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owners of the temporary

By | 2011, Europe | No Comments

After two months of moving every four days, adjusting to familiar surroundings at home is both nice and different. The trip was eight weeks of constant motion and it was necessary to learn how to make the temporary ordinary.

One way I adjusted to travelling was to form personal rhythms. Some people allotted an activity they did each morning before breakfast while other people had a bus routine. Everyone’s routine was shaped by their personality and interests. I chose to write in my personal journal often to clarify my thoughts. We creatures of rhythm naturally etched ourselves into some sort of familiarity in order to remain grounded living in flux.

Europe was also a time to start new relationships while strengthening old ones. Foundations were established as relationships formed and we were able to learn something new about those around us. People came alive and into their own on the trip which was exciting to watch.

By learning to take ownership of the temporary elements of our life, meaning is created. As our group learned how to become rooted despite the travelling, we were able to flourish. We anchored ourselves and were free to branch out into new experiences. I for one reflect back on the grounded nature of the Europe trip and am thankful.


Making space on the bike path…

By | 2011, Europe | No Comments

Is there such a thing as a world without entitlement?

I am unsure if this is possible, though I have recently been reminded of the dangers of such an attitude.

We were recently in an affluent town in Switzerland which was unaccustomed to sharing bike paths, feeling entitled. While bike paths may seem at first a simple matter, entitlement is quite another. People who feel the world is obliged to serve them suffer in their interactions with others. Such interactions are void of flexibility and openness to value the other people’s point of view.

I found it interesting that a short distance from this affluent community, was situated a town of people who met your gaze and shared their bike paths. As a visitor for a short time, this second group of people helped me understand the Swiss were able to overcome an entitled worldview. Though, this feeling of entitlement is not just for Switzerland to understand, but people everywhere.

Narrow views of who can be welcomed are found in many places throughout the world. Unfortunately, this includes the church. Jesus encouraged his followers to not be limited by society’s place for them, for in the end the first would be last and the last would be first. Francis of Assisi also desired Christians in his lifetime to adopt a more fluid view of kingdom boundaries.

Our society is built upon human constructs and so often the church integrates these human ideals into its interpretation of the gospel. How would interactions between the church change if entitlement was eliminated in interactions with those different from the norm?

Despite affluent positions in the world, humility can be integrated into worldview. The structures of social institutions are less solid than we realize, but creativity and courage are required to push these boundaries.

So, is it possible to have a world without entitlement? I hope so.


An Olive Tree Grows in Florence

By | 2011, Europe | No Comments

Recently on a side street in Florence my attention was caught by a memorial in the form of an olive tree. The tree stood beside a building which was the site of a bombing in 1993. The plaque at the base of the tree describes how the olive tree was specifically chosen because it symbolizes holiness, good values, generosity and regeneration. Those who erected the memorial in 2004 had a vision to bring healing, a goal very evident in the tree they chose to embody their cause.

This restoration mentality is also evident in the building itself. It has been rebuilt, with a deep obvious scar dividing old and new brickwork. I think the fact that the people chose to keep the damaged part of the building speaks volumes. By choosing to meld the old and new, two pieces incomplete on their own, the people created something new, something whole.

Lessons we can glean from this memorial and the olive tree include the decision to move toward peace rather than seeking revenge. Those who chose the olive tree (and all it represents) as the memorial, chose to remember the past, while choosing a peaceful approach. Passersby are caught by the tree, drawn to read about it, look up at the building scarred from the bombs. These people then walk on, a small seed of reconciliation over revenge planted in their minds.

It helped me to reflect on how I could approach situations of difficulty and difference with an attitude of regeneration, providing healing and hope for relationships and peace.




By | 2010, Asia | No Comments

A week ago I was bicylcing around a temple, gazing into the reflective pools of water and contemplating the history of that ancient place. I now gaze into a Maine stream as it flows beside snow covered banks. I wonder how time moves on so quickly.
Yet, time will move on and as this travel term comes to a close I gather the gems of this trip together for one final look. The Paoay children’s playful spirit as they ran around the church courtyard before their choir practice, skyscrapers without end in Kuala Lumpur and intricately woven family ties in Chiang Mai.

This is where I, we, have been.
And now, where are we going?
We have all been shaped by this journey. I hope that we will all let it change us and continue to, and that we will grow.
Time moves fast, we must take time to reflect, there is a season for everything, everyone is a part of someone else’s movement through this life, let us never forget to grow and change and move together, wherever the waters of time may have us float.


Family Ties

By | 2010, Asia | No Comments

Despite many cultural differences in the countries we have traveled in, there is something about the sense of family which makes these differences disappear for a moment. I hear a father fondly refer to his two young daughters as his “little princesses” and it doesn’t seem like I am across the world at all. Rather, quite the contrary, I feel right at home.

Living within such an extended family here has many new challenges, but most of all I appreciate its vibrant atmosphere. As an only child, having people around all the time has a special new energy and adventure about it. There are sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers, and a grandmother.

One of the ways I have seen the family’s strong ties is through respect. The daughters do as the mother says, out of respect and love. Love makes it so that respecting the mother is natural, rather than an obligation. The same goes with everyone’s respect toward the eldest member of the family, the grandmother.

This family built on love, respect and sharing the value of one another’s unique talents on a daily basis is a refreshing jolt of togetherness and cohesive spirit which is lovely to observe and participate in.

welcome to: (wherever you are)

By | 2010, Asia | No Comments

Traveler is synonymous with pilgrim.

We in the SSU community are pilgrims on a journey. These pilgrims are in Asia and Canada, in the large yellow house and elsewhere. Their journey is emotional, physical, spiritual, educational and adopts other characteristics as it evolves. Pilgrimage looks different for each individual.

Bon Jovi’s song “Welcome to Wherever You Are” includes the line “right here right now, you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be” which helps us to remember to live in the moment rather than hoping for the future or yearning for the past.

Some people on the Asia trip are comparing their experiences to previous travel experiences, other people lack positivity and some people greet you with a hug.  A select few of the pilgrims take the trip how it comes and accept the flaws and strengths.

We all are moving from satisfaction to dissatisfaction and back at different times and varying degrees. Some of us show how we are feeling while others are less expressive. Yet we must never forget everyone experiences the same feelings we do, at some point in time.

The idea that “pilgrimage is whatever happens” came up in group devotion time recently. I find those who enter this journey with an open mind will find gems during their time here. Peace begins within a person. When a person is content with who they are and where they are in life, their inner peace reflects outwardly and is able to bring joy and light to others.

Hopefully as the journey continues, pilgrims both here and at home will open their minds and hearts to new sights and sounds, learning to be uncomfortable and happy at the same time!

Little Treasures: Home and Heart

By | 2010, Asia | No Comments

Being in a new culture, surrounded by new customs and traditions and experiencing new foods and drinks, sounds and languages, elicits many varied emotions in a traveler. Two special little treasures have specifically helped on this journey abroad.

The first of these treasures I came across when I opened a seldom-used tiny pocket of my camera case. Out of the pocket rolled two seashells and one of the smallest pieces of driftwood I have ever seen. Immediately these items brought me back to the rugged coastline region I call home and brought a renewed sense of energy into my day.

Another treasure I encountered recently was the friendly smile and demeanor of a young girl on her way to choir practice. She greeted me warmly and I complimented her pretty curls, showing my own curls to her.

This interaction with her let me glimpse into the heart and soul of the Philippines, all through the eyes of a young girl. The short moment her and I shared touched a cord deep inside me. She showed me some of the beauty and joy within this land.

She reminded me of myself when I was younger. This got me to thinking such questions as: what is her favorite place to spend hours on end exploring? What treasures could she find hidden in a pocket which bring a warm flood of memories and a smile to her face?

This young girl on the steps with the dark brown curly hair, dark blue dress, smile that showed in her eyes, and her hand in the form of a peace sign, she is where we all were at one time: in her childhood. She has yet to lose her innocent nature, her carefree spirit, and I secretly hope she never has to. She also reminded me that travel is so much more than going to a place, seeing the sights, following the tour guide, taking notes, and going about our days and lives. Travel is something meant to go deeper, to engage with one’s surroundings.