Missional Formation – Cuba Reflections

This is what I experienced during my 10 day trip to Cuba…

I saw… blue skies… clear waters… colorful buildings… trash littering the streets… propaganda… children playing with broken toys… tourists… contrast… paradox… people on every park bench… children playing baseball in alleyways… love… community… fellowship… family… churches engaged in their community… enthusiasm… seniors doing aerobics… people getting clean water… alcoholics receiving support… helpers at every meal… children running to come to church… Shalom

I felt… the sun… sweaty… like I stuck out like a sore thumb… disoriented… unable to communicate… like I had nothing to offer… discouraged… limited… confused… privileged… the warm handshake of a new friend… inspired… the embrace of a child… loved in community… affirmed… free to be who I am… joy… healed… like I was exactly where I was supposed to be

I learned… that I had many misconceptions about Cuba… that the people of Cuba and America are not so different… that nothing takes the place of showing up and listening to people’s stories… that my presence speaks louder than my words… that children are the same everywhere… that it can be harder to be a faithful Christian in a consumeristic society than a socialistic society… and that I have a lot to learn from my brothers and sisters in Cuba and around the world

Jeff Song

slow… gradual… patient… change

I was in contemplation the other day when it hit me that for a long time I have read books, went to church services, and had many conversations about how to change things about who I am. To try to be a better christian. A better american. A better human. To take some truth and try to “apply” it to my life.  As much as I believe a particular truth and want to fit it into the way I live my life, I usually end up forgetting about it the next day until I am lying in bed and realize that I didn’t fit it into my day at all. I go about my day doing what I’ve always done. Doing what is familiar to me. Doing what I know. The pace of my day doesn’t afford me the opportunity (maybe my brain is just really slow) to  stop and asses how I am using newly learned practices that are usually almost to abstract for me to grasp in the first place. 

So I often find myself frustrated by my inability to insert practices into my life that I believe to be life giving and holistic. Our readings and conversations throughout WCD have been rich, challenging and refreshing. Although to often I find myself doing the same things that I have always done, and I ask myself why it’s so hard for me to change my thinking and my life practices. However, in my contemplation, God has been showing me this truth, that new enlightenments are never easy to just  “apply” to our lives as though we have known them for a thousand years. We can’t just force them into our daily routine and expect them to fit. At least I can’t. As I continue that conversation with my maker, and as I continue to look deeper into my true nature and the nature of God, I begin to see a change in my thinking. 

Slowly, gradually my view of life and spirituality shifts a little bit. As I begin to really KNOW those truths, they go beyond memory or intellect. They seep into my soul and become a part of me without my knowing or trying, and if they become a part of me then the only thing I need to be day to day is…simply me. This is how God transforms us, by the renewing of our minds and hearts. Again my view of the nature of God and how he works is fundamentally challenged through such a simple truth as this. Little by little, as we listen and wait, we become who God intended us to be. Often we are unable to measure this change except for when we look back at who we were years ago and we realize how far we’ve come by the grace of God. We realize how many truths he has taught us and how it has effected and changed our lives. I am reminded to be patient with myself. I can change, but it’s going to take some time to grow. Immersed in the soil that is relationship with my maker, I can trust and be patient. I do not control how fast I grow.


(the quiet place)

From a young age I have known my soul.

And she has accompanied me through many wildernesses.


Sometimes I forget her.

And my being becomes void.


In these months

She has become the rhythm of my body.

In my shadow, my steps, my failures, and my truth.


She was my safe place of solitude in my depression

A comfort in the pain and the silent night watch.


She is clothed with strength.

Surrounded by courage.

And feels from a deep place.


Her undoing’s and her impoverished thoughts

Are not her definition.

But rather,

What defines her is the open calm of a realized possibly.


In this simple truth her peace is found.

She is all that she is.

And she is ENOUGH.


-elya showalter

inside of my wounds.

The things

that lay inside the relative

disaster of humanity.

That bring forth growth,


out of the desert place.

Of lonely souls,

Wasting away in fear.

What is the power

 of finding a voice with to worship.

As you stand at the feet of your Maker.




Gaining the knowledge of what it is like to feel the earth move.

And resolve to witness the miracles of everyday living.

To not stand in silence.

or if you stand in silence

That even the silence speaks.

A groaning,

A longing,

A depth.

That many will never let go.

To simply trust that the bottom shall be found

and will settle beneath your feet

As I raise your body,

enlighten your mind.

And you learn to exist inside of my wounds.

This is not the answer to pain, for there is none to be found.


Go and walk in the mountains of men.

And see what you shall find

For there I will be.  


– Elya

mindfulness, spiritual knowledge and true ardor…

How to kick butt in spiritual terms:

  • against forgetfulness: mindfulness of God (the cause of all blessings)
  • against ignorance: spiritual knowledge (awakens the soul)
  • against laziness: ardor (which makes the soul eager for salvation)

Check out Mark the Monk for more info!

<3 Bekah

What The Desert Mothers Taught Me

Though it is difficult to make direct application of what the Desert Mothers have to say, I will go ahead and give it the old (post) college try:

It seems to me that Western Christian culture readily accepts direct application of instruction be it from Scripture, wisdom literature, or otherwise.  We do not like to wrestle with things or try and understand subtlety or nuance.  We like to take instruction from the page or the podcast and stamp it onto our lives no frills, no muss, no fuss.

If I am going to apply this standard to my reading of the desert mothers, I have got very little out of them.  Luckily, I am in a long-term relationship with textual nuance.  Despite the cultural, chronological, and ideological barriers separating us, a big, life-changing application I get from reading them is that I am married to convenience.  In fact, I have come to believe that convenience is a basic human right that will grant human dignity. The luxury of living where, when and how I do has blinded me to the sheer luck of the draw that I experienced thus far in life. 

The Desert Mothers are calling me out of my bourgeoisie stupor and into a life of inconvenience.   There is so much in my life that I do just to save time, energy, and resources.  

Why?  I am so busy moving on to the next thing and thinking about the thing after that and then making sure my calendar is up to date while returning texts and cleaning out my inbox before running to work early so I can leave early to meet a friend for coffee and then head home spend time with my roommates, that I forget why I started this paragraph. 

In essence, I’m so busy doing whatever-it-is that God has told me to do that I forget to do what God has told me to do and just be with him.  That is at the heart of the Gospels, that God dwelt among us and was present with humanity in our brokenness.  And now, even after the resurrection and ascension, God has sent the advocate, the Holy Spirit, to dwell with us as we negotiate through life. 

Do I dwell with the Holy Spirit though?  Do I rest my head on Jesus’ shoulder like the beloved disciple did?  The disciple did it after dinner, probably right when we start to clean up the plates and regret that it is our turn to do the dishes. 

The Ammas taught me that opportunities abound for meeting God and it is best when we don’t rush to them.  Making things easier for ourselves often times makes them more difficult for God to speak to us and for us to hear him when he whispers.  We are impatient to have God speak to us.  At least, I know that I am.  It would just be so convenient if, during my morning quiet time, I got to hear a good word from the Lord.  Then I have the rest of my day to do whatever it is that I do. 

How often is that the case?  Not really all that often, if ever.  God will operate on Gods time and it is not my duty to be impatient.  In fact, I would argue, it is sinful. 

“Let’s explore this mindset of impatience a little more closely. It makes two fundamental assumptions. Assumption number one is that resources and time are in short supply. This is certainly the language of the market. The market depends on creating the notion of scarcity, so that consumers will commit to an ever-higher price for goods that seem quicker, better, finer, stronger, slicker, safer. But the kingdom of God is not the market. In the kingdom of God, God gives disciples everything they need to do the work God calls them to do…

Assumption number two is that God’s work of redemption is somehow incomplete, that there was something God was either too busy, or too forgetful, or in too much of a hurry to do, or in some other way constrained from getting done in Jesus.”[1]

The Ammas taught me that my idol of convenience is impatience with the Lord and that to live simply is to banish that idol.  Its not so much that my need to have a high speed internet connection or a quick and easy cup of coffee is a sin, but that my inability to wait for, and appreciate those things is a sign of my deeper, more problematic impatience with God.

What is my response to be?  Short of moving to the desert, I can inconvenience myself for God.  If I have a hard time waiting to merge in traffic or eat dinner, there is no telling the shabby condition of my heart.  I can start to attain more perfect and holy patience with more perfect and holy waiting.  There is enough time to do what needs to be done.  God does not change.  Jesus died once and for all and if that is enough for God, that must be enough for me, no matter the speed of the internet connection.

– Mick

[1] Quotation taken from, ‘The Exasperating Patience of God’ delivered by Sam Wells at the Faith in Conflict Conference at Coventry Cathedral, February 26, 2013 

MBTI – a journey towards becoming who I AM

Recently, the members of World Christian Discipleship had the opportunity to take the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator (MBTI) and have a discussion based around the results.  For all those interested I am an ENFP (Extroverted, iNtuiting, Feeling, Perceiving).  This is the same result that I got when I took the MBTI my junior year of college.

All the MBTI shows are my presences for where I draw energy from (Extraversion); how I gather information (intuiting); how I make judgments (feeling); and how I relate to the outside world (perceiving).  For each of these preferences there is a spectrum for how much I prefer each preference (for instance I could be totally extroverted, or mildly introverted, or mostly extroverted.  It is not a black-and-white type designation). 

My junior year of college I was fairly balanced on all of the categories except for extroversion (I was and am still extremely extroverted).  Truth be told I had actually been hoping to change my preferences this time around.  I have a hard time valuing the typical characteristics of an ENFP and was hoping that my simpler, more contemplative lifestyle had done a great deal to change what I innately preferred.  I wanted to think of myself as calmer, more rational, cooler-headed, and very somber. 

To my great distress what I found was that I become more of an ENFP.  On each individual spectrum I leaned more toward each individual preference.  I was even more of an ENFP than I was before. 

I was distraught.  Much too my chagrin, it took this test to make me realize that I was hoping that this year made me into someone that I liked better and who I understood to be a more put together person.  It took a few hours before I could calm my heart rate and think rationally over what these results meant.

There are several ways I could interpret this information:  I could admit defeat in my project to change myself up to this point, dig my heels in, and redouble my efforts to change myself into the person I longed to be.  I could discredit the results, call the test a wash, and simply ignore the evidence in front of me, come what may.  Or, I could live in to what the MBTI told me, and try to better understand myself better in light of what the MBTI said and what God has been whispering to me this year.

As best I could I chose the latter and what I found was this: Up until the MBTI, I, implicitly, thought that the opportunities WCD has afforded me would help me become the person that I wanted to be.  Note how much ‘I’ and ‘me’ are used.  WCD has been, for a long time, about my own personal development.  And to a large extent it is.  But that is not the whole purpose.  My own self-cultivation has to be understood in the larger context of gaining a better understanding of what God wants me to be.  He has a specific purpose for me, and specific way in which I will accomplish his purposes.  If God desires me to be even more of an ENFP to accomplish his purpose in and for my life, I must be even more of an ENFP! 

This certainly not an easy conclusion to live into and sit with all things considered.  But it is the right one I am sure.  Many of my personal insecurities come from a certain spontaneity and restlessness in my personal life.  Having to live into them more fully to, hopefully, accomplish God’s purposes is going to take some doing.  But, praise God, this is not a journey I have to take all by myself, thanks to the beautiful and compassionate community of WCD!