Denver’s Formation for Mission Intensive

Open HandsDenver’s Summer Formation for Mission Intensive:

This is a four week course that will invite you to understand your own formation, equip you with practices that you can incorporate into your life and your daily rhythms and will also give you a new look into what does it mean to live out of our formation as person of blessing in the world, in everyday mission. The learning will be in groups, individual coaching and self-driven practices to incorporate at home and where you work and play.

We will learn from one another along the way. Our main text will be the book of Mark, the Creation narrative and a few books or blogs that you will read on your own (recommended reading, not all necessary)

There will be optional learning experiences during the month as well, to learn from others in the Denver area who live out of their own formation in mission. A list of those will be made available when you register for the Intensive.

The Information Basics

 Dates: Groups will meet every Tuesday and Thursday between July 12 and August 4

If you are able to join a morning group it would be from 9-11 or an evening group offered from 6-8 *You will need to choose either the morning or the evening group for the duration of the month, unless otherwise worked out with Cari before hand.  Individual work: one day a week practice in your own space and rhythm

Content: Tuesdays will hold content on Identity and Formation

Thursdays will hold content on Mission as we will study Mark and the verbs of Jesus

At home practices that will help you engage the places you live work and play through the eyes of your formation in Jesus

Location: There will be various locations based on time and content.

If you choose to join us, the information will be sent to you before we begin on July 12.

Cost:   The intensive will cost $250. If you need information on scholarships, please      email me at carijenkins@mac.com

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20 things I brought back with me from three months in Europe

1240212_10153273930545004_1372512634_nI came home with 20 take-a-ways from my time abroad. Here’s the list:

1. No matter where we find ourselves, our mission is always the same, to love well those in front of us, to encourage people in Jesus, to give selflessly, to be people of peace, to offer hospitality, and to be light. This is one of the take-a-ways from my time abroad. Location never changes our mission.

2. Learning and/or trying to speak someone else’s language is one of the fastest and deepest ways to show a person of another culture you value them.

3. When the desire is to be a blessing. There is never a lack of opportunity. Expecting the miraculous connection daily has become a habit in many ways.

4. There is much to celebrate about what good is being done around world through all kinds of people from all kinds of places. I’ve been thankful to hear stories of this good as I’ve been abroad. Expecting that God is working in every country, through all people groups causes me to want to learn from others… more than teach them. Being a listener and a learner is crucial and opens us up to experiences and stories we’d otherwise miss.

5. History informs the present. It’s important to learn the history of a place as a means to love others of various cultures. Ask questions about a place. Learn about the faith history and the story of the people. This will always help you to better understand the present.

6. The differences between cultures and peoples are beautiful expressions of human life that are to be celebrated. Allow differences to be a guide to understanding rather than division or judgement.

7. Perception and reality are often very different things. Asking questions and believing the best are always the best way to approach situations that seem off. Personality, culture, circumstance and more often affect others perception. As I’ve been abroad I continue to see the value as I assume the best and seek to understand.

8. Asking questions and really caring about the answers communicates that I value another’s story. Questions are a doorway to relationship.

9. Creatives hold a very important place in shaping cultures for good. Victor Hugo played a part in saving Notre Dame, which was to be torn down, by writing about it in a book, artists tell the stories of good, like Leprojet Imagine in Paris. Others, like Jonathan Boulet, use their creative influence to publish the story of Jesus in the New Testament, told with art and creativity. Yesterday I met George, who’s craft is pottery. He taught us of patience as he told the story of each piece’s creation. As I’ve been abroad I’ve seen, again, how creatives are using their gifts to bring about good and to speak of Jesus. The creative leader is needed in every culture.

10. True hospitality is not shown by entertaining a guest, but by offering your whole self and welcoming the whole self of those around you. Tonight I’m reminded that true hospitality is not culturally specific. Offer hospitality (I think Paul may have been on to something)

11. Being rooted and in community is hard and is important.

12. Two full days left. As I continue to reflect on lessons learned, experiences shared, people visited and places seen I am confident that love is the most powerful and life changing and unifying language. The way of Jesus always is a way of love. Love that is patient and kind, love that does not get jealous or boast in ones self, love that is not rude or self seeking, love that truly keeps no record of wrong, love that always assumes the best, always hopes and always perseveres is the kind of love that will never fail, in all cultures.

13. Our work does not define us. In fact while in Spain, I was only asked what I did for work one time in two months. This created space for others to know me and my heart, not just how I make a living. Not all cultures think of success, accomplishment and responsibility in the same terms as those of us in the US. There is much to learn from this way of thinking.

14. Freedom has as much to do with saying no as it does with being able to say yes.

15. Being outside and moving and walking and physically engaging with the world and our neighborhoods opens doors to relationship. For its pretty easy to drive by a person without engaging, much more difficult to walk by. Relationships gathered because of shared space are some of the best friendship surprises!

16. Every moment we have a choice to speak well of others, to treat people with kindness, to assume the best and to walk with humility. Today, as I traveled and had a few bumps along the way I am once again reminded that in all things I am to choose love and grace and kindness. These attitudes and actions are always ours to choose and are not dependent upon circumstance or the actions of others.

17. Never assume that mine is the only part of the world at play. My choices effect the lives of people all over the globe. When I choose to live in the way of Jesus, I choose to speak life and give life not only in my part of the world…. But in all of it. Our actions matter.

18. There are a lot of differences between cultures. But simply because something is different doesn’t mean it is wrong, weird, bad, rude or negative. Seeking first to understand is imperative as we seek to build relationships. (Oh yeah, this same practice works when your friends, spouse, co-workers, roommates and classmates do things differently than you.)

19. Though I’ve been gone for 3 months it feels like my time was just a split second. Thankful for the relationships formed and deepened during this time. Relationships are the most precious memento!

20. Vulnerability is found alongside freedom. For freedom greets us when we are truly honest with self and others.

Just the beginning: 25 lessons from my time in Spain

IMG_7001My time in Spain is rapidly coming to an end. I can already feel the shift in my spirit as I look to what is next. I’ve settled into a good pattern here in Altea. I’ve established good friendships. I’ve lived a very healthy life as I’ve eaten well and worked out daily. I’ve made it without being stung by stingrays or jellyfish in the Sea. I’ve spent good time with Jesus and I’ve planned ahead for my fall back in the States. I want to be able to leave Altea having completed the work I came to accomplish and to be prepared for life back in the States so I can enjoy my travels without anything left lingering in my mind.

As I reflect on my time in Altea I’m thankful for that which I’ve been reminded of, lived into or learned. Here’s a brief look:

1. Mission is not something we go off to do, it is a way of living. This can not be said enough. When mission is something we travel to participate in we actually miss mission. Mission is a way, not an event! There are times when we must travel to experience mission in other parts of the world, but on a whole mission is not something one has to travel to participate in!

2. Significance in impact or work is not determined numerically or by recognition. Significance is a matter of the Kingdom. When we pursue Him and His way and our work flows out of this pursuit our work is always significant.  Loving is always significant.

3. Speaking is only a small part of communication: Smiles, a generous heart, a kind spirit and love go far beyond words and communicate the truths one believes.

4. Making life change for the approval of others will ultimately fail. Making life change as a result of being self controlled, driven by the Spirit and out of love, will remain and will transform the whole person.

5. Friends are easily made when every person we come in contact with is seen as the image barer of God that they are.

6. Being led is a gift, when being led by a good person. Being led is a part of the feminine journey. (It is also a part of the masculine journey, but I am learning things from my perspective and I had to learn how being led was a part of being feminine.)

7. Dancing really is freeing

8. Truth really truly sets a person free. And when truth invades one part of a person’s life, all parts begin to submit themselves to truth, freeing the total person.

9. Striving is useless. Submitting is powerful.

10. There is much to the feminine journey and I’ve embraced much of mine.

11. I like tomatoes

12. Being divided in heart will always effect ones contentment.

13. One does not put on or wear beauty or femininity, one’s beauty and femininity are a result of an internal belief.

14. The sea is always beautiful until jellyfish come to town.

15. Laughter is healing and is a beautiful counselor

16 . Generosity is contagious

17. Seeing people, really seeing people will often result in loving them

18. The sun is good for the soul

19. There is a small difference between complementing one’s purse in Spanish and actually calling them a nice purse.

20. There is a small difference between complementing one’s outfit in Spanish and actually calling them a nice outfit.

21. There is a small difference between complementing one’s hair in Spanish and actually calling them nice hair.

22. You get the point

23. Being honest about one’s life will open the door for others to be honest about their own.

24. The table is redemptive

25. God is jealous for us. He has a deep deep desire for all people, everywhere to know him. God is good and God wants us! He wants us! All of us! All of the time.

There are many more lessons learned, both serious and silly. I’d love for you to ask. I’d love to share them with you. I look forward to seeing how these two months of my life will shape the many years to come.

Thanks for going on this adventure with me.

Chasing Tails

DSC01055The days go by melding together forming a picture I can’t quite make out.

The same gentle breeze blows as I write. The same sea beckons me. The same peace falls over me. The same faces greet me each morning. The same faces of locals fill my time.

It is good.

I continue to eat differently. I continue to move more. I continue to wonder about my life here and why I’m here for these two months and how this will all play a part in my life’s story in the future. I continue to wonder what metaphor I’m living in, that I’ll need to draw upon for later teaching, growing and living. I continue to wonder what life will look like when I return.

I’m not anxious here.

At home, I can struggle with anxiety. Is my life making a difference? When will I have a home I can call my own? Will I every marry? Will I have children? Will I finally get that book written? Why hasn’t this or that happened? Why do I struggle with envy? The questions go on and on and I, like a dog chasing it’s tail, chase after these questions and answers in a non-stop continuous motion.

My days are not filled with questions in Spain. My days are filled with enjoying the present. Living in this moment. Soaking in the new and walking in it. There is a slow pace to life in Altea. I know that if I were in Barcelona or Madrid my experience would be somewhat different, but here in Altea, things are slow. People enjoy each other. People live simply, running a small business or having an artisan booth for a few months a year satisfies.  Some of this simplicity, is because jobs are scarce. And I think, some of the simplicity comes from a different set of cultural values. (This makes me think I should ask some of my friends who are locals, what their culture values, instead of me assuming from three weeks of observations.)

From what I’ve observed and from a few facts I’ve come to know, people here love being with friends and they love eating. Over a 1/3 of one’s budget goes towards eating out. American’s spend that much on housing. Here, having a large space is not important as people rarely invite others over.  But, you will find people in cafe’s and bars and restaurants at every hour (with exception of siesta). I actually think I fit this way of living. It is not a shock to my system to sit and listen to other’s stories and share in life with others relationally for hours at a time.

But, at home, there is a running dialogue about how that isn’t enough. There is seemingly, always more to be done and one is evaluated not by who they are as a person, but by what they accomplish. This is dangerous!

I think of people I know who do not know how to linger in conversation. People who feel unproductive if they didn’t accomplish a huge list of to dos. People who rarely act as though they know peace, because they can not stop chasing their metaphorical tails.

I haven’t chased tails here.

When I’ve been tempted to worry about things when I return, I stop myself, confess my worry, confess my temporary belief that God will not have good for me and then dive back into the practice of being present with people and being present with self.

The students are all on a hike today. I chose to stay back because I needed a few hours alone. It’s been good for me. They’ll come back with tales of jumping off of rocks into the sea, the time they each spent with the Lord along the way, the conversations they had, and I’ll happily greet them like a mother welcoming her children home from day camp.

Tonight we are hosting a beach fiesta and night swim. There will be food and blankets and the beach and the sea! What more can one want? It will be good to be with the students and to enjoy being with those we’ve met along the way.

What tail are you chasing? How does it keep you from being present?

 

 

A place where everybody knows your name

DSC01009Saturday suddenly was here without a warning. The week has gone by so quickly I can hardly keep my days straight. Ariana and Xara had a wedding and a few other appointments on this day so I knew I’d have the day to myself. Instead of loneliness I was overcome with a sense of adventure, curiosity and playfulness. I got up, dressed and decided I would scout out the town and see what I could see.

Armed with my camera and my wallet I set out to explore Altea. I walked down the stairs to our beachside home and opened the door onto the main street. I turned left, crossed the street and stepped on the the olive grove. I took a few pictures, as I like to pretend I’m a photo journalist any time I get a camera in my hands. The world becomes art and it is mine to capture it. It’s funny there are things I see when I hold a camera that I would not see if I were simply walking around. (I like having a camera on my phone as it gives me this incentive to see the world as art with a desire to capture every moment of beauty.)

I had met a local artist whose sister owned a shop right off the olive grove. I stepped into the shop and was fascinated by everything I saw. She had very good taste and her store was filled with delicate beauty. Necklaces, earrings, purses, and the like filled the shop with colors and shapes that were unique and not over stated. I was able to speak just a bit with her. I knew just enough to tell her I thought her inventory was beautiful.

My curiosity kept me moving on. I passed by a bakery, the widows were filled with the most delectable of treats. Croissants, chocolate, and many unfamiliar delights beckoned on lookers. I watched as small children and adults alike closed their eyes, breathed in and took their first bite of their morning treats. I kept walking.

Next I walked down a main street filled with every kind of store imaginable. The stores are small and particular. One wouldn’t find a Target type store here. But the entire street felt much like a Target divided into small stores. So much life at every turn. Old and young alike filled the streets. Some were bustling along as though their agenda for the morning was quite full. Others sat and lingered enjoying being in the company of friends and family. It was a perfect picture of Saturday life; errands, fun, relationship, food, tears of small children as their mothers dragged them from store to store. Nothing was unfamiliar but everything was new. I smiled as I walked and watched.

Just about half way down the street I looked ahead and to my surprise I saw three people I knew walking towards me. Gloria, whose birthday I had celebrated the night before and the two youngest boys at the party were walking towards me. My Spanish teacher, smiled when he saw me. He pointed to his hair, I very quickly said, “pelo”. He nodded with satisfaction. We kept walking and he lifted his leg and made a burst of a sound from his mouth, I laughed out loud and said, “pedo!” We smiled and waved goodbye. I had passed my test. And I felt like a local. I had friends in this place  I had only been for four days.

I walked up the stairs to Old Town. It was not as busy here. The plaza was full of trucks and people setting up for the first night of the summer artist market. People were working hard to get ready for the evening. I felt a little in the way as people were very focused with their tasks. I then saw another friend I had made in my short first days. He is a local artist, he is bald, a little scruffy, has many tattoos, gauged ears and very distinct features. I find him intriguing and slightly curious. We greeted each other. I think we both were excited to see someone that we knew. (Ok, maybe I was just excited because I knew someone.) Our greeting was quick as he had much work to do to set up for the evening.

The artists make nearly all of their money in the short months of the summer market. During the months of July, August, September and October the upper plaza by the old church is filled with artisans on weekend evenings. At the peak of tourist season this is a good move and it adds to the unique artist flare I’ve come to love here.

I kept walking. I stepped into the church, a nun greeted me with a smile and pointed to a small box to place donations. She was very persuasive, even without my understanding, so I placed a euro in the box. The church was ornate and there was a sadness there. I was struck by that feeling as I stood in wonder at the gold trim and detailed paintings covering the canvas of the walls and ceilings. The stations of the cross were found on the pillars of the large room. I was struck by how cartoon like Jesus looked. He did not look like the Jesus presented in the grand cathedrals of Italy, but he didn’t capture me. He was pasty and almost lifeless. I think Jesus had life in his eyes even when he was suffering. These paintings did not do him any justice.

Up and down narrow cobblestone streets I made my way like a mouse in a maze. I looked around as a child at Disneyland for the first time. Every sight was new and yet familiar. I made up my mind to get back home before it was too late to enjoy the sun, so I traveled back down the stairs to my home on the beach. I am confident here. I am confident in my ability to get around, to enjoy the new and familiar.

I spent the next few hours in the sun interspersed with moments of cleaning and hanging the laundry out to dry. (Confession: I become a little giddy every time I hang something on the line to dry. It is as though I’m playing a role in a movie and am truly entering into my character.) I read, did some writing and breathed in the air of another lovely day on the Mediterranean.

It was now 8pm and I knew I wanted to go out. I showered and did my hair and put on a dress (I’ve worn a dress every day I’ve been here. I feel feminine and free. Many of the women here live in dresses. I’ll be writing more about my observations on uniquenesses of women and men in blogs to come.)

1001495_10152950892500004_2144905665_nNow dressed and ready I stepped out once again on my own. Unlike Wednesday where being alone brought up feelings of loneliness, today my being alone conjured up feelings of adventure. I headed back up the steps into Old Town. I got up the main steps and turned to the right as the road divides in two directions. I was going to head straight but saw a young toe headed child had dropped his yoyo from the plaza above. His sister was laughing and pointing and his eyes were filled with sadness. I walked over and picked up his yoyo. I showed him that I had it and he looked at me inquisitively. Was I going to keep it? Was I going to bring it to him? What was to come of his toy? I imagine these questions swirled in him mind. I walked out of sight and eventually turned the corner and entered the plaza where the young boy was trying to wiggle his way out of a family picture. When he saw me he smiled and hesitantly approached me. I reached out my hand and opened it unveiling his beloved toy. He squealed with delight. His father made sure he thanked me and he did.

Once our greetings were finished I continued to walk up the second set of steps onto the plaza where artisans had now filled the outlining spaces. I saw my friend again, this time he was accompanied by his girlfriend whom I also had met. I was happy to see her. They showed me their work and I was in awe. The jewelry I had seen earlier at the shop and loved, was his! His work was fine and detailed and feminine and lovely and beautiful. I touched it all and wanted to buy everything! Tonight I resisted. But I know I will purchase something before I leave.

I walked to each booth, looking at the result of each persons imagination and craft. The creativity amazes me. Art reminds me that we come from and were designed by a master Creator. The Creator Premier! I thought of my tattoo of a paintbrush and smiled as I too get to share in creation.

After perusing the booths I made my way down a side street where I entered a dress shop. The colors and patters were bold and bright. I found a dress that I thought was my kind of bold and I made the purchase. Again, feeling like a character in a movie I used my three year old Spanish with a little more confidence. The dress was exactly what I had been looking for.

(Women wear a lot of dresses here. They are feminine without being overdone and they are strong and confident and in touch with themselves. I’ve loved observing them. I feel as though we women from the states have so much to learn about true femininity. Its a beautifully powerful thing.)

After my purchase and my newly found confidence in my ability to speak Spanish I went back to a local cafe where I had met the owners with Ariana my first night out on the town. I easily found the location and as I turned the corner I met eyes with the owner whom I had met two days earlier. He greeted me as though I were a friend and we chatted a bit. I stepped inside of the cafe and sat down. I don’t normally go out to eat or drink alone, so this was a whole new experience. Sarah, who is co-owener of the cafe with her husband, assured me it is custom and very normal for people to eat or drink alone in Spain, as they will not be alone for very long. This was true. I was not alone very long.

I talked with a few locals, had the best mojito I’ve had, hands down and observed as people came and went. In the states we are enamored with the idea of the show “Cheers” a place where everybody knows your name. Her in Altea, it’s a normal part of life. People are genuinely interested in you and desire to be in relationship with you. This kind of warmth is inspiring and I pray that I will be the kind of person who treats others with this much investment from the get go.

I lingered at the counter for a few hours and then decided I wanted to head back home. I paid up, gathered my things and made the walk back to the Casa. I think I may have smiled the entire way. I had put on the character of a Spanish woman and I think I may have just pulled it off. I was free. I was confident. I was strong. I was vivacious.

The funny thing is, I didn’t need to be a character to play this role. I am these things. In the days leading up to this trip I have walked with a light step and a renewed spirit. Spain, it turns out, is a great place to put all of this new into practice.

What kind of character do you imagine yourself being? Who do you want to be? Tomorrow, goodness… today! choose to be the best version of you possible. Wear yourself well and be free. May you find your own Spain… that you can practice being you!

Shared Space: The Sold Project

solddesktop800x600I’m starting something new, Shared Space.  One day a week I am going to give my blog space to share about a person, cause, book or project. I am so excited to introduce you to friends I love, issues I care about, ideas with which I resonate, and projects that I believe in.

Rachel and I sat down for a glass of wine and started swapping stories. She and I had met at an event earlier that year and had wanted to connect since. As she shared her story and the story of her work with a small group of us I was immediately drawn to her heart for others and passion for justice.  She and a friend found and run an NGO called The Sold Project, based in Thailand. Their work is astounding.

Below is a bit of their story in their own words: http://www.thesoldproject.org

How it all Began

In the summer of 2007, a group of 20-somethings journeyed through Thailand with a common mission: to expose the plight of children trapped by prostitution. Previous research brought forth a host of statistics and facts, which demanded further investigation; they needed faces, names, stories, and most of all… answers.

In February 2008 The SOLD Project Rough Cut was screened to friends and family and many people began asking what they could do to help. In response to this question we created the non-profit, The SOLD Project, giving every day Americans an effective way to respond to the situation: prevention.

A second trip in June 2008 completed the footage necessary to create the documentary “The SOLD Project: Thailand” a collection of short films that expose the truth behind child prostitution in Thailand and the hope that exists in prevention.

The film was then screened in 25 different cities in America through The SOLD Project Tour, and countless other cities as individuals purchased the film and hosted screenings in their homes, schools and faith communities.

Who We Are

We are people passionate about preventing child prostitution: our goal is that no child ever be exposed to a life of exploitation. The SOLD Project Scholarship Fund was founded in May 2008 when we learned that many children drop out of school due to poverty and end up in situations of exploitation. We began offering educational scholarships to children at risk of exploitation: partnering up a student with a sponsor [you!].

A year later our scholarship program grew into the more holistic, The FREEDOM Project. The FREEDOM Project is made up of 1) Scholarships 2) Mentorship for every child that is sponsored 3) A resource center for the community and 4) Human Trafficking Awareness Programs at the school starting in every 6-grade classroom to teach the children about the realities of human trafficking and prostitution.

The Sold Project’s Mission is to prevent child prostitution through culturally relevant programs for vulnerable children and to share their stories to empower creative, compassionate people to act.

Rachel and I have connected as women who are passionate, women who are creative, women who love the way of Jesus, women who have a desire to see justice and love given to all. Our friendship has grown as we’ve listened, cried, celebrated and experienced life. Take some time to read their story, check out their work and pray for those at risk and those who are now trapped in the horrific underground world of sex slavery.

Also, take some time to pray for Rachel and her work. You can follow her on Twitter at @raegoble Or Take a moment right now to leave a comment of encouragement or prayers for their work! Let’s share some heart space with Rachel and the life changing work of The Sold Project!

Leaving ministry helped me find it’s true meaning

298311_10152106778950004_642523587_nI left a full time, salaried, church position over 7 years ago. It’s strange to say that, it seems in many ways that it’s been much longer and at the same time it feels as though I was putting on programs, attending meetings, speaking, writing lesson plans and setting vision and mission for a suburban church just yesterday. When I left I moved to a new city and worked as a consultant with a non-profit. I had a desk job. My work had purpose, but I felt there was something missing. Who were my people I was to serve? How was I going to find them? I mean, when I was in youth ministry I had parents, students and their friends to serve. My people were given to me. I would make myself aware of need, joy, life happenings and the like for these people I was entrusted to shepherd. I gave my life, time, energy and vision to those who fit in my given demographic.

But now? What was I to do? Who were my people? Here I was, a seminary graduate and had no idea what to do with my longing to shepherd, care for and pour into the lives of others. I prayed and it was as though I heard Jesus whisper into my ear, “you may not have a youth group but you have a neighborhood.” It was as though the most simple thing, the most obvious people group, one that Jesus himself referred to, was suddenly highlighted. How did I miss it? How did I miss that I was to love my neighbor? How was that even possible?

I took my seminary training and started applying it, not to a church program, but to my life. Though I have a love for the local church, I do believe we have quite missed the point. I was a perfect example. I had spent so many years serving in the walls of the local church that I wasn’t even aware of the fact that ministry was not limited to those walls.

I think we all forget that fact at times. We leave ministry up to professionals. We believe pastors are only those who stand behind pulpits. We believe discipleship is to be left to those who have been trained. We don’t share our faith, for we don’t know how to mix the language we’ve used to speak of God with the language of our neighbor. We think of ministry as program we sign up for to teach children, care for the elderly, sing in a choir, or perhaps, in some circumstances, ministry is something we attend as we go on ministry trips. Oh my friends, how we have missed the point!

Unless we reframe our understanding of ministry, of church for that matter, we will continue to miss the point.

So take some time today and think of those in your natural life path. How can you serve them? Do you know their needs? Do you know heart aches? Do you know joys? Ask Jesus to give you a person to serve, who does not go to church, and watch!