Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011, In memorandum

Hello friends.

My oh my how time flies when you’re having fun (or working on so many projects you forget to update your blog). Where has 2011 gone? It feels like it was just last week I filmed a video about not making resolutions in 2011 while snuggled up next to my radiator in England. Now, I’m snuggled under blankets (the joys of a lap-top!) trying to fight a cold and working on the sermon I’ll preach on New Year’s Day 2012. Talk about fast forward!

About those New Year’s “Goals” (as I hate the idea of resolutions). I epic failed. I didn’t learn to play the piano (I can play with my right hand, I can play with my left hand; but, I can’t play both at the same time!). I didn’t get to 6 different countries – although I did get to 2, France and the Netherlands. I didn’t finish my book – not even close. I didn’t run a 5K (although I did start training for a half marathon).  I failed spectacularly at making weekly videos (my camera died…and I’m really lazy).

HOWEVER, lest you think that I actually am an epic failure, I did successfully meet 2 of my goals! I went to a blue grass concert which headlined the Whiskey Gentry which was AWESOME! If you’ve never checked them out, do it. You won’t be disappointed. And, a few weeks ago I went on not one but three actual, legitimate, real-life dates. No joke. Now, 66% of these dates were super awkward and will result in a big fat nothing. But there is a hopeful 33.33333% that may turn into something. Maybe. Possibly. We’ll see.

2011 has been a year of movement. I started the year in England, and end it in a new apartment in Atlanta with an old friend as a roommate. I’m looking back on such an incredible adventure while turning to face a new (and slightly more frightening) adventure on the horizon. 2011 was a year of new experiences – Paris, Amsterdam, plays in London’s West End, Cambridge in the Spring Time, my first Pilgrimage, my aunt’s re-marriage, new friends, new family. I feel like in the last three years I have been in a perpetual state of forward motion, that change is the norm and a new harbor is always on the horizon.

And change is still yet to come. If all goes well, I should graduate from seminary in May. From there everything goes back up in the air. I have absolutely ZERO idea as to where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing. I have over a year before I can start thinking about being ordained (thanks PCUSA), so I’m having to explore non-ministry options. I’m facing a denomination which is ripping apart at the seams. I’m made more and more aware that there are more people looking for ministry jobs than there are jobs available. Loan balance reminders hint at the large educational debt that must be repaid. Being a grown up is certainly not as glamorous as I thought it was a decade ago.

And yet, it all moves forward, one way or another. My mantra over the last semester has been “consider the lilies.” God provides for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field – how much more so for God’s children? This of course doesn’t mean I don’t fret about my future, but that I can take a deep breath and look forward with confidence. I’m excited about 2012, and 26, and life after schooling.

I end with a few pictures from Thanksgiving. Two of my dear friends from England, who went on a semester exchange to Yale, flew down for a proper Southern Thanksgiving. Instead of indulging in capitalistic gluttony on Black Friday, we went hiking at Amicacola Falls, in Dahlonega Georgia. While it wasn’t a grand tour of a great European city, it was a lovely day riding through the foot hills of the North Georgia mountains. For Tom and Chantal – my two darling friends – it was a chance to see what real America looks like, complete with trailer parks, dive bars surrounded by muddy pick-up trucks, and the greasy love of a Waffle House.

View from the top

Chantal and I on our way down
Mr and Mrs Clause are just chillin'

Pilgrims Progress

My Dad, ze Chef!

Tom and I relaxing on the back porch with gin and tonic
(yes I'm wear flig flops - it was a warm Thanksgiving!)

I cannot but guess what 2012 will bring. If it is half as exciting, and filled with friends and food and fun as 2011, then I’ll be alright.

Until next year…


Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Friends! It’s been ages. I know that I am quite on the edge of failing, but there has been much mayhem afoot (and good things too).

I am trying to get two videos edited, but my camera – the trusty little red camera which survived Europe and Cambodia, died upon returning state-side. Terribly sad day. I lost all the footage of my last week in England, including London pictures, video of my last, epic party, and snap-shots of my dear Wesley House friends. There has been a part of me which has been loath to update out of protest (even though that’s just silly, but hey – that’s me, right?). 

I am, however, updating from a few of my more recent adventures, because y'all should know that just because I’m back in good old Atlanta, I haven’t given up adventuring! There’s much to do here – And I am going to attempt to do it ALL!

This past weekend was the 41st annual Atlanta Pride march through Midtown. I walked for the first time, and oh my goodness it was amazing! To be surrounded by hundreds (thousands?) of people who were cheering and rejoicing in all the love and joy of honest and authentic self expression was amazing. And, to represent a divinity school – a population so often considered to be non-affirming, was a gift. On many levels being apart of this celebration was as much a religious experience as carrying the Cross to Walsingham at Easter (I promise to write a post about that too!). 

I'm pretty in pink representing Sacred Worth!

Atlanta Gets Festive!

Megan is shy...and all the Emory kids decide to match (except me)

A float of amazing drag Queens and a timeline of the AIDS pandemic in America...moving in so many ways

 I didn't take pictures of the enormous crowds, but I wish I had. There were thousands of people lining the streets, cheering and clapping. Several of the churches we passed had members (and clergy!) handing out water along the roadside to walkers. It was like Christmas, and Mardi Gras, and Halloween and Purim and all sorts of good times rolled into one march. And it was empowering. To know that all people are affirmed and surrounded by the love of God and neighbor is powerful. It was my first time being at Pride (and as I like to do - I go all the way or not at all, so of course I walked it). 

It is a beautiful reminder of why I came back home, no matter how far I stray: Atlanta, for all it's craziness, is a place of hospitality and welcome. May I strive to open the arms of welcome to all people, near and far. For, I like the Hebrews, have been a stranger and a strange land, and profoundly respect the need for a little love and generosity.

 And all God's people said, Amen.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Return of the Sojourner

Friends, I have been living in the proverbial whirlwind! This has been a season of coming and going, of packing and moving, and of catching up with life. I am safely back “home” in Atlanta and can report that my flight across the pond was thankfully uneventful. I have spent the last three weeks attempting to adjust back to Southern American heat and humidity – with only mixed success.

I have many more adventures to tell y’all! There is still my Easter pilgrimage to Walsingham and my trip to Scotland and North Umbria which have yet to be related. I have yet to bring you the joyous story of why I came home in June instead of July (which includes my ginger auntie, a purple wedding dress and a really awesome jazz band). And – most recently – I have stories to share about the Conyers Presbyterian Church summer mission trip to Gulf Port, Mississippi.

There is SO MUCH left to tell, so many adventures which are owed a bit of internet space. And, my hope is that I will continue to have adventures to share with y’all. I may not be living abroad any more, but that is no reason for the stories and escapades to end. So I’ll be here – hopefully more regularly than I have been these last several months – updating about my travels near and far, and maybe even telling a good joke or two to boot.

Cheers y’all!

Top C hallmates, 2011!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

More pictures from Paris...because I just can't help it!

The Eiffel Tower - it still takes my breathe away!

The Rose line at San Sulpice - Da Vinci Code anyone?

Miss Venus herself. It's phenomenal that she was carved by hand thousands of years ago. It's like a woman was frozen into the marble.

Another of Notre Dame. The Cathedral dominated our trip, it was our landmark, our point of reckoning the rest of the city. We saw only a tiny portion of all that Paris has to offer, and even that little bit was overwhelming. I never stop thinking about how lucky I am to have done and seen so much. To have come so far - across the world!  What a blessing, a treat, a joy to see so much of this wide world.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Brekke and Kristin's Excellent Adventure, part II - Paris

Dear friends,
This post has been an absolute age in coming to you, but here it is! Paris, oh the city of Lights. The city of Love. The city of delicious wine and fine art. Ever since I was a little, a tiny little thing listening to my Dad's stories of being stationed in Paris a mere 16 years after the end of WWII, I have wanted to visit. It's the scene of sweeping romance films, and the home of the world's best art. And, with my trusty side-kick, we made our way with almost no French, and sore, blistered feet.

A video montage of the trip - complete with organ music from Notre Dame! :)

We went to Mass in La Notre Dame the Sunday that we arrived. And - don't worry - we arrived in style, making it without any hassles for the first time in our entire trip! To hear Notre Dame filled with organ music, literally filled with sound and incense, was like moving through a dream. For a thousand years pilgrims have prayed in this church, coming from near and far to humble themselves before the majesty of God. It was incredible!

But paris isn't just about churches - although there are many of them and they are elegant and inspiring. We were on the prowl, looking for Shakespeare and Co, and English-speaking book shop which had been the local hang-out of delightful ex-pat writers like the Fitzgeralds. So after a mad search (in which we passed by the little ally-way where it's tucked away about 15 times) we finally found it. It's crammed with books, piled and stacked all across the store. But, it's homey and seems to fit perfectly into this cosmopolitan city.
 Kristin and I geeked out, taking pictures and she even bought a copy of The Great Gatsby for her boyfriend who is a dedicated Fitzgerald fan.

Then it was a day at the Louvre! We barely made it through 1/3 of the museum before we gave up to exhaustion (we'd seen lots and lots of paintings and had been there 5 hours). I saw Botticelli, and Da Vinci (the Mona Lisa is much less impressive in real life), and paintings from the 1200s and so much more. There was the Winged Victory (above) and Venus Demilo, and the graces in one of the sculpture rooms. I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of paintings I recognized (thanks to my dad's plethora of art history books lying around over the years!). It is truly amazing - everyone should have the opportunity to see so much wonder and talent.

We walked up the Champs Elysees, to the Arch D'Trumph, and watched as a ceremony took place honoring French veterans. There were school children and lots of flowers over the tomb of the unknown soldiers. It was sweet and reminded me of similar traditions back home in the States.
  French veteran, waiting for the ceremony to being. 
The Eiffel Tower - doesn't disappoint! It's gorgeous and inspiring. You can see in my video how it lights up - shimmers and sparkles - at night. It's magnificent and more than lived up to everything I had imagined.
It's a masterful piece of engineering, and despite being metalic it is gorgeous the way it sours up toward heaven.
I had such an amazing trip. It's hard to put into words all the things that happened - the crazy room with the exposed electric wiring and the door that wouldn't open; the crazy subway system; the amazingness of the Musee D'Orsay and realizing that had I been alive in the 1880s, I could have been a Renoir muse. To be surround by such profound works of art - art that moves you and makes you feel something - it takes your breath away. It is the feeling of being so supremely human - finite and bundled up with feelings and emotions - and being so bigger-than-life, like we are going to outlive these little bodies. It was wonderful!

San Chapel - a Medieval church with spectacular stained-glass windows!
If you ever, ever have the opportunity to go to Paris, it isn't to be missed. It's an overwhelming city, with so much history and culture that it makes us little Americans blush. It's fast and frantic. It's ancient and modern. It's a little bit of everything, and classic artwork to boot.
I'd go back tomorrow if I could, because there's so much left unexplored!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Brekke & Kristin's Excellent Adventure, part I

Hello friends and family!
So much has transpired in the month since I've posted! We've been released for a month of Easter holidays (fantastic, isn't it?). I've been traveling here, there and everywhere collecting pictures and stories to share with y'all. I've had guests and been a guest. I've even found the time to finish some of my classwork!

Two weeks ago one of my dearest friends in the whole, wide world, Kristin, came to visit me. She flew from Charlotte NC to London then, after many trials and tribulations found the right train to bring her to Cambridge.  What a reunion!
Kristin strolls through an 11th century garden!
We went punting - which is sitting in a flat-bottomed wooden boat, which is like a cross between a raft and a canoe - which is what all tourists do when they visit Cambridge. It's the best way to see the colleges!
 Kings College in all its glory

After a lovely day we got up at the crack of dawn (seriously!) to fly to Amsterdam. Amsterdam was fantastic!

Here is a video of our epic adventures!

We went to museums, and art galleries, and rode boats on the canals!
boats along the canal!

The Anne Frank statue - they don't allow photography inside the museum, so this will have to do!

There's something romantic about the canals. I can see why people flock to Venice. They are a delightful and charming feature of the city!

Kristin and I both agree - we'd like to go back!
In two days there just isn't time to see everything you'd like to see. I know I'd like to go back when it's warmer and the tulips are in bloom! But, we journeyed on, from Amsterdam to Paris by train, passing through Antwerp and Brussels (although we stayed on the train and didn't dare set foot off it - we've had our fair share of traveling difficulties).
Three days in Paris! I'll save that for another post. Until then, I hope y'all are well. I send  my love - and a reminder that I'll be home in just a mere 2.5 months! Imagine where the time has gone.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

I've been to the Mountain Top

Well friends, it's been ages since I've posted. Life in Cambridge has been rushing by, so fast I can hardly keep up with everything. I blink and another week slips away. Here we are, on the edge of Lent. Ash Wednesday is just a few days away, and I know that all of you are planning to indulge in whatever little luxuries you're giving up for Lent over the next couple of days! I am paying the price of procrastination and haivng to lock myself away to write essays (like I should be doing now...).

BUT, I wanted to announce that I preached my very first ever sermon this morning (first in my WHOLE life, can you imagine I got through 1.5 years of seminary without having to!). It was for Transfiguration Sunday, and it was to our little Chapel congregation - which had swelled this Sunday for some unknown reasons (or I'm just that awesome!) from our normal 10-12, to about 25. It was great. I only stuttered once, and got through it okay. I have my official assessment on Thursday where I get feedback from my professor about how well I did (content and delivery). Hopefully that all goes well. I feel pretty good about it, all in all.

Now, I can just hear y'all, itching to get your hands on this epically awesome work of theological genius (right?). So I'm going to be benevolent (vain?) and post it. :)

I hope all of you are well! I have video footage that, as soon as I get a spare minute (afternoon, rather) to edit, I'll have a video posted. Also, I'm going to Paris in 3 weeks (!!!!!), and I'll be sure to take LOTS of pictures.

All my love!

Our Readings were Exodus 24: 12-19 (Moses up on the mountain) and Matthew 17:1-9 (the Transfiguration).

Imagine for a moment you are surrounded by forest. You are carefully picking your way through the dense growth of Central American jungle. It is hot and humid, you are covered in a sticky film of sweat; insects buzz around your head and there is the constant chatter of bird calls. Imagine the toiling climb, up and up, feeling the pop of your ears drums as the altitude changes, and the soreness of your feet from hours on the trail.

Then, imagine them moment when the tree line breaks and you are greeted with a rich expanse of bright blue sky. No office buildings or cell phone towers obstruct your view; it’s just pristine, perfect blue. Imagine your sense of awe as you gaze upon a sky which seems to stretch out into forever. What a reward for the strenuous work of climbing all that way!
It is no coincidence that revelation can take place on a mountain top. Here we are removed from the busy to-and-fro activities of daily life. Here we are raised up, closer to heaven, closer even to God in some sense. Here, after the labor of climbing up and away from the mundane do we encounter God’s unfiltered glory.

I have been blessed to have had such a “mountain top” experience – and, as my illustration may have clued you in – it was actually on a literal mountain in Central America – Guatemala to be exact. I was 19 and on my very first mission trip. I was a brand new, baby Christian – having come to faith less than a year before.  After a day climbing up to one of the villages we were visiting, I stopped and looked out across the great wide horizon, seeing the cloudless sky, watching the way the trees rolled down into the valley, and how seamlessly everything came together. In that moment, I experienced an unexpected revelation – God wanted me to be a servant. God wanted me to be God’s hands and feet. God wanted me to be excited about God’s glory and to share it. The revelation lasted only a moment, but a spiritual “high” if you will, stuck with me throughout the rest of the trip. It was a moment of clarity – an epiphany where I understood something of the nature of God and my relationship to God.

Lots of religious folks have these “mountain top” experiences. Rarely, though, do they occur on literal mountains – they can happen quietly on a ship taking an itinerant preacher to America (in the case of John Wesley). Or they can come loudly on the road from Jerusalem to Damascus (like the Apostle Paul). Or they can happen in the instant of communion – as it did to Sara Miles, who felt God call her to reform the food pantry system in California.

The mountain top experience is a space where God’s glory calls to us, removes us from the present reality, and lifts us. It’s intense, and awesome – in the truest sense of the word. It’s unusual, and can’t be manufactured or prepared for. And, it is transformative.  

Both our Old Testament and Gospel readings for this morning are about that moment of Divine revelation. That is what the Transfiguration is – Christ illuminated revealing his true identity to Peter, James and John. Revelation is what happened to Moses when he ascended into the blazing cloud where the glory of God beckoned him.  There God disclosed the gift of the law. This is a moment of being overwhelmed by God’s glory, and being changed because of it.

A few verses before the Transfiguration in Chapter 16 of the Gospel of Matthew, we see Peter confess that Jesus is the Messiah and is the “Son of the living God.” But when Jesus predicts his death in verse 21, Peter rebukes Jesus. He denies that the Messiah can or should suffer. He doesn’t see clearly. He doesn’t understand.

The moment of the Transfiguration is when it all comes together. We see Jesus with Elijah and Moses. Jesus is the inheritor of the prophetic tradition and the fulfillment of prophecy. God’s glory surrounds them in a cloud and a voice from heaven proclaims “this is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased, listen to him.” 

This directly parallels the baptism narrative earlier in the gospel, with the added emphasis of heeding Jesus’ instruction. This is the moment which crystallizes Jesus’ identity and shifts the focus of the gospel.  If you can imagine, it is the hinge and pivot.

We celebrate the Transfiguration as the culmination of the season of Epiphany. We celebrate the Transfiguration as the final Sunday before Lent. Here we shift; here revelation does not rest, but moves us from the bright glow of Epiphany to the shadow of the Cross. To know the truth of Jesus’ identity is to know that what must follow is the crucifixion.

Revelation is impetus to action.

Jesus didn’t take his friends to the mountain and reveal his true identity for them to stay there. They must descend again and go back into the world, back to the disciples who would squabble about greatness, back to a Palestine occupied by the Romans, back to the reality that Christ must suffer unto death. When Moses returned with the revelation of the law, he was met with the scene of his people worshiping the golden calf, there at the foot of the mountain. When we return from our moments of divine clarity, we return to a world racked with imperfection and sin. It can be tempting to run from that world, to look for the mountain top while we are in the valley.

It wasn’t for me to stay up on that mountain in Guatemala, marveling at the beauty of God’s good creation. That moment was perfect and peaceful, yes, but it was a moment. It was an encounter with God to shape my steps and shift my focus. It wasn’t for Peter, James and John to stay on the mountain, either, building shelters for Elijah and Moses, basking in the literal glow of Jesus illuminated. It wasn’t for Moses to horde the law to himself, lingering in God’s presence away from the waywardness of Israel. And, it isn’t for any of us to stay in the space where God brings clarity. We are not meant to linger in the glow of the mountain top experience; we are meant return to the world transformed by it, renewed by it, and inspired by it.

So, as we approach the season of Lent, preparing to walk with Christ toward the Cross, let the actions of our lives reflect the revelation of who Christ is. And, in knowing that, who we are called to be.


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Epic Fail and Egypt

Don't be alarmed by the title - this post isn't about a potential for Epic fail in Egypt! Rather, it's a recaping of my re-evaluation of goals (i.e. the epic fail) and thoughts on what going on in Cairo (Egypt).

First to epic fail. It's rather obvious that my attempts to make 2 videos a week have, shall I say, been rather lacking. I could blame it on being overwhelmed with work, but until the last week and a half, that wasn't the case. And, I could blame it on the fact that my computer got sick and had to be taken to the doctor, but I was only without access for about 2.5 days, so that doesn't sufficiently explain things either. No, the blame rests upon my own shoulders. I'm a lazy bum! But I have been practicing the piano (and will do as soon as this post is finished). And I have been running regularly, until I pulled something and the doctor told me to rest (not run) for TWO weeks. :( But the novel and the dating have also been epic fail thus far in the year. Ah, such is life.

Now, Egypt. There are so many things I could comment on! The beauty of people banding together for postive change. The horror of peaceful protests turned violent. Instead of dribbling on about revolution as a double-edged sword, I'll leave you with a video I made last week, and an ultra-brief introduction of what's happening in Egypt by John Green. I hope these videos are food for thought.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


2010 has ended and 2011 has begun. A year full of adventures, travel and wild experiences bleeds over.
It's odd that New Years never really feel like a chapter marker for me. Maybe that's because I've always been intimately tied to the academic calendar and the beginning and ending of school years has held more importance in my every day life. I've pretty much been in school FOREVER (oye) and my dad was a college professor. I counted my years from August to July, rather than January to December. But, the rest of the world does things differently. Silly world. :)
Lest I wax too nostalgic, I present TWO videos for the price of one. I know it's overwhelming - you best get ready for the sheer amount of awesome that's fixin' to fill your screens! Video one is a recap of 2010 - a brief look over all my travels, from South East Asia to rural Minnesota, to urban England. Video two is a quick recap of New Years Eve and my top 7 goals for 2011.

This has been such a great adventure - I hope all y'all stick around for more! :)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Thoughts from Places...

A video about Cambridge, and my first day of 2011.