Monday, December 29, 2008
In the last week or so, God has begun to show me a little more about the concept of "Hope." Mark Batterson called it "the belief that tomorrow will be better than today." There are literally hundreds of places in scripture where hope is discussed and I have started slowly to look through them. In Job 13:15, he says, "though he slay me, yet I will hope in him." Unfortunately (well... ultimately it's fortunate, but sucks now...) hope in this situation is referred to from the depths of despair. Hope is the one thing to hold onto when everything else seems to fall away.
Tonight I have hope. I know God is leading us. I know He is working for the good of those who love him. I know He is before all things. I know in Him all things hold together. I know that Greg is a Godly, obedient, servant-hearted man. I know that he loves me. I know that I love him. Tomorrow may be a new, challenging step, but I believe tomorrow will be better than today. And so tonight, I have hope.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Many times I want to put timelines on God's blessings, and if I don't feel like I see results, I stop believing God will come through. Joseph is an example of a man who believed God's promises without extra stipulations.
I think God is trying to draw my attention to something because of a conversation I had a few days ago. Donna Brooks has been mentoring me, and Monday she asked me a pointed question about Greg leaving. "What promises have God reviled to you through scripture about this?"
In preparing for Greg to leave, I believe God has given me two promises to hold onto:
"He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together."
"We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him; who have been called according to his purposes."
I have already begun a constant inner dialogue of these promises.
When my sister-in-the-family, Leah, got married last January, she and her husband wrote their own vows. One thing Brad said stuck with me, "Every minute waiting for you has been worth it, all 15 million of them!"
I probably don't have the exact wording, but the idea is there. They got to see God fulfill promises that they had each believed long before. And though the waiting was almost unbearable sometimes, in the end it was worth it!
I have to believe God has something great for Greg and I. He is walking before us and will hold us together... even a continent apart.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
But honestly, it never really felt weird. They were very welcoming and friendly. After the initial introductions, no one cared how I got there or how distantly I was associated, I was part of the family.
This is also my first Thanksgiving or Christmas away from my immediate family. I've struggled for the last few years about how much holidays are changing because I love tradtion. Growing up there was a system of who we visited at each holiday and what we ate and what we did; it was rhythmic and comfortable. But things have gotten harder in the last few years and many of these traditions have fallen away. All the cousins graduated from college, Nate got married, we all moved to different cities... etc. Am I losing my family?
No, I'm not. I realized the other day that my family is not my family because they know what we're supposed to eat at Thanksgiving, they're my family because they love me. If we go on that same definition, I have a wonderful family here in Virginia Beach too. I have 3 great roommates and a whole group of friends who love me. It may be a bit quirky of a family - but it's still a family.
It's a reminder to me about the importance of community; many people don't have families or groups of great friends to turn to. That teaches me two things:
1. I can never take my family (biologically or otherwise) for granted
2. I need to be constantly welcoming others into this crazy quirky family; it may very well be life changing.
So hug your friends and quirky family... and HAPPY LATE THANKSGIVING!!
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Monday, November 10, 2008
I know it's been far too long since I've written, sometimes I just run out of valuable things to say. Still, that's not always bad. More words are not always better. I was reminded of this fact this morning.
I was teaching NexGen (our middle school Sunday school/church) and we were talking about "How good is good enough?" I started to explain the concept using scales where we "weighed" items representing good things or bad things we could do in our lives. There was significant debate about whether it was worse to "hit your little brother" or "steal a cookie from the lunch room."
Then once the "good" and "bad" things were ordered by how bad they really were, I asked them how do you balance the bad things and the good things. One kid suggested you should do the bad things first, then the good things, so the bad things will be forgotten along the way. Seems rational right?
Then I picked up the object that represented the stolen cookie in the lunch room, and I walked over to our things representing our good deeds. I told them that even if they did all of these good things (telling the truth, working at a homeless shelter, etc.) 7 times over, it would not make up for the stolen cookie. No amount of good deeds could tip the scales away from what we've done wrong.
And that's how I explained sin. They seemed to get it.
But then I tried to explain salvation. I talked about passover and blood sacrifice and God's perfect righteousness. Their eyes started to glaze. I had overcomplicated things.
Tonight at Fuse, James mentioned one verse.
If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, you will be saved
I was so mad at myself! It's so simple. I tried to use this complicated logic about salvation, when one verse explains it. This is the nature of salvation. It's so simple and I made it complicated.
More words are not always better, sometimes it's best to simplify.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Yesterday Greg received news that he was accepted into a service/missionary intern program based in Pretoria, South Africa.
The intern program is being founded by Eastside Community Church; a church based in the outskirts of Pretoria. Eastside was founded as a mission-based church and recently they have received some significant donations of property. Greg and the other interns will get to be the hands and feet of the new ministries.
Greg's main area will be in establishing soccer programs in the poor areas of Pretoria. Many parents have to work 2 or 3 jobs to pay the bills, leaving kids with no supervision after school. Many fall into drugs, gangs, early pregnancy, and even fall victim to kidnapping and rape. Establishing community centers and soccer programs will get these kids off the streets and into safe areas where they can still be kids.
The church is also planning major outreach events during the Confederation Cup in June 09. All the ministries established in '09 will be expanded in 2010 when South Africa becomes the first African nation to host the World Cup. Greg and the team will get to lay the foundation for some amazing ministries.
I am unbelievably proud of this incredible step he's taking. It's so easy to look at the world and think, "God, why is it so broken?" Greg is allowing that conviction to ignite him to follow the Holy Spirit half-way around the world.
It's interesting, because when we heard about this program I remember thinking, "This is so perfect for Greg... crap." I think I knew right away that he would be leaving. Now, it's nice because God has given me a great peace that Greg is following His path, but that doesn't take all of the sting away. It still means we will be apart for a year.
There are easy days and hard ones. Sometimes I'm so excited to think about the lives that will change in Pretoria. What if one of these programs raises up the next Nelson Mandela who will lead South Africa a few decades from now? I am thrilled by the knowledge that God honors obedience by blessing us, and using us to bless others. Greg and the other interns will get to be used by God to do His work - it's quite an honor.
Most of the time, the knowledge of how much of a blessing this will be can override my selfish heart. But nights like last night creep up every once in a while. I was furious with God because I feel like we have worked so hard to honor God with our relationship. We've fought depression, lived apart for 15 months, and always put others before ourselves. But God is asking for something bigger. It doesn't seem fair. I don't understand couples that get to meet, date, and get married. Why does God make it easy for them? We've never had anything simple in our relationship, and sometimes it brings out jealousy in me.
I know that when Greg leaves in January things will be hard. Going to every wedding next summer without a date. Not getting to say goodnight (at least for the last year we've gotten to say it over the phone). No hugs. A thousand other things...
Very often people look at me as the strong one. If I exude any emotion people frequently think that I'm a dangerous form of time bomb. So I've tried to be strong around most people. But last night things hit pretty hard and this is what I wrote...
It happens in the stillness
With the rhythm of the crickets
The tears come
It happens in the car
with the words of an old song
The tears come
It happens when my heart
Stops listening to my head
The tears come
I know the truth
I know the beauty this will bring
I know the hearts that will open
I know the lives that will transform
But how can my knowledge
Override the tears of my heart?
Knowledge is not a barrier
It provides no protection
Words convince others,
But build no fortress for me
The truth strikes my heart full force.
And with that truth,
The tears come.
Now, I'm feeling better today. And I know God is working in this. It's going to be a challenge, but with every challenge comes growth and blessing. Besides, Jesus never promised that our walk would be simple, in fact most of the time He said it would be difficult. But it's worth it right? In the end, this is what life should be about - pursuing big dreams and serving God. It's all a part of the Great Adventure...
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
You ever get the feeling that something big is coming? I feel like God wants to do something huge in my life but won't tell me what it is yet. Sometimes I get so excited about it, it feels like my heart whats to jump out of my chest. How can I get this excited about something when I don't know that something is?
Mark Batterson said in a sermon a few weeks ago, "Your greatest responsibility is pursuing God-ordained passions." This isn't about our own joy and fulfillment. It is true that in finding our God-ordained passions those two will likely come with them, but that's not the point. This is bigger than you and me. This isn't just a good idea, this is a responsibility. I owe it to God (and should I be bold enough to say I owe it to the world as well??) to pursue whatever it is God has laid as a passion in my heart.
I'm trying to be patient. Sometimes I think I'll have my head wrapped around what God is sending me towards, and other days I have no idea. Am I supposted to go to seminary or will these passions evolve out of my current job? Will I be teaching or writing or speaking? Or is there something else entirely?
I guess for now I have decided that in order to continue on this path of "great responsibility," I'm not supposed to make any big moves just now. I think God is still trying to teach me before I'm sent out to do whatever this big thing is. I feel sometimes like the little kid who wants so desprately to play in the 3 feet of fresh snow that just fell. However, every time the kid bolts for the door, his mother keeps pulling him back to add one more layer of winter clothing - first jacket, then boots, then gloves, then hat. I have to remember that as hard as being patient is, ultimately if I don't let God prepare me this big something may never happen at all.
So I will leave you with three things....
1) A scene from West Side Story between Riff & Tony. Riff can't understand why Tony doesn't want to hang with the gang anymore, but Tony feels dumb trying to explain it...
Tony: You won't dig it, Riff.
Riff: Come on, Tony. Try me.
Every single night for the last month...
I wake up, and I'm reachin' out.
Riff: Well, for what?
Tony: I don't know.
It's right outside the door,
just around the corner...
but it's comin'.
Riff: What is?
Tony: I don't know.
2) I can't talk about that scene and not give the song to follow it =)
Something's Coming from West Side Story
Important Note: Richard played Tony in his high school production of West Side Story
and has yet to produce the video of said production.
We must find this tape.
3) I actually think this is one of the worst songs in the play. Here's a couple of my favorites =)
And, for those of you who enjoy Aquafina commercials...
I Feel Pretty
Friday, September 26, 2008
First, take a deck of cards and pull out two kings. Then add enough cards (numbers 2-9) to the two kings so everyone in the group can get one. (example - for 12 people playing, use 2 kings and 10 non-face cards.)
Mix up the stack and pass out the cards secretly to everyone. Everyone looks at their card, and the people who got the kings become the mafia - everyone else are townspeople.
For the mafia to find each other, everyone closes their eyes. Then someone announces, "mafia look up and find each other." The two mafia members open their eyes and look around until they find each other. The announcer says, "Mafia go back to sleep" (mafia close their eyes) "Ok, everyone wake up"
Now all 12 people leave the lit room and go into the dark rest of the house. The first job of the townspeople is to stay alive. They move around the house and try to pay attention to who seems to be sneaky and alone in rooms (clues to who might be the members of the mafia).
Meanwhile, the mafia is trying to kill everyone off. They kill people by sneaking up behind them and pinching their shoulder. If you get pinched you have to collapse right where you are. However, the mafia has the option to pinch your shoulder and hold on to you to move you to where they want to dump your body (a bath tub or couch are discrete places to hide a body in the dark).
As soon as someone finds a body they scream "BODY BODY" and everyone flips the lights on.
All the people who are alive gather to debate who the killer is. This is where the mafia must become good liars. "It wasn't me! I was with Jane in the kitchen!" "No! I saw you running down the hall away from this body!" etc.
The killer is voted on, and the person with the most votes is sent away (back to the only lit room in the house). Along with the accused, the dead bodies can go with them to the lit room. However, only those dead bodies that have been found can go, hidden ones have to stay hidden.
Once they have left, play continues.
The mafia wins if they kill off all of the townspeople. The townspeople win if they are able to catch the mafia before they kill everyone.
A couple random rules
1) People can't hide by lying down (or they will be assumed to be dead and it screws up the game)
2) The mafia can kill as many people at a time as they want. If 6 people are standing in a row, they can run by and pinch everyone before anyone can yell Body Body (this is why townspeople need to separate and keep moving).
3) Someone has to touch a body before they can yell "Body Body." Even if they see a murder they have to reach the body in order to call "Body Body," which means they may have to run to avoid getting killed by the mafia first.
This game can be varied with more or less mafia depending on how many people are playing.
I hope this explains it well enough Leah!
Happy mafia playing!
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Tonight, this bottle is not my friend. It was one of the dumbest things I've ever done.
If you've never worked with middle schoolers, you may not realize what earns their respect. Being smart or a good speaker doesn't do it. You have to make a fool of yourself. You have to swallow your pride, stop acting like an adult, and prove you're willing to do any of the ridiculous, stupid, absurd things they want to do.
So tonight, after months of making up stupid gross games for our middle schoolers to play - they made up one for us.
I chugged a bottle of maple syrup.
Ok, I only got in about 2/3rds of a bottle before Billy (one of the other leaders) finished his.
But that means in less than a minute I drank 8 servings of syurp - nearly 2000 calories.
And after taking cheers from the crowd of middle schoolers and earning their respect... I proceeded to throw up 4 times in the next 2 hours.
I love Jesus, and I love middle schoolers =)
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
But having said all that, this small garden combined with my limited childhood experience makes me understand why gardeners hate weeds.
|1.||a valueless plant growing wild, esp. one that grows on cultivated ground to the exclusion or injury of the desired crop.|
|2.||any undesirable or troublesome plant, esp. one that grows profusely where it is not wanted|
Within a couple weeks, these plants can choke out and completely overpower the non-weeds in the garden. Even in places where good plants won't grow, weeds never seem to care. They grow in cracks of sidewalks, up around rocks, in the middle of other plants - just about anywhere. Give them an inch of soil and they'll go to town.
So as I was pulling our flowerbed full of weeds, I thought how much weeds are like those nagging sins in our lives. Everyone has them. Those certain things that no matter how many times you think you've beaten it; they manage to creep back into your life.
Mine is pride. If everyday I do not decide to humble myself before the Lord, I have offered an inch of soil for my pride. If I'm not careful, in a matter of weeks the cracks in my life can be overflowing with the dangerous fruit of pride. One of the best ways I can avoid that is by knowing where are my life's sidewalk cracks. If I am aware of my weak places, I can be more aware of my pride weed growing.
Also, weeds are stubborn. They work REALLY hard to stay put.
1) Sometimes they're prickly - who wants to try and pull a weed that's going to hurt? I mean, how much harm is it really doing there in that small corner of my garden? Maybe the prickly one can stay.
2) Sometimes their roots go deep. It's easy to pull off the green shoots, but without getting to the depth of the problem the weed will keep coming back. Getting the root usually takes longer, but being patient enough to get the root will save time and effort in the long run.
But even if they're stubborn and prickly and 4 inches in the ground; it's very important to seek out and get rid of the weeds. Even a few weeds of sin can do real damage the garden. Also, as difficult as it can be to constantly try and beat those nagging sins, the end result is incredibly gratifying to look back and see the full beauty of the garden.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Ok. So I can't sleep. I am completely wound up at 11:35pm on a Monday night when I should have long since been sleeping. A bunch of people came over to our house tonight and Paul taught us a new game.
It is called Body Body.
If you've ever played the card game Mafia, it's like that, only about 50 times more hilariously scary. You draw cards to see who are the killers (we played 2 killers for 11 people); then the killers find out who each other are; and then commence wandering through the house killing people. You kill someone by pinching them on the top of the shoulder. You can whisper for them to follow you and then dump the body strategically in the house, but you obviously don't want anyone to see you do it. Then if someone trips over a body they scream "BODY BODY" and someone flips the lights on. The whole group gets to deliberate who the killer is - then kills that person off. The dead body and the convicted leave the playing area. Play continues. The goal is for the killer(s) to be the last ones alive.
This game is totally hilarious and sends your adrenaline through the roof. There's nothing quite like passing someone who is hiding in a dark corner. It is also a great way to try and analyze your friends. "She came running down the stairs after the body was found!" "No! I was with him! I couldn't have done it!"
So now I must try to clam down - maybe I'll read some more of my book. But next time you want a good night of bonding with your friends - try just killing them off =)
Monday, September 8, 2008
One of the first concepts he talks about is the concept of being "responsibly irresponsible." This means trusting God enough that when He calls us by his Spirit, we don't fear the worldly implications because we know we are on a heavenly pursuit. Recently I have been battling this exact idea. Where is God providing human wisdom as his provision, and where is God asking me to discount worldly wisdom and trust He has a different plan?
The chapter I am reading right now is called "Eight-Foot Ceilings" about the idea that we has humans tend to view God from our comfortable box. Mark uses the example of the interaction between Abraham and God in Genesis 15:5
Read the first part of that verse again. God "took him outside" before he spoke to Abraham. Before God could reveal his powerful message to Abraham, He pulled him from his comfortable tent. Inside the tent, Abraham was in control, it was his domain. Outside the tent, all the area that stretches between the soil and the stars, is God's domain. When God got Abraham outside, He reveled the great blessings He had in store for Abraham, if only Abraham would follow with obedience.
Maybe one of the keys to not becoming the dreaded "suburbia Christian" is to get out of suburbia. If I am comfortable where I am, I am living on my strength and not on God's. When I am living in God's domain, my very existence depends on His blessing and provision. Why don't I go out into God's domain more often? Don't I want to be as Abraham was and have God rain down his blessings on my life? Perhaps I am fearful of knowing how big my life could really be.
"Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the Lord Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have enough for it." ~Micah 3:10
Holy cow. Read it again. What if that really did happen? God is almost challenging us to test his heart of giving. The original Hebrew word for "pour out" is ruwq: to make empty; be emptied out
Seriously? Does God really want to empty the blessings of Heaven on my life? The thought is exhilerating and terrifying. When I ask God to open the floodgates of his blessing - am I really prepared for Him to do so?
Maybe chasing the Holy Spirit isn't so much about running in some innane direction. Maybe my first step is simply to allow God to take me out into His domain and start seeing through His eyes. Then I better be ready - because God may just open some floodgates.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
This is what I do for Jesus. I tease my hair and act like a mad scientist.
Two weeks ago I went to Camp Watermarks with 68 middle and high schoolers from Coastal Community Church. It was such an honor to get to lead these kids as God molded and shaped and reached them - sometimes for the first time.
We really did have a good time. We had a zip line and a ropes course, I went skeet shooting and paint balling (let me just say... nothing is quite like pelting middle schoolers with paintballs to relieve stress - it was glorious). We also did this crazy thing called a blob where you jump off a 15 foot tower into an airbag and then crawl to the end of the air bag. Someone else jumps off the tower and throws you into the air to land in the lake. It's good old fashioned camp fun.
I guess I still haven't explained the mad scientist thing. Our theme for the week was "Lost" like the tv show, so before each night session of games, worship, and teaching, the leaders did a skit. To be honest, it had almost no point. It was an excuse to let the kids laugh at us. This was actually good for me because I tend to feel uncomfortable in silly acting situations, but I really enjoyed it. Now, my performances were certainly not Oscar worthy (my accent ranged from something like German to something like English to the Lucky Charms leprechaun), but it was a good experience in stretching for the Lord.
Seriously though - it was a great honor to be involved in these kid's lives. I look at this picture and dream big dreams for these kids. Can you imagine what God will do with these kids some day? My legacy in Christ is found in these kids. Their growth is my offering to the Lord.
Lord - I pray I have served your children well. May their lives be my fragrant offering to You.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Second, I had a Wendy Chinn moment watching the Olympics the other day. She always cries when they show human interest sports stories. I laugh at her for this. But... I have to eat my words. I watched a story about Kirsty Coventry who was the first Gold Medalist from Zimbabwe. I might have shed a tear or two.
Finally, on a more solemn note, the controversy over the Chinese gymnasts breaks my heart. If you haven't heard, there's been a significant amount of evidence to say that these girls are much younger than the required competition age of 16. However, as of now the IOC has said they will accept the girl's Chinese passports that show them all to be 16. There is no good outcome to this situation. If these girls are 16, they are underdeveloped and tiny with too much pressure from other people for perfection. If they are not 16, I don't believe it was their choice to lie. If illegal passports were made this is clearly a conspiriacy that goes VERY high into the government. That would go completely against the spirit of the Olympics. And what happens if proof comes out 5 years from now and these girls are stripped of their medals, how heartbreaking will it be for them! And for a cheating that wasn't their choice! And think about our American girls, their golden moment will have been stolen by cheating. Being a given a gold later would not make up for that.
Just some thoughts....
Now go cheer for Phelps!!
The topics you're not supposed to talk about at a dinner party: politics and religion. That's exactly what's going on at CNN or MSNBC right now. Everyone should flip on the tv and watch Pastor Rick Warren interview Senator Obama and Senator McCain. This is awesome.
More thoughts to come later.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Ok, so since the Olympics began a few of us had been joking on badminton (see previous post and the Vitamin water commercial). We laughed at how it was this game we played when we were in elementary school gym class is a very competitive olympic sport. Who plays this sport besides 4th graders and senior citizens?
I HAVE THE ANSWER!!
My friend Amanda spent three years teaching school in Indonesia. As we were watching the Olympic coverage last night (which by the way - my heart broke for the Chinese gymnasts and the American girls who lost to them... but I'll post about that later) she was looking on the nbc website and said, "Hey, badminton is on! Indonesians are crazy about their badminton - I would never play with them!"
What!?!? I laughed out loud. I now have my answer:
People who play badminton:
1) American 4th graders
2) American Senior citizens
3) Indonesians (who are apprently quite good at it too)
So... life lesson: if you want to play badminton competitively, move to Indonesia. =)
Sunday, August 10, 2008
First, you get to watch absurd sports like team handball and women's weightlifiting. (106lb girl lifted 258 pounds over her head! How is that humanly possible??) And how cool is it that a woman from Belarus played a woman from Singapore in badminton? (I should have taken elementary school PE more seriously - I didn't know I could win a gold medal!) Where else would this match occur? And who knew American women could fence?
On Sunday I talked with NexGen (our middle school Bible study) about how being a disciple of Christ is like competing in the Olympics. Paul refers to the idea of "running a race" a lot in the new testament and I like the symbolism. These are all basic concepts but never bad to think over from time to time:
1) If we are going to a disciple we have to train hard.
1 Cor 9:24-27
I can't imagine that Michael Phelps or Shawn Johnson loved every minute of their training. I'm sure there were days when Michael didn't want to get out of bed to swim for the 10th time that week, or Shawn didn't want to get back up on the balance beam after missing an element 5 times in a row, but they persevered.
And think about a time you had to train for a sport. You know how hard that first mile was? But after a few weeks of training, you ran that mile again and man - it wasn't so hard! It's really cool to see that kind of progress.
Being a disciple is not going to be a joyous experience all the time, in fact - it's a lot of work. But the two things that make it worth it are 1) those times when you look back and realize how much you've grown and 2) those times that God really works through you to affect someone else. What incredible experiences to represent God.
2) We have to run our race and no one else's. (1 Cor 12:12-16)
Picture Kobe Bryant doing Equestrian or LeBron James playing badminton - it cracks me up. Vitamin water did a commercial a while back about this and, though hilarious, is unrealistic. Both those guys would get absolutely whipped if they played any other sport but basketball. Why? Because basketball is what they trained for. Imagine a cyclist coming into the Olympics and then trying to compete as a swimmer. They might do alright because they're in such peak physical shape, but if they are a naturally good cyclist and have trained for years in that sport, it would be a waste of their talent to do anything else.
God desires for us to run our race. All too often I look at the worship leaders and think, "man! why didn't God give me a voice?! I want to do that!" But that's not the gifts God gave me, and do anything other than His path is not living up to the purpose He made me to do. Now, if I chose another path, it doesn't mean that I wouldn't be somewhat successful. Potentially I could dedicate all of my time and money for lessons in guitar and voice and do alright, but I will have missed the other places God really wanted me to be that would have been a much better fit.
3) All the sports receive the same medals. (2 Timothy 4:7)
Even though certain sports get more publicity than others, every athlete that steps up on a medal stand will receive the same reward. Whether archery, trampoline, kayaking or basketball, a gold represents the highest achievement in the specific event; each gold medal winner had to dedicate years to reach that level. Still, there have been thousands of gold medal winners whose names I'll never hear, let alone remember. But they're perseverance and dedication was rewarded.
The race that God has designed for me may never get my name in the newspapers. Of the tasks that God desires for us as Christians to do, I would guess as many as 90% will receive little or no thanks. But they're extremely important tasks. We can't all be pastors or deacons - if we were, who would play with the kids or prepare the coffee and food? In the end, God will reward us for our obedience - not by the measure of how many people know our name - but how joyfully we served.
One last thought...
Do you ever watch the medal ceremonies? I love to watch the pride that the gold medal athletes show when their country's flag is raised and their national anthem is played for them. At that moment, I can't imagine that one of them is thinking about how bad they're injuries have been, or how many times they've thrown up after a hard practice. They're drinking in the moment that all that sacrifice was working toward. It has to be the most exhilarating experience.
I imagine heaven will have that kind of experience. If I really work hard, and dedicate my life to being a disciple of Christ, some day God will turn to me and say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant." To receive that kind of acknowledgment in heaven for work I've done on earth, makes sacrifice here look like peanuts.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Background: about a month ago, my roommates and I moved into a rental house. We love this place. It is spacious and in a safe neighborhood, right on a golf course. There's plenty of room for people to come hang out and allow this to be a community house. For two of us, this is our first time renting a house. For the other two, they rented a house in Blacksburg, but only a townhouse here. Also, growing up I lived in a really relaxed neighborhood outside the city limits where the regulations were basically "don't burn down your neighbor's house."
So now to the story: we have been working on getting one of the youth group kids at church to come mow our lawn to raise money so he could go to camp. Well, because of some phone tag and the lack of a mower, it's been about 2 weeks so admittedly, the grass is pretty long. Well Sunday we got a knock at the door. "Hi, you must be the new tennants. We have a really active homeowners' association here and I just wanted to warn you that you need to cut your grass or people may call the city."
"Oh," says I, "I'm sorry, I know it's much too long, I'll do it tomorrow."
Now, the man was very cordial - but definitely direct.
Then Monday (the next day) at work I got a phone call from our property manager who said that we got a CITY CITATION for our grass being too long and our TRASH CANS BEING VISIBLE FROM THE STREET. Not at the street. They were up next to the house, minding their own business, no trash sticking out - just visible from driving by.
Really? Is THIS the American dream? At first I felt bad. Then I got angry at whichever neighbor decided to tattle to the city about our misplaced trash cans. Then I just felt sad.
We (being upper-middle class America) live inside our comfortable bubbles where the most important thing we have to worry about in the day is the length of our neighbor's grass and the placement of their trash cans. We as a society (and me personally) don't even love our neighbors enough to know their names. More than a month and I haven't said more than hello to most of my neighbors.
The American Dream: a perfect house filled with 2 kids, a dog, a cat, and 3 fish with 2 nice cars in the driveway and a pool out back. Is that all there is? In the relentless pursuit of this dream have we missed something? When the fulfillment of our lives is based on the positioning of our neighbor's trash cans, we have missed something!!
I don't want this. I mean, I love this house, and I genuinely have a desire to be a good steward of this house. But I never want to live with such a near-sighted view of the world. Behind those houses with misplaced trash cans (and perfectly placed ones), there are people. People whom God is seeking.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made – Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
Earlier in the week I had looked up the word “wonderfully,” and in Hebrew it is palah. It actually has a fabulous meaning.
פלה - Palah
1) to be distinct, marked out, be separated, be distinguished
1) to be distinct, be separated, be distinguished
2) to be wonderful
b) (Hiphil) to make separate, set apart
That’s a great thought. In English we use the word “wonderful” to say things like “that was a wonderful dinner” or “I saw a wonderful movie last night.” Palah means so much more than that. God considers each of us a miraculous creation. It's easy to look at 6 billion people on earth and think, Why am I any different than anyone else? In the grand scheme of things, I don't matter.
But God challenges that idea. Psalm 139 talks about how each person is set apart from birth. The same care and passion that God created the Himalayas and the Grand Canyon He used to create us. That’s just amazing to me.
But it gets better.
Friday morning I began my Beth Moore study called “Believing God” about having the faith to take God at his word. When she discussed people of great faith, she used the example of Joshua leading the people into the Promised Land by taking the city of Jericho.
She said, “Look at Joshua 3:5. Joshua is speaking to the people before God parts the Jordan river to lead them to Jericho.
Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.
~Joshua 3:5 NIV
“The word ‘amazing’ in Hebrew is ‘Palah’”
What! I freaked out when she said that. She went on to describe the same word that I had just looked up. The same word that is used to describe God’s miracle of parting the Jordan River and conquering Jericho is used to describe God’s creation of each of us as His miracles! What an amazing lesson. It was really cool that God showed me that connection last minute so I could share it with the girls on Saturday.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
But then there are times where all that junk gets stripped away, and God reveals himself in an astounding way. This weekend has been God revealed.
26 middle and high school girls delved deeply into understanding what God has to say about our beauty. No girl walked out of this weekend unchanged. God reached these girls in ways that were written in the truth in their eyes, no words were necessary. It was an honor to be a part of.
Sometimes serving in a church is hard. Sometimes I ask myself why I keep running in circles. But this weekend reopened my eyes. Why do I do this?
This is why: So 26 girls can see the love of their Maker.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
But the series the church is in now is called "One Prayer." At first it sounded so basic. National Community Church is joining with churches around the world and spending time praying for unity among Christians. There are many times I hear messages and think, yeah yeah, same scripture, "be unififed, don't quarrel... yada yada yada... same message, different speaker."
But tonight I heard it with renewed eyes. Unity is not a message it's the message! Imagine the possibilities if we sold ourselves out in pursuit of the Acts 2 church. Craig Groeschel spoke the message about unity and he talked about these possibilities. We as a Christian community could single-handedly eradicate hunger, provide medical care to everyone in need, and most importantly, show the power of Jesus around the world. Not just tell the world about Jesus, but show Him and His love through a bowl of rice or a well of clean drinking water. The physical implications of spiritual unity are greater than any of us could envision.
If you'd like to watch the webcast or download the podcast about praying for unity - you can find it here.
And to know more about One Prayer - check out oneprayer.com
So, as I have been humbled tonight about this, I ask you to join me in praying earnestly for God to intervene with His people, and unite us for His mission to change the world.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
As for his own wealth, Durham insists he doesn’t need all the luxuries he can afford, but he doesn’t want to apologize for them either.
“You know, I think it's what a lot of people strive for," he said. "Everybody wants to live the American Dream.”
~MSNBC article 24 June 08
Our Bible study is walking through the book Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller (author of Blue Like Jazz) and tomorrow night's discussion is on a chapter called "Adam, Eve & the Alien." Miller talks about how, if an alien came to earth, they would likely conclude that our entire society is based on comparison to others, which forces us to be in constant competition. I don't believe this is very far from the truth.
The article I quoted at the top of the page was on MSNBC, and I think reflects Miller's point. What if our society's materialism is not about our own comfort as much as it is about being better than the next guy? It is not necessarily that we want things for our own needs, we just want them because the proverbial "they" don't have what we have. Tim Durham (the multi-millionaire quoted in the article) says an interesting sentence:
"After you get to a certain level where your basic needs are paid for. The rest of it is not necessary."
This statement could have profound impacts on the nature of society. If everyone in America made a budget based on this concept, we could eradicate poverty around the world. This would be the fulfillment of an Acts 2 church (Acts 2:42-47) where none are in need because of the generosity of all.
But look at the context in which Durham says this statement.
"Does another billion dollars help Warren Buffet? No. He doesn't need it to live on. He can probably make it on the first 50."
50 BILLION? Is that really what it takes to fulfill "basic needs"? It only becomes competition after $50 billion? What about to get to that $50 billion, it was never about one-uping the guy next to him?
But I can't be too quick to judge multi-millionairs. What does it take to fulfill my "basic needs?" Why do I feel like it's necessary to shop at J. Crew over Walmart? I say nice things like, "The clothes are made of a better quality and therefore will last longer." But will $60 jeans from J. Crew really last 4 times longer than $15 jeans from Walmart? Isn't some of what I buy about a status point I feel like I have reached? It is the sub-conscience knowledge that I don't want to be associated with those Walmart-clothes-buying people. Why not? Because I have been enveloped into a society that is inundated with ranking.
Maybe it's time I re-think what "basic needs" are. Maybe the "American Dream" shouldn't be my dream.
Friday, June 20, 2008
But it's time to move on. God has been challenging me on being too comfortable. I need to live with people, because then I will stop thinking so much about myself. I think roommates in a house are like pebbles in one of those rotating rock polisher things. We all get thrown into this enclosed space, get all shaken up, and bang against each other. Still, in the end we come out shinier and more refined than when we went in. All of our most jagged edges become much more obvious when they're constantly poking into someone else, and their edges are just as obvious when they sting me in return. I expect nothing different from living with these 3 women.
This move has been a test of faith, because I'm moving out with no guaranteed place for us to move into. We have run into road block after road block trying to rent a house, but we are confident that God will provide. We hope that whatever house God provides, people always feel comfortable coming over. This could be a great place for ministry and relationship-building and outreach. God, please provide such a place.
So tomorrow starts a new adventure. I'm a nomad for a while, but hopefully not long. And then I will be part of a make-shift family again. 4 women in one house (where ever that house might be), living together, growing together, and hopefully resovling conflict together somewhere shy of killing each other.
Sun, I dare you to rise. I am prepared to meet the challenge your new day brings!
Monday, June 16, 2008
The story goes that Jesus came to the house of Mary and Martha, and while he was teaching Mary sat attentively at his feet, listening to the word. Martha was running around cleaning and preparing food and such. She got frustrated and asked "Lord, doesn't it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me." (Luke 10:40 NLT)
But Jesus didn't command Mary, he corrected Martha. "There is really only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it-and I won't take it away from her." (vs 42)
My story started last night when a couple of the guys from FUSE (Sunday nights, 7pm at Glenwood - be there) were helping me move (see what nice guys come to FUSE?).
One of them asked me after the 10th or 11th trip down the stairs, "How many musical instruments do you have?!"
My response: "2 saxes, a bass, and a guitar."
His response: "Dude! Then why aren't you playing in the worship band?!"
Ouch. Without meaning to, he had struck a really hard chord for me. When we started talking about Fuse months ago I really REALLY wanted to play in the worship band. I haven't gotten to lead worship in more than 4 years and I really miss it. But after wrestling with God about it, I realized that there are many musicians and not nearly enough detail people, so God kicked me out of a band before I even got in it.
So this afternoon the set up team for Fuse was exactly 3 people (2 for the first hour). As I was hauling chairs, lifting couches, and preping food, the band was practicing on stage. I grew more, and more bitter by the minute. (And not just because 7 strong guys were on stage instead of lifting couches). I got bitter because they were doing the ministry I wanted to be doing. I don't like details, I am willing to take on administration roles because it is one of my spiritual gifts, but I don't like it. Buying food, preparing it, cleaning it up, hauling couches, setting up tables - none of that is fun. I want to lead worship!
After the service got even worse. Once most people had left, a few of us started to clean up. And by a few, I mean, a few. The rest sat around talking, playing guitar, or tossing a frisbee.
My head started yelling at God. "God, what's wrong with these people?! Don't they care about being a servant like me?! I'm doing a great service to God by not leading worship and doing these miserable jobs!"
And after that thought, God gave me a swift kick in the teeth. I was being a Martha. The people standing around talking were doing things far more important than anything I could be doing. The Kingdom of God is not built by carrying couches or washing dishes. Sure God appreciates it, but He values relationships far, far more.
Thanks God for the humility reminder. No amount of sacrifice I could give could come close to what you sacrificed for me. Maybe I'll learn someday, but I have a feeling I'll need many more reminders.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
I was struck by one verse in particular tonight.
"In the morning, O Lord,
you hear my voice; in the morning
I lay my requests before you
and wait in expectation."
What would happen if I really did get up in the morning, ask big things of God, and then "eagerly anticipate" what He will do in response?? I think I shall try to find out =)
Sunday, June 1, 2008
I know this is just the beginning. There are many, many more weeks of this to come, and for that I am grateful. However, I know we will get tired. It is by the nature of being human that we get worn out sometimes. But tonight when I got home I listened to a sermon by a pastor in DC named Dick Foth and he said, "We are not working for God; instead we are working with God. Just that prepositional flip makes all the difference in the world as to whether we see ourselves as employees or as friends."
That concept is so foundational in the success or failure of FUSE. We are not breaking ground, instead we are picking up a shovel on ground in which God's already working.
God, allow me to wake up tomorrow and join you in the work you are doing.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
So driving home from Nitelife tonight, I realized I was INCREDIBLY thirsty. Not like, oh I'll grab a glass of water when I get home, but like, I must find the nearest gas station and satisfy this thirst! Never have the lights of 7-11 shined so beautifully.
Normally I don't get that thirsty. I guess I had been running around for the last two hours and didn't slow down enough to realize how thirsty I was. It wasn't until I was sitting quietly in my car that my mind realized how much my body needed water.
All too often that is an analogy for my relationship with God.
Sunday night 10 of us packed in two cars to go film some video footage at a camp. Long story short - what should have been a 3 hour trip became a 5 1/2 hour trip. I was miserable. Two of the things I hate most in life are 1) getting lost and 2) being late. We were both.
So when we pulled into camp at 11:37pm, all I wanted to do was to go to bed. However, everybody else got all excited about making a campfire by the river, so I caved to the peer pressure and went along.
The firepit was set on the edge of a large clearing. The moment I stepped out of the car I was overwhelmed by how many stars filled the sky. At home, I forget how vast the sky is. The light pollution in the city prevents all but the brightest stars from being visible. In that clearing, no light competed with those stars - there were thousands.
Once the mini campfire was going, Dusty got out his guitar and started to sing praises. The sounds of worship filled the air. Then this sing came up:
Carved in your coral seas
So much wonder
Shaded by ancient trees
I consider all that your hands have made
Every newborn’s eyes, every new sunrise
No power can tame your presence
No light can match your radiance
LET ALL CREATION SING IN WONDER
EVERY SEA, EVERY CREATURE, EVERY STAR
YOU OPENED UP MY EYES TO WONDER
WHAT A VISION, WHAT A WONDER YOU ARE
Such a wonder
Ordering time and tide
Such a wonder
Bridging the great divide
I consider all that you had, all you gave
And all that you endured
From this rebel world
What a wondrous cross you chose to bear
What a wonder you would even care
LET ALL CREATION SING IN WONDER
EVERY SEA, EVERY CREATURE, EVERY STAR
YOU OPENED UP MY EYES TO WONDER
WHAT A VISION, WHAT A WONDER YOU ARE
LET EVERY ROCK CRY OUT
LET EVERY KNEE BOW DOWN
YOU OPENED UP MY HEART TO WONDER
WHAT LOVE, WHAT A WONDER YOU ARE
No power can tame your presence
No light can match your radiance
Such a wonder...
Such a wonder...
LET EVERY ROCK CRY OUT
LET EVERY KNEE BOW DOWN
Monday, May 12, 2008
"Mere Christianity" by C.S. Lewis
- This man was a genius. Here's how you know. This book contains incredibly difficult concepts that have been debated for centuries. Concepts that have caused men to be saved, men to sin, churches to grow, and churches to divide. But he speaks about these concepts with simple illustrations in common language. It is a book that can open doors to conversations about difficult subjects by taking down the walls about what is acceptable to talk about at church. A smart guy knows a lot. A genius can teach the rest of us what he knows.
"Captivating" by John & Staci Elderage
- I loved this book because it was so raw and truthful. Yes, it talks about pain and spiritual warfare, but it also talks about love and beauty. All these concepts that my heart has known, they find a way to express in this book. It is affirming to know I am not alone in my struggles and my pain is justified. It was both a torment and a pleasure to read. It opened places I don't like talking about, but it reminded me of the incredible truth that God loves me in spite of my flaws.
"When Answers Aren't Enough" by Matt Rogers
- This was written by my pastor from NLCF in Blacksburg, VA. This was another book that stirred me because it is so raw. I told Matt that the courage it must have taken to write that book is more than I can imagine. It is a walk through grief and healing. This book is about the last year since the VA Tech shootings. He isn't afraid of talking about good vs. evil and feeling anger toward the evil that has occurred. But after showing the audience the pain that comes after something tragic, he walks towards hope. By the end of the book I was crying. Not with grief, but with overwhelming appreciation for the grace my Father has shown me.
To all those with something they've learned from God: please keep writing and telling what you know. I got incredibly frustrated with a TV evangelist who preached Fire and Brimstone with no grace or mercy. What if this is the only side of Christianity the world sees?
But I reminded myself, if I wish to show the world the Loving God I know, I must talk about Him. Sing about Him. Write about him.
How will the world know if they have never heard?
Friday, May 9, 2008
But every once in a while, I'll turn one page and there he is, right in the center of the page as obvious as day. God revealed his will in an amazing way tonight.
I've been praying for a while about my desire to build up a ministry of the girls in the youth group. For a few years they haven't had many women leaders, so many of them have been missing that strong female guidance. God has been teaching me about the importance of finding myself beautiful. I see so many of the challenges women face are based around the idea that we are not good enough, that we are not beautiful either physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually.
Well tonight I gathered a group of women together to talk about a retreat for the youth girls. I asked the question, "If you could go back and teach yourself any lesson in high school that you know now, what would it be?" I thought it would take a lot of thought, but answers came from everyone without hesitation.
"Don't go running after boys." "Seek God to fulfill you." "Don't build up walls against the world." "Wait on boys"... they went on and on. And when I said, "How about 'Finding ourselves beautiful' to summarize," everyone nodded.
Something God had made me passionate about he had given the same desire to everyone at that table. God is walking before us and we have stumbled right upon his will. Pretty awesome.
Monday, May 5, 2008
I love 2 Timothy. Paul knows he won't live much longer and is sending Timothy his last words of wisdom. I hope someday I may be able to speak the words that Paul did:
"For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award me on that day - and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearing."
- 2 Timothy 4:6-8
Monday, April 28, 2008
I guess a little background is required. 10 months ago when Kelsey, Steph, and I moved from Blacksburg to VA Beach, we had prayed for a church. Within weeks of arriving God pretty much dropped us on top of Coastal Community Church. I was really looking to help out with a youth group, and they were in desperate need of women youth leaders. We also connected really fast with the other youth leaders (most of which are our age), so Coastal became our church home.
Then, what started as a small band of six new friends, grew into a significant number of youth adults looking for a ministry of our own. So, Wednesday night Bible study began. It was just a group of us, hanging out, doin a little worship, and readin some scripture. Then a small group, became a bigger group, and it became apparent that God was really trying to do something here.
At the same time, Pastor Hank (lead pastor at Coastal) had been praying about reaching out to the 18-30 age group. This is a group that is frequently neglected within church ministry. For one thing, we're very mobile at this age - we change jobs, schools, towns, without much notice or worry because we have had little reason to sink roots anywhere. Also, we tend to be a skeptical age - focused on questioning and challenging the world as we know it - many times the church just doesn't know what to do with this type of questioning. So this means most churches just ignore this age until people get married and have kids and "settle down."
But, Pastor Hank issued a challenge to James (our student minister and now young adult minister) to start looking into the possibility of a venue devoted to our age.
For nearly 6 months we have been planning and praying for something we have named "Fuse". The definition of a fuse is an object "for the purpose of igniting an explosion." The goal of this is to affect this generation - to meet with people our age and seek the truth about this Jesus guy and what affect he might have on our lives.
So tonight was the big night. We had our first preview service. God really blew me away. We had more than 50 people show up. Honestly, where did they all come from? Clearly God was ready for this ministry to happen, he just asked us to show up and watch. That was quite an honor.
We all feel so over our heads with this task, but it has been incredible to see what God will do when we ask him for big things. We don't know what will come of this 6 months from now, or three weeks from now when we have our 2nd preview service, or for that matter tomorrow, but God challenged our faith tonight, and then came through 10 fold when we trusted him.
What an incredible night.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
That's where the idea for this blog name came from - it's a three-fold answer.
- "Free Board" because chalkboards in classrooms are constantly used to bring ideas before people for the purpose of discussion. I hope things I will about will ignite debate and open doors for new ideas to be shared and challenged.
- "Freeboard" is the nautical term for "the vertical distance from the waterline to the top deck." Freeboard is one of the most significant indications of the safety of a boat. A boat without enough freeboard is will likely capsize with the smallest input of instability. I believe there are beliefs, people, and ideas in my life that ensure I stay stable in an unstable world.
- Lastly, "Freeboard" was what my Ocean Engineering class (VT '07) used as the answer to all questions to which we didn't know the answer. "What is the purpose of the correlation allowance in relation to the eddy-making resistance?" "FREEBOARD!"; "What is the triple integral of the boundary layer at the point of transition?" "FREEBOARD!"; "What was the name of the army that defeated Napoleon at Waterloo?" "FREEBOARD!" (you get the idea).
So that's it, I'll explain more as we go on, but for now - at least this seems like a reasonable way to begin.
**1 warning: I cannot spell to save my life. So I apologize to all you excellent spellers out there for offending you.