Wednesday, February 26, 2014

My Letter to God

Normally, personal prayers are meant to be just that, personal. However, for some reason I feel like this is something that I should share. I know I haven't written in quite a long time and so much has happened. This is a letter that I wrote to God asking many questions regarding a specific issue in my life. It's something that I've really been struggling with in the past several weeks. In this letter I allow myself to be candid and vulnerable, open and honest.

Dear God,

What have I done? I'm struggling so much. I know that I can do better in my classes, but that's not what I'm worried about. I'm lonely. I'm so very tired of this lonely feeling. You promised that you would never leave me. If you're here with me right now, then why do I feel so alone? How long do I have to wait until I get to enjoy the company of a partner? Have I already met him, but I've pushed him away? Is my partner even a him? Is there someone out there for me, or am I called to live a life of solitude? Why won't you answer me? Are you even listening? Where are you? I'm tired of being the unintentional third wheel, or the obligatory invitee. I'm tired of seeing all the happy couples while I'm alone. Tired of seeing the ones who have someone to come home to; the ones who have someone to go to dinner with, send flowers to, leave notes for, the ones who have someone to curl up on the couch and watch movies with. Someone to fight with, someone to make up with. When will it be my turn? I'm trying to make sense of it all, but I can't. How do I get through this? What am I supposed to learn? When will I stop crying myself to sleep? I've looked, I've not looked. I've hurt, I've been hurt. I've done all but given up. I've had many people walk out on me over the years. For some I asked what was it I had done; others I was glad to see them go. I know there are many people who love me and care for me. Why am I so afraid to talk to them? Why am I so afraid to talk to you, God? I need you now more than ever to help me get through this. Not my will, but Yours. Guide me. Take me. Melt me. Mold me. Use me. Teach me. I'm Yours. You've called me by name and You've told me that I'm precious to You. You have made so many promises to me. Give me the understanding. Teach me Your will.

~James

Monday, June 17, 2013

Well, I got accepted into seminary, now what?

As I’m sitting down to write this post, the song title “How long has it been?” popped up into my head. The last time I wrote anything was at the beginning of Lent. So, when was that? Hmmm…Ash Wednesday was February 14, so it’s been four months. Wow! That’s a long time to go without any kind of update.

So much has happened since the last time I wrote. My mother had a stroke, I was accepted into seminary, I’ve begun seeing a therapist, I’ve become more of a reader than I ever thought I would be, I’ve been much more physically active and have lost almost 15 pounds! I’ve attended a couple of conferences that have been beneficial to me, and through those opportunities I’ve been able to meet some really great people!

I’ll start by giving an update about my mother. She is doing very well now! For those who knew and were praying while all of that was going on, I thank you very much! She has had to adapt her diet and cut back a bit at work, but she is doing great! I’ll also talk about my dad a bit, too. Back in October he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. It is believed to have been caused by exposure to Agent Orange while he was in the military stationed in Korea during the Vietnam War. He is on medication, and they seem to be working in keeping things under control. Thanks for your prayers past, current, and future regarding the health of my parents.

I’m not good with transitions, so I’ll just hop right on into my next topic. Therapy. As many of you know, I’ve been through a lot of things in my 29 years of life. I had been trying to deal with a lot of these issues on my own or by talking things through with friends, but nothing really seemed to be helping. I began looking around for a therapist that I might begin the healing process with. I was able to get into the Center on Halsted, which is one of the largest LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Questioning) resource centers in the US. I was very fortunate to be offered free services. This process has been difficult, but very freeing and rewarding at the same time.

Who likes to read? ME!! I used to hate reading, but since moving here I’ve become much more of a reader than I ever thought I would be! I’ve been reading books related to social justice issues, faith, the arts, and other topics. I know this is a good thing because I’m going to be reading a lot while in seminary. A couple of the books that I’ve read or am currently reading that I would highly recommend would be: Love Is an Orientation by Andrew Marin, This Odd and Wondrous Calling by Lillian Daniel & Martin B. Copenhaver, Take This Bread by Sara Miles, and When “Spiritual But Not Religious” Is Not Enough by Lillian Daniel. Please, take a look at these books, read them, and let me know what you think of them! My housemates and I are currently reading a book called 50 Ways to Pray by Teresa A. Blythe. This book is very awesome! I love that there are many different types of prayers and you can try many of them to see what works for you. I would definitely recommend this book as well! I do have an amazon.com wishlist of books I would like to get at some point in the future. A majority of the books on the list are things I believe would help in my journey through seminary and also just my spiritual journey and life in general. I’ll provide the link if anyone would like to take it upon themselves to purchase a book or two.
 http://amzn.com/w/1EN6VF98HGZDV

I’ve lost weight! But yet my pants still don’t fit me. I’m losing weight, but gaining muscle, so this explains why my pants don’t fit. Since moving here, I walk pretty much everywhere and I’ve recently begun biking more as well. I’m waiting for a free weekend when I can take my bike down by the lake and bike along the shore. Something else I’m really looking forward to doing is going to the lake very early in the morning and watching the sunrise. I’ll probably take the book about praying and my prayer journal with me and have a time of meditation while I watch the sunrise. God’s creation is so beautiful and to experience the beauty of a sunrise over Lake Michigan is something everyone should do!

And now for the moment you’ve all been waiting for…I got accepted to seminary! I’m so super excited about this! I’ll be working on a Master of Divinity at McCormick Theological Seminary which is in the Hyde Park neighborhood in Chicago. This is definitely something I would covet your prayers about. Even though I’m excited about this new adventure, I’m definitely very nervous as well. See, I don’t have a Bachelor’s degree and to go from some early college work to working on a Master’s degree is quite nerve-wracking! I know, however, that God would not lead me to something and then just let me try and do everything on my own. As I pray about this new journey, I am amazed at how calm and worry-free I have been. Now, that doesn’t mean that I’m not worried, it just means that I’m not constantly thinking about how I’m going to pay for school or where I’m going to live or where my rent money is going to come from. Up to this point, everything has been provided in some way or another.

So, now to leave you with a few prayer requests:
1) I would ask that you pray for God’s continued leading in my life. Even though I’m going to seminary, I’m not quite sure what I’m going to be doing after. Am I going to become a minister, a hospital chaplain, a university chaplain, etc.?
2) I would ask prayer for God’s provision. Something specific in this area is finances. I have received my housing assignment, and am to pay a deposit and first month’s rent before being able to move in.
3) I would ask you pray for my emotional health. Even though I am receiving some professional help, that doesn’t mean that I don’t struggle from time to time.

I thank you so much for your prayers and your encouragement throughout the year and also while I begin this new journey of seminary.

Blessings

JMP

Monday, February 18, 2013

Strength for the Journey


Well, here we are at the beginning of Lent. It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago we were beginning the season of Advent. If you think about it, it really wasn’t that long ago.

As an introvert, and a 4 on the enneagram, I always seem to enjoy the Lenten season. This year it seems to be a more special time. I believe I am really beginning to understand what the season of Lent is all about. As I go through this time, I hope to update my blog weekly and share with you my thoughts throughout the season.

My housemates and I are having a time of prayer, meditation, and devotion each morning at 5:30. I am not a morning person, so I was reluctant to try this. I knew, however, that I could learn so much and really let God speak to me if I would allow Him to do so.

Let me explain what the set up looks like. First, is the date. Next, is the scripture for the day. Following that, a meditation in 50 words or less how the scripture applies to my life. Last, my thoughts on how I want to build and develop my life. Like I said, I hope to update my blog weekly so you can follow along and read what I’ve been learning and see the growth, and see what God is doing in my life through this Lenten season. You may also notice there may be some dates missing. We are doing this time of devotion Monday through Saturday. So, there will not be devotions on Sundays.

*February 13, 2013
*2 Chronicles 7:14…If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

*As a child of God, I am required to come before Him and continually seek Him. I am to actively pursue holiness. It is when I am seeking God that He will show Himself to me and do as he promised in his word and forgive me of my sins.

*As I’m on this journey, I want to strengthen my personal relationship with the Lord. I know this is a bit generic, but I haven’t been faithful to the word and letting God guide me. As reluctant as I am to waking up at the crack of dawn, I know this is what I need to be doing to strengthen and build that relationship I’ve long desired.

*February 14, 2013
*James 4:16: As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.

*I need to be careful about how I talk about what I’m doing during this year of service. It can be easy to think how this is ME doing something for society, when in reality it is me doing the work of the Lord. Arrogance is not a good look.

*As much as I want to draw closer to God, I want to draw closer to myself. For too long I’ve tried to please others and meet their expectations. What about the expectations I have for myself; have I met any of those? What are the expectations I have set for myself? How do I figure out what these are? A goal I am setting for myself is to set those expectations and do my best to achieve them to the best of my ability. I know it will be tough, but with God’s help I can make it.

*February, 15 2013
*I John 3:22: And receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him.

*Am I keeping his commands? Am I doing what pleases him? God is perfect and I am not. As I strive toward Christ-likeness and holiness, I can trust in his word that he will do as he says to bestow his riches upon me. Please him, reap the reward.

*As Christians, we are all on a mission to attain holiness and Christ-likeness. Most of us fail, however, on a daily basis. I want my life to become such that I am a complete and perfect person in Christ. I know I will fail. But with Christ’s help “I can do all things through him.” That’s his promise to us. Since the beginning of this New Year, it’s been a rough time. I think because I’ve not been fully relying on God, or FROGing as Pastor Jimmy would say, I’ve been struggling even more. I need to give it over to God. I know I can’t deal with these things on my own. So, my goal and desire is to be more intentional about “casting all my cares upon him.” I’ve got trust issues. I know this. But it’s God, he is all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful, his grace is enough…trust in it.  

*February, 16 2013
*John 15:6,7: 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

*There are times when I have felt that I haven’t been as effective and fruitful in my faith. I’ve been dried up and thrown into the fire. Becoming more aware of when these times occur can help me remain out of the fire.

*I want to develop my life in such a way that people know that there is something different about me. A good different. A contagious different. But how am I going to do this? And what does this really look like? I don’t know the answers to these questions and I might not know the answers in my lifetime. I do know, however, that I need to be in his word every day. Just like we need food daily to keep our strength and to grow physically, we need spiritual food to grow in our faith. Being in the word daily and studying the word will help strengthen my faith and build a better relationship with God.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Mugging, parades, good deeds, driving, and love


A blog post? What is that? It seems like it’s bee forever since the last time I posted. Well, it has been a pretty long time. The last post I made was on December 14; this was our day of silence. I actually wanted to get a post up before then, but that obviously never happened. So much has happened since Thanksgiving. So, I’ll start from the beginning.

Two days before thanksgiving, I was mugged. Now, don’t worry. I was home at Christmas so, I’m obviously okay. What had happened was, I had some morning meetings at work and then a meeting with a mentor/supervisor in the afternoon just before having to go to work. It was after my afternoon meeting when I was heading back to work, I had just looked at my phone to see when the next bus was coming. It was going to be about ten more minutes so I decided to walk up to the next bus stop. Two men were walking in my direction and when they were within six feet or so, they asked if I had any money. Well, of course I didn’t have any money, I’m a poor missionary. I replied no. They began to push me back and forth between them. I felt like a tennis ball, a ping pong ball, or something. The entire time I was thinking to myself, Oh God, please help me! Just then, I heard one of them say “Oh sh*t! The cops!” and they ran away. I never actually saw the police or police car, but I’m forever grateful they were there. Nothing of mine was stolen. Like I said, I’m a poor missionary and had no money, but they didn’t take my phone or my wallet. Physically I was fine, but I was pretty shaken up for a couple days. I am very thankful for my Breakthrough family for offering me rides to and from work for the next week until I felt comfortable taking the bus and walking again.

Early Thanksgiving day, my roommates and I got up and went downtown to the McDonald’s Thanksgiving Day Parade! It certainly was no Macy’s Parade, but it was still great! There were marching bands from all over the US, lots of horses and ponies, and many balloon cartoon characters. Sadly, there were no clowns. For those reading that might not actually know me, I’m a clown! I guess you could say I’m a multiple personality. His name is Humphrey Adolphus McGillicuddy. So, that’s why I was disappointed there weren’t any. Nonetheless a great parade and experience!

After the parade I was able to spend it with a special friend. Yes, he was my boyfriend. We went to one of his friends’ house and had an enjoyable dinner with great food, wine, fun, laughter, football and lots of fellowship.

Something else that happened the week of Thanksgiving is that one of our roommates transitioned out of the house. She did not feel like she could commit to what was asked of her, and therefore resigned from the YAV program. She is still living in the city and working at the organization she was placed at. I want to wish her well in all she desires.

Shortly after Thanksgiving, I was on my way to work and someone was being chastised by the bus driver because she apparently hadn’t paid her bus fare yet. She had a small child in a stroller and was at the back of the bus. No one on the insanely crowded bus was moving to let her up to pay her fare. I heard her say something about how she only had a $5 bill. She was asking if anybody had change to break it into singles. I was distraught by the actions of everyone on the bus. I finally went back to the bus driver and used my bus pass to pay this young lady’s fare. I had the means to do it and no one else was even concerned or even remotely willing to help. As she exited the bus, she was grateful to me for paying for her. Later that same day, I was on my way home and on another crowded bus. I had taken the last seat available. At the next bus stop after I had gotten on, a frail elderly lady had stepped onto the bus. This was after school and the bus was filled with school aged kids. Not one of them offered to give up their seat so this woman could sit down. I gladly offered my seat. As I got off the bus, she thanked me for giving up my seat to her, also the bus driver expressed his appreciation. I’m glad I was able to do a couple of good deeds this day.

Now, this next event, I’m not sure when exactly it happened, but it was quite the experience. A friend of mine needed to get some things out of his storage unit. He called me and asked if I could drive a van. I agreed. I was apparently the only one of his friends who had a valid driver’s license. We agreed on a day and time that I would meet him to help him do this task. We arrived at the Uhaul place to pick up the van. After the paperwork was completed, the lot attendant went to get the vehicle for us. Much to my surprise, here comes a ginormous moving truck! Okay, it really wasn’t that big, but it was big enough. I was terrified! I hate driving to begin with, but this seemed like an impossible task! But I was up for the challenge. We only had to go about a mile or slightly more up the road. I thought to myself, “I can do this.” Getting there wasn’t a problem. Getting back, that was a bit more challenging. I had to drive down some narrower streets and maneuver around buses. I made it back, no scratches on the truck! And, I only ran over one curb! We got back to his place and unloaded his stuff and returned the truck without any problems! I can now check “Driving a Uhaul through Chicago” off of my bucket list!

There really is no way to transition from driving a moving truck to love, but somehow it’s okay, it doesn’t need a transition. I had the wonderful opportunity to date a great guy for a brief amount of time. The relationship was only three months, but it was a really good three months. We had some great times together! I was able to experience new foods and go to places I may not otherwise have been able to go to. Sadly, just after the New Year, we separated. At first I was disappointed, I felt like I was going to die, but I’m still alive. I felt like my world was crashing down, but after processing all of the emotions and thinking through things, I realized it was for the best. People come into our lives for a reason. I really learned a lot about myself and I am so grateful for the time he and I shared. I really do wish him well on his quest for love and what he wants out of life. Yes, I miss him, but in time I hope we can be great friends.

Finally, my placements have changed just slightly. When I first began this year I was working with two different ministries: the first being Breakthrough Urban Ministries where I was helping out in the second grade class of the after school program and also at First Church of the Brethren assisting in the youth ministry. I am now only working at Breakthrough Urban Ministries. The youth ministry just wasn’t working out for anyone. I needed more commitment from the church, but I wasn’t seeing any. I could have an outstanding youth program, but when I leave at the end of my internship, the kids would leave right along with me. I gave my suggestions as to what they could do to keep something going, but I wouldn’t be able to be there on a regular basis. Instead, I am now working in the Breakthrough Beginners, which is a preschool. I teach music! This has been a great experience so far! The kids are so great and they are soaking up all that I am teaching them! I am also teaching the literacy lesson in my second grade class one day a week. This is quite a challenge due to some of the kids with behavior issues. But it will get better as time goes on.

I want to thank you all for your love, support, prayers, and encouragement! You have no idea what it all means to me.

Blessings,

James Monroe Potts

Friday, December 14, 2012

Day of Silence


Dec 14, 2012

Today we had a day of silence. This post was hand-written throughout the day. These are just a few reflections from the experience.

11:30 am

Today is a day of silence and reflection. At first, I was very excited about this because we were having this at the Brookfield Zoo! However, as the day approached, I began to have concerns. Being alone with my thoughts can be a scary thing sometimes. I begin to doubt myself, lose all confidence, and question my faith. I was reminded this morning, before beginning our silence, that it is good to question; it makes the beliefs you have stronger. Having made my way halfway through the zoo, I can’t help but think about what a great and amazing God we have and serve.

I have the time today to read about each animal and the habitats. It’s really incredible to read how everything works together.

I spent a good amount of time in the primate house, especially watching the gorillas. When I first approached the gorilla section, one of the females was inspecting her finger nails. I couldn’t help but think about human females and their desire to have perfectly manicured hands. As I continued watching I couldn’t help but think about evolution and whether or not it is something that is true or completely fiction. I was raised to believe evolution was purely fictional, and made up by man. Gorillas and primates, whether in wild or captivity, have similar characteristics and mannerisms as humans. Did we learn from them? Did they learn from us? Now, I’m not suggesting humans are monkeys, nor am I suggesting we are genetically derived from primates, but you have to stop and think about the similarities.




12:00 pm

It’s December and I’m at a zoo. It’s a decent day, but still a bit chilly. I knew I’d be outside today so I dressed accordingly. I love zoos so I want to see as much as possible. I’ve visited the desert, the rainforest, and parts of Australia and Africa. I don’t think I’ve sweat more in my life than today in the rainforest exhibit. May I suggest if you go to the rainforest, real or artificial, not to wear multiple layers: winter coat, scarf, hat, and gloves. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.


3:40 pm

People ask me what my favorite animal is. My answer is always the peacock. To me, they are a symbol of beauty. They also have a very regal and royal presence about them. I’ve seen peacocks before, but usually females or pictures of males. Today, I had been walking around and saw two females wandering about pecking at the ground foraging for food. A few hours later I was walking by the bird and reptile houses, I turned the corner and to my surprise was a beautiful and regal male peacock! The brilliant blues and gorgeous greens seemed to sparkle in the sunlight! I was so close to this magnificent creature I could have reached out and touched it! I literally sat down on the sidewalk and stared in awe at this stately bird. I began to cry as I was reminded that I am beautiful and I am a child of God.




3:50 pm

As I prepare to meet back up with my group, I’m thinking of how reluctant I was to have this day of silence. I was scared I might doubt myself so much I wouldn’t be able to let God work in my life today. God has worked in me today! I was walking through one of the many gift shops and heard a song sung by Josh Groban in which the chorus repeats the phrase, “There is so much to be thankful for.” It was then I started counting my blessings; for a pessimist this can be difficult. However, I was not a pessimist today.

- I have a family that loves me. We may not see eye to eye on some things, but I love them and I know they love me.
- I have a boyfriend who cares about me and I can call on him day or night.
- I have two beautiful nephews who I think about and pray for every day.
- I have a church family back home that supports and encourages me.
- I have truly amazing friends, old and new.
- I get to help kids and touch their lives.
- I live in a tremendously awesome city.
- I get to serve a God who lives.
- I am a child of God.

This list can go on and on, but I know I am truly and richly blessed!





Monday, November 12, 2012

Pencils, pencils, pencils

It's been a couple weeks since my last post and I thought I'd take a moment and give a brief update about what has been going on.

Remember how I asked for prayers for three boys in my class? Well, one is no longer in the program. My understanding is that he and his siblings are now attending a different school and, therefore, won't be attending the after school program at Breakthrough. This saddens me a bit because he was a really great kid who was full of potential! My prayer for him now is that he'll realize his potential and focus on his work to get the grades I know he's capable of.

The other two students I've asked prayers for have been improving little by little. Most recently was this past Wednesday. We were sitting at the table during Kids' Cafe, when I asked the two if they would be staying in the green zone. Both boys promised they would stay in the green zone! This prompted the other kids to promise they would also stay in the green zone for the day. And guess what?! ALL the kids stayed in the green zone for the entire day! I was so thrilled! It's not every day that each child will get a prized for being student of the day, but that day was such a good day for all of them they each got rewarded!

Something people might be able to help with is a pencil drive. I have been asked to spearhead a pencil drive for one of the local schools just across the street from the church where I help with youth ministry. There are approximately 500 kids and our goal is to collect just over 1,000 pencils so each child at the school can have 2 pencils. If this is something you think you might be able to help with feel free to send me an email and I'll let you know how to get the pencils here. My email is jmp9783@gmail.com

I would ask that you pray for me as I'm still in the search for a church to call my own while I'm here. So far, there will not be anything that could replace my church from back home, but I've found one that might come close. I'd also ask prayer for my own growth personally and spiritually. This is such a great time in my life to develop talents and gifts that God has given me.

As for my fundraising efforts I am currently at $3,725 of the $6,500 that I've been asked to raise. If you feel led to give feel free to contact me and I'll be able to get you the information needed to make a donation. All donations are tax deductible and you are helping in spreading the Gospel of Christ.

Blessings to you all,

James Potts

Monday, October 22, 2012

This rainy day and Monday didn't get me down!


Here it is a rainy Monday evening. I thought I would take some time to reflect on the benefit that took place on Friday evening. This event is the biggest fundraising event of the year. The Hyatt Regency was the venue for this event. There were about 1300 people in attendance. I was there to help keep the kids in the Breakthrough Youth Choir occupied while they waited to go on stage.

The day started at 11:45 am for me. Some of the kids only had a half day of school and would arrive early to the center where we would have a bit of lunch and watch a movie before heading out to the hotel. Once at the hotel, the kids had a sound check before any of the attendees arrived. The kids sounded great! We move to the green room where the hotel kitchen had made pizza and other snacks for the kids. The room we had was very small; not enough space for about forty very energetic kids. We’re playing games, coloring, and some even playing double dutch.

It was time for the kids to line up outside the ballroom before heading in to sing. We walk in while someone is finishing up her speech. The kids are nervous, but remain calm. Finally, it’s their turn to take the stage. The music starts and they begin to march up on stage. They are beaming with pride and joy; swaying from side to side and clapping to the beat. As they are singing, I find myself with tears streaming down my face. Why was I crying? I mean, I practically hated working at this place for the first few weeks I was there. Breakthrough is a place I have come to love. Working with the kids is such a rewarding experience. I found myself crying because I know what these kids are capable of. They have so much potential. I was crying because society has already condemned these kids to be failures because of where they live. This is what Breakthrough is working to change. The kids are intelligent, creative, and full of energy! I was crying because I love these kids.

The benefit was a huge success. The financial goal of the organization was to raise $700,000. As of Saturday afternoon, the count was just over $804,000! The Lord is good! This will definitely keep the programs we offer up and running!

Now, there is something I would like to ask you all to pray for. I have a few students in the class I work with that are having a bit of trouble. They are very close to being expelled from the program. They have some behavior issues and are continually getting in trouble for the same things. These boys are smart boys, but they let themselves become distracted. I work with each of them one on one and know they are capable of great work. I would ask that you keep these three boys in your prayers.

This week is fall break for many Chicago Public Schools, so our program is a bit different this week. We have program in the morning and not in the afternoon. So, it’s a little less hectic than usual, which is nice after a long week last week.

I’m looking forward to a quick visit home this coming weekend! I can’t wait to see my family, friends, and church family!