An Esther moment “for such a time as this” Saturday, Jul 10 2010 

An Esther moment  “for such a time as this”

I am on “vacation” this week.  I traveled to Beaumont TX last weekend for my 40th high school reunion. It was wonderful and amazing!!

On the way, I stopped in Ocean Springs, MS to visit with my daughter and her family.  Their house is very close to the Gulf of Mexico.  I could whiff the oil in the air.  Not a real strong smell of its own, more of an after-taste.  It brought the BP situation home to me.

My little ’96 Toyota is running great, but the air conditioner is not working.  So, I was tooling down the interstate with my ball cap on and no radio because it is too darn loud with the wind to even hear it.  I was stuck with . . . thinking! Oh, the horrors of it all!  It occurred to me that I actually have completed the education I have to have to become a Deacon, I already have a Master’s degree so there are only 24 hours required for Deacon’s orders. After two years, I am still homesick.  I have a certain skill set that will be quite necessary in the months, years, decades ahead to help the people of the coastal areas reframe their entire way of being. Maybe I needed to hit the pause button and come home to serve. So, I determined that I would talk to people about it.

After the reunion, I came to Lafayette, my home town.  I visited with my mentor, who graciously listened to me and wouldn’t make a decision for me. He said an eloquent prayer requesting clarity for me. He also called his friend Rev. Darryl Tate, of the Louisiana Conference of the UMC Disaster Responses, Inc. and tell him that I would be calling him.  Then I went to see my District Superintendent who said, “Edie, this disaster will be around a long time.  You need to finish your MDiv.”  Ok. So I’ll be completing my course work.  But, still, I have this powerful yearning.

So, I met with Darryl and he told me about the organization.  How it had been formed after Katrina, and had been utilized after Rita, and the following year with the next two hurricanes.  He talked about the frustration that what is going on so far on the coast is that the government is declining to declare it a disaster, so the people have limited recourse.  The coastal towns in south Louisiana are an enchanted place.  The hardest working people on the planet are right there. Theirs is a truly mixed culture, formed around the Cajuns. Many Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian people have settled into the culture and fit right in.  Fishing and shrimping are the tap roots of life in this area.  Without them, the people are struggling with identity, livelihood, and hope.  They have been battered time and again in the last five years, and despair, addiction, family violence and desperation are on the rise.

I had already ascertained that my D.S.’s declaration was clarity enough for me to decide to complete my MDiv. So, I knew that in hearing this I would not have an immediate opportunity to share my skills.

God had other plans.

Darryl went on to tell me about Grand Isle.  He said it is mostly a closed community, it is very difficult for outsiders to gather information because there is so much distrust.  But, he had an urgent need. He had arranged for a retired minister who was an LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor) to go to conduct some research for a needs assessment in the area, this week!  But, the man had backed out of the assignment at the last moment (I think it was health issues).  Would I be able to help out?

I called my pastor and requested permission.  She found someone to fill my slot as the administrative assistant, and permission has been granted.  I am now anticipating heading into the thick of the oil “spill” to ask people what the church can do for them.  I leave Saturday afternoon, I will meet Darryl and his wife on Saturday evening and we will go to the church Sunday morning where I will meet the congregation (as many of the five regular attenders who are there on a holiday weekend!).  Later in the day I will meet a Dept. of Health and Hospitals rep who has been there several weeks, she was raised in the area and left to get her Ph D. in Psychology.  She will be my door to the community . . . if she trusts me! Then, I shall find my way, with God’s help.

Five months later . .. Monday, May 31 2010 

My best intentions were to keep up my blog as I plowed through the semester.       That didn’t happen!  My course work was intense, and I also picked up another part time job.   So, I am working two part time jobs and keeping up with class work.  It seems such a small thing to write about it, but it takes time that I did not have.

The semester wrapped up April 30th.  On May 1st I was on a plane to Billings, MT to be there for Bailey’s 3rd birthday.  She is one adorable child!  Melissa is the epitome of a gracious hostess, and I deeply appreciate her.  Rick is wonderful.  I am  so impressed that my son has grown into such a fine man.  I flew home on Mother’s Day, one of my finer lapses of attention to detail.

This summer I will continue to serve Cumberland UMC as a ministry intern.  It is varied and compelling work.  We are changing pastors this month.  In the UMC system, pastors are itinerant and assigned to their charge by the bishop.  Sometimes it is determined that changes need to be made.   The pastor with whom I have been working, Rev. Dr. A. Elaine Crawford, will be going to serve a church that is not far from where she lives.  She is excited!  And our incoming pastor, Rev. Jenny Anderson, will be coming in.  She is young, I would guess she is around Elinore’s age, and I am quite impressed with her so far.

My framing question for the internship is this:

Is my calling actually to parish ministry rather than that of Pastoral Counseling?

I have the luxury of ten weeks of hands on experience to really look at the differences involved.   Part of my internship will be reflection papers, and I will post them here to share with you.   Please feel free to comment.  I need all the input I can get!

Blessings!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Group One: Reflections on the first week

It is interesting to shift roles in the same place.  I have gone from Con Ed II to Internship without a time break, except for the classes.  The fluidity has made beginnings and endings less distinct.  The change is more in my intentions than anything else.  When I came into Con Ed II to serve an ecumenical setting, it was with the certainty that the skill set was not particularly applicable to my call.  Now that I am questioning that call, it changes my perspective, sharpens my focus and deepens my interest in learning.

This business of changing pastors is disconcerting.  I have been working alongside Dr. Crawford since September of last year.  We have been through a lot together, and have developed an easy camaraderie.  But, I got to meet our new pastor on Thursday.  She is young and lively and energetic.  She appears to be confident and self-assured, without any cockiness or bravado.  I think we will work well together.  So, as much as change disconcerts me, I am embracing it as invigorating.

My week last week was divided between dealing with myriad functional problems in the church.  The phone system needed attention; I spent an afternoon with the phone technician.  I am now best friends with two A T & T reps. Then we had the leaky toilet. Good thing I really like the plumber.  All this is on top of the administrative assistant work and writing a sermon.  It is good exposure.  Buildings are living things; they require constant nurture to remain healthy.  It would be lovely to not have these issues, but they are to be expected.

Since I am questioning whether I am suited for parish ministry, one of my goals is to at least outline a sermon every week.  For May 30th, though, I was scheduled to preach.  Dr. Crawford mentioned in March that she wanted to go away with her family for a holiday weekend, and I volunteered at that time to preach.

I had selected the lectionary passage that I wanted to use weeks ago.  I have meditated and cogitated on the text.  I checked the concordance and looked closely into relevant passages.  I prayed about it.  But, when I sat down to write the sermon, I could not.  I played with it some, doodled images, wrote in different colors, made a mind map of the topic, and still, could not write it.  E-mail was checked; face book was fb’d out; I even went to youtube and found Janis Joplin and listened to some interviews with Dick Cavett . . . why???  I was determined to have this done so that I could have a day off on Saturday.  Instead, I stabbed at it, poked it, pushed it, kicked it and gave it mouth to mouth, but I still couldn’t get the sermon to come to life.  I finally went to bed on Friday night with no sermon written, a raging headache, and a sense of complete doom and failure.

Saturday morning I sat with my coffee and computer and refused to eat breakfast until I had a sermon pecked out.  I got it done about eleven.  Breakfast, shower, dress, and review the sermon.  Then, I gave myself permission to go and intentionally do nothing.  What a daunting task!  But, I succeeded!!

Sunday morning the sermon went fine, I guess. I never really believe that my sermons are quite good enough.  However, anything bathed in that much prayer must have the Holy Spirit wrapped around it, so it gets shifted into what the Holy Spirit wants it to be.  And so, now, I am on to select and meditate on the text for next Sunday.  I would love to have some insight on the process from the group.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

There are 20 of us who are interning at various locations.  One is serving in the Bahamas, another in Kenya.  So, when I say various, I really mean it.  So, when I ask for feedback from the group, I am really opening up to some amazing people.  And, I am asking feedback from you, those who know me best.  Please tell me what you think and share with me any insights you may have.  I will do my best to respond.

Love you! Edie

Saturday, Feb 13 2010 

Conversation with Dr. Phil Saturday, Feb 13 2010 

Sunday January 10, 2010

This evening at dinner I was privileged to meet Philip.  He is an elegant Indian man, with a white beard and intensely loving brown eyes.  We began to visit and I asked him if he had been born a Christian. His eyes danced with delight and he told me his story. 

“I was born into a Hindu family. When I was a young man I began to read the sacred writings and realized that these gods were no better than people.  They had the same flaws and problems that I saw around me every day.  I left the religion of my youth and began to be an atheist. 

I went to medical school and became a doctor.  I found employment with the government and went to the Himalayas.  From the southernmost part of India where I was raised, I got sent to the northernmost region and the highest points in the country.  I was still searching for something to believe in, but certain it would not be in religion. 

In the Himalayas I went for hikes.  One day I stopped and surveyed the splendor around me and was overtaken with a sense that there was some majestic force, some divine mind behind all of this.  But, I did not know what that would be.

One night I was looking at the night sky.  I wondered aloud, “What keeps all of this in its place?  What is this force?” I cried out a demand, “Tell me who you are!” 

My father had told me about Hinduism. But, I knew that it was a false religion.  If some other person would tell me about a religion, I would not believe them, because, how could I believe another person more than my father who loves me?  I knew that I would never accept a human explanation.  It had to come from Him.  But, I still did not know.

At that time I was engaged to marry my wife who is Christian.  My future brother-in-law was a minister.  It would look bad for her if she married a Hindu.  Since I was not a practicing Hindu, it did not matter to me if I just went through the motions of pretending to be a Christian.  My future brother-in-law would occasionally pull me aside and ask me, “Have you been saved?”   This bothered me.

I began to read the Holy Scriptures just so that I could argue with him.  I wanted to be able to show him where his faith was incorrect. But, God got hold of me and I began to know who God is. When I came to Job 38 where God challenges Job, “If you are a man, gird up your loins and answer me.  Where were you when I hung the stars and the firmament?  Who are you to question me?” I knew that God was speaking directly to me! The language was familiar; this type of confrontation is also found in the Hindu mythologies.  I was overwhelmed when I realized that I had no right to ask the questions of our Creator.  Yet, God loves me so much that He answered them. 

Since then I have come to know who God is, and who Jesus is. In John 14:6 we find that Jesus is the way and the truth and the life, and no one comes to the father except through Him.        I have spent the rest of my days in the joy of the Lord.  It is my delight to serve Him alone.”

This man’s witness is confirmation that God can reach us even through our own denials and resistances.  As I learned more about the challenges that Christians in India face through persecution from family members, communities, and the local, regional and national government, I was convinced that this witness is vital to us in the U.S.

We are privileged to grow in a country which supports the ideals of religious freedom.  While American Christianity is suffering through a societal disdain for its precepts and values, Indian Christianity is suffering through a systemic persecution.  What can we do to strengthen our church, in order to regain our former role as a prophetic beacon for those in other countries?

Question Thursday, Jan 21 2010 

Conversation with Rev. Daniel

I got a chance to sit and visit with Rev. Daniel, who is the head of the Evangelism and Mission department for the Methodist Church in India.  He talked about some of the problems that the church is facing in his country.

Christians in India have some challenges that directly relate to the indigenous cultural context.    He says they face persecution at all levels, from the family to the government.  Yet, people are hungry for the love of Christ and still come into the church to seek nurture.

He specifically asked me to convey the message that the church in India needs the church in the United States to become stronger.  He says that they need our strength as a beacon to look to on the horizon.  The hope that is conveyed by our nation which was established on the principle of religious freedom is a necessary element to feed the people of other countries experiencing persecution.

So, my question to you is this:  What can we do to strengthen Christianity in the United States?  Not just for our own souls, families and communities which all yearn for a deeper connection with the love of God…. Not just to help us to cope with the vicissitudes of daily life…. Not to build church buildings, programs or membership rolls….

But, to serve as a witness to others. . .  What do you think??

God Remembers My Dream Monday, Jan 11 2010 

Travel:
The air buzzed with excitement as we boarded the bus. It was modern with comfortable seats and plenty of room. Twenty one Americans and one Brazilian hopped on. Our liaison from the YMCA Rajeej was able to communicate with the two Hindi drivers. The drivers had a separate compartment, with a plexiglass barrier. Only Raj was able to go back and forth. There were Hindu icons on the dashboard, a statue of one of the 3500 gods that represent a part of the One God. The ride was awesome, sometimes more bumpy and adventurous than I would like, but truly awesome.
Our YMCA Conference center is out in the boonies. It is a beautiful facility with well kept grounds and a huge fence all around the compound. Coming from out here, the infamous crowded India is simply not present. As we drove closer in, it became more evident that we were in a place apart. Smooth and wide, the highways are well kept. It is disconcerting, however, to be jarred to alertness when the driver has to brake for the horse drawn cart in our lane. Any other time he would have simply passed it, but this time there was traffic in the way. His driving was adept and smooth, rapid braking was an exception for him.

We got closer and closer into Delhi and the humanity became denser and denser. Industry and indolence, wealth and poverty, possibility and hopelessness, modern and ancient: each presented themselves fully. I was uncomfortable riding along after a couple of hours. I began to whine about it rather strongly in my head. I’m pretty sure my negative thoughts somehow spilled out of my mouth too. Then, as I gazed out my window, steadfastly trying to take it all in, I looked down and noticed a 5×8 foot cart being pulled by an ancient tractor. In the cart were about twenty colorfully adorned heads bobbing along. I looked more closely, there were people stuffed in this cart so tightly that I was breathless from looking at them.
Looking out the window, staring at people and situations felt similar to my own discomfort at zoos. Part of me becomes aware of the majesty and dignity in each person and I am embarrassed to be observing them without regard to their personhood. I began to wonder what it is like to live in one of the dusty tents we saw, or to have to ride with so many other people. Did they know each other? Where were they going that was so important that they would endure such discomfort? What do small children in dusty rags learn about humanity in such crowded streets?

Poverty is ugly in any country. Destitution has a grey tinge and a thick coating of dust. In the midst, however, there is tremendous creativity and intriguing beauty. I saw the construction we use for storage units converted into dwelling places next to retail shops. Many of the filthiest rags had beautiful colors and designs under the dirt. There were single person taxis built around motorcycles or scooters, each decorated with brightly colored symbols and signs. The trucks had designs painted on them. I saw several trucks with beautifully colored beads around the front cab; they apparently represented the same firm.

The mass of people is indescribable. We would pass an intersection and there were hundreds and hundreds of people jostling each other as they moved in different directions.

Something surprising:

About an hour and a half into the trip, the bus pulled to a stop and the driver got out and went into an office. We had no idea why. So, we obediently sat and waited. I stared out the window at a man on the sidewalk. From my seat in the bus to him was no more than twelve feet. He had a basket, it looked rather like a tortilla basket, and he put it on the ground. My curiosity was piqued. He then sat in front of it and pulled out a wooden instrument that looked like a recorder. The lid was removed and he began to play. Mesmerized, I watched a cobra rising from the basket with his hood wide open he swayed to the music. Another man came and sat beside him. His snake was less well behaved than the first one. Several of my colleagues reminded me to get a picture, since my son had challenged me to get a picture of myself with a cobra. I think that this will be the closest I get to it.

The ride continues:

We stopped twice like this, the driver jumping out and disappearing for awhile. When he returned, the trip resumed. We asked Raj about it. He said they were paying a road tax when we went into another state. Our trip would require about $350 in taxes as we went through.

Our information had been that the travel to Taj Mahal would be about three to three and one half hours each way. That is why we initially weren’t going to go. For some reason, though, since our travel plans had been such a disappointment (my late travel was by far the easiest trip experienced by any in our group), our leadership decided that we should go. My bones did not want to ride in a bus for seven hours in one day… but I have wanted to see the Taj Mahal, the seventh wonder of the world, ever since I read about it when I was a little girl. It seemed to me to be worth it. When am I ever going to be this close to it again?

We had a brief stop to relieve ourselves in a beautiful resort area. I do not know what it cost for us to run in and use the restroom. Outside this haven, over there in the parking lot, there was another snake charmer, and a man with two monkeys on leashes. Closer in was a man and little girl in colorful traditional garb. He played music and she danced. But, we ran in and out with no time for entertainment.

About five hours into the trip we arrived in Agra. We ate at an upscale restaurant. The food was delicious and the staff was gracious. It was a pleasant interlude, but we were anxious to get going.

The Taj Mahal

From the parking lot, we piled into three small vehicles for transport closer to the gate. Upon exiting the bus, we were surrounded by sales people. One young gentleman persistently offered his postcard books to me. Now, I knew I wanted to get some postcards but I surely didn’t want to carry them around in the Taj Mahal, I was only wearing a fanny pack, my bag stayed in the bus. It is apparent that these people are trained in persistence early on, I could not say no loudly or firmly enough to get him to leave me alone. Of course, he was probably able to recognize that I really did want them. I started telling him “later” instead of no. He looked me in the eye and said, “Will you remember me?” I laughed and said, “Probably to my dying day!” When we completed the tour, I did get some postcards from him. Knowing that I had my own personal vendor was helpful to me in saying a firmer “no” the rest of the way in.

Getting through the gate to enter the grounds of the Taj Mahal was an experience in itself. We were not allowed to bring food or candy or gum onto the ground. At first we were going to have to send our bags back to the bus. Then we weren’t. It was chaotic and confusing to have such a large group of people with inadequate and inaccurate information flowing back. We ended up sending any snacks we had had to a grocery bag that Raj held. He put it in a locker somewhere, I believe. My roomie, Cassie, got held back when she went through the security gate. She had way more food in her backpack than she thought. The security guards were armed and looked quite serious about their business.
Finally, finally we are on the grounds of the Taj Mahal. I thought for a few minutes that we were actually at the Red Fort, because the bricks of the building we were near were red. This is actually the fence around the mausoleum.

Outside in the courtyard before the entrance, our guide gave us preliminary information. The construction of the Taj Mahal began in 1631; it took 22 years and 20,000 workers to complete. It is perfectly symmetrical. The designs on the outside of the building are etched in and inlaid with gemstones. The marble is translucent and catches the light in different ways at different times. The building was created as a monument to a prince’s second wife, who died after bearing his fourteenth child. Even the fort and gates surrounding the actual Taj Mahal are beautiful. Around the entry way are inlaid Arabic words from the Koran.

Standing in the entry way to the courtyard, my first view of the Taj was breathtaking. Here is a building that was constructed four hundred years ago and shows limited signs of wear. She is magnificent!

We immediately tried to gather for a group picture. Two of our gaggle were already off and running, so our group photo is not a complete record of all who were there. Then we walked toward the Taj Mahal. Each step closer brought us in the presence of magnificence; the grounds are well kept and beautiful. I stopped with Dr. and Mrs. Runyon and took their picture. A very helpful gentleman pointed out that it would be better from the corner of this pool and took us to a place where the building is reflected in the water. He grabbed their camera out of my hand and took a picture. When he stood up, I grabbed it back and said “No, thank you”. He asked me for a tip. I felt culturally stupid, but stood my ground. Besides, I didn’t have any rupees with me. It shakes me to be so bewildered at the behavior of people. My expectation is that friendliness is friendliness and helpfulness is not always compensated with money. That is not true here.

In order to enter the building itself, we queued up for another line. Numerous people gathered in a loose representation of a line. Along comes a grumpy guard carrying a machine gun who made quite clear, language barrier notwithstanding, that we were to be more orderly and closer to the building. Yes sir. We stood there taking in the sights, chatting and waiting, standing close to the wall as we were ordered. Between me and the wall on my left appeared the most adorable little girl. She had huge brown eyes and a delightful smile. She reached up for my hand. I looked down at her, and on my right one of my classmates whispers in my ear, “She is a pickpocket, watch out!” I stepped away from her and saw that she was being followed by a surly man, presumably her father. We gave them wide berth and let them continue on, passing the word quickly ahead of us.

Inside the building is more beauty. We got up close to some of the inlay work. It is magnificent! The amount of vision, persistence, craftsmanship and hard labor that went into this building is staggering.
Inside, it was crowded and darker. As I gazed on the marble and the inlaid stones I became overwhelmed with emotion. When I was a small child reading books to escape the routine of life, I said I wanted to see the Seven Wonders of the World. I was particularly enchanted with the idea of the Taj Mahal because it is presented as such a symbol of love. And, here I am. I came to India believing that I would not be able to see the Taj, it was too far and that trip would not be made this time. Of course, I still believe that even coming to India is a miracle wrought through God’s mercy and grace. I completely accepted that I would not get to see it. But, here I was. I stood there remembering the hope and joy and limitless imagination of an eight-year-old hoping to see this. I cannot say that I held this dream up every day, or even every year. My life has been filled with present moments and not so much with dreaming about what I want to do and see and experience. I had forgotten the power of that dream, the hope and the possibility that I had felt then. And it all came rushing over me at once. I realized, I forget my dreams, but God doesn’t. He has carried me to the other side of the world to remind me that He is present, He loves me. Not just as one of the masses, but a very personal love. I am so grateful to be here. This moment is one which I will cherish always.

I made it to India!! Friday, Jan 8 2010 

Mind numbing. Other worldly.

That’s how it feels to travel internationally!

Continental’s international flight was as comfortable as possible. The seat was not too tight. The cool thing was that there was a screen on the back of the set in front of me. There were movies, short films, old tv shows and games. We could track where in the world we were, how much longer we had to go, and how far we had gone. I watched 2 movies, G-Force and Casa Blanca. I was distracted and unable to focus. I don’t believe I slept very much. But, did not feel too bad when we got off the plane. I took the advice of those wiser than I and drank plenty of water and walked around as much as I could. At one point I was standing in front of a bulkhead (the plane was a 777… GINORMOUS!!..and completely full, not one empty seat!) and doing shoulder rolls. A tall man wearing a bright orange turban was standing next to me. He made a “hmmph” sound, as if he were irritated. When I looked over whispered in a disapproving tone, “American” and imitated my shoulder rolls. Once he had my attention, he demonstrated a correct and beneficial shoulder roll. Once done correctly, they were wonderfully relaxing.

The drive from the airport to the YMCA was long and tedious and somewhat frightening. Fog surrounded us so thick and so close; it felt like moving through a cotton candy bubble. Our driver did a wonderful job, but it is hard to feel safe when the dangers are invisible. He had on a lively radio station. The similarities and differences in the music and the chatter of the announcement were quite remarkable. Love songs sound like love songs the language doesn’t matter. One song with a driving beat mixed Hindi and English lyrics. I wanted to remember what the English words were, but I cannot recall them now.

We arrived at the Y about 1 am. I get to room with two lovely young ladies that are about 22-25 years old, Keri and Cassie. They are gracious and neat and kind. The situation reminds me of summer camp when I was in fifth grade. Sleeping in the same room with the other girls, sharing a bathroom and figuring out where to put things so that they are both accessible and out of the way. Then, we all tried to sleep. Being thoughtful and considerate has its drawbacks… none of us actually slept much but we didn’t want to disturb the others so we each lay staring at the dark room most of the night. Cassie used her iPod to light her book under the covers and read for awhile. But, we mostly just lay there waiting for the alarm.

The delegates from the India churches are most friendly and
interesting. They are willing to engage in conversation even though I say “huh?” a lot. They speak English, but the accenting is different, and apparently my ears were especially tired today.

We are planning a trip to see the Taj Mahal tomorrow. The conference will still be in session on Saturday, but since we didn’t get in to the country early enough to tour on Monday, we get to go tomorrow. I am over-the-top excited now. I first heard about it before my afternoon nap and was convinced that I would not have the strength or energy to go. But, now I am certain that I can do it. We expect to leave early and come back late. It is a 2 to 3 hour bus ride just to get there!

Let’s play! Tuesday, Jan 5 2010 

One of the great American pastimes is “The Blame Game”.  We see it in the news every day; we play it in our homes, businesses and churches.  I have not been exposed to enough cultures to know if it is unique to our environment or if it is pervasive in humanity. 

When the discovery of the error was made, one of the gate agents said, “I’m not taking the blame for this, I made the announcement.”  She said it several times, while one of our teammates was on the phone with someone repeatedly stating, “This is not acceptable.”  This irritated me so much that I walked away from the counter.  Hello-o-o-!! accept it, deal with it, move on.

Last night I read on the “Dear Candler” blog a post by one of the students.  The intent of this blog is irreverent and sarcastic, so the post was not inappropriate.  However it did raise my hackles a little.  This person blamed Candler for the events of the trip.   It seemed to imply that Candler had screwed this up by booking flights on Continental instead of Delta.

Wow! Candler is pretty powerful! 

Flights are booked based on availability.  A party of 20 traveling together is difficult to book.  My guess is that Delta was probably the first choice since there is a direct flight to Delhi through them.  If we were booked on another airline, there probably were not seats available.

I still maintain that for TWENTY PEOPLE to not hear the announcement, for the airline to fail on several levels… time of the flight, gate change announcements (apparently there was one announcement, but only one) and no pages for our group leader… that God’s hand is all over this. My experience with airlines is that the people really do try to do a good job in a difficult situation.  From Thanksgiving to January 1st is the busiest travel period because of the holidays.  We were going at a time when the resources of the people working at the airline had been stretched for weeks.  Nobody functions wonderfully when overtired and overstressed.  Translate the airline employee’s stress levels to ours during finals week.  Very similar.

In talking with the supervisor who was steadfastly not taking responsibility for the screw-up, it came out that he had helped load the plane because we had so many boxes and bags.  One of the gentlemen that had been working in baggage handling had been sent to the hospital because he got injured. 

Our group had done everything in our own power and control to make the trip go smoothly.  We were booked together.  We all arrived on time.  We did not scatter to the four winds while waiting.  We did all we could do. Yet, it did not go as planned. 

 What does the bible say?

Paul writes in II Corinthians 6: 3-10:  “We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited.  Rather as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy spirit and in sincere love’ in truthful speech and in the power of God’ with weapons of righteousness in the right hand in ad in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying and yet we live on; beaten and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”

Paul attributes many of his travel plans to God’s calling, will and direction.  However, in Acts 13, he attributes Satan with keeping him from traveling.  I would rather give credit to God’s power in my life.

Choosing a Response

In counseling, instruction in appropriate processing of our interpersonal responses is appropriate.  Since the best way to learn a new skill is to practice it, I practice what I teach. 

It is not the event that occurs that causes us distress.  It is our physiological response, based on our thinking about the event that puts our panties in a wad  ( i.e. increased heart rate, increased cortisol which facilitates the deposit of cholesterol, and other physiological reactions that are related to the stress response). The blame game harms us, but we have control over our participation in such a harmful exercise.

Biblically, Paul teaches a response that whatever hardships we face are strengthening the ministry. 

Wow!  That’s awesome.  I have signed up to carry God’s message to a foreign country; one which has 1/7th of the world’s population in an area about 1/3 that of the United States.  I did not expect a picnic.  My expectation was adventure and hard work and sleeplessness and reactions to strange food.  I also expect to be blessed by my interactions with other people.  My intention is to be a blessing, to share God’s love, to serve in every circumstance. 

As seminary students, people of high privilege who are called into this journey of learning, we have a choice to make about our response to events.  Whether we think it is appropriate or not, people watch our reactions.  We are a reflection of God’s power and might in this world.  I want to be a bright and shiny one.

Time Travels and Wormholes! Monday, Jan 4 2010 

I heard from one of our team-members that the flight yesterday had problems of its own.
In Atlanta, the flight to Newark was delayed 2 hours. . .
In Newark there was a security breach. . .
The international terminal was evacuated. . .
All passengers had to go back through security. And, it was really hot in line and some people passed out. They did finally get boarded and underway.
According to news reports, Northern India is experiencing record cold. The power grid is having problems. Monday evening India.com reported:
“He said it will take six to seven hours to restore the power supply. Several parts of the national capital also went without electricity late on Saturday night — for the second time in a day — following a major breakdown in the Northern grid. A Delhi Transco official said the technical problem in the grid occurred at around 10 PM resulting in massive disruption of power supply.
“As of now, I can’t specify the areas affected by the problem in the grid but many areas across the city faced power cuts because of the technical problem in the grid,” he said adding a 440kv line was totally shut down because of the failure.
Also from India.com The evening we should have arrived, if all had gone as our best laid plans indicated we would have faced this situation:
“Operations at the IGI airport, which began smoothly on a relatively clear day on Sunday, were affected later in the day as over 50 international and domestic flights were delayed and about 15 cancelled due to operational reasons.
“The day started smoothly, a day after dense fog played havoc leading to delay and cancellation of several flights, as the runway visibility was more than 1,600 metres due to relatively clear day this morning,” an airport official said.
But, as the day progressed, the airlines cancelled 15 domestic and international flights due to operational reasons. Over 50 others were delayed by up to three hours, he said.”

I spoke with Dr. Winston Worrell, the head of the World Methodist Evangelism Institute a short time ago. He called from India. Around 4:45 pm EST he said that the travelers had just arrived. If my calculations are correct, it would be about 2:45 am Tuesday there… the conference begins in several hours. The team there will have to clear customs with the equipment for sound production, video-taping and the like. Our team members will be checking people in and helping to make things operate smoothly.

Continued and fervent prayer is definitely in order!

We had another team of five who should be on their way today. Tomorrow, Tuesday, we have a team of two. On Wednesday the rest of our group will be traveling . . . if God wills it.

I also learned from my teammate that there is an online way to track where in the world an airliner is during its journey. It is not totally accurate, I don’t think you could shoot one down with this tracker, but Wow! I am impressed with the technology.
The website is:
http://www.flightstats.com/go/FlightTracker/flightTracker.do
My flight numbers on Wednesday will be:
Continental 1164 leaving Atlanta (ATL) at 11:35 am on 1/6/2010 to Newark (EWR) arrival at 1:59 pm
Continental 82 leaving Newark (EWR) at 8:45 pm on 1/6/2010 to Delhi, India (DEL) arrival at 9:20 pm on the 7th
Return flight remains:
Continental 83 leaving Delhi (DEL) at 11:35 pm on 1/12/2010 to Newark (EWR)
Continental 1107 leaving Newark (EWR) at 6:30 am and arriving Atlanta (ATL) 9:19 am on the 13th.
I am still looking forward to the travel and to the work that we have to do. It is a wondrous experience to have the mercy and love and grace of Jesus Christ so very blatantly evident. Even in the midst of trauma around us, the team members have arrived safely. My we continue to be blessed with a hedge of protection, and the good sense to be thankful in the fog of uncertainty and apparent barriers.
Thank you for praying!

Evening, January 3, 2010 Monday, Jan 4 2010 

Some more of what happened Saturday at the airport!
One of the difficulties of an event packed day is trying later to sort out all of the events. Here is something that was significant to me.
I did not take my cell phone with me. I won’t be using it in India, and it made no sense to me to risk losing it. It is not easy for me to keep track of everything, and I just wanted to be prudent. Since at no point did it ever occur to me that I could get stuck in Atlanta… which amazes me, because I really do have enough experience with airport delays for that to be a possibility… it never occurred to me that I might need my cell phone. I think that I imagined that if I needed to call someone I would find a colleague that I could borrow their phone. Or perhaps I didn’t really think at all….a distinct possibility!
Another stunning realization of epic proportions! I do not know phone numbers any more!! I am Cell Phone Dependent (all right all you authors of DSM VI: take note: new mental disorder on the horizon… Cell Phone Dependency!) So, here I am stuck at the airport. I realize that I need to call Jo Beth and Tom to let them know I am coming back and to let me in . . . rather than call 9-1-1 or pull out the Smith & Wesson when I come rattling around late at night. So, I prayed. What a wonderful knee jerk reaction! And, it was my first… instead of trying everything else first. Not that I had a list of everything else to try….since most people have cell phones, one rarely finds a bank of coin phones anywhere anymore. Surely Hartsfield-Jackson has some coin phones, but I didn’t see any! Of course, no coin phones means no phone books. Not that I know whether or not they are listed in the phone book.
So, I prayed and thought . . . and a number came to me. And I borrowed a cell phone, and I called home, and I was in touch with home. There may be better explanations for why I could remember a number that I have not dialed in about four years and never really knew it without looking it up. But, my personal explanation is that it was an answer to a mundane prayer.
My cell phone will be with me on Wednesday when I leave. I suspect I will take it with me to the grave!

Next Page »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.