Tuesday, January 19, 2010


"i like geography best, he said, because your mountains and rivers know the secret. pay no attention to boundaries." - storypeople

the day after returning from the ukraine, this was in my inbox. perfect timing as i reflect on my time crossing boundaries. for those of you who don't know, slovakia (and most of central and western europe) lies within the schengen zone, which means that once inside, people can travel freely between countries without passports. however, ukraine lies outside the schengen zone, so there is a lot of security there, especially since slovakia only entered the schengen zone in december of 2007. as we crossed the border (and waited for inspections), i couldn't help but to reflect on the mexico-us border as well as other not-so-physical borders in my life.

crossing the border:
although it is easier to cross into ukraine than to cross out of it, the biggest difference that i noticed was a longer wait (and we got there at a "good" time) and a bit more inspection. it was a stereotypically cloudy, gray day, and the border guards were dressed in what i would consider stereotypical ussr-era clothing, especially with the hats (it is worth noting that rarely did i see a gun, and then it was a pistol, similar to those that most police in the states carry). the result was that we felt a bit like we were in one of the james bond movies that take place in the ussr.

we handed over our passports more times than i can remember and dick, who was driving the car, had to hand over his car documents. they checked under the hood and in the trunk multiple times. coming back they even checked ever-so-briefly our backpacks, which were in the trunk. we had to get out and show our faces to a person in one of the booths.

overall, it wasn't a big deal (especially since we were not (unlike most others) bringing things back across the border. things are cheaper in the ukraine, so many people go over to purchase everything from soda to vodka to cigarrettes), but it did take awhile and we had us passports, which probably made a difference, especially compared to ukrainians who require a special visa to enter the area.

this is a photo i took while we were in line. this is after the ukranian border, but the line is waiting to cross the slovak side.

literal reflections:
crossing this border gave me a lot to think about with respect to the borders that we have. the border reminds me a lot of the border with mexico, which i can cross with relative ease. since i am very obviously white, it is quite easy for me to get over the border, while people from mexico, guatemala, and other countries in central and south america have much more trouble. not only that, but united states citizens whose ancestry includes people from these countries have more trouble at the border (and even once they are in the country) than i do.

this is a sad fact that the united states, which exercises so much power in the world, will not hold true to what is written at the foot of that most beloved woman, the statue of liberty, "give me your tired, your boor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..." we have such lofty and admirable ideals in our country, yet when it comes to practical application, we fall woefully short. i can not imagine what it would be like to wait at the border, with a sliver of hope for a future, for a life, and then to be denied the opportunity to cross it.

figurative reflections:
so, the theme of borders is a common one and we all have our own constructions of borders in our lives. whether it is a border between your innermost being and other people or between your innermost being and god. or any number of other borders. if, however, we operate off of the statement (found in 1 john 4:8 and 4:16) that "god is love," then, we must recognize our call as children of god and children of love.

we are called to love one another, which means taking down borders and barriers. it means getting rid of the barbed wire lining the frontier and letting people come to our borders and meeting them there to let them into our lives. we cannot construct borders to keep others out and expect to be let into the lives of others. our borders not only limit others, but they limit us as well.

i realize i'm not the best at letting people in, but i am going to work on that this year. letting people in past the borders i've constructed, making it a little bit easier for people to know me. maybe that just means being a little more honest with myself and others, or maybe it means being a bit more courageous and working a little harder for honest relationships with those around me. either way, my hope rests in god and in knowing that jesus came to cross borders (figuratively and literally) and so, too, am i called to cross borders in my life

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

a little wordle-ing

there's this cool website (www.wordle.net) where you can insert your blog (or any text you want) and then the website will combine the words you use most in an calculated way and make what i would consider art. i did this once with my blogs from my time in south africa and i did it again today with my slovakia blog. after fiddling around a little with the settings, i found the one i liked and this is what i came up with (click on it to see closer up):

Wordle: slovakia yagm year

Friday, January 1, 2010

how i've witnessed god at work in my life

this is a list of the five big things/places/people/events/activities where i have seen god this year.  this is in addition to the many "small" ways that i see god every day.

1-south africa-my experience in south africa was just one stop, but one very big and very important stop of continually experiencing god's love.  one of the important things from that experience is the importance of learning to humbly accept generous hospitality.  the people we stayed with and the people we worked with while we were in cape town and in kwazulu natal were so generous with what they had and they welcomed us into their homes and lives as if we were family, though we were only there a short time.  so, since then, i've been working on learning to say thank you and accept gifts and hospitality rather than saying no thank you and refusing.

2-graduation-i made it to graduation.  i spent four years learning about things that interested me, expanding my world view, and being challenged in more ways than i can describe, and i came out of it feeling god calling me.  though my relationship with god is oftentimes to strange to explain, through my experiences and through the people in my life, luther college has helped to give me direction.  it has helped me to hear god's call in my life.  a call to love, ministry, ordination, and radical love and acceptance.

3-art-both in my photography class at luther and here in slovakia, i have been able to use art in many ways.  art, as understood for my photography class, was my me time.  my time to reflect and meditate on saturday mornings in the dark room.  it was time to just chill with god.  here in slovakia my art has been a release and a time to reflect and meditate here as well.

more than that, though, it has been a way to push myself and challenge myself to be bold (as i've begun coloring...as in, using colors, not just pencil, to draw) and to be public, so that i no longer hide my art.  i have also been able to use art in my work as i've been drawing our worksheets for the kids in our religion class.  i've been able to use art for myself and my own improvement, but also for talking about god.  this multifacetted usefulness of art has filled the niches that needed fililng, and it is clear to me that god is in the filling of cracks and niches.

4-churchwide assembly

5-yagm year-there is no way for me to fully express the many ways that i have seen god working in my life through the young adults in global mission program.  not only have i met many new people who have showed me the grace and love of god, but i have been pushed comfortably out of my comfort zone.  i am following where god is leading me and the adventure is amazing. 

the people, the places, the events, and in, through, and around all of that, of course the stories.  if nothing else, i am a story junky.  stories reveal so much more than simple facts, god's been giving me many stories and as i have learned new stories from others and found new stories for myself, i have found god in each of the stories in both little and big ways.

in addition to that, the support i have received for taking this step in my life has very clearly been god's presence for me.  each of the people that have been praying for me, than have supported me through emails, mail, financial contributions, and so many more ways are amazing and have been a very real presence of immanuel, god with us, for me.


so, thanks be to god for so much, but especially these five things this year.

and now, in the coming year:

may god bless you and keep you

may god's face shine upon you and be gracious to you

may god look upon you with favor

and grant you peace.  amen (num 6:24-26)


and in slovak (because, after all, that's where i am):

nech ťa boh požehná hospodin a nech ťa ochraňuje,

nech rozjasní hospodin svoju tvár nad tebou a nech ti je milostivý

nech obráti hospodin svoju tvár k tebe

a nech ti udelí pokoj.  amen (4 m 6,24-26)


and, as always, spanish:

el señor te bendiga y te guarde

el señor te mire con agrado y te extienda su amor

el señor te muestre su favor

y te conceda la paz. amén. (nm 6:24-26)