For most of you, this won't make much sense. But I've had some requests to post the talk I wrote for my recent Search 4th day retreat. ( Search 4th day: A lot of 20/30somethings hanging out in a cabin talking and singing about God.) Below you'll see the transcripts. *Note* It says I wrote it four days before, in reality I woke up at 3am that Friday deciding I didn't like it, and rewrote pretty much the whole thing. Please excuse typos and enjoy!

"     So I’d like to start off by fessing up. Its four days before this weekend, and I’m finally sitting down to write this. Mind you, I’ve THOUGHT about it for months. Its just when I sit down to write it, I notice how messy the apartment is, or that I’ve been meaning to pay my bills,  Or most importantly- I’ve whittled away my time on Facebook stalking people I don’t know until its nap- thirty and then time to go to work! Sound familiar? Yea. That's right ladies and gentleman- priorities. Our lives are guided by the decisions we make. Who, or what comes first in our lives? You’ve got your easy stuff. When packing for fourth day after a ginormous snow storm- do I pack my flip flips or do I wear snow boots? Slightly harder- Will I really need that extra hoody or will I regret not bringing my own supply of cheese puffs? Kidding aside, I bet it was easier for some of us to decide to come here this weekend than it was for others. 
    
           This year for me, it was a no brainer. But last year, even though I reached out to come- I still sat in that chair Friday night with my arms crossed and my fingernails chewed wondering loudly in my head “What was I thinking? I love my friends, but why am I here?”
     The truth was, 11 years after my candidate weekend, I found myself searching again. “Why are you here?” was answered with “because I’m lost.” I didn’t know who I was anymore. I had recently figured out who I wasn’t, but I didn’t really know where to go from there. I’d looked in a mirror a few months back, having polished off a quarter of a bottle of vodka straight from the bottle the night before and realized I was so far off track that I couldn’t even see the station. It was worse than not recognizing the person in the mirror. I knew who I was, I just didn’t LIKE the person staring back. She was manipulative, and selfish. Physically, emotionally and mentally unhealthy. Not at all who I wanted to be. So I started going back to worship. Started going to therapy, exercising, working toward a goal. Making positive decisions and getting in control of my mess of a life. That’s what brought me here. But when I actually got here- I was scared out of my mind. I had to face the decisions I had made that got me to that vodka infused state to begin with. 
   
          See, my relationship with God was like that one friend you had as a kid who you never actually had a falling out with.. its just your lives went in opposite directions. You’d run into each other in the halls or God forbid at the pharmacy and awkwardly “catch up” and promising to “get together soon for coffee or something”. There wasn’t a definitive moment. Its just... I got too busy to call, or write and then before I knew it... my faith wasn’t a priority. By not consciously choosing to make time for God, I made a decision. I turned my back on my faith and didn’t even realize it. 

  Once while Jesus was praying away from the crowds alone with his disciples, He asked them, ‘Who do people say that I am?’ They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.’ Then Jesus asked them, ‘But what about YOU? Who do YOU say that I am?


          For years before, aside from a tattoo on my hip, there wasn’t an ounce of myself that would tell you what my answer to that question would be. I wasn’t saying anything at all! Sundays came along and I chose to do other things rather than make time for worship. My friends made cracks at God and I chose to stay silent, and not acknowledge I was at least a little offended. I took out my anger and frustration about my job, on my family and my boyfriend. I had no patience. There was no way I was living a Christ centered life. How could I when my priorities didn’t include him?
  

             I have another confession. I hope you don’t see me differently- but my name is Abbi Parker and I am not a Methodist. Instead, I’m a Quaker. (No, I don’t wear funny hats, and I’m not sure who the guy on the cereal box is. No, its nothing like being Amish). We put great importance with silence. We believe when we can quiet our minds, the holy spirit will speak through us. We strive to create peace around us. As a Quaker, our way of sharing our Christianity with the world is through our actions, not our words. A foundation of my faith is the belief that God is in Everyone. Somehow, I’d forgotten that. I wasn’t honoring that within myself, and therefor, was not honoring that in others. I wasn’t treating others with the care and love that Christians are called to share. Lucky for me, God never left. In facing the decisions I had made, I learned that no matter how far we’ve strayed, no matter what we’ve done, God never judges.
       
                   'Softly and tenderly, Jesus is calling. Ye who are weary come home.'

  'But What about you? Who do YOU say that I am?' Jesus‘ question to his disciples seems like an easy one. But do your actions support your beliefs? Is your heart accepting what your head believes is true? When you don’t make God your priority, your bags get really really heavy. Remembering you are not in this alone, making time for faith, helps you put down that baggage for awhile and take deep breaths. Staying centered. Staying focused on what is important. For me, that’s sitting quietly, opening myself to listen. I don’t always make it to meeting every week. Currently I’m a waitress and sometimes I have to work on Sundays. But I will find time through out the week, to listen. I will make sure to make eye contact with people and use kind words. To remember that God is in everyone. (This is especially important in DC rush hour traffic.)
Everyone here tonight is on their own faith journey. None of us are in the same place but we are here to support each other on the way. Do the priorities in your life, and decisions you make or don’t make profess to others your faith?  If you looked in a mirror- who would you see? Only you can make that decision.
      
     Today when I look in the mirror I see someone who is independent, honest, and driven. I’m actively pursuing my goals, and doing my best to live my faith. To be a beacon of light to those who need it, as I feel I am called to do. Most importantly: someone who is loved. Unconditionally, no matter what."

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Comment by Clem Gerdelmann on 1st mo. 18, 2014 at 4:47am

Truth favors thee, Friend. Integrity smiles at you from the mirror.

Comment by Abbi B on 2nd mo. 14, 2014 at 12:33pm

Thank you Clem! beautiful words.

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