surrounded by His disciples in the Upper Room. Diversity yet inclusiveness. Often in the United Methodist Church we claim we are diverse and have open hearts, open minds, and open doors. Well, "it ain't so!" But, when I think about the mission and ministries of OnFire, I know that this is not the church of tomorrow, but the living presence of God today. For that I am thankful and blessed to be a part of this organization.

Little to their knowledge, I pray for each and every one of the members daily and they are in my thoughts. I think of how it feels adjusting to life as a new seminarian and I think of my brothers and sisters who have been in it for awhile. I am excited about our new opportunities to grow together in this Christian journey and transform not just the Methodist Church by our witness, but the world. This is a safe, reaffirming community that I truly love being a part of.

But then, I think about the brokenness of the world.

Today, I got that text message that said a friend had died. Drug overdose.

We grew up in the church together. He had great potential. He was funny, outgoing and extremely talented. The eldest of four. I know he grew up in a Christian household and loved God with his heart. I am not wondering why he did what he did but wondering why we as the church failed to see his need. I wonder how many others are out there.

Today, I thought about a few songs and someone reminded me of "Great Is Thy Faithfulness." Yes, Lord, indeed it is. But for who?

As young adults trailblazing I am afraid that we will forget our brothers and sisters NOT in the church, the ones who have become discontent, upset and have left. The ones who yearn to be a part of a community like OnFire but are intimidated and scared. Our neighbors who want to know Jesus but feel too convicted by their spirit.

Personally, I am ministered to through songs. I am usually intimidated by large groups and become a recluse. But now, I just sing, "there's a sweet, sweet spirit in this place." Sometimes I become acclimated to the situation, others times, I enjoy spending time in devotion with God. But what do we do for others who are not that far on their spiritual journey? How do we welcome them and value them in our faith community?

Another song that has kept me going is, "I've Decided To Make Jesus My Choice." There's a part…. "the road is tough, and the going gets rough and the hills are hard to climb. I started out a long time ago – there is no doubt in my mind, I've decided to make Jesus my Choice." Amen.

But with that choice is responsibility. "To whom much is given, much is required." We have all been bountifully blessed. My Myspace headline is "Blessed and Highly Favored." Indeed, we are blessed and highly favored - along with this comes the greatest responsibility and privilege to minister to our brothers and sisters and let them know about God's grace and mercy. "Love God-love neighbor…." Right?!

I challenge all of yall out there who are reading to take seriously your role in your communities. "Be still" and listen for God's word. Step outside your comfort zone so someone else can be healed.

When talking with a friend about our friend's death, she said – "you never know what's going on with someone." And that's true – so why don't we ask?

To Eric and Brian – we are all with you. We are on this walk in faith together. "Let not your heart be troubled, and neither let it be afraid." You have some "ride or die" people to uplift you and uphold you. And indeed, whatever time, wherever, whatever – we are all here and committed to the spiritual growth of all. We are committed to building up the kingdom of God for all people.

But most of all, we are convicted by the word, called by our passions and in love with the truth and light that our Lord and Savior brings.

~ one luv,

Saturday, August 25, 2007

faith in the struggle

My brother just left. He's been traveling with me this entire week from Tempe, AZ, where I've lived for twenty-eight years, to my new home here in Maplewood, NJ. It's been a long trip - geographically and emotionally - but until today James has been with me and it's felt more like a road trip than a complete reorientation of my life.

Now, I get that most people deal with this at one point or another. How many folks go off to school, or the military, or just move out at eighteen, and never look back? Honestly, I don't know, but I recognize that's the story we tell ourselves. It's hard for me to even admit that I'm homesick because of the stories I tell myself about being an adult, or a man, or whatever else shames me into hiding the fact that I'm scared of being away from my mommy.

But I am. It's hard, and pretending as though it's easy doesn't make it easy. So now I'm rewriting my story about what makes me a whole person. I think it'll have something to do with admitting that things are hard, and then doing them anyway. I'll run that one past my editor and get back to you when I know for sure but the point is, I need to be able to acknowledge my struggle and still be okay.

As I start seminary, I realize that I'm doing similar rewrites with my faith. I'm walking the same path that many people have walked before me, searching for God, through Jesus, with the aid of the Holy Spirit. Except, as I go, I sometimes encounter questions that my faith stories don't seem to address. And so, instead of assuming that my questions and subsequent lack of answers somehow make me less faithful, I am rewriting my stories. I want to recognize my struggles with faith and the world around me, recognize that the spaces where I encounter God are not always where my heroes of faith have encountered God, and most importantly, come to grips with the fact that I may never have easy answers to the difficult questions I'm encountering. And then, I want to believe that by living in those struggles and neither quitting, nor settling for the path of least resistance, I am made more, not less, faithful.

But I can't do it alone. And that's why I am thankful for good friends and good community. There are many people like us who struggle everyday, and choose that struggle openly. If you'd like to walk with us, we here at OnFire always have room for another companion. Welcome!


Friday, August 24, 2007

The awkward Outside

I feel like an outsider. I’ve recently moved to a new town and am making a major life transition. Yesterday I went to a dinner party at the home of some people I barely knew. The food was good, the people moderately interesting, yet I still felt like an outsider. I don’t normally think of myself as socially awkward yet at this party I felt like I was. I would start a conversation and halfway through the person I was talking to would need more potato salad – and never come back.

It sucked. I came home frustrated and feeling alone. Maybe you’ve been there – and hey, if you happen to be in Nashville, TN right now and feel that way let me know. I’ve always got time for coffee.

I don’t know if you ever read the introduction to books. I don’t. Unless I really have no intention of reading the book then I might. If you gave me the choice I’d rather you skip this post and dive right in to the rest of the story. The point of this site is to empower young adults to share our stories and to find community where we can all struggle with Jesus and justice together.

I don’t know how you arrived here. I showed up frustrated sometime after dinner. Maybe you came alone after a worship service. Maybe you came with friends who want to make our world a little greener, safer or kinder. However, welcome to OnFire and to a network of people who seek to be social and advance justice. I can’t really say more than that. Share your story and your thoughts without fear – we don’t really like potato salad.

Peace, Eric K.