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2008: A Commentary

My blogging has been fizzilling lately since I haven't had a lot to complain about. I hate the fact that much of my posting on here lately has been to vent my frustrations. I'm afraid that those who read this and don't spend time with me daily will only know me as cynical. This is certainly not the case.

I've also vowed never to apologize for not blogging. I blog when it strikes me to blog, and I don't when it doesn't. Thus I suppose I will always have dry spells - but, hang in there, oh millions of hungry readers, you will get your fill. Some of the digital futurists are now saying that blogging is dead anyway. Not sure that I totally agree with that - a pretty good handful of my 106 daily feeds are pretty active - but I can certainly see that more holistic information sharing may eclipse what was once purely the domain of the blog. Facebook has certainly become my outlet of choice. But, like the old-fashioned book, I think blogging will always at least have a niche audience. At least, as long as it always feeds into Facebook.

Many of my still-blogging friends have written reviews of their year to one degree or another. Some of these I have found interesting so I will give my own take on 2008 until I get bored of typing.

"New Guy" to just "Guy"

This past year will probably be defined most for me as the time that I started to become comfortable with my job. In January I was still the noob, having been at work in full-time campus ministry for only half a year and only one full school semester. It was still anxiety producing, and something that regularly kept me up at night with heartburn over what I needed to be getting done and what in the world I needed to be thinking about but wasn't. I was still developing a rapport with the students and trying my best to cast some kind of vision for the ministry. It was somewhat lonely in that there really weren't many real peers in my social world in Manhattan and I still wasn't totally sure about where all the lines were when it came to my students.

Here at the end of 2008, I can say that all of this is much more comfortable for me. I've got a handle on the nature of the students for the most part, I sleep much more comfortably at night, and I feel good about the direction of the ministry. I feel like I am truly beginning to find my place and my stride as a campus minister and that is starting to see fruit in the development of the ministry and individually in the students. I'm excited to see how all of this is going to continue to grow and evolve.

"Cary-san"

One of the adventurous highlights of the year was spending over five weeks in Japan. One of the things I've really been looking forward to as a full-time campus minister was being able to be very active with the Let's Start Talking ministry and getting my students involved in powerful short term mission experiences overseas. Thankfully, the Cats for Christ ministry was already invested in LST and even came with a built-in team trainer and missions developer (thanks Rod!). This has made this goal very easy for me, given that I could slide right in to this process and continue the momentum.

Let's Start Talking took us to the west side of Tokyo for a good chunk of the summer, and it was an absolutely amazing experience. The Christians we worked with there were entirely native and were some of the most accommodating and supportive people that I can imagine having on a project. The readers were fascinating and the relationships were tremendous. It was a challenging and educational spiritual experience working with many people who not only not believed (which is the point of LST), but who had no spiritual concepts whatsoever. Many places in the world have some elements of religion (regardless of its brand) built into the basic culture, but in Japan this is largely unknown on even a fundamental level. This forces you (meaning me) to reopen a lot of old dusty boxes of your own belief and take a fresh, hard look at just what exactly it is when you say something that is as taken for granted to us as "God's love." One of the most incredible experiences of working with people who are not like you is that they ask questions that you would never hear or think of otherwise. Questions that make you look deep into yourself. Such was definitely the case in Japan.

Outside of the actual work, climbing Mt. Fuji, the tallest mountain in Japan, was an adventure that I will appreciate for a very long time. It was literally one of the most difficult things I have done physically in my life, but also one of the most rewarding. Do not ever leave Japan without having done the overnight climb up the east face of Fuji-san. Standing at the top, between the cloud layers, with the sun rising in the distance, is a religious experience within itself. Tip - walk backwards down the wide, ash switchbacks on the desent. You will thank me for telling you that.

"Enter Year Two"

Getting back from Japan suddenly left me staring the new school year in the face, feeling pretty unprepared. However, it all came together (as it always does). I was reminded once again that it is important to set your plans and visions, and move forward on them, but always know that God will do what is best. This was made clear to me in the fact that I wanted this year to be the "year of the freshman." What did God have in mind? "Year of the upperclassman and grad student" was more like it. A big influx of older students at the beginning of the semester left me surprised, but grateful for the potential that it created. Before this even happened, God had moved Harvard and Dana Townsend to launch a LIFE group for grad students and young professionals that has become very successful. A great retreat in September worked to launch a lot of relationships that have been developing wonderfully over the year. A lot of what I consider "unlikely" students have connected deeply with the ministry in ways that can only be brought about by God. It is amazing to see that happen.

Grief

In the midst of all this was some sadness. My grandmother passed away at the end of September. It was difficult to see her suffer in her last days. It was all particularly hard on my mom, who had essentially become her round-the-clock caregiver and had to see her at the depths of her suffering before she passed. My grandmother and I had a special relationship that I miss. She would talk about things with me that she wouldn't with others and we always connected on a level that I enjoyed. She is missed.

Joy

Last year a particularly impressive young woman came to Manhattan to start her college life as an art education major. She loved God deeply and was committed to the start to connecting with others and leading in God's work at K-State. She jumped head first into Cats for Christ and has committed to that community with all of her heart. In her first week of school I found her in the campus center kitchen sweeping the floor. I was immediately impressed at the kind of servant she was. I would become all the more impressed with the spiritual heart within her and her desire to love God and love others with everything she had.

Her name is Amy. Long story short, as of mid-Novemeber, Amy and I have embarked on a dating relationship. We were both very nervous about the prospect of the campus minister dating a student, but the growing chemistry between us could no longer be ignored and I sought out lots of counsel about what how best to handle such a situation. The complexities are obvious - but our relationship received a big thumbs up from all angles. This is exciting to me and nerve wracking all at the same time. If you know me, you understand that I have not seriously dated in a long time and that there is something special here for this to be taking place. Please pray that God is honored in all that we do and we always seek what is best for each other. It's an adventure into the unknown for both of us.

Dreams of Africa

Since I spent last summer in Japan, I planned on not doing Let's Start Talking for the summer of 2009. Yet again, God had other things in mind. Rumblings had been taking place since late 2007 about a special team from the Manhattan church going to work in Rwanda through an invitation from missionaries there. From the beginning, this opportunity made my heart jump as I knew it would be unlike anything else I had ever experienced around the world. This opportunity became serious into the Fall of this year, and God was bringing together the exact right team to tackle such a project. I couldn't resist the call any longer and committed to the team. So, as of right now I am in the midst of serious fundraising to the tune of $4,000. (If you would like to help make this happen, please visit www.supportcary.com.) I can already tell that this is going to be another life-changing experience that is going to face me with challenges yet unknown.


Many many other things have taken place this year and I suppose that all the blogs in the world would not be able to contain everything I could write about. Besides, many of the highlights are already covered in the archive.

In all, I am continually amazed by the life I am able to lead. I am fully aware of how blessed I am to be leading such a life, and I give all credit to God for making it happen. Here's looking forward to another year of watching this adventure play out.


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