TO BOLDLY EXPLORE
Former United States Air Force Chaplain Candidate (now Chaplain) and friend, 1Lt and Imam, Malik Shakoor once preached a message on the journey stating, “if the journey were easy, everybody would do it!”
For me, my Iliff journey began as a Journey student in 2014, finishing in residence, and it continues on after graduation. It continues as I seek ordination, carry on towards becoming a Military Chaplain in the United States Air Force and remain open to what I believe the Spirit has for my life. This has meant continued intentional discernment for me in order to ensure that I don’t take on a path that is not intended for me. This has also meant I’ve had to intentionally practice gratitude, pacing, care for myself and at times be still!
As I traveled through my final academic quarter and reflected on being still, I carried some angst as a person in non-traditional ministry. Pastor and Iliff professor, Rev. Dr. Jennifer Leath responded to me, “…just float! G-d’s got you!”
On my continuing journey, my community, which still include professors and staff from my Iliff family, has shared with me words of wisdom that sometimes take the form of bible verses. I keep these close and they have become gifts, like an invisible cloak or uniform of empowerment that I’ll share with you all, beloved community.
After graduation, I took time to pause and reflect and celebrate the accomplishment of earning a Master’s degree. I celebrated in community, with family, colleagues and friends – folks who witness this sacred traveling.
Members of my intersecting communities (friends of different religions/no religion, denominations, races & cultures, and so on) gathered at my Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 501, a place that serves and cares for our diverse Veteran population, and we ate together, danced together and just was! Later, I slept, and I rested.
By the gift of relationship, an Iliff colleague and friend helped me to find a job as a hospital chaplain. Leaders and friends in my networks of Iliff, the Air Force, and the Rocky Mountain Conference of the United Church of Christ all provided recommendations on my behalf. I am now a PRN Chaplain at Good Samaritan Medical Center in Lafayette CO.
This job was unexpected and yet has gifted me multiple blessings and lessons. I also am fortunate to have found a church home in Lakewood Christian Church with a pastor and congregation who have become family and another anchor in my life.
I believe that as a student at Iliff, I received more than a graduate level education; I was granted permission to boldly explore and challenge preconceived notions that exist in a connected and intersecting world.
Iliff allowed me an environment where if I chose to practice being courageous enough to call out injustice or wrongs, I could do it in real life. In this way, it was as if Iliff was a simulation of what we wish the world could be- we could practice the difficult work in the classrooms so that we could courageously do it in the real world. I believe Iliff can be that place for anyone, a place where it is time to practice what one preaches (literally or figuratively).
At Iliff, sometimes I received safe space to practice and often times I did not. What this taught me was that I needed to learn how to stand in authority and challenge the spaces I walked through when it came to breaking down, calling out and pushing back against that which is wrong, insensitive or unjust actions, words or thoughts.
After all, there is a world after Iliff just as there was before Iliff and is during and now; so be encouraged to practice while traveling through a place called Iliff. We know it’s messy and uncomfortable, but we’re not alone and we cannot learn until we try. The world is waiting for us and it needs us to be our authentic fully empowered selves.
As for my future, while challenges and unknowns still exist, I know that is life and something is coming—I just need to keep going. How we respond to the unexpected is a critical part of the journey. I remember always that I do not travel alone and never have I!