Monday, May 21, 2012

Waylon and Willie and the Girls

What should you do if you wake up on a Saturday morning of an overly busy weekend and have a ton to do?  Work to prepare for the rest of weekend, lots of graduation parties to get ready for (gifts, cards, wrapping), laundry, emails, copies to make, set up to do for programs on Sunday...

You responsible people out there are saying, "Well, Katie, you wake up and get out of bed and do those things that you need to do, of course."

But what if you get up and the sky looks like this?
And the temperature is toasty warm and the sun is shining and the wind is blowing?

What do you do then?

My weekend house guest and I woke up Saturday facing the list of work mentioned first above.  Work, work work.

Instead, we played hookey.

We called up our local friend and asked to borrow his jeep.  He said yup, no questions asked.

So we drove out to his farm, backed it out of the barn, rolled down the windows, and took off.

No road trip is complete without tunes.  We couldn't just listen to the radio- we had to embrace the ambiance of the jeep.  The ambiance includes cassette tapes of Waylon Jennings and the Bellamy Brothers.  (There was also a deck of playing cards, which I would think would be difficult to use in a windy jeep.)
So, close your eyes, feel the wind in your hair, and listen to the soundtrack of our road trip:
Just Waylon and Willie...and the girls.  On our way to exciting locations, like Luckenbach, Texas or Buda, Illinois.

Anita was the expert driver.  Next roadtrip (this is an annual occurrence, btw.), I am bringing gold stars to stick on the dash every time she successfully shifts the tricky transmission.  On this day, she only got invisible ones.
Therefore, I got to sit in the passenger seat, hand flying in the wind, hair whipping around my head, sun on my face, singing along with tunes back from when country music was really country music.

FYI, people who really know me: If I am ever frustrated, angry, bored, sad, or even just content, stick me in a car on a nice day with the windows down and music blasting.  Sweet relaxation seeps into my bones, and I am happy.  Bonus points if I don't have to drive :)

So, we left with no agenda, except that we needed to be back soon (we had work to do, you know), and at some point, ice cream sounded good.

We headed west- which seems like a good country-girls-listening-to-Waylon direction to go.  All I know is that we were getting out of Oh-Henry for a while.
One interesting site was some of the windmills being worked on.  Can you see that blade on the ground?
This one has a little better perspective.  Do you see that "large" pick up truck next to the blade.  These things are awesome.  If there are windmills in your area, I highly recommend going for a drive to see them up close.
We drove down roads we had never been before, got "lost" and tried to guess what towns we were coming into before reading the water tower, saw what looked like a serious biker funeral, listened to each cassette at least twice all the way through, and eventually got some delicious ice cream.

And, unfortunately, we had to head home.  Responsibility beckoned, and a gas tank will only get you so far.  We were gone...for four hours.  Things were a little hectic that night, but it was oh-so worth it.  Sometimes, it is good to push aside the to-do list, and do something out of the ordinary.  And if you have a choice, you should do it in a jeep.

Update: You can read the report of the other half of the road trip duo here.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Who Do You Sit at the Feet of?

A couple of nights ago, I was helping at an ecumenical program at church.  I was running some of the sound and video equipment, and because of its location, I ended up sitting on the floor next to it so that I could easily start and stop things without being conspicuous.  I sat with my back up against the partition in front of the first pew, and no one could even see me except the people who moved up into the sanctuary to speak.  It was certainly the first time that I have sat through a service on the floor, but it worked.

At one point, my pastor, who had been asked to give the main address, got up to speak.  I was not in his direct line of sight, but I was sitting on the floor not too far from his feet.  As he gave a great talk on change, and discerning God's will, and letting Christ direct the paths of your life, I was struck that I probably looked like a little kid, sitting at my teacher's feet, soaking up his wisdom.

And then I remembered this line by St. Paul~

"I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel..." ~Acts 22:3

At the feet of.  An expression commonly used to describe the teaching style of the masters of the time.  To be educated literally while sitting at the feet of the teacher, hanging on their every word.

I have heard discipleship described that way.  You sit at the feet of the one you are the disciple of.  You listen to their words, model their actions, look to them for guidance.

There are so many that I have had the privilege of sitting at their feet.  Family, friends, teachers, the Saints, authors, pastors, missionaries.  It makes me picture the Sermon of the Mount.

The spot where I was sitting on the floor during the service is actually my favorite place to pray when the church is empty.  On the floor, close to the sanctuary, looking up at the Tabernacle, it helps me remember who I am, and who God is.  I am sitting at His feet, soaking up every word.

I have also heard discipleship defined as literally meaning "to be covered in the dust of." Meaning that as a disciple, you follow the person so closely that the dust raised up by their feet covers you before it can fall back to the ground.  That is some serious closeness.

So this brings up some good questions to ponder.  Who do I sit at the feet of?  Who do I follow closely enough that I am covered in their dust?  It also makes me wonder if I am the kind of person attracting people to a life of discipleship.  Are the things that I say and do personifying Christ?  Should others "sit at my feet" or "be covered in my dust"?

“It is part of your vocation to shout the Gospel from the rooftops, not by your words, but by your life.” ~Blessed Charles De Foucauld

Time for a gut-check.  As Christians, we are always put in a position to be a witness to others.  You cannot turn off that role with one group of people and on with another.  Every word and action shows others what the Body of Christ looks like, and gives them an example to either emulate or avoid.

“The torch of our faith has been given to us not to delight our eyes but to enkindle the torches of our fellow men.” ~Servant of God Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

So who can we look to to help us?  I think that Mary had a good thing going.  While Christ would have spent his first few years sitting on her lap, I like to think that in the 30 years that Mary and Jesus shared a home, Mary spent a whole lot of quality time learning from her Son.  She would have heard his words.  She would have witnessed his actions.  She learned.  She modeled.  And she then taught, and still teaches us today.

"Do whatever he tells you..." ~John 2:5

That pretty much sums it up, doesn't it?  A good disciple of Christ does whatever He wills for them, and encourages others to do the same.  Sounds like a plan to me.

Here is a link to a youth group lesson highlighting Mary and discipleship:

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Patience is a Virtue

Ah, patience, how you sometimes elude me.
My mother would say that is my father coming out in me.
I don't know who to blame, but I wanted to share a brief story on a recent trial of patience.

I have been trying to clear up an issue at work.  It has to do with access in a computer system that would allow me to see all of my pay stubs, hours, personal info, etc.  I have been trying to get into the system for over two months.

That two months has been filled with lots of phone calls and lots of emails.  All of those inquiries was answered with something like, "Well that's an interesting problem."

I thought so, too.

And then they would say, "I'm not quite sure who can help you with that."

Me neither.

"But let me transfer you to _____"

And then the cycle would start over again.

And sometimes it would end in an email like this:
I know you can't read this, but suffice it to say that in their directions for helping solve the problem, they recommended using two different online systems, three different login/usernames, five emails to contact, and five phone numbers.

I took a little break from my quest after that.

After a few more tries, and about six phone calls today (not counting transfers) I finally talked to the most helpful person so far.  He was very pleasant, seemed to understand my problem, and wanted to help.  Unfortunately, he had no idea what to do.

So I tried another number, and after only one transfer, talked to someone who knew what to do.  
Her solution?  I needed to come in to her office in person to fill out a form.  Her office is three hours away.

I asked for a fax instead.

It took two phone calls to get the fax.

Do you know what the fax needed from me?
Name. Date. Signature.

That's it.

I don't want to know how much time was wasted on this simple answer.

I filled it out, and sent it back.

Now the real trick will be if the changes are made and if I can achieve the original goal.

I guess is will have to work on my patience and wait and see. :)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Creation Numbers

I really love the Old Testament.  I love reading about the covenants.  I love the dramatic and sweeping stories.  I love the typology and finding connections with the New Testament.  However, this is a fairly recent love that I have found.  When I was younger, I thought nothing could be drier, longer, weirder, or more boring.  But I realize now that I didn't like it because I didn't know it well enough.

Kids don't know the Old Testament.

Sure, they might be able to tell you that Noah took two of every animal onto the ark, or that David used a slingshot to best Goliath.

But do they really know the stories beyond the superficial coloring-book page?
Do they know how the people fit into the grander picture of Salvation History?
Do they know how the message of the story always points to Christ?
Do they know how the Scriptures teach them about their relationship with God?

I think that the answer is usually no.

Not that I think that I can fix this problem, but I would like to create some opportunities for kids to learn about the Old Testament in a meaningful, applicable, and challenging way.  My plan for this summer is to work my way through the Old Testament to create some activities that bring a little more meaning to the normal CCD lesson.

So, as Maria Von Trapp would say, let's start at the very beginning...

Creation Numbers Coloring Book

Yes, I know that I just complained about coloring pages above, but I hope that this one is a little bit different.  I think that the target audience would be Pre-K through 1st grade, depending on how it was used.  It has emphasis on numbers, so there are some nice opportunities to tie in some math.  There is a page for each day, with pictures and words about what God created on that day.  I also wanted to help kids understand more about the ascending order of creation and God's plan.

For example, God gave the world form (light and dark) and filled the void (sun and moon).

The last page of the book emphasizes that pattern:

I also included a set of blank numbers.  These could be used for more hands-on teaching.  For example, you could work on some tactile skills and make a series of collages:

Day 1: Just torn yellow and black construction paper, showing light and dark.
Day 2: Strips of paper, add some yarn for waves of the sea and cotton for clouds of the sky.
Day 3: This one is hard to see in the picture, but it has the sky and sea, and some pictures torn out of magazines for land, trees, and plants.
Day 4: Cellophane sun, metallic fabric moon, star stickers.
Day 5: I am sure that you can come up with something better, but I cut out a bunch of fish and birds that the kids could glue on their number five.  No comments about how my birds look like mustaches.

Day 6: Collage of magazine pictures and stickers of people and animals.
Day 7: Collage of the Sabbath- This one has a pretty sunrise, a church, priest celebrating Mass, and a girl raising her hands in praise.  It also has glitter to emphasize that the seventh day is set apart from the rest.
I am sure that you can come up with lots more creative ways to connect numbers with the first story of Creation.

Here is the link to the coloring book:

And here is the link to the plain numbers:

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

In Which I Walk In A Square

Have you been enjoying the beautiful Spring weather?
I have been trying to take advantage of it by taking some nice long walks.
Do you ever go for walks near your home?  What is that like?  Do you drive to a park and use a nice walking path?  Do you go to a gym and walk on a track or treadmill?  Do you have a nice neighborhood cul-de-sac that you stroll through?

I want to tell you about my latest walk.

Oh-Henry is a nice place to walk.  Safe, quiet, minimal traffic.  I like to walk around the perimeter of the town because it makes me feel closer to being in the country- part of the walk parallels the river and the other part has farm ground along one side of the road.  (And yes, I do mean the entire perimeter of my town, minus the little subdivision add-ons.  It is a s-m-a-l-l town.)  The perimeter is not really a square, because nothing in Henry is straight, perpendicular, square, etc.  Some of the streets are parallel to the river.  Some are parallel to the railroad tracks.  Some are parallel to the main highway.  Some are parallel to the other main highway, but only in some places because that road makes a 90 degree angle through town, because otherwise it would run straight into the Catholic Church...  You get the idea.

Anyways, to better illustrate this story, here is what this walk looks like:

(Note: before all of my safety-oriented friends and family freak out that I just posted a map of my walking route, I need to add a disclaimer.)

Attention all potential stalkers: (not that you really exist, nor do you read this blog) If you are really thinking that you can use the map above to track me down and abduct me and/or steal my circa 2005 256MB MP3 player, you have another thing coming.  I walk different routes at different times.  Much like a CIA operative.  I watch crime TV shows-I know to vary my routine.  So, if you really want to find me, staking out this route is not going to work.  You will actually have much better luck stopping the first person you see in town and asking them if they have seen me around lately.  They will probably send you in the right direction.  And tell you about how they once beat my Grandfather at cards.

Moving on-

So, my walk.  Part of the reason that I chose this route is because I thought that it would be quiet.  Not much traffic, late in the day, it all sounded very relaxing.  I left home, crossed the highway and the railroad tracks.  And that is when my walk got not-so-quiet.  It seems that everyone else (and their dogs) were out enjoying the weather.  I saw lots and lots of people.  And I practically performed a case study on why anonymity is impossible in a small town.

At #1 on the map, I saw a high school classmate's older sister.  She passed me.  She was jogging.  We exchanged as many pleasantries as one can while being jogged past.

At #2, I was called over by a lady from my Bible Study who was out working in her yard.  We chatted and then her husband pulled into the driveway and joined the conversation.  They wished me a good walk, but not before they made me promise to "tell the folks hello."  (Bill and Betty say hello, Mom and Dad)

In between 2 and 3, I enjoyed a nice view of the river.  Contrary to how it looks on the map, I was not walking in an empty field, I was cutting through a park...

At #3, I was waved down by my grade school principal.  He also had to yell, because I had my rockin' MP3 player cranked up while walking through the park.  I think that was the first time I have been yelled at by a principal.

I then had a nice long stretch of quiet.

At #4, a car stopped right in front of me.  It was my cousin's wife.  She told me all about how her daughter had gone to Wildlife Prairie Park that day.  She was about to show me pictures, but a car came up behind her, and she had to move.  Maybe next time.

At #5, my high school history teacher drove past me.  He is easy to pick out because he has the name of our town on his license plates.

I was nearly home and out of the residential area, so I thought I was clear to not see anyone else, but I was wrong.

At #6, I saw a 4-H mom who is a friend and her son filling up at the gas station.  They got to show off their pretty new truck to me.  They laughed when I told them about my walk so far.

And then I got home.  And laughed some more.

Please note that I did not include all of the exchanges that I made with strangers who were walking, jogging, or biking past me.  Or the people who waved as they drove past in their cars or trucks. I also am not including the people that I knew who were out in their yards but were too far away for conversation.  The list would be much, much longer.

However, I did learn a few things on this particular walk:
A. Point and case as too why I am too embarrassed to jog here.  Too many eyes seeing me look like an uncoordinated idiot.
B. This further alleviates my fear of falling/spraining my ankle/wrecking my bike while in town.  (This is not a far fetched fear, btw.) If one of those things would happen, I have a feeling that it would be less than 2 minutes before someone would stop and help.  And just in case I am unconscious, odds are also good that they will not only be able to tell the authorities who I am, but also where I live, and what my high school GPA was. 
C. Proof that there is a beautiful level of accountability in small town life.  You can't "lose yourself" in the crowd.  You are surrounded by people who care about you and want what is best for you.  And who want to know every detail of your life.  Every stinkin' detail.

All I can say is, Oh-Henry.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

For your listening pleasure

I've said it before, and I'll say it again- I love Noise Trade.  Love, love, love.

But I haven't been visiting it much lately.  Busyness, lack of time to scroll through the possible artists, the excuse that I needed to listen to the music that I already have....

And then I glanced upon an email today...and was tempted to check out new arrivals...and I found free music from:

Jenny and Tyler (Note for Kayla and Steph-this is just part of an album they had on Noisetrade earlier.)

Matt Maher

Jars of Clay (Not one, but 2!))

Sara Groves (an acoustic album!)

 Michael W. Smith

And so much more from lots of indie artists, looking to get their name out there.  I was just shocked to see so many signed, on the radio, popular Christian artists offering music!  Yea!  There might be many more...but this was all I had time to delve into today.  Run your little fingers over to Noisetrade and find some music that you will love, too!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Unexpected Praise

Why is it that unexpected gifts often bring the most joy?

I received these beauties yesterday.

Late last fall, I offered to help a local youth group get started presenting the T3:Teen Timeline Bible Study to their kids.  I was finishing up offering it to my own group, and wanted more kids to experience the Bible in a new way.

I offered to help however I could, and they ended up asking me to come and "facilitate" the program with them.  It was a pleasure, which is why I was surprised when they presented me with flowers and a card at the end of the series yesterday.

Let's get this straight- I love youth ministry.  Giving me flowers is like putting sprinkles on top of an already frosted cupcake.

But they are lovely, and I appreciate them, and knowing the sweet & genuine ladies I was working with, I shouldn't have been surprised.  But I was, which makes them an even better gift.

"The very nature of Joy makes nonsense of our common distinction between having and wanting."
~C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

St. Joseph the Worker

Today is the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, celebrating the man who worked so hard and so well to provide for the Holy Family.
I am going to pray the following novena in celebration, and for the petition of doing the work before me with the spirit of St. Joseph, as well as for God's guidance in discerning the work of my future.  A novena is just a fancy name for nine days of intentional prayer for a specific topic.  It actually doesn't even have to be nine days.  It could be fifty four.  But it is is still called a Novena.  Feel free to join me if you like.

Joseph, by the work of your hands and the sweat of your brow, you supported Jesus and Mary, and had the Son of God as your fellow worker. Teach me to work as you did, with patience and perseverance, for God and for those whom God has given me to support. Teach me to see in my fellow workers the Christ who desires to be in them, that I may always be charitable and forbearing towards all. Grant me to look upon work with the eyes of faith, so that I shall recognize in it my share in God's own creative activity and in Christ's work of our redemption, and so take pride in it. When it is pleasant and productive, remind me to give thanks to God for it. And when it is burdensome, teach me to offer it to God, in reparation for my sins and the sins of the world.

Novena Prayer

O good father Joseph! I beg you, by all your sufferings, sorrows and joys, to obtain for me what I ask.

(Here name your petition).

Obtain for all those who have asked my prayers, everything that is useful to them in the plan of God. Be near to me in my last moments, that I may eternally sing the praises of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Amen.

(Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be)