Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Cool Giveway and Scattering Joy

My friend Beth's friend Erin is doing a give away for an inspirational pendant. Very Cool. This is the details from my friend Beth's blog, ....Erin (Tesori Trovati) is doing a giveaway of a W.O.W. (Words of Wisdom) pendant! On the front of the pendant is your initial, and on the back an inspirational quote. It's gorgeous.

Above is a picture of the pendant. If you enter, let Erin know that I sent you to her blog to enter the contest. Good Luck!!! http://treasures-found.blogspot.com/2009/03/scatter-joy.html
Oh and best part of all is that she writes a post about scattering joy, that's well, very inspirational. :-).

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Me Mosiac

I, I, I, I, i put together this picture mosaic when I was tagged by a friend on Facebook. I found it pretty cool, so I wanted to share it and how I put it together, instructions plus answers, that go with the pictures to my blog. So, without further ado, here it is...

How It Works: (In other words, the instructions part as show on Facebook)

a. Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search (http://www.flickr.com/).
b. Using ONLY the first page, pick an image.
c. Copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into Mosaic Maker. Change rows to 3 and columns to 3 (http://bighugelabs.com/flickr/mosaic.php).
d. Save the image and post it on this note!
e. If you're tagged, pass it on. And tag me.

The Questions: (My answers part that goes with the pictures)

1. What is your first name? Laurel
2. What is your favorite food? tacos
3. What is your favorite color? blue
4. Favorite drink? mimosa
5. Dream vacation? tuscany
6. Favorite hobby? walking
7. What you want to be when you grow up? chaplain
8. What do you love most in life? freedom
9. One word to describe you? caring

By the way, each picture corresponds to a number, right to left...like for example, the far left picture (Laurel) represents me and the upper central picture is tacos and then the upper right is the aurora borealis, or Northern Lights, in blue :-), and so forth and so on.....

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

My first "real" sermon

I have given mini-sermons and of course taught for many years. But, today, I gave my first formal sermon for my Intro to Preaching class. It was on the Transfiguration story, Mark 9: 1-13. The prayer for illumination I did is right before the official start of the piece, which was appox. 5-6 min. spoken out loud. Let me know any thoughts...

Prayer for Illumination
Lord, we thank you for your continuous grace upon us. We thank you for the day upon us and we ask that you guide us in helping us listen to your Word and breathe in your understanding to give us our meaning. Lord, we thank you for opening our hearts and minds to let you alone be your dwelling place. May we may follow you in all faithfulness and obedience. And, Lord help us maintain the justice of your honor and glory in all that we do; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

We have all heard the transfiguration story at one point or another. We might have been touched by the awe of it, or maybe not have taken it to heart or quite understood it. But we’ve at least heard it. If we imagine ourselves for a second, standing with Peter, James and John, are we totally baffled at what’s going on here, what are we seeing, do we what to keep it close to us, a confined memory in a box to be enshrined for posterity. Do we want to share it with the world, or even are we equipped enough to share it with the world. Are we afraid of the true identity of our dear friend and teacher, Jesus, who we only thought we knew. So, I often wonder in this story if we are struck in the wonderment, more simply struck by the mystery of who is the Son of God, the Son of Man, Jesus Christ.

Sometimes having more questions than answers creates in us a confusion in who we are in relationship to each other as students and facilitators, as care givers and care receivers, and as those who actively apprehend Christ’s message and those who wait upon the hearing of Christ soft voice. We know cognitively that we take on each of these roles at different points in our walk in faith. But sometimes, we are reticent to focus on the big picture and only fasten on how it appears at that very moment. We tend to analyze and question, what it all means. The current economic state in the U.S. have left no one person unaffected. It has contributed to not only the worry for our future livelihood, or our friend or family’s livelihood, but for the future livelihood of our country. On Monday, March 23, in the business section of the New York Times, the first line of the lead story reads, “Obama administration officials worked Sunday to persuade reluctant private investors to buy as much as $1 trillion in troubled mortgages and related assets from banks, with government help.” In these times, we tend to stop listening to the inflected rhythm in Jesus’ voice instilled through the purpose and message in his life. It’s all a mystery of why and purpose. How can we learn to trust again? Is it only a secret that leaves us confused and scratching our heads.

In one of my favorite movies, Shakespeare in Love, there is an interaction between two gentlemen Henslowe and Fennyman. Henslowe asks Fennyman to explain about the theatre business and then states that the natural condition, of said theatre business, is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster. Fennyman says, “So what do we do? Henslowe answers back, “Nothing. Strangely enough, it all turns out well. Fennyman responds with, “How?” Henslowe leaves the conversation with the retort, “I don't know; it's a mystery.” And then repeats himself again, “I don't know; it's a mystery.”

Yes it is a mystery but we can emphatically believe that in spite of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster, somehow it all turns out well. How? What? What’s going on? What are we seeing? What is that glow? What are we seeing in our friend Jesus’ experience just now as the cloud of God’s love envelopes him and speaks out loudly, “This is my son whom I love, Listen to him!!” Through these unspeakable moments, the mystery is unveiled in a place of learning, and the secret is exposed in the transparent yet transforming understanding of God’s grace. The secret has a name and is referred as the Messianic Secret. The key to this secret is in finding out who Jesus is. It’s in learning to trust what he’s about that includes learning to lean into, live into and embrace the tension of love, and faith, and understanding in life, all which leads to the knowing that in the end, Christ is our redeemer. Christ redeems us with his love through the sacrifice of his life. Christ transforms our life through the example of his own life. God loves Jesus and so deeply loves us; we enter into a dialog with him and we listen to each other. Sometimes life plain and simple does not make sense, and yes, it is a mystery of how this will all end. But, as current students in a seminary and all of us current students in life, we are in a place of learning and transcendence. We are learning to live in community. We are learning ways to forgive. We are learning to find God in unexpected places. We are learning to gain the humility to listen to God more intently. As care givers, we are very cognizant of feeling God’s presence and that leads us to this spot we’re presently in right now. Christ listens to us as we learn to listen to him. I leave you with God’s words to us, the observer on the mountain top, “This is my son whom I love, Listen to him!!”

Sunday, March 22, 2009

I don't want to forget this...

January was literally hell for me learning Hebrew...I initially did well (like the first three days), and then on the seventh day after starting, but then it was always an uphill and defeated battle. However, I'm currently in a Hebrew reading class, and I have to admit, I really love doing the translations. It's like one big puzzle to pick on until a beautiful picture emerges. Funny, in church today I read a paragraph of reflection that had the transliterated word, tikkun olam in it. I had to put it into the Hebrew with the Biblical Hebrew vowel markings before I could/want to pronounce it correctly, (taw, hireq yod, kof, shureq, final nun); (ayin, holem, lamed, qamets and final mem.) :-). I'll someday let you in how those are pronounced :-). One thing I don't want to forget is the nuances and the meanings behind the words in Hebrew....and the magical way it can chance how we look at scripture. My classmate and friend, Mari Lyn said it best in her blog documenting her seminary experience,

"It *is* hard, but there will be some reward when I am able to read scriptures in Hebrew and see the nuances in the language. Our professor read Genesis 1: 1 -3 to us this week and then began to translate--starting with "As God was creating" instead of "In the beginning". He said that reading/interpreting the text this way indicates that we are invited into relationship with God at the very moment God was creating--that's how much God loves us--very powerful to me. Today he talked about how the Hebrew people viewed this language as a gift from God. They understood that it was a hard language, but that made sense to them. If it was easy, it would be from humans. They felt gifted that God would allow them to try to understand God's language."

Amazing and powerful. On the first day of Hebrew, my friend Amber stopped Mari Lyn and I as we walked to class, and told us even though she did recognize it at the time, what I term, intense shock therapy into learning a language, learning Hebrew was really an extraordinary gift.....A gift, I do not want to forget....

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Broken Bench

I thought with Spring Break this week, I would blog everyday, get lots of reading done, start writing papers, rest, etc. But not too much of that happened. I did clean the apartment and get some reading done and I even rested some. I also did the practical and paid bills for the month and completed other paperwork (but not my taxes :-( ); but, still did not get the leg up I wanted to...or did I. I find for myself, with my tenacious spirit, often pushing myself way too hard. I don't take the time to just relax...to join in the rhythm and communion of Sabbath. How often I do not take the time to simply sit in the quiet. Even when I'm "vegging", I'm surfing the Internet, several screens open at once, looking at YouTube, checking out Facebook statuses, checking e-mail, like every five seconds. Insanity. Many of us are caught in this trap of over stimulation. The have tos...I have to do this, I have to do that. And, having to be over stimulated. This spring break I earnestly took the time to be more quiet. I took the time to put aside some of my franticness.

Some of my franticness, besides a heavy class load, is steeped in leaving behind one identity and forming a new one, somewhat unknown. It was not easy for me to shed the skin of educator and home owner after so many years. It's not been easy to recover from the loss of proximity to dear friends. (oh yeah and one more identity shift...I'm thrilled that I was able to find an internship in a congregational setting for next year, but it's at a church very different from my own and will temporarily take me away from my home church) Albeit, I'm developing I new identity and meeting new individuals that enrich my soul and give my spirit refreshment. I'm learning to re-trust myself and my instincts. I'm re-remebering what makes me unique and what experiences and what life journeys make me, well me. I'm learning to trust God, stronger as ever. Some days are harder than others. Identities change...part of the human experience. Which leads me to the title of this post. A week ago last Monday, the reality of living in the country's current financial crisis hit home at my seminary. Because of it's vastly shrinking endowment (how the seminary runs itself, 'endowment driven' as its termed), they let go of nine positions and seven people, some of whom had been working at the seminary many, many years. The sadness and grief of the loss hit this tight community very hard. It was hard to truly understand it all and see past its immediate impact. After first learning of the news. I walked toward campus from my apartment and noticed a bench that my friend Lindsay and I sit on while our dogs play on the grass. It was broken in two, the break right through the middle. It was analogous to me as the break in our community, the break in my old life. A space shared in communion with people in moments of time. Living life in desired yet imperfect earnestness. A few days later after the news had settled and healing from prayer and processing started to take root, I came across the same broken bench, now fixed with fresh unvarnished wood. The bench different but somehow now sturdier than it was before could be sat on again..... "...perhaps we are a people, who, during the difficulties and hardships of our times, bear witness to the promise of new life." That quote is from my friend Paul's editorial in the school's weekly publication, Kairos. To read the entire article, go to, http://austinseminary.typepad.com/portal/kairos.html, issue174 for March 13.

I lean into recognizing the pain and brokenness, and then the concept of the promise of new life.

Monday, March 16, 2009


I have two videos here and will write more later. The first video, well just reminds me of being in my late teens, on my own, and living in beautiful Central California, not to mention it just makes you feel good. The song is Colbie Calait's Bubbly. The second video was made by a former student of mine who is currently studying at UT. It's funny and you never know when God will turn your plain lemonade (that no one will buy) into pink lemonade that everyone wants. Enjoy them both :-).

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Strangely Inspiring

I found this video on YouTube and it was strangely inspiring and soothing to me for many reasons. The music is James Horner from the soundtrack of A Beautiful Mind, song by Charlotte Church. The movie is Shakespeare in Love. Enjoy, as I have played it over and over tonight.

Monday, March 9, 2009

International Women's Day

This morning I awoke and started my ritual of looking through e-mail and the news of the day. (Something akin to yesteryear's "sort-of" looking at the morning paper. But that's a topic for another day...the perplexity to transfer our sole communication toward on-line information, almost exclusively.) Anyway, I digress...I found a sermon on a blog I like about the juxtaposition of the celebration of women's achievements and women still in the throes of treated with any degree of human dignity. The sermon's scriptural focus was Judges 19, the story of the concubine/the complete denigration of any trace of Israel's former dignity during the time period attributed to the book of Judges. I remember spending a whole 90 minute class period in Old Testament last semester on this passage, and trying to see through the horror of the story to understand what God might be saying. The professor gave us a stern charge to not be afraid to talk about stories like this one in the bible and use it to bring awareness and light for God's healing. This sermon script does just that. Take the few minutes to read it. It will be well worth your time. Here's the link: http://www.achurchforstarvingartists.com/2009/03/international-womens-day.html

And lastly, this same morning, I was reading in the New York Times about the raping of women refugees, who are fleeing political chaos and economic collapse from Zimbabwe, on the border of Zimbabwe by men posing as guides to help them cross the crocodile invested Limpopo River. Here's the link to that video story, http://video.nytimes.com/video/2009/03/07/world/1194838313781/confronting-rape-on-zimbabwes-border.html?th&emc=th

Heaviness for a Monday morning but all the more reason to reach out and believe that God is still a God of restoration and healing...finding hope in that eternal promise.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Not so shameless plug

This weekend is a busy one. Besides getting a handle on cleaning the apartment and school work. I'm going to do the CROP walk in Austin tomorrow afternoon. My classmate and friend Nikki and I are representing our school and walking. We are very close to our goal. My shameless plug is this: the following is the letter I sent out to friends and family; please consider checking out my personal web page from Church Wide Service and donating any amount. The money goes to many organizations in the Austin area that cares and feeds the poor. It's not too late. Thank you so much and here's the letter and my website address is: http://www.churchworldservice.org/site/TR/CropWalks/General?px=1115042&pg=personal&fr_id=2868

Hello Friends~

My classmate and friend Nikki and I are walking along side many churches and organizations on March 7-8 as part of the CROP Hunger Walk in Austin Texas. The Walk benefits those locally and those in upwards toward 80 countries. The following Austin charities will benefit directly from the proceeds of the Walk: AAIM for Refugees, Urban Roots, Foundation for the Homeless, Capital Area Food Bank of Texas, Catholic Charities of Central Texas, among many others.

Please join us in spirit and if you wish, through your donation. I know these are particularly rough times on many, no amount is too small. If you're in the Austin area, it's not too late to join us. Please visit my personal page for more information. Below's the standard e-mail from the national organizers of the event. Thank you so much again for your prayer and support.

Hunger is an issue that is very important to me and I have decided to get involved! I am walking in the CROP Hunger Walk and I need your help.

Our donations will support life-saving programs around the world. Join me and our family and friends as we work together to solve this world-wide challenge.

You can be the difference, and you can start by making a donation. Visit my personal page, where you can make a secure online credit card donation.

Thank you!