training….. so much training….

2 03 2010

Sorry there has been a delay in posting.  Jocelyn has been knee deep in volunteer groups and training hours have been climbing through the roof for me.

On a recent sunny Sunday I had a three hour workout and I passed the same group picnicking twice in a two hours period. While wearing a unitard.

When the father of the group protectively grabbed at his children the second time I passed them, I began to wonder at the normalcy of my behavior.

But then what is normal? Is it silly for me to be out on a sunny Sunday training, enjoying my day, keeping my promises, forming my character and talking to Jesus?

And what about the recovery? Isn’t it foolish to rebuild a city that’s below sea level?

“Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are” – 1 corinthians 1:26-28


Shirley, It’s Mardi Gras!

16 02 2010

Yup Yup!  It’s Mardi Gras!  Today we come to the height of our revelry!  Today we live excessively… only to know that tomorrow is when we fast…

After thinking of all the clever stories I could share with y’all about the symbolism of Mardi Gras, instead I want to tell you about Shirley.

Contemplatives in Action tries to be open regularly between the hours of 9am-7pm Monday-Friday.  Some people think this “presence” is excessive, because it is highly unlikely that walk-ins come to us … afterall, we barely advertise our ministry and we have no signage outside our home.

But I am convinced that by being present we are available to others in their most sincere need.  One day this past November proved this theory right.

Our friend, Lynn, came to the door with her son, JJ. For all we knew, their family returned to Chicago after their volunteer experience a few years ago.  We see volunteers return for a weekend/week regularly, so I didn’t think much of it.

Lynn proceeded to tell me that her family had moved to New Orleans about  year and a half ago, and today they finally had a moment to stop by.  She continues to get our newsletter updates and has tried repeatedly to make her way to us since moving here. She was so glad to see me answer the door! After all this time, she wanted to introduce me to her relative, Shirley.

Turns out, Shirley lives in our neighborhood.  After Hurricane Katrina, she evacuated to Chicago and stayed with Lynn’s family.  Shirley finally returned to her home in New Orleans just last year.  She has subsequently hit hard times — her son has a severe learning disorder and has an abusive girlfriend.  Shirley needs medical care, but her part-time job at a local fast food restaurant doesn’t offer a plan.  Their house may be taken away if they can’t catch up with the property taxes, and they are without heat and electricity.

I got to know Shirley one afternoon while helping her collect a bag of food at the nearby church pantry, gave her my contact information, and waited to hear back from her as to what she may need help with.

I had not heard or seen Shirley until I ran into her at the grocery store last night.  She had brought a stroller to help carry pet food back to her home.

I learned that it usually takes her 1.5 hours to walk to work, and the parade routes during Mardi Gras are smack-dab in the middle of her walk.  It took her a good 10 minutes just to cut through the people assembled on the corner of Napoleon and Tchoupitoulas!

She was glad to receive blankets and towels from us while her friend takes care of the electrical work on her house.  She was also glad for the ride halfway to work because that gave her more time to spend with her family.

Shirley has a great smile and her eyes glow with curiosity and hope.  Although she is persistent in her efforts to rebuild her life,  she’s tired and quite honestly, needs more than a pack of Slim Jim’s to tide her over until her next half-bag of charity groceries.

She is working hard, always on her feet, to support her family.  She is alone taking care of herself and others, yet her generosity and diligence are excessive!

I do this ministry for people like Shirley… that perhaps every now and again, she may get a ride from the grocery store or get a new towel to give to her neighbor, or maybe even decide to feed herself because everyone else has been taken care of already.

My favorite memory of Mardi Gras this year: driving around with Shirley trying to cross over the police-barricaded street corners to get her to work on time. 🙂

Here’s to Team Enduring Hope!  Keep it up team!  Keep on sharing the stories of why racing for New Orleans is not just important, but it’s a matter of life and death.

Jocelyn A. Sideco, Spiritual Coach and Executive Director of Contemplatives in Action

What does it mean to believe the “impossible”?

8 02 2010

If you can believe the Saints can win the Super Bowl
If you can believe a city can rebuild
If you can believe that hope makes us human
If you can believe that no one is worth giving up on
If you can believe that small things transform us
If you can believe that God is Love
If you can believe unfair systems have to change
If you can believe a person in more than the sum of their failures
If you can believe human potential is almost limitless
If you can believe God refused to think humanity was too far gone
If you can believe that you are capable of more than you think
If you can believe home is more than just an address
If you can believe a former chain smoker who never played sports in high school can race a Half Ironman
If you can believe the Gospel’s call to love our neighbor reaches beyond zip codes

Then what kind of life would we live? What would it mean for the world?

~~Susan Haarman, Triathlete & Athletic Coordinator~~

You can’t even begin to understand why the Super Bowl is a big deal

7 02 2010

Today is HUGE.  Today is the day when the city of New Orleans can be esteemed as doing well, being exceptional in their skill and athleticism, being ridiculously loyal in their fanfare and support.  Today is when the nation and the world see New Orleans for what it is… New.

We have been renewed since the floodwaters came into the city about 53 months ago.  This renewal may not have been expected at the time, but we have done what we can with what we have.

The Super Bowl is not just another Sunday to us no matter how many news posts and blogs make a humorous commentary on our ability to celebrate.

This may sound off, but the Super Bowl is our time to show the world that we are strong and that we can bounce back from a terrible set-back like Hurricane Katrina to even better shape and better vibrancy.

I’m not so sure that the people of New Orleans NEED this as much as others have said we do… I am positive that people outside of our communities NEED this to be reminded of our incredible recovery efforts.

I think the nation NEEDS New Orleans to win.  The Saints tell the story that we all feel deep within… we want our efforts to be recognized and celebrated.  A nation trying to re-create a national health care plan… a nation rebounding from a tremendous financial disaster… a nation still struggling with racism and poverty… we want our efforts to be recognized… how we are making strides amidst, party lines, to have better governmental support for working families… how we are no longer in a recession/depression and the economy can heal itself over the next handful of years… how there are tons of good people and good companies offering assistance to those working with the least of these…

The nation NEEDS New Orleans to be our example of recovery… if New Orleans can recovery from complete tragedy, then perhaps our neighborhoods can as well… and perhaps we can be better at helping others in their time of need.

The role of athletes can be grossly understated during times of intense  suffering and displeasure.  Yet, just like the Saints today, we have got a chance this April to do our best to offer our own encouragement and hope for this city and the many nooks and crannies that have yet to see a better everyday.

Training these next few months is not just for ourselves… it’s for a whole slew of people who can be inspired and motivated by your hard work, commitment, and perseverance.

So athletes, when it gets tough to get that run in or to get to the gym, remember why you are racing in the first place.  If it helps, watch the sheer joy on the fans faces this Super Bowl to get you pumped to work out.  When you feel connected to something bigger than yourself, you’ll be more likely to push yourself so that the people of New Orleans do not go forgotten as they steadily and surely put their city back together one piece at a time.

Jocelyn A. Sideco, Spiritual Coach and Executive Director of Contemplatives in Action

Geaux Saints Geaux!

25 01 2010

Congratulations to our professional athletes, the New Orleans Saints, on their overtime win over the Minnesota Vikings!

For a real story on the city’s recovery and the emergence of an American team you can get behind, check out ESPN’s story, Saints the Soul of America’s City,  published this past December.

New Things with a New Spirit

10 01 2010

I wanted to continue our meditation on the new year and also ask for everyone’s continued thoughts and prayers for our athletes, especially our runners. Almost all of our relay runners will be starting there training on Jan. 24th and for many, this is there first half marathon. I know how scary firsts are, particularly if you have had injuries or bad memories associated with things, and I just pray that this they are able to start this “on the right foot.”

I found another great reflection on fresh starts courtesy of Rob Bell’s Nooma series – short videos that illustrate great questions of faith and life we may have. To see more go to

Here’s part 1 and 2 of “Today”

~~Susan Haarman, triathlete and Athletic Coordinator~~

Resolution: the mental state or quality of being resolved or resolute; firmness of purpose.

4 01 2010

I’ve been having a lot of conversations about New Year’s Resolutions these last few days. They have run the gambit: from wanting to pray more to drink coffee less to learn a how to knit to forget old grudges.

I’ve been trying to think of a good resolution but have been drawing a blank. Sure, I can think of a thousand things I want to improve on, but how to pick just one? I want to grow in patience and compassion, stop drinking soda, learn Spanish, pray more, call home more often…. the list goes on.

Thankfully I’m not doing this alone. New Year’s resolution are a reminder of what we wish to grow in. Our faith reminds us that we don’t stuggle to grow alone. We do so in a community of family and friends who remind us to be honest and surrounded by the Love of God, which never abandons us, but also never lets us forget we were meant for more than the choices we make.

So this New Year’s I’m resolving to be resolute. To have a firmness of purpose in my life that I hope will filter through all the other areas. That when I say I wish to live for a greater good, its evident in the things I do, how I treat others and choices I make.

A prayer for you this New Year
God of our yesterdays, our today, and our tomorrows.

We praise You for Your unequaled greatness.

Thank You for the year behind us and for the year ahead.

Help us in Your new year, Father, to worry less and laugh more.

To teach others to love by loving them.

Knowing, when Love came to the stable in Bethlehem, He came for us.

Thank You for another new year and for new chances every day.

Forgive us for falling short this past year.

We leave the irreparable past in your hands, and step out into the unknown new year knowing You will go with us.

~~Susan Haarman, Athletic Coordinator, Triathlete~~