Monday, November 29, 2010

'Tis the Season

First of all, I should start by saying that my internet has been sketchy recently, which is why the post is a little late. The internet at the house was not working and over Thanksgiving the internet where I was, was not working but here goes.

Every week at the office, we have devotions as a staff (Clara and I do). This week we talked about relationships, which I thought was rather fitting as we headed into the holiday season. Here are some key points from our conversation: when building relationships it needs to be an even give and take. With both parties contributing and having responsibilities for the good of the friendship. With each piece that we add to the relationship the nicer, better wall it becomes that sometimes is indestructible. However, sometimes life gets in its way, which can cause pain.

Serving Others
Like every other week, this week we also had our house devotion. This particular week we talked about serving others, which I found to be extremely fitting considering it was Thanksgiving week.

"When we help others, it is like we are entertaining angels."

Often we do not yet know this impact of holding the door open for someone and what will become of it.

Like the movie The Holiday (which I happen to be watching as I type this out), one of the main characters enters a new world, then once she steps away from her life she finds an opportunity to help out one of her new neighbors, which becomes a great friendship. Making time to helps a  others get wrapped up in us that we miss the opportunity to serve.

Being Grateful
Thanksgiving is a time to really sit back and take time to think about the gifts that we have been given. Going along with this, I made my housemates make thank you turkeys, identify these things that each of us are thankful for. Here our are turkeys (I am an educator, what can I say...).

Food for thought
I have been thinking a lot about the Holiday's what the holidays truly means. For me, I think that we need to remember the true reason for the season and remember to not get to wrapped up in the commercialism. 

Someone at church on Sunday, a friend of mine said something during the announcement time that I have been thinking about a lot. She said that we need to remember what Christmas is all about. Remember the less fortunate this holiday season. But also remember, that when you go and buy a gift for someone, don't get caught up in how much money you spend and thinking to yourself how great you are. But think about the way that giving makes you feel, the warmth that you feel in your heart and work for that feeling rather than the other.

Now Clara and I are preparing to go to Florida for a conference.
Pretty excited.

I hope that this makes sense, talk to you later.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Talkin' Trash

A Blank Slate

Beginning to write, I spun a yarn in my head of spiritual practice, related it to basketball, and gave witty examples of the fun that is Elgin. Then I scrapped it and started over. Why? Because it was too much, too broad, and no one likes basketball.

I started reading Bill Bryson's Made in America last night. It's a quirky (as only Bryson can be) history of America's version of the English language. The first story Bryson tells is of the first Thanksgiving, which is quite fitting this week. Did you know that the natives that met the Seperatists at their colony spoke English? Well, not fluently, mind you, but the English language in one form or another had been in America for hundreds of years.

I'm telling this story to relate it to the experience of being a BVSer in Elgin. I think our house is pretty darn special, and not because of some new carpet in one bedroom. Our house in the middle of our street has a rich history of volunteers, including a few traditions handed down. Most importantly, through the years there has been wisdom and advice passed down generation to generation on how best to act out the simple, challenging life of a BVSer.

Without the knowledge and effort of past volunteers, we be missing out on so many things:
  • Woodmans: a local grower focused grocer that is also employee-owned. It's a bit far to get to, but the prices are worth it.
  • Attic parties: the attic at the BVS house is quite large. It is also scary. Which makes it perfect for Halloween parties. Pictures forthcoming.
  • Van etiquette: Who knew that parking in a garage eliminates the need for scraping your windshield in the morning? Also, if someone wakes up and decides that they are just too excited for work to contain it, they can start the van early and warm it up for the rest of us!
  • Recycling: Our house has, at times, obsessed over this.
  • Patience: It is always easy to get upset at housemates for being late in the morning. It's better to wake them up yourself! It's easy to get upset at housemates for not washing their dishes. It's better to wash them for them! It's easy to get upset at housemates for talking loudly in the other room. It's better to talk with them! Most of all, it's better to be patient with each other, for patience is a fruit of the spirit (in the NLT, at least. In the NIV it's "forbearance," which makes me think of student loans.
Of course, with any living organism like a house (quiet, you know what I mean) there is room for change and growth depending on the personalities present. I can easily recall many new ideas that have come up since I moved to Elgin.
  • Family Photos: Last year, we took a photo at Christmas time. This year, we are upping the ante. I'm not allowed to give details, but let's just say season's greetings!
  • Composting: This isn't really a new idea, since the house has composted in years past, but it was reinstated this summer. This time around, we're trying not to get in trouble with the authorities. Yes, it's smelly, especially if one of us forgets to take our compost outside in the evening.
That last point brings me to the original topic I had in mind. Trash.

Talkin' Trash

According to the Clean Air Council, the average American is pathetic. More specifically,
  • (s)he produces 4.39 pounds of trash per day and up to 56 tons of trash per year.
  • (s)he throws away 73 plastic bottles every year.
  • My personal favorite, (s)he receives more than 26 pounds of junk mail every year. 
  • During the holidays, (s)he will produce 30 pounds of trash, 25 of which is wrapping paper and packaging. Gross!
Now, average statistics aren't all you need. For example, the average American also will use 60 disposable diapers each year.Obviously, that doesn't make sense. What does make sense is recycling and composting (good segue, Don!) They are easy, and in most places recycling can be picked up by the trash company. Composting can be more involved but is well worth it, especially if you or someone you know gardens. (I mean, if someone you know gardens who lives nearby and wants to pick up your putrid decaying compost. I would not advise mailing the stuff).

In Elgin, you can recycle any of the following:
  • Glass containers
  • Aluminum containers
  • Aluminium containers for the Brits
  • Alumnimum containers for the spelling-impaired
  • Cardboard
  • Paper (even junk mail!)
  • Plastic. Any plastic. Plastic milk jugs. Plastic packaging from electronics. Plastic magazine wrappers. Plastic this. Plastic that. Plastic dog. Plastic cat.
  • Batteries
  • Electronics
  • Anything that looks recyclable
  • Anything you think should be recyclable
  • Anything that ever touched one of the above
  • Jehovah's Witnesses tracts
You can already sense that we recycle a lot. It's true! Add to that the fact that we compost 99% of the food waste we produce, and let it stew for a minute (don't let the compost stew, it smells). We don't produce much "trash" at our house. And all because we have 2 plastic bins: one for recycling and one for composting. It does not take that much effort. 

So I'm pretty proud of our little setup. Anyone interested in taking our compost?


Sunday, November 14, 2010

so, what is this so-called service?

Clara here. 

Brethren Volunteer Service... what exactly does that entail? Not, what is BVS as an organization, but what exactly does being in Brethren Volunteer Service really mean? While many people who I talk to about BVS concentrate on the volunteer part. Not that volunteering for a year isn't significant- it’s an incredible thing to leave our home and our loved ones behind, to move to a new place, and a new job. But to me, one of the most important things about BVS is the service that we complete during our volunteer time. 

In preparation for a breakout session at Powerhouse at Manchester College on "The Treasure of Service", Carol and I have been exploring what it is to serve, how we are called to serve, and how each one of us can serve. 

So, what is the definition of service? 

Service is giving your time, skills, knowledge, or presence to someone in need. To serve requires that one become a servant, a humbling action that puts the needs or comfort of others above one’s own. 

The service that we offer is one rooted in the love of Jesus; Jesus, who loved and cared for everyone; who healed the socially unclean; who stepped out of societal norm and had relationships with those who were hurting, or culturally unacceptable. In his final days, he knelt before his disciples and washed their feet as a symbol of his love and humility to them, and all people. Jesus even had the meekness and grace to serve his peers. 

As Christians, we serve out of a love for him, a love for ourselves, and a love for humanity. It is my hope that each of us would have the strength to serve someone everyday; that we could not only serve the sick, the impoverished, the hungry, but also our peers, and even our enemies. Whether it is to offer a helping hand to a friend, or just holding a door for someone, may we seek the opportunity to to serve. May each one of us have the courage to kneel before the people we respect, and humble ourselves to wash their feet. 

So, while I get to spend my time in BVS living in community, deepening my faith, and traveling around the world for workcamps, I hope that it is my service that will shine out.

Matthew 25

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
   34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
   37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
   40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Friday, November 5, 2010

Bonding Experience

Wow! How is anyone supposed to follow that? Oh well we will see how it goes.

This is Carol now.
Coming to Elgin was not a far trip by any means, I have lived in Northern Illinois for the last nine years, so coming up to Elgin was less than two hours from my house. I grew up in the Church of the Brethren and often times I feel like I live, eat, sleep, and breathe Brethren. When I was thinking about what I wanted to do after college it almost became an internal battle about what the next steps should be. I thought about using my degree, but then I got an email about working with the youth and the young adults of the denomination and I got to travel, that was the selling point and I filled out the application. After accepting the job, I knew that BVS had just fallen into my lap and that was where I needed to be for the next year. So while many of my friends were preparing for Graduation with no idea what came next my mind was at ease, because I already had a job.

Our First House Party  
       There is a tradition that goes back many years that around halloween each year the BVSers host a party. Even though they did not have a party last year we decided that we wanted to try and bring this tradition back. The part that I did not mention was the fact that our attic stays decorated for Halloween year round. What other house has its own guillotine, spider webs, table, chairs, skulls, and candles up year round? This year we decided that we wanted to jazz up the decorations a little. So we got a hold of our friend Patrick, who loves Halloween, for a few extra additions. These included a witch with a light-up magic ball, a person being hung, chopped off heads, and a few other things. So really all we needed to do was decorate a little more some other parts of the house, send out invitations, cook some food, and get all dressed up. As Clara mentioned we already had our costumes, the rest came together rather easily. Then the evening of our party we had several people from work and church that came to our party and I think that everyone had a good time.

A Bonding Moment
Every week as already discussed we have a house devotional. We take turns leading this so this week it was Don's turn to lead us. After reading some scripture he raised the question, "How would you describe the life of a BVSer and what advice would you give them?" Here is what we said:

 Carol - Life is like a boat. Much like the story of Jesus and Peter out on a boat. Jesus then gets out of the boat to walk on the water. Peter gets out of the boat and follows Jesus. Also walking on the water, until he begins to question what is happening. It is then that he begins to sink. We need to remember to stay a float, not questioning the awesomeness of our year. And most importantly for me, don't question the decisions that you have made.
Clara - A BVSer is like the Odyssey. A series of stories with the challenges but as you get over and through them, the next one doesn't seem as bad. Advice - be prepared for anything.
Don - A BVSer is like a person that has been dropped off on a foreign planet. Remember to get out of the ship and discover your surroundings. Don't race back to the ship when you hit a crater.

Doing things a little backwards
So after our celebration, some people at the office all decided that we had not had the full fall experience, we never made it to an apple orchard, did not go to the pumpkin patch, and we did not make it to a corn maze. Major Bummer. So we decided that we need to fix this. However, when we went to make this plan all of these things either had limited hours or were already closed. So what are a group of young adults going to do on an evening in which this is what they have planned and none of it will work out?...Well here is what you do, you go to a grocery store (or two) looking for pumpkins, that are now on sale thanks to Halloween being over and then you take them and carve them. So we had eight people carving 5 pumpkins. It worked out fairly well. In the end we created a Church of the Brethren Pumpkin, a BVS pumkin, a coffee mug with steam pumpkin, and your typical jackolantern. Why you may ask, just so we could eat the delicious seeds. 

Going our seperate ways
We are now reaching the point in which we all have our own things to do. Clara is already at home for her cousins wedding. Don and I leave later tonight for a conference. Sunday Don leaves for another conference and Clara comes back. It will be interesting to go back down to only two in the house next week, with the other always there in spirit. Safe Travels!

Blessings, CAROL