Thursday, November 19, 2015

Acapella Thursday

Too much rain today - I had to move inside.  My usual indoor spot in the David Student Union was taken by a Christmas tree in the process of being decorated, so I shared the rotunda area with the ROTC recruiters.  It was a fun lunch because we were treated to a performance by the acapella group University Sounds.  I didn't even know that acapella groups were a thing until I saw the movie, Pitch Perfect, a few years ago.  There are at least 6 groups here at CNU.  One of the Canterbury students brought her lunch and sat in my extra chair, and I decided to pull out my lunch while she was eating hers.  We had barely started munching when the USounds began their three song set.  We had front row seats.  Students lined the walls of the rotunda to listen to the impromptu concert.  The group announced that they have a CD coming out in February.  I love being in a place where at any moment I can hear spontaneous singing!  If I'd been outside, I would have missed it.  At one point today I had four Canterbury students surrounding the prayer station as we listened to the mini-concert.  It felt like I was in the cool place.

My extra chair was full most of the time I was at the prayer station.  Several lengthy conversations
and a few prayer requests.  It's such a privilege to be a companion to students as they grow deeper in their relationships with God. It's getting to that time in the semester when tests, papers, and presentations are piling up.  Stress is building and sleep is hard to come by.  I pray for peace and endurance and patience and strength.  I pray for God to remove fears and give wisdom.  I pray for good humor.  Most of all I pray that students will remember that they are God's beloved children no matter how the grades turn out. 

Last week I didn't get to come to CNU because I was driving to Knoxville on my way to Sewanee for the 25th reunion of the class ahead of mine.  It was such a joy to get to see dear old friends and to join with them in a singalong 25th anniversary celebration of our production of Godspell.  CNU isn't the only place where singing breaks out spontaneously!  Because I went on the trip, I missed being here last Thursday, and it felt like I had been gone a long time.  Tonight is our last regular Canterbury meeting before the end of the semester.  Next Thursday is Thanksgiving, and the Thursday after that we will have dinner at Scott Baker's house.  He is a wonderful cook and treats the students to a home-cooked meal at the end of each semester.  Sustenance to get them through exams. 

So much gratitude for this ministry and the students whom God brings my way.  Especially in a time when most of the news is so disturbing - it's a blessing to spend time with all these young people.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Gum Wall

When Jan and I were in Seattle for the Recovery Ministries of the Episcopal Church Conference, we went to see the famous Gum Wall.  It's located in an alley below the Pike Street Marketplace.  A friend had recommended we see it, and since the Market was closed by the time we got there, we decided to look for this marvel of stickiness.  How grateful I am that we were there in October and not July.  I read that when it's hot the gum gives off a sweet, strong aroma and the pavement becomes sticky.  What surprised me most was the length of the walls on both sides that were covered.  So. Much. Gum.  It's really gross.

When I was a kid I liked to chew gum.  My mother bought my brother and me Trident sugarless gum, but we preferred Bubble Yum, Hubba Bubba, or Bubblicious.  I was also partial to Freshen Up gum, the kind with the liquid gel in the center that squirted flavor into your mouth when you bit down on the little square.  My mom liked to make her gum snap and pop when she chewed it, and I spent years trying to make the same crackling sound that she did.  She was also an expert on blowing bubbles, and with practice, I learned to do that too.  I'm not sure when my enjoyment of gum waned, but I know that I haven't liked chewing it in at least 20 years.  I find that the flavor lasts such a short time, and my jaw gets tired easily from chewing.  Plus, I get bored with it after a few minutes.

My high school drama teacher hated when students chewed gum in her class or onstage.  She would always make them spit it out.  I found a cross stitch pattern that I made for her one year as a Christmas present.  It had a picture of a cow on it and the following poem:
     "A gum-chewing student and a cud-chewing cow;
     Seem quite alike...
     but they're different somehow;
     The difference is clear...
     I see it all now;
     It's the intelligent look
     on the face of the cow."

My teacher loved it and hung it up in her room.  I can't imagine what she would think of the Gum Wall. 

The Gum Wall has been in existence for over 20 years, apparently started by patrons of the Market Theater while waiting in line.  I guess they began sticking their chewed up gum to the wall about the time I stopped chewing it at all.  A couple of days ago an announcement came out that later this month the wall will be scraped clean of the estimated million pieces of gum.  The sugar and chemicals in the gum are eroding the bricks, so a company is being brought in to blast it clean.  We will have been some of the last people to visit it in its current state.  After the gum from the past two decades has been scraped off, people will be allowed to put gum on it again, but I imagine it will take awhile to build back up.

Though I am glad I got to visit the Gum Wall (once), I did not feel a need to add to the strange artwork.  Hard to believe I've gone my whole life without knowing about it.  Seeing it did not entice me to buy a pack of gum.  In fact, it may have made sure that I never chew gum again!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Humans of CNU

Photo by Chris Shea, Humans of CNU
Today, right as I got to the prayer station, a student came up and asked if he could sit down.  He wondered if I was familiar with Humans of New York and said that he was doing Humans of CNU and that he'd like to take a picture of me and talk to me.  I said sure.  He asked me about the prayer station and why I was doing it.  He asked me what I was passionate about and what my hobbies were.  We had a lovely conversation, and he permitted me to say a prayer before he took my picture and went on his way.  I was honored to meet him and to be the subject of one of his posts.  You can see what he posted here

The interview was the beginning of an afternoon of conversations and prayer requests - it might have been the most I've had in one day.  My extra chair was filled most of the time, and people would come up for prayers even while I was conversing with someone else.  One student sat and ate his lunch with me and talked about the worship ministry he helps lead on Wednesday nights.  We mused on how worshiping in a place week after week for years soaks it in prayer.  It can become almost tangible - like a monastic community.  The place where they do their Wednesday night worship is right where I sit for the prayer station.  Pretty cool how all these different ministry groups overlap.
 Another treat of the day was getting to watch a group of male students sing "My Girl" to a giggling, blushing female student and then present her with roses and a t-shirt.  I asked someone what was going on and learned that a fraternity will go with a member who wants to ask someone to go with him to a formal.  They all sing to her a way of asking her to go.  I had seen a similar ritual on other occasions but hadn't known what it meant.  It didn't seem formal enough to be a marriage proposal, but it also didn't seem random.  The singers today did a particularly good job. 

While I was sitting, one of the CNU employees who drives the golf carts/Gators to pick up trash, drove up behind me and walked over to hand me a sprig of bush with a perfect white blossom at the end.  I buried my nose in it and inhaled deeply - can't mistake that fragrance. 
"Do you know what it is?" she asked. 
"I do!" I said.  "It's a gardenia." 
I held it out to my lunch companion and he smelled it as well.  I thanked her, and she hopped back onto her vehicle and drove away.  I have no idea where she found a gardenia on Nov. 5, but I stuck it in my cup holder, and its scent wafted over the prayer station for the rest of the afternoon.

It was labyrinth day again, and I had feared we would be rained out.  A terrible accident with a fatality had blocked I-64 this morning, so it took me over a hour to get down to Newport News.  When I arrived, it was pouring rain.  By the time I set up the prayer station, the rain was mostly over, but I had to wait to see if the Plaza would dry enough to put the labyrinth down.  It did.  More people came to walk it, a couple of whom brought headphones and listened to music while they walked.  What a great idea. 

The young man who had asked me to pray for the people who had stolen his bicycle rode by and told me that a friend had decided to give him his bicycle, so he was back on wheels.  He thanked me for the prayers.  These students blow me away. 

I got to have a nice long chat with a Canterbury student about writing and other fun things and another Canterbury student also came by for a bit.  Today was a day of rich conversations about future plans and prayer and if it's really God's plan when bad things happen to us and how to be present to those whose loved ones have died.  I also got to join United Campus Ministry and the new Lutheran Ministry group for a short evening service in the chapel before meeting with the Episcopal Campus Ministry students.  At the ECM meeting we watched part of Bishop Curry's sermon from his installation and talked about Moses and Prince of Egypt.  It was a most excellent day.

Whenever I'm asked to measure this ministry, I have trouble quantifying it.  Thanks to you, my readers, for being witnesses to the stories that are at the heart of it.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Telling Our Recovery Stories

Last week I went to the Gathering of Recovery Ministries of the Episcopal Church in Seattle.  I will post more about the conference later, but for this post I want to talk about the exercise we did on the first afternoon.  Jan Brown (newly elected VP of RMEC) and Shannon Tucker (current president of RMEC) led a session on "telling our recovery stories."  Shannon moved us by sharing his story of addiction and recovery with vulnerability and honesty and a good sprinkling of humor.  And then Jan asked him to share his story in 5 sentences.  The distilled version was equally as powerful as the longer version had been. 

After Shannon's story, Jan invited those who wanted to give it a try to come forward and share their stories in 5 sentences as a way to introduce themselves to the whole group.  It was also a way to bring many voices into the room, not just those of the presenters.  I was astonished by the courage of those who shared.  One of the goals of the afternoon was to learn a new way to talk about our stories – instead of saying, “Hi, I’m Lauren, I’m a co-dependent/addict/alcoholic,” we were taught to say, “Hi, I’m Lauren, and I’ve been in recovery from co-dependence for 4 ½ years, and what this means for me is …”   Earlier in the morning Becca Stevens had talked about how our stories need to be stories of good news.  Hearing so many stories of recovery was seriously good news to me.  We often hear about how hard it is to recover, and yet it happens all the time.

Try it.  What would your 5 sentence recovery story be?  Don’t opt out – we all need recovery from something.  

Here’s mine:
1.  After a lifetime of exhausting myself striving to please others, I have been in recovery from co-dependence for 4 ½ years. 
2.  I now work part-time as a recovery priest with a non-profit in Williamsburg, Virginia and part-time as a college chaplain. 
3.  Sometimes it seems like I will never be able to let go of all my co-dependent behaviors, but I remind myself that I am a work in progress. 
4.  I am grateful for the health and happiness that I have found on my recovery journey.   
5.  Most of all I am grateful to God for bringing me the help I needed and for putting me in places where I can be of help to others.

Your turn.