How #Lucie is Light changed my life.

So up untill 2 years ago I had never even heard of the band Gungor, and then I started going to Bloom, a church that they founded, and to be honest I was quite proud of the fact that I had never heard of them before, I was proud to be the person going to church for church and not for the off-chance to meet a celebrity.

Ok I have to be honest it was pretty cool the nights that they would lead worship, we would get to sing their songs as a congregation and it was like a min-concert. I fell in love with Lisa Gungors voice when they would sing I would find myself hoping that she would sing more and more. But aside from that I never really jumped on the Gungor band wagon. I never bought any of their music, I never listened to them outside of church and when they held a concert I didn’t feel the need to go. But they were cool enough.

And then they had Lucie. . . their second daughter who happened to be born with down syndrome and the way that they handled that birth and transition was one of the most loving and God-Like things that I have ever witnessed. They made it clear that they were initially heartbroken, this little girl they held was not the little girl they had imagined for 9 months and probably longer, your dreams and visions for their life have to be altered (You can read more about that here http://www.gungormusic.com/blog/2014/10/lucie-is-ligh) But they also discovered something in her, something that is so pure and wonderful that radiates out of their every picture of her and story about her, and mostly from their new song. Light.

Light is on the Gungor’s newest album, One Wild Life, which is also one of my favorite and most played albums now, I sincerely hope everyone will go out and listen to it now it is beautifully done. But Light is gorgeous. .

They found a perfection in the imperfection, they were humbled and shocked, and in love with this little girl, who by all standards was DIFFERENT!

As a Special education teacher who watches parents handle the nuances and challenges of having a child who is by all means different and the way that they handle these things in varying manners, This realization was something that I clung too,

Thought I have never officially met the Gungor’s I have seen them from across the basement of Bloom, I have felt joy and sadness at their instagram pictures, I have heard stories from mutual friends, but I love these people I feel a sense of togetherness with the Gungor’s, they found their light in a beautiful little girl named Lucie who happened to be born in a way that will make the world forever stare at her, and call her different.

And I find my life over and over again in the students that God has placed in front of me, the students that have all sorts of differences, the students that are constantly fought against and put in the “other” category. I see God in these students, I see the ways that he can make all of us unique and the way that all of these challenges bring us closer to him, and closer as humans.

This is the way that God has made the human condition and I wish that more people could see the beauty in our differences the beauty in the little girl that has to have an adult come with her to third grade, the beauty in the little girl who has a hard time keeping her hands to herself, or the little boy who can’t see and has to use a cane to get around, beauty in the boy who has not learned to control his emotions and throws chairs when he gets upset but so desperately wants to fit in and be accepted by his peers.

These are my beauties these are the children that have completely changed their parents lives, the children that were supposed to have a different life, but have shaped and changed the world in so many ways.

These students are beautiful, these students are light.

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❤ Kelsi Rae

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A step inside a Libyan Engagement . . .

Tonight I attended my first engagement party ever.. and it was a Islamic engagement party, there were five of us that had been invited to our friend from Uni’s party. Over the course of this year I had become comfortable asking her questions that may offend others, I asked about the different culture practices, how she felt about Libya, what her wedding (a hypothetical at that point) would be like, the practices of hijab wearing and so on. So when she invited us to her engagement party, we jumped right in to asking questions.

Will there be men there? What should we wear? How will the engagement work?

Now since this was an arranged marriage we asked all sorts of things about that practice as well we learned as much about the practice as we could.

But when I entered this room it was still a shock, some of the most gorgeous women were dressed to the nines a roll away cart filled with Hijab’s and coats sat next to the door,a threshold where you no longer had to be restricted or worry about the happenings of the other gender.

These women had the most beautiful hair of all cuts, colors and styles they had curled it, straightened it, in updo’s. women I otherwise would have spent the night wondering about their hair now moved freely with gorgeous tresses on every head. These women were dressed in full make-up and gorgeous dresses, dressed up for each other, and themselves because truly that is who women have to dress up for everyday as it is. . .

I was lucky enough to sit at the table with the grooms family, Libyans via London, and the nicest women I have been in quite some time. They shared there customs with me, they told me what every piece of food I had on my plate was and invited me to London to relive this experience all over again in December.

While I am sure American’s have these same interactions at weddings, and make new life long friends there was something about this particular experience that was different, I don’t know if it was the fact that it was all women, and therefore no need to compete for the attention of the men in the room, or if it is a cultural difference that somehow in our capitalist, self preservation, separation  of Church and State society that we have lost. Something about this culture welcomed me in.

We ate, we talked, we laughed and enjoyed the celebration of our good friend, and new sisters engagement,  during the middle of dinner about 8 oclock, some women began to leave the various dining tables and make their way to the hijab holder, grab their beautiful over coats and hi jabs and make their way to the back of the room, almost out of sight but not quite. At first the 5 of us that were not Islamic were quite confused and then just as silently these women began praying, one of their 5 daily prayers, in groups of 2 or 3 women made their way back to complete this ritual. There was no interruption of the party even though the party of 98% women who partake in this act of Faith, they allowed the party to go on and each took part in their faith in their own way.

There is something beautiful about that, that these women did not feel the need to flaunt their faith or make their faith more important or better than anyone else’s this was a conversation between them and Allah and they were the only ones that needed to be involved. I think that this type of relationship with your God is a sign of true faith in whichever religion you are practicing.

Then came the dancing, a moment  when 30 women crowded on the dance floor to show off their moves to each other, there was traditional Arabic music and dancing, there was wonderful booty shaking that I think I could master with more practice, there was laughter and trilling that I could not get my tongue to manifest. Then in the middle of it, the music changes to . . . Trap Queen. and every one of these faithful women jumped onto the dance floor, began dancing away and singing every word!

In that moment I looked around, made eye contact with my two friends that were there with me and just thought, ” I love this moment.” ” I have never been more happy to have a new cultural experience than I am right now.

We spent the night celebrating, no competition, no petty drama, just women enjoying the moment in the life of our friend and each other.

And as I left I gave each of my new friends two kisses on each cheek, as four is traditional in Libya, as I learned and said goodbye and I hope to see them in December.

So how can we create these moments, these times when we are all so welcomed into a new cultural accepted as ignorant and unknowing but taught the ways and loved for our attempts at culture? When is there a space in our everyday life that we can invite someone into our culture and take the time to step into theirs? When we are comfortable enough to make the effort with no judgement no reservations?

I hope that I am able to find more times to step into other cultures to learn more about Libya and Islamic culture and to welcome them into mine.

❤ Kelsi Rae

My Maundy Thursday

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So let’s just being by saying that before two days ago I had never heard of Maundy Thursday, ok thats not true I heard about it when we started going to Bloom last year but I heard foot washing and I was out.

I almost did the same thing this year, I thought I don’t know what the point of this service is and I really don’t want someone to wash my feet, but then I somehow ended up getting in the car and heading to church at 7pm on a Thursday for a mystery service on the Jewish Passover. Three of us were in the car on the way, counting the days till the Resurrection, going well, no Jesus would have still been alive, wait when was the last supper, he was crucified on Good Friday right, well this must be the last supper.. .yes that must be why we are having soup. ( Yes we had to do the math to figure out the importance of Maundy Thursday, don’t shun us from all of Christianity)

So now that we sort of kind of understood what we were going to we headed into church, down the stairs into our basement space that always feels just a little bit melancholy as you descend the stairs and entered into a room full of community and the wonderful smell of soup, ok maybe I can handle this.

We moved smoothly through the worship and soup portion of the evening, at this point I was thinking we could have Maundy Thursday every week but as Andrew ( our pastor) stood up to begin speaking I knew we were moving into the uncomfortable space, the space where Jesus knowing he was about to be betrayed moving towards his death and resurrection accepted the failings of his disciples and moved into the light into Good Friday to save us all.

But before he could do this he performed two great acts of love for his disciples he broke the bread, and poured out the wine, and he washed their feet, he knelt before them and took on the stature of a servant in order to wash their feet.

So why does this simple act feel like I just walked into the wall, like I cannot wrap my mind around the sacrament associated with this act. So I sat there listening to Andrew speak thinking, you cannot force me to do this. But then he started to speak about why this is so awkward for us, what is happening when someone, often someone that we are not intimately close to washes a part of our body that we often consider ultimately dirty.

I heard him say when Jesus washed their feet he was completely accepting the brokenness of the humans around him, he understood their betrayal and accepted it, and as he did this he gave the new commandment, the commandment of Love. And that in this moment thousands of years after his death, how is that love touching the world?  Will our outpouring of love touch the world? In what ways do we accept the brokenness of the world around us and pour love into it, I hope that I can find the brokenness and instead of turning a blind eye or searching for “an eye for an eye” I can pour love into the places that need it the most.

And if this is what my church is showing me by washing my feet, that they see my brokenness and are going to pour their love into me through this act then if i am going to be a woman that believes in this commandment of love than how can I refuse this, so I stood up and allowed a man I have only seen from the back of the church seat to place his hands on my feet and wash them clean of the despair and brokenness that I try to hide from the light.

In that moment I looked up and I could see the wonderful man I will soon call my husband also getting his feet washed across the way and I felt a wholeness a sense of belonging and community that is often missing from church for me, where I feel alone and ignorant in the ways of the church, but on this night we were all one community partaking in soup, laughter, love and the semblance of a last supper filled with Paleo friendly chili, and gluten free, dairy free, organic, flavorful spinach and kale soup

I stood from the wash station and stood in a line of barefoot 20 somethings that attend Bloom, dressed in plaid shirts, covered in beards, dreads and as many hipsters glasses as we could find where we were all just searching for something, something we cannot find at the many craft breweries we frequent before church, something that has drawn us all here to this melancholy basement  filled with dozens of tea light candles, and a small table filled with boxed wine and gluten free bread ( have I said we are mostly 20 something hipsters yet?) Here we are drawn to this table, to the love of a man that would have knelt before us, and washed our feet before he poured himself out for us in the greatest act of love.

How can I pour myself out, how can ensure that my love touches the world, in what ways can I heal someones brokenness, how can I wash your feet?

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❤ Kelsi Rae

Being a “good” Christian. . . a work in progress.

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If I had known it was as simple as following a wiki- how to I would have had this mastered this years ago!

Learn how to be a good Christian in only a few simple steps here http://www.wikihow.com/Live-a-Good-Christian-Life

Or follow my struggle below. . .

I have only been going to church for maybe two years total, there was a six month period I attended in college and then when I moved to Denver I stopped until I found Bloom.

I have been going to Bloom Denver for a little over a year consistently now, and last January Ben and I dove head first into this whole, church member thing. We started volunteering on Sundays to set up or tear down the gathering space.( Our church meets in the basement of another church so we have to set up and tear down some aspects of our gathering every week.) We joined a house church ( what would be a small group or bible study at other churches) And became full fledged members of the church as some might say. We love our house church and attend every week to gather and share with those 10 people in someones home. We have been studying the book of Luke passage by passage, not skipping not a one! It has been some of the most faithful and thoughtful conversations I have ever had.

This has really been a time when I have began to open up to spirituality.. . But I keep coming back to what does that need to look like? We sometimes fall into “stereotypical” church conversations that just rub me wrong, things like

” Well my friend starting dating a non-christian guy and I just don’t know if I can condone that, she is just setting herself up for heartbreak.”

And

” I made a new friend and I just feel like it is my duty to show her Jesus, it is our duty as Christians to convert people to ensure they are saved.”

Well I don’t believe either of these things  so what am I not a good Christian? I actually disagree with these statements and they make me physically upset when i hear them, causing me to shut down within the conversation. So how do I merge  this. ..

What does being a good Christian mean?

We had a State of the Parish meeting at Bloom the other night, they talked about how the work that we do is God’s work. Whether you are a teacher, a nurse, a truck driver, a barista etc. whatever you do the job of the church is to make you a better outward person, do put the best you out there. Now I do not believe that this means putting our Christianity in the worlds face and saying Hey I am a better(insert profession here) because I love God. But simply being a better (insert profession here) you are showing the worlds God’s love.

I also do not believe that it is our duty as Christians to convert everyone, I am probably in the minority that believes we all believe in the same God, we just give him/her different names, All of those names praise him, and glorify him. We cannot let the people who manipulate his love dictate how we view the people who both call him by the name we know and by other names. It is not our job to tell people what to believe or what name to call God.

It is our job to love them. It is our job to look outside of the church, to take the love and power we gain from our relationship with God and the Church and turn that into love for the people around us.

I believe that this means taking my sphere of influence, my classroom, my family, my friends, my school and making a difference there if I love those people and pour all of God’s love into them through me, it does not matter what name I give it. That is how I demonstrate that I am a “good” Christian.

It does not come with a hand book, and a step by step how too. it certainly does not come from a wii-how- to. . there is no manual. there is not a single way to do it there is no right or wrong. There is a feeling!

No matter what you do, love it, do it well and pour that love into other people.

And if you are in the Denver area looking for a place that will support you in this journey, come check us out, we meet at Hope Community Church at 4 and 6 pm on Sundays. You can find us here on the web http://www.bloomchurchdenver.com/  I would love to see you all there!

❤ Kelsi Rae

How can I be so mad at the God I have grown to love?

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Last night, I received a phone call from my old lead teacher, I started as an assistant teacher in a special education classroom before pursuing my masters in special education. There were five adults in that classroom to support the very individual needs of the students and three of us became very close. However this year we had all gone our separate ways the lead teacher was on maternity leave the first semester after having premature twin boys, I entered grad school and as a result began teaching in a different school as a part of my training and so that left just the one of us in our old classroom, “holding down the fort” if you will. We all stayed in touch however, grabbing dinner when our schedules allowed, keeping each other up to date on our lives and texting for everything important or not important not allowing the separation to make our bond any less.

So back to  yesterday, Sandra ( the lead teacher) texts me and tells me to call her after class. Now the text wouldn’t have been any cause for alarm, it was the need for a phone call, which we have pretty much abandoned in our friendship over the past year that began to cause me distress. So all day I contemplated what it could be about, I was worried about the boys and thought maybe coming back to the classroom this semester had been too much for her and that she was calling for support, or about my job positions for next year. So when I finally got ahold of her after class and she began by, ” It is about Elizabeth.” my heart sank.

She proceeded to tell met that Elizabeth, our third musketeer is in the hospital, and has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. TERMINAL. I mean how could this be, I was just texting her about my wedding two weeks ago. She had been fine, she hadn’t even had a cold this year, which is a miracle considering we work in a pertri dish and last year she had strep, bronchitis and laryngitis. She was happy and healthy and we laughed, and now, she is dying! How is that even possible? A stomach ache, a possible UTI, a trip to the ER and now. . . terminal cancer, spreading so rapidly they didn’t even give her a timeline, she is completely, inevitably dying.

And here I am left mourning my friend, who hasn’t even died yet.

I found myself dreaming of her, waking up in silent tears from them, I found myself crying in my car on the way to school, thinking about the future classroom we had dreamed of having. I am mourning . . . and then I find myself crying because I should be celebrating the time we have left, right?

This comes just weeks after one of my new, but equally as influential friends husband was diagnosed with cancer, his was treatable with a surgery luckily and he is on the road to recovery. But neither thing is in any conceivable way fair.

I prayed and prayed for her husband to be well, and he is. But no amount of pray, aside from a modern day miracle will save this friend. So where does that leave me and God?

I was not always a religious person, but I have grown to love the comfort and community that a relationship with God brings me. He gives me solace even when there is no solace available. But not this time.

Now I am just mad, so very mad at him. Why would he do this? How can this be part of some grand plan I am supposed to believe in, when we will be left here without this essential part of our world, of my world. How will we go on? There is no part of me that can be consoled by the ” God needs another angel,” and “It must be her time. ” It is not her time, and God has an infinity of angels. Give me something real, give me a reason I can comprehend for this to happen.

I don’t think that there is one. And that is the fate of those of us left on earth. We are fallen man, left to deal with the pain and suffering that we have created for ourselves, and the pain and suffering that is unimaginable.

So here I am wrestling with this anger, I continue to open up my heart to pray to think if there is any way that God can give me this, just enough time just more time with her then I have to continue to pray. But what do I do when those prays go unanswered? When the inevitable happens and she passes away, where will I be left then? In a constant tug of war with God waiting for answers I may never get?

Does that diminish my faith? Or is this relationship, this real visceral feeling of a relationship with God what I am supposed to feel? Is this this that feeling I have been waiting for that lets me know that God is real and that he hears me and I am not ignored for becoming a believer so late in life? Because if this  gut wrenching anger and guilt is the feeling is what lets me know that God is real, I don’t know if I want it. . . you can have this pain back, if I get to spend just one year in a classroom again with her. You can keep it.

Kelsi Rae