Monday, December 21, 2009

ambition



i'm trying to become a little more ambitious about my blogging again. i even worked tonight to put together a new blog to focus specifically on my life in new orleans, and have a pretty good idea for a first post on that, so we'll see what happens. it's amazing to me how easy it is to be so ambitious and optimistic, and ultimately, pretty unrealistic. or maybe just underestimating my laziness... all along, all through finals and what not, i kept thinking, oh, christmas break, i'll have so much time to read what i want and clean the house and catch up on work stuff...yay! i just finished my finals last thursday, and two weeks from tomorrow, i have a workshop for school, which means i have several assignments to complete in the next two weeks, along with Christmas, traveling, and all the other stuff i mentioned earlier...nice. i also thought i'd be ambitious today and get all sorts of stuff done at the house. i'm here by myself--lindsey left for mississippi yesterday morning and i took stefanie to the airport last night (fortunately, she did make her flight, even after me accidentally dropping her off at the ARRIVALS gate instead of the departures...somehow both of us managed to miss the HUGE sign that would have made that clear...hello!) so i was thinking i'd work on work stuff, or read for my workshop or clean or something today, and i've done pretty much nothing. i've been sitting on the floor pillows in our living room for the past 6+ hours, watching tv and reading old blogs online about india. definitely nice, especially with the Christmas tree all lit up next to me, but also pretty stinkin lazy... not that lazy is always bad...it's good at times, and much needed, to have a day where you just crash...but it's also dangerous, and considering the amount i have to do in the next two weeks, i can't really afford too much lazy. so, maybe one step of productivity is blogging? working on writing, something i'm good at? or just another opportunity to be overly ambitious? i guess we'll just see...

Friday, October 9, 2009

2 months later…

So week one has turned into week 8 or 9, not exactly sure. Or I should say, the time I have spent in the city of New Orleans has flown by in such a way that the past eight or nine weeks, two months exactly today in fact, have passed much more quickly than I ever would have expected or imagined, had I taken the time to do such a thing.

That's saying it "paper style"…lots of BS…

I've pretty much been thinking in paper mode for the past few weeks, working like mad to crank out the 17 page single spaced "worksheet" I had to do for old testament. I won't say that it was a bad experience, because it was rough, but this is my issue: worksheet? No, worksheets are what you do in math class in elementary school. This is the second class I've had with this so called worksheets, and I just think it's a little deceptive…but I'm just saying…

And that leads to another topic. As usual, I'm very quickly beginning to pick up the speech and habits of the people I'm around. The whole time I was in Lafayette last weekend, I noticed two odd big things that I'd picked up: my speech style, gestures and word emphasis are a LOT like what I see with people at church, especially our pastor James. And I'm becoming VERY touchy feely, thanks to my roommate Stefanie. And I'm picking up a bit of the New Orleans sound, especially when I actually try to say the words "New Orleans." I won't even attempt to type out how it sounds.

I've felt super overwhelmed these past few months, with some big highs and lows. I'm loving living here, and I'm also thinking, what was I thinking? School, work, church, new home, new friends, transitions with old friends and family and lifestyle and city habits and life and trying to figure it all out and box it up and realizing, over and over, that that whole mindset just never really works.

Ugh.

But I am learning. I'm learning to ask for help, with things that stretch me in ministry and work, and with changing a flat tire. I'm learning that I need to be more open and honest, even though I just want to run and hide and be the roly poly that I typically am. I'm learning that it's a process, and that's ok. I don't have it all together, and that's ok. That's a tough pill for a control freakish perfectionist to swallow…

I'm also learning the beauty of getting up early. Yes, it exists! I actually like having the time to start my day of at my own pace. I still hate getting out of bed, but once I do, it's so nice to have that extra time.

Geez, that sounds so grown up…

I'm learning a lot about the Bible and ministry and relationships and Hebrew—some from practical experience, and some classroom. I'm learning a lot about seminary life too, the good, the bad and the just plain awkward.

I'm thinking about the future a lot. My personal future. Our church's future. The potential future of our city, of what God could do in our city, and how He might use me to be a part of it. and in all this, about my extremely self centered nature, and the ever present desire to just do what I want, how I want, when I want. It's scary to realize more deeply just how much that attitude drives most of what I do…

I'm learning way more than I ever wanted to know about children's ministry, security, background checks, plastic mats, diaper changing, hand washing, policies and procedures, and giant Bible theme rugs…

I'm learning my way around the city, without always depending on the gps. Where to eat, what routes to take, where to shop, where not to stop, and how to drive defensively in a big city with lots of potholes, one way streets and parallel parking.

I'm learning to take responsibility, stop making excuses, stop trying to manipulate things to work my way all the time…this is a rough one…

I'm learning that I need to manage my time, and working on learning how to do it. I'm learning to balance school and friends and fun and work and church and opportunities and needs and wants and my heart. And that the hardest and most uncomfortable things are sometimes the most important.

And I'm learning, or realizing, that I have a whole lot more to learn…

Friday, August 21, 2009

Quick coffee shop reflections on week 1

Whew…what a week!

Good, but overflowing, in good and crazy, and thankfully not really anything bad.

I'm having to run to keep up with things, and I think I like it. I feel a little overwhelmed, but overall, the good kind. Really, I feel over blessed, if that makes sense. Overwhelmed seems so negative, and I really don't feel negative.

Unsure.

Clueless.

Challenged.

Excited.

Splashing around in a big sea of things that I have no clue about.

A little scared.

But really, mostly, thankful.

So thankful for the chance to run. To work hard. To be pushed. To grow and stretch and see what happens. To fail, to succeed. To see You do Your thing.

I have no idea what's ahead—personally, school, ministry, etc—but I'm excited about it. my control freak nature is, well, freaking out, but it's also not the dominating force right now. Trust is moving in and slowly taking over, and I really like that.

Thank You Father.

Alright, out of time and battery so I'm out.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

culture shock, nola style…

Oh Lord, what a sense of humor you have…

This morning at church was awesome. Zack, one of our pastors, preached on Jeremiah 29, and I'd never heard this passage explained so well before. The series for the summer has been Connect, and lately we've focused on connecting with lost people, and today, specifically, on our city. Seems such a daunting task, but also so exciting to think about investing in this amazing and crazy city, about really knowing and loving people, and living out who Christ is in the darkest places, in the hard situations where it would be a whole lot easier to act like a jerk than a follower of Christ.

The whole sermon was great, but what really got me, right from the get go, was Jer. 29:7—

    "But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare."

Hello!

How many times have I read and zeroed in on verse 11, thinking all about my own future and welfare, and here, God is saying to the Israelites, no, focus on building up where you are. Grow where I've planted you, and THEN you'll see great things happen. It reminds me of Isaiah 1:19, where the Lord says that when we're willing and obedient, we'll taste the best of the land. That really hit me on the way to India, my need to draw near and follow Him in order to really experience India for all it was worth.

And today, I heard a similar call, but a little deeper. Well, I don't know if that's the right way to say it…a little more long term, maybe? The challenge was to invest in our city, to settle down and live and love and not just focus on getting through until things are better. To not demonize the city, focusing on and trying to avoid all the bad, or go to the other extreme and romanticize it, overlooking the pain and brokenness and basically using it for what we can get from it.

Not either of these, but instead to find a balance that allows us to LIVE in the city. Invested. Struggling. Loving. Hurting. Wrestling. Doubting. Fighting. Praying.

Living.

I was very pumped when I left church this morning, feeling even more of a confirmation from the Lord about things He's been working out in my heart over the past few years and the joy that this is exactly where I'm supposed to be right now, and maybe for quite a while.

And then I went to Walmart.

Good grief, I'm SO glad I lived in another country for a few years—otherwise I think I might have lost it in the midst of all that craziness!

There were people EVERYWHERE. Aisles crowed. Tons of carts. They were out of all sorts of random things like onions and yogurt. Nothing was where it "should" be, at least not according to the Walmart layout I'm used to. I waited in line for a good 20 minutes before I checked out, and Lindsey, who actually got in line before I did, waited about 45 minutes.

It was worse than Walmart on Christmas Eve. I honestly felt like I might just lose it, and one guy totally did—he was standing near the insanely crowded checkout area and he just kept yelling, "OPEN MORE LANES! We're paying good money here—you need to OPEN MORE LANES!!!"

It would have been funny if it hadn't been so true and SO insane.

The "funny" thing about it was that, as I'm standing there, feeling panicky in a way that I hadn't sense my early months overseas, I realized that this was part of what it was going to mean to live in the city.

Ugh.

I was honestly planning it all out—retreat! Thinking, I'll just go to Walmart when I got to Lafayette—even if that's only every few months. I'll do anything else…I can't handle this.

But God really spoke to me there in the checkout line and I had to face the fact that this is part of living in New Orleans. Yeah, I probably won't go back to that Walmart on a weekend again, but I will have to deal with craziness, and I will have to choose each time…

Love or leave?

Am I really committed? Am I really willing to follow wherever You lead me, Lord? To prayerfully take advantage of any opportunity you give me?

I don't know. I want to be, but it's definitely not going to be easy.

I did have an interesting and somewhat spiritual experience as I waited. I asked God to guide me, to let me learn something or see an opportunity with someone. Nothing amazing happened in that moment, other than me maintaining my calm and patience, which actually is pretty remarkable now that I think about it! I tried to keep a smile on my face as I waited, and when I'd finished paying for my groceries, I just looked at the cashier and said, you're doing a really good job of keeping your cool in all this.

I don't think that comment totally changed her life or anything, but she did seem to appreciate it.

I don't know what's in store tomorrow or the next day for me here in New Orleans, but I did learn this today: if I want to love this city, I am really, truly, totally going to HAVE to cling to You.

Help me Lord!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

ponder anew…

So, I really need to go to bed.

Tomorrow I'm supposed to start my new regime of getting up early (I mean EARLY!) and exercising and having my quiet time and what not. All to prepare for my 3+ days of 8 am's each week this semester. I'm trying to be more grown up, more scheduled, etc, but I'm not really sure how that's going to work living on campus, and especially being around so many other people, with so much temptation to procrastinate…

Discipline is going to have to become my theme this semester…

So I should go to bed…but I'm working on another discipline that I've neglected lately: writing. It's one of those things that feels like it was a big part of my life for a long time, and it got boxed away for some reason. But now, today especially, I've felt very inspired to open that box back up, dig through it, and just see what happens. I'm loving my first taste of this new church community I've been adopted into. I feel so welcomed and so excited about all the potential, and so challenged and inspired by the desire to reach others with the Gospel and truly impact lives, through a variety of mediums. It's exciting, engaging, challenging…I really feel alive, and my mind is racing, and this is only week one! I know it's not going to be easy or even always fun, but I am so thankful for where God has me right now, and have been really amazed at all the little things that keep popping up that are clearly from Him. I just feel like saying, seriously?, over and over again.

So I'm going to start writing again. Songs. Blogs. Devotionals. Emails (SUCH a slacker on this!). My roommate Stefanie really inspired me today when she was sitting next to me on the couch working on a blog post/facebook note. I mean, how can I sit here and just goof off online when I have so much potential to be productive, right? So, here goes nothing.

I have been chewing on two things today/lately, and will hopefully write more later: the idea of seeing and fearing and responding to God, and the verse from the hymn Praise to the Lord, "ponder anew, what the Almighty can do if with His love He befriends thee."

Ponder anew…

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Just got back from Paris tonight. Texas, that is. While it's probably nothing like Paris, France, it does have an Eiffel tower (with a red cowboy hat on top!), and I have to imagine is at least more exciting than Paris, KY. But maybe that's just me…

It was a good trip overall. Good times with good friends, all that jazz.

So I don't know exactly why I feel so blah right now…the loneliness of having nothing to come home to? The fact that I haven't yet adjusted to having not so much that I HAVE TO do because school is out for now…I should enjoy that, but I have a really hard time with it. Maybe it's more having a lot to say, and no idea how to say it…

I hate that. I hate not being able to feel like I can be more honest in conversations, say what I really mean and feel and not cause drama and what not. Even now, here, on my blog that no one reads, I think, should I even say this? Shouldn't I be worried about how people will take it?

Once again, how do I SPEAK the TRUTH in LOVE?

Not angry, hurt attacking words.

Not sugar coated lies or excuses or downplays of things.

Not bitter or sad silence.

The truth…

Spoken…

In love…

Ugh…

Thursday, May 21, 2009

hide and seek

So, I'm at the college house all alone right now, and it's rather late, and this is a big creepy house...so, needless to say, this won't be a long post.

But I've had something on my mind for quite a while now and I keep meaning to blog about it:

How much do other people see me? I mean, how clear to them is all the stuff that I'm so oblivious to?

I look at others, my friends, family, people I know well or hardly know at all, people I love and people I try to avoid, and their "junk" just seems so painfully obvious. Of course, no one (myself especially included) ever does or says anything about it, not to them at least.

But it's so obvious.

My friends who are too dramatic, too focused on certain things, too gossipy, cuss too much, overly sensitive or totally insensitive...all of it just seems so out there, so clear. I don't know why they don't see it, honestly....

And then I have to think, what about my junk? What about all the things I either have no clue about or think no one else can see? Is that too not painfully obvious to everyone else?

Why do we not say something? Why do we hold back when we could help each other? Yes, messy and painful, but how did our society/culture/whatever get built around this ugly, painful silence?

How how how how HOW do I learn to speak (and take) the truth in love?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

procrastination and Sabbaths…

I've been thinking about blogging for quite a while now. thinking and not doing, of course.

But school is out, and I don't really have any excuses any more. And really, I want to do it…it's just a matter of sitting down and making myself stop long enough to write.

Making myself stop long enough to do anything, really.

Now that school's over, I'm not exactly sure what it is that I'm so busy doing. There's a lot I NEED to do (finish cleaning apartment), and a lot of little things I have finished doing (running errands), but I guess I'm still trying to find the balance between being non stop with school, and now redirecting myself to be purposeful with work and the rest of life.

I think I have a need to always be doing something. I hate it when I'm stuck in the middle of it, whatever it is (school, etc), but then I can't seem to get much done without that pressure. I wait until the 11th hour, I procrastinate, and then, voila, I am inspired.

But I hate it. I hate pulling all nighters like I did last week with my New Testament class. I hate that I can't seem to discipline myself, that I pretty much have to be forced or coerced or outwardly motivated to get anything done.

I'm days away from 29 and still such a lazy, slacker kid…

I'm so good at talking myself out of things, especially if they are related to me doing something I need to do, and even want to do, but maybe don't think is a priority…yet. Like going to the dentist, taking a spiritual retreat, going to the grocery store, etc. I NEED to do all these things, for a variety of reasons, but I'm terrifically good at putting them off, because I'm not yet in a position where I HAVE TO do them. My teeth aren't hurting or falling out yet, there's still cereal in my house, I finally took a spiritual retreat, but it was such a challenge to make it happen. And the only real challenge was me…

This book that I'm reading now, Eat, Pray, Love, by Elisabeth Gilbert, is very interesting, and I think has something to say on this topic. I got this book over a year ago, and wasn't really drawn to it at first because I knew it was going to be very spiritual, new-agey, etc, but the funny thing is that I really felt drawn to it on my day of spiritual retreat last week. Go figure. But it's turned out to be a pretty good book, for a lot of reasons, and I definitely think I can learn something from it.

The first section, which I just finished today, is about the first leg of Gilbert's year of travel, where she spent 4 months in Italy, seeking pleasure. It seems such a strange and even wrong thing to say, seeking pleasure—it usually has a negative or selfish connotation. But as I read this section, I couldn't help but think about the very Christian/Jewish idea of a Sabbath. Gilbert, who's just been through a nasty divorce, etc, finds rest and healing in the simple pleasures of Italy. She is free and able to rest and enjoy life.

I think about my life, and how I'm always trying to cram more in, to get to do everything and how frustrated I am when it doesn't all work out the way I'd like for it to. I think about what a control freak I am and how much I just want things to happen my way, when I want, how I want—how much I want time and events and people to work that way, and how mad/sad/etc I get when it doesn't.

And I have to wonder, do I really enjoy life?

I mean, I enjoy moments. I have really fun days and memories, but do I, overall, look at life with the perspective of enjoying it? enjoying others? Not in a selfish way, but in free way, really free to love others and enjoy life, come what may, without trying to control things?

I think, unfortunately, I am too caught up in having things go my way to really even enjoy them when they do.

I'm always thinking about what's coming next—worrying and planning and what not. And definitely never resting and enjoying.

That's a big issue for Americans, especially American Christians. We think of Sunday as a day of rest, and generally don't like to "work" on Sundays (though that's becoming less and less an issue), but really, we do anything BUT rest. Sunday is the busiest day of the week for me, and for many other church employees, and members. It's not rest. It's not really enjoyable, not like I think it should be. It's definitely not Sabbath.

So, what's the point?

I admit, I haven't done enough research to really have a firm grasp on this Old Testament idea of Sabbath, but I think that we are definitely missing something. I KNOW that I'm missing something. And I think a lot of it goes back to trust. Who do I trust to keep things going, keep the world moving, keep life together? Me or God? I'd like to say God, but I think my actions show me all too often. I procrastinate, I slack off, and then I panic and try to do everything myself.

But do I trust Him? Do I enjoy this amazing story He's writing for me? Not like I should. Hmm….

Saturday, April 18, 2009

cursing my way through seminary…

The end of the semester is quickly approaching, and the other day, I had to take an online test. I love and hate online tests. I love them because I can take them whenever I feel ready (like 1 am), so there's at least a little less pressure. But, there's always the fear of the computer doing something crazy while I'm taking the test and messing things up. And, the fact that I don't have internet at my house so I'm forced to find an alternate location for my test taking (typically my office).

Anyway, this was the second test I'd taken for this class, so I had somewhat of an idea about what to expect, and I had a study guide to follow. Even with all this, however, when I opened that test up on Blackboard just after 1 am on Friday, I quickly found myself cursing at the computer.

Not just grumbling. All out cursing. I'm definitely glad no one else was around, and feeling a little embarrassed as I write this. Probably not as embarrassed as I should be though. I have a seriously foul mouth, and it's not a good thing. Just not something I've seriously tried to deal with.

Anyway, I was mad because I'd studied all day, reading through tons of pages of my books, over 10 New Testament books, a nearly inch thick stack of class notes, and an audio lecture, and yet, when I opened the test, I still felt totally thrown off and unprepared. All I could think was, seriously? I studied for hours and hours and I still don't know all the stuff that's on this *#$% *@%^# test???

Not good, I know. And the crazy thing was, I just saw my grade and I did fine. I just lost it in that moment of taking the test.

But why?

What sense does it make to be in seminary, learning about God and how to minister to others, when my heart is so messed up?

What does it matter how much I know about God, if I totally miss out on knowing Him and letting Him change the way I live my life?

Anybody can cuss their way through a crummy test, or a bad day, or crazy traffic, or whatever. But shouldn't I be different?

Not perfect. That's a whole other topic. But different. Letting Him get a deeper grip on my mind and heart, so He can uproot the junk that's so deeply settled in there.

I'm starting to see the reality of this problem more and more—in my life and others as well, unfortunately. I say unfortunately because the temptation is to judge and judge big when I see this kind of ridiculousness in others. In others, but not me.

I just sweep it under the rug.

Cursing's not so bad, right? I don't curse in front of others. Just at computer screens and what not. Just in secret, when I'm really mad.

Didn't Jesus say something about the stuff that's in our hearts being just like the stuff we actually do in front of everybody?

Ugh.

I don't really have good answers right now. I feel convicted, but still very reluctant to deal with my heart junk. But I know I don't want things to stay the same.

Even if it's hard, I don't want to be two sided.

Friday, April 10, 2009

"FREE AT LAST"



I have about a million things I need to say in catching up on blogging, but I think I can sum most of them up in two words: work and school.

Ugh.

Though today is still very much a school work day, I've also been able to reflect on Good Friday as I've gone about my day. After I finished listening to "A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life" this morning, I made an Easterish play list on my ipod, and I've been surprised by how much having that playing in the background while washing dishes, reading philosophy, and running downtown has made an impact on my thoughts today.

How marvelous is my Savior's love for me!

How WORTHY is He of all my worship, all my thoughts, all my time, all of me...



In my running (er, walking, running, etc) this afternoon, I took a detour through St. John's cemetery, something I hadn't done in years. I always see it and the Jewish cemetery near my house and want to walk through, but never take the time. Today, it just seemed to fit. As I was going by the church, I saw people heading in for mass (it was around 3 pm, so that seemed to fit, since that it is when scripture tells us Jesus died).

I kept looking at the church as I walked around it--it's hard not too, honestly, because it's huge, and so is the cemetery. So when I found an open gate, I walked in and just wandered around for a bit, still listening to my Easter mix and thinking about the power death still seems to have over us.

People of every age and status were buried there. Babies, children, whole families, people all by themselves. Rich people with elaborate and large tombs, average people, people who's graves were worn and crumbling.

Everyone dies.

And everyone has the opportunity to live again in Christ.

I found it hard not to wonder about some of the more elaborate graves. Some literally had small courtyards and fences and benches, all seeming to be made from marble. It blew my mind to think about how much that much cost, and yet, how little it mattered now, really to the dead or the living.

But that's not the point.

The real question is, whether your grave is huge and beautiful or a hole in the mud, unknown to anyone...the real question is, did you know Him? Did you know the One who conquered the grave, overcame death, once and for all?

Yes, we still die physically, but we no longer have to fear death. We have hope. We have life.

As one grave I saw said, we are...

"FREE AT LAST"

So I guess my real question today, for myself and you, is, are you free? Free from fear of death or life or anything at all? Free to live in confidence and joy IN HIM?

It's a once and for all kind of question, and yet also an everyday, every moment kind of question.

Am I free from condemnation, sure of the hope of heaven with Him, and abundant life here on earth?

Yes. That happened 14 years ago this month when I chose to follow Him.

But am I free today? Free of distraction/obsession with earthly things? Free of worry? Free of lies and deceit? Free of the junk that I let hold me down? Free to know that His JOY is my STRENGTH? To really KNOW it?

Those are questions I have to wrestle with everyday...

Saturday, March 7, 2009

more boundless

a few excerpts from another great boundless article.

"I'm finally beginning to realize that I cannot show others the truth about God until I tell myself the truth about His unconditional love."

"I can glorify God by continuing to hang onto hope. Either He is the God of the too-good-to-be-true, or He isn't. If I believe that He is, and is the Rewarder of those who seek Him, then I have hope. But hope is not synonymous with demanding my own way. When "I am no longer comforted by God's desire for me," when "I am threatened by it because God's will potentially stands in the way of my demand," that is a danger signal."

very good stuff.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

balance: crazy and growing up



argh...

i know i complain about school a lot, but i'm drowning right now...(as you can see in the picture above!).

i don't know why exactly, but today i've just felt crazy. too much to do, too little time, too many choices to make, too much pulling me in good and bad directions. running here and there and making out my psycho to-do lists and checking things off just to keep sane...

i really wanted to do something crazy this afternoon. just run. just disappear. just escape it all. just break something. just scream. just stop.

but welcome to the real world, right?

those hard things that make you strong, those tough choices and no easy way out. ugh.

i was talking to a friend a little while ago, taking a break and hearing about her night, and telling her how crazy i felt, and that i just wanted to do something crazy.

and she was like, ok, so let's do something crazy!

but neither of us could really think of anything.

i think i'm becoming too much of a grown up, and maybe that's not all bad. part of me wants to jump in the car and drive to new orleans and eat beignets at cafe dumonde, but then i think about all the stuff i have to do tomorrow--the commitments i've made this weekend, the papers, packing to go out of town...

the cost is too big. or not worth it, at least.

but it wouldn't have been a few years ago. i was pretty much always game for doing just about anything, and i never imagined i'd grow out of that. not really.

but is it all bad?

i told my friend, after we both realized how much we have to do tomorrow, that maybe we need to take a raincheck on crazy. i don't like that necessarily, but i also don't want to be miserable tomorrow or back out on things i need to do.

a raincheck on crazy...

i'm not sure how that works, if it can work. i love being spontaneous, and yet i also find that i quickly revert to being a psyscho planner, to the point of being manipulative.

ugh.

i'm feeling a lot of 'what if's lately, and yet also a lot of 'oh well's. i'm not really sure how to balance it out. how to be fun and love life and also not be stupid.

so for now, i'm taking a raincheck on crazy. we'll see what happens...

Thursday, February 26, 2009

love and sin

I just read a great article on boundless. Here are a couple excerpts from it:

“The bottom line is a difficult truth for every Christian: The Bible says many hard things, but where the Word and I disagree, it's me that has to change. And there's grace for the process.”

Wow…this article is specifically about homosexuality, but the author (Mike Ensley) makes a strong point throughout the article that the reality is, sin is sin. We have to face it from God’s perspective and not get sucked in to justifying whatever it is we’re struggling with. He continues:

“This isn't a gay thing; we've all done it. I'm sure you could remember a season of rebellion in your life, and how during that time something (Somebody) inside was not letting you live with it quite the way you wanted to.

How did you feel about "good" Christians then? What did you think of people who, while probably not voicing disapproval openly, by their very virtue reminded you of the persistent warnings inside?

I bet nobody ever said anything that got you to "come around." I doubt you repented because you lost an argument. A heart-change is a more gradual process, and the people most influential in that process are the ones who keep pursuing your heart, keep lavishing that infuriating yet irresistible kindness on you — despite not playing along with your rebellion.

It's so easy to get sidetracked arguing over theological, social and political aspects of the homosexual issue. I know because I've been down that road a few too many times. I'm not saying these things are not important or should never be discussed; they simply must not become a distraction from loving.

Even if you knew every relevant Scripture backwards and forwards, had a response to every challenge, never had a doubt or lost your cool; even if you could argue a wayward friend's mind into a corner, that doesn't mean their heart will follow. I can pretty much guarantee that it won't.”


Sometimes I find it very tempting to give up hope when it comes to struggling with sin—my own sin, and the sin I see others caught in. It seems easier to ignore it or argue about it or do just about anything other than to trust God and love others. But that’s the core of our walk with Him. Love Him—let that change and redefine all that we are—and through that, love others.

Easy enough to understand, and difficult to live out…

For the full article, click here.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

If At First You Don’t Succeed…

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3

I recently joined a group that’s training for a mini triathlon. We started with swimming, which seemed simple enough. After all, Michael Phelps made it look easy winning all those medals in Beijing. My first day in the pool went pretty well, and though I was exhausted, I felt pretty confident at the end of the workout.

The next day, though, I woke up very sore, and when I went to swim again, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it! I couldn’t get the breathing right, and I was swallowing water and struggling to keep up. Suddenly swimming didn’t seem so easy, and I began to wonder if I would ever get any better.

Like my swimming experience, walking with God can seem so easy, when we’re watching someone else do it. But when we actually start trying to discipline ourselves and follow Him, we begin to realize just how challenging it can be, and giving up can become very tempting. The great thing is that, unlike athletic training, we’re not on our own—we have not only the perfect example of Christ’s life, but also the power of His Spirit at work within us to give us the strength to carry on when things get tough.

The choice is ours—will we “fix our eyes on Jesus” and keep going, or get distracted and give up? It’s a decision I have to make every day, but I’m learning that there are great rewards for perseverance, in my walk with Christ, and my triathlon training!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

weakness

I have SUCH a love/hate relationship with school.

I LOVE learning. I love seeing things fit together and experiencing the "aha," light bulb, click moments where everything suddenly makes sense.

But I hate all the work involved in it!

I guess, really, that kind of sums up my approach to life all too often: laziness.

I just want things to come easily. I've come to expect that, because I can rely on my intelligence and luck and skills and big mouth, and can get away with a lot because of it. I'm not trying to brag, just realizing that I get by without working hard, and that's become the norm for me.

There's a line from a Jill Philips song that's haunted me ever since I heard it in January. The song is called "Small Window of Time," and from what I can tell, it's about someone who basically has it all and always gets their way, etc, and how, eventually, that will come to an end. What gets me is this line:

"Nothing’s ever been hard enough to make you strong"

That totally freaks me out, because I fear it really describes me. Yes, I have been through some challenging moments, but overall, I find that I avoid hard things because I don't want to fail, to look foolish, to feel/be not good enough.

And so, I think I've become very skilled in avoiding, getting out of trouble, etc, and very weak in a lot of the things that will really matter.

In essence, I'm a quitter. I don't like to admit that, and I definitely don't want to deal with it, but there it is.

Hmm...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

knockknockknock

There are so many things I could have used for a title for the this post, but I'll go with this "knockknockknock" because it reminds me of a different knocking story than the one I'm actually going to tell. In college, my best friend and I had an inside joke/thing where we'd sign our emails "knockknockknock." It came from being dorm neighbors my senior year/her junior year—we shared a wall, and the heads of our beds were on either side of it, so sometimes at night, before we went to sleep we'd knock on the wall as a way of saying goodnight. Random, but a fun little thing to share between close friends.

That, however, is not the knock, knock that this post is about. I just remembered it as I started typing what is actually quite a different knocking experience. I love a good laugh, and I love a good story even more, and this is definitely a keeper:

It all started the other day at a funeral. I know, leave it to me to have some ridiculous story coming from such a somber occasion. It helps that I was with my friend Andrea, because we seem to often get into some sort of interesting situation together.

So, we go to lunch and then head to the funeral home, and when we arrive, both of us desperately need to head to the little girls' room before the service begins. When we walk in, we see that there are 3 stalls/rooms—each has a full door on it, not just your basic stall door. Two are definitely occupied, but we're not so sure about the middle one.

I walk up to the door, and gently reach for the handle. Now, I'm not much for knocking, because something about it just seems rude, so typically, my first move is to LIGHTLY test the door knob, and then gently knock. I hate loud knockers and knob gigglers…

So, I gently (and, really, I mean, gently) touch the knob and as soon as I do, I hear,

"UH UNH!" (I'm not sure if that adequately spells it, but it's that "oh no you didn't!" grunty sound).

Very loud.

Very not happy.

I scoot quickly away from the door and look at Andrea and we both die laughing. Except, this is a funeral home, so we can't really laugh, so we're choking in laughter and tears are streaming down my face. I grab some tissue and secretly hope that anyone who sees me will think I'm crying because of the funeral and not because I'm about to die laughing.

As we continue to laugh, we realize that the mystery person in the middle stall is almost done, so we both start looking around, trying to act all nonchalant, all the while still trying to not laugh.

Of course, someone we both know walks out.

She doesn't pay too much attention to us, but when I finally head into the bathroom and close the door, I totally lost it and was just about to the point of snorting I was laughing so hard.

I was a little worried that I wouldn't be able to keep a straight face during the actual funeral, but we'd both calmed down by then, and everything went pretty smoothly. On the way home, Andrea asked me why on earth I didn't knock, and I really had no good answer, but we both agreed that we'd been firmly converted to knocking from now on…

Friday, February 13, 2009

transformed

even though i've seen this several times, it still blows me away. the song, the video, the message...definitely something i need to be reminded of.

cardboard testimonies

for some more amazing videos, check out this site as well: live to tell

Thursday, February 12, 2009

sovereign

what an odd morning (and still so early...)

i felt very compelled to pray this morning for 2 things: first, selfishness. i've been wrestling and wrestling with sin and junk in one big area, and not feeling like i'm getting anywhere at all for quite a while, and as i started praying this morning, God hit me with the reality that i very much needed to deal with my self-centeredness in order to begin to deal with other sin. just last week, when i was discussing this with Him, He seemed to say, start with Me. at least, i thought it was start with Me, as in Him.

but this morning, as i was journaling and thinking about me, me, me, it hit me--start with me, as in mandi. as in selfishness and how it eats me alive on a daily basis.

so, start with me and Me.

i realized right away that a good first step in this would be to use my pray time to actually pray for other people instead of only whining and moaning about my struggles, so i started praying for several people who i know have lost loved ones. one is a friend who's mother's funeral is today. the others are people i don't know, but the families of several men who died off shore this week. i wanted to not just pray the basic old, God bless so and so, so i read in revelation, 2 corinthians, and nahum about God as our strength, our comfort, our God. very powerful stuff. He is the source of all comfort, and through His comforting us, enables us to comfort others--hello!

it was a very good prayer time, the best i've had in a while.

then the funny thing is, i come over to start laundry and check email and i get two very interesting emails, both pointing back to exactly where God led me this morning.

first, my cousin is having a c-section this morning, right now in fact. she's not due for over 2 months, and i don't really know any more details than that. she and her husband have been trying to have a baby for a while, and she finally got pregnant last year. so, i don't know what's going on, and i feel scared for them.

but i have so much of a better idea about what to pray. for His comfort. to remember that He is our God, He is ever present, He is good.

and then, a few minutes later, this eTHOUGHTS devotional pops up in my inbox:

SELF-LESS OR SELF-ISH

In 1 Corinthians 13, I find my favorite definition of "love." Yet, our society seems to confuse the words, love and lust; though, a key distinction exists between the two. Love is directed toward others; it is self-less. Whereas, lust is directed inwardly toward self; it is self-ish.

The exercise and exhibition of real love is not in our DNA. We are more inclined to:
-gather than to give,
- keep than to release, and
- store than to share.

If you have any doubts concerning my last statement, just check your closets, storage sheds, and attics. Most of us could start several landfill sites with the things we have, but do not use.

A friend whose brother recently moved during his retirement years quoted his brother as saying, "If you have things stored you have not used in the last two years, throw them away." When sin entered the lives of Adam and Eve, humankind became selfish creatures. Let us not confuse or substitute lust for love.

Paul said, "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. Love never fails . . ..." 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a (NIV®)

The scripture tells us God is love, and HE loves us. HE demonstrated HIS love for us by sending Jesus to die on the Cross. God loves us because He has chosen to do so. I hope you have experienced that love in your life by receiving Jesus as your Savior. After experiencing HIS love, pass it on to others by telling and demonstrating how much you love them.


hello...thank You Father for being sovereign. for knowing long before my alarm went off this morning what was in store for me. thank You for being my God. i love You, and more today.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

hungry

hungry I come to You
for I know You satisfy
I am empty
but I know Your love does not run dry
and I wait
and I wait
so I wait for You
so I wait for You

chorus
I'm falling on my knees
offering all of me
Jesus, You're all this heart is living for

broken I run to You
for Your arms are open wide
I am weary but I know Your touch restores my life
so I'll wait for You
so I'll wait for You

I'm falling on my knees
offering all of me
Jesus, You're all this heart is living for
Oh, I'm falling on my knees
offering all of me
Jesus, You're all this heart is living for

and I wait for you
and I wait for you
and I wait for you
and I wait

I'm falling on my knees
offering all of me
Jesus, You're all this heart is living for
Oh, I'm falling on my knees
offering all of me
Jesus, You're all this heart is living for

hungry I come to you,
for I know You satisfy


Lord, awaken in me, in us, a hunger for You. For Your love, for real life, for the hope that only You can give. Please, wake us up. Stretch us with longing, until we crave and burn with desire for You and You alone.

amen.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

melted

So I walked into my parents' house this afternoon and got quite a surprise.



 

A puppy!

This tiny, cute little thing was yipping and jumping around in a big box. I was floored. I finally scooped her up out of the box and she stopped hollering and starting making this funny grunt/growl noise and burrowing into my jacket.

I pretty much melted.

I got the story from mom a little later: my brother has alluded to a Christmas "surprise" around Christmas, and I hadn't thought much of it then. But mom said that when she got home last night, Miles had confirmed that this was the surprise. His gift to all of us, I guess. Cool, and yet also evidence of my brother's lack of perspective on all that owning a dog involves.

Feeding. Walking. Vet visits. Shots. Training. Cleaning up after it. playing with it. chasing it down the street when it gets out of the fence. Chewed shoes, books, pillows, etc. barking and yipping. LOTS of barking and yipping…

At least, this is how it was with our old dog. We all loved her at first, but by the time she died, I think we were fairly relieved. I know, that's terrible. But we're definitely not dog people. We have a cat and she totally rules the house, but a dog? I'm not so sure.

So I don't know how this will go. Could be great—a good chance for my brother to learn some responsibility, a beloved family pet, etc. Or could be bad (see above).

All I know is, my heart melted and I'm already wishing I could go back and play with her right now. I had/have so much to do today, and yet I was totally taken off track by this cute little fur ball who just nestled up next to me and wouldn't budge. She kept getting so upset when I'd put her on the ground, and tried to snuggle up by my shoes, so I finally picked her up and put her in my jacket pocket. She just curled up there and continued with her grunting and snuggling. Wow.

I think I like this dog because I know how she feels. She wants to be close to someone, to be loved, and she's going to let you know it if she's not happy.

So funny, so odd, so unexpected, and now I'm feeling so attached already. Definitely going to be interesting…

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

how

Something we talked about in class yesterday: how do you know what you know?

I think the proper word for that is "epistemology," but I need to double check that. Anyway, it's a pretty big thing to think about.

How DO we know what we know? or KNOW what we KNOW?

As a Christian, the I believe the Bible is a major source of answers, but that brings up two immediate questions:

First, what about all the people who DON'T believe that?

Second, if I really believe that, why don't my actions show it more clearly?

For the first question, I think that really has to change the way I interact with others. For example, if I'm sharing my faith or beliefs or whatever with someone who doesn't believe the Bible is true or authoritative, but instead relies on their person experience for truth and reason, then I have to change the way I talk to them, or how I present what I say.

So, my epistemology affects my apologetics.

Cool, huh?

I think it also points to the importance of digging deeper in conversations with people and not just assuming they believe or think the same way we do. IE, asking more questions!

As for the second question, this is a tough one for me. why don't my "beliefs" and actions line up better? Why do I let myself get away with being such a slacker in this area? Why so many excuses when there's clearly a call for action?

Hmm…

Monday, February 2, 2009

boats

I'm feeling a little bit of brain overload right now.

It was a good day at school, but trying to process it all, and then trying to process the massive amount of stuff they've put on blackboard for us to work on…well, that's a bit much at the moment.

I love and hate school.

I love the incredible conversations and the ways I've been challenged to think and grow and learn over this past year.

I guess I just wish it could be easier.

But really, that'd be missing the whole point I suppose. It's not easy, and if it was, it probably wouldn't be worth it. or at least, I wouldn't really value it the way I do now. I've had to work harder and read more in seminary than ever before in my school career, and I think that's part of what makes me appreciate it even more. Or, perhaps it's because I already know the intrinsic value of it all that motivates me to work harder?

I don't really know…probably a combination of the two.

But I think it points to a bigger reality: I want everything to be easy. I fear challenges, because I ultimately fear failure. The reality of that has been tugging at me for a week or so, ever since I started reading "If you want to walk on water, you've got to get out of the boat" by John Ortberg last week. it's for our spiritual formations class, and I have to admit that I wasn't that excited about it at first, but Ortberg got my attention pretty quick.

The whole idea is, Christ calls us to an amazing life with Him. But there's a cost. You can't let fear hold you back. If you want to do great and amazing things with Him, you've got to be where He is: outside of the boat.

And that's the rub.

I like my boat too much. Well, that's not entirely true. I think I like it more than I like the uncertainty of what lies beyond it. more than I can stomach the fear of failure and criticism and rejection.

I don't really like my boat. I don't like the idea of wasting my life. But I'm terrified of failing, because to fail would mean that I'm not good enough.

Ugh.

This is probably a big part of why, 1, I'm feeling so stuck lately, and 2, why God keeps going back to the whole "trust Me" thing.

So Lord, have mercy on me!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

questions

I don't really have much to say, but feel compelled to blog since I've been slacking lately.

Today was pretty fun. Actually a very fun weekend with friends and whatnot. Good super bowl parties. Lots of good conversations.

Lots to think about…

Could I work harder?

Could I care more?

Could I stop pretending?

Am I doing what really matters?

Am I just going through the motions with some things? With a lot of things?

Am I being honest?

Am I making the most of the days, the moments, the conversations I have?

Do I even care?

Am I sleepwalking through life?

Am I just faking it?

Can I stop being so controlling, so manipulative?

Will I ever really learn to trust?

Will I ever get the things my heart seems to long for so so much?

Do I really want them? Or am I fooling myself?

How do I know what I'm supposed to do next?

How do I stop living for/in the immediate and focus on what matters?

How do I let go?

How do I stop judging and puffing myself up like I'm better?

Will I ever feel really free?

How can I help and challenge and lead and inspire others?

How can I be inspired and challenged and led myself?

How can I learn to follow better?

To listen more? Talk less?

Ask better questions?

No answers, not any ones I think I want to listen to right now anyway.

Argh.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

heaven

I went to the park today, to run a bit in preparation for Tuesday and our running and swimming triathalon training. (mini triathalon, that is). It's been SUCH a gorgeous day, and it was perfect weather for being outside, so the park was packed. Sometimes that annoys me, but as I ran/walked/sprinted around the track, something hit me.

What if this is what heaven is like?

I honestly don't like to think about heaven much. I mean, it's not that I don't like to think about it, but I have to admit that I'm lightly judgmental towards all the folks that go on and on about streets of gold and what not. And I really don't like singing songs about when we all get there and how great it's going to be and whatnot.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all about going to heaven. I just think, why focus on that now? I mean, maybe, why obsess about it and let it become a bigger focus than the reality of all the people around us who are NOT going to be there, at least not unless we do something?

Ok, sorry, that's a whole other soapbox…

But anyway, I just started thinking as I was running around, what if heaven is more like this, this beautiful and full park, than this big mansion filled, gold coated city? What if the reality is more the people there, the community, the conversations, the fun, the beauty, the worship, the sense of life and life to the full?

Now that's something I could think about more often.

I really can't describe how awesome everything looked in the park today. Clear skies. Cool breeze. A large Muslim family/families. Buddhist monk and a white guy walking the track. People with dogs and puppies and feeding ducks. Kids. Teenagers. Couples. Adults. People reading. People laughing. Kids playing on the playground. People exercising. People sleeping, playing Frisbee golf, setting up tents, listening to music, riding bikes, cooking out, laughing, talking, walking on a tight rope thing.

Everything. Pretty much everything you could imagine. Ok, well, not everything, but so much going on. So many different races and ages, all mixed together, all enjoying themselves and each other and the weather.

So what if heaven is more like a perfect version of that?

Like the end of the last book of CS Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, where they all end up back in Narnia, but it's not the same. It's new. More real and more Narnia than they could ever have imagined. Perfect. Beautiful, and yet still the same Narnia they knew and loved.

It makes me think of those Claritin commercials where you see everything clearly, you think, and then BAM, they remove this film from the screen and say something about Claritin clear, and everything looks AMAZINLY brighter. You can't even comprehend the way it looked before as being clear.

So what if heaven is more like that?

I love days in the park like today, but they're not perfect. But what if they were? Perfect air, trees, grass, earth, people, smells, tastes, conversations, games, etc.

Totally beyond what I can really imagine, and yet something I think I want. Something beautiful and perfect and alive. Much more alive to me than streets of gold, you know?

I don't know. this is by no means theological or anything like that. I really have no clue, but I think heaven will have more to do with relationships with God and each other than anything about where we are or what it looks like.

Just something to think about…

Friday, January 30, 2009

seminary

Since the spring semester started a few days ago, I've been working on reading for school and thinking about the whole seminary thing. I have a bunch of friends who are in seminary now, or who've just finished. I'd say that, overall, most of us have enjoyed the experience (for the most part). I know it's been awesome for me. there are definitely those classes and teachers and subjects and days that just, well, stink, but overall, I'm so glad that this is where I am right now. I love what I'm learning and what God's doing in me through it.

However, I know there are others who are not big fans of seminary. I don't really know why—I haven't really spoken to someone of this persuasion in a while. And I know some people have very valid reasons for feeling this way, so I'm going to address one of them now.

Seminary is great for learning a TON of information, more than you could possibly ever use or retain. Monday, as one of my classmates was telling us about a workshop he'd just finished, he described it as "drinking from a fire hydrant." Pretty accurate, I'd say. And knowledge is definitely a great thing. but I think the danger, and what people see as a problem with seminary, is getting puffed up with a lot of knowledge and yet no real application of it—all talk and no action. Or too much talk at least. Knowing the answers, but now really KNOWING them, you know?

I don't like people like that. problem is, I can be one of them sometimes. And that's why I've been praying that God will not only expand my knowledge during seminary, but really take me deep with Him. One of my professors mentioned that just the other day—that we can know a whole lot, but still be spiritual babies. Probably goes along with the whole "easy to understand, hard to apply" thing of so much of scripture.

But this is the other thought I've had lately: is it ok to not work on gaining knowledge?

No, of course not. So is it ok to gain it only on your own, to make opinions and form doctrine solely based on your own experiences?

Um, again, no. but how often do we do this? In our super individualized society, this is totally becoming common place. We don't need to know what someone else says about scripture, what centuries of history support or what proper interpretation would lead us to believe. No, we just know what we've experienced. That's enough, right?

The way I see it, it's kind of like going in for surgery, meeting the doctor, and asking him about his background. He doesn't tell you where he studied or what field he specializes in—he just says, "well, I've been a human my whole life, and I've been sick before, so I think I can help you out."

Hello.

But I think we don't realize how often we sound like this. We have no real basis in scripture or doctrine or anything other than our personal experiences from years of being Christians. Now, there is GREAT value to a long and deep walk with Christ, but I guess what I'm saying is, balance it out.

Learn. Grow. Study. AND go deep.

I think they have to go hand in hand. HAVE TO.

So…

You can get a seminary degree and not really know a thing about walking with the Lord.

You can be a Christian who's been through a lot, but maybe still has a messed up perspective on God and theology.

You can probably be somewhere in between.

Or you can go deep and wide. Know all about Him, and let that deepen your knowledge of Him as well. That's my prayer for seminary. That, and for my sanity to stay somewhat intact in the process!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Romans 12, Msg

So, for my spiritual formations class, we're about to start working through Romans 12-16, meditating on scripture. Today, I read the first half of Romans 12 in the Message. Very good stuff:

Romans 12 (The Message)

Place Your Life Before God

 1-2 So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

 3I'm speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it's important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.

 4-6In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we're talking about is Christ's body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn't amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ's body, let's just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren't.

 6-8If you preach, just preach God's Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don't take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don't get bossy; if you're put in charge, don't manipulate; if you're called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don't let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.

So many things about this passage really jumped out at me, but probably one overall theme in particular: together. Individually, together with God, and as a whole, together with each other and God. But either way, together.

I think this gets me because I find myself just wanting to do everything, well, myself. I want God to equip me and let me go. Wind me up and let me spin, or whatever. But depending on Him? Ugh. That's too difficult. Too unpredictable. Too not about me and what I want, really.

But, as something I read yesterday pointed out (Beth Moore, Breaking Free), it's not about what He enables us to do, or what He gives us, but about Him.

KNOWing Him.

That's the point. The reason. Etc. And this passage is all about that—knowing, believing, trusting Him and letting Him change us, and then being a part of community through that. We were made to be, work, live TOGETHER—with Him and with others. And that's why independence (ie, self-centeredness) is so ugly.

Here it really rears its ugly head:

 6-8If you preach, just preach God's Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don't take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don't get bossy; if you're put in charge, don't manipulate; if you're called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don't let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.

How many times have I done just the opposite though? Come in with my plan, my way, my ideas—me, me me…But that's not the way it's supposed to be. We each have a part to play, an important part too—but we are not THE point. We are a part of an amazing story, but not the central key hero of the story. There was something else I read recently as well, in Galatians or 1 Timothy that had a similar tone—the idea of serving without coming with an agenda.

Somehow, we've gotten lost in all that. we want everyone to have fun, everyone to be happy, everyone to win, everyone to be in charge. La de da.

What does that look like? Chaos, that's my guess. A bunch of messy, self centered people who are constantly huffing and puffing and picking up their toys and heading home because they can't have their way. or pushing and fighting and manipulating until others give in.

Very ugly.

Very good stuff. Wow, I could go on about this for a while! Anyway, definitely something to pray about!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

know and KNOW

So, as I was working on something else in Word 2007, I just rediscovered the blog feature. Ah, I love not having to capitalize and spell check! We'll see how well it actually works.

Started back to school yesterday, and it was actually a pretty good day. I'm taking 3 classes on campus, and one online class. Definitely going to be a lot of work, but also pretty interesting. I'm taking Hermeneutics, Spiritual Formations 2 and intro to the philosophy of religion on campus in Alexandria (extension center technically), and then new testament online. Lots of reading. And writing papers, but from what I saw yesterday, good professors and lots of potential to learn AND go deeper.

I separate out those 2, learning and going deeper, because of something one of our professors said yesterday. I really like Dr Dickerson a lot—really, I respect him and his walk with Christ. He's very sincere and real and passionate and knowledgeable and caring—you don't often see all of those together!

Anyway, this is what he said yesterday that got me: you can know a lot about God, the Bible, etc, and still be spiritually shallow. How painful, and yet how true!

I saw this first with professors who knew so much about God's word and yet didn't know Him at all. And I see it even more now, with myself and others, in the vast amount that we know and the little that we KNOW.

Usually, when I use those two versions of know, I point to my head for know and my heart for KNOW—KNOW implies knowing in a deep and real way, applying and living what you know. that's where I think we tend to fall short all too often today. Where we've somehow totally dropped the ball and started just doing and acting and not being transformed, made new.

Something that's run through my mind lately with this is the idea that seems to be so prevalent (though not verbalized necessarily) that we can not only come to Christ/church just as we are, but that it's ok to also stay that way. like an extended version of "just as I am" or something.

We know and know and know and can quote and do and pretend, but are we really being transformed? Changed? Made new? Are we living what we know?

No, I don't think so. Not overall.

I don't know how we lost this. I don't know how I continue to struggle with it so much. Being so satisfied with head knowledge when my heart is so full of junk. It's like Paul said to the Corinthians—my head gets totally puffed up with knowledge, but it's not balanced with love that would make me able to build others up.

Ugh.

Honestly, it's not something I really want to deal with personally, but I'd love for others to figure it out. To stop being dumb and really live like Christians. Stop planning events and programs and bible studies and start just chewing on and living out what's true. I'd love for everybody else to just get it already.

But, I don't like to face the fact that, really, I have so far to go as well. So much I know and yet don't KNOW. don't really want to KNOW, because that would mean letting go and changing, and it's just so much more comfortable to stay stuck where I am. Most of the time.

So I guess I do know why we stay so stuck, or at least part of it. it's easier to follow rules and guidelines than to really seek change and transformation. Or, at least, it's easier to do that for ourselves, but it sure seems easy enough for everyone else to change. I am the expert on others and their issues and an idiot when it comes to myself and my junk.

But what I really want is to not stay stuck. To grow. To be a spiritual giant. And not out of bragging rights, because really, that defeats the point. But to know and KNOW Him in a way that changes ME and how I interact with others and the world in general. To know a lot about Him, and only have that outweighed by how well I actually KNOW Him.

I think it's going to be a good semester. Lots to chew on, and hopefully some solid steps to take forwards.

know and KNOW

So, as I was working on something else in Word 2007, I just rediscovered the blog feature. Ah, I love not having to capitalize and spell check! We'll see how well it actually works.

Started back to school yesterday, and it was actually a pretty good day. I'm taking 3 classes on campus, and one online class. Definitely going to be a lot of work, but also pretty interesting. I'm taking Hermeneutics, Spiritual Formations 2 and intro to the philosophy of religion on campus in Alexandria (extension center technically), and then new testament online. Lots of reading. And writing papers, but from what I saw yesterday, good professors and lots of potential to learn AND go deeper.

I separate out those 2, learning and going deeper, because of something one of our professors said yesterday. I really like Dr Dickerson a lot—really, I respect him and his walk with Christ. He's very sincere and real and passionate and knowledgeable and caring—you don't often see all of those together!

Anyway, this is what he said yesterday that got me: you can know a lot about God, the Bible, etc, and still be spiritually shallow. How painful, and yet how true!

I saw this first with professors who knew so much about God's word and yet didn't know Him at all. And I see it even more now, with myself and others, in the vast amount that we know and the little that we KNOW.

Usually, when I use those two versions of know, I point to my head for know and my heart for KNOW—KNOW implies knowing in a deep and real way, applying and living what you know. that's where I think we tend to fall short all too often today. Where we've somehow totally dropped the ball and started just doing and acting and not being transformed, made new.

Something that's run through my mind lately with this is the idea that seems to be so prevalent (though not verbalized necessarily) that we can not only come to Christ/church just as we are, but that it's ok to also stay that way. like an extended version of "just as I am" or something.

We know and know and know and can quote and do and pretend, but are we really being transformed? Changed? Made new? Are we living what we know?

No, I don't think so. Not overall.

I don't know how we lost this. I don't know how I continue to struggle with it so much. Being so satisfied with head knowledge when my heart is so full of junk. It's like Paul said to the Corinthians—my head gets totally puffed up with knowledge, but it's not balanced with love that would make me able to build others up.

Ugh.

Honestly, it's not something I really want to deal with personally, but I'd love for others to figure it out. To stop being dumb and really live like Christians. Stop planning events and programs and bible studies and start just chewing on and living out what's true. I'd love for everybody else to just get it already.

But, I don't like to face the fact that, really, I have so far to go as well. So much I know and yet don't KNOW. don't really want to KNOW, because that would mean letting go and changing, and it's just so much more comfortable to stay stuck where I am. Most of the time.

So I guess I do know why we stay so stuck, or at least part of it. it's easier to follow rules and guidelines than to really seek change and transformation. Or, at least, it's easier to do that for ourselves, but it sure seems easy enough for everyone else to change. I am the expert on others and their issues and an idiot when it comes to myself and my junk.

But what I really want is to not stay stuck. To grow. To be a spiritual giant. And not out of bragging rights, because really, that defeats the point. But to know and KNOW Him in a way that changes ME and how I interact with others and the world in general. To know a lot about Him, and only have that outweighed by how well I actually KNOW Him.

I think it's going to be a good semester. Lots to chew on, and hopefully some solid steps to take forwards.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

desire

our pastor's sermon today was really excellent. he's doing a series on the sermon on the mount, as we make our focus for these first few months of 2009 "wisdom" (overall theme for the year: luke 2:52--growing in wisdom, stature/health, favor with God and favor with man, like Christ did).

anyway, there were several things that jumped out to me as he discussed having a maximum devotion to Christ. first, a Heart that DESIRES to be right with God. specifically, he said: "very little comes to those who do not desire it."

it seems at first like a "duh" statement, but the more i think about it, the more i realize how true this is. i mean, there are a lot of things that i say that i want. i want to be more healthy. i want to make better choices, to have a better schedule, to stop making excuses, to stop cursing, etc etc

but do i really, REALLY desire these things? i mean, in a way that drives me? compels me?

i think that's the difference. we all want the best life we can have. but, are we willing to do what it takes to get there? do we desire the best, specifically God's best so much that it changes the way we live, the way we interact with Him? or do we just settle for good enough? for being good, basically content people, when we could be spiritually ALIVE?

hello. i think i know where i fall all too often...

he also said that, especially when it comes to our walk with God, the more you have, the more you want. and, the less you have, the less you're interested in Him.

i definitely can see that in my life. that's why i think psalm 34:8 is so powerful: "TASTE and see that the Lord is GOOD." it implies that we have to get up close and personal, take a bite, see for ourselves. don't just take someone else's word for it! don't just sit on the sidelines and watch someone else live out life with Him! taste and see!

what an incredible invitation! to KNOW God so intimately, to draw near, to taste His very goodness. and yet, how easy i find it to totally ignore Him. to fill up on junk food, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically, and to miss out on the goodness of drawing near to Him.

it fits--it's not something we can explain or describe, but only experience through moving in His direction, through taking that first bite, that first step towards Him. maybe at first moving without any desire at all, but believing that to move towards Him will bring about desire, will fuel the want for Him that will change us forever. awaken us. quicken us.

hmm...good stuff...

Saturday, January 24, 2009

conviction

ooh, two blogs in one day! well, this one doesn't really count because it's actually an article i just read at boundless.org (a site i HIGHLY recommend you check out!):

hmm, on second thought, i don't know how all that works with reposting an article, so i'll just put up a link and some quotes:

this article is called "Conviction Life," by Rachel Starr Thomson, and is about living by conviction, not just default or reacting. hello. that's so something i've been wrestling with lately.

"Every day, I'm faced with choices that will put me in one of three streams: life by default, in reaction, or by conviction. And though living by default is easy and reaction feels good in the heat of the moment, I realize more and more that only a life of conviction is consistent with my faith. It is the life God is calling me to embrace."

i think this hits the nail on the head--how easy it is to simply go through the motions of life, to waste time just doing what's immediate, and ignoring the greater things that are at stake! how often do i do that (everyday, really), because i don't want to plan to do something else and somehow miss out on something "better" that comes along. i default, i react, but i don't live like i'm standing on something solid and firm, something that matters more than what i can see and know around me.

"Both streams are very human — both may even be necessary for growth into adulthood. But neither was meant to be a permanent way of life. The more I grow, the more I live with the uncomfortable realization that God wants me to step out of the flow, to lay down my reactions, and to live by conviction.

Merriam-Webster defines conviction as "the state of being convinced of error or compelled to admit the truth; a strong persuasion or belief; the state of being convinced." Conviction is not based on stimulus, rebellion, or going with the flow. It requires thorough exploration of a matter, concentrated thought, and committed practice. Living by conviction means living in accordance with what I believe to be true — according to what I've been convinced is true."

discipline...commitment...action...hello...

"To live by conviction requires several things of me.

First, it requires a recognition of authority. My personal preferences and opinions are not convictions. To live by conviction requires that I recognize objective truth as God defines it. If I want to live by conviction, I must regularly seek out the ultimate authority on all of life's issues — I must learn Scripture and apply it soundly to my life. If I wish to be fully persuaded in anything, I must put time and effort into studying the Bible."

this is exactly what i've been wrestling with so much lately--authority, and how quickly we totally abandon it, at a huge expense to ourselves and others. hello! the other 2 things she says are equally important: commitment to thought--asking questions and thinking things through: "And, I remind myself as I begin to be carried away by the grandness of it all, I should ask questions not out of rebellion, pride or love of debate, but out of a sincere desire for truth — especially when it challenges me."

and then finally, acting on our convictions--application. i like this comment on conviction and action, because it is so easily to separate the two, and so deceive ourselves: "Bringing my convictions into the realm of action also provides me with a good litmus test: If I find that my convictions cannot be practiced, I may need to reexamine my thinking. God's truth corresponds to reality — if my convictions do not, they may not correspond to God's truth!"

good stuff. go read the whole article, and check out the other amazing stuff at boundless.org--you won't be disappointed.

quickening

this past year, i've thought a lot about the Holy Spirit. listened to some great messages about Him from Francis Chan, and been praying a lot more that God would not just help me to be able to do the things i want to do, should do, etc, but that He would actually work in and through me to do them.

that the Holy Spirit would move me, instead of me trying to move myself. empower me. however you want to say it--i guess i've been awakened to the idea that when He says we can do all things through Him (Phil 4:13), it's not so much the idea of filling up at the gas station on God-fuel, and then heading off on my own. rather, it's staying plugged into the source, and realizing, really realizing, that as much as i like to think i can do things on my own, i can't. not really. it may seem or feel like it or whatever, but the truth is, i have to learn to depend on Him.

SO much easier said than done, especially for a stubborn girl like me.

but one thing i've been specifically thinking and praying about lately is this idea of "quickening." i didn't know much about the term, but i'd heard others use it when i'd read some older texts, written by some of the greats of our faith (Wesley, etc). so, of course, i googled it.

interestingly, the first thing i found on wikipedia was actually about pregnancy. i thought i was off at first, but as i skimmed over the article, i began to see the connection:

"The word "quick" originally meant "alive". Historically, quickening has sometimes been considered to be the beginning of the possession of "individual life" by the fetus."

now, the way i was originally thinking of this term was in relation to the Holy Spirit being at work in our lives/hearts/etc, waking us up spiritually to the truth and reality of God. that was my understanding from the references to it in what i'd read. and this seems to fit right in, in an even more amazing way.

a baby in its mother's womb was said to be quicken when it moved for the first time, when it showed evidence of LIFE. we don't use this term much any more, not that i'm aware of at least, but what an incredible concept, especially when you link it to our spiritual life.

so, to get a little more info, i headed to the dictionary:

quick·en
Pronunciation: \ˈkwi-kən\
Function: verb
Inflected Form(s): quick·ened; quick·en·ing \ˈkwi-kə-niŋ, ˈkwik-niŋ\
Date: 14th century

transitive verb
1 a: to make alive : revive b: to cause to be enlivened : stimulate
2archaic a: kindle b: to cause to burn more intensely
3: to make more rapid : hasten , accelerate
4 a: to make (a curve) sharper b: to make (a slope) steeper

intransitive verb
1: to quicken something
2: to come to life ; especially : to enter into a phase of active growth and development
3: to reach the stage of gestation at which fetal motion is felt
4: to shine more brightly
5: to become more rapid


incredible! no wonder people used to use this word to describe the action of the Holy Spirit in our hearts when we finally "get it," when the pieces fit together, the lights come on, and we know that we KNOW that God is who He says He is and He is doing what He said He'd do, right there, in our own lives.

a totatly undescribable experience, and yet so real and tangible it feels like it hardly makes sense.

the quickening of our souls.

wow.

i especially like this part of the definition: "to come to life ; especially : to enter into a phase of active growth and development "

this is the way it should be for us as believers, coming to life and then entering into a phase of active growth and development, hungering for God, for this new life that we've tasted and longing to grow and be more like Him.

so why is it that we settle for so much less most of the time?

why is it that i'm so quickly distracted by junk when i have the opportunity for a true feast before me? why am i so content with mudpies when all the joy and wonder of life with You is there before me?

ugh.

so this has been my prayer lately, for myself and others, that God would awaken, would quicken us. that we would stop settling for junk and start hungering for Him. i think we can only learn and know so much--there comes a point when we have to start reaching, tasting, moving, and really, letting Him move us.

so, come Lord Jesus, come.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

self control: part 2, balance

it's funny when i open up blogger and see this blog and my india blog and realize how many posts i've already done here, compared to the 2 years i spent there. of course, totally different focuses--that one was always about pictures and stories and what not, and here, well, just me and my ramblings.

anyway, lost was good. very good. so glad i finally got to watch it--gotta love tv online (and NOT having to wait HOURS on end to download it...ugh)

so, self control. still chewing on that one. struggling with it right now--the strong urge to go get another dr pepper and just not care. i have become waaaay too accustomed to instant gratification, which seems to just fuel me wanting stuff more and more, or eating/taking/doing stuff that's there, whether i really want/need to or not.

it's the immediate vs the important.

now, sometimes, what's immediate is also what's most important. someone's bleeding to death in front of me--well, that's both immediate and important, obviously. however, 9 times of out 10 i think i get caught up in just doing what's right in front of me, just getting by and moving on. i don't plan ahead because i'm too busy dealing with what's here and now, and i always feel like i'm playing catch up.

is it just because i'm not really that much of a planner? because i like to go with the flow? i'm good at that, most of the time, but it definitely catches up with me, and i've realized in the past couple of years that it really does pay to be as prepared as possible (especially when it comes to speaking/teaching, which i'm notorious for winging).

but what about everything else? i don't have a 9 to 5 job, and school is pretty flexible too, so i find it very easy to just go through my days, responding to what comes up and taking opportunities as they come, not really planning, or canceling loosely made plans as something better comes up. it's nice, in some ways, to have this kind of freedom, but i also have to wonder what this might be setting me up for in the future...am i developing bad habits now that will only cause more issues later by being so "whatever" about most things?

and the funny thing is, i think i'm kind of jekyll and hyde with this: one minute, i'm flexible, unplanned, etc. the next, watch out--i want it done my way, right now, no questions, etc.

ugh.

i'm reminded of something i read by elizabeth elliot about how balance is both the most essential and most difficult thing for christians (and i'd say humans in general). who wants to develop balance, discipline, self control, etc when i can just do whatever i want? that's a lot more fun, right? no harm done, right?

maybe, maybe not.

and unfortunately probably not.

the friend i was talking to yesterday, she just had a baby a few months back, and when we met, the baby was with her. we were getting coffee, so i asked her about the "rules" for caffeine and babies and breast feeding. she said that from what she'd researched, it was really just about doing everything in moderation to keep you and the baby healthy.

and then she said something that's stuck with me: "i guess that's really the way it is in life in general, pregnant or not, moderation is what keeps us healthy." (this is my paraphrase)

hello.

balance. physically. mentally. emotionally. spiritually. it's so hard, but so essential, because all our flip flopping around only leads to an unhealthy life, in any or all of those categories.

time to stop making excuses. ugh.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

self control: first thoughts, part 1, etc

i've been thinking a lot about discipline lately (mainly, the major lack of it that i'm seeing in multiple areas of my life). oddly, both my Bible reading (1 Tim 4) and our youth Wed night study (also 1 Tim 4) have centered on this topic this week, reminding me once again that God is really trying to get this through my thick skull. however, today, this thought took a new twist while i was having coffee with a friend this morning.

i don't remember exactly how the conversation started, but somehow we got to talking about self control, and all of the sudden, the light bulb popped on in my head. discipline. self control. duh. fruit of the spirit. hello!

i get so bent on doing it all on my own, on winning, succeeding, being the best, etc, and i tend to forget that what it all really boils down to is trusting God to bring about these things in my life that i can't seem to create or muster up on my own.

like self control. controlling my words, my thoughts, my actions, my impulses--making wise choices, planning ahead, evaluating and moving forward, discipline. all things i need, and want, and yet don't always feel motivated to work towards.

i'm realizing that i want the microwave version of things. or, whether that's what i really want or not, that's what i tend to settle for. over and over. regardless of the consequences or bad taste or whatever. it's easy. it's fast. it's there.

but it's not what i really want. not deep down inside. it's a short cut, and it's just not as good. fast food, microwaveable spirituality.

sounds about as appealing as a hot pocket...

but the discipline to wait for and work towards what i really want is harder than i'd like it to be. it's too easy to just take the short cuts, but i'm realizing more and more that it's not only not worth it now, but definitely not in the long run. and yet i'm so used to doing it, it's turning out to be a very hard habit to break.

so how do you retrain yourself? to learn to long and desire and wrestle with waiting and working for what you really want, not settling for imitations along the way? i'm thinking this is a lost art in my life/our generation, where we're so used to just getting things our way, right now. period.

ugh.

i've seen the ugliness of this a lot lately, in myself and others. i have to have things my way, when i want, how i want, at the expense of others. we call it independence or rights or personal preference. the Bible calls it selfishness.

ouch.

but so, so true. we demand and rant and rave and speak without thinking and expect no consequences and really, it makes no sense. we can attack anyone we want, roar and rage with anger over what we don't like about what they're doing, and yet somehow think that no one should ever treat us this way?

what?

no self control over what we say or do. no thought given to anyone or anything else. not really. not overall. sometimes, when it's convenient, but 8 or 9 times out of ten, no. just me.

ugh.

this may not make a lot of sense. i'm still processing it myself, trying to wrap my mind around my own huge lack of self control in what i say and do and think and how it's eating me alive, and then how what happens in my life affects how i interact with others and ultimately their lives and our culture and world and whoa.

so, self control. Lord, have mercy on me...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

rearview

i was running errands this morning, just driving around town, and i looked up at my rear view mirror, and someone was right on my tail. i mean, waaaaay to close. i hate that. i'm not the best driver, by any means (i have more stupid stories than i care to admit...), but i HATE when people tail me like that. the interstate is one thing, but in town, in 35 mph zone? hello...

so how do i react? well, this would fit in with me not being the best driver.

i usually like to mess with people who drive like idiots. i know, not smart, considering the stories you hear about people chasing other drivers down and going crazy, but sometimes, i just find it hard to resist.

i mean, i'm doing the right thing, just going the speed limit--they're the ones in the wrong...grr...

but i digress.

the real point of this story was not to complain about other peoples' driving, but to share a little insight i had from this experience. as soon as i realized this guy was so close behind me, i couldn't keep my eyes off the rearview mirror. i was appalled, and i kept checking the mirror over and over, thinking that surely, he'd get the hint and back off.

of course, he didn't. he eventually passed me on the right and that was it. but i was still irritated.

the more i thought about it, though, the more i had to ask myself, does this make any sense? i'm totally consumed with what's going on behind me, which really isn't going to affect me, not nearly as much as what's ahead of me for sure. in fact, what's happening behind me really will only affect me as much as i let it. and, since i couldn't keep my eyes off the rearview mirror, the truck behind me was having a lot more of an effect on my driving than it needed to.

but isn't that the way i am with so many things? i keep looking back, keep watching behind me, worrying about other people, things that are outside of my control, things that have already happened and i can't do anything to change, and yet, because i can't take my eyes/mind off of them, i let them continue to affect me.

doesn't make a lot of sense, does it?

i started reading Job today, in the Message, and i'm hoping to get a fresh perspective on this very interesting book. even though i've still got a good 40 chapters to go, i'm already thinking about the ending. he gets everything back, and then some.

how did he handle that? i mean, sheep, etc--that's replaceable, but not people, not your kids. yeah, you can have more kids, as he does, but that doesn't erase the 10 kids he lost in the first chapter of the book.

so, how did Job really feel? how did He trust God the way he did? how did he not get stuck looking back at the past, the rearview mirror of his life and letting that affect his present and future?

lots to think about...