The evening star

I was having a conversation with a friend of mine, who referenced a tweet I sent last night as I was preparing to go to sleep, and went off on a tangent describing in more detail what the tweet was talking about. I liked how it came out so much that I thought I’d share it here.

First, the tweet in question:

Trying to sleep but the moonis absolutely breathtaking tonight & I can’t stop looking. Mycamera tries but cannot capture its magnificence.

And now the conversation that ensued:

Aiko: i see. i quiet like your tweet about the moon last night

Me: The moon was spectacular. It was in perfect angle in the sky to shine right through my bedroom window and cast a light upon my pillow. I noticed it after I had already taken my glasses off.

But I could already tell it was no normal full moon. So I put my glasses back on and just sat there for about 10 minutes looking at it. And then I went to get my camera and tried to get a photograph of it, but it just wouldn’t come out properly.

It was unusually bright, and the details of the various craters and “seas” on it were quite prominent. The sky was even a lighter shade of dark blue, if there is such a thing. The roofing on my neighbor’s house was illuminated, and my own bed was almost glowing in the moonlight. It was amazing.

Aiko: sounds really beautiful

Me: So I turned my air conditioner off and opened the window to better let the light in and the breeze cool me. Even the birds seemed more active than usual in the night. It was quite surreal.

I’m not sure if it was due to the fact that there was a lunar eclipse this morning, or because Jupiter was supposedly supposed to appear closer in the night sky around 3am. Perhaps the sun’s light was reflecting differently. But it was a sight to see nonetheless.

Aiko: wish i could have seen that too

I have to admit that I love the night and the peacefulness and tranquility and calm silence that comes with it. There’s nothing like the stillness of a clear night. It’s evenings like that that almost make you want to live in the countryside to fully take in the magnitude of it all. The city and the tall buildings and the lights make it hard to appreciate it in all its fullness.

For some reason it seems to be easier to sense the closeness and reality of God in situations like that, when all the distraction is silenced and you are there alone with all the Creation in quiet reverence of the One who sustains it. There is a sacredness and a holiness to it, in the silence and peacefulness and awe of it all. It is in the quiet stillness that our souls find the peace and restoration it seeks from the One that both terrifies and comforts in the same breath.

And these were the things floating through my mind last night as I lay in my bed, staring at this satellite, orbiting our home 250,000 miles away.

Peace be with you.

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Of audio, salad, dollars, prayer, and communication, or (today was a good day)

Woke up early and went to church to setup sound. It was just me and Mike for a great while, but everything was setup on time and worked well. Church was long as always. 3 gatherings over the course of 8 hours with setup and breakdown. Everyone seemed a bit fatigued all day. Or maybe it was just me and my brain processing everything slowly. Nevertheless, all worked well. Sound had no major issues. It was all smooth. We had a special guest performer, The Prisona, for Connexion and Sanctuary. He was pretty good.

After church I couldn’t find anyone to go to lunch with, so I went to Stop & Shop to purchase some grocery for my consumption. I wanted a salad with grilled chicken. So I purchased the ingredients for my concoction and made my way out. On my returning of the cart to the proper cart-holding receptacle, I was approached by a man with a limp. Yes, someone asking for money. If this were to happen several months back I would have simply said I had nothing and went about my business. But as of late I have been convicted within to reach out and help those in need, no matter what the need is. It’s not my concern what he will do with the money. It was obvious he was “down on his luck” and could possibly use the money. I would normally reach for the pocket that holds my loose change, but instead, for some reason, I reached for the other pocket where I keep dollar bills. I grabbed a bunch and handed them over. Honestly, I can spare 4 or 5 dollars… And he broke down and started crying. He told me of his struggles and that he was recently hit by a car not a hundred yards from where we were standing. Both of his legs, subsequently, were damaged and he can barely walk without the use of a cane. He spoke of how he hates having to beg for money, but he is no longer able to work because he can’t get around. He told me of how he used to work and earn his money, but now he has no idea where his next dollar or meal will come from. And he told me of how the State keeps telling him to hold on and delays the Government-aide. And he kept saying that he doesn’t understand how his life got into this situation so quickly. I offered to pray with him and he accepted and we prayed in the middle of the Stop & Shop parking lot. And I walked with him a little more as he told his story, and then he said he was going to get a slice of pizza with the few dollars I had to give him. He kept saying, “thank you,” and he hobbled away.

It’s amazing how something as small as a few dollars and a prayer can have such a profound impact on a life. It really was nothing on my end. But to him it was the world. And that is what we are really called to do. To love. Simply and purely. To show love. To displace the current living hell that our brothers and sisters of humanity are sufferng here and now and to bring forth the invasion of the Kingdom of God into that dark place. Putting it plain and simple, to bring heaven to earth, making the teachings of Jesus real and relevant to a world dying and in need right now. It is the decent thing to do, simply as human beings. It is the right thing to do. It is the godly thing to do. It’s like Morgan Freeman said in the recent Evan Almighty, “How do you change the world? One act of random kindness…” People always wonder how to accomplish God’s will in their life. How do you really advance his Kingdom? How do you live a life that Jesus said we should live? Maybe it’s a simple as giving a guy a dollar and praying for his knees.

In other news, I must say that I simply love the Internet. I met a new friend a few days ago, named Ai. She lives in Tokyo. Yes, the Tokyo. We have been conversing via Twitter, but today finally got to speak via IM. It’s amazing what the Internet allows us to do. The world is now so small that thousands upon thousands of miles of distance are completely eliminated through these fiber lines spanning the globe, connecting those who would never have met before into real-time conversation and communication via text, audio, and even video. So very cool.

And now it is 2am, and my day has come to a close. I sleep, for I must be at work at 7. I foresee me being quite tired in the AM.

Fare thee well, and may peace be with you.

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The E-town Mission Blog

It’s been over a week that I’ve been back. I apologize for the serious lack of updating the past two weeks. I actually feel pretty bad about it. Well, I’m going to make the effort to resume posting something daily or bi-daily henceforth. And warning, this post will be long….

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1750mi. 8 states. 7 days.

Well, the E-town Mission was awesome. I really enjoyed it. We left, actually, during our church’s 10-year anniversary service. I felt kind of bad, initially, doing it because it means I wasn’t able to be there to clean and break down. I had to find people to cover all aspects of it in my absence. Well, from what I heard it all went good, so shoutout to Carly, Sam, and Phil for handling it all quite nicely.

DrivingWe drove down there making only a few stops for food and lavatory. I think the total trip, including stops, took about 13 – 14 hours. I drove the whole way to Cherokee, NC. I’ll admit the last 2 or so hours were rough. I almost fell asleep a few times. Manny was there to keep me awake, and when he saw me veering off the road, he’d be pretty quick in asking a question or something. I suppose he wasn’t in the mood to get in an accident and die.

WowAnyway, we made it there around 2:30/3am and all passed out of exhaustion promptly. The next day was filled with cultural learnings of Cherokee for make benefit glorious group of The Bridge. We went on a hike up this amazing waterfall. It was really cool. And even better was that our entire team made it to the top together. Very motivating and unity-building. I have to give special shoutout to Janelle here because, as I mentioned in a previous post, I lost my mind and left my $1000 HV20 a the base of the falls while we were sclaing the mountain. I completely forgot it was there. And Janelle ran back down to rescue the camera from certain doom, as there were significant numbers of people passing by the bridge while we were up the falls. Afterwards we went to a tourist Indian Village. It’s a replica of how the Cherokee lived 200 years ago so we would be able to learn their culture and struggle and ideas and beliefs. It was pretty eye-opening. We learned a lot about these people that we would be serving in the next week.

SpacklingTuesday began the work week. We were split into two crews, one being named A and the other B. I was assigned to Crew A. We were sent to a house not-too-far from our sleeping quarters in order to do some maintenance inside. Apparently the ceilings of this house were damaged in some heavy rains of recent weeks. There were water stains all over the place. And the roof even caved in in one room. Most of the crew was assigned to sealing and repainting the ceiling and the porch. I was sent with Sarah to the caved-in roof. We were to cut it out, install a new one, spackle it, and then create a faux popcorn ceiling design to match the rest of the house. While on the subject, I must make it public that I loathe popcorn ceilings. Passionately. The entire time we were painting it, pieces would fall down on top of us and make a mess everywhere. It seemed more paint fell to the floor than stayed on the roof. But I digress. Sarah and I spent the majority of the work-time on top of a ladder making repairs to the roof and and learning the in’s and out’s of spackle. I do believe we got pretty good at it by the end of the trip. The later parts of the ceiling did come out much nicer than the former.

Emergency repairWhile we were there we had an unexpected addition to out work. It seems that the crew that was there they year before us and re-shingled the roof did a poor job of it. There was a monsterous raining while we were working and the roof began to leak pretty badly, and, lo, the ceiling in the living room collapesed while we were working alongside it. We had to run quickly, as water was pouring in the house, to cover the roof. Luckily Brandon, a worker from the organization we were there with, showed up that very instant and just happend to have a massive tarp with him. We scaled the roof and convered, practically, the entire thing as to prevent any more rain from entering the building. And so, our work there was extended another day because we had to put another new ceiling in and try to match it to the existing popcorn ceiling. It was a lot of work, but it was really fun to do. The team worked together amazingly. There were no fights the entire week. The level of teamwork and unity was astounding. Everyone did their share and helped out with whatever was needed. Sarah was our Crew Leader and did a great job motivating and encouraging and leading everyone to accomplish our goals. And I guess I should apologize for dumping copious amounts of water into her lap while on the ladder. It was completely accidental… 🙂 But the work was great. I’ve known Sarah for at least a dozen years or more and it was fun to be able to work right along side her all week. Much laughing and fun. She’s good people.

From what I hear, the other crew did an amazing job as well. They painted the complete exterior of a house… in the rain. They also completely cleaned the gym we were staying in – floors, walls, backboards, bathrooms, showers… everything. And they did an amazing job.

Crew AThe entire work portion of the trip was quite inspirational. At the beginning of the trip, the woman who owned the house we were working in was quite distant to us. She wouldn’t really say anything. She stayed in her room the entire time. By the end of the trip she would hang out with us while we were working. She was talking to us. She was sharing her life. She told us of her pain and struggles. Both her and her adopted son are very sick with pretty serious illnesses. We really felt for them. And she showed emotion… completely opposite of the start of the trip. Our simple acts of painting and spackling broke down the walls and barriers and really helped us connect and show love to a soul who needed it. In the end she let us pray for her and take a picture, which I need to process and send over to her. It was a great experience.

PlasticThe ministry time was great as well. Every night we gathered before bed to discuss our day and how we saw God moving in and through us. We spoke of lessons learned and what was on our minds and hearts. There were times of worship and prayer every night. I have to confess that I may have passed out during worship a once or twice throughout the week because I was so tired. But it was still good. One night I ended up talking to Jenn until 3am. I love talking to Jenn. We understand each other. We’re both thrust into this position of leadership, and yet are still trying to figure out what that exactly means and how we do it properly. We share many of the same fears and doubts and strenghts and hopes at the same time. It’s comforting to know that you’re not alone out there in your role and your thoughts… that you have friends who are going through the same things, and the fact that you can just sit and talk and share what’s on your mind and heart with someone who completely understands is an amazing thing.

Group shotAfter the work section was done, we drove from North Carolina to Virgina and stayed in a hotel in Richmond (beds had never felt so good). We went to King’s Dominion on Friday and spent the day in the amusement park. It was pretty nice. I got to spend the day with Michael, Romulo, Janelle, Ali, and Manny. I admit that I’m not too big a fan of amusement parks. They just don’t do it for me. I’m not really a ride person. But I went on all the roller coasters (that’s all we went to) with everyone for the simple fact that I wanted to hang out with them. I need more hang out time with friends. The glow of the computer screen, as pretty as it is with OS X on it, doesn’t compare with actual human contact. Anyway… It was a pretty good day. Quite enjoyable. After the park, we went to Cracker Barrel (thank God it wasn’t fast food again) and then into Maryland where we stayed at Janelle’s friend‘s house for the night. Thanks to the Wolff family for allowing a bunch of strangers to crash in their basement for an evening. You are braver folk than I.

Abraham LincolnOn Saturday we spent the day in Washington DC. We went to the Spy Museum. It was ok, but I wasn’t too impressed. Perhaps this is due to the fact that there were about 100,000 people crammed in there like sardines. Ok, I exaggerate, but it felt like that. Then we drove around DC a bit and ended up at the Lincoln Memorial. I loved it. Lincoln, in my opinion, is the greatest President we’ve ever had. I love his story, and so this monument was right up my alley. We spent an hour or two there and then headed back home to NJ to complete our voyange.

I forgot how much fun road trips were. This is the first one we’ve done with The Bridge and I hope we can do many more in the future. I’m sure there are more stories to share. If I think of them perhaps I will post appendix posts to this one. But it is 2am and I am tired and need to sleep for work starts at 7. And so I bid you adew. Fare thee well, and may peace be with you.

If you have questions or want more, please comment me and I will share in greater detail. If you went on the trip and have a story, I’d love to hear it, also in a comment.

You can see hundreds of pictures of the E-town Mission on my Flickr account.

At the National Archives

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Under the indigo sky, just breathe

i’m tired of running for the train
tired of these streets and days
tired of the go go go
money on my brain
i see myself piece by piece…
slipping away .
tired of the have-to-have parade
daunting is the task of getting ahead
look out for number one, then back to your shell

separation is our expense

there’s an urgency to breathe
there’s an urgency
to be …

under an indigo sky

met by a beautiful rain

over the simplest of terms
we will converse
with a new frame of mind

our heads are clear now

and our hands are untied

we’re free to roam …

in the indigo .

accumulate more or want less
the question i pose is heavy on my mind

simplicity is my necessity at hand

so take me to where i can be

where i can be

under an indigo sky

met by a beautiful rain

over the simplest of terms

we will converse

with a new frame of mind

our heads are clear now
and our hands are untied
we’re free to roam …

in the indigo .

words & music by amy seeley

There has been much weighing heavy on my mind and soul as of late. So many things trying to push in one direction or another. So many choices and opportunities and risks. So many frustrations and questions. Life can be hard. In fact, life will always be hard. The world is functioning and flowing at a pace that can drive anyone mad. Society holds unrealistic expectations of all within its grasp to perform and perform and perform. This, coupled with internal turmoil, whether it be your own or in the shared pain of a friend, can seem altogether unbearable and destroy one’s self from the inside out.

I have found solice in this song in recent times as I face the natural, and some unnatural, pressures of this world. The way it speaks of the pain and frustration and pressure on all of us and the losing of one’s self to the madness of the chaos that surrounds is all too real. And the solution… to simplify. To escape the deafening noise and to embrace the simplest of terms. To enjoy the seemingly mundane things all around us that speak to us and reconnect us with the reality of who we are and what it means to be human. To embrace the truth all around us. To be free… clear heads and untied hands. It is the plight of us all, isn’t it? The words of the bridge are so profound. There is an urgency to BREATHE. Ruah. Nooma. To reconnect our souls with the source of peace. To find shalom. Healing. Restoration. We need it. I need it. And so I seek solice in the simplicities of my existence and my own humanity and the reality of who God is and how it all relates, and I breathe and rest under the indigo sky.

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PostScript Area begin:If you happen to find yourself interested in the breathe link listed above and click on it you will be magically transported via the wonder of hypertext to a YouTube video that contains a preview of a larger video aptly entitled, “Breathe.” Now, you may watch the 2 minute preview video if you are so inclined, but may I suggest, if you trust me that is, to foregos the watching of the YouTube preview and make your way over to Nooma.com and purchase Nooma #014 “Breathe.” Don’t ask questions. Don’t hesitate. Don’t even watch the preview if you can resist. Just buy it. It’s that good. It is a 15 minute video that has changed my life and my perspective on a great many things. You shan’t be disappointed. In fact, if you truly understand and listen to the video, you will be blown away by the reality of it all and you will never look at your life, or breath for that matter, in the same way.

PostScript Area the second begin:And as for this song, Indigo Sky by Amy Seeley… I want you to find the peace your soul craves as well. And so I offer this incentive. Comment this blog post and let me know why your soul is in disrepair and in need of shalom. For the first 10 people who do so, I will gift you this song via iTunes. This is not the album version but the EP one, which is my personal favorite between the two. The words are powerful. The music transcending. And Amy’s voice is soothing. This, especially coupled with the Breathe video if you choose to go that route, I think, may help you find what you are looking for. Just make sure you put your name and email address in the fields where they are requested so I will know where to send it.Thank you, and may peace be with you.

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Lessons on Leadership with Steve

I found this over at my friend Adam‘s blog.  It’s from the Steve Jobs/Bill Gates interview at the D Coference a few weeks back, and it’s some great lessons in the areas of leadership and also in accomplishing our dreams.  Of course, he’s talking about the computer industry, butI completely relate as this is dead on in the realms of youth ministry as well.

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Pocasts Galore

Ok, I’m finally done. I revamped the back end of our church podcasts completely. I went back and edited down the weeks I missed for various reasons, and I added our final remaining service to our shows. We now have three. (I know I’m out of my mind to take on three separate podcasts every week. I even want to add one more).

I also setup a new webpage as a portal to all the shows to make it convenient for people to access all the content easily. Visit Christ Fellowship Podcasts to get all of our stuff online, every Tuesday, for free.

My life blurbs

Haven’t updated in awhile. Here are some quick blurbs as to what I’ve been up to.

Thursday, June 21:IMG_9288.JPG
Carlos
had a luau fund raiser for his political stuffs. Food was ok. DJ Dino was dancing up a storm and gyrating on the floor. The hula girls were older than my mom. Jenn danced the hula too. She said not to show anyone the video, though. 🙂 We played spades at our table. And then I learned how to play palace… and beat Manny. Arm wrestled Willie and Carlos. Made short work of Willie. Tied Carlos and hurt my wrist in the process. Ended up leaving the place at 1am. I was tired the next day.

Friday, June 22:
Work in the AM. The Bridge in the PM. There were drunk people in front of the Liberty Center. Almost called the police. Had Chinese for dinner. Bridge leader’s meeting at 10. Got home at 1am and fell asleep on the couch. Good times.

Saturday, June 23:IMG_9432.JPG
Woke up at 11 without the aide of alarm clock. Soooooo nice! Took a shower and went to get food from Danny’s place for another luau Carlos was doing for a senior’s complex in Elizabeth. Had to shortly run out and get a second batch of chicken and ribs cause apparently the seniors inhale food faster than teenagers do. They consumed the second portions within 5 minutes. Most of the staff working there was not even able to eat. Well, there was rice leftover. Yum. DJ Dino was back shaking what his mama gave him all over the place. There was a stray cat walking about. I took his picture. He was small and slow-moving. Poor cat. Then went to Carrabba‘s for some food with my family, since I couldn’t eat at the luau. All the way in Green Brook. Ended the night seeing Evan Almighty with Carly and Manny. ‘Twas pretty good. Nothing spectacular, but still enjoyable. Had its definite funny moments and also made me think a bit. Came home and slothed.

Sunday, June 24:
Loooooooooong day. Setup sound system for church at 8:30am. 1st service at 10. 2and at 12:30. 3rd at 2. Then sound system breakdown until 4pm. Drove down the road to the Liberty Center. Got some funky, nasty chicken from the local Spanish/Chinese restaurant (FYI, never get the “Crispy Chicken pieces”… scary). Had a meeting on “First Impressions” and “building design” from 4:30 until 7pm. Then had a Connexion meeting from 7 til 9:30. Got home after 13 hours of church and meetings and passed out of exhaustion.

Monday, June 25:
Woke up at 6:30 for work, surprisingly refreshed. I guess going to bed at 10 will do that. Worked all day. Came home. Video chatted with Samantha. Made some flyers for church. Crashed at 1:30 in the AM.

Tuesday, June 26:couldn't think of anything to put here... so it's just me
Happy birthday Manny. I woke up at 6:45 (to be at work at 7). Walked in to work at 7 on the dot. Inputted data. Had a BPU inspection scheduled and then canceled. Spoke with MetLife Insurance due to my brother’s accident in my car a few weeks back. Worked outside in the sweltering heat all day. Came home only to be sent to the attic to move around stuff in the 110-degree sauna that has naturally occurred up there. Now sitting downstairs in the AC typing this blog and surfing the web and iChatting. About to go shower and then on to Best Buy to buy 1Tb of storage for my computer. Maybe a digital camera. Then must finish a few flyers, create 2 logos (one for church, one for a client), edit down and publish 3 podcasts, and if there is any time left in the day try to get ahead on church 10-year anniversary media…. I think I need a personal assistant.And that is my life the past week. I hope you have enjoyed. I’m sure pictures of everything will be on Flickr at some point.Fare thee well, and may peace be with you.