Friday, March 18, 2011

Out of Turmoil

Born into a realm of good and evil, to parents who appeared to those around them, as loving and gentle. In truth, the mother was. Of course she was imperfect; she was human. But her love was real, and this was what mattered most. The father, however, was not so good, and the father's influence on her siblings made being at home all-the-worse when her mother was not around. So the child found herself dreaming of making a home in the school's courtyard, which was surrounded by walls, but open above, with plants all around- a perfect place to hide at the end of the day.

School was a sanctuary in many ways, and in others, it was another harsh reality. Kids taunted, threw rocks and dirt, hit her with a broom, made threats, and whispered, "what's wrong with her?" But she refused to acknowledge them- outwardly. She received low grades, and frequently visited the school nurse, but what made it a sanctuary were a small handful of teachers; good people who seemed to care. Of course, not one of them knew anything was wrong, other than the fact that she struggled to make the grade. And she did not know that confiding in her teachers could help.

But not far away, stood a shadowy figure. Watching to ensure her safety. He was always hidden, but she knew he was there. She knew that he had the power to know her thoughts, and she knew that he knew the truth about her. So in this, she took refuge. When things were so bad that she wanted to give up, knowing he was there gave her a reason to live, and a hope for a different future.

She knew who he was, and she knew what he wanted. She tried to do right, and she knew he was pleased. But it wasn't 'til college, that he came close enough for her to feel him. Life had gotten easier for awhile, but then it took a turn for the worse. Her father's behavior was tearing the family apart. She did not feel safe at home, and therefore went home only to sleep; she stayed away as much as possible. She was afraid of losing her sister, and it was during this time, that the shadowy figure stepped forward, and placed his palms on her shoulder-blades (Even now, many years later, she can feel it again when she thinks about it). It was her master. He had claimed her many years before; he called out to her when she was young, and she had welcomed the invitation. Now he was there, letting her know, "I'm here for you."

He had been watching her for many years. He had seen her willingness and determination. He had given her small tasks, and she obeyed. He had encouraged her through challenges, and she trusted- albeit, far from perfectly. But he knew she had the heart of an apprentice. And so began a more stringent training; he called her to step out of her comfort zone, This was something quite different from the past, where uncomfortable situations approached her; now she was asked to make the step herself, and she daringly obeyed.

[I love you Lord]

Thursday, March 17, 2011


The camp that I dream of starting is geared towards youth, ages 7-17, who "have been abused or are dealing with issues of violence." No kid will be turned down if they wish to come because many kids deal with such issues whether anyone else realizes it or not. This camp will have two primary focuses: outdoor adventures and community service. These components will also weave-in hands-on environmental education, team-building, and leadership skills.

Outdoor adventure activities in my dream camp will include backpacking, rock climbing, horseback riding and horse-packing, kayaking, canoeing, wind-surfing, sailing, mountain biking, high and low ropes courses, with a zip-line into a lake, cave-exploring, outdoor survival skills, orienteering, & hiking. Community service activities will include making toys/dolls for homeless kids or kids in hospitals; helping plant trees or flowers at a zoo, community center, etc.; collaborating with environmental organizations to provide service in exchange for admission/special activity; putting on a puppet show or leading an activity for the younger kids; etc.

I have so many more ideas planned out: basic blueprint of the campsite (which will depend on the site itself), special activities, logistics for how to ensure safety, reduce cost, find & recruit participants, etc. But it all comes down to my master's plan. If he has a better plan, I need to be listening enough to follow.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Tool of Humility

As I work on my thesis and internship, and wait for my master to allow me to leave his workshop, he has me learning about the tools on his wall. An apprentice needs to learn to identify and to use each one- well, at least most of them. As I've said before, I covet the tool of communication. I'm not completely inept at it, but I want to master it, and that is my struggle. But there are many other valuable tools around his shop.

One is humility. I normally see myself as humble, but then I wonder if that's really true. I don't really judge others. I'm good at differentiating between a wrong action and a bad person; for example, I emphatically believe that sex outside of marriage is wrong, but if I know of someone who's doing it, I don't see them as any worse than me for it. I figure we all have different struggles, and at different levels, and are in different stages of growth. The question comes down to the heart and the person's relationship with the master, and I can't see the heart, so that is for the master to discern.... if the person says that they choose to do it and don't care what the master thinks, well that's another issue.

But sometimes I doubt that I'm really so humble. It's hard to tell. I struggle with uncertainty on where I stand in the eyes of the people I consider friends. I think if I had humility mastered, this would not be my concern. I have no need to feel superior, but every desire to know that I'm equal. I love character complements because they mean I'm doing something right, and this reassures me. I also love it when people are straightforward with me, because then I can trust that they aren't hiding negative thoughts about me; instead, such thoughts have been put on the table, and I can work on it. And they are trusting me to be able to work on it, which is a complement.

I know I'm imperfect; I'm human. But my fear is that others won't feel as merciful about my weaknesses. And that is not humility. And it creates a cyclical problem. My desire to be reassured means that others see me as insecure, which makes some people uncomfortable, which I sense, and so I desire to be reassured even more.

So, this is another tool that my master has me working on. I think the trick is to focus more on him. He is straightforward and direct and merciful. I am certain of this. And he's the one that I should ultimately be trying to please. If he's happy with me, then who cares what everyone else thinks? Complements and straightforwardness are still useful because they help me to know what God sees in me- but if I focus my attention more directly on serving and being obedient to my master, then whether others like me or not, I'll be pleasing the one who matters most.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Master & Apprentice

I talk a lot about "my master" in this blog. There is a series of books called Earthsea, written by Ursela LeGuin. It is about a boy who grows up under the care of a master wizard, as he becomes a young man, and then an adult with his own reputation as a powerful wizard. I know there are many Christians who are wary of Harry Potter and other books and movies that involve magic and wizardry, but I love this series, written by an athiest who has an interest in religion. It was great to read as a kid, and even better as an adult. As I read it, I see a fight against the forces of evil (including a "shadow" with no form, and a dragon), and obedience to a master who has his best interests in sight. I see a young man who knows that despite his talents, he must always acknowledge something higher than himself, and trust in it.

The boy could have been like the majority of people in his world, who aim for independence as they do in our own world, but he would have turned out just like most of the other people; He would have had a few small powers, but nothing to be excited about. Once he started learning, he could have given up because each lesson seemed so long, nothing exciting seemed to be happening, and so many other possibilities seemed more inviting, but for the most part, he stuck with his master, and when he made the wrong decisions, his master showed mercy.

The greek word for master is "kyrios." In the Bible, this is translated to "Lord." Many people refer to God as "Lord," but to refer to him as "master" may be harder. From my perspective, "Lord" is seen as defining who God is, but "master" focuses on both our roles. If he is master, then I must obey. He has that authority over me. I am like a servant- although... Jesus said, "I no-longer call you servants because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends. For everything I have learned from my father, I have made known to you." So Jesus is more like the master in this book, than like the master that we see as handing out orders and placing demands for his own interests.

That kind-of goes with my idea of myself as the apprentice. The apprentice serves the master, but receives teaching in exchange, so that he/she is ultimately stronger and more skilled for it. The master imparts his knowledge to the apprentice.

A good master can invoke strong loyalty from an apprentice. A good apprentice does not gain the skills, leave, and forget the master, but always sees the master as the one to go to for advice and for help. The apprentice holds high honor for the master, and the master, seeing the loyalty of the apprentice, entrusts him/her with valuable tools, teaches powerful skills, and assigns adventurous and potentially dangerous missions- because he trusts the apprentice to be able to do it wisely and successfully.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Time Away

Jesus had a quest. To come as a human, teach people about God, explain the meaning of the law, and to pay the price for our sins. He spent a lot of time in prayer. I guess he was seeking guidance, or waiting for direction. It seems like that is a big part of life for me. I have loads of responsibilities, but through them, I am constantly praying &  trying to discern what I am supposed to be doing. What I am craving most right now, is time away- out in the wilderness, to reflect and listen- if I can find  the time and money for it. This desire is slowing everything else down. I keep telling myself, I’ll get this and that done and then I’ll have the time…if I have the money. But maybe my master is telling me not to wait…. I know where I would go- it’s a Christian campground that markets to people who want to come and spend time in reflection/prayer. I could set out on a whim; make a few calls, and leave tomorrow, conceivably….. what to do?

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Coveted Tool

There are many tools in my master's workshop- too many to name. There are those that address personality, such as "love" and "faith," and there are those that involve skills. One of the tools that I longingly eye each day is "conversation." I want to use this tool fluidly. I want to master it. It is important for friendships, and it is necessary for my line of work. I've asked my master to teach me, and I practice with it when I can. But sometimes it's a bit heavy, and even picking it up is hard.

The other day, a friend of mine asked me if I consider myself shy. The way I understand shy, it refers to someone who is timid in interactions with others- someone who pulls away from it. No, I am not shy. Not by my definition anyway. I am drawn to people. I crave social interaction. I enjoy intimate friendships, and I enjoy being part of a group- not on the side-lines, but a contributing member. Yet I have a few things going against me as I try to convince others that I am not shy.

First, I have a hard time fitting my own thoughts into a conversation, so I tend to listen instead, and that is often fine with me 'cause I like hearing people comparing stories... although I do sometimes wish I could find a way to step into it- when I have a story to tell. That is something I continue to work on.

Second, when I don't know you, I am more likely to be be quiet because I don't know the questions to ask. I have always had a hard time with small talk; I enjoy deep discussion on religion, social issues, and such, so when I ask a shallow question, I feel fake. I don't want you to see me as fake, and I don't want to alienate you by being fake. I am starting to get this, though. If I treat it as a challenge to get you to tell me a story- more than the name of the place you work at, the types and numbers of pets you have, and so on; if I ask, "how did you get that job/pet/etc", rather than "when," "how long," or "what's it's name," which all get one-word or one-line answers, then I am more likely to get a story, which helps me to actually know you. But really, I'm just realizing this difference as I type it here. I need to try it out.... This for me isn't an issue of shyness; this is an issue of literally not knowing what to say.

Third, when I'm at a party, pot-luck, etc, I tend to be quiet because I have a hard time hearing. I hear sound fine, but I have a hard time with background noise. So when there are multiple conversations going on, or when there is music in the background, it takes all my concentration to listen. I rarely have enough left over to consider what I would say, and to say it at a time where it's relevant to the discussion, during an actual gap so that I'm not interrupting. There's just too many logistics to work around.
I love comments. It makes me feel like I'm not just talking to a wall, and rids me of the feeling that this time, I said too much, or said something the wrong way.

(I review your comments first, so if you want to say something just to me, just let me know).