Monday, April 25, 2011

"The Work of Courage: Heart wide open"

Hello to all! Praise God for Easter! Woo Hoo! I am so glad that Jesus rose again. I am so thankful for resurrection. I am so immensely happy that death and evil and hopelessness do not have the last word, ever.

Now For Sami’s Ramblings About Jesus:

In his book Sabbatical Year Henri Nouwen shared this insight: “The word courage comes from Coeur, which means ‘heart.’ To have courage is to listen to our heart, to speak from our heart, and to act from our heart. Our heart, which is the center of our being, is the seat of courage.” Within a month after he wrote these words he passed away from a massive cardiac arrest. What is most poignant to me is that this is exactly how he lived his whole life, from his heart. It is always what I have loved best about his writing. Henri Nouwen’s words have helped me live my life from my heart too.

I have pondered this year in light of the recent unfolding news that I will not be returning in the fall to the Wesley Foundation. I have spent the majority of this year working, living, and serving without that knowledge, doing things for the last time without knowing it was my last time. I am so thankful for the gift of these last weeks to have that knowledge so that I can make sure I love well with the time I have left. Yet in the deepest part of me, I have no regrets, even for the nine months when I didn’t know my time was drawing to a close. Here is what makes sense to me: Since I was in college I have always wanted to live life to the fullest, to not waste one moment away. For me that means that I live (in Nouwen’s words) from my heart, or (in my words) with my heart wide open.

Some will say this is foolish. In our world it is considered wise to live with your eyes wide open, but never the heart. This is mostly because it is impossible to protect one’s heart when it is open to all experiences and all people. True, I have had my heart broken on numerous occasions. Yet each time I found a loving Lord who healed me and made me whole. And also each time He would gently show me ways that He was not first in my heart. What I have found is that the more I make Him first in my heart, the more His love fills me up and spills over into others, and the more my heart is truly protected from being shattered. He makes true courage plausible because only He safeguards our vulnerability without sacrificing our transparency and passion.

Henri goes on to say this: “Often we debate current issues and express our opinions about them. But courage is taking a stance, even an unpopular stance, not because we think differently from others but because from the center of our being we realize how to respond to the situation we are in. Courage does not require spectacular gestures. Courage often starts in small corners.” My hope is that in the time we have had together you have come to realize what is most important to you in the center of your being, your heart, and that you will live all of your life from that place. For me that has meant that in the last nine years I have passionately loved students, with all my quirks and idiosyncracies showing, allowing my love affair with Jesus to be an example of how He meets us where we are and draws us unashamedly to Himself. This has been what courage has asked of me. What does courage ask of you?

When I consider each of you and your many gifts and yearnings, my heart is warmed. I am so grateful for the opportunity to walk with you on your journeys, to cheer you on, to comfort and console, to encourage and challenge. I am excited for the ways God is going to shape and bless the world through each of you. You are my treasure; you are my harvest; you are so worth me opening my heart and risking vulnerability. So what does is mean for you to listen to your heart, to speak from your heart, to act from your heart? What difference do you most want to make in this one lifetime you’ve been given?

Whatever it is, live it boldly, and with courage. Know that God walks with you, empowers you, and cheers you on. You are not the person you are by chance. His love and mercy and grace have woven themselves into your life in such a way that you care about what you care about for a reason. Your passion is God expressing His hopes for a better world through you. He fully intends to bless your courageous acts of passion as you live into who He created you to be. So my dear ones, hold nothing back, leave nothing unsaid, give everything you are to His hands. Entrust yourself fully to the work of courage, and then rest in God’s great passion for you.

This is me trusting,


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Everything Changes But Beauty Remains

I love the title for today’s Rambling: “Everything Changes But Beauty Remains.” I wish I could say that I came up with it, but I didn’t. I got it from one of my dear students, that sweet Kelsey girl who titled a picture album on Facebook that way. It touches something deep in me. Especially now. A few weeks ago I was told by my District Superintendent that the Bishop has decided to not reappoint me to the Wesley Foundation. Basically that means that as of July 1st I will no longer be the Methodist campus minister at WKU. While I cannot speak to what the Bishop’s reasons for this move are (really because I honestly don’t know them), I can say that my Board of Directors has been very supportive of our ministry and the direction we have been going, as well as the students who are connected to the Wesley Foundation. Our ministry has been thriving and growing. What seems to make the most sense to me is simply to say that this is just the Methodist way. I don’t particularly understand it, but God has asked me to trust Him. So that’s what I’m doing.

Saying goodbye to nine years of ministry in a place I deeply love is hard. There’s just no way around it. What sustains me is the belief that everything of value that we have experienced together does not pass away. Instead, I find that those places of beauty that have touched our hearts over the years are of an Eternal quality. Nothing can destroy them. Their impact is lasting. Those beautiful moments will transcend time and space, planting themselves firmly in the hearts of those who have been touched, transforming us and finally birthing new beauty in a way that only God’s Harvest can.

I speak from experience. I have seen how bonds of friendship remain after transition, forged in the grace of God’s abiding love, covering distances and spanning years to keep hearts connected to each other. It is quite simply . . . beautiful. And I know from my own life that there are those Holy Moments that continue to speak to me, bringing new revelation and insight, even though the temporal time signature is long gone. Only God can do that. And only the things that God is in have any lasting value anyway.

In the past nine years I have tried to see and lift up those things of Eternal value. That has been the gift of the e-letter for me. As I pondered what to share each week, something that resonated deeply in my soul would emerge. I found that the message I most wanted to share was also the message I most needed to hear; each one helped me connect to the presence of God always near, always inviting me to have His perspective instead of my own. I love that I can still look back over these “ramblings” and still hear my sweet Lord speaking to me. He is so good.

So that never changes: the sweetness of a Lord who continually invites us to share His Eternal life bursting upon our ordinary mundane ones. I am confident that even though this chapter in my life (and that of the Wesley Foundation) is ending, God is not through bursting in on us yet. As I said in a message during worship a couple of weeks ago, the servant may change, but the Holy God who fills the vessel does not. God is not going anywhere. And at the same time God is going wherever I end up. Praise the Lord!

That is where I leave you my dear ones, in the Almighty Hands of the God who loves you so much. The old song is still true: He’s got the whole world in His hands; He’s got you and me brother in His hands; He’s got you and me sister, in His hands; He’s got everybody here, in His hands; He’s got the whole world in His hands. And yes, He’s even got the Wesley Foundation securely in His hands.

This is me trusting,


Monday, April 11, 2011

A Better Song

We are deep into the Lenten season now. This coming weekend we will celebrate Palm Sunday, always a joyful day when we remember and often recreate the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. It is a time of confidence and celebration, when we shout out our praises to God. It’s easy to praise God in the middle of a party.

I’m guessing this is what boltstered Peter’s declaration to Jesus that even though others may fall away from Him, he never will. I mean, it must have been some parade. I can totally see Peter getting a glimpse of the true identity of Jesus in that moment as the Son of God, not just to know intellectually, but to also see God’s glory in Him and on Him. Because I have experienced those moments of absolute certainty of God’s power and presence, I can totally relate to the surety of Peter’s declaration, based upon a moment of revelation that moved him deeply. It’s just too bad we cannot live in those moments.

I remember in seminary that one of my best professor’s least favorite hymns was “Are Ye Able Said the Master.” It’s lyrics go like this:

“Are ye able,” said the Master, “to be crucified with me?” “Yea,” the sturdy dreamers answered, “to the death we follow thee.”

Lord, we are able. Our spirits are thine. Remold them, make us, like thee, divine.

Thy guiding radiance above us shall be a beacon to God, to love, and loyalty.

I had a hard time understanding his dislike for it then. I guess I was still a sturdy dreamer. Here is what I realize now: when we can easily see God’s power and strength and glory in those precious moments of clarity, when God gives us a revealing moment to understand His true nature, it’s easy to ride on the confidence of that moment into promises of faithfulness that our own power and strength can’t keep. We think we can follow Him anywhere. And if the life of discipleship were all radiance, we could. But the road to the crucifixion quickly becomes dark. When Jesus calls us to discipleship, He says, “Pick up your cross and follow Me.” That road is not one of uninterrupted radiance. It is a road of trust. It is a road where our confidence in self dies, so that confidence in Him is all that remains. I have never heard this road spoken of as easy. And like all of us who answer the call to follow Him, Peter learns it soon enough. In a courtyard where he tries to follow Jesus, even from a distance, Peter’s confidence is broken. He denies Jesus so easily, not just once but three times. In that moment Peter’s self-confidence is crucified.

I love that Jesus gets this about Peter before Peter ever does. Jesus sees the truth in Peter before the denial ever happens. But what is more, Jesus sees in that heartbreaking denial the birth of real confidence, the kind that is the gift of the Holy Spirit, a confidence in God’s grace and power to redeem that moved a crowd of 3000 to accept Jesus as their risen Lord and Savior. I love that Jesus brings beautiful endings to our stories of brokenness. I love that we can trust Him to bring His glory out of our moments of heartache, loss, and sadness.

Another song comes to mind. I learned it when I was working as a summer intern for a youth group during college. It’s words go like this:

“We believe in God, and we all need Jesus, ‘Cause life is hard, and it might not get easier. But don’t be afraid to know who you are, and don’t be afraid to show it. If you believe in God, if you say you need Jesus, He’ll be where you are, And He never will leave you. Sing to me now words that are true so all in this place can know it. We believe in God, and we all need Jesus.”

It is a better song. We have no way of knowing what will come. Sometimes it is impossible to see the Via Dolerosa that lies ahead. But we can trust that Jesus walks every part of that road with us. We can be assured that He will never ask us to walk a road that He hasn’t walked before us to prepare the way. We can also rest in His promise to never leave us nor forsake us, to walk every step of the way with us. Finally, we can trust that He will bring forth His glory in the very part of our journey that grieves us the most. His resurrection is a promise of redemption that touches every part of our walk with Him. Praise the Lord! So this is my Lenten reflection today. I want to sing a better song: not to put confidence in the flesh, which I know is weak; but to walk with courage into the unknown because I know He walks with me and His strength is made perfect in my weakness.

Dear, precious ones, my prayer for you is that you will live and walk fearlessly, unafraid to be true to the persons He made you to be. Because He truly is where you are, He love loves you, and He gives you every Strength you need to courageously walk forward. And for the record, I love you too.

This is me trusting,