Saturday, July 4, 2009

Kids just grow up too fast!

Conversation with my niece today...

Me: Oh, I want to keep you.
Adele: You can't!
Me: I can't? Who do you belong to?
Adele: (points to Carra and Jesse) Them... but you get to keep her. (points to mom)
Me: So they get to keep you forever?
Adele: (nods, then) No, they don't... they keep me while I'm a kiddo, then when I grow up, I'll come to here to you!
Me: That'll be fun!
Adele: But I'll have to go to a wedding on the way.
Me: Whose wedding?
Adele: Mine!
Me: Who are you going to marry?
Adele: .... Someone. ...A guy.
Me: Oh...
Adele: And I'll have a baby when I'm ready. Then my tummy will always be soooo big when I come here!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Summer Reading...

My schedule is getting less full (yay!) and I've been settling into some nice summer routines of enjoying the weather, enjoying people, enjoying books, and just not rushing all the time. Some of the good books I'm diving into:
"Three Cups of Tea" - the popular account of a mountain-climber who started building schools in poor villages in Pakistan. So many people recommended it, and now I see why... it blends well with what I've been learning about other, similar cultures (i.e., majority Muslim), and really makes me want to go there. (Or, just go back to Palestine.)
"Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light" - I started this a while ago, but it's one I have to read slowly, in small portions. It details her efforts to follow a "call within a call" and I think (haven't got that far yet... remembering something from the jacket cover) her experiences of great spiritual darkness during some of the most fruitful years of her ministry. What I admire most and prayerfully study is her complete devotion to Christ, seeking to quench His "thirst for love and for souls." She was always my hero. Still is.
Ok that's all for now, but I have a long list yet to come... Oh, and of course, the continuous stream of newsletters from the Middle East pouring into my gmail inbox. I half-jokingly have been telling people that I'm not aware of anything that's happening in the world unless it's in Kankakee or Palestine. But I love both of those places, so I'm content to focus on them for now.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Another good one...

So, visiting Thomas & Jeanne's church in Milwaukee, we sang this song and I instantly loved it... Especially considering my recent experiences in Palestine, the words of this seemed to express so well the cries of my heart.

Let your kingdom come and liberate
Every prisoner of greed and hate
Let it fill our hearts
With love for you
For our neighbors and
For our enemies too

Let your kingdom come and end all war
And the pain and grief of the oppressed and poor
Let all violence be finally put away
Let the streets find safety so the children can play

Let your kingdom come and let cool streams flow
Let your fields flourish clean wind blow
Let your children save instead of destroy
Let every creature thrive free in health and joy.

Let your kingdom come and every knee bow
To the king who was, will be and is now
And let justice roll, as the rivers run
And let death give way to resurrection!

(Brian McClaren and Tracy Howe)

Monday, May 11, 2009


Just in case anybody was not aware of this:
(I feel compelled to mention that frequently, because I realize that not so many people are blessed to have a job that they absolutely want to be doing.)
Today I cleaned my room (yes, a small miracle), and had plenty of time to think... a couple times I recalled points in my life where I almost moved away (once during college and once after), and I just thought: Wow, how different my life would be if I had done that! But right now, it's hard to imagine that anything could be better than this... just staying here, in the place I call "home" and pursuing the dreams God has given me, in the simple, everyday opportunities... without necessarily attempting anything grand. (Well, I guess it depends on your definition of grand...)
So yes, back to the point: I love my job because I get to work with poor people, and that is what I've wanted to do for a long time. It's perfect.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

I like this song

I don't know whose it is or where it came from, but the choir sang this at church Sunday and I really liked it. (And anymore, especially at this particular service, it is really rare for me to find a song that I can really sing all of the words sincerely!) But these are good words...

Who is this child asleep in the manger?
Tender and mild, this intimate Stranger?
Recklessly, wildly loving a dangerous world
Who is this light invading our darkness?
Glorious might, the sun rising for us.
Conquering night, He captures the hardest of hearts
We sing:

This is our God, living and breathing
Call Him courageous, relentless, and brave
This is our God, loving and reaching,
Scandalous mercy and mighty to save.
Hallelujah! This is our God!
Hallelujah! This is our God!
Hallelujah! This is our God!
Sing praise.

Who is this One who will not condemn us?
Why would He come to shoulder our sentence?
Nothing we've done will keep Him from giving us grace.
Who is this One we watch and we're speechless?
God's only Son embracing our weakness.
He overcomes all death and he frees us to live
And we sing:

This is our God, suffering and dying.
Call Him the Hero redeeming the lost.
This is our God, love sacrificing,
All that is holy, accepting our cross.
Hallelujah! This is our God!
Hallelujah! This is our God!
Hallelujah! This is our God!
Sing praise.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Trip Pictures!

Here is a sampling of my many facebook albums full of pictures from my CPT delegation to Israel/Palestine.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


Searching, searching, searching.
Where is the light?
Where is the life?
Where is the joy?

Waiting, weeping, watching.
When will day break?
When will death end?
When will He come?

I do not know where You have gone.
I do not know when I see You.
I do not know how to let go.

You tell me:
My Father is your Father,
My God is your God.

That is all I need.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Jesus said "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." (Mt. 19:14)

When I look at a baby, so flawless and beautiful, it's easy to believe that someday Good will triumph over Evil. And it's hard to believe that anyone would ever want to harm such a life.

When I look at a child, in all his innocence, filled with curiosity and joy, it's easy to imagine that he will do great things someday. And I wish so desperately that he can grow up and reach his potential without being attacked, injured, altered by the lies of a world telling him who to be or not be.

When I look at a youth, bold and proud, I am startled to think of the changes taking place in a life, just like happened in my own life. What influences will sway this one, and in what direction?

When I look at you, your hardened face peering at me and your abrasive voice challenging me, I wonder why you are the way you are. But then I remember, you were a child once too.

When I look at myself, questioning the one in the mirror, I realize I am trying so hard to become... someone. But maybe what I really need is to unbecome, and to undo what I've done to the other children.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

derek webb says it best

poverty is so hard to see
when it’s only on your tv
and twenty miles across town
where we’re all living so good
that we moved out of Jesus’ neighborhood
where he’s hungry and not feeling so good
from going through our trash
he says, more than just your cash and coin
i want your time, i want your voice
i want the things you just can’t give me

so what must we do
here in the west we want to follow you
we speak the language and we keep all the rules
even a few we made up
come on and follow me
but sell your house, sell your suv
sell your stocks, sell your security
and give it to the poor
what is this, hey what’s the deal
i don’t sleep around and i don’t steal
i want the things you just can’t give me

because what you do to the least of these
my brothers, you have done it to me
because i want the things you just can’t give me

(-"rich young ruler")

Monday, March 9, 2009


A day or two ago I was telling Jake about how much I am looking forward to Easter - because the holiday always brings me a renewed sense of joy, as well as somewhat of a new perspective on resurrection... I guess resurrection is one of those things that I'm always learning more about. Except, sadly, I don't really think about it that much. That's why the holiday is good for me. Jake & I agreed that we humans need to celebrate things frequently, or else we forget them. Later, I was thinking about celebrating resurrection, and remembered that that is what the Christian church is supposed to be doing every Sunday! Imagine that - Easter, once a week. I should probably keep that in mind more often while I am in weekly worship with my church family.
But of course... it's not Easter yet, and we are still in Lent... a time for learning more about, and in some way participating in, the suffering - the "passion" - of Jesus Christ. So let me not get ahead of myself... before I get to Easter I have to go through Lent. It's been intersting, so far, and I think it will only get more interesting in the next few weeks. I really am thankful for opportunities to better understand Christ's passion... but I won't lie: I've still got my hope set on the resurrection morning.

Monday, February 23, 2009

This Week.

I am focusing on the following.

*Being not afraid. This is a frequent biblical command, and a thought that often comes to me... but it's one thing to read/hear/know/think something, and another thing to be it. I believe that being unafraid will have to come directly from being secure in God's unconditional love. Right now, I think the best ways to access that love are to increase the amount of time spent in God's presence, through: prayer, meditating on scripture, praise & singing, resting, receiving the blessings and affirmations from other members of the Body of Christ.

*Being full of grace. (See the angel's address to Mary in Luke 1:28... in some versions, "favored" by God... I like the Catholic version.) Part of being secure in God's love for me is knowing that I'm forgiven. Forgiveness, of course, requires repentence and accepting God's grace. And part of forgiveness is having a forgiving heart toward others. Being aware of God's grace in my life frees me to be gracious to all those around me.

*Being courageous. I have to admit that I'm nervous about my future... as excited as I am about the things I believe God has called me to, I often struggle with a fear of failure. I think too often as Christians we are worried about doing the "right thing" rather than just living in response to God. (Because, after all, if God were so concerned with us doing the right thing, as the Psalmist said, "O Lord, who could stand?") I've concluded that I must be willing to fail. Only then will I truly be giving my whole self to God. This, of course, connects back to the need to know of God's love for me. He does love me. Even if I mess everything up. I take comfort that "with the Lord there is lovingkindness, and with Him is abundant redemption." I must remember that HE is God, and able to save, even if I am unable to do anything about a situation.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Happy Birthday, Brother of Mine

This is late. But it's still sincere.

Why is my brother special to me?

Because when I was little and neither of us went to school, he was a ready playmate.

Because he taught me how to build forts, and tried his best to teach me to shoot a bow and arrow (which I never learned... I was better at playing the victim - like the time he shot me with an arrow that had a metal screw on the tip! ouch! was that good aim, or bad aim?).

Because when we were in junior high and were both home doing school, he would spend our entire lunch break arguing with me over the kitchen table. (I value that a lot more now than I did then.) If I ever show extreme stubbornnes, I think it's fair to blame it on him.

Because when he was a skater-dude, I thought he was the coolest guy in the world. Including his long hair. (Although I was a bit jealous that his hair was blonder than mine, I was all natural - he used peroxide. Cheater!)

Because his laughter was so contagious, especially when he spit out his milk from laughing so hard.

Because when we were in the youth group together, he showed me what it means to be a leader and true spiritual friend. If ever somehow I show extreme boldness, I know it'll be partly because of his role modeling.

Because when he was in college and I would go to hear him preach, I was always amazed and learned something from God speaking through him.

Because when we were in college together, he faithfully gave up one night a week to eat with me and listen to my freshman-level drama! He also lent me lots of books, and advice on classes and profs that he'd already had. *If I happened to get good grades in certain classes with certain profs, it might be because I had my brother's last name...

Because he pulled some pretty sweet pranks and I got to brag about him to my friends... or sometimes, it was my friends who told me about the mischief my brother was in!

Because any time I went to him for advice about making a major decision, he refused to tell me what to do with my life. Frustrating as it was to me, it was good for me. He helped me understand I have to make my own decisions, regardless of others' opinions.

Because he picked for a girlfriend and (eventually) wife, one of the sweetest women I've ever met who subsequently became one of the best friends I've ever known.

Because (despite earlier mentioned shooting episode), he has been hugely influential in my belief and growth in nonviolence.

Because he is someone who always, even from a young age, does things whole-heartedly. And when he makes mistakes, he's not afraid to admit it and learn from it. And when he wrongs a brother or sister, he's quick to seek reconciliation. He taught me how to apologize and seek forgiveness... which is often very humbling, but such an essential skill.

Because he has an amazing talent for thinking waaaaay up there in the clouds, understanding and grasping things, and bringing them down to earth for the rest of us. I know he has great potential as a teacher, and I envy every student who ever takes a class from him.

Because he has good taste in clothes, coffee and company. Yup, he's pretty cool.

Happy 26th, Thomas Joseph Bridges!!! I love you.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Typical Day At the Center of Hope

There is no such thing as typical, but today seems like a good example of the variety of things I get to do and what the volunteers and I are exposed to as we work here.

8:30 am - I am "running late" (because of some before-school babysitting), and the line of people outside the door are giving me a hard time (joking... mostly) about not opening the door 'til now (even though we don't officially "open" until 9:30! they line up as early as 7, or even 6 in the summer).

Mr. G. follows me in the door as usual, talking my ear off while I try to get things started for the day. Sal, a talented Italian chef, brings in a tray of pizza-bread-somethin' for the volunteers, some of whom are already stocking shelves. They will inevitably come to me with multiple questions that I do not know the answer to (regarding food, my standard response is: "Ask Al" - if Al is not here, I tell them to do whatever they think is best). I lock myself in the back office to "listen to the messages" and things, but really my goal is a few moments of sanity before the day officially begins. I read some Scriptures, pick out a few verses of Psalm 96 to share as a devotional, and go greet some of the volunteers as they show up, including a new guy from a local church. Usually at this time I'm questioning, Do we have enough volunteers? Lately though, our problem has been having too many - a good problem to have - so I try to find the new guy a spot to work that isn't already filled. *This is where flexible volunteers make life easier: they don't mind jumping in if they're needed, or moving to a different position if they're not.

9:00-2:00ish - After devotions the morning gets rolling, and I happily scurry from front to back, person to person, trying to address everything and everyone that demands my attention. This includes:

-Attempting to discern if clients are trying to "scam" us (What's your name? Where do you live? Are you lying to me?)

-Finding that fine balance between mercy and justice (like when Mr. J. asks if he can cut line because his 70-some year-old mother is waiting in the car... he is #63 and we are on #5)

-Answering phone calls (Where are you located? Can you help me with my rent/utilities/medicine/car/grief?)

-Talking to walk-ins (People wanting to donate stuff, wanting to volunteer, wanting to talk to Renita - the latter is a large part of my job!)

-Listening to a client tattle (one of our workers may be stealing food... and I am left wondering, is he trustworthy?)

-Piles of paperwork (blah)

-Munching on trail mix

-Compiling information and planning for volunteer training sessions

-Computer games (uhhh...)

-Interacting with volunteers - like talking to Pat on the phone about who will be driving her to doctor visits and bringing her the groceries and things she needs; or getting to know a new volunteer, Glenn, who has lived in this area his whole life; or, when I mentioned to one volunteer that I've been meaning to get in touch with his wife, he stopped what he was doing and gave me a full update about their entire family - this is one of my favorite parts of the job!

-Receiving prayer requests, praying, and passing the word on

-Eating celery and carrots

-Referring people to other agencies, such as Catholic Charities (another big part of what I do)

-Smiling at the little children who occasionally come in with parents and really brighten the day for us

-Talking to clients (like Bob, a softspoken gentleman whom I talked with last week and also ran into at Mass the other night, and who is now telling me about his admitted need, and his desire, to read Scripture on a daily basis... what an encouraging conversation!)

-Laughing to myself about our crazy, wonderful volunteers... like Ms. J., claiming to be a lesbian and we're not sure if she meant it or only said it to get one of the guys to stop hitting on her... and Ron, who always feeds me all kind of flattery, saying "Be a good stepdaughter and get me something cold to drink!"

-Being concerned about volunteers, like Ms. P. who is worn out from taking care of her ill husband, and Ms. T., whom we suspect may be in an abusive relationship

2:00-2:30 - Things are quieting down now... the last stray people (who came in after we closed at 1:30 - some tenderhearted volunteer is always letting a few in) are getting their food, the shelves are being re-stocked, the waiting room is empty and needs a good cleaning. I eat an apple while finishing up some paperwork, organize notes and messages for Renita for tomorrow, gather my things from the office, then head up to the front desk area. Ron is finishing entering new people's information into the computer, Ora is washing the coffee pot. Oh, and one more thing before I go... I've been thinking of Charlene (former volunteer) lately, and even had a dream about her the other night... so I think I'll call her.
I already have a smile on my face, thinking of her warm and joyful personality, so I am surprised when she sounds very dull at first. After I say my name she perks up a little, as we talk she picks up excitement, and pretty soon she is being her normal blessin-the-Lord self. We talk about the two big things in my life that are new since we last saw each other - the boyfriend, and the peacemaking delegation. (And, not unlike many others, she makes connections between the two and wants to know, "What does he think of your trip?") She is full of encouragement for me. Though at one point she makes a comment about how if she was going on such a trip she'd be afraid, after I share my own confidence in God's hand at work in all this, she agrees with me and declares "I stand corrected!" She says lots of positive things about the trip and about me, including an amazing phrase that I won't fully remember but is something to the effect of "May God's peace be over, rooted in, and abundant through your life..."
We also talk about her life... how she is "Not where I want to be, but not where I was..." and how she "can say nothing but 'thank You' to the Lord," because even when things aren't going the way we want them to, we serve a God who is powerful and good. She thanks me for "being obedient to your dream" and calling at "the perfect time" and promises we'll see each other before my trip in March. It is utterly refreshing, and something in my spirit is burning brighter because of this time of sharing with a friend who, though not a close one, is a true friend in the Lord.
So now you know why I love my job, right?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

"Dear Grandma: This is why I'm willing to risk my life for the love of Christ"

Do you ever notice how when you're forced to simplify something (like when you're explaining it to children), it brings a sometimes-alarming clarity to your own thoughts and what you're trying to say? Well, tonight I was writing a note to send to my Grandma with my CPT support letter, and that happened. Try putting the biggest goal/hope/aspiration of your life into a paragraph or two to a relative or someone who may not know the ins-and-outs of your life but who loves you very much. That's what I did, and here's what I came up with:

Dear Grandma,
I'm sure you've heard that I am taking a trip to Israel & Palestine in March, and I just thought you might be wondering about it, so I'd like to share with you about the organization I'll be going with, and why I want to do something like this. It is certainly not an ordinary trip, and the organization is doing no ordinary work!
The enclosed support letter will explain more [...] but basically, because of my faith in Christ (Whose love and grace I consider to be the center and foundation of my entire life) and through what I have seen, read and studied, I have become convinced that first, God desires His people to seek peace for all people in His Creation, and second, that nonviolence is the only truly effective method to bring about peace in this world.
I know I am not perfect, and still have a lot to learn about nonviolence and love - and I seek to learn from the Best Teacher of all, Who set us an example on the cross. But I am excited about an opportunity to act on what I believe in. I know there are risks involved, but I also trust in God's protection and provision. I'm willing to take any risk for Him.
So, I hope you enjoy reading this letter and I hope you'll be proud of me as I try to live out the love of Christ to the people I encounter on my journeys in Israel and Palestine!
Love always,

Monday, January 19, 2009


Today I attended my first-ever nonviolent demonstration (outside of Olivet's campus, anyway), with CPT in Chicago. We walked in a silent "funeral procession" from Federal Plaza to the Boeing company headquarters, to protest how Boeing has been supplying and profiting from the bombs that Israel has used to attack Gaza (and how our government allows and aids this process). (Side note: This morning I was reading about the ceasefire between Israel & Gaza, and noticed that the ratio of Palestinian deaths to Israeli deaths in the last few weeks was 100:1; of course, most of the former are civilians, the latter, soldiers.)

In our procession, some carried cardboard "coffins" (labeled: "A Father of Gaza," "A Mother of Gaza," and "A Child of Gaza"), some candles and photos, and some signs and banners (my mom's read: "Boeing bombs Kill Gazans," mine read: "Stop the Killing"). One person beat a drum (bucket) as we walked. We were escorted/followed by several Chicago police officers. We walked about seven blocks in the cold, silently carrying these testaments to the horrible deaths of innocent people, facing the inquisitive/compassionate/annoyed/confused looks/looks away/comments of Chicago pedestrians/bus riders/restaurant-goers/beggars. When we arrived at Boeing, we were denied entrance into the building, so we stood outside, laid the coffins and candles and pictures in front of the doors, recited a litany and sang songs. After a few minutes, the police informed us that, since the people at Boeing requested us to leave, we should leave the property or be arrested. At least two men were arrested; the rest of us moved to the public sidewalk and continued to sing and pray. The coffins were left on Boeing property... some of the company men came out and made sure the coffins and all the smaller items were put on the sidewalk. (Later, the police busted open one of the larger coffins and shoved the child-sized one inside, then they put it and the other one into a big police van which was then driven away.) By this time, our toes were frozen, so my mom and I headed back.

Before, during, and after all of this, at the Federal Plaza, there were songs, prayers and readings in memory of Martin Luther King, Jr. and in honor of his stance for peace and justice and against militarism, racism and materialism. It was the culmination of Camp Hope, a combined effort of many local churches and peace groups to call on President-elect (or, President tomorrow!) Obama to follow through on promises he made during his campaign by taking certain actions immediately upon being sworn into office, including: 1. Regarding Iraq, withdraw troops and cease combat operations; announce a new diplomatic initiative to bring peace to Afghanistan and Pakistan. 2. Take all nuclear weapons off hair trigger alert. 3. Close Guantanamo, eliminate military tribunals and allow detainess access to the U.S. court system. 4. Suspend deportation of immigrants and stop raids at workplaces.

Today was interesting and exciting for me. It felt good to be part of something that is much deeper and older than myself, and something that holds true hope and promise for the future: the movement of people seeking peace through nonviolent means. I am as excited as ever about my participation with CPT and my upcoming travels to Israel/Palestine. And I continue to be inspired by ordinary people past and present living out extraordinary love.

And now, just for fun and because these are awesome, I leave you with some quotes (all by King) about nonviolence:

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.

At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love.

I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

It is not enough to say we must not wage war. It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it.

Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.

Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals.

Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.

Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.

(And my favorite:)

Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time; the need for mankind to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. Mankind must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.