Tag Archives: Zuni

Katie Confessions # 4

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written any confessions on here.  That’s partly because I haven’t had time to write anything and partly because I found out several parents of my students read this lil’ blog, and I don’t want to get fired.  Kidding.  Sort of.  Hi, parents:)

Since it’s been a while, I’ve been doing, saying, and thinking lots of confession-worthy things.  I’ll just share a few and separate them by categories. Continue reading

Invitations in Zuni

I apologize for my lackluster blog effort of late.  I returned from Zuni and our landlady had raised the rent $200, so I said, “Peace out” and I moved, and anyone who has ever moved knows just how awful this can be.  Now I’m buried under a pile of freshman research papers that I have to grade and a research paper that I have to write, so I still won’t be around for a bit.  But the good news is: summer is just around the corner!  That means no more grading and no more formal writing! Until then, enjoy this final post about Zuni….a month late.


While I was in Zuni this year, I was reading the book Love Does by Bob Goff.  Bob is hilarious and wild and loves Jesus in a hilarious and wild way.  One of the chapters is about the invitation to live fully.  I shared this passage with my students as it was very fitting for our week and our lives:

There is only one invitation it would kill me to refuse, yet I’m tempted to turn it down all the time.  I get the invitation every morning when I wake up to actually live a life of complete engagement, a life of whimsy, a life where love does.  It doesn’t come in an envelope.  It’s ushered in by a sunrise, the sound of a bird, or the smell of coffee drifting lazily from the kitchen.  It’s the invitation to actually live, to fully participate in this amazing life for one more day.

During this one week in Zuni, it was easier to accept this invitation because we woke up looking for it, expecting it.  Here are some the ways we accepted the invitation to fully live:

* We raised havoc..

* raised the roof..

* and raised eyebrows when we invaded a gym to cheer for our friends Alex and Chelsea who were playing an intramural basketball game.  We later found out the lady at the door was telling people, “Yeah, there’s a group of crazy Christians here tonight.”  We were quite proud of ourselves.

We lived fully by…

* jumping for joy…

* jumping for thrills….

* and getting jumped by kindergarten monsters.

We refused to let life pass us by, so we…

* made lots of ice cream cones…

* made lots of new friends…

* and made ugly faces like it was our job.

*We seized the day by…

*  tickling…

* teaching..

* and hugging our little friends.

We grabbed hold of life as we…

* shot baskets…

* shot movies…

*  shot the breeze while we hung out in trees.

We drank deeply of life…

* rocking out…

* rocking in chairs…

* and rocking the cars while singing random songs at the top of our lungs.  And when I say “random,” I mean the most random song ever created by none other than Weird Al. I found this 11 minute song hilarious perhaps because the boys all sang every word, even the belch at the very end.  Or perhaps because I really do have the sense of humor of a 15-year old boy.

Either way, if your curiosity is peaked, if you’ve always wanted to listen to a song about Albuquerque, New Mexico or you want to punish someone for 11 minutes, WATCH THIS VIDEO. It is one of the strangest things on the Internet and you’ll probably think less of me since most grown adults find it completely moronic.

While in Zuni, we lived life on the edge, figuratively and literally:

and found it easy to embrace life each day because each day was bursting with new adventures.

Now that we’ve been home for a month and are back in the grind, back in routine and concrete jungles and piles of homework, it is much harder to accept God’s invitation to fully participate in life.  Bob Goff writes:

Turning down this invitation comes in lots of flavors.  It looks like numbing yourself or distracting yourself or seeing something really beautiful as just normal.  It can also look like refusing to forgive or not being grateful or getting wrapped around the axle with fear or envy.  I think every day God sends us an invitation to live and sometimes we forget to show up or get head-faked into thinking we haven’t really been invited.  But you see, we have been invited- every day, all over again.

I admit that since I’ve been back, there have been moments and whole days where I’ve ignored God’s invitation to fully live because it’s harder to find it here.  Or perhaps it’s because I’ve distracted myself so much and convinced myself that my task at hand is boring and trivial and certainly not part of God’s invitation to me.

But what if it is?

What if around every corner and every meeting and every parent e-mail God is beckoning me to live more fully with Him?

What if my mind is so constantly drawn back to Him that I can answer angry parents with a grin?  Or grade mountains of paper with gusto?

I’ve found that when I RSVP to God’s invitation to embrace each hour of life, life is suddenly much better, no matter the circumstance.  Bob writes:

A couple of other things happen when we accept Jesus’ invitation to participate with Him in life.  Obstacles that seem insurmountable aren’t.  Impediments that we believe disqualify us don’t.  When we show up to participate with Jesus in the big life, we’re participating with the very being who made life in the first place.

So I’m choosing to accept God’s invitation today and choosing to look for it around every bend.  I hope you do too!

Be the Kneecap

Sometimes I say weird things and people quote it back to me years later. There was that time my brother caught me saying, “I love ham” to myself when I was looking in the fridge for a snack.

Then that time in college when he and I were playing one-on-one and he pushed me to the ground, so I screamed, “I can’t feel my hands!”

In an honest complaint to a friend about daylight savings time, I whined that, “I have to turn on the light in the morning.”  She now says that every time I complain about anything.

So yeah, my quotes aren’t insightful or life-changing.  I have no words of wisdom that are ever going to make it on “Brainy Quotes.”  However, I did say a line that made it onto a cake:

“Be the kneecap.”

That was my  quotable line.

During the Zuni trip we were talking about how each team member brings something different to the team.  But the oh-so-human tendency is to look at what others bring to the team and wish we had their skills, while ignoring the value of our own.  We’ll look at the hand and wish we could be as useful as it.  Or we’ll wish we could be more like the arm.  But all the while, we are the kneecap, a very crucial body part, and we need to just, you know, be the kneecap.

Or the elbow.

Or the eyebrow.

Or the pinky toe.

Whatever it is that God made you to be, figure that out and go be it!  I don’t know why a kneecap came to mind, but it did and it stuck.

I love Paul’s analogy of the body of Christ being like an actual body and I love Eugene Peterson’s translation of Paul’s letter:

“Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body. It’s exactly the same with Christ. By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything.

Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain—his Spirit—where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves—labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free—are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive. I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. 

A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, “I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body,” would that make it so? If Ear said, “I’m not beautiful like Eye, limpid and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,” would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it.

But I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of. An enormous eye or a gigantic hand wouldn’t be a body, but a monster. What we have is one body with many parts, each its proper size and in its proper place. No part is important on its own” (1 Corinthians 12).

It’s not just kids on a mission trip who need to be reminded that we are all parts of the body, significant in different ways.  It was the Corinthians and it’s me.  And I’m guessing it’s probably you too.  Because it’s so easy to compare ourselves to others and see our role as less important.  So while it was easy for me to sit there and tell my students to “be the kneecap,” I still looked at my fellow leaders and wrestled with thoughts like:

“She’s way more organized than I am.”

“Kids respect him more than they respect me.”

“Her outfit is cuter than mine.”

“He’s more insightful.”

“She’s a better problem-solver.”

“I wish I could sing or cook or lead like so-n-so.”

But on this trip, when those pesky little comparisons crept into my mind, I told them to go away.  Instead, I thought about how the body is stronger when everyone is doing their part well and I can’t be all the parts.  So instead of focusing on the fact that others are better at singing or cooking or organizing than I am, I’ll focus on the role and gifts God has given me.  But I also won’t see my gifts as any more important than others since, as Eugene points out, a gigantic hand would be a monster, not a body.

Now that I’m back home, I still need to be reminded of this lesson almost on a daily basis.  I’m tempted to compare myself to other teachers and coaches and friends and bloggers, but instead of falling into that dirty trap once more, I’ve determined to simply be the kneecap.


How about you?  Do people quote something you said years ago?  I’d love to hear it.

For instance, we often still quote my dad for saying, “You don’t have to like it; you just have to eat it.”

Heidi, I’m thinking of quotes involving your wrists and problems counting.  Travis, you said a zinger when Trent punched your sandwich.  Jenny, remember what you said when we were trying to make friends at the retreat?  Lesley, I’m thinking of a line you said in the DC about our coolness.

Everyone’s got a weird line they’re remembered for and I’d love to hear yours.  Share your quotable lines in the comments.  I’ll start with another of my foolish remarks still repeated.

Zuni lessons 2013 (part 1)

I swore in front of my students while leading a mission trip.

It was the S word.

And it was quite embarrassing.

But it may have been even more embarrassing when I answered my phone in a thick British accent only to realize that it was not a kid in the other van calling, but rather the guardian of one of the students on the trip.

Let me explain.  On Friday we made the 10 hour trek home from the Indian Reservation in Zuni, New Mexico, one of my favorite places on earth.  A few hours into the drive, the van right in front of us lost a hubcap that came hurtling straight for us.  I swerved and “sugar-honey-ice-tea” slipped out.

Then while the kids slept most of the 10 hour drive, for the last 2 hours they all spoke is surprisingly accurate British accents.  It’s hard to speak American when everyone around you sounds so posh, so naturally I joined in and naturally that’s when the guardian called.  Bugger.

Besides learning to watch for hubcaps and be normal when answering unknown numbers on my phone, I learned several other lessons in Zuni. This was my fourth year going and each year God teaches me new things and reveals Himself in new ways.  Perhaps that’s part of the reason I love it here so much.

Here is part 1 of the things I learned this time around:

1. Cow tipping isn’t real.

Did you know this?  I didn’t.  My mind was blown.  Seriously blown.  Like it’s been 4 days and I am still shocked.  I mean, something I believed all my life to be true is actually just a joke among the farming community?  How did I not know this for so long?!

Apparently, cows don’t sleep standing up.  And if you try to push them when they’re awake, they’ll just move and look at you like you’re an idiot.  I sure felt like an idiot when Alex, a chipper young chap who works at the Zuni school, convinced me of this hard-to-believe truth.

2. One should steer clear of men dressed like eagles.

Each year we attend the Zuni religious dances where the men dress as the kachinas, which are their gods, asking for rain or good health or other blessings.  Each year I am struck by how this bizarre nature of worship is so similar to what is found in our own culture.

Before nightfall another leader and I scoped out the area where the dances would be and we noticed small fires being tended in front of most of the homes.  When we asked about this, the women explained that they were feeding their ancestors.  Apparently, they had been setting aside a sacrifice of their dinners from the past months and that food was burned on this night to welcome home and feed their ancestors.

This night was a special night since the ancestors would return to watch the young boys be initiated into the religious society with a whipping done with the yucca plant.  The dances happened in homes rather than the plaza, so the dancers waiting to enter the homes stood awkwardly close to those watching the dances, ie- people like us.  The dances are solemn affairs and it was not okay for us non-Zunis to be in such close proximity to the men that Zunis believe become the gods when dressed as the kachinas.  Thus, some of the men dressed as eagles spread their arms as if they were flying and cleared us out of the way so we wouldn’t be too close to the other dancers.

Sounds bizarre, right?

But I’ve been learning this year that no matter what one worships, it always looks a little weird.  Whether we are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Tom Cruise, atheist, or agnostic, as humans we all naturally worship something or someone.  We find meaning and value in something and devote our lives to it.  And whether we are worshipping God, or gods, or cars, or money, or sports teams, or celebrities, or our bodies, or clothes, or food, or our ancestors, or our living family, or ourselves, worship always looks strange to an outsider.

So yes, the Zuni rituals seem rather bizarre.  But so does this:

So who am I to judge?

3. Worship isn’t about the dances we dance or the songs we sing.  It’s about the lives we live.

We can identify what someone worships based on how they live, or in some cases, based on what they paint on their body.  Our devotion is seen by what we think about and talk about most.  Where we spend our time, money, and efforts all reveal our objects of worship.  Because as Jesus said, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be.”

The Zuni people treasure their ancestors and their gods and their traditions.  They burn fires and wear strange costumes while performing odd dances.  But they are simply doing what we all do; they’re worshipping.

There are often times when I am worshipping our God and see myself as an outsider would.  I watch myself take communion or hold hands in a circle while singing the doxology and I think, “This is so bizarre.  We look like a bunch of nuts!”

But all worship looks a little nutty.

Whether burning fires to feed spirits, eating the body and the blood, shopping at the mall, cheering for a sports team, drooling over a celebrity crush, or obsessing over appearance or relationships, worship always looks odd.

This week I relearned the importance of recognizing what I am worshipping with my life.  Because if I’m not intentional about making my day about Jesus and His kingdom, 15 other things are vying for my attention and my worship.  Usually it’s myself.  But if I start each day acknowledging that my life belongs to Him and my day should be lived for Him, it’s easier to give proper worship to my Creator.

And when I forget, when I ignore God and focus on the things other than Him that I’m tempted to worship, well, then I’m like that fool trying to tip a cow, wasting my time believing a lie.

Zuni Lessons Part Two

This is my last Zuni post of the year, but not forever since I will continue going to this quiet reservation every Spring Break that I can.  Here are the final lessons I learned from this year’s trip.

I learned that you can diffuse a potentially very awkward and embarrassing moment by laughing, giving a thumb’s up, and saying, “You got me good!” when a volleyball is spiked in your face and blood instantly begins to pour out of your nose. (Bryce’s reaction made us fall to the ground with side-splitting laughter.  And yes, a Meet the Parents reference was made.)

I learned that if you accidentally dress like a high schooler, you’ll feel pretty cool.

But then I was reminded of my age and true “un”coolness when I tried to master the ripstick again this year and ended up, not only falling to the ground, but taking out a student with me who had been trying to help balance me. Continue reading

Zuni Lessons Part One

I go to Zuni each year with the mindset of a sponge.  No, not that of Bob.  (Although I do enjoy hamburgers and kinda wish I had a squirrel friend).  I arrive on the reservation ready and eager to learn, excited to soak up whatever lessons God has for me.  This year much of what I learned had to do with how to serve and I learned loads about service from simply observing the students.  For instance, I learned that

* sometimes the best way to be Christ to someone, is to wrap them in toilet paper…

… or teach them how to dissect a cow eyeball…

… or encourage them as they walk on a tight rope.

* Sometimes the best way to point someone to Jesus is to make balloon spiders with them…

… or teach them about worms…

…. or give them piggyback rides until you’re a sweaty, exhausted mess.

* Sometimes the best way to evangelize is to laugh…

… or sing……. or make snacks and silly faces.

* Sometimes the best way to serve is to listen…

… or mop…

… or swing kids until your arms feel like they’re about to fall off.

* And lastly, sometimes the best place to have “church” is on top of a cliff…

…. or on a playground…

…. or in a Zuni woman’s living room complete with deer heads on the wall.

The next post will about the “church service” we had in this room under the careful gaze of the stuffed deer.  It involved ice cream sundays, a moving story, a rousing game of down-by-the-banks, and a bit of crowd surfing.  It is a service I will never forget.

(photos courtesy of Erica Streelman and her minions)

Apart from the kids, I also learned lessons from two men who have been serving God with their whole lives for quite some time.

Jeff, our leader of the trip and the man in charge of missions at Valley, is one of those people who seems to constantly call forth words of wisdom straight from the lips of Jesus.  He’s one of those rare souls who is quick to listen and slow to speak.  But when he does speak, man oh man, I listen hard.

This year, he spoke about the fact that when we go to “serve,” we are going to meet with Jesus and to build friendships with others.  We don’t go to be their servants; we go to be their friends.  Because if we come with the mindset that we are serving the poor, unfortunate souls in desperate need of what we have, we somehow start to feel superior to them.

We forget that the “needy” we go to serve are rich in ways that we are not.  When we see those whom we serve as the lowly, we place ourselves above them.  We see ourselves as the “blessed” and start to take pride in our acts of service.  We take pride in serving when really we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing all the time, namely loving God and loving others.

Pastor Meekof, who has been living and serving in Zuni for decades, spoke to this same issue when said, “The minute you become ‘religious’, grace goes out the door.”  The minute we start “doing good deeds” to earn God’s favor, we’ve forgotten the monumental truth that God can never love us any more than He already does.  We don’t deserve His love; nor can we earn it.

He explained the importance of checking our motives when we serve and said that thanksgiving should be our driving motivation.  We should serve because that is how we say ‘thank you’ to our creator.  We don’t serve to feel better about ourselves or to make God love us more.

We go to say thanks.

I’ve been chewing on this truth ever since we returned, and I’m trying to learn how to say “thanks” to God with my whole life.

Zuni Benches Part One

I have a thing for benches.  I’m kind of obsessed.  I see an open one and I’m always itching to sit.

It’s weird.  I know.

But for years God has been meeting me on benches.  So benches have become like portals for me- my own wardrobe into Narnia.  Except, instead of stumbling into a winter wonderland with fauns and talking beavers, I sit on splintered wood and am transported into the eye of a storm, the peaceful calm that exists only in God’s midst while the world rages wildly around us.

I can still see myself perched on benches in gardens at Westmont.

I found a special one overlooking the ocean in a Mozambican park.

I napped on an especially peaceful one at the base of the Swiss Alps.

And each Spring break I return to the benches outside Zuni Christian School on the Zuni Reservation.  I’ve talked so much about these particular benches that the students this year asked if they could share my benches.  Sure enough, I’d often be reading my bible with a student sitting on the adjacent bench reading his/her own bible.  I loved that.  These kids are eager to hear from God and I was more than happy to welcome them to a spot where God’s whispers are amplified.

Other days these benches were the spot for jam sessions as seen here:

It’s not that these benches, or any benches for that matter, are magical.  But I’ve found that when I find a quiet place on the planet and a quiet place in my soul and just sit, something magical does seem to happen.  It is in such places that suddenly my vision seems to sharpen and I notice the spiritual realm that is always around us but is so typically ignored.  Suddenly, the cacophony of the world’s lies are muted and I can clearly hear the words of truth and peace that are always being spoken but are so often disregarded.

This year in the moments of quiet, there were two incidences in which God seemed to shout in the stillness.  The first occurred on Easter Sunday. Continue reading

Friday Favorites- Zuni Runs

It’s been a few weeks since the last Friday Favorites, so a bunch of these are old.   So in the same way it sounds better to start a story with “the other day” rather than “5 weeks ago”, I’ll just let you assume all these moments happened this past week.  But just so you know, they didn’t.

Favorite “looky-loo” moment

During one of my runs through Little India, a bunch of police cars whizzed past me.  Naturally, I followed them.

I joined a cluster of Indian business owners standing out on the street, and we all tried to solve the mystery of what had happened.  We concluded that someone had tried to rob “Raj Jewels.”  Despite my best attempts to eavesdrop on the cops, I could only conclude that they were pissed at someone, but I could not determine if the suspect had gotten away.

Speaking of attempted robberies, I should also mention that a family friend owns a jewelry store and he was robbed a few weeks ago.  This story made the NEWS because our friend stopped the robbery by shooting the guy in the shoulder and face.  The guy fled with the 4 other robbers, but they all were caught when they crashed into a parked car- probably because the guy driving was the one who had just been SHOT IN THE FACE.  Eeee-diots!

Least favorite “looky- loo” moment

Note: I’ve waited to tell this story because it was too painful to recall when it first happened.  At first, I only told only my friend Susan and that was only because she had told me about her own experience that was WAY worse than mine.  I love you, Susan! Continue reading

Holy Benches

“Dogs get a period?”
This question was asked by a high school student while on the Zuni Reservation. A dog, which our fearless leader named Scout, had followed us back to the school and when I went outside to do my devotions on my “holy benches”, there she was….with her period.
Only I didn’t know that until she sat at my feet for a half hour getting her ears scratched while I read my Bible. She stood up and…surprise! Scout was on her period.

Herbert Sheldon the Third

The drive to Zuni is 10 hours long and involved the following:
* seven high school girls in a large silver van with me at the wheel
* several games of Catch Phrase
* two 5-hour energy shots
* one giant bag of trail mix
* four mixed CDs
* one Starbucks frappuccino
* two hours of me playing word association games by myself to stay alert
* one stuffed turtle
* three accidental honks when I’d rest my head on Herbert Sheldon the Third, said stuffed turtle, who sat on my lap the entire way home.
Let me explain. First, yes, yes it was awkward crossing the border when the man asks if I have any animals in the car and I glance down at Herbert and say, “Only stuffed.” But Herbert’s more than just a stuffed turtle; he’s a pillow pet and he’s wonderful and his existence is one of the many things I learned about from the fabulous high schoolers who went to Zuni. Continue reading