Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

"The angel said to the women, 'Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: 'He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee There you will see him.'
-Matthew 28:5-7

Thank You to everyone who's been following along on our Lent Journey! We have all greatly enjoyed sharing our thoughts, experiences and reflections with you all. While the 40 days of lent are up and we can joyously celebrate the Easter Season, it doesn't mean we stop discovering and deepening our relationship with Christ. This is only one step forward on our lifelong walk with Him.

Today, we're finishing the blog the same way we started it - with pictures of the YASCers celebrating Easter around the world!

{Becky Gleason and Claire Harkey attended Easter service at Iglesia Episcopal Espiritu Santo in Tela, Honduras.}

{Easter Egg hunt in front of the Cathedral after service in Santiago City, Philippines.} 

{Charlotte File attended services at St. Andrew's in Kiyosoto, Japan.}

"O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son 
was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him 
the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, 
one God, for ever and ever.
-Book of Common Prayer, page 283

{The cathedral in South Korea held an egg decorating contest. The English mission kids
 decorated our eggs with flags representing all the nationalities in our congregation.}

{The church in Dodoma, Tanzania, where Heidi Galagan attended service,
 is lit for the beautiful Easter Season.}

{Kids receiving communion on Easter Sunday at St. Andrew's in Kiyosoto, Japan}

"Rejoice now, heavenly hosts and choirs of angels, and let your trumpets shout 
Salvation for the victory of our Mighty King."
-Book of Common Prayer, page 286

{The lighting of the Paschal Candle at Saturday's Easter Vigil in Santiago City,
Philippines where Ashley Cameron attends mass.}

{Carlin Van Schaick and a friend at a potlock following Easter services in South Korea.}

{Claire Harkey and Becky Gleason lighting candles in Tela, Honduras during the 
Easter Vigil service on Saturday night.}

"The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation. 
There is a sound of exultation and victory in the tents of righteous"
-Psalm 118:14-15

{Rachel Carter and Joseph Morin pictured with seminarian, Carlos, attended Easter service at San Cristobal, Panama City, Panama.}

{Easter morning service at The Seoul Anglican Cathedral of Sts. Mary and Nicholas.}

{Nina Boe in Brazil.}

Alleluia! The Lord is Risen!
Alleluia! The Lord is Risen, indeed! Alleluia!

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Day 39: I am Thirsty

"After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfil the scripture), ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit." 
-John 19:38-30

 Jesus was a man who always knew exactly what to say.  He would spend hours preaching to crowds of people and pages and pages of my red line Bible are filled with the crimson words of my NASB translation.  He was not afraid to say exactly what those around him needed to hear, especially when they were searching for another answer.  This is especially true as the story of Holy Week unfolds.  He spent a good deal of time speaking to unwilling ears and telling them who he was.  

My favorite times Jesus speaks are not the long sermons.  It’s not the parables he tells.  Both are absolutely important and full of good things to learn.  I get something new from them every single time I read or hear them, but the heart of what I learn from the Gospels are in Jesus’ shorter interactions with people.  He gains followers simply by asking “What do you seek?”  He healed a lame man by simply saying “Pick up your mat and walk.”  There is power in His words.  Perhaps the most powerful of these words is found at the end of today’s Gospel reading.

“After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, said “I am thirsty.”  A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth.  Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!”  And he bowed His head and gave up His spirit.”  John 19:28-30

There was nothing left for Jesus to say.  He had said all He was there to say and done all He had come to do.  Jesus knew what was coming next and had told everyone what to be ready for.  After enduring the worst things humans can do to each other, he had two things to say.  First of all he asked for a drink.

The Bible is full of thirst.  Thirst for the spirit, thirst of knowledge and just plain thirst.   God poured water on a thirsty land.  Jesus offered the living water so that whoever drank it would never feel thirst.  Could it be that at the end he was simply thirsty?  Knowing what I know about the things that have been recorded about Jesus, I think it is partly true, but there is also a lesson here.  His last request was a statement.  He was thirsty.  This reminds me that even at the end of life, it is important to keep searching.

A few years ago, a patriarch at my church died somewhat unexpectedly.  He kept his illness quiet until just at the end.  That was who he was.  He didn’t want people fussing over him.  In life he had been a caring, quiet man who was always willing to share his story and knowledge with anyone if they asked, and he had lived a remarkable life.  My dad visited him in the hospital at the end.  The only thing he ever says about this meeting was that when he walked into the room, he was laying on the bed reading.  As they conversed, my dad leaned over to look at the book.  It was written in Greek or Hebrew or some other language most people in my home town have merely heard of but don’t understand.  Even at the very end of his life, he was still learning and still seeking something.

The last words Jesus says before his death on the cross are “It is finished!”  While the gospels don’t agree on his last words, this is what John has written.  These words have power.  As I read these words, I was reminded of the final speech Mr. Magorium gives in the movie Mr Magoriums Wonder Emporium:

“When King Lear dies in Act V, do you know what Shakespeare has written? He’s written “He dies.” That’s all, nothing more. No fanfare, no metaphor, no brilliant final words. The culmination of the most influential work of dramatic literature is “He dies.” It takes Shakespeare, a genius, to come up with “He dies.” And yet every time I read those two words, I find myself overwhelmed with dysphoria. And I know it’s only natural to be sad, but not because of the words “He dies,” but because of the life we saw prior to the words. I’ve lived all five of my acts, Mahoney, and I am not asking you to be happy that I must go. I’m only asking that you turn the page, continue reading… and let the next story begin. And if anyone asks what became of me, you relate my life in all its wonder, and end it with a simple and modest “He died.”

It’s as if these words could have come straight from Jesus himself.  The story of Jesus’ death on the cross is filled with emotion.  I am reminded of the story every year, and every year I watch my mom wipe tears from her eyes.  It is a passage I find easier to read silently than out loud for just that reason.  As Mr. Magorium says, we are “overwhelmed with dysphoria.”  We are sad because of the life that is lost.  The life we see unfolding in those four books in the Bible.  We are sad because of the cruelty we inflict on each other.  These are not the things we are asked to remember, though.  That is not what the Easter story is about.

We are asked to turn the page.  We are asked to keep the story going.  As Christians, we have the blessing of this story that we can use to help share who we are.  We can relate His life “in all its wonder.”  Then we can add, “He died on the cross for us.”

“It is finished!”

Heidi Galagan is 28 years old and from the Diocese of Wyoming. She is currently 
teaching at DCT Canon Andrea Mwaka Primary School, International in 
Dodoma, Tanzania where she enjoys teaching Standard 1 and Standard 4.

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Day 38: Humble Yourself

"Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table,* took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus answered, ‘You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ Peter said to him, ‘You will never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.’ Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’ Jesus said to him, ‘One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet,* but is entirely clean. And you* are clean, though not all of you.’ For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’

After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you." 
-John 13:3-15

I didn't grow up in the Episcopal  Church.  I was raised Southern Baptist, and when I first started attending Episcopal services a few years ago, I remember thinking that some things Episcopalians do are a little strange, with the washing of the feet during the Maundy Thursday service being right at the top of the list.  I know it's a very meaningful part of the Lenten season, but you have to admit it's a little weird.  I'm just saying is all.

But peculiarity aside, it is easy to see the symbolic importance of this ritual.  Christ is teaching us about servant leadership.  You know - the last shall be first, anyone who wishes to be great must humble himself - all that jazz.  But this account of Jesus's last evening with his disciples is so much more than that.  It is a beautiful example of love in the form of friendship.

The twelve apostles were the people Jesus knew best in the world.  They were his constant companions, his coworkers, his BFFs.  He loved them like family.  And this image of Christ kneeling and wiping his disciples' feet with the towel tied around his waist - can you think of a more tender and intimate picture of friendship?  What kind of relationship would you have to have with someone in order to do such a humble service for them?

Christians are called to love the whole world, no exceptions.  But we don't see Jesus washing the feet of everyone He meets, and that is significant.  I don't think we're expected to offer quite this level of vulnerability to total strangers or to our enemies.  This type of love is special, reserved for our closest friends.  Christ has given us a beautiful example of how to honor the people who mean the most to us.

It isn't always easy to accept this kind of love either.  Look at Peter, who tries to stop Jesus from washing his feet.  I think that's a very natural reaction.  Christ isn't the only vulnerable one in this picture.  It takes a certain courage to accept this level of intimacy from a friend.  I'm a bit of a control freak (aren't we all?) and I have trouble accepting help at times, but mission service has a certain way of forcing you to humble yourself and admit that you don't have all the answers, you can't do everything alone.  I've had lots of opportunities to ask my South African friends and coworkers for help, and I like to think I'm getting better at it.  Practice makes perfect, and every time someone comes through for me I get a little bit braver, a little more willing to trust the people around me.

Just take a second to imagine what your relationships with those closest to you would look like if both parties were willing to offer and accept this level of intimacy.  Love that tender is a gift from God, and I can't think of any higher (or harder) calling than to love like Christ loved.

Keri Geiger is 27 years old and from the Diocese of Virginia.  She is a registered nurse 
in the United States and is working as the coordinator for
 inpatient services at Hawston Hospice in Hawston, South Africa.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Day 37: The Peeps will Come

"Lord God, whose blessed Son our Savior gave his body to be whipped and his face to be spit upon: Give us grace to accept joyfully the sufferings of the present time, confident of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen." 
-Collect for Wednesday in Holy Week

For the past week, everyday I arrive home at Sungkonghoe University, I get to feeling like I’m all of ten years old. Why? Well, the joy of the Easter promise of course. But not the whole Jesus-Easter-promise. No, no, no. My childlike anxiety is caused by the other Easter promise. The one of Peeps…glorious, fat, yellow, sugary peeps, thanks be to God. In other words, my mother has sent an Easter basket to Korea, and I am desperately awaiting its arrival.

But, in all seriousness, I’m 22 years old and have been living on my own for 5 years now, and my mom has never missed an Easter basket. I hope she knows how much that means. When I was a kid, Easter was my favorite holiday. There was a lot of pain and confusion growing up, and as any child of divorced parents knows, Christmas and like holidays can be complicated. I guess my family wasn’t religious enough for Easter to count as a complicated or sorrowful holiday.

And remember that fake, tacky, plastic Easter grass? I do. I remember one year experiencing an acute feeling of joy when I found the first piece inevitably embedded in the carpet during Holy Week. It meant mom had pulled down the basket and the peeps were on their final march to my belly.

No matter what the situation. No matter the stress, the loss, or the terrible fights that would pass between my mom and me. The Peeps would come, like a bright sprinkle covered ray of sunshine. More often than not, they would not arrive into a perfect household. The Peeps, throughout the years marched through death, divorce, depression, and now, thousands of miles. They never solved problems, but when the world feels like it has been pulled out from underneath you, the smallest consistency becomes very dear. And perhaps the best thing about Peeps is that they are always the same. They taste the exact same way now as they did when I was 9.

{*Nota Bene : I wrote this reflection on the train to work this morning. 
When I arrived home this evening, I discovered the Peeps had successfully completed their journey to Asia.}

And the way I have come to love Peeps, is so much like the way I love the Jesus that is presented to us during Holy Week. The Readings for today come passion and during this time, Jesus and his disciples will be thrown into the midst of despair. In the period of just a few days they will experience the betrayal of a friend, the death of a teacher, persecution by the government, self-doubt, the death of a son, a complete change in their world order, and even in case of Jesus, his own death. And it is a painful death; one that even he is his wisdom is scared of.

Take a moment, as lent closes to remember the pain in your own life. Reflect on those moments when it felt like God had abandoned you. And then try reflecting on the last days of Jesus’ life. Jesus is not outside of or above human suffering. He experiences it all with us. When his friend dies, he weeps. And he does not offer any explanation. He does not step away and explain that it is a blessing in disguise. He does not believe that it will simply get better. Jesus manufactures no coping mechanism for his disciples.

But He remains with them. Constantly.

There is misery in life. We feel it. And we are reminded of some of it’s forms throughout Holy Week. But Jesus is there with us in our sufferings. Understanding what we feel. He does not magically remove our pain, or reveal God’s plan. But he walks with us.

And likewise, the Peeps will come. They are constant and assured. They do not cure anything but they are a part of it all. Every year. No matter what. Their round and empathetic presence reminding me of the promise of next year and the hardship overcome in past years.

Dear God, this year, when we gaze upon Peeps, a wonder of Your creation, help us to remember that there is constancy. Help us to feel the promise Jesus made to be with us in all things human. Open our hearts to you may share with us in the sorrows that bear no expression in words, but can only be felt in the human heart.

Carlin Van Schaik is a 22 year old from the Diocese of Northwest Texas. 
She is currently serving in Seoul, South Korea teaching English 
and providing support for several social welfare organizations. 

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Day 36: Do Not Be Afraid

"And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching." 
-Mark 11:18

“For they were afraid of him.”

The leaders of the time were afraid of Christ Jesus. Their fear of losing power, fear of losing their followers, fear of change, fear of the unknown guided them to crucify God’s only son – to kill him.  Fear clouded all their judgment and pushed them off the cliff to murder.

They could have stopped and listened to the Good News of Christ. They should have paused to see who Jesus really was. They would have if fear hadn’t stood in their way.

We’ve all heard the saying, “shoulda, woulda, coulda.”

Now I’m sure they justified their actions to themselves and their peers. We can all find reasons or excuses whether they be legitimate or not.  We’ve all been afraid. We’ve all let fear at one point or another stop us from experiencing an adventure, saying ‘I love you’, opening up to one another, to seeing the world.

I could be at home right now telling people, “I could’ve done this amazing year in the Philippines assisting entrepreneurs grow their business, experiencing a new culture, and learning what life is all about, but I was afraid of this, this, and that and passed on the opportunity. I was afraid of the what ifs and unknowns.”

Life is full of unknowns – one being the unknown of when we will die. But Jesus through his resurrection has shown us that there is eternal life. “Everyone who lives and trusts in me will never die.”

Fortunately, I trusted in God. I found him by my side feeding me courage to pack up and travel halfway across the world to have an experience of a lifetime – to live fully. Jesus, also, found courage and power with God at his side to say, “I am the resurrection and I am life.” With God by his side he looked fear in the eye and said I am not afraid.

How many times in the Bible do we come across, “do not be afraid.” Fear holds us hostage from the possibilities, opportunities, connections, love, relationships, and experiences that God desires us to be a part of so we can share the incredible news, to come and see.

“For you, Lord are my hope: you are my confidence, O God,” proclaims Psalm 71 in today’s readings. When we are not afraid, we can hope. When we are not afraid, with confidence God can walk with us out of darkness and into the light of the world. When we are not afraid we can be more open to forgiveness, connection, love, and life.

For God asks us to not be afraid and we should respond, I am not.

Ashley Cameron is 23 years old and from the Diocese of Virginia. 
She greatly enjoys assisting farmers and small entrepreneurs grow their business through 
micro-loans by serving at the Episcopal Development Foundation 
of St. Mark's in the Episcopal Diocese of Santiago, Philippines.

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Day 35: Let Us Run

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us…” 
-Hebrew 12:1-2

One month ago, I flew home from Hong Kong to be with my father as he battles advanced, non-operable lung cancer. After twenty hours in the air and a drive across Dallas, I tore through the hospital like a magnet to his bedside, flung open the door to his room and pushed past the friends gathered, to hug him for the first time in over half a year.

I sat there and wept. Then wept some more.

Always the perfect gentleman, my father asked if I’d like to eat the salmon he had ordered himself for dinner. Without thinking, I, in front of the multitude of friends and family present, retorted in my most exasperated tone, “Dad, I still don’t eat salmon.

Five words. Those words are the ones I chose to say to the most caring father imaginable. To my beloved father who was loaded up on more painkillers than I could count and attached to an oxygen tube and heart monitor. Those words still feel like a punch to the gut when I remember them. How could I have been so selfish in that moment? Why could I not exercise control over my words? How did that even happen?

Upon first reflection, I hated that an assembly of witnesses, both family and friends, had overheard me being such a brat. In the end, it was those gathered who ended up exonerating me.

My father’s best friend, a priest who had flown in from North Carolina, laughed at me later, telling me to think about how refreshing it was to be able to maintain a “normal” daughter-father relationship at this time. She told me, in the way only a Southern woman can – with a kindly tone and a spine of steel - to get over my mistake and focus on helping him now.

So here I am.

One month later, I’ve only just begun this (hopefully) long and (definitely) difficult race. I have no idea what the future will look like. For the race that is set before me, I’ve learned to set aside the memories of the times I could have acted better. I need to keep on running.

Katie Webb is 23 years old and from the Diocese of Dallas. 
Not only has she served with the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui Archives,
 but also she spent last year working at the Episcopal Church Center as YASC program staff. 

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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Day 34: We will be Reunited

"But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, ‘You know nothing at all! You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.’ He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God." 
-John 11:49-52

I remember when I met all the other YASCers for the first time. We spent a long weekend together in Florida way back in February 2013.  It seems like a long time ago now, but that weekend turned out to be pretty pivotal in my life, and I'm guessing the same is true for all of us.  That was when we learned all the details about the program we're currently serving in, and it was when most of us decided to answer God's call to mission service with a more or less resounding 'yes!'

One of the people whom the Church brought to help teach us about the YASC program was a former YASCer from a few years ago named Robin.  When she talked about her experience in YASC, Robin said something that has stuck with me in all the months since and has particularly been on my mind recently.  She talked about how difficult it was to come home after her YASC year and how the only thing that comforted her was looking forward to the kingdom of heaven.  At the time, I remember thinking she had to be wrong - surely it is harder to leave one's family and friends and home and country for a year than it is to come back to them?  And what does she mean about the kingdom of heaven?

Fast forward 14 months.  Here I am loving every frustrating, exhilarating, swiftly fleeting second of my time in South Africa.  It has been such a privilege to share my nursing knowledge somewhere it is so desperately needed.  It has been awesome to meet my friends and coworkers and to spend time exploring and falling in love with this incredibly diverse and stunning country.  And now I'm realizing that Robin was right.  I believe that leaving South Africa might be one of the hardest things I'll ever do.  You see, when I left my home and my family to come here, I always knew I would come back to them.  But when I leave South Africa, there is no guarantee that I will ever come back.  I hope I will, but let's be realistic, it's a long and expensive flight and life gets busy and even if I do come back for a visit sometime, it won't be the same as living here for a year.  The people I've met here, the patients I serve, the carers I work beside, the friends I share meals with, these people have been my entire life for the past year and I am, quite frankly, freaking out at the thought of leaving them.  I guess you could say I'm feeling like one of the 'dispersed children of God'.

Today's readings are very comforting to me, which might be ironic since the gospel passage, taken in context, is leading directly to the crucifixion, but the message I'm getting right now is one of hope and reassurance.  What sticks out to me from these passages is God's promise that we will be reunited.  He will gather His kingdom from everywhere it is scattered in this huge world, and we all shall be one.  I think that's exactly what Robin was trying to say about the kingdom of heaven all those months ago.  Goodbye is not really goodbye.  We will be together again, me and my family at home and my family abroad and all the YASCers and all their people from all their placements and everyone reading this blog.  God will gather us all together in the end.  That's His promise.

Keri Geiger is 27 years old and from the Diocese of Virginia.  
She is a registered nurse in the United States and is working as 
the coordinator for inpatient services at Hawston Hospice in Hawston, South Africa.

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Friday, April 11, 2014

Day 33: Focus on God

"O Lord, you have enticed me, and I was enticed; you have overpowered me, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughing-stock all day long; everyone mocks me.  For whenever I speak, I must cry out, I must shout, ‘Violence and destruction! For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long.  If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name’, then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.  For I hear many whispering: ‘Terror is all around! Denounce him! Let us denounce him!’ All my close friends are watching for me to stumble. ‘Perhaps he can be enticed, and we can prevail against him, and take our revenge on him.’  But the Lord is with me like a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble, and they will not prevail. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonour will never be forgotten.  O Lord of hosts, you test the righteous, you see the heart and the mind; let me see your retribution upon them, for to you I have committed my cause. 

Sing to the Lord; praise the Lord! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hands of evildoers.
-Jeremiah 20:7-13

We were warned in training for the YASC program that we would have cycles of high points and low points in our attitude and happiness throughout our year. This has certainly been the experience for me—I’ve had two brief breakdowns in my first eight months when I’ve questioned God’s mission for me in Haiti. Fortunately, these have been surrounded by longer stints of happiness and positive vibes. Given that I’ve experienced these ups and downs, it’s no wonder the bi-polar-like passage from Jeremiah was the reading for today that most spoke to me. I certainly don’t compare my low points during my time with YASC to the suffering that Jeremiah is known for having endured, but I can relate to the doubt he has in God and God’s mission for him.

The reading selected for today cuts short a section where Jeremiah is speaking to God after being persecuted by an officer. The selected reading begins with Jeremiah expressing frustration with God, but ends with high praising, “Sing to the Lord; praise the Lord! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hand of evildoers” (20:13). Pretty uplifting, positive stuff. However, Jeremiah’s speech keeps going and ends like this:

Cursed be the day on which I was born! The day when my mother bore me, let it not be blessed! Cursed be the man who brought the news to my father, “'A son is born to you,' making him very glad. Let that man be like the cities that the Lord overthrew without pity; let him hear a cry in the morning and an alarm at noon, because he did not kill me in the womb; so my mother would have been my grave, and her womb forever great. Why did I come out from the womb to see toil and sorrow, and spend my days in shame?” (20:14-18)

Wow, what emotion! I’m not sure I’ve ever read anything that articulates frustration and anger with quite the same force as this passage. For me his words are dramatic and rather disturbing.

It seems to me that Jeremiah’s frustration and anger come through when he focuses on what is wrong in his life and with the people surrounding him. People mocking him, his proclamations of giving up, the whispering people watching for him to fall, being persecuted and placed in the stocks by Pashhur—he certainly has a long list of negatives on which to dwell. His journey as a prophet was riddled with forces working against him, doubting him, and trying to pull him down. When Jeremiah is focusing on these things, he is in outright despair.

But when Jeremiah focuses on the Lord as his warrior, as an army to judge the wicked, as a deliverer of the needy from the hands of evildoers, he sings of hope! And he commits his cause to God.

When we focus on the flaws of our world, the wrongdoings of our fellow humans, and our own personal shortcomings, we become despondent, resentful and angsty. When we focus on God, we see light and are invigorated to follow a righteous path. When we focus on God, we see the Warrior manifest in the virtues of ourselves and others. When we focus on God, we recognize how we are God’s army of peace, messengers of love, and doers of good things.

Alan Yarborough is serving in Cange, Haiti, representing the Diocese of Western North Carolina 
and the Diocese of Upper South Carolina. He's working in economic development
 for Cange and the surrounding area in the Central Plateau.

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Day 32: Call to Mind

"Seek the Lord and his strength :
 O seek his face continually.
Call to mind what wonders he has done :
 his marvellous acts, and the judgements of his mouth,
-Psalm 105:4-5

Have you ever had a moment where you thought God was not listening to you? I know I’ve felt like that. The sad part is sometimes I do give up. I know it’s hard for people to admit that they have given up on God, but everyone has a moment of weakness. In today’s reflection, I look at Psalm 105, where it reminds me that God shows you what wonders he has created.

The moment that you have seen your troubles and ask God “why me,” you tend to forget that maybe there was a reason; you spilled your coffee on you, forgot to pay your parking ticket, or even fell late on paying your bills. The “why me” moments or questions, are actually the answer to why it happens. In the verse 4 it states “seek the lord and his strength” How powerful is that? It is a saying that most of us tend to forget when these “why me” problems happen. For example, I always would turn to God and ask him “why me” when there was a problem, that the only time that I thought I needed him. I didn’t realize until later that I had to seek him and his strength to find an answer.

My nephew helped me started seeking the lord and his strength. When he would come over on Saturdays, I forget my problems because I realized that God’s strength was in my nephew. This is then brought to verse 5 where it states, “Call to mind what wonders he has done, his marvelous acts.” My nephew was the marvelous thing that god created and that was my answer to seeking out the lord. All my “why me” problems went away and I found the answer to those questions.

Your answer to seek the lord is all around us. We are reminded of it when we see the sunrise, play with our dog, spend time with our family, or even just reading a book outside under a tree. We are surrounded by many creations and we must remember that the lord’s strength is when we see his marvelous doings.

Joseph Morin is from the Diocese of West Texas and 
serving in Panama with Iglesia Episcopal San Mateo. 

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Day 31: Renew in Us

"Almighty God, our heavenly Father, renew in us the gifts of your mercy; increase our faith, strengthen our hope, enlighten our understanding, widen our charity, and make us ready to serve you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen." 
-Collect for the Wednesday in the Fifth Week

When reading the collect for today, I couldn’t help but reflect on my time during the Catechumenate at my home church in Indianapolis. Not only was that a time of great spiritual growth for me, but also the beginning of my journey to service with the church.

I believe the sole reason I was brought back to the church was to fulfill each one of those things that are asked in the collect. “Renew in us your gifts of mercy”--being confirmed made me all the more aware of the gifts God has given us. No matter how far astray we are led or lead ourselves, God and his infinite mercy is there to reaccept us if we are willing to put our love and faith in him. “Increase our faith, Enlighten our understanding”--I would be lying if I didn’t say I wanted to be confirmed to satiate a hunger for knowledge of the Church. While that may have been the guiding light for me, the end result was something I never expected, a faith inside me that was awakened that I never knew existed. I now understood what people were talking about when they spoke of their faith and relationship with God. “Widen our charity”--While working towards confirmation, I joined the missions committee on a trip to Haiti. I had never once in my life done anything of the sort and fell in love with not only how I felt after helping others, but seeing what I could bring to those in need. The feeling was something that was addicting and lead to the last of the requests of God “make us ready to serve you”--Today as I sit in my room in Japan, I realize none of this would have ever been possible if I one does not ask God to give us the strength to realize our potential. It makes me believe that when you pray to God “Give me this/that” you will never see the fruits of your labor, but when you ask God “Give me the strength and skills for me to accomplish things in your name.”, now that is something you will see come to fruition. To me, the collect represents the journey of becoming ready to serve YASC.

Charlotte File is 25 years old and from the Diocese of Indianapolis serving the Diocese of 
Yokohama at the Kiyosato Educational Experiment Project in Japan. When she is not shoveling her 
way out of the snow still on the ground, she enjoys eating every new Japanese food she can find. 

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Day 30: Be a Light

"They said to him, ‘Who are you?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Why do I speak to you at all? I have much to say about you and much to condemn; but the one who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.’ They did not understand that he was speaking to them about the Father. So Jesus said, ‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am he,* and that I do nothing on my own, but I speak these things as the Father instructed me.  And the one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him.’ As he was saying these things, many believed in him."  -John 8:25-30

Have you ever really thought about what it would have been like to live in the time of Jesus? Meeting Jesus in a time machine kind of way would be fantastic: go back, ask him all of the nagging theological questions, come back, write a book, immediately be appointed to Fordham’s (my alma mater’s) faculty. But to live in the time of Jesus? That would be terrifying. When I read this passage, I can feel the trepidation, the lack of comprehension, the feeling of “is this guy the real deal?”

Last summer I traveled to Capadocia, Turkey, which was one of the places where early Christianity took root. It is a stunning region, full of crazy rock formations and out-of-this-world food. It also has a UNESCO World Heritage Site that contains some of its cave churches. Visiting was a startling experience. Outside, they were just unassuming cave structures, like the thousands of other structures surrounding them. But inside, they were full of amazing murals depicting the life of Christ. Christians fled to this corner of the world and had to practice their religion in secret---even adding secret exits to many of the churches. If they got caught practicing Christianity, they could be killed. And yet they did it.  

{That's a Church!}

We usually think about God and Jesus and the Resurrection and Ascension through the lens of 2014 years of The Church. The Church has made this faith incredibly socially acceptable. But let’s go back for a minute to those who walked beside Christ, to those who walked just after Christ. They were rebels, they were rule-breakers, they were people who made tremendous personal sacrifice to be with this guy:  this Holy, Blessed, Godly guy. Sure, he had done some awesome miracles and there were tremendous rumors going around about him, but with all of these lingering questions, these doubts, these threats being put out by the government, would you have believed? Would you have dropped everything and followed him? Would you have fought for him?  Would you have worshiped in a cave?

Fortunately for us, we don’t have to answer these questions. But we can talk about how we live our faith: do we hide it under a bushel or do we let it shine like the mountain on top of a hill it is meant to be? Let us be a light to the nations and the city upon a hill.

Julie Burd is 23 and from the Diocese of Pennsylvania. She lives in Leogane, Haiti 
where, when not running away from charging goats, she teach 
English at a nursing school and work in a hospital. 

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Monday, April 7, 2014

Day 29: I Shall Not Want

"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures.
 He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,
for you are with me; your rod and your staff,
they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
-Psalm 23:1-6

This is a verse that I’m sure most of you are very familiar with. It is something we have recited time and time again, and even memorized. But this time that I sat down to look at it, I realized that I’ve never truly meditated and reflected on what it truly means.

When I read it this time, the first line was particularly powerful to me. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” I shall not want – this line is especially relevant in the world that we live in today, and is the line that I want to focus on. We seem to live in a world full of “want” and “desire”, but no matter have much we have find that we are never quite satisfied. We find ourselves wanting more. We want the next upgrade of the iPhone, we want a new car, we want to make more money, we want a bigger house, we want a better job, etc. And that is exactly what I think this verse is advising against this – these types of superficial wants and desires.

Psalm 23 is telling us that we shouldn’t want because the Lord is our shepherd – he will provide for all that we need. In fact, another version of this verse says, “The Lord is my shepherd, I have everything I need.” But that’s the thing, and often where the lines get blurry. What do we really need? The problem is, we as human beings tend to have a different idea of what we think we need than what God thinks that we need. Yet not only do we feel that we need these things, but we often have the attitude of “I need it, and I need it now.” But as we have heard time and time again, it is not about what we want, but what God wants. And He is going to do it in his own time, regardless of your current plan.

Ironically, I was reminded of this conflict between “wants” and “needs” this past weekend. I was able to travel to a community in the interior of Panama with a few other people from the diocese, and we were able to learn and observe the culture and way of life. We learned that the community has prevalent health issues as well as a continuous lack of running water. Many of the members are self-reliant and produce and grow their own food, and have just enough to provide for their own family. Yet, despite all obstacles, they are some of the happiest and loving people I have ever met. As a community as a whole, they live a joyful and satisfied life. One woman that I met said, “I am a woman of little money, but I do have a lot of good friends. For that, I am always thankful. I have what I need.”

Meanwhile, I (and I assume many of you) come from a culture that seems to feel that what we “need” is to have constant access to the world of technology, whether it be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, the TV, or whatever else. But that’s just it – we don’t need them to survive, we don’t need them to be happy. These types of wants actually seem to do more damage by creating a distraction from what is actually important. God created us to be present, to be part of a community that loves and supports one another. He doesn’t want us to be preoccupied by our wants, but to be satisfied by what we have. Because He is our Shepherd, we have everything that we need. And although this is hard to accept at times, that we don’t actually need all the things that we think that we need, God is asking us to accept it because He knows what’s good for us and He ultimately knows what we need.

Now, I’m not saying that you need to immediately drop any idea of what you want, sell all of your TVs and electronic devices, and move to a smaller house - I am simply saying that we should daily take steps closer to help us be present. We should consciously be aware of our desires and that maybe they aren’t what is most important, and to trust that the Lord will provide. Because the Lord is our shepherd, we have everything that we need.

Rachel Carter is 22 years old and from the Diocese of East Carolina. 
She is currently serving in Panama City, Panama. She is teaching 
World History for 9th and 10th grade at St. Christopher's Episcopal School in Panama.

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