Saturday, July 28, 2007

fun with the franklins

today was serveday. we threw a carnival for Franklin Middle School. Chris and I have been volunteering there this summer as student aids...basically just hanging out with middle schoolers who are "at risk". Which means, some of these kids already have criminal records...and they're not even 14. We wanted to throw them a party that shows them that someone in the community cares about them...about their future and about their daily joy...that we're praying for them to have happiness and laughter in their lives, even if it's tough at home.
In the beginning I envisioned this giant event with clowns who could juggle...while on stilts. A dunk tank and balloon animals...we had none of that was a humble carnival...with a few really bright shinning moments...a lot of smiles and laughter...and some dang good tacos. i'll blog more later when it's not 12am...but here are some pictures.

Monday, July 23, 2007

whoever loses his life for my sake...

In the last 3 weeks I have been exposed to more stories of violence, assault, and destruction than the whole time I've lived in Long Beach. The truth of it is, I'm just having my eyes opened to what has been here always. Over by the rescue mission on Atlantic last week a 14 yr old boy was jumped and stabbed to death by a group of kids his age. They were in opposing Latino gangs here in the city, fighting about territory and who tagged what...the killer's mom drove him and his friends to do it and they're all on trial for murder now. A while back a guy from church was mugged walking to my friend's apartment. Someone tagged our garage here at my house. One of the cooks at work had his bike stolen right outside of the restaurant last night. A friend in San Diego had his phone and some money stolen, possessions of the church he interns at broken...all by a guy who they are trying to love and welcome into their lives and the church. And then this morning Enrique came into COA. He's usually there really early, but he came in around 6:30am. he had just been held at gunpoint while on his way to come volunteer. Volunteer. because the judge dismissed his case finally, no more community service...just on his way to help and be with friends. so at 5:30 in the morning two guys ask him for a cigarette, and as he's reaching for one to give them they pull out a gun, shove the cold barrel into his side and demand he give them his wallet. He pleads that they just take the money and let him keep his id, his papers...they take it the whole thing and run run off, but not before telling him that if he doesn't look the other way they'll kill him. he kept saying, it's not about they money (although I know $248 is significant for a guy like him), but just that he's glad he's okay and that his permanent residence papers to be in the US are at home. He said he was just waiting for the "pop" of the gun to go off in his side. It made me sick deep in my gut. Physically afraid. it reminded me of a movie where the victim closes their eyes and you hear a gun shot, and realize that some hero has saved the day and the gun that went off was pointed at the killer. Except it's not a movie. Enrique said "God forgive me, I'm gonna go get a little something myself...I don't want to go through that again". please no Jesus! I told him to be careful, told him I was glad he was alive...please don't let him give into fear and violence.
he was held up right outside my friend's house. on the sidewalk, right in front of his door. I've ridden my bike there, I've walked to and from bible study there late at night to my car a block away. I've driven down new streets here in long beach and realized I'm the only white person, that my widows are down and people are coming out of their front doors and I really shouldn't be there...but I leave my window down because I don't want to show fear or offend them in my assumption that they will hurt me. I don't know how to respond to all this. I know if my mom reads this I'll be getting phone calls cautioning me to walk with someone to my car, to lock all my doors, keep my widow up and go buy some mace. No. I want to live here. When Jesus says that whoever loses their life for his sake will save it...I think about it most often as a metaphor for the control I try to maintain in my relationships, finances, future...but i think it's a literal statement. I might die. I might be attacked. Maybe in my neighborhood, maybe on the campus of CSULB, maybe in the middle of Belmont Shores or some other nice neighborhood. And I don't know how to respond to these things. and I am afraid. But perfect love drives out fear. Love is not provoked. it's not reactionary, but springs forth from our faith that there is a King and a kingdom reality that we live in, and our hope for the Kindom's restoration. Love bears all, endures all, hopes in all. Love never fails. Josh Swanson preached yesterday on 1 Corinthians 13. He talked about the persistence of love...Oh God teach us to have compassion and mercy on those who attack us, who disrespect and violate our rights...Love is not concerned with our own rights. To love is not just a willing attitude that given x circumstance I will be willing to lose my life. If I truly love, I've already lost my life.

heal this city Jesus.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Santa Cruz

Just got back from a weekend in Santa Cruz. We worked and talked and slept and ate a lot. And it all felt very normal. I guess it just felt like this was life...and that was nice. I've been on lots and lots of missions trips where you lose sleep and work hard and get burnt out. This was just life. A very good life.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

when life meets work and you can't tell the difference.

I work a lot. I know it. I deny it. Most days I truly don't feel it. But it does create this sort of life that has a tight agenda and a slightly fragile mental state at times for me. 40 hours a week I'm emotionally investing in others and/or sitting with God, processing with my fellow interns, and it's both draining and uplifting.

Then I come to work at my other two jobs and I get to goof off. Sometimes there's stressful rushes of work...but I think being a server has taught me to handle that well and to enjoy the energy of it all.

Then there's your personal life...which tends to be hard this last year...and very self-reflective for me. I've been surrounded by loving and supporting people at church, san diego, and my even my new roomate Taylor. I finally had the energy to call my family yesterdy...I'm learning that some people deserve more intentional energy on the phone than the common, casual conversation...and sometimes that means not talking so often about insignificant things. So I called my grandma, and realized quickly that she's in tears. Her car is broken down in Newcastle, 30 miles from home, my mom wasn't answering her phone, and she just found out our greyhound Lily has cancer. And she wouldn't hang up with me so I could call my mom at work until she let me know she loves me "very much, always have, always will". I know all grandmas and mom's love their granddaughters/daughters. but my family is so freaking amazing at showing it. I talked to my grandma again today. My sister and i have been planning on sending my mom and dad to a B&B that we know of that is totally handicap accessible for her birthday. My grandma asked my mom what she wanted, she said money for a plane ticket to come see me. I just started crying. I miss my family a lot.

Monday, July 9, 2007


Hillcrest is really hard for me. I find myself watching the clock, trying to want to be there...

I feel pressure to create this wonderful, fun, interactive, helpful but still enjoyable program to help MS patients' memory. Oh wait, I'm not a miracle worker. (I'm a little sarcastic right now, forgive me).

I called my mom and got a great idea for this game. You tell a story with the words "right" and "left" in it and each time you say left or right everyone passes an object to the left and/or right. It's usually a white elephant exchange game at Christmas, but instead I made up a story about the "Wright" family and their trip to Yosemite, and instead of gifts I brought in a bunch of my camping gear and included all the items in the story.

It's really hard to create a program/activity for people who are often on opposite ends of the spectrum mentally and who are all slowly declining in their physical abilities. Something as easy as passing a flashlight is difficult to impossible for some of them. Despite help from other volutneers things dropped, the story got held up...etc. The fun part about this game (when it works) is that you're constantly going back and forth. (John Wright, and Billy Wright Left Right on time for the Wright family reunion). Well I realized this was a little difficult and frustrating for some, so I skipped over and ad libed parts of the story to eliminate some of this crazy passing (the actual fun part about the game). This means everything went much faster, and some parts of the story I simply deleted. Our 1 hr session that everyone is usually already 20 min late for was suddenly over in 15 minutes. Thank goodness for Jessie and her flute.

I have all these thoughts running through my mind...what if the story had been longer and more interesting and funnier. What if I had taken a creative writing class at some point in my 17years of education. What if I were funny. What if I had just asked a funny friend to help me. What if I hadn't waited until the last minute to plan this! Nouwen's words are flooding into my heart right now....scratch that...God is trying to whisper to me "you are worth more than the results of your efforts". But the hard part about that is, I'm not sure I'm entirely concerned about my worth...I want to help!!! I don't feel like I'm doing anything. I'm just wasting an hr of these patients' time to improve their memory. On top of that, the realist in me says, "their memory is slowly declining and will continue to do so". I can try to teach strategies for remembering things and make it practical for their daily lives...but they have 24hr care...they don't really need to remember anything on their own. Then I remember that I'm recieving compensation for this, and that money is going straight from the MS society back to Hope for Long Beach...but because of that $$ I feel like I can't just go in there and make people laugh...

What's funny is that just a few hours before 10am I felt this was going to be a blast. I had props, I had visions of laughter and felt like this was easy but not boring...I knew that they loved guessing old songs last Monday, but I wanted to come up with something new, not just do the same thing each week.

Rewind: last Friday Michelle and Ron and Beverly played Boggle with me. I kinda felt the same way it was just a dud. Ron came up with the occassional 5 letter word none of us saw like TULIP. This guy can barely talk and he was whipping my butt in Boggle. if only his mouth would catch up to his brain. Still I felt that I could have done more...and then this morning Michelle asked what the name of that game was. Despite the fact that she wasn't the greatest at it, she said she really enjoyed it. Looks like my attempts to determine whether or not the program I've created was fun or exciting are both unreliable and futile. Who cares!? me. that's the problem.

Jesus, help my unbelief. Maybe the miracle you desire has nothing to do with their brain circuitry. Maybe the miracle is in the friendships, the laughter, the Let me recieve your grace, but do not let that grace create a spirit of laziness. I want to work hard. I want to put time and energy and creativity into've called me to that. Thank you for the patients at Hillcrest. For their willingness to have a 23 yr old that could be their grandchild tell them what to do, and for Anita and Lordis and Jane and their ability to light up the room with their wit and their humor. for Ruthie and Rockney and Michelle's gratitude and thankful spirits. for the people who have much more resilience and patience than I've acquired in my years and who spend thier lives with these patients every day.

The sermon at church was from 1 Corinthians 12 yesterday. The thing that we tend to do with that passage (most Christians today) is to pray to receive spiritual gifts. To recieve the gift of tongues, faith, healing, etc. We take quizzes and classes to determine which present we got or can win from Santa God. But the context of the passage is much different. The church in Corinth was writing to Paul concerning spiritual "things" (gifts isn't really the Greek word used) that were already in existence among the members of the body, to understand how to use these for the work of the Kingdom...they were not writing concerning things of the past that they desired to somehow acquire. It was later in the sermon when Pastor Lou was talking about charisma in particular that something he said hit me. Charisma is NOT received or possessed by the charismatic person. it is received by the person the charismatic individual acts towards. SO, any spiritual "gift" I have isn't really something I ever have or own. I'm merely the way or the middle person that God uses so that this spiritual "thing" might be used to bless another. Lord grant me understanding and humility, and patience with myself when I don't understand and when I am not humble.

Thank you for your truth.

Saturday, July 7, 2007


We drove up to Pasadena Thursday super early to visit Rudy and hear about Harambee. They are an organization that chose to move into a neighborhood that was once a "medieval fortress" for drugs and gang activity in Pasadena. 35 houses strategically surrounded a central point, a sort of headquarters for the BGF (black guerilla family). "cops just didn't enter". Over Rosco's Chicken and Waffles I tried to keep up with all that he was saying. He talked to us about racial reconciliation, what it means for him to be a Mexican man married to an African American woman living in this community with middle class white kids getting out of the front seat for him...knowing that the neighbors are all watching. Harambee is a Swahili word for "Let's get together and push". It's original meaning comes from Hindu Indians who worked in Kenya as slaves, but the people of Kenya made it their own and today in Kenya and Pasadena it stands for unity and purpose and fits well for this organization. 6 houses all in a row with no fences equals a giant back yard for kids to play basketball, run around, and serves as the location for the occasional Krumping competition. Basically they're there to live alongside people (John 1) and show that there is another way to live.
The thing that I was thinking while I was there was that when I visit places like this that seem to be so on target, places like the Alexandria House in LA, or Floresta in San Diego, or Restore International in India, or a semester for Creation Care in New Zealand. Places that impassion me and get me fired up...I have some really wonderful motives that I believe are placed in my heart by a loving and passionate God. and then there's this part of me that wants ownership over these things. Psychology research, classes and my own thoughts have been on motives for a really long time. Why do people engage in goodness? For whom? To what end?
Nouwen says:
we are not what we can conquer, but what is given to us....It is in solitude that we discover that being is more important than having and that we are worth more than the results of our efforts...To the degree that we have lost our dependence on this world, whatever world means--father, mother, children, career, success, or rewards--we can form a community of faith in which there is little to defend but much to share...when you are able to create a lonely place in the middle of your actions and concerns, your successes and failures slowly can lose some of their power over you. For then your love for this world can merge with a compassionate understanding of its illusions.

This means so much for me right now. To find solitude. To simply be. To not evaluate my worth based on the approval or admiration of others, or my productivity. One of the compliments I've received both in the far past and recently is "you know who you are". I don't know why but I've clung to this and given it value. I'm not exactly sure what people mean when they say that to me. but it makes me feel like I've got it all figured out. Like I'm living an admirable life that is noticed and I want to throw up as I type this. I don't mean to insult those giving the compliment, but as I examine my heart now I realize that the reason I value and remember this compliment above all others is because it sows seeds of pride. It makes ME feel good about MYSELF. I'm not Stiller...but lately I feel myself wanting to be. To have some sort of security and peace because "I know who I am".
God, examine me and know me. Test my thoughts and know my ways. See if there is anything offensive in me and lead me in the way everlasting.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

feelin a little slow.

I don't know how many times I've exhaled today but it felt like a far. Franklin kids can take the life right out of ya. Or I let them... I guess I'm realizing that I feel very welcomed, needed, listened to and appreciated by the people at COA and at Hillcrest...but 12 year old kids just want me to get out of their face. And I don't like holding "we're throwing you a carnival!" over their heads as a bribe to make them like/respect me. It feels gross.
I don't know how to reach these kids, I don't know if that should be my goal.
Susie and I have begun to bond over Nouwen...I like it.

Monday, July 2, 2007

singing and dancing to music

I woke up today to a new location for COA...go figure it was at COA, now that Ice Cube is done filming a very important movie. We had waffles and coffee. I walked into a big hug from Susie and then she smiled and held up the coffee she brings me from home every monday wednesday and friday. with special creamer and sweetener of course. simple things can mean so much sometimes. we actually spent most of the morning talking to each other and loving each other...and this even continued on to the broadlind cafe for a post volunteer time breakfast of tea and bagels. I'm so overwhelmingly grateful for her. While at COA I sat and talked to Will. He was sunburnt from the hot weekend...there are so many things I don't even think of that affect someone without a home to shield them or money for sunscreen... He remembered that I had been gone for a wedding, asked how it went, and even recalled that I had played my violin there. It's such a wonderful surprise to realize that people really listen when I don't even remember talking...I want to become a better listener. So we went on and on about orchestras and bands and the 3 instruments he's played and Susie chimed in with her choir stories. Then I bumped into Fred, they guy who wanted coffee the other day. I don't know exactly why but my heart hurts for this man. He won't look you in the eyes. He looks down and almost hunches over as if he's afraid he'll be hurt by something hovering over him. We found the sugar he was asking for and I introduced myself and it was awkward and weird...but I hope I see him Wednesday. Then I sat down with Han, who was talking about data entry volunteering he did last week. I asked if he was pretty good on a keyboard and he looked me dead in the eye and said, "Well, I have a degree in computer science from USC...and now I suppose you want to know how I got here?" "only if you'd like to tell me" "they mixed up my immigration papers." my heart sank. He is the hardest worker. He stays everyday to help and he does the crappy jobs! he mops and wipes and does whatever he needs to just to make it on hand outs from the church, and he shouldn't even be here. Later on Scott turned on the radio and blasted "I hope you dance" Chef Enrique and I danced around the kitchen a bit...such a mixture of emotions all in one place.

Later at Hillcrest I had NO IDEA what I was going to do for MS Cognitive Exercise with Chelle Stephens (I'm on the official!) But I ran home, grabbed my laptop and my violin, some closed toed shoes and scrambled out the door. We started with just 4 and had people coming in for the next hour and a half. It's only supposed to be for MS patients, and it's only supposed to last 1 hr. But it was a blast. We played oldies, folk music, and anything I happened to have (thanks dad) from 1950 to 1980...with the exception of one 199? Michael Bolton song. It's so cool to see how much each person celebrated when another person guessed the song or artist. We laughed and cheered and sang and even danced a little to John Denver. Then Jessie and I traded off on flute and violin. Ruthie and Angelo wouldn't leave. It was weird...I didn't have anywhere I HAD to be...but technically I was already almost an hour over...but they just thanked me and kept talking to me and asking me to repeat my name 5 times and it was wonderful and I didn't want to leave. To hear thank you from such a genuine place in their hearts. To see these patients laughing and enjoying something from their pasts. Dan came in and told me he used to play the I pulled out my music and played one last song, and then I got on the hospital's computer and found his music files for him and we turned down the lights listed to Bach's Concerto in E major together and sang's entirely possible and beautiful to sit and sing along to classical music by the way.

It was a day filled with music...and it was beautiful.