Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Reflections on President-Elect B-Rock

Since Barack Obama was elected as the 44th President of the United States, I have given some thought as to the implications of this historic event. As President-elect Obama builds his cabinet and thinks critically through issues such as the complexity of an economy in recession, the ongoing immigration conversation and challenging foreign relations, I couldn’t help but think about some ground level implications that I see in my neighborhood, faith community, and personal life. Here are some of my spiritual, social, and anthropological musings on this election.

Obama’s victory is great for the prophetic imagination of urban youth.

I’ve lived in East New York my entire life. My neighborhood has been regarded as a place of violence. A place of economic and relational instability. A place of emotional dysfunction. Gang activity and drug abuse have destroyed many young men and women. Like so many other places in the world, my neighborhood is filled with unrealized potential.

The term prophetic imagination is a term I’ve borrowed from Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggeman. Brueggeman’s purpose in using this phrase is to evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to the dominant culture. I’m using it in a similar fashion. To be prophetic is to speak and live truth in a way that deconstructs the forces of death. To possess imagination is to freely envision a world that can be different from the one that exists today. Most young people are told to stop daydreaming. However this prophetic imagination challenges our culture to begin dreaming in revolutionary ways. It is an anthropological necessity to dream. An existential non-negotiable. Barack Obama’s victory as well as his message communicates a much needed truth, that if we are going to change the world, we need to dream and act in unprecedented ways.

Having an African American man lead this country speaks to the millions of young people who have never believed that they have anything of value to contribute to society. In conversations with young African American and Latino men, I’ve seen a resurgence of hope and courageous imagination that has the ability to wake up a generation that has been regulated to the margins of the dominant culture. In short, Obama’s victory allows youth (especially African Americans) to see a new model of what they can endeavor to become.

Obama’s victory doesn’t mean we can slip into naïve idealism.

As a Christian, I am keenly aware of society’s hope to see the world as progressing into a utopian dream. Everyone wants peace. We all desire prosperity. Having said that, we are still confronted with the reality of humanity’s brokenness. Although Obama has presented himself as the candidate of change and of hope, we have to be careful of utopianism. My theological conviction holds to the notion that humanity and our world will never reach a place of perfect peace our own our efforts. We need God to put the world to rights (an N.T. Wright phrase). Therefore, we are to live in the world with a tenacity and vigor to see it change, yet realizing that ultimate shalom is established through divine intervention.

Obama’s victory does not promote him to messiah status.

Finally, with Barack Obama as our next president, we should be mindful not to project a title on him that he never asked for. Barack Obama is the not messiah. That position has already been filled for some time. As friend and mentor Gabriel Salguero has said, “It is unfair to set Messianic expectations on Barack Obama or any presidential administration….It is idolatrous to make of any elected official a Lord or Savior.” Barack will make mistakes and decisions that might not be fitting for a situation. This simply confirms his humanity. When that happens, many people will be distraught because they placed expectations on him that no one can conceivably fulfill. We should be mindful to prayerfully support him while not giving him a free pass that exempts him from our critique.

Thanks for reading!


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

First & Second Ultrasound

Here is our experience with our first and second ultrasound:

Thursday, September 25, 2008
It was our first official prenatal appointment. We knew we were going to see our baby for the first time but had no idea what we should expect to see. As the doctor turned on the Ultrasound machine we saw something moving and immediately we recognized... a heartbeat! Richard and I stared at that screen with huge smiles on our faces. We couldn't make out much of the features of our baby but that heartbeat was undeniable and unforgettable.
(8 weeks) The baby is the small little blurry thing between the two plus signs. We saw a heartbeat!

We left that day excited and on cloud nine. The doctor assured us that everything looked great and that the baby's heartbeat looked great! We smiled and grinned all the way home.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008
This was the day the Doctor would conduct our first screening test with a
n Ultrasound and blood test. Rick and I had remembered what the first picture of our baby looked like and didn't expect to see all that we did on this Ultrasound. They squirted that cold clear gel on my belly and their was our baby on the big flat screen TV on the wall. Rick and I stopped breathing... We couldn't believe how clearly we saw our baby! Then all of a sudden the baby began, what seemed like, jumping! He/she would not sit still! The doctor was trying to take measurements but waited till the baby settled down. Finally, the doctor began taking measurements but there was another interesting thing that happened. The baby wouldn't sit at an angle the doctor need. She had me take a walk, jump around a little, turn from one side to the other. But the baby wouldn't budge. Richard asked, "Is this the early signs of a strong willed child?" We all laughed and jokingly agreed it probably was. After an extended amount of time the doctor finally was able to take the final measurement and we took home the photos of our baby.
(11+ weeks) The baby kept jumping around, and kept his/her hand by their nose.

We were so amazed at how quickly our child developed. Just a few weeks ago he/she was just a little blur with a heartbeat. But now we could see features, movement and a heartbeat! This was becoming a little bit more real. We called our parents immediately and shared our experience and amazement with them. How exciting! This little child is growing inside me and in a few more months we will hold him/her in our arms and get to know our little baby. We can't wait!


Friday, November 7, 2008

Election Day in East New York

Election Day, 2008. What a day! Like most of you, I got up in the morning with a sense of great anticipation. Something momentous was taking place in our country, and in our world. Like so many voters, I got up early hoping that I wouldn’t have to wait 3 hours to vote. Even if I did have to wait, I would have done it. As I walked to P.S 158 (the elementary school I attended some twenty-something years ago) I thought about what this election means for me, my family, and the church. The world was about to change, so I had better take some time to prepare myself for it.

As I walked into the old gym that I used to run relay races in, I saw old faces and new ones. I walked to the first table to find where my station was and saw Mrs. Guess volunteering. Mrs. Guess has lived up the block from me and was my grandmother’s neighbor for over 30 years. Here’s how our short conversation went:

Me: Mother Guess! How’s it going?
MG: Great darling, it’s so good to see you. We’ve waited way too long for this day!
Me: Yes We Can!
MG: Hallelujah!!! Actually, I’m not supposed to say that, but go to station 63.
Me: Ok Thanks!

As I walked to the station, I chuckled a bit. But I began to realize the significance of this day for the African-American community. As I surveyed the gym (which looks so much smaller now) I observed that I was the only Latino about to vote. For a moment, I felt a bit disheartened. But that thought was quickly forgotten when I met another person. I think he was a volunteer, although I didn’t know for sure. Here’s how our conversation went:

Brother in the Gym: Wassup brother! (As his head nodded and smiled at me)
Me: Hey man (I responded with my own Brooklyn head nod and smile)
Brother in the Gym: You know what to do! (I think he winked, but he kept smiling)
Me: Yes We Can! (Then I gave him a pound…for all you urban outsiders, that means I gave him a fancy handshake)

I proceeded to cast my vote and walk out the gym that I had so many fond memories of and went immediately on hoping to hear the latest. After work, I went to my Tuesday night class and there was a buzz in the room. Something significant was taking place. After class ended I jumped on the C train with haste and eavesdropped into conversations on the train between perfect strangers. Three older black men were talking about which candidate was up on the polls and for a brief moment I wanted to join their conversation. As I nodded and smiled at them (trying to get them to invite me into the conversation) I realized it was my stop. I jumped out the train and walked like those speed walkers in the Olympics. I’m sure that wasn’t a good look, especially in East New York.

As I got home my attention was fixed on the screen and in a matter of moments, the country voted in our next president. I have to say, I was in awe of the moment. The feel in NYC was like a combination of New Years Eve, the Mets and Yankees winning the World Series and getting another stimulus check in the mail.

In my neighborhood they started shooting! Rosie got a bit nervous and asked if those were gunshots. I said, “Yes baby, but those are celebratory shots! They’re just happy. You gotta know the difference.” I think she was still nervous.

I stood up until 2am trying to process what had just happened. The world was about to change, so I had better take some time to prepare myself for it.


***In my next blog entry, I’ll address some of the implications that I see in this historic shift in our country’s history***

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

So... We're having a baby!

I have decided to slowly update everyone on our pregnancy journey. Many of you haven't heard the story of when/how we found out our first time seeing our baby and so on and so forth. So here goes...

Saturday 8/30/08
Rick's parents were in town bringing Melissa to New York to start her first semester at Nyack College. I (Rosie) tumbled sleepily out of bed to the bathroom. I decided "hmmm let me take a Home Pregnancy Test... just in case." As I was leaving the restroom I took a peak at the digital home pregnancy test and it said "PREGNANT". My mouth dropped. I thought I was seeing things and blinked a few more times to "help" my eyes focus on the test. "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO WAAAAAYYYYYYY!!!!!" There it was staring at me straight in the face, the word "PREGNANT."

I fumbled out of the restroom still half asleep looking for a camera to take a picture of the result. No one is gonna believe this!!! So I had to take a picture just in case the result disappears from the result window.

Meanwhile, Rick heard a door open, a drawer slam followed by a door closing. I can't even imagine what he thought i was doing. I had wanted to tell Rick in a creative way that we were having a baby, so I had been planning for when that day would come. But instead, I came in the bedroom woke him up and said, "Guess what?" So much for creativity and plans!

We sat in our bed that morning in shock, but with huge smiles on our faces. All we kept saying to each other was... "Can you believe it?!"

We decided not to tell anyone yet because it was still early. But boy was it hard. We ended up telling our families the very next day....

We are excited, elated, overjoyed, scared, worried and just giddy with the thought of growing our family.
I'm just beginning to come to terms with the fact that in a few months we will have a child to love and care for. And even in this early stage I have felt a new and strong sense of love for my child. I wanted to make sure that my baby new how much I love him/her even before we met. So I began writing letters to my baby which I plan on giving to him/her to read when he/she is old enough. They are letters of love, acceptance and just the many thoughts that run through my head as I think about holding him/her in my arms. My prayer is that those letters will not only be a wrtitten demonstration of my love, but that it will ultimately be but a small reflection of God's unconditional love and acceptance.

My prayer for my child, myself, my husband and you is that we would cultivate a life of prayer in solitude, in that secret place where only you and God meet. Where he reveals to us that we are His Beloved!

And so I leave you with a quote from an article written by Henri Nouwen:

“Prayer, then, is listening to that voice—to the One who calls you the Beloved. It is to constantly go back to the truth of who we are and claim it for ourselves. I’m not what I do. I’m not what people say about me. I’m not what I have. Although there is nothing wrong with success, there is nothing wrong with being powerful, finally my spiritual identity is not rooted in the world, the things the world gives me. My life is rooted in my spiritual identity. Whatever we do, we have to go back regularlty to that place of core identity. –“Parting Words”


P.S. In a few days I will update you with the story and pics of our first and second Ultrasound. Stay tuned!

Marriage and Listening

Marriage holds together the paradox of being the context for relational bliss, while also being the tool for personal character formation. Paradoxical because on one end of the spectrum the intimacy and care that is enjoyed in marriage speaks to the deepest places in our beings. On the other end of the spectrum, living in close proximity to another human being forces one to look deeper into how life is lived out. In short, marriage is beautiful and difficult.

Rosie and I have recently been attending a small group at our new church (New Life Fellowship in Queens). The small group course is entitled PAIRS (Practical Application of Intimate Relationship Skills). The skills that we are learning coincide with emotionally healthy spirituality as developed by Pete and Geri Scazzero (our pastors). So, we are learning, unlearning, and relearning so much about doing life together.

Specifically, we are learning skills to help us effectively manage the pressures that come from being a resident of planet Earth. One of our sessions gave us skills on listening attentively and empathetically to each other. This was refreshing and so very difficult! One of the greatest gifts we can give to other people is the gift of listening. People long to be seen and heard. However our culture creates barriers to truly listening to people.

I think we can start listening better if we realize that we are not called to fix the problems that are communicated to us. Overcoming this hurdle releases us from the anxiety that we have to brainstorm and strategerize (one of my favorite Bushisms) to answer everything. Sometimes, people just want to vent! Sometimes they just want someone to be there.

One of my new favorite passages is Mark 10:46-52 (see below). So many times I feel like the crowd when I hear the cry of those in my family or church. I want people to be quiet! I don’t want to hear the screams! I think this is the case because I recognize that I don’t have the power to make anyone see. As a result it speaks to my limits and inadequacies. Perhaps my job is simply to begin to let people vent and to be a quiet presence before them. Only then can I lead them to Jesus where they can find true healing.

To be incarnational in marriage or any other relational context is to begin by listening.

Mark 10:46

Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"

48Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"

49Jesus stopped and said, "Call him." So they called to the blind man, "Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you." 50Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

51"What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, "Rabbi, I want to see."

52"Go," said Jesus, "your faith has healed you." Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Virgin Bloggers

So this is our very first time blogging... or attempting to blog.

We decided to create a blog to share our experiences, thoughts, opinions, and other musings on life. We'll probably be talking about our new adventure of expecting our first child, sharing pictures of people and places we love, and even posting our thoughts on theological issues as they relate to today's world and our lives.

We wanted to be able to connect with you our family and friends new and old. We hope you enjoy our little blog and invite you to comment on our postings as you wish.

Happy Blogging!!!

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Rosie Villodas is a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter and a follower of Jesus Christ. She decided to start this blog to share her journey and all of its interesting twists and turns and some things just for fun.