Archive - June, 2009

Week 40: Visiting the Morgans and the Giffords

On my way down to Fort Worth for my good friend Sam’s wedding, I was able to stop in Sherman and Allen for a short visit with two of my adoptive families.

While at Austin College, I was involved with Covenant Presbyterian Church all four years.  Their pastor is Rev. Neill Morgan and I spent a January term and semester serving as Neill’s intern following him around everywhere and eventually preaching my first official sermon (non-testimony/non-my story) at Covenant.  During this time, I also grew close to Neill’s wife, Nancy, and to three of their four daughters: Beth, Suzannah, and Tamara (Rachel was already off at college).  So, now whenever I have a chance I try to make it to the Morgan’s for good home cooked food, to see which daughter has grown the most (Tamara), to talk and catch up with everyone (especially Nancy), play guitar with Neill (he has amazing guitars), and if I time it right to lazily listen to NPR in the morning.  Neill turned 50 in late May so I must give him a shout out…

HAPPY 50th BIRTHDAY NEILL!!!

Neill and I playing guitar:
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I then journeyed down to Allen to spend time with my other parents, John and Anne Gifford.  My last two years of college I served as the youth director for the First Presbyterian Church of Allen and the Giffords graciously took me in to live with them for the summer of 2005.  We are all Austin College alums and we continually have random connections through our shared alma mater.  Oh, so many stories to tell… let’s see, one of my favorites occured the day I moved in with them.  I pulled up to their house, got out, and decided to take an enormous load of clothes in my arms with me as I made my way to the front door to save a trip.  I had called them to say I had arrived.  As I brought my hand up to knock on the door I hear one of them yell, “Robert!”  I turn my head to the left and about ten houses down they are frantically waving their arms and smiling.  I was getting ready to move into the wrong house…  That sums up our relationship well.

On this short visit, I had plenty of time to catch up with John and Anne, meet the new dog, sleep in my incredibly comfortable bed, watch The Bucket List (if you haven’t seen it, please do), and be technologically nerdy with John.  It was a great visit and Anne made me an awesome “Have YOU hugged a Presbyterian today?” pillow.  Thanks Anne.  Before I knew it, our time was up and I was off to wedding bo-jazz.

John, Anne, and I (Anne is trying to be taller than usual):
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Week 39: Familiar Roads

My mom and I were driving home from one of my doctor’s appointments and she simply said, “It’s good to drive down familiar roads.”  We were driving down the main road that our neighborhood is off of in Broken Arrow, so we both had many memories along this route.  I pondered if she was thinking of a specific memory, “What makes you say that?”  She said, “A week or two after you were born, we had to take you to the hospital to have your liver tested because of all the complications with your birth.  Grandma had come down from Kansas and didn’t want to drive on the main roads, so we took this back route because she felt like she could drive on the back roads.  I remember holding you in my arms and how at the hospital they made me leave the room when they poked you because they didn’t want me to have to hear you cry.  Then we drove back home on this road again with you in my arms, slow and steady with Grandma.”  “I’ve never heard that story before, mom,” I said.

Some roads are more familiar than we realize.

Week 39: Dwight Mission

As I drove around the last corner, I saw the infamous chain-linked fence that has been a part of my life for eleven years now.  That was our signal when I was a camper that we had finally made it to Dwight Mission.  I could write a few hundred pages about Dwight, but some things can’t be said in words (but since this is a blog, I’ll use words).  My life includes four summers as a camper, three summers as a counselor, one summer as assistant program director, and a visit every summer since 1998 in some form or fashion.  Placed in the flint hills of eastern Oklahoma, it is one of the most beautiful places in my life.

My excuse to go to Dwight was to teach the new and old staff members a class about Presbyterianism.  I just wanted to be at Dwight… with the people, with the buildings, and with the memories.  I don’t think I realized I was actually back at Dwight until I walked into the boy’s dormitory, Washburn Hall, God bless it.

So… I took a picture when the realization occurred…
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This is where I slept when I was an eighth grader (not in the hall, in the rooms), where I guided the sleepwalking camper back to his bunk, and my favorite of all, where Brian Coulter had to clean up the bathroom after one of my campers clogged up the toilet more outrageously beautiful than I have ever seen to date.  The camper believed that by repeatedly flushing the toilet everything would go down, wrong (Thanks Brian).  I know the dorm well because I know where all of the light switches are without looking or thinking about it.  After realizing where I was, I made my way around camp reminiscing of my memories in different locations.

Dwight has been the most life forming place for me.  It was my youth group when I was in high school, where I gained a lot of confidence in myself and leadership skills while on staff, where I learned how to play guitar, and my happy place when I’m elsewhere now.  Dwight is part of my being.

I think I’ve been avoiding blogging about Dwight because I can’t appropriately blog it in words… yeah, well here’s the link to my blog with John William’s song about Dwight and below are some pictures of Dwight and Dwight related things in the nearest town, Sallisaw:

The Creek:
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Wild Horse BBQ:
Some of the best BBQ ever!  In Kenya, I dreamed of this moment!  If you’re ever in Sallisaw then please stop by.
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Quiring and East Brothers:
I’m very proud that my little brother, Patrick, is working his second summer on staff at Dwight this year.
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Me, Josh, Tara, and E-Sharp
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Life Goal #76:
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Week 38: The Communal Effort of Getting Robert to Church

Since I was in Austin, I wanted to visit the church I will be serving next year as an intern.  The service was very nice and creative and got me excited about next year.  However, this is the story of how I got to church.

Saturday, the conference ended and I began to plan for Sunday morning.  How would I get there?  I started calling around to no avail.  What would I wear?  I decided upon a suit, but was missing black socks and dress shoes.  As the night progressed, I knocked on my friend Chris’ door and acquired shoes that were slightly too big for me, but beggars can’t be choosers.  Then my lovely, beautiful friend, Allison, offered her car to me if I could get to her house.  So, I called my Episcopalian duo, Shyla and Eric, and asked for assistance getting the car.  They agreed graciously and I asked Eric if he had any black socks.  He had mismatched leftovers which I gladly accepted.  I went to bed Saturday night with everything miraculously straightened out, I assumed.

Sunday morning, I woke up, showered, shaved, and was putting on my suit when problem number 17 occurred.  I buttoned my pants and they fell right to the floor.  It is my dad’s old suit which was slightly too big for me to begin with and I have lost some weight, uh oh.  I do the next logical thing and call my good friend, Mary Elizabeth, to ask where she stashes her belts.  She tells me and ends with the comment, “I’m not sure if they’ll fit you.”  To which I chuckle, I take out the only belt that could possibly work and it fits perfectly… aside from the fact that it is a round girlie belt buckle kind of belt.

So, fifteen minutes early, I arrive to this new church for the first time dressed in my father’s over sized suit, Mary Elizabeth’s girlie belt, Eric’s mismatched socks, and Chris’ big shoes.  Booyah world!

The belt:
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The socks:
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Week 38: YAM Jam in Austin

I was fortunate to attend the YAM (Young Adult Ministries) Jam conference in Austin this past week  (click here for conference blog). It was hosted at Austin Seminary and put on by Presbyterian young adult ministry people I have worked with for many years in the past.  We had three very good speakers with different styles, Ted Wardlaw (President of Austin Seminary), Bruce Reyes-Chow (Current Moderator of PC(USA)), and Carol Howard Merritt (who is the author of a book titled Tribal Church). Click on Bruce or Carol’s name to see their blogs.

Worship outside:
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Worship inside:
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What happened when I found the gigantic box of goldfish:
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What happened when I found Grandma’s Sweet Leaf Tea:
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What happened when we found Peanut Butter Moose Pie:
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Back to serious Robert…

I have been hearing that the PC(USA) is dying my entire life.  However, I keep on seeing excitement and energy for our denomination.  One of the biggest obstacles the PC(USA) has is creating a space and program for young adults (however you define that term).  The conference focused on this idea and implementation into different contexts.  Any ideas on how to create a space and program for young adults in the PC(USA)?

One of the most interesting points made was that 80% of college students believe in same-sex marriage.  This has sent shockwaves through many evangelical and mainline churches.  Then the same church hears that 30% of college students do not have health insurance and the church doesn’t make a noise.  Think about that… what does that say about the church?

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