Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Thanksgiving Travels

Praise God for good friends! I'm so thankful that there are people all over who love me and like spending time with me! I was also grateful for time to sleep, read, and just be. This past week I was blessed with a long break from work long enough to travel to Arkansas to see friends. I drove by myself to the dismay of my parents all the way from MN to AR in one day. I spent a few days hanging out with some of the people who know me best-Jenel and Emily, of whom I neglected to get a picture of, but will include one from the past. I also ran into a bunch of my former professors and got to catch up with them.

Unfortunately, Jennifer couldn't be there, because she's in Africa. I was quite mad at her for this, because I really wanted to talk to her while I was making my 14-hr drive. Oh, well, I guess I'll get over it. :-)

After a few days in Searcy and lunch with my friend Tim, a group of of headed to Memphis to Jack and Linda's house. Jack and Linda are Ben's aunt and uncle, who are so welcoming to college-age friends of Ben. We were slightly delayed in getting there, for a few reasons. One was door-to-door salesmen offering a mass purchase of filet mignon. Let's just say the boys have a lot of meat now. Secondly, we got a phone call from Drew, Ben's roommate, saying his car had broken down in Little Rock on his way to Austin and he needed us to come get him. He ended up coming to Memphis with us. Thirdly, Greg accidently erased all of Ben's music from his ipod. This may sound like a benign statement, but if you know Ben, you know this was a huge catastrophe.

We finally made it to Memphis much later than planned to a nice lasagna dinner prepared by Linda. The boys went downtown for a while, but Amy and I stayed and relaxed in the heated outdoor pool until we were raisins. The next day we chilled and played around while helping some with the Thanksgiving dinner preparations. The day included a ride in an MG convertible and a rousing game of football golf with Drew serving as the hole.

Linda and her grandkids had made cute little namecards for everyone and had gone all out for Thanksgiving. We had a royal feast with other random people from the community. It was good to be there in such a hospitable place.

Headed back to Searcy for another rendezvous with Tim, Jenel, and Emily, and JD the cat. Then I went to Calico Rock, AR to spend the night with Jordan and her family. They are so amazing! I feel like I'm in a Little House on the Prairie book when I'm with them, though I don't remember anything from those books. But they are so loving, and truly care for each other. They spend hours talking, laughing, and sharing. We sat around and read poetry, listened to new music, watched the Matrix and discussed its implications. Random, huh? Jordan and I stayed up late talking. I also neglected to get a photo of their family, unfortunately.

I set off for MN again Saturday morning. 30 hrs in a car by yourself gives you lots of time to think as well as talk to others on a cell phone, though I don't feel like sharing too much of that right now. I'll just say I am happy, God is good, and I'm very excited about life.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Living World Religions Tour

So I went to Chicago this weekend with a few friends to meet a group from Harding coming there for a Living World Religions fieldtrip. I went with my roommate Amy to Madison, WI on Thursday to Julee Byram's house. I went to school with Julee. We stayed a quick night there, and left early Friday morning to go to Chicago. We first met the group of about 80 HU students and professors at the Baha'i House of Prayer in Chicago.

It was incredibly fun for me to see people. We weren't allowed to talk in the temple, and we barely got there in time, so I didn't get to talk to anyone before. It was so fun to see people see me and watch their eyes light up, but they couldn't talk! Most just gave me a big hug. Rebekah's reaction was my favorite. Rebekah was an intern in Honduras this last summer when I visited. I slid into a seat next to her while she was sitting alone contemplating the temple. She just gasped and hugged me for forever and continued to hold my hand long after that. She kept backing up and looking at me, then hugging me again in unbelief that I was there. I have hardly felt more loved than I did in that moment.

I started off writing a brief overview of each place I went, but just became frustrated with it. So I’m going to change the channel, and go a different direction. If you want to know more about each place we went, check out Amy’s website.

Here’s the list of all the places we went:
Baha’i House of Prayer
Islamic Center of Elston
Soka Gakkai (Buddist International Center)
Jewish Synagogue (Rodfel Zedek)
Hindu Temple (Shri Swaminarayan Mandir)
Willow Creek Community Church
Sikh Religious Society
Plus, we had a devo amongst ourselves.

What am I supposed to do with this weekend? I was on emotional overload. So overjoyed to be with great friends, so grateful for the conversations we had. I was humbled by the impact others’ religions have on their lives and impressed by their knowledge and commitment. I wondered if I could get up in front of 80+ people and field questions about Christianity in an effective way.

I was disturbed by the beliefs of some. I could see the appeal in most of them, especially in this post-modern generation. But I was left with questions, such as how can you find the meaning of life in chanting a certain phrase? How can you not believe in right and wrong? How can you pray towards a book, treating it like a holy person? How can you say you believe in what Jesus said and believe that other paths are ok? How can you pay someone to pray for you to a little carved image decorated with fake flowers and get fulfillment out of it? Maybe that’s what bothered me. I didn’t see fulfillment in the faces of the believers who practiced that last statement. I saw desperation, fear, and anxiety. I almost cried watching the Hindu worshippers.

I can’t imagine my life being on my shoulders and based on what I do. Maybe sometimes I live like that, but I don’t believe it. I just saw so many people this weekend running around like crazy, trying to please their god(s) in some desperate attempt for good fortune. It made me incredibly grateful for grace. Overwhelmed with grace. It made me want to serve God. Not the other way around.

I was so blessed to be able to talk with some outstanding professors from HU. Made me excited about….life. Maybe I’ll write more on that later. I’ll just say they believe in me, and that it huge.

It was a very eye-opening experience. I don’t know all the ways it will affect my life from now on. I wouldn’t trade some of the conversations of the weekend for anything. I’m very grateful I was able to have this experience.

On a totally unrelated topic, when we came back to Rochester, it had snowed! Apparently, it was about 10 inches, but a lot had melted by the time we got back. It was beautiful! I'm really warming up (haha) to this cold weather thing. Hats and scarfs are my new fun items.

I'm working on it....

Whoo, it's been a long time since I updated. I'll try to give a quick overview of life.

I went home for about 6 days for my grandmother's funeral. It was extremely beautiful and honoring, I thought. I was very proud to be her granddaughter! Everyone in my extended family got to be there and a ton of people from the community came out. I had lots of time to hang out with the family. Check out the pics of my newest cousins, Bell and David.

Since I got back, it's been a whirlwind of work, school, and etc. I put together two papers and two presentations. I visited a church I really like. I went to a Shakespearean play, a lecture or two, hung out with friends, and had people over. I bought a plane ticket to NJ for Emily's wedding. I'm heading to Searcy and Memphis for 6 days over Thanksgiving to see a ton of friends! Nothing that sounds really exciting to anyone else. But I'm happy! That's all I really wanted to say. :-)