Monday, October 29, 2007

"Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

Last night the roomie and I had people over for dinner and to watch Casablanca (courtesy of the awesome Nashville Public Library). It was my first viewing of the classic, and I really enjoyed it. Casablanca is one of the few classics I've seen, and it has inspired me to watch more. In the last few years very few movies have captured my attention, but besides almost falling asleep in the beginning (I'm sure the two pillow and blanket I curled up with in the floor didn't help) this one entertained me for its duration.

So what should I watch next? Any suggestions? Other than Gone With The Wind, I'm not sure I've seen any of the old movies that people rave about.

My weekend was otherwise full of cotton candy (Friday and Saturday while working), candy (at the Chili Cook-Off at church since I don't eat chili), family style dining at Maggiano's compliments of Sam and his family (it felt like an early Thanksgiving dinner), a hair cut and partial, the purchase of teacher shoes that I feel torn about keeping (but cute shoes aren't very practical for this job), and work.

Speaking of work, Saturday was a celebration of the playground and other improvements a local church has made to the place I work over the last five weeks. It's been inspiring to see these church members come after work and on Saturdays to lay sod, paint walls, construct a playground, and do so many other tasks to make our facility look beautiful. You can read more about it here. The church celebrates its five year anniversary this year and instead of doing a purely internal celebration, it decided to focus its efforts and celebration on making PTM a better place for the children we serve. Saturday was the culmination of all of the hard work, and people from the Preston Taylor community and this church joined together to celebrate. It's really cool to see how so many different people have worked together to transform a dangerous night club into a facility used for a thriving afterschool program.

p.s. I'm thankful for Kroger brand apple cider, which supplies 100% of my vitamin C needs.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Irresistible Revolution

About a week after I moved to Nashville a woman at my church brought me a book she thought I'd like (based on our one hour conversation earlier in the week). I'm just now nearing the end of the book, and she's sort of right. I like it, but I also don't. The book, which is The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne, makes me very uncomfortable. Uncomfortable in the same vein as a liberal arts education or sermon can make you uneasy with the way you're living your life. And the blurb on the back of the book promises no less, stating "This book will comfort the disturbed, disturb the comfortable, and invite believers to change the world with Christ's radical love."

I realize a lot of you may not believe in Christ or have much thought about Him at all--but long before I did, I believed that I had an obligation to other humans as I'm sure many of you feel. And this book challenges me to think through that obligation (albeit in the context of my faith), forcing me to think about whether adopting a child at Christmas, serving as a Big Sister in Big Brothers Big Sisters, and a few little things like that is simply missing the mark (even if those acts did allow me to "check off" community service on my list of things I want to do/should do).

After reading this book, I'm inclined to think that I've been missing at least half the point if not the point completely. Of course, after I watch Silence of the Lambs, I want to join the FBI. Anyway, I've thought of giving and serving in the context of what "they" need from me, realizing that there is great joy in giving and that I'd learn a little along the way (like awareness and understanding). And perhaps I'm doing just enough to satisfy my feeling that I have some obligation to others.

Claiborne writes:

"Tithes, tax-exempt donations, and short-term mission trips, while they accomplish some good, can also function as outlets that allow us to appease our consciences and still remain a safe distance from the poor."

Later he writes that "Both go away satisfied (the rich feel good, the poor get clothed and fed), but no one leaves transformed. No new radical community is formed."

And I think community is what I've been missing out on in my desire to fit my obligation to others into an appointment after work one evening per week--confining them to a neat little compartment of my life so as to not disturb the rest of it. Claiborne lives in community with a diverse group of people in Philadelphia who "wrestle to free ourselves from macrocharity and distant acts of charity that serve to legitimize apathetic lifestyles of good intentions but rob us of the gift of community." And it reminds me a little of my great-aunt. While she never lived in the ghetto, she often got collect calls from prisoners who she'd met in her prison ministry work. I remember thinking that those calls must be incredibly annoying and wondering why she gave them her number--and accepted their calls. But perhaps she was experiencing community, recognizing that the prisoners had something to offer her as well and that God could use them to transform her. She realized that community cannot be created in two isolated hours a week.

So where does all of this thinking leave me? I'm not sure. Part of me just wants to shove the book and the way it makes me feel to a far away place lest it make my life any more uncomfortable. But another part of me can't seem to stop thinking about how Christ lived His life and how very different our world would be if we lived in community with one another (and not just the people just like us who are pretty easy to love) rather than escaping to our homes with our cell phones, televisions, and computers and our neat little lives. And then I think, "nah, I'll just take a McDreamy and white picket fence please." And then I remember that every single time I've trusted the Lord and sought His plan, things have turned out so much better than my (uncreative) mind ever imagined. Alright, off to bed...if this post makes little sense, I apologize:)

p.s. I'm thankful for being challenged and the luxury of considering questions like these.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

What I Love This Week:

Rich Mullins: If I hadn't gone to a benefit concert the other night, I still wouldn't know who he is. And in case you don't--he's a great singer/song-writer. I've recently indulged my (dangerous) penchant for running at night several times, and I find his music to be perfect for these runs. Out of (obviously limited) respect for my safety, I only use one ear bud thingy. Gosh, I hate crime.

Dodge Ball: My first game in about 14 years took place two weeks ago, and it was one of the most fun things I've done this year. Team Cookie Monster won 15 out of 17 games. Last week was a little less fun because of some sleeveless shirt wearing, sweaty boys who threw the ball so hard that I hurt for minutes after being hit. Maybe they won't come back.

The West Wing: I just found out that there are at least seven seasons! Yeah!! I've only seen two seasons and have a crush on Rob Lowe (and I now have a real-life crush too, but he's not a candidate for anything more...which makes him the perfect crush, I suppose:). Similarly I've just discovered the wonder of The Office and have many episodes to watch over the next year.

My mom
: Not only did she come visit last week, but she's sent me some amazing care packages already (including some good sheets and a super soft blanket for my little twin size bed)--and I've only been here for six weeks or so. Here's a photo of us from her visit. Can you see the resemblance? Yeah, me neither.

This Thought: "The more we get what we now call 'ourselves' out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become. The more I resist Him and try to live on my own, the more I become dominated by my own hereditary and upbringing and surroundings and natural desires. In fact what I so proudly call 'Myself' becomes merely the meeting place for trains of events which I never started and which I cannot stop." --C.S.Lewis And it's funny because a decade ago this thought wouldn't have resonated remotely with me, but now it rings absolutely true.

Bread & Co.
: Thankfully there's one about two miles from my house, and I'm completely smitten with the honey and pecan chicken salad on cranberry pecan bread. It's just ridiculous. I never thought I'd forget Berts so very quickly:)

The Elliptical
: Why didn't I ever give you a try at my last gym? You're great and so much easier than running. And according to the little computer thing, I burn as many or more calories when using you.

Jeans, flip flops, and a start time of 10:30
: Yep, that's my job. I spent last Monday on a golf course, working! Love it.

Google Maps
: It's made moving to a new place so much easier than it once was. Oh, Google Documents is great too--especially if I could figure out how to print the documents without the information on the top/bottom of the page (date, google doc, etc.).

Blueberry Candle: Yummy. Plus the tool shed sort of a dead animal, so it's very necessary.

Pancake Pantry
: My family and I managed a visit with no waiting in line!

Being "Miss Allison" Again
: It's been years since I've been called that--I like it.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Grace has been on my mind this morning. I enjoyed a leisurely morning and did something that has become rare (now that I only have a few static-y channels and all) and turned on the television. The women on The View were discussing the President of France separating from his wife, noting how that would be such a big deal in American politics. They went on to discuss adultery, honesty, integrity, and the like, and they (Elizabeth seems to like to lead these conversations) proceeded to do what most of us seem to like to do. And that is—talk about “certain kinds of people” as if we’re all divided by our levels of integrity. And bottom line, they’re implying that some of us are simply better than others because of the choices we’ve made. And some days I like to do that too.

Naturally I understand this temptation since I so often succumb, building myself up by contrasting my choices with someone else’s—because let’s face it--we can always find someone who has done something worse than we have, therefore we feel a little less guilty, bad, and/or sinful because (at least) we’re doing better than someone. Of course, we can also find someone who seems to be doing much better than we are too.

And sometimes we get a reminder that takes us down a notch--like the time I wanted to condemn an ex-boyfriend for hooking up with a married woman during one of our break-ups yet I ended up doing something I never thought I would (because, I suppose, I thought I was “above” that).

My favorite pastor Tim Keller reminds us that by living this way we’re constantly putting ourselves on trial. We’re judging ourselves by others’ standards as well as our own standards, trying to rid ourselves of low self-esteem by replacing it with high self-esteem and pride. On a good day, we feel puffed up and happy, and on a bad day, perhaps we find ourselves unworthy with a deflated ego. And our identity is that tenuous--based on the day, year, or season of life and the choices we’ve most recently made. Keller says we are all just building up our resumes (through volunteering, our jobs, our looks, etc.) in search of the verdict….that we’re of consequence, that we’re important, that we’re people of worth. But thankfully we can say what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:

“I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.”

So as I’m sitting here and working, I hear these words from a Snow Patrol song on my computer: “I need your grace to remind me to find my own.” It took the experience of knowing God’s grace for me to even begin thinking about my own. And it’s a process for sure; the more I realize how inherently sinful I am, the more I appreciate and understand the enormousness of the Lord’s grace. And the more I understand it, the more I can remove myself from the courtroom of judgment, condemnation, and comparison and contrast. And I realize that Jesus has already taken the judgment that I deserve, that I am separate from my sin, and that court is adjourned.

p.s. I’m grateful for the Lord’s grace and the grace that others extend to me; I surely do not deserve it...which I guess is exactly what grace is--giving people what they do not deserve.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


I have been in Nashville for five weeks now, and I have received a warm welcome from the congregation at Second Presbyterian Church. I have also started my work at Preston Taylor Ministries, which serves around 70 children who live in public housing. I am serving as a reading teacher for junior high students, and it has already been an eye-opening experience to see children who are as big as me struggle to pronounce words that many third graders can say with ease. Of course, these students are not too excited about having reading class after school, particularly since it is such a challenging subject for them, and they have not been afraid to let me know it. It is a fun challenge to create lessons that engage them, and it is forcing me to see progress in a different way than I have typically defined it. Sometimes progress is just not having a fight during class that day--or it may be an unruly student offering to help me hand out papers--or an apathetic student being excited about the content of what we are reading that day or actually wanting to help with the pronunciation of a word instead of just giving up. I am quickly realizing that progress does not have to be measured in leaps and bounds.

In addition to teaching, I am helping oversee a Lunchmate Mentoring Program. We have about 50 matches so far, and I introduce the mentors to students and check in with them regularly. I have also started work on our Angel Tree Program, which through local church families and other individuals we ensure that the children we
serve receive Christmas gifts.

I think that I am most excited, however, about the fact that I am working in an environment that is Christ centered and whose primary purpose is to glorify Him and share His grace and love with others. It is truly a blessing to be here, and I sincerely appreciate the luxury of taking this year to serve others and make my world a little bigger. I appreciate all of your support and encouragement.

On a side note, we recently had our Young Adult Volunteer Orientation at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico, and it was beautiful, especially the views that I enjoyed on an afternoon hike with a volunteer in New Orleans. I managed to share enough with him that he no longer thinks some of my "completely indefensible" opinions are so indefensible:)

And on an unrelated note, I'm playing "kill ball" (a.k.a. dodge ball) as we called it at Calhoun Elementary School tonight for the first time since fifth grade. I'm hoping the participants tonight won't be out for blood.

p.s. I'm grateful that my mom, sister, and nieces are coming to visit tomorrow.