Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Singing Rocks

The headline reads “Opera Company of Philadelphia Rallies Over 650 Singers To Surprise Macy’s Shoppers With A Random Act of Culture.” (See Apparently it is a regular occurrence to hear an organ play classical music at the Macy’s in Philadelphia. In the middle on one such regular occurrence the organ launched into the opening score of Handel’s Messiah and suddenly hundreds of voices burst into song with a loud “Hallelujah.” Each singer had gathered within Macy’s pretending to get a head start on their Holiday purchases. But soon they became heralds of good tidings to unsuspecting bystanders.

As I watched the video I wept. For all their randomness they had not chosen a random song at all. The lyrics to the Hallelujah Chorus are the most sublime and glorious words of praise that can be uttered. There’s no holding back and no room to mistake exactly Who is being lifted up:

“Hallelujah: for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth. The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign forever and ever. King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. Hallelujah!”

It reminded me of the scene when Jesus makes His triumphal entry into Jerusalem: “The whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!’ Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, order your disciples to stop.’ He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out’” (Luke 19:37-40). As I watched the joyful singers interspersed throughout the crowd of shoppers I felt like rocks were singing.

I am so encouraged by the imaginative delight of our Lord who finds creative outlets to display His glory. I can see Jesus elbowing Peter and with a grin saying, “Watch this; I’m about to bless Macy’s socks off!” So what if it is called a “random display of culture.” Hundreds of voices joined in a heavenly chorus while standing smack dab in the middle of a shopping mall, the real estate most dedicated to American greed and idolatry in our culture. Most moving to me was the woman who had her hands raised and face uplifted as she sang along. People were lifting babies over their heads, smiling and hugging one another, and of course pulling out pocket camcorders to take the holy moment home. It was incredibly beautiful. As the song came to a close the whole place erupted into glorious applause. I stood there in my kitchen watching in wonder, tears streaming down my face, my sweet baby in my arms. And as we watched the clapping my sweet baby began to clap along.

I have reflected much over this eruption of God’s glory in the middle of the ordinary. I have come to the conclusion that God has His own mysterious ways of displaying His glory and righteousness to our world. Because it is mystery, we cannot command it. We can only live as receptive vessels, willing to be filled with it and poured out for it.

As I close I want to share the most brilliant outpouring of God’s glory I have ever seen, the most riveting demonstration of human willingness I have ever witnessed. A precious couple I know has experienced an unimaginable loss recently. My heart has been broken for them, I weep for them often, I send up prayers for them daily. The thing is, in the midst of something so unspeakably awful, I see Jesus. Because they are reflecting Him. They continue to love Him, serve Him, and seek through their tragedy to bring a message of His love and hope to those around them. And not because they see themselves as strong, but because they see themselves as His. I am so humbled by their honest and raw desire to simply be His, even when the world as they once knew it has fallen apart. Every time I see them I come away loving Him more.

That is what revealing God’s glory is all about. When we witness it, we come away loving Him more. And finally I have found the thing I have been trying to say all along. The most important thing we will ever do with our lives is inspire someone else to want to know Him and love Him. By grace made perfect in our weakness. By random acts of culture. By unguarded and unreserved willingness to be His.

This is me trusting,


Thursday, November 11, 2010

If I had a hammer

I think it would be kind of cool to randomly categorize the desk contents of campus ministers and compare them to the stuff in other folks’ desks. In my desk I have a small chocolate stash, some giant pixy stix, and a hammer, among other things. The chocolate is there to remind me that good does exist in the world and sometimes comes in small packages; the pixy stix are there for the ruthless pleasure of threatening my students with an unbridled Sami sugar high; and the hammer is there, well, because it has a soft place in my heart. Oh, and because occasionally I need to bang out a new hole in my office wall.

I love my hammer. It reminds me of Joe who raised me. He gave it to me in a simple olive green tool box with some other odds and ends tools when I moved away to college. It is a tangible reminder of the truth that some things worth accomplishing in life have to be hammered away at with great diligence and patience. This is what Joe taught me by his example, and through sharing his deeply spiritual wisdom. Consider my favorite Joe saying: “Spit in one hand and wish in the other; see which one fills up the fastest.” Love it! I remember having a pleading bout with him when I was about 10 years old. We had visited family and one of my cousins had moon wallpaper. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. Standing in the middle of that room it was easy to feel like Lance Armstrong and Buzz Aldridge admiring the lunar horizon for the first time. I told Joe I wanted a “neat” room like that. He simply said when I could keep my room neat I could have a neat room. I totally thought he had misunderstood what I was saying, so I repeated my longing. Again he gave me the same reply. We continued until I gave up in frustration. What I was missing was the understanding that sometimes the only way to get what you want is to do the work you don’t want. Sometimes the road to satisfaction is paved only by the sweat of the brow.

Although I didn’t appreciate it at the time, I’m so thankful for Joe’s down to earth insight. In the years since it has served me well. Hard work and perseverance pay off. Yet in our society this notion is counter-intuitive. Our culture is so driven by instant gratification that often, when we cannot immediately fulfill our desires, we give up and look for new pursuits of pleasure. It takes great restraint and self-determination to live into a life-choice of commitment. And I purposefully say life-choice. We never accidentally persevere. It takes a great exercise of will to simply keep showing up and giving one’s best effort in a persistent direction when pleasure is deferred. Yet what treasures are garnered for those who choose this road less traveled.

I believe this is what Jesus was talking about when He said, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). Let’s face it: People are lazy. Just sayin’. If we can go through life by avoiding discomfort, we usually do. We generally want to feel good all the time, and only do the things that we like doing. Yet this path ultimately leads to all kinds of disappointment. Our destinations can only be as great as the journey we invest in. Even more disturbing, unrestrained gluttony can lead to addiction, destruction, and pain that we never intended and never once desired. However, perseverance leads to some really great stuff!

This is because I truly believe that God honors our perseverance in doing the right thing, in doing the hard thing when all be want to do is give up. When we are willing to give Him our best by not quitting, I believe He gives us His best by doing what only He can do: blessing and multiplying our efforts. Is it hard? Yes. Will you want to give up? Absolutely. But is it worth it to hang in there? You bet! We are so familiar with Jeremiah 29:11 that says, “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” Yet listen to the tender promises He gives to those who will pursue His best even when it demands something from them: “Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me all your heart, I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes” (Jeremiah 29:12-14).

When I was in youth group we had some old hippie youth leaders that would often sing this song: “If I had a hammer, I’d hammer in the morning; I’d hammer in the evening, all over this land. I’d hammer out danger; I’d hammer out a warning. I’d hammer out love between my brothers and my sisters, all over this land.” I think of it fondly now as I look at my worn hammer, laying in my campus ministry desk, remembering all the ways that Joe persistently and consistently taught me how to be a person of character, remembering too all the ways we have been hammering out God’s love together on campus. This is what I am doing with my hammer, my work of perseverance, trusting that the One who entrusted me with a tool for building has wonderful plans for His project’s completion. If you had a hammer, what would you build? Can you trust Him to have wonderful building plans for your life too?

This is me trusting,


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Be a Joshua Generation!

On Monday we decorated my mommy van with some random pumpkins and headed out to South Lawn to share some chocolate joy. This is so my favorite thing to do this time of year. I love giving away candy to students, especially candy with a message so many need to hear. Each piece of chocolate is given away with this scripture stuck on top: “Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). This admonition to be strong and courageous is given three times in this chapter. Kind of seems like it is important.

The context of the story is that Moses has died. And God has chosen Joshua to be the one who will lead the Israelites into the promised land. This honor did not go to Moses, the one who spoke to God face to face as a friend. It went to the young guy. The apprentice. The one with no job experience. He is probably scared witless. And so the command from God Himself comes, “Be strong and courageous!” Notice it is not a request. Notice it is not a feel-good, warm fuzzy pick me. It is an admonition that shakes the earth: “Hey! You there looking around as if I’m talking to somebody else! You, be strong and courageous!” I love it!

Once again God chooses the least likely candidate to reveal His glory. I believe that young people today are the Joshua generation. I have never seen a population so intent on living the difference they most want to see made. It excites me; it humbles me. One of our students donated from their own funds to help us give away fair trade chocolate on Monday because this person very much believes in not just speaking about justice, but being a part of God’s justice. I am so proud, so thankful I get to be pastor to this individual.

I believe that the bigness of the command comes for two reasons. First, I believe it is so easy for young people to doubt their own worth, or their place in God’s plans. Let’s face it; our culture has told people to do what they want without regard for others. Often times it is the children who suffer. And as these children become young adults, they grow up with a belief that they are expendable, that their lives don’t really matter. The other reason is that never before has there been as much pressure to perform as now. Often students feel like the rest of their lives hinges on how well they perform now. They believe they don’t have time for the luxury of being still and quiet, learning to sense God’s presence with them in the noise, living as if the most important thing they can do with their time is pray and draw close to Jesus. In short, this generation has a target on its forehead.

I say that because our enemy knows what is at stake. And so does God. It is a generation that will give themselves with abandon to what they believe in. And so the spiritual battle is on to win the heart of a generation that loves, serves, and lives with everything they got. Let me just say this. God knows you have it in you to overcome every obstacle you will ever encounter. He know that with the Holy Spirit within you, you will be more than a conqueror. It thrills me to think of the promises that are just waiting to be realized because you, my Joshua generation, have decided to be strong and courageous. When you decide that going with God’s presence is the best way to change the world, the whole earth quakes. My dear ones, lets be partners with God in shaking things up a bit, shall we? So be strong and courageous; know that GOD IS WITH YOU. And wherever you go with God, the earth trembles.

This is me trusting,


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

This Little Light of Mine, I'm Gonna Let It SHINE!

Two days before my second son was born I was blessed to hear Maya Angelou speak. Her visit to Bowling Green was brief and the opportunity to be a part of her public appearance was very limited. My dear friend who worked for student activities at the time arranged for several students from Wesley and myself to have tickets to her speaking engagement. The venue was a very packed Capital Arts theater. As we sat there among the other 300 something attendees, we were moved by her simple message, so eloquently delivered: “Let your light shine.” Simple but powerful. Let your light shine.

That was almost four years ago. Today I am still a campus minister at the same campus ministry. Those young and impressionable students however have since found their way into the world. It’s so cool to see how they each are living that message out in their own way. Just this past weekend I saw one of them at the Unity Fair held at the Foundry on Saturday. He now has a full-time job working as a community organizer, everyday living his passion to see justice come to life for the under-resourced and disadvantaged in our culture. It was so cool just to see that.

I know how pervasive and entrenched discouragement can be. So many times it seems like we cannot change anything, so we don’t try or we give up because we don’t see the results we want. The biggest temptation that most of us face each day is not about blatant sinning, but more in the area of directing our focus. We are tempted everyday to focus on how big the problems are, whether they are in our personal lives, our families, communities, or even the world. Our focus then magnifies the difficulty until it seems impossible, hopeless, and overwhelming. The tactic here is to keep our vision sequestered by an illusion of futility. That way the enemy doesn’t have to ever worry about whether we will ever step out for God because we have been cut down in our belief that we are even capable of making a difference at all. I believe this is the spiritual battleground where God’s initiatives are often shot down. We believe that those big problems can only be conquered through big power! And we simply feel like we don’t measure up. What’s more, because we believe we are incapable of making a difference, we make our minds up that solutions cannot exist. Sadly, God’s answers to these problems often are never discovered simply because they never even had the opportunity to even be considered!

But consider this. Often the way God works to change things is through the simple and small act of obedience, lived out faithfully over time. The song “This Little Light of Mine” is about a “little” light. Not a flood lamp. Not even a flash light. Simply a candle. Something simple and small which cuts the darkness just by being what it was meant to be. It makes a difference by lighting its wick. Giving a speech on Human Rights Day, December 10th, 1961, Peter Beneson said, “It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” He had been living his life as a lawyer in Great Britain when he learned of two Portuguese students who were imprisoned for simply raising their wine glasses in a toast to freedom. Beneson was moved deeply and began a campaign to gain their freedom. It is through his efforts that Amnesty International was born, a movement dedicated to preserving human rights. It’s also like the story of the man who was discovered by a young boy on the beach throwing starfish back into the ocean. The boy commented that this gentleman couldn’t possible make a difference on a beach littered with hundreds of starfish. But very deliberately the old man continued. As he picked up the next starfish and threw it back into the sea, he simply said, “Made a difference for that one!”

What is your simple, small act of obedience? I used to think that God wanted me to change the world by finding the most dynamic examples of ministry out there and becoming like them. Now I know that God only expects me to be who He made me to be, and to apply that being towards those things that move me deeply. I’m not a British lawyer, but I am a prayer warrior. I’m not a charismatic leader, but I am a funny, down to earth teacher. I’m not an administrative genius, but I am a walking heart beat that welcomes everyone in. I am quirky, weird, a bit disheveled, kind of outrageous, very un-hip, quite excitable, and somewhat enthusiastic. In all of that messy vibrancy I have experienced a quiet invitation from God’s heart to leverage what I am (NOT what I’m not) towards those things that stir me deeply. He asks me to consider what I can do, NOT what can’t be done. And here is the best part of all: When we stop focusing on what is impossible for us to (God’s part anyway), and begin to live into that simple, small act of obedience that we can do, then we have allowed room for the Bigness of God to step in and do His thing after all! Kind of like the little boy who steps up to share his sack lunch; Jesus turns it into a feast that feeds a crowd.

So STOP fixating on what cannot be done. Begin to listen for that still, small Voice (God’s Voice) that speaks within your heart. Learn to focus on the light already shining around you. Learn from those who seem to know how to live in light. Consider the light that you are, not the one you wish you could be. And in the listening and considering begin to focus on the simple, small act of obedience that God is sparking within you. Light that candle. Let that light shine. And prepare to be amazed at how small the darkness becomes.

This is me trusting,


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Why are you here?

I must admit that since I have been back from Fall Break, several of you have really been on my heart and mind. Each one of you truly has a special place in my life. It is so cool and kind of amazing that after 8 plus years in this ministry, the things you go through as students still move me deeply. I count it as a God thing. I believe it is why I am where I am. God crafted my heart so that college students could find His grace there. It is a mystery that staggers me and leaves me deeply humbled. After all this time, I know why I am here. He put me here to love on you.

But I want you to ponder a more important question, especially those of you who are really wrestling and struggling right now: Why are YOU here? Really, why? You may be so distracted by the whirlwinds surrounding you and swirling within you that you may not have ever even considered the question. But consider this: Lauren, one of our leaders at Wesley very astutely says that nobody comes here by accident. She is so right. I kind of feel that campus ministries are kind of like planets. The big ones seem to have a gravitational pull that draws others in. However when you land on our planet it is precisely because you were guided here by Something bigger than yourself for a very specific purpose. You are not here by chance. God is doing something in you here that has eternal significance for your life and quite probably for lives you have yet to encounter. Now that is staggering.

I say this because the temptation is to believe that you are only what the university says you are, a random 800 number amongst 20,000 other students. You are definitely not just a random number. Or you could be tempted to believe what biology would tell you, that you are a random conglomeration of rapidly expanding cells that differentiated into various limbs and organs. You are not a random grouping of cells. Or you could be tempted to believe what philosophy would tell you, that you are a random being with an existential presence vacillating between meaningless extremes and circumstances of which you have no control. Your life is not a random happening in a meaningless universe. Here is the truth: You are precious, created with intention and delight, for a purpose that extends meaning and influence far beyond what you can comprehend. You are a person of sacred worth. And right this very minute God is working a purpose for you that is full of eternal significance, one that is full of His glory and profound in its impact.

But you have a choice. How you decide to view your life and circumstances very profoundly influences your experience of them and your response to them. As Tyler, another one of our leaders at Wesley, rightly points out, it’s all about the attitude. You can choose to believe the lie, that you are here by chance and your live has no worth or value. Or you can be courageous and live into the truth that our enemy does not want you to believe: That you are a child of worth, created in and sustained in love, specifically for a purpose that has eternal significance and meaning. I don’t take the admonition lightly. I know what it will cost some of you to live into it, to live as if it is true because you can’t yet believe it is true. I know what I’m asking is huge, but I also know the One who prompted me to ask it. I know He believes in you and wants you to experience His power in your life like you never have before. Here is the truth: He will do the powerful transforming thing; you just have to accept His invitation. Be strong and courageous dear ones. I will accept that invitation with you.

This is me trusting,


Monday, October 04, 2010

What to do when the A.F.R. has hit the fan

Today is the Monday before Fall Break begins on Thursday. And as is the case on most college campuses before break, all the professors got together and decided that the most delicious form of torture for college students would be to coordinate syllabi so that all the exams, all the projects, all the papers, all of the big-ticket assignments would come due at the same time. And of course every professor or instructor treats his or her assignment as the most important, expecting you the student to do the same. Even if you are only enrolled in basket-weaving 101, that instructor’s attitude toward that class is that it is the most vital to your entire educational career, even if you should go on to pursue a PH. D. in aero-dynamics. It’s just the culture of academia.

Returning students have learned to greet the days before Fall Break with the grim resignation to hunker down, bury themselves in the library or dorm room, and grind through each intellectual obligation until all are completed. Freshmen are more like deer caught in headlights. For a few brief moments they hyperventilate, and then, after chatting with friends, parents, and pastors, discover that the devastation can be survived. Then they too, hunker down. If you are a college student reading this, you didn’t need me to tell you that the A.F.R. (I learned this term on TV last night when a resort worker was explaining what happens when a kid poops in the pool—it’s called “accidental fecal release.” Cool huh?) has hit the fan. You are living it.

And as I was pondering A. F. R. this morning during my run, I began to wonder as my breath formed a foggy mist in front of my face if toots (passing gas, farts, tooties, whatever) would also form a lovely foggy mist in the cold air. Can you tell I hang around college students? I share this for two reasons: First I think it is hilarious! Second, when we are going through tough times we need help to get through, to persevere, to survive. Humor has always done it for me. I often tell my students that in the body of Christ I am the funny bone. My bizarre thought process on how we survive the tough times is actually related to Philippians 4:11-13, a familiar scripture that I have been pondering for the last several days:

For I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

There is a Veggie-Tales video that explores this verse. Larry the cucumber asks Bob the tomato if it means that through Christ he can be a chicken, because he always wanted to be a chicken. Well, no. It doesn’t mean that. Usually we take it to mean that we can do anything for God through the strength of Jesus Christ. And yes, that is true. We can do anything God asks us to do relying on His strength. But we usually look at this text through the lens of the American Dream, meaning that if we don’t like the situation we are in, with God’s help and our own will-power we should be able to fix it. We kinda are the “fix-it” nation. We hate to be uncomfortable, and we avoid pain at all costs. However, this is not the way of the Gospel, certainly not the way of Jesus who did not run away from the cross but chose it because he loves us and knew there could be no resurrection, ultimate defeat of sin, death, and evil, without it.

At the heart of the Gospel is the good news that Jesus transforms the bad into the good. Not by running away, but by enduring, and pushing through. Somehow the power of Jesus infused into our lives gives us the ability to do the same, to persevere and push through. And through His grace, our worst experiences can be transformed through the power of His love and resurrection into something of eternal beauty. Don’t ask me how He does it; I just know that he does. And He does it not by removing us from the difficulty but by strengthening us within the difficulty. Now don’t get me wrong; I do believe in miracles and deliverance. But I also know that God doesn’t choose to answer every difficulty we encounter in this way. What He does give us every time is the strength to be okay in the midst of A.R.F.’s and quickly whirling objects (i.e. fans). The good news is that no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, God is able to sustain us while we are in them. He helps us get through them. He makes us able to praise Him on the other side. So thankful. Honestly I’d rather have the American Dream, but I’m so thankful I have His grace instead. He’s gotten me through a lot.

And so my dear ones, do not be discouraged. In a matter of days Fall Break will be here, and you will be able to rest from your basket weaving 101 adventures. Just know that the God who loves you is with you, to strengthen you and to bring good out of you and through you. And in His grace you will see your toughest trial transformed into something of eternal beauty for His glory.

This is me trusting,


Loosey Goosey Religion

I get how crazy life is. On Sunday the pastor at the church I attend was commenting on someone he met who just wasn’t into “organized religion.” His reply to the person was, “That’s okay because our church is disorganized religion.” My thought was, “he just thinks he’s seen disorganized religion. He hasn’t been to the Wesley Foundation yet.” Anyone who has been a part of our ministry at all knows just how unorganized we can get. There is some sense of organization there; it’s just all loosey-goosey. And God has been showing me that this is okay.

There is so much pressure during this segment of life to be regimented, to have a life plan, to know where you are headed with finely crafted steps lined out for getting there. And I must admit, living with intentionality is a powerful thing during the young adult years. I mean, you have within you the capacity to set the trajectory for what will follow. Being intentional is a good thing. During my university experience class as we talked of time-management I encouraged my students to harness the power of intention. I asked each of them to make a list of what is most important in their lives. Then I asked them to consider how they spend their time in any given week. My next question was to examine how much the way they spent their time reflected the important things in their lives. If there was a discrepancy, I challenged them to make changes that would incorporate their life values into their actual living.

And because I don’t think it is fair to ask my students to do something I am unwilling to do myself, I have been pondering my own ability to harness the power of intention. In fact I spent quite a bit of time wrestling with this question of my own intentions. To be honest, the experience left me unsatisfied, feeling like I was trying to fill a bottomless pit. However, in the middle of my ponderings grace gave me a different perspective. The new question that came to my spirit was this: “What are Your intentions, Lord?” This is not the same thing as, “What is Your will for my life?” Trying to find God’s will has been an integral part of my life for a long time. Rather this comes from the assumption that the things we are intentional about yield something later on. For instance, if I harness the power of intention to study hard, I will yield good grades. If I harness the power of intention to spend time with the people I love on a regular basis, the yield is better relationships. It is another way of saying that we reap what we sow (also something the pastor talked about on Sunday.) My question of God was thus one of asking what had He been sowing in me that were now yielding fruit. Also, what is He sowing now that would yield fruit later? And finally is the big one, what does all this fruit look like anyway?

When I only focus on what I can intentionally plant and harvest in my own strength, I suddenly become very tired, a bit agitated, and eventually overwhelmed. Yet when the question shifts, and I begin to sense that God has been intentional in planting things in my life all along, well, my footing becomes solid again. Often I look at a past season of life and think, “Dude! I was just trying to survive!” But when I think of that season in light of God’s intentions, or rather His intentional occupation in my circumstances, I can see that He produced something worthwhile in me the whole time I thought I was just barely holding on.

Here’s the thing of God’s grace: He intentionally shows up in the chaos of our lives and weaves His goodness into it, if we will simply let Him in and go with what He gives us. We may not understand it. We may be overwhelmed by it. We may not have any sense that it will resolve itself in any recognizable way. But the promise of Grace is that surer Hands are holding us than we ourselves have. I love that about our intentional, loving God who specifically chooses those things that confound us to show us Himself the most. So dear one, rest in His goodness, knowing that you are not responsible for ordering the universe. Indeed the One who brought forth the universe in all its glory from chaos is able or order yours. Be blessed.

This is me trusting,


Monday, September 13, 2010

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

Why did the chicken cross the road? To run in Butler County’s Project Prom 5K race. Well at least I did, on Saturday. My strategy was simple: just keep running. I could run any speed I wanted, I just couldn’t stop. I knew if I ever stopped it would be so hard to regain my momentum. And the temptation to stop is so appealing when it is hot and hilly. But I didn’t stop; I finished the race (in honor of all 38 year old women with three children, the youngest of whom is 9 mos). So incredibly glad I did.

Mostly because I am metaphor girl. I can relate anything to anything, and running really seems to relate to the life of faith. What I love about both disciplines (running and following Jesus) is that the equipment is light. To be in shape, all you need is a good pair of running shoes. You don’t need fancy equipment. You don’t need to join an expensive club. You just have to step outside. As Nike says, “Just do it.” Living as a disciple of Jesus is really the same way. It’s good to have a Bible, so you have a ready reference for how to’s. And it’s also good to have a community that encourages you in your walk. But you don’t need a theology degree. You don’t have to become a monk. You just have give yourself to Jesus and follow the little nudges you encounter throughout the day.

It’s so easy when you are a runner to get discouraged, distracted, or waylaid by circumstances beyond your control. I’m very thankful for my sweet husband who asks me every night if I want to run the next morning. In some ways his simple question keeps me accountable. However, quite honestly most mornings I don’t want to get out of bed. My body often feels heavy laden, and I just want a little more sleep. What I have found, though, is that if I will push through, the experience of running does in fact get easier. The difficulty lessons, and the benefits begin showing up. For instance, I seem to have more energy throughout the day. My clothes start fitting better. I can eat what I want! And eventually, my body wants to get up and run, desiring the activity rather than fighting it. So just push through!

The same is true for the life of faith. Reading the Bible and attending a faith-based group regularly is so hard. Especially as a college student when there are so many other things that you could be doing, so many other things that seem to be more fun and fulfilling. But pressing through is definitely worth it. Eventually the effort pays off. Don’t try to be perfect; don’t try to always get it right; don’t try to always sound super spiritual. Instead, just keep doing what you know to do, regardless of how well you think you are doing. Let Jesus take care of the rest. Remember how the book of Galatians talks about the “fruit of the Spirit?” As you allow God’s Spirit room in your life to grow, to be nurtured and cultivated, an amazing thing actually happens: The fruit of that cultivation begins to show! It’s not that we spend our time trying to force love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control to show up in us. Whenever we do that the results seem strained and fake. But when we make room in our lives for spending time with God, reading His word, and hanging out with His people, those fruits just automatically begin to show up. God brings them forth from us—we just provide hospitable dirt for them to grow in. Eventually doing the God thing first isn’t hard anymore, and everything else gets more manageable too. Because it’s no longer our strength making it happen, but His strength coming through us. So just push through!

Truly the secret to finishing in a life of running and a life of faith is not very complicated. Paul puts it this way: “Let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2). The secret to finishing the race set before us is a little word called “perseverance.” Last Saturday there were lots of people in that race, including teenagers who started ahead of me, but then finished behind me. It’s not that I’m a great runner; I’m not. It’s not that I’m a fast runner; I’m not. Even though most of them were faster than me, they stopped running; however, with my turtle pace I kept going. It’s just a simple strategy that carried me through: don’t stop running. I could run as slow as I wanted, I could strip off extra clothes if I wanted, I could breathe as heavy as I wanted, I just couldn’t stop. It wasn’t pretty; but I finished. And finishing is all that matters.

So I want to encourage you this semester: Do the God thing first, and persevere in doing it. You will have all kinds of reasons not too. You will face all kinds of distractions and discouragement. Do don’t give up and don’t give in. Even if you fall away for a little while, come back. You will be so glad you did. Make up your mind now to win the race that Jesus has set before you. The more you run with Jesus, the easier it will be. So don’t give up; just push through!

This is me trusting,


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Cardboard Blessings

It happens in life that you come to a place of reckoning, where everything is stripped away and you come face to face with the stuff of who you are. It is like the heavens open up and you see yourself unvarnished. The supports fall away and the bare-naked truth reveals itself: We really are dust. Or cardboard. That's the way I came to think of it at a particularly pointed time of unvarnishing in my life. Through those somewhat painful moments I began to see how human I really am, that without Grace filling me up, my life is more like cardboard than crystal.

That "moment of truth" was quite a few years ago. While it was quite a shocking revelation at the time, I've come to accept, make friends with, my cardboard-ness. After all, though it is not very pretty, cardboard is not as fragile as crystal. And I kind of like the anonymity that comes with being deeply ordinary. I am comfortable there. Don't get me wrong: I try really hard to give my best. But I also know that in my quirky expression of self, my best is not often pretty. It just is what it is. I jokingly tell my dear prayer partner, "At some point God has to take credit for my ineptness; after all He made me this way, and only He is able to make me into something different." Sometimes I feel like I need one of those cartoon bubbles over my head filled with words: "Please forgive her; she is cardboard." Or dust. People may need the explanation, but God never does. I love the scripture that says, "He knows how we are made; He remembers that we are dust (Psalm 103:14). Even cooler is the verse right before that: "As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear Him (Psalm 103:13). So I just recklessly abandon myself to the Lord's compassion. I know that He gets me.

The coolest thing happened the other day. For months I have been frustrated with my little boys clothes chest. It has shelves in it where we stack his clothes, but as he sorts through them they often become a tangled mess. There is no order, no neat stacks, just the chaos of wadded pants, shirts, and shorts. For a while now I have wanted to get baskets that we could use to separate the clothes in this chest, but it always seemed like such a frivolous expense. And then the other day I happened to think that the boxes that hold the baby wipes and diapers we use for our six month old are just the perfect size! Sure enough they fit perfectly, neatly holding pants and shorts, with shirts nicely folded and stacked in between. I even cut the fronts off of them so that we can easily see what is where, making everything easily accessible. After the fury of activity that made the mess manageable, my sons and I stood back with awe and appreciated our hard work. Instead of chaos there were simply stacks, neatly contained by, you guessed it, cardboard.

It took me a couple of days to realize what had happened. Not so much in the "my son's room is messy" arena, but in the "my soul's room is messy" arena. For the purpose we needed fulfilled for little boy clothes, those cardboard boxes worked perfectly, better than fancy baskets that would have cost alot. And I realize now, for the purposes God has chosen me for, exaclty who I am is exactly who He needs. This cardboard self that I am has Divine purpose. And I don't have to be crystal to fulfill it. And even if I were crystal, I never could be and do the things He needs me to be and do. From His perspective, no apologies are needed.

From my quiet time today the scripture reading is this: "What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. For we are God's servants, working together" (I Corithians 3:5-9). This is all to say that God uses us according to His own wisdom, working through our lives in unique ways that ultimately bring glory to Him alone. So don't worry about not being something you are not. Sure you may not look like Apollos or Paul. Your life may be more cardboard than crystal. But God has a purpose for you that absolutely will be fulfilled when you surrender your self to His love, boldly trusting in His awesome compassion. He love you, and dear one, He also loves through you.

This is me full of trust,


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Fourteen Years Ago Today . . . .

My husband and I play this game. It's called, "Do you know what you were doing _________ years ago today?" Sometimes it goes by, "Do you remember where you were?" Or "What did you eat for dinner?" Or "What clothes were you wearing?" It's mostly him asking me, but I like it. It's a fun game.

Mostly because it helps me mark milestones in my life, and the sign posts can often be missed because they are so ordinary. But on special days, even the ordinary has significance. I remember fourteen years ago today waking up and trying to take a bubble bath in a hotel room with a fancy jaccuzi tub. For some reason I couldn't figure out how to make the plug stick, and all my bubbles kept running out. By the time I found a solution, all the hot water was gone, my bubbles had disappeared, and I had used up my time to leisurely enjoy a bubble bath tinkering with the drain on a crazy bath tub that required a PH.D. to operate. And I wanted my day to start out special because one of the most significant events of my life was getting ready to take place: I would marry Tim.

As a pastor I have learned to tell couples getting married, "Don't worry about what goes wrong; ten years from now you will laugh about it." I think that is one of the greatest lessons I have learned, laughing makes everything better. Rarely does anything in my life match the scenarios that I invent in my head. But time has taught me that life is good anyway. On the day of my wedding, the fancy tub didn't work, I took a cold bath, my hair didn't do what it was supposed to, the candles weren't lit for most of our pictures, and my dress didn't fit down the aisle. Yet despite all the pitfalls, we shared a lovely worship service with beloved family and friends. Tim and I sealed our promise to one another at the same place we began our relationship, the altar. I was walked down the aisle by one of the most precious men I have ever known. And my sweet father blessed our marriage as the one who performed our ceremony, preaching a beautiful message on the power of God's grace to overcome all obstacles.

The scripture for our wedding was Romans 8:35-39. It says:

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

My Dad spoke of God's never failing love, and the power of the love of Christ to redeem everything in our lives, no matter what we experience, no matter what mistakes we make. In fourteen years Tim and I have discovered that to be true. Perfection doesn't exist in our lives, but grace is lavish. Through all the ups and downs, heartaches and heartbreaks, we have found a Love that holds us, even when we are too human to hold each other. And somehow that same Love gives us the strength to love one another better than we could simply in our own strength, amazing both of us sometimes.

I share all this as my celebration, captured in a very ordinary day, in remembrance of another ordinary day filled with significance. Today my hair didn't do what I wanted it to, my toe-nail polish is chipped and fading, I somehow got toothpaste on my shirt, I forgot to pick up something at church, my quiet time didn't quite happen the way it was supposed to, and I haven't gotten anything on my to-do list accomplished. But today is filled with significance. Because I am still in love with the man I married fourteen years ago. He is still the love of my life. And perhaps more extraordinary given my incredible self-doubt and insecurity, I know he loves me. Wrapped up in the craziness of my ordinary life is wonderful Grace, mysterious Grace. Grace that makes ordinary beautiful, expecially in its commonplace insignificance. I am so thankful for God's love that keeps me so much better than I can keep myself, and helps me to appreciate the best gift He's ever given me . . . . Tim.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Sweetly Broken, Still

I've spent the week still pondering the whole sugar bowl incident, and what it means to live my life with an open heart, even when it means that my heart might sometimes be broken. I have been pondering the connection between brokenness and love. The most powerful connection for me is Jesus, which the song "Sweetly Broken" is all about. Specifically I am considering the weight of love revealed in His words, "This is my body broken for you." The words themselves add a whole new revelation to the phrase "sweetly broken, wholly surrendered."

When I was in seminary I had what some would describe as a vision. All I know is that I had a powerful experience of Jesus that filled all my senses in a way I had not known before. And what is funny is that, although I had given my heart to Him a hundred times in my adolescent life, I had never had that experience of His presence. Now the presence of God, or the Holy Spirit, both of those were very real to me. But feeling Jesus as a part of my life was so hard for some reason. And then there was that night in seminary. I was in a worship service, my eyes closed, my voice raised as I sang a love song to the Lord. In my mind's eye I saw someone standing before me, hands stretched out to me. The face was obscure, but those hands had been pierced. I knew exactly Who it was, and in astonishment, joy, and relief I grasped the hands held out to me. I was so overwhelmed at finally having a real encounter with Jesus that I began to weep. Ever so gently those nail-pierced hands lifted to my face and began to wipe my tears away. "No," I said, "There are too many." And the voice of Jesus spoke to my heart, "There are never too many tears for Me to wipe away."

Jesus always appeared to His disciples after the resurrection with the scars of His death intact. Even in His glorified self, His body held the evidence of His love for the world that He died to save. So when He says to us, "This is my body broken for you," we can believe Him; He does not erase the cost of loving us from His person, as if it didn't happen, as if we had ceased to exist for Him the moment He enterend heaven. It is immensely comforting to me.

Because a broken heart is not the only risk that love has demanded from me. My body has been broken as well. I am the mother of three boys. Each one was delivered by C-section. For the first two I have a fairly well hidden horizontal scar on my abdomen where they cut a hole in my body to pull my children out. I begged my doctor for this third time to just let me have another incision like that. But she did not give in; the scar tissue inside my body was far to bad. As it turned out, having a vertical incision probably saved my life. Without it, she told my husband afterwards, I would have been in trouble. And so now I have a red scar that stretches up my belly.

In the month or so after giving birth to Jeremiah, I grieved for my body. I wanted the old one back; the new one looked ugly to me; the new one made me feel ugly all over. One morning I simply sat in the middle of my closet and cried. In the midst of terrible physical pain, a breastfeeding nightmare, hormonal overload, and kidney stones to top it off, I just broke down and wept. Every part of me hurt: body, mind, spirit, and soul.

As I sat there crying, my sweet three year old came in. With a gentle touch he cupped my face in his little hands and looked intently into my eyes. "Mommy, you're a princess," was all he said.

As I have pondered the words to that worship song the last couple of weeks, the meaning of "sweetly broken" has gone deeper and deeper. I am beginning to make peace with my body. I am immensely grateful to it for giving me the gift of motherhood. I love being a mother, and I love my boys with all that I am. Now when I look at my scar, I try not to think about how unflattering it looks, but rather about how those three boys are so worth it. It is worth it to me to bear a scar that brought my children into the world. I guess that is how Jesus feels about His own scars. It is worth it to Him to bear the scars of bringing His children into eternity.

I still don't feel much like a princess, at least not the image of one I carry in my head. But I know I am one to my son. And I believe I am the daughter of the King. He died to bring me home to Himself. So being a princess is not about unblemished perfection. It is not about being untouchable and unreal. Instead it is about being boldy accessible, vulnerable and bendable, willing to enter in to love, even at the price of suffering. I continue to learn that love truly does conquer all. But it is only His love that makes real love possible or plausible.

This is me full of trust,


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sweetly Broken

Monday I got to go to Camp Loucon for Youth Workers Sabbath. It’s one of my favorite things. I look forward to it each spring. It gives me a chance to reflect on where I am at the end of another school year, to renew some precious friendships with youth pastors who have been opening their hearts to kids for years, and to just be refreshed and renewed in some forgiving space for awhile. This year the theme song for our worship was “Sweetly Broken” by Jeremy Riddle. The chorus goes like this:


I was very moved by the song and really felt a connection to it. I left my time away with those words pressed into my heart. And so I returned home to the busyness of finals week, and the preparations of our Ladies Tea Party. Replacing my hiking boots with strappy heels, I prepared for the end of year celebration soon to take place at my house.

The thing is, I love tea parties. In my first place of ministry my dear friends introduced me to the practice. Anytime one of us had something to celebrate we gathered around fine china and crystal, being very intentional about making our time special and the guests honored. I continued the tradition when I became a campus minister. I wanted my girls to know themselves as special and honored too.

Last night I got out the server pieces from my original china set to serve sugar and creamer in. It is beautiful to me with its delicate curves and filigree handles. The china is a pristine white that is transparent when held up to the light. It was part of the pattern I registered for as a new bride almost fourteen years ago. As I went to fill the sugar bowl with sugar, the unthinkable happened. It was too close to the edge of the counter and accidentally got pushed off, shattering as it hit the floor. And “sweetly broken” began to have new meaning for me.

Two of the young ladies who joined us last night will be moving on to new adventures soon. One is graduating, and the other is transferring to the University of Louisville. It was a very bittersweet celebration. On the one hand I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to know and love them. On the other hand, my heart is breaking as I say goodbye. Like my sugar bowl, I too am sweetly broken.

Jesus warned His disciples that they must count the cost of discipleship: “Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? (Luke 14:27-28).” I don’t think He says this to scare them, but simply to let them know that there is a cost in following His path. Jesus heads straight for the path of love, and love leads Him to the cross. It leads us there too.

Like a sugar bowl (even a fine china sugar bowl) was made for sugar, my heart was made for love. It would be so easy to keep my china and precious tea cup collection safe. I could just go to the store and buy disposable everything. But then our tea parties wouldn’t be so special. And all that beautiful china would simply sit unseen in a cabinet, never fulfilling its intended purpose. I too could protect my heart from loss. I could go through the motions and never risk getting hurt by never opening my heart. I could keep my life an unopened book, never sharing its mysteries, struggles, and triumphs. I could never share the story of who I am, never listen to the story of who you are, and never allow those stories to shape each other in eternal ways. I could lock up my heart and never allow the presence of a student to live there and never suffer loss when they leave. And I could live a miserable, joy-less, empty life, bereft of laughter, flat, without any vibrant color or candor, simply a barren existence. I could do that, but I would forever forfeit who I really am. My heart was made for love.

And I am a pastor whose flock always leaves. As my sheep, I will love you, nurture you, pray for you, wait for you, patiently tend you, gently guide you, and always worry over you. But if I do my job right, you will always leave me. And if I do my job right, your departure will always leave an ache in my heart. Loss is the cost of loving you into the fullness of God’s intention for you as a sheep in my care. Still I would not have it any other way. After eight years of being a campus minister, I have discovered that I was made for this ministry of loving students into fullness. It is worth it to me to suffer this loss. You are worth it to me.

Because we are all worth it to Him. On the cross Jesus answered Love’s call and laid down His own life so that He could take our brokenness and sin into His own heart. It was worth to Him to die there so that the power of sin would be broken in our lives, and so that we would know without any doubt that we are forgiven. When scripture says that nothing can separate us from the love God has for us in Jesus Christ, it speaks the truth. He removes the sin that separates us from God’s holiness by His death, and then He removes the death that sin breeds within us by His resurrection. His gift to us is eternal life, peace with the Father, and love that cleanses us from all un-love. Praise Jesus.

I know what I was made for. Do you know what you are made for? Part of my purpose is to help you discover that, to love you into it. To walk beside you until some day you walk into the destiny God has prepared for you, designed you for. The thing you would suffer loss for because nothing else fills you up quite the same way. And that is what you are to me.

So I love you, because He loves me and chooses to love you through me. In ways you cannot know you have been grafted into my life. And when it comes time to let you go my dear ones, it will always break my heart. But I am so grateful to be sweetly broken.

This is me full of trust,


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Doing the Pee Pee Dance on South Lawn

Let me begin by saying, this particular e-letter is not for the faint of heart. The subject after all is “doing the pee pee dance.” But I am a firm believer that everything teaches, and I will use anything to tell students about Jesus. Nothing is off limits. So here goes . . . .

I have a urinary tract infection. The pain comes and goes, but when it comes, it is brutal. The feeling I described to my doctor is like peeing razor blades. Not fun. Thankfully he gave me some antibiotics and a purple pill I’m supposed to take 4 times a day, with a lovely side effect of turning urine blue. I got kind of tickled this morning when my sweet husband Tim says to me, “It looks like a smurf broke into our house in the middle of the night and used our toilet.” Precious.

So yesterday I was on South Lawn with our prayer labyrinth. We got to participate once again in “Stresstivus” which is sponsored by WKU’s Health Services. I love participating every year since it invites students who wouldn’t go to church to experience Jesus and prayer in a meaningful way. But because I was hurting and had to go to the bathroom every 45 minutes, there was a big part of me that just really did not want to be there. Campus outreach projects are some of my favorite things in the whole world. I mean, that is when I am an over-the-top fool for Christ. For example, during our Easter Egg give-away I put on a Sunflower headband. It looked like I had yellow petals sprouting from my head. (I would have worn the pink bunny ears, but they clashed with my t-shirt.) I love sharing the love of Jesus with random people in inviting, winsome, and often wacky ways. So it was a bit disconcerting to be on campus sharing Jesus and not quite having the heart for it.

Here is the thing. We had more people walk our prayer labyrinth than ever before, and I even got to have some really cool conversations. Each person who participated received a mosaic tile as a reminder of their experience, along with a corresponding bookmark with scripture and reflection questions on it. These were given as a way for the experience to speak deeply to their lives in the areas of transformation, experiencing a heart of peace, or learning to live like “lilies of the field,” without worry. We had a great response.

And the whole experience was a real lesson for me. The scripture that comes to mind is from 2 Corinthians 12:9: “But [the Lord] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” Most of the time, I live my life as if the whole world relies upon my strength. I am fully aware on many occasions that God’s presence and power under-gird me in ways I cannot comprehend, but I also feel weight of responsibility so heavily. I know that there are people depending on me. While I am so aware of my limitations (and mostly because of my limitations), I just feel like I can’t afford to not give all that I am to everything I do. It’s like I believe that if something significant is going to get done, I have to make it happen. Well yesterday my maker was not up to making things happen. My maker was simply making me have to go pee all the time, praying that sometime soon the pain would stop. Yet in the middle of all that God my Maker showed up.

Yesterday I was reminded in a powerful way that God is not dependent upon me to do His thing. He can do His thing whenever and wherever He wants. He can move with the power of a mighty wind whether I am feeling up to it or not. I guess what I am trying to say is that I don’t have to be my best in order for Him to be His best. Marvelous happens on His time schedule, regardless of what is happing in mine. I’m so thankful. So I guess the moral of this little confession is that God helps those who cannot help themselves. He does His best work when we cannot work at all. Thank God. I’m just hoping someone else needed to hear that as much as me, because I feel kind of silly having to confess to and repent of my own self-sufficiency. So there you go. Praise the Lord. Oh, and by the way, the razor blades are gone. Praise God!

This is me trusting,


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Common Beauty, Uncommon Love

It is spring time and dandelions are everywhere. Have you ever thought about the difference between dandelions and potted plants? One is common; it grows at will, wild and un-tame. Very ordinary, and in its abundance very obscure. One is cultivated; it’s growth is precarious, needing time and attention. It grows through intention, needing specific care to be sustained. It is special, specially placed, and specially noticed. I am a dandelion girl, growing wherever I will, wild and un-tame. Thoroughly common.

A few years ago I noticed a set of dishes in a department store sporting pictures of various wild growing flowers, usually considered weeds. The dandelion was just one of four common flowers that graced the front of that particular china pattern. I loved it. I loved that an expensive set of porcelain captured the loveliness of the ordinary, elevating it to the ranks of beautiful, as these un-common dishes sat beside the more common stacks of rose painted plates. It gave me the courage to notice the beauty in what is often overlooked, simply because it is so abundant.

Obviously Someone is cultivating the common. I believe it is God. God loves dandelions, and there was a time when we did too. I remember as a girl making numerous bracelets, necklaces and crowns out of the yellow blooms, stringing each flexible green stem through the next until there was a chain. I remember the fascination and joy of watching the white dandelion seeds being lifted by the wind as I blew upon their fuzzy heads. In that innocence of youth, dandelions were still flowers, not yet weeds, and still an object of beauty instead of an aggravating nuisance. Whatever happened to our uncommon love for common beauty?

I think it is because our culture has trained us to think that only unordinary things are worthy of notice, that life at its heart is a competition for VIP status. Only the rare and very important things and people matter. What is common is undesirable, unnoticed, unworthy. Understated is uninteresting. Our culture tells us that if we want to be successful, marketable, and have value we must be over-the-top, bigger and better than everyone else. Survival means setting ourselves apart. Even if it hurts others around us, grabbing that status is everything. And once we are deemed worthy of attention, we have to work even harder to stay that way. In the college scene it means belonging to the best organizations, making the best grades, establishing the best reputation, enjoying all the right contacts, gaining the most achievements, growing the best resume. And ordinary is just not good enough. Only outstanding will do. You future happiness and well-being depends on it. Sound exhausting?

As a teenager and young adult, I used to see people (namely myself) in those same terms, believing that the category of beautiful applied to pageant winners, the “in” crowd, and people with power and prestige. Beauty, or worth, I felt, was only reserved for those who were “special.” So I tried my hardest to be as special as I could, making the best grades I could, being as acceptable as I could, pleasing the most people I could, gaining all the success I could. And when I couldn’t live up to those standards, my world came apart. The Lord patiently put me back together again. Somehow I learned along the way that I had to make peace with my ordinariness. Then I began to discover God’s grace that creates and loves the ordinary, naming and claming that which the world does not. His purposes for such ordinary things surely outshine worldly efforts at greatness. And just like we cannot stop the dandelions from filling our yards, neither can the world’s demands for extraordinary deny the power of an ordinary life lived through simple trust in the Lord.

I love these words from scripture: “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well” (Luke 12:27-31). It is almost as if I can hear God saying, “Have you looked at any dandelions lately? Did you ever think about why they grow so abundantly when you do absolutely nothing to make them do that, when you even try to inhibit their growth? Don’t you think if I can make dandelions grow so beautifully, I can take care of you too? So why do you think your well-being depends on effort you cannot possibly give? Stop trying to do My job! Instead, why don’t you just try to be the blessing I created you to be? So you are a dandelion in the great garden of life. I made so many because I love them so much. You are so beautiful to Me; just be what I made you to be!”

Don’t get me wrong. Potted plants are nice, but at the end of the day, they too are just plants, no better or worse than the ordinary dandelion. God creates each bloom with such exquisite detail and care, tending to the needs of each flower’s life with sustenance we can only guess at. Surely if God cares enough to give life to dandelions He also cares about us as well. And even in our ordinariness we can trust Him to have a plan and purpose that not only sustains us with mercy, but reveals His glory to those all around.

This is me trusting,


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Walk by Faith

Last weekend eight students and I went to Camp Loucon for our Spring Retreat. It was awesome, and amazing, and it rocked our world! Woo Hoo!!!! Can you tell I had a great time? It was everything we needed it to be and more. The theme of our weekend was the twenty third Psalm; together we considered the many ways that God shepherds our lives. What I love about God is that He always speaks His message to us in several ways, through many mediums. I especially experienced this when it came time for us to do low elements.

We began our low element activities with our facilitator instructing us to get into pairs, handing out bandanas, and asking a person from each pair to be blindfolded. It was then the responsibility of the “seeing” person to guide the blindfolded one along a path set by our facilitator, using only her or his voice. The guides were not allowed to touch those being led; they could only tell them how to walk the path in their blindness. Sound familiar? Doesn’t it sound like following God’s lead when we cannot see Him or touch Him? I believe it is a perfect metaphor for faith—God, who knows all and sees all, tells us with hints and nudges how to walk through life in our blindness. And while we have the guidance of scripture and the camaraderie of a community of believers, in specific details we can only guess at what our best decisions are: we cannot see the future, we cannot possibly know outcomes or consequences, and we are clueless in regard to the intentions and decisions of others. We’re not even that good at predicting the weather, even though we try really hard.

It can be really disorienting. Like being blindfolded and asked to walk a path that may or may not be on the road. Because we had an odd number, I got paired up with both Derek and Tyler. We each got a turn to be the guide to two blind people and each of us got to be led around in the dark. I would much prefer to be blindfolded any day. Kind of like, I would hate to have God’s job. And both of my guides did a great job! It was so cool to see how each approached the task of guiding their charges to safety. Derek had a keen sense of description. I knew exactly what the terrain was at all times and exactly how best to approach it. Tyler lead with his own feet, making as much noise as he could by scraping and dragging that we always knew where his feet were and could simply follow their sound in addition to his specific vocal cues. I have often said before that the life of faith is like this. As we come to know the Lord, we each develop a language with Him. Thus He speaks to each of us in a way that is unique to the relationship we have with Him. Of course He does this; His loves each of us personally and specifically. What I found with each of my guides is that after a while I could relax; the pattern of our communication, their leading and my following, eventually became almost like sight. Familiarity opened up our trust.

And then we came to a point when Tyler said, “I don’t know what to say. We’re not changing direction or anything. Just keep following the sound of my feet.” And then I started to panic. My first impulse was to scream, “I don’t care what the road is doing, just keep talking!” I couldn’t see after all. I just kept thinking, “Don’t take away your voice too!” But then I found that, in fact, the road was fairly easy, and I didn’t need extra instruction, and the sound of his feet was so reliable I didn’t even need His voice. And then it struck me: “God this is so like you!” Isn’t it? Haven’t you found yourself trying to follow God and He suddenly becomes very quiet? All the ways that you used to sense Him speaking have dried up. The only thing you can do is to go on what you know about Him, and hope it will all turn out alright. And it will. In that moment of my uncertainty and panic it was as if I heard God say to my spirit, “You don’t have to worry when I am silent, Sami. Those are simply the times when my last bit of direction is totally sufficient. Just keep doing what you are doing and trust me to give you new insight when you need it.” In Tyler’s words I heard the sound of my Lord: “We’re not changing direction or anything. Just keep following the sound of My feet.”

This Sunday we will be going to Elizabethtown to share our outreach ministry with the home church of some of our students. One of the songs we are singing this year is “Walk By Faith” by Jeremy Camp. The chorus goes like this: “Oh I will walk by faith, even though I cannot see. Because this broken road prepares Your will for me.” In our walk with Jesus, there will often be times of clarity and brilliant insight, but more often than not, there will be times of guessing and hoping, trusting and blind obeying. It is in those times that our faith grows the most and we develop a keener understanding of Who God is in our lives, and who we are in His. I want to encourage you, dear one. If you are in one of those silent times when your faith is being stretched, know that you are still in God’s sights even when He is not in yours. You can trust Him to get you safely home. And also know, if you were not ready to trust Him more, he never would have led you to where you are now. Be blessed on the path you follow. He is always, and still, shepherding you.

This is me trusting,