Blogger v. Wordpress

I like change, and it is definitely time for one.  I am have moved my blog to http://rebeccateel.wordpress.com/.  Please visit me there!


My 9.11 Story

All the remembrances and articles about 9.11 make me want to share my own story.  On September 11, 2001, I was a high school senior coasting through my second week of the year at West Springfield High School, just a few miles south of DC.  Everyone in the community had a family member or family friend who worked in DC - that is just the nature of that community.

My first class of the morning finished up just a few minutes before 9:00am.  At my school we had a morning break until 9:25 or so (I can't remember anymore).  Being the major geek that I am, I spent my breaks in the band room, which also happened to be the location of my next class.  The orchestra class had just finished up with a substitute teacher - they had been watching a movie.  As the movie popped out of the player, we watched some of the earliest images of the first of the World Trade Center towers engulfed in smoke.  Literally, as we watched the coverage of the first crash, we watched on the screen as the second plane flew into the other tower (9:02am). Clearly, this was more than an accident, and even the band director sat down and starting watching with us. 

As we got closer to class time, more students started coming in and watching TV.  While everyone normally would have been practicing and goofing off, most people were talking it all in and talking about the news.  The bell rang (9:25am...ish), and we were obviously having an unusual day.  There was no move to begin rehearsing - by then all eyes were glued.  Of course this whole time the giant red bar across the bottom of screen flashed and read, "Breaking News."  And then...it got even stranger. 

I distinctly remember sincere confusion when the news anchor said the program was being interrupted with more breaking news (9:37am).  And I thought, "But this is already breaking news. Is this a joke?  Is she just slow to catch on?"  Images of the Pentagon flashed across the screen.   It actually took me several minutes to realize that something else had happened, and very close to home.  Immediately after the truth sank in and conversation erupted.  People were on their cell phones frantically trying to call parents.  Within minutes land lines and cellphone lines were jammed, and students were literally panicking about their parents who worked at the Pentagon. My friends were using the teacher's phone to try to reach their parents. Some were so overwhelmed that they spent the entire class period in his office. I remember that the school principle made an announcement over the intercom, saying the school secretary would deliver messages from parents, but that lines were too jammed to even attempt making a phone call out of the building.  

There was a lot of stunned silence and crying that day.  I actually didn't have any classes that day after my first period, even though we all went through the motions.  I would learn later that the plane crashed into the Army "side" of the Pentagon (each side is devoted to a different branch of the military).  It was under renovation, so thankfully fewer people were in the building than under normal circumstances. Because of this coincidental project, my dad, who should have been working in the Pentagon, was actually in a temporary office area on another side of town.  Also, the new construction, which was influenced by the Oklahoma City bombings, enhanced the structure and safety of the building in the event of an attack and was almost complete.  We were lucky that the attackers not only chose the emptiest area of the building, but that they chose the area likely to sustain the least damage. 

Schools were closed the next day.

Even though it was a school day, I had the unusual perspective of being a 16-year-old who saw the events unfold live. I am fortunate to not know anyone personally who was injured or killed in the attacks.  But I would also argue that all students, and especially the other teenagers in the DC area, were forever influenced by the events of the day.  

They shaped a generation.


Death by Suburb - Control

To clarfiy on the previous post bashing married couples with 2.5 children, one dog, and a home with a well-manicured lawn, it might be prudent to reiterate the fact that the author of Death by Suburb is not actually targeting suburbs (and neither am I). He is targeting the image of the "perfect" American lifestyle that directly conflicts with many Christian ideals.

In the pursuit of our current way of living, many of us have lost touch with the purpose of life itself. One example of this is control. In the worlds we create for ourselves, we desire orderliness and functionality. We have calendars to control our day, we have calendars to control our diets, we have logs to control our exercise—the list goes on. It is naturally difficult to invite in the holy spirit, the mystery of faith, and our own interaction with an intangible God when it is clearly the opposite of what we strive for in the rest of our lives.

As Goetz points out, "true spirituality is the opposite of control." The irony is that in order to have the perfect spiritual life many of us desire, we have to relinquish control of our lives to God. In order to give up control, we have allow God to speak and work in our lives in unexpected ways. (If we are busy maintaining control, we won't be open to the possibility of the still, small voice of God.) Stillness, prayer, and physical retreat from our worldly surroundings are all ways to begin the long, slow process of giving up control. Eventually, we will come to realize that we have never been in control. Our well-maintained, picture perfect lives are just a facade—covering up something much bigger and much more exciting.


Death by Suburb

I've just started reading David Goetz's new book, Death by Suburb: How to keep the suburbs from killing your soul. I already identify with the author when he verbally rolls his eyes at young mothers in their tank-sized SUVs, criticizes acclaimed schools for their misplaced emphasis on winning instead of learning, and identifies the major problem of neighborhood churches as participation, not soulful communion with God.

When I first moved to Nashville, I was overwhelmed with the sense of "me-ness." Everywhere I went, people seemed remarkably interested in their status among others. People buy huge fancy trucks and SUVs not because they need them for the massive horsepower they are professed to have but because they exhibit status. Of course that sentiment is true in thousands of other ways in this city and all over the country. Nashville is only a sample of the self-centered nature of our society.

The purpose of Goetz's book is not to criticize but to offer solutions. He challenges the reader to take a step back from the toxic air of our surroundings and live deeply in the moment, which he calls, "in the thickness." He encourages us to resist the temptation to follow Jesus by sacrificing more, by committing ourselves more, or by escaping our surroundings. (While these are all valuable disciplines, they are also susceptible to comparison and evaluation by people around us. If we do them out of ego, then they are not truly offerings.) Instead, we should try to be more present in out day-to-say encounters with the world. It is in this thicker life in which we are "alive to God and alive to others."


Small Things: Big Impact

I spent the last weekend with about 55 middle and high schoolers having an amazing time. We were on a church retreat at the local YMCA campsite. Just being around that many students is exciting! I think it's impossible not to feed off of their wild energy. However, if you are an adult, it is impossible to keep up 100% of the time. Througout the weekend, there were some small perks that helped keep me refreshed and renewed. I share these in case you or someone you know spends some extended time with students. These small ideas make a big impact on the lives of adults, allowing us to spend all of our energy on making a big impact on youth.

1. Adult time. We ate most of our meals together as adults. And most of the time, we didn't talk about the students! It was just nice to have some adult conversation.

2. Student time. We spent a lot of time walking the mile or so from one activity to the next. That was the perfect way to let the students goof off, run around, talk, and work out some energy. We spent less time reigning them in because they had more time to be teenagers.

3. Adult treats. One of our chaperones ran out early in the morning to seek the fruit of the gods: Starbucks coffee. He brought back a hot carafe of the liquid gold for the adults on our last morning. Caffeine never tasted so good. The thoughtfulness of the gesture was also something special!

4. Freedom. This retreat offered a lot of ways to be flexible and go along with the mood or vibe of the students. This allowed the adults to goof off, play games, talk, or do whatever was best to create an open and safe environment for relationship-building and honest conversation. That freedom also helped us address any issues that came up along with the way-without being micromanaged. Common sense goes a long way!

5. Reasonable wake-up and lights-out times. 'Nuff said.


Spring Has Sprung!

Bountiful spring CSA box.

Tomatoes! Grow, babies, Grow!

Our cute little tent on its inaugural trip.

Beautiful view.

Happy campers!

Happy Canine.

If you look closely you'll see her leash's loose ends tied in a knot. She was so excited that she chewed through the leash in the first ten minutes at the campsite. Thank goodness for the screwdriver and hammer in the car that helped me take the whole thing apart and reassemble it - DRAMA!


Life Under a Rock

For the past couple of months I have been on an unintentional anti-news phase. I don't listen to NPR in the car, I definitely don't read more than one news article a week, and I don't watch any news programs on TV. It leaves me uninformed, illiterate about current events and . . . refreshed. Something about unplugging from faraway places means that I am left to focus more intentionally on my own life. I am more aware of my surroundings, more in tune with my thoughts and I feel closer to God.

There is one school of thought that says that any smart, educated young person needs to be knowledgeable and articulate about the goings-on in the world. And yet there is a part of me that realizes that when I spend too much time focused on issues and concerns outside of my small life, I become disconnected from myself.

I may have been the last person in the world to learn that Joplin, MO is recovering from the horrible aftermath of the deadliest tornado in decades. I don't have a clue what the White House or Congress is dealing with this week. And I don't even know if my old favorite news anchors are still on the air.

But this is what I do know: Today, the air outside smelled like summer - hot, heavy with moisture and the fragrance of grass clippings. I relish brief moments during the day when I can steal time for a quick reflection or prayer. I remember old friends more often. And I am surrounded by people I trust.

So there's something important to be said for a person who spends time keeping up with the world, as long as we don't use that as an excuse to avoid a little introspection.