Tuesday, September 28, 2010


You can't escape the sun in Omaha. Hmm, back up - you can't escape the sun anywhere, but DEFINITELY not when you're driving into downtown Omaha in the morning or out to the rest of Nebraska in the afternoon. My commute takes me south in the morning and north in the afternoon, so the sun is shining directly on me both ways, but a few excursions have taken me west at sunset, and let's just say that sunglasses don't really help much.

I think I've already mentioned Omaha being a pretty easy city to navigate, and the sun reminds me of that. Just like Oberlin (by the way, I just realized recently that I must have a thing for cities that begin with "O"), there's a north campus and south campus, except that in Omaha these campuses are two distinct parts of the city - North Omaha and South Omaha.

I've been wanting to write about that for a while. And I'm writing it today because today is one of those days where I don't really know entirely what to do. After-school starts next Monday, so things are about to get busier - but I may have done just about everything I can do to get ready for that, for now, and so...now what?

Well, at 5:30, 2 of my housemates and I are going to go to a North Omaha community meeting called "A New Vision for North Omaha" which is being hosted by Empower Omaha, whose meeting I attended a few Saturdays ago (instead of holding up a sign saying "I am a Christian and I don't want to burn a Quran today"). I want to be there not really to say anything, though maybe we will get the chance to introduce ourselves, but just to represent LVC/LSC as a presence in North Omaha, even though not all of us are working on that side of the city. (I'm a case in point.) Even though my housemates and I may only be in Omaha for a year, there have been volunteers before us and there will be more volunteers after us, who will be working for peace with justice, and I think it's important that we make our presence known...so I'm excited.

And right now, even with a case of the mid-afternoon sleepies, there are so many ideas to dream up, there is so much reading to be done and so much to be grateful for.

Hey - what are you doing right now?

PS. Jackie and Kayleigh updated their blogs on Friday, too - Jackie's entry is complete with more Old Market pictures and a cool comparison regarding the pioneers that came through Omaha, and Kayleigh's sentiments, especially in her middle paragraph, are rather similar to mine.
I'll let you figure out which one is which:

Monday, September 20, 2010

Food, thought and just sittin.

I started writing this post a few nights ago....and I'm going to finish it now! :-)

A few nights ago, for our community night, we watched Food, Inc., a very hard-to-watch, important documentary which I would encourage everyone to watch. (If you were moved by An Inconvenient Truth, which now I want to re-watch, this movie was made by some of the same people who made that movie as well.)

Afterwards we had a long conversation about changing the world. The "take-away" message that I was still thinking about a lot the morning after is that it is important to think about how we got to be doing why we're doing. What systems are the organizations, corporations or agencies that we work for built on? In non-profit land, is it a good thing when the numbers of people we're helping eat or pay their bills or get clothes are going up? (Think about it...)

I think education, empowerment and respect are as important as charity.

So that was last week, and today I had a wonderful day at work, planning for the after-school program that I'm going to start running at Grace 3 days a week (starting in October). It was cold and misty and rainy and foggy all weekend, so naturally today it was sunny and hot and then VERY nice tonight. I took a piece of cake, a glass of water and my journal to our porch steps and spent some time just sitting.

I want my still-at-Oberlin Obies to know that life after the madness does exist. Someone who graduated in 2009 told me in May that he felt like he had a fifth year in his head, and I'm feeling that. I had plenty on my mind as I was just sittin'...but still, I was able to BE in the sit. And it didn't feel bad. For once, the "I should be doing something" feeling was under control...because I was doing something. I was sitting on my porch eating cake.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Figuring out a few things, maybe?

Hello dear readers. Thank you for reading - it means a lot to me!

Tomorrow it will have been a month since I got to LVC orientation in St. Paul, and what a full and wonderful month it has been. I am incredibly lucky and think about how blessed I am every day.

I think I might actually be on the way to establishing some kind of a schedule, maybe! St. Luke's pastor takes Monday off and Grace's takes Friday off, so I know that Monday is a better day for me to be at Grace and Friday is a better day for me to be at St. Luke's. I've known that since day 1, but now that I'm starting to understand a little bit better than I did before what the rhythm of a pastor's life is like (and, specifically, I guess, the lives of my two bosses) I know a little better how to plan my time. As I see it now, it feels good to me to know that I'll think about Grace stuff on Monday and St. Luke's stuff on Friday.

But of course...it won't always be as simple as that. Some days it might be better for me to meet with someone from Grace on Friday. In mid-October my other housemate who is working at a church and I will be attending the Nebraska ELCA Synod annual theological conference on a Monday-Wednesday.

So there's schedule, and it's important to remember why. Why am I in Omaha? Why am I doing what I am doing? In the community night that I wrote about earlier, my housemate who led it suggested that we take time to stop on a daily basis and ask ourselves, "What am I doing right now?" This has helped immensely.

As a pastor reminded me, God knows why I'm here, and I do put my trust in that. I do feel driven because in the past week or so I think I have gotten some clues as to at least one reason why, and they are troubling clues, indicative of the power of negative prejudices (racial, classist, age-ist). I definitely don't think I have the solutions - in fact, I would rather not use that word, maybe another one like "actions" or phrase like "next steps" (because I have learned that conflict of all kinds is not something that is ever going to go away). I think we at Grace do have whatever we have, and we at St. Luke's do, and we in Omaha do, and we at Oberlin do, and we in Chevy Chase, MD, do, and...

PS. Two fun facts about Omaha you may not have known:
a) There are hills here! Some parts of neighborhoods have reminded me of San Francisco.
b) The grasshoppers are big and they jump high!! Maybe they do in MD and OH, too, but NE is the first place I've noticed them - their bodies are almost as wide and long as my thumb.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Sowing seeds! (Or, maybe, part 2 of "simply being")

Yesterday I had a great meeting with a community organizer who has really taken me under her wing since I got here, which has helped me immensely and for which I am very grateful. She got back from Peace Corps in Guatemala 10 months ago, and she told me what someone told her during a tough time there - that you're "either sowing seeds or harvesting fruit."

I am hopeful that there will be some fruit to harvest this year. However, this week I have realized how important it is to not harvest until the fruit is ripe, and that sowing seeds will still be very exciting and rewarding.

This weekend is pretty busy but in a great way! I'm excited that I want to do the same things for my life at home that I do for work. Tomorrow morning at 9 am I'm going to go to an Empower Omaha breakfast and meeting for networking and getting myself educated about the current scene in North O, where I live (I work in South O). Then in the afternoon I'll come down to St. Luke's for youth group, and afterwards probably stick around for the Bicentennial celebration of Mexican independence which is going on this weekend right down the street from St. Luke's, in the heart of South O where many of the businesses are Latin@ owned and operated. There's Spanish everywhere and it's pretty sweet. I think there is going to be food and music and fireworks.

On Sunday, my five LVC housemates and I are being honored at a commissioning service at Trinity Lutheran Church, where one of my housemates works, two blocks away from our house. I think there's going to be a picnic afterwards, and then later that afternoon at least some of us will go to our neighborhood association meeting and picnic. This Sunday is apparently national Rally, Block Party and Eat A Lot of Food Day.

And it also feels like a big weekend because of the anniversary of 9/11 and the strong feelings that are flaring.  I was reminded yesterday, in talking with a friend, that the pastor who wants to burn the Quran (Koran? if someone could help me with the spelling I'd greatly appreciate it) leads a very small church and yet is getting a very very large amount of attention. Thanks, media sensationalism? And a non-sarcastic thank you, everyone who is speaking out publicly in support of being nice to each other. I had a huge impulse all week to write out a sign that said "I am a Christian and I don't want to burn a Koran today" and going downtown with it tomorrow, but I was so happy to find out about the meeting that I'm going to in the morning because that feels more productive to me.

Life is so exciting, my friends! Get out there and enjoy it!

PS. Mad mad props to Oberlin College Religious Life people for the work they are doing this weekend....Heather, Allie, Duane, Hammonds, Greg and I know there are plenty of others!!! I am so proud of you!!!!! Just about a month until I visit :)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The joys and struggles of simply being.

Yesterday I did not leave the house. Well - I take that back. I took a picnic blanket out of my car and sat on our front lawn under a tree for two hours - reading, dozing and talking to one of my best friends from college on the phone. Also, I sat on our back steps with my housemates and our guests for our Labor Day-attempt-to-cook-out (grilling just took a while, but all was still delicious), and then talked to our 5-year old neighbor for a few minutes.

Last Tuesday, we had our first community night. LVC strongly encourages/requires (we commit to it when we sign our letter of commitment which isn't the same thing as our contract but is not wholly unrelated) all of the houses to have a community night once a week, in accordance with the whole "intentional community" thing. Tonight we're having another one, and we'll just go out to dinner and hang out, probably, with maybe some focused discussion. Last week, though, we had dinner and then a focused conversation about focusing on simply being. One of my housemates read a passage from a book, about two people savoring a walk in the countryside, sitting on a wall and talking, and then asked - What makes you busy? What do you not have time to do? and one other question which escapes me at the moment.

Simply being is a tough concept for me, and it's great that I'm being challenged to try it out at work as well as at home. My job right now is to get to know people, and specifically, to LISTEN. And not even necessarily do anything about it - at least, not in the way that I am used to doing things. My goal in the past has been to accomplish - to get this club started, this letter written, this paper written, this action to take.

Apparently, simply being yourself in the universe is a way to accomplish.

My thoughts are with my friends who begin classes at Oberlin today. Being themselves will involve doing tough homework this year (long papers), responsibility in student organizations, and confronting the terrible, awful, horrible, no-good, very bad question, "So, what next?"

I hope they will remember that simply being themselves is a wonderful thing. And that they can email me if they want help remembering that :-) and thinking about what that means. I think I (at least, kind of) get it now.

Pictures! Because I promised!
Our first Friday night on the town - these are my fabulous housemates! Outdoor concert in the parking lot of a popular bar called Slowdown - sponsored by Toyota. Oh, indie music, how thou hast changed...I guess...(not like I'm an expert or anything...)

Downtown farmers' market