Thursday, November 29, 2007
determine that jaw
locate your ambition, now
no giving up - set your course
fix those big blues ahead
your goal is your own
so hold it tight
let nobody convince a detour
know what you want, girl
just go out and grab it
coming of age is independence
only you can stop you now
go on now, girl
get what you want in your hands
and grip it tight
this is what they tell you to run after
Monday, November 19, 2007
Why am I going to write on one of the most written about topics in social, single circles? Well, not only am I now one of the target audiences for said discussions and articles, I am also forming my own take on what it means to be a Christ-following single woman looking for adventure in the midst of career-driven prescribed dreams. I realize that just sounded like a personal ad... and please before all of you well-meaning, Christ-following single men looking for adventure in the midst of ________ (fill in blank) send a response, know that this is not an invitation.
I recently read an article published in the opinion section of Forbes magazine titled, "Don't Marry Career Women." Of course, days after it’s publication there was widespread public outcry and Forbes quickly published a counterpoint from one of their female writers. As I read through the first article, the first few paragraphs quickly captured my attention, “Just, whatever you do, don't marry a woman with a career. Why? Because if many social scientists are to be believed, you run a higher risk of having a rocky marriage.”
Michael Noer goes on to establish his argument on the shoulders of these social scientists who give all sorts of discouraging information about divorce, extra-marital sex, marital satisfaction, and the added complication of children.
Being a recently graduated woman myself, who checks the single box on official documents and replies to relationship queries with the most graceful shift in conversation, what Mr. Noer said struck a chord. But, not one that you might think most obvious for my life stage or position.
I spent four years in a liberal arts Christian college lusting after adventure and carefully growing the seeds of wanderlust sown early in my childhood on an Iowa farm. Though I trained my mind to filter much of my education through a Christian worldview, I couldn’t help but soak up bits of this overwhelming anthem: dream up anything, find some passion, and set out to realize that dream. It’s true that the American dream shouts this anthem, but the voices I was hearing above the rest were women. My professors, classmates, and celebrated success stories assured me that the only person who could prevent my dreams as a woman… was me.
So, when I graduated and set out on my first adventure to
The single most important factor in my life is my personal relationship with the Living God. The fact that God made us in His image relational, and that He’s placed us in intentional community should be apparent enough. But, my hardheadedness has stretched out this learning process into what is now 23 years. Finally, though, I’ve realized that we weren't designed to adventure alone.
It’s not that I’m an inferior woman who is void of an independent spirit. It is that I am beginning to understand instead my soul’s deep longing comes from the very opposite of independence. Darwin Anderson, from International Messengers, once said in a training session that “independence is just plain not helpful in the mission field. There is no room for it and no need of it.” Even though I strongly agreed when I heard this almost two years ago, I am realizing now that independence is useful in few places. What is all of life, but a mission field?
After about four months here in
But, let’s get to the real meat of it. There’s community and then there’s a spouse. There’s a definite difference between being a part of a Christ-following community and being a part of a “till death do us part” union. Michael Noer wasn't writing about the downfall of career women in the life of the church; he wrote about the negative effects of "career women" in the home. For some reason, my dreams of being a wife and mother have found themselves separate from my dreams of travel, missions, and career. Yet, though I tried for four+ years, I can no more separate these desires in my heart than one could separate the red from white swirls in a candy cane.
Yet, somehow I’ve found myself here. Like it or not, I am this career woman that Michael Noer writes about. I have a degree and I am looking for a well-paying position that would make a dent in the loans from my wonderful, high-priced education.
I realize the cited social scientists had several good points with which I sadly agree. But, Mr. Noer, where does that put me? I am the one you warn against, but also one who quite unwillingly finds herself in this situation.
Thankfully I am well aware that my marital fate does not rest in the hands of any crafty columnist, but instead in the scarred palms of a Sovereign Savior. The desire of my heart is that my next adventure would be with someone whose heart is equally captivated by Christ’s redemptive story. I have full faith God is growing me for an eternal purpose; career or no career, husband or no husband,
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
In this whole season of dependence, I have been overwhelmed with the sight of mankind's sin. My own and those I share with humanity. It seems to suck the life right from your marrow. All my courage and stalwart strength turns to something like mush that lands with a splash at my feet. It's hard to know how to fight if the enemy is so large. I guess Dostoevsky has something right here - loving humility is marvelously strong and there is nothing like it.
There is nothing like it because we are not capable of it. But, oh that the Lord would grant us a taste that we could share. That we might know that the most marvelous display of loving humility was the completed task of His sacrifice.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
A couple months ago, I found myself re-discovering dependence. Psalm 63 is a treasure my heart never tires of finding.
O God, you are my God. Earnestly I seek you.
My soul thirsts for you and my body longs for you
in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
I remember reading these words and asking God to be my one source of life. My bread; my water. I asked because I knew it was Truth – Jesus came as Sustainer. But, I also asked with a privileged assumption.
I am mostly a regular person. I love coffee in the morning. I get lost in the pages of good fiction. I enjoy debate. I crave ice cream. Call it regular. Call it normal… whatever it is, I get pretty comfortable in the realm of regular. Every once in awhile, I’ll venture outside regular into the Caroline de-centered universe. I glimpse this worldview and see I am merely a part and not the whole. But I often end up back at the coffee counter, housebound by a novel, or with a coffee-flavored, coconut-topped ice cream in my lap.
And this is my privileged assumption.
See, when I ask God to be my only bread and my only water, I expected the regular with a few less coffees. I expected the regular with a few more challenging days. I expected to navigate the shoals with a bit of an effort and then tell stories of arduous adventures. I expected to have the luxury of admitting faults and confessing failures at my convenience and (ashamedly) benefit.
In the past two weeks, God has given exactly what I have not expected. I have been stripped bare of regular. The privileged assumption that the Lord would teach and discipline around my schedule was shattered when I abruptly stormed the borders of the regular realm into the unknown territory of true dependence.
A nice evening turned sour when I caused a car accident on South Congress and William Cannon that totaled my car (which was on loan from my parents). An affordable and amazing living situation became impossible when I had no transportation. My "personal space" became unreasonable when I humbly accepted my co-workers' offer of their living room couch. A simple errand brought more tears when I hydroplaned in my co-worker's vehicle and firmly met the curb. A nice Christmas shopping cushion quickly depleted after repairs. This turn of events has sent me back to be refined by fire.
All these years, I have felt compelled to pair the Lord’s story with what I have to offer. I needed to be able to say, "See, I am a giving person. I make sacrifices for other people and good things are said of me. I take people out to coffee and leave thoughtful cards and messages at the right time." I needed to be able to make God look good.
For the first time in my life, I have nothing to offer.
The Lord is answering my prayer for Him as Sustainer by opening up the most closed places; my failures laid bare in my professional and personal life. The LORD’s story is indeed every bit as glorious as when I first met Him, but it has absolutely nothing to do with the presence or absence of my offerings. I am finally seeing that He can stand alone. His story and glory need not be paired with anything in my life - it's enough that He died and rose again. It's enough that He paid the price of sin.
It's got to be enough, too. Because right now I literally have nothing else to offer.
I submit that life in the regular realm is lame. Regular is mundane mediocrity; the sloppy seconds with enough lackluster charm to woo a trance. C.S. Lewis wrote that we are like the little boy who would prefer to play in mud puddles over taking a vacation at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
A vacation at the sea is a glorious exodus from the realm of the regular, muddied puddles and onto the shores of divine dependence.
Related writings (nothing I say hasn't been said before):
Salieri and Studentdom
I come again, again, again
With failure close like skin
And maps to dead ends
litter my streets
I let go of cardboard dreams
And fix-it schemes
that storm my mind,
Filled like wine with new skins
A bursting, uncontained and unrestrained
My circle of influence shrinks
In ignorance uncapable
and unsearchable a dream
To repair and mend the evil,
Borne in sin
I come again, again, again
Not a drop of mercy earned or owed,
heart heavy and head bent low
Mystery and nonsense shroud
in bold, sufficient stripes I'm found
Again, again, again.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Yet, the Lord continues to teach me - using my folly for His glory.
After taking my students out to dinner to thank them for their hard work on the Service Project committee, I found myself driving on a busy road. I was admittedly distracted, looking for William Cannon Street, when I noticed the taillights illuminate the back end of a Ford. Into it I crashed, with airbags exploding and windshield breaking. It took a few moments to understand what had happened, but when I did, a scrolling marquee raced through my mind, "This did not just happen to me."
But, it did happen. No one was hurt. But, there were some dents and scrapes. I'm hoping GEICO is as endearing as their commercials...I'm still waiting on the english muffin, gecko man, but I haven't heard back.
Lessons: there are many. The policeman assured me this "happens all the time." But, for all the times that's been said, I couldn't get the scrolling marquee to leave. I was convinced these kinds of things just don't "happen to me." I was sure I had gotten over the young-convinced-I'm-invincible phase, but I realized otherwise as I wandered about aimlessly and waited for a ride at the corner 7-Eleven. What a night!
The Lord has provided. That is indeed the tale to tell. Not only was I safe, but He has provided and continues to provide ways for me to go to work, church, and even some social functions. I realize I deserve no sympathy, which makes my heart all the more grateful for His provision.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
So, my brother is graduating from basic training this weekend. Over the past four months, I have come to respect and love my brother more than I ever knew how before. He's not my little brother anymore. He is growing up; a man of God that desperately wants to seek God's design and glory in his life. Beyond words and explanations, I have been learning from this man. I have read his letters and listened intently on short, sporadic phone calls to hear about his encounters with the seekers at his base.
I see the Lord softening and refining him in a way that reveals who God Himself is. If you had asked James who he was before he left for basic training, he might have given you more than you wanted to hear. He is opinionated, knowledgeable, and openly invites discussions and debates alike. He had an opinion about everything. Though I'm sure he is no less opinionated, I know my brother has grown in the confidence of his faith. He is firmly established and rooted in the love of Christ (Eph. 5), where he gladly places his trust.
Whether friendly debate or heated defense of his faith, James is ready for any conversation. I so admire his willingness to 'fight like a man' in the arenas of faith and morality, when his peers are completely convinced he is wrong.
I know he will seek the Lord in his plans for college next Spring, but I also know that he will treasure every minute with family and friends until he leaves.
I praise God for him!
My brother Will casts a giant shadow, though you wouldn't think it to look at his stocky, wrestler frame. William is a man of his word; a man of integrity; a man of wisdom. I've known this for awhile, I guess, but just lately I’ve taken interest.
In his subtle (sometimes silent) way, William delights in what is good. And he really delights – ask anyone who has been around to hear him giggle! Everyone seems to know he is invaluable for any project one might attempt - whether it's shingling a vertical roof or organizing groups of rowdy kids or fixing anything with an engine (we’ve all at some point taken advantage of his mechanical abilities). But, press on he does: determined to make each project a new challenge and success. He works hard and requires little gratitude, making his efforts reflect his devotion to the Lord.
For the past couple summers, he has completely donated his time to growing a small rural camp in order to bring the message of the gospel to children in that area. Every single counselor would take a bullet for him, but they would have a hard time stepping in front of Will to get there. He is as protective as he is inclusive; and I’ve learned much from the brotherly love he gives to anyone he meets.
Maybe my most treasured blessing in William is his character. He has been patient with me even in my foolishness. He has encouraged me in the midst of confusion. He has called me out when I least want to hear it.
What a blessing he is!
My brother Samuel is a coach; not for a job, but as a lifestyle. After mixing his Creatin drink when I was in 8th grade, I remember his praise meant the world to me then and still does today. He is 4 years older than I am, but when I followed his footsteps to
I’ll admit he was a bit rough around the edges when I was growing up, but now that I’m living in
I remember the excitement of meeting
Samuel has committed to ‘coach’ by pouring into everyone in his life: his wife, his family, friends, students, and co-workers. I still call him for his coaching every once in awhile!
So these are the brothers God blessed me with - and oh how blessed I feel!
Look next for "my sister; my sanity" coming shortly:)
Monday, October 22, 2007
Sure, there are some things you could never have too much of: a surprise on your doorstep, sweet words from a friend, hot air balloon rides. But, I've found out that some of the things I love most are exactly the things that can cause severe indigestion and misdirected weekend days.
I suppose an explanation is due.
Anyone who knows me even slightly is familiar with my deep, green love for lima beans. It all started when I was very young. Baby lima beans were among the home-grown treasures my grandma pulled from her garden behind the Econo Lodge. I spent many a weekend checking in guests at the front desk, skipping and cart-wheeling in the long hallways, swimming in the pool with my (secretly purchased) first two-piece swimsuit, and playing among the growing things around back near the gazebo. The strawberries, green beans, and lima beans found an avid admirer in my rosy cheeks and bright eyes. I would often sneak spoonfuls straight from the simmering pot before we sat down for dinner. I think we called it "taste-testing."
Since I've left home, I've searched for ways to bring my Iowa home to wherever I am. Lima beans have become a solid standby.
So, when I moved down here, I searched the markets and frozen sections for my baby limas. I finally found them and last weekend I cooked a delicious pot - all for me. I ate little else that Saturday and every bite was delicious...
and then I started to feel funny. Sunday it seemed like my system was acting a little strange. It was Wednesday before I felt like my body was back to normal. Did I learn my lesson? Well, I'm still eating lima beans. But, I'll think again before making it my only food source.
A similar thing happened after my birthday last year, in Chicago. Only that time, my grandma had sent my favorite candies: sugar-free coffee Nips. I love the little gooey things! But, within the course of a couple days I ate too many. My stomach was making weird noises and my body was saying "slow down on the sugar-free business, girl!"
In some ways, a similar thing happened last weekend with a good thing most people know as 'free time'. I don't usually have much of it and that's generally okay with me. My mom and I both love being busy and feeling needed. So, when the opportunity comes for free time I am so flustered I don't know what to do with it. The result is not indigestion, but laziness. Instead of tackling postponed craft projects and engaging in some much needed cleaning, I watched football and ate lima beans.
Don't get me wrong - I enjoyed another Saturday rooting for some of the greatest college football of all time.
I guess what I'm saying is: when "good things" are material, then too much is the same as too little. Neither one satisfies.
I wrote awhile back about revisiting my definition of 'good' (august 8, 2007). I realize I need a healthy dose of heavenly good to remind me just exactly why I'm here. The heavenly good should really be the only thing informing my food and free time choices.
Just between you and me, I think heavenly good choices will still include lima beans and free time.
I will just pray for grace to know limits:)
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
I was home for just slightly over 48 hours and every minute was wonderful! At first I was a little thrown off by the unseasonable heat and humidity, but this morning I woke up and gladly donned a sweatshirt before entering the crisp morning air.
I recently wrote about my deep love of the Midwest… there’s a well-worn groove that runs in my marrow that leads to and from a geographic home. And returning to a deep love is like breathing in familiar air. And breathe I did. A big, Texas-sized breath with the people of home and the landscape of my growing up years.
The primary reason for buying this last-minute ticket formed as I was listening to a sermon on a CD two weeks ago. The pastor of my home church announced that God had called him to a church in St. Louis. Despite the surprise, shock, and sadness, I felt a need to encourage and support his decision, as well as express my gratitude for his insistence in preaching the whole counsel of God. Worth a plane trip? Absolutely yes.
Yesterday listening to Terry's sermon, “The Sovereignty of God in the Life of the Believer,” my gratitude only swelled. With all my heart I say, "YES! It's about the LORD!"
In a conversation that morning with my dad, we talked about discovering who God is. My understanding grows as I get older and especially as I seek out fellowship in community with believers where I live. I have learned to expect and insist that my shepherd guides in the ways of the LORD.
Partly because my flights are confused and partly because airports give me headaches, I'm going to end this before I should. I will try to come back to this this weekend and write with the credit it deserves. Until then..
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
I miss fall in Iowa. I miss the colors in Michigan. I miss football.
I don't have a problem admitting it. I've been romanced by my geographic roots and there's no distance capable of thieving my love of home. But I'm learning about 'home.'
I was talking with my grandparents this weekend and I mentioned how obtuse it seemed that with each move (Michigan, Wisconsin, Chicago, Austin) my heart wanders across the distance to the fields of cass county. I'm not homesick, per se. I'm not ready to pick up and move back to midwest meadows. But, with each day I grow to love my upbringing with a deeper and wider appreciation.
I would be a fool to think that geography alone ties me to any certain place. In fact, I am positive geography is the backdrop, the soundtrack, for life lived in relationships. It is what helps my heart find home, no matter where I find my physical self.
'Home' here in Austin is Sunday night worship. It's sitting at Wahoo's after church, laughing together and daring dreams. 'Home' is being comforted, challenged, refined, and hugged. Home is admitting failures, saying things with your eyes, and writing smiling emails at work.
'Home' is getting bigger for me. I have to take a big breath (the kind they tell you to take when you are overwhelmed) before I can think about how my four walls are expanding across states, yet still feeling comfortably crowded.
I think of my brother yelling encouragement and instruction to his football guys in Holland. I think of my sister, his wife, who is every day searching for joys in work and school. I think of my brother giving crazy determination and faith at Fort LeonardWood. I think of my sister pressing on in her cube of office space in Des Moines. I think of my brother standing tall at Iowa State and learning about the Lord's pursuit. I think of my mom and her unwieldy commitment to her CAM students. I think of my dad and his willingness to be refined as a leader in the church.
I think of my uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents... friends...
I think of these and I am home. What a blessed, beloved community.
Breathe. What a privilege. Breathe.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
This slow, determined leak is producing a lot of things - perseverance for one. Each day I inspect the cardboard placed ever-so-carefully after pulling into the drive the night previous. I try to do a sweeping glance of the usually calm neighborhood before I kneel on all fours to pull out the corrugated, cricket-infested layers, but I can never be sure who sees the ridiculous ritual.
In addition to the placing and removing of the cardboard, I also had to figure out a plan to clear the drive of the small dark spots my leaks caused. I tried: coca-cola, baking soda, dish soap, coarse brush, detergent, and even limes. Our neighbors saw me frequently bent over the same area: scrubbing, rinsing, sweeping, and praying the devils away... I finally gave in and bought some top-notch concrete de-oiler that gas stations use. It looks like that did the trick.
In addition to the cardboard and the cleanup, I had to send out an SOS to the parents for a little financial assistance. ... Something I was hoping I wouldn't ever have to do.
I could keep adding 'additions' to the slices of humble pie I consume - at work when I wear the same thing twice in one week, on the highway when it takes me a while to get up to speed, in the parking lots when I get into my banged up driver's side, at home when I feel bad about staying in and bad about going out.
Even though this may seem to be a pity party, it's really just my being vulnerable with things I can't hide. I guess that's not the vulnerable part, because everyone can see it. What feels vulnerable is admitting that these 'tantamount trials' are very trivial. And... ironically the more I insist I'm eating humble pie, the less humble I am about it.
Sigh. Such is the plight of the sinner. But, that's where the sweetness comes in - though I have no good thing in me, the Lord restores and redeems me in this life. He makes strong my weakness and makes sweet my bitterness.
It took me awhile to finish this (there's no end to the humbling moments! But I finished writing this on Sunday 9.16) but in the meantime, I have felt blasted with blessings!!
Just this morning the Lord brought Dawn and I together at the coffee table outside church to plan ways to bring Him glory through outreach on campus! She works for Campus Crusade and has been trying to get on my campus for almost 2 years - and now we have each other to encourage and challenge.
Also, my good friend Ben is coming this weekend, which will be a much needed time of fun and fellowship that I am so looking forward to!
So, with another bite I raise my pie high and say thank you, giver of oil leaks, denter of doors, and keeper of thrifty budgets - I've got a LOT to be thankful for!
It's been brought to my attention that my drama has got the best of me again. My apologies!
I'm still not quite sure when it started, but in high school my above-average jitters became evident when a friend of mine caught on. I think it's fair to say he exploited the 'element of surprise' and by the time I left for college, I was scared even if I knew someone was waiting around the corner. If you have ever been frightened (be it a roller coaster, haunted house, or a well-planned prank), you might understand my distress and sympathize, because I am in an almost-constant state of scare.
I am rarely actually afraid of anything; I just somehow always end up on the floor if I'm caught off guard. It was really horrible when I worked in a restaurant in college. Once they found out, I somehow managed to always have a pan clashing behind me or a loud voice surprising the silence in my ears. The kitchen of a chain restaurant is not a place you want to be falling on the floor - but my fright seems to not know when it is and isn't appropriate to fall and make a scene!
I have tried many things to cure this curious behavior, including but not limited to: furrowing my eyebrows and clenching my fists in preparation for the fright, strategically placing myself near furniture so as to catch my fall, walking very lightly so as to kind of bounce back without too much of a scene, and avoiding standing in front of people who could surprise me from behind (a terribly hard thing when you are 5'1 and 1/2). Well, none of those tactics work, as my boss found out this morning as I crouched against the wall in the fetal position.
I can only hope that I can control the spasms long enough to fool those who need to be fooled and then count on my good friend humor to bring laughter to observers in a "joke's on me" kind of way.
And I'm already off to a great morning:)
Cheers for Thursday!
Can I just add as a postscript that I fell in fright AGAIN this past weekend (it's Tuesday now). I was walking out of the bathroom, all dressed up for church. I opened the door and Darin had just climbed the stairs. I promptly collapsed to the floor - skirt and all - and let out a startled yelllp. Of course, I laughed it off once again... but I'm starting to be concerned!
Monday, September 10, 2007
Hedged by trees thick with wisdom and age
Curiosity crawls tender, green life among branches -
Stretched like arms up to Light,
its glorious giver with knowing hands
And beyond, through the window a valley of the same
Green and greener still with bronze
and brilliant gold; an auburn touch in refrain
And everything is in its place
The inquisitive hop of a feathered friend
Delights, smiles, and boldly bids us make amends.
Perched on earthenware to peer through the sage,
makes a home in the midst of manmade pain
and in ignorance reminds
us of our fleeting innocence...
but just right
is the naiveté in the eyes of the
Unfettered, untainted, and not yet undone.
Wise are Lucy’s eyes,
familiar with pain and stricken with sorrow;
But intimate with joy and a great friend
of laughter not yet hollow.
Ten small fingers stretch on tipped toes
to reach the invisible.
In mysterious fascination and unwavering confidence,
They stand with faith that is
Fear takes bigger hands captive -
the calloused and manicured life in hindsight
brings defeat to the plaintive.
and leaves hope in small fingers, just right.
The window sage invites and
Curiosity brings seekers, keepers, dreamers,
lepers and collectors
Through to a subtle world of sparkling divine
Where the children are standing stretched to the King
And it is
Saturday, September 08, 2007
These thoughts come from many experiences and specifically new events in my home church. I was blessed to grow in up a church that I still consider as close as family. My youth pastor was like a second father and who else but my pastor would allow a young senior in high school to take a class on Jonathan Edwards and his “Religious Affections”? I am deeply moved every time I remember the passion and heart with which I was shepherded. And every time I thank God for their passion I praise Him for their dedication to preach the whole counsel of God, without shame or apology.
I moved away to college and struggled to find the same family committed to the Lord’s teaching, but was still blessed to live among other believers. The single most memorable and life-changing factor in my college years were the relationships with people. I lived in Chicago for one semester, where I was blown away by the community of Park Community Church. I found believers, accountability, friendship, and the familiar challenge to seek God and His Word first.
On June 24, 2007 I was baptized in front of my “home” church community and was again overwhelmed at God’s grace in providing me with such a family.
On July 12, 2007 I moved to Austin, Texas to serve in a volunteer position at St. Edward’s University. The Lord prepared the way for community at First Evangelical Free Church, and within weeks of my arrival I was living with a godly couple from church, involved in the Singles ministry, connected through a small group, established membership, started to serve on the middle school ministry team and found several other outlets through friends and over coffee. Stepping into community here is by far the most important decision I have made in Austin, apart from my own personal discipline in quiet times with the Lord.
I recently picked up Dietrick Bonhoeffer’s “Life Together” and I’ve been refreshed, encouraged, and challenged to find the uncompromising community that is about Christ. Bonhoeffer reminds us that Christian community is not a right. We have done nothing to achieve fellowship… in fact if it was up to us we would never experience the joy and blessing of community.
“…it is only by a gracious anticipation of the last things that Christians are privileged to live in visible fellowship with other Christians. It is by the grace of God that a congregation is permitted to gather visibly in this world to share God’s Word and sacrament. Not all Christians receive this blessing. The imprisoned, the sick, the scattered lonely, the proclaimers of the Gospel in heathen lands stand alone. They know that visible fellowship is a blessing.” (Life Together p. 18)
Having grown up in such an amazing community, I often forget that is completely a gift of grace that I am able to participate in community at all. Bonhoeffer talks about how even the physical presence of other believers is more than a great comfort – it’s elemental; part of the very nature of our being created by a triune God. I know I’ve written on relationship and the Trinity in the past, but this is not a topic one can wear out. How amazing the grace we receive as we sit in community. How amazing!
Community only in and through Christ
With every page I turned in “Life Together,” I was moved with its timelessness. I haven’t finished the book because I keep re-reading paragraphs and reminding myself that this work was first published in 1954. Some of the very issues D.A. Carson addresses in his book, “Becoming Conversant with the Emergent Church” are found in the lines of this little book, from a man who was desperate to restore God’s picture of community in a disillusioned country following a maniacal leader.
I can say it no more clearly than Bonhoeffer himself,
“Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. No Christian community is more or less than this. …It means, first, that a Christian needs others because of Jesus Christ. It means, second, that a Christian comes to others only through Jesus Christ. It means, third, that in Jesus Christ we have been chosen from eternity, accepted in time, and united for eternity.” (21) Amen!
Christian community exists because individuals have had unique encounters with Jesus Christ alone, experiencing the sentence of sin and the sovereignty of salvation through Christ. The individual becomes astutely aware of his need for righteousness while at the same time knowing that it will not come from himself (for he is dead), but from outside of himself.
“Because he daily hungers and thirsts for righteousness, he daily desires the redeeming Word. Help must come from the outside, and it has come and comes daily and anew in the Word of Jesus Christ…”
And God has put His Word in the mouths of men! We need each other so that God’s Word can be spoken into our lives – we “meet one another as bringers of the message of salvation.” God lets us do this by giving us community!
That said, the model of many “Christian” communities today is much different. Instead of explaining the necessity of understanding Christ and salvation, we want numbers, seekers, and open doors – none of which are bad things in themselves, but if we forget the essence of the community that reflects God’s design we are dancing in dangerous territory. Even the word community has become stale in its overuse – people understand the need for relationships, but the application outside of its original, biblical context leaves present- ‘Christian community members’ lacking what true Christian community should produce.
Too many churches try to promote and encourage Christian community without first understanding that true Christian community exists with believers in Jesus Christ, where their fellowship is firmly founded. This, more than anything else, will draw seekers. The first church in the book of Acts engaged in radical community and they added to their number daily! But, they did not set out to dazzle the critics or duplicate their non-believing counterparts… No, they were clearly about the Jesus Christ and the sacrifice He made for each one of their souls. There is no better way to be relevant or culturally sensitive than to share the miracle of God’s grace in salvation and His grace in allowing His children fellowship in a community.
This is getting quite lengthy (not surprising). It is at these times I can sympathize with our straw friend the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz who so desperately wanted a brain. I feel as if I’m running after something that will always be just out of my reach. Yet, even as it slips out another time, I am blessed to have glimpsed, even partially, the fleeting thoughts because I know that they are part of a Truly bigger whole.
I will hopefully return to this soon!
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
(observed on a bumper sticker in the faculty parking lot)
I'm not really sure what to make of that statement. Have we really succeeded in living in dichotomy?
The loudest word in that sentence (to me) is don't. For all the efforts to be inclusive, our culture is sending mixed messages. Can we really keep prayer out of school? Is it something we can legislate, regulate, and monitor? Really? And, is it too much of a cognitive leap to question whether thinking only happens in academic settings? If that were true, we would be without much of what contemporary knowledge is based in the first place (a completely separate argument).
Matters of faith require the most thought, reflection, and study. The brightest "secular" scholars are baffled by the doctrines of faith not because the doctrine lacks sense, but because the scholar lacks sight. Blaise Pascal (one of my life heroes) lived the struggle between secular and sacred. The Catholic church (the Jansenists, not so much mainstream Catholicism) shunned him because he had given in to the "lusts of the world" by using his mind to study and research. Yet the academics refused his insight because of his philosophical approach to secular subjects, i.e. he did not subscribe to the 'reason' of men like Descartes. And what a man Pascal was! Today, if you look up his name you'll find physicist, mathmetician, philosopher, inventor, child prodigy, theologian... his thought to this day shapes our understanding of the world we live in!! [see vacuum, calculator, geometry, probability, economics...the list goes on]
This, from the man who spent a life wrestling with wild accusations that he either should not use his gifts in light of his faith OR he should use his gifts of understanding at the expense of his faith.
A wonderful, beautiful thing about Blaise is that he left much of his struggle behind by weaving words together. One can find pages of "quotable quotes" from his writings - he is known in both 'secular' and 'sacred' circles. But, even today some are confused when attempting to describe the man with all the wisdom.
In his Pensees, he wrote,
"For after all what is man in nature? A nothing in relation to infinity, all in relation to nothing, a central point between nothing and all and infinitely far from understanding either. The ends of things and their beginnings are impregnably concealed from him in an impenetrable secret. He is equally incapable of seeing the nothingness out of which he was drawn and the infinite in which he is engulfed." (#72)
Hence, the plight of the so-called 'secular' academic. If 'thinking' is really what we encourage in educational institutions, then it can no easier be constrained by the bounds of 'secularism' than a young pup in wild chase of a cat. God created our minds to wonder and wander, but all to reflect the magnificent and inconceivable mind of Himself the Creator.
Yes, please think in my church, maker of the bumper sticker.
Please come in and think the way God intended all human beings to think... for that will lead you straight to your knees, where you will join others in a desperate prayer for redemption.
Monday, September 03, 2007
Friday, August 31, 2007
Oh man, oh man
I am a pathetic coward.
But I am healing, heavy
under the fragrant weight of mercy -
for words spoken, promises broken,
conversations averted, open doors ignored.
Unclean creatures caught tragically
among unclean others
soon, swiftly turn for familiar.
Freedom escapes and vernacular is tangible
what is left needs redemption
can these things be forgiven -
these repeat offenses?
the same voice stuck always
when its throat should sing the eruption
of song on the hazy horizon,
but glory well
eyes set, jaw determined in a steady line
the words need said
to defend, clarify, and define
the glory made flesh
but please don't mind my mind.
Fear crouches dangerous and
clings the edges of Truth,
making fuzzy the path
and curious the question
Oh, but the effort is so great;
the community meets
conversation of confusion
the Holy One is not pleased by
not impressed by feet soft tread
He is glorified
in life, in death,
in good, in evil,
in perfection, in failure
how foolish a coward.
how foolish a coward.
Monday, August 13, 2007
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.
I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.
They who seek my life will be destroyed;
they will go down to the depths of the earth.
They will be given over to the sword
and become food for jackals.
But the king will rejoice in God;
all who swear by God's name will praise him,
while the mouths of liars will be silenced.
Lord, You are.
Lord, I will.
I'll start by loving on Austin. I have been welcomed, loved, and throughly made a part of the community here in Austin. It's kind of a funny town (well, if you are where I come from Austin is more of a metropolis!) - people still act as though there are only 250,000 people when the reality is they've passed 750,000 and are still growing!
In any case, I've quickly grown to love the hot, sticky days, the availability of tacos and empanadas at every hour, and the agreement amongst Austinians to be surprised at nothing. Within two weeks of my arrival I had found a church and attended its membership class, found a place to live, visited a Bible study, enjoyed lunches 'out' courtesy of my co-workers, and attended an Irish play. How wonderful!
Here's an excerpt from my journal on July 16, four days after I'd arrived:
Well, I've arrived, moved in, wandered, explored, got lost, been awkward, found my way... and I'm now sipping White Peony tea by a small bubbling fountain under a white-spotted sky. How have I found myself here? What a bizarre turn of events that landed me so far from anything familiar. Yesterday I was challenged to think about what the ALSOs are in my life (I need/desire Christ and ALSO___). This, sadly, is a reflection of me. I desire with my whole heart to love and serve and bring glory to my Maker ...and I ALSO desire to succeed here...and I ALSO desire a trip to Europe next summer... and I ALSO desire for the students to like me... and I ALSO (insert many more)
Hmm... I struggle with my "alsos," but I understand that Christ suffered for those things - those idols - that continually beg to steal worship that belongs to the Lord! I know that by the power of Christ in me, and nothing else, I can choose to give worship wholly unto the Lord. As I just told a friend - the 'alsos'(or closets) in our lives may not be something we need to ask God to take away, but rather things we need to peel our eyes from and look up to our Savior, the author and perfector of our faith. Yes! This Savior who, for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God. Consider CHRIST who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:2-3 paraphrase). These things, these "alsos," attempt to grow us weary and disheartened... but we are blessed to endure! And all the world's "alsos" are a trifle compared to Christ's suffering and the future glory we will see.
I've been reading in Acts (an ongoing affair I only just finished up) and came upon chapter 19. Paul was in Ephesus teaching about the Holy Spirit and blessing the disciples there. His teaching infuriated some, who argued against the Way, but Paul kept right on preaching - TWO years he preached until all in the province of Asia had heard the Word of the Lord (8-10). Can you imagine?
God was healing people and curing diseases through his servant Paul - amazing! The people were amazed too - some Jews went about trying to drive out demons in the name of Jesus. "One day the evil spirit answered them, 'Jesus I know and I know about Paul, but who are you?'"(Acts 19:15) The evil spirit jumped out onto them, overpowered them, and sent them running naked and bleeding. The name of the Lord was then greatly feared throughout their land - people came forward and confessed their evil deeds.
"Jesus I know and I know about Paul, but who are you?"
They were right to be afraid - and no more than we should live with holy fear today. I praise God that I know I am His, but I kept hearing that question "...but who are you?" I thought about it when my actions did not reflect a holy fear for my Savior.
I pray that I will not become calloused, but tender towards the Almighty God, who for His glory offered grace to me.
All the alsos will fade like flowers in the dripping, Austin heat, but the breath of the Lord is a strong and mighty wind that evokes holy fear from all of creation.
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
I was driving home tonight after a couple frustrating hours and I realized how easy it is to dwell on the things gone wrong. I realize this is not an epiphany that startles many (I am just slow). But, driving home in my metal box with hands clenched to the shuddering steering wheel, I realized that the immeasurable and unimaginable things God is capable of are exactly not what I could hope.
When we think of "things beyond our imaginations" we think of unprecedented good things, falling from heaven like magnificent Christmas miracles wrapped in the magic of angeldust. Okay, maybe that's what comes to my mind, but I am just adding color and pictures to what (I think) most feel and hope. Far be it from me to attempt to know, explain, or even guess at how the work of blessing comes about in the mind of our Creator...(of course I foolishly continue)... I think I have pushed my assumptions about what the Lord has waiting for me, in hopes of realizing some magical, inexplicable blessings. Though I can't contemplate what God has already said is past our bounds, I can meditate on the words of Scripture to seek wisdom.
In Acts 9, God chose Saul to be His instrument (9:15) to spread the Gospel to the Jews (who he had previously been persecuting) and to the Gentiles. When Ananias, the servant God commanded to meet Saul, questioned the Lord this was His reply, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name" (9:15-16).
And so I think about that. This blessing - far, far, far beyond what Saul could have possibly asked for or imagined. In fact, he did not even know how to imagine something like this, from a God he scarcely understood and from a religion he vehemently opposed. To suggest such a scenario prior to his experience was the very reason he was, "breathing out murderous threats" (Acts 9:1).
I am not a scholar, far from. But, it seems to me very simple - this business of blessing and good things and being a child of God. All good things do come from above, yes (James 1:16-18). But I must understand my own definition of good. I associate certain expectations and assumptions with the words 'good' and 'gift'. Among those associations there is no reference to: shipwreck, starvation, persecution, imprisonment, physical and verbal abuse... the list of trials afflicting God's chosen instrument goes on and on. Paul explained in his letter to the Philippians (4), that he learned the secret to living in any situation: Christ. The Lord told Ananias, "I will show him (Saul) how much he must suffer for my name." And even as Paul's situation looks most dire he is writing the church at Philippi to REJOICE. He is sharing the secret to that joy and contentment: the good and perfect gift of Jesus Christ. The Lord gave His Son to the world - a gift that would be marred with stripes and heavy with the burden of a world's iniquities. This gift is beyond good - and beyond any superlative I could substitute. In the same way that we cannot imagine how the Lord will bless, we cannot begin to understand the goodness of our Savior.
The selfish compromise - the sin of our humanity - has made necessary our understanding of 'gift' to be in light of a greater, future glory (Romans 8:16-25). There is so, so much more here! We, the children of God, are groaning with creation as we await our adoption and the redemption of our bodies. A restless heart, indeed!
And so, I sigh and know that I can be at peace. For the LORD, Maker of heaven and earth, holds me in His palm. Though failure stretches across my past and present like a dreadful scar, the LORD hears my groans and gives blessed hope (Romans 8:24-25). And I will struggle in perseverance as I wait eagerly for what I do not see, toward that which cannot be explained, because I know. I know that my Redeemer lives!
and I am brimming with thankfulness that His plans are exactly not what I can imagine
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
So - the story:
One of the odd jobs (by the way praise the Lord that I even have odd jobs!) I've been doing is painting for a guy named Ben. He's a great guy to work for - funny, sarcastic, and witty. We get along well. Anyway, today he called me to see if I could pinch hit this afternoon on some exterior painting. In my mind I was thinking "beach or paint...beach or paint..." My sense won over my preference!
So, I started painting a forest green on the outside walls of a cute little apartment. I jumped a little when a trap door beside me opened up and Ben appeared singing "Up from the grave he arose!" I'm known to be skittish about those types of things, but it wasn't really a big deal. I got further down the wall and then stepped back to admire my work and ...
tumbled down the trap door and banged up my back and bum pretty bad while I was at it. I was mostly shocked, I guess. It felt strangely Alice-in-Wonderlandish, without the silly rabbit and dinners ...without everything actually except the FALL and I've got two honking bruises to prove it. Actually they feel more like tumors the way they jut out of my body!
I've done this routine before, though, when I fell down the icy back steps last winter. Man, I sure do know how to injure myself!
I'm leaving for Austin tomorrow!!
Saturday, June 02, 2007
Just over a week ago, I attended a conference in Chicago. I'm still dumbfounded in trying to process, explain, or express the blessing of even attending. My mentor tipped me off and encouraged me to go, but it was only days before the conference started. By the time I mustered the financial faith to register, it had already closed. God (in all His grace) provided a way for me to get there, so I quickly emailed the coordinators with my best "college student-desperate-to-learn-and-grow" plea and a wonderful man named Matthew assured me a spot! In a cozy room of only about 500, I listened to pastors and theologians expound on what is and has always been the main thing: the GOSPEL. Yes, I know. It seems cumbersome and almost redundant to go back to the 'assumed' central claim of the Christian faith. But, oh how critical and completely necessary it is!
I listened to some very wise men speaking not from their own wisdom, but pointing directly to the only True wisdom, unfettered by culture or norms or comfort or relevance. Is it a stretch to say that this Wisdom (of God, in Scripture) need not be manipulated, changed, adapted, or morphed into something this generation can understand and declare as easily as ordering grilled instead of fried chicken? Lord help us if we begin to survey our spirituality as a menu, picking and choosing what best suits our desires for 'growth' and 'development.' My stomach just churns at the deception that so many of my peers have fallen into... even more unsettling are the churches signing on by the thousands to ministries that use the Gospel only peripherally. Some pastors/churches manipulate the Scripture and emphasize only the Word incarnate - Jesus' life. But, how much are we missing when we forget Jesus was there in the very beginning? Eternally before the foundations of the world, Father, Son and Holy Spirit existed beautifully in the Trinity and will exist eternally in the new heavens and new earth.
Everyone's seen it done before. You're in a conversation and this person (or maybe a speaker, or maybe even your parents) starts stringing multiple, impressive words together. Not just words, though. They employ the art of persuasion by pulling things from history, present day politics, and beautiful verses to sing harmoniously in support of their argument. Unless you are well-versed yourself, you may start to assume they have a commendable grasp on the subject and, although you do not know exactly why you start to believe them, you do. You give them credit for their vocabulary and finesse and before the discourse is over, they've sold you the idea in such a way that you'll try your hardest to articulate it to the next person who will listen.
Back in the day (5th century BC), these people were called Sophists. These masters manipulated the language to woo their audiences into agreement and submission. Dissected, their speeches seem incoherent and absurd at best, but in front of a crowd they received multiple standing ovations (this is a sweeping generalization, some Sophists are rightly commended for their impact on the intricate and intellectual study of rhetoric!). I'm not forcing a parallel, but merely using history to remind us of the oft disregarded deception that sneaks it way into our worldviews. I'll give one example from Carson's book (though I am still in the middle and really recommend you read it to grasp its entirety!). One of the leaders of the emerging church movement is Brian McLaren, whose book "A New Kind of Christian" sparked many debates and many more followers. Carson quotes McLaren when he described postmoderns (the present age) being, "postconquest, postmechanistic, postanalytical, postsecular, postobjective, postcritical, postorganizational, postindividualistic, post-Prostestant, and postconsumerist."
Imagine if you were listening to McLaren, or reading these words for the first time. I could easily see myself nodding in agreement, an occasional "hmm" escaping my lips. Though I consider myself severely grounded, I like to think I'm "open-minded" in that I listen to philosophies and ideas, even those contrary to my own opinion. I can tell you that after graduating from a liberal arts institution, hindsight tells me I still succumbed to words artfully formed and presented. McLaren's words especially hit home with my cohorts, who say "Nay! Not us!" to every label - refusing to be confined to any certain box of philosophical or theological thought. So, where does that leave us? Well, it leaves us very susceptible to McLaren's words and argument that we postmoderns are postlabel. BUT, as Carson points out, this string of what we are 'beyond' is in itself a contradiction. The problem again arises with definition. Are we really postconsumerist? Carson calls to mind the credit card debt and I would add the materialism that drips out of media and culture. Are we really postmechanical? Carson sites the digital advances, if mechanical, are more than a small part of our 'postmodern' lives. McLaren's list needs more than clarification - how is he defining these terms and still grouping all of them together when they seem to contradict? I pray that people don't believe we are postobjective - that's a statement that is beyond absolutism. Postobjective drops us right in the middle of relativism. And postindividualistic? Really?
I realize I just jumped into 'postmodern' terminology and I had to start using an unseemly amount of " in my definitions. But this really just further explicates the necessity of examining both epistemology and terminology when it comes to understanding what postmodernism is, with special attention to where the definition is coming from, and using this understanding to inform how the Gospel (yes, the historical, redemptive, central and unchanged Gospel) might be preached and heard today.
I feel terrible that this is my attempt at such an enormous subject. I fully encourage anyone who reads this to look into Carson, Piper, Taylor, and any number of other solid theologians who have a heart for the Truth (and access to publishing!). The conference was exciting because it was a gathering of these types of folks - folks that are about the GOSPEL of Jesus Christ. There indeed ARE churches out there with a vision for the TRUTH. My sister, a fellow blogger, has found ample audio material (she's now a self-proclaimed web-sermon addict) on this subject and her insight has been refreshing - the momentum and urgency indeed gains strength as more of God's children understand that it is the Gospel, not the children, that is central to our place, our praise, and our joy.
All the lectures from the conference will be available for free download from www.thegospelcoalition.org in the second or third week of June as well as the foundational documents of the organization. This is a movement I can fully and energetically jump into! This isn't the kind of new-age, feel-good, acceptance movement, but a movement founded solely and completely on the GOSPEL and its aim is to make central the beautiful picture of grace (in light of the weight of sin) of the GOSPEL.
I am spent.
Monday, May 21, 2007
Okay, I’ve got to plunge into the anecdotal archives to retrieve one of the arguably funniest things that has ever happened to me. Funny because of how it happened, but maybe more funny because it was my first kiss. Don’t worry – it’s rated way G, so you can read on if you are wondering.
It all started freshman year of college. I was bright with assuming promise of a new life in a new town with new friends. Newly independent and absolutely basking in my freedom, I quickly made friends with Meghan, who was having a slightly less joyful transition. I realize now that I rushed at the opportunity to feel needed and lavished all of my home-grown Iowa loving onto her hurting spirit. We were late to a few orientation events as I listened to her sad stories, but when I asked what her favorite movie was and she responded tearfully, “The Newsies,” well, let’s just say we become attached. Some of our other friends that year thought it unhealthy, but we were lost in the wonder of a new friendship – I’ll never forget when after about a month Meghan turned to me in her room and said, “I want to know everything about you.” I was a little thrown off by the bold proclamation, but it didn’t stop me from surprising my newfound kindred spirit every chance I got.
Meghan wasn’t one to wake up early, but I was up and moving hours before she’d hit snooze the first time. I was anxious to prove my discipline and dedication, so I would leave crafts, verses, and eventually breakfast on her desk to welcome her into the new day. At first it was just muffins or bagels, but then I started thinking she would benefit from a hot meal, so would you believe I snuck an omelette out of the cafeteria and placed it carefully on a napkin next to her chemistry book?
Well, apparently my antics had not only endeared her poor soul, but also that of her family. They were worried about the mournful child they’d left on Hope College’s doorstep and were apparently grateful that someone had gone to the trouble to make sure she was eating breakfast (It really wasn’t that hard – the cafeteria did most of the work). I grew to love her family from the stories, but because her grandparents lived so close we would also go visit them on occasion.
I fell in love with them the first time I met them. Her grandpa admired my farm heritage (I truly think that is something I’ll end up ‘milking for all it’s worth’ in my life!) and her grandma was a sweet soul that never failed to bring a smile. I instantly knew I was welcome and accepted as part of the fold and spent four years grateful for that connection. But this story is really about the second time I met Ken and Barbi (because, of course those really were their names).
Eager to chat and laugh with the family on a particular afternoon, we walked up the deck and Meghan pulled the slider open. She stepped in first and there were excited (always loud) greetings all around, and I followed her into the dining room area. Before I knew what was happening Barbi was reaching for an embrace that ended all wrong.
I know some families have different ways of showing love and I understand we don’t all have to be the same. What I wasn’t ready for was the crossing-over. See, apparently my family doesn’t share some of the traditions that Meghan’s family has and that’s really okay, but when Mrs. DeWitt went in for a smack right on my lips I was slightly confused. Actually, I didn’t know what to do – so I didn’t do anything. Her love met its mark on my stunned lips and I had officially experienced my first-ever kiss.
If I had just turned my cheek ever so slightly things would have turned out differently. But in my stunned confusion, Barbi DeWitt planted her well-meaning affection right on my face!
I’m sure not many can say that their first kiss was their best friend’s grandma. But, I can and whether that makes me lame or hilarious, it is what it is.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
So, I’ve graduated. I have a degree – two actually. I have officially felt the comfortable, welcoming screen door of dependence close behind me, knocking as its springs settle. I think I’m still on the porch, looking out into the big expanse. I see big city lights and wind-swept seas, rolling fields and crowded streets, clusters of community and quiet solitude. All this and I’m still just staring, knowing that a few steps down I’m on my own. I feel like one of those blinking dots on a radar screen, wandering around with a little less identity tied to me and a lot less security. I don’t even have insurance right now. I also don’t have a job. Which, amazingly, has not sent me tailspinning into confusion and hyper-active mode, but instead into a joyous search for a beautiful thing called “odd jobs". Yep, I posted my first ever personal ad on our college marketplace website. It read something like this:
BABYSITTER, HOUSE-SITTER, ODD JOBS: I am a recent graduate and looking for work in the Holland area. I love kids and the outdoors and I have my lifeguard and first-aid certificates. I have extensive experience with children of all ages. I am also a very hard worker.
Well, I waited and waited and got one response. I now randomly babysit a couple hours for two adorable little ones. The funny thing with odd-jobs is 1. you’re never sure you’re going to have work and 2. one random job isn’t really enough.
So, I did my own perusal of wanted ads on the college website and just a week before I graduated I found the perfect job: weed picking. Not just any weed, though. An alien plant called garlic mustard. This was originally an herb brought over from Europe for medicinal purposes, but its introduction onto American soil went awry when it neither provided any beneficial remedies nor gave any hint of being contained. Apparently, the weevils in Europe keep the resilient beast under control, but there is no such willing herbivore west of the Atlantic. As sad as this sounds, I was actually quite pleased with the predicament, because it provided me temporary employment! I instantly budgeted for what was advertised as a month of work at $12/hr and saw the cartoon dollar signs leap from my eyes. But, before a week had ended, we (there were others responding to this cry for help) had picked ourselves right out of a job. We were relentless, though. We knew the season ended in May, so I made flyers – an article telling of the horrible fate of garlic mustard infested forests and the names of experienced and willing garlic mustard pickers. I didn’t hear any replies, but it was a commendable effort!
Pleasant Biking turned Tour de la Holland
One ambitious morning, I decided to make the 20 minute car ride into 1 hour and 15 minutes biking to get to my temporary weed job. What a beautiful idea for a spring morning! My friend Tricia thought otherwise, once we were about 30 minutes into it – so many hills! She kept motioning for me to go on ahead, but how could I after I had conned her into making the trip with me? We finally made our way to the garlic mustard forest, winded, but ready to pick with a fury. Tricia had already decided biking back was not an option – at the end of the day she was opting for the passenger seat. Me, on the other hand, I had on the brightest of bright grins as I swung my leg over my sister-in-law’s mountain bike. I never did know why I choose to mount a bike like I was getting on a horse, it probably has something to do with the bikes always being slightly too big.
Anyway, I had my headphones in and I was thoroughly enjoying the scenery when I randomly decided to think about the day – a Tuesday. Tuesday and almost 4:00 and I’m biking my way down the lakeshore. Tuesday, 4:00. All of a sudden, as I was repeating the time to myself I realized that I was supposed to BE somewhere at 4:00 on Tuesday. It wasn’t just any commitment either, it was watching children! I immediately freaked out and called Tricia in a panic and asked her to meet me on the road. Meanwhile, I called my friend (who I was standing in babysitting for) and asked her to call the house so the girls would know I’d be just a tad late. THEN, in all my huffing and anxiety, I got a call from Austin, Texas wanting to make sure the 4:00 interview time was still going to work. I managed to keep my cool and calmly ask for a reschedule for the next day. When I got off that phone call, I was asking myself, “HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?” Everything was going so well, until I realized I’d left half my mind in the middle of all that garlic mustard. I wonder what they ever meant by medicinal herb.
Well, in any case, Tricia got me to their house, where the girls had only been home a few minutes (PTL). We unloaded my bike and I collapsed for a short moment, before helping with spelling, piano, and baritone. When the parents arrived, I mounted my fast friend and rode again – winding around bike paths and crossing busy intersections. I laughed over and over to myself – thinking how much enjoyment other people would have at the spectacle I’d become. When I finally reached home, I calculated that I must’ve been on that bike a total of 3 hours that day!Mulching Surprise
With the weeds cleared, I moved on to my calling as a gardener – a mulcher to be specific. My mentor found it in her heart to provide me with a couple days work laying mulch in her garden. To make things interesting – and slightly intimidating – my mentor is possibly the most dedicated and successful gardener I know. Her house stands out beautifully on her street and is the envy of any passers-by. But, she was asking me (an inexperienced admirer) to mulch! So, I was determined to learn quickly and adhere to the rules: generally 3 inches of mulch (more in the sunnier areas), but about 3 centimeters from the plants, and watch out for ground cover. I think I did a decent job, although half-way through I did start to worrying over the proper amount and distance and trenches and edging. I got over it, because, I didn’t really have any other option.
So – I suppose this is the funny part. I got real intense about this mulching business. I felt rustic with the ground under my knees and my garden-gloved hands gently spreading rich smelling bark in the flower beds. Every time I would come to a weed, I’d yank with accomplished finality, as if to say to the gnarly plant, “Hmmph!” I think having my hands deep in nature had the same effect as snapping beans back in my little Chicago apartment last October – useful, productive, things as they ought to be. Anyway, I was intense. So intense, that I think minutes would go by without my looking up from my work. I was working on a certain area, spreading and adding just so when I saw a spot needing attention around the corner. I aptly moved with determination – even swiftly, I might say – right around that corner and BAM! I felt a punch deep in my left cheekbone. I mean, it really penetrated and after I opened my stunned eyes they grew real big and my face drew back. I was extremely confused at my encounter, after working by myself all morning I had yet to meet anything but my own sing-a-long voice to the music in my headphones. As my eyes got even bigger, I took in my adversary: the sturdy, wooden handle of the wheel barrow. I just sat for a moment with my hand on my cheek silently thinking that I could mumble some words to ease my folly and my opponent’s direct hit. Then my friend stopped by and I told her about my little scuffle. She instantly said, “I know, I can see it!” Later, I realized that not only was it noticeable, but I could’ve been in a bar fight, for the sad look of my left side!
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Today I received my grades and it looks like its final. Yep. Done, accomplished, finished, completed, ended. I've already moved in with my brother and sister-in-law (I couldn't be more blessed!) and I'm busy pulling an alien plant called garlic mustard... more on that later.
I just wanted to post a song that is dear to my heart right now, where I am. With decisions about the fall hanging in the balance, I just want to come to the Lord with a heart that is His. I want to wake up with a joyful peace that THIS day is a blessing where I can in turn bless others! I have been reading the book "The Normal Christian Life" by Watchman Nee... and there is beautiful redemption in the Cross. .. beautiful, perfect, complete redemption. He says the Christian life does not start with a "do," but with a RESOUNDING "DONE!" Christ accomplished the work on the cross. There is nothing -absolutely nothing I can add to the perfect work already completed in his sacrifice. By God's grace, I can take part in the special work of gathering the nations to praise the God of all redemptive work. What a glorious blessing it is!
And now, if I could just surrender my feelings of completedness; my desires for accomplishment; my understanding of contentedness...
Holland is absolutely and wonderfully gorgeous right now. I've been blessed in spending time outdoors with friends, at the beach, and yesterday on a ridiculous 3 hours of biking...again, more to come.
Well, for now, back to the song. Charlie Hall sings it and I'm pretty sure it's called Marvelous Light:
I once was fatherless,
a stranger with no hope;
Your kindness wakened me,
Awakened me, from my sleep
Your love it beckons deeply,
a call to come and die.
By grace now I will come
And take this life, take your life.
Sin has lost it's power,
death has lost it's sting.
From the grave you've risen
Into marvelous light I'm running,
Out of darkness, out of shame.
By the cross you are the truth,
You are the life, you are the way
My dead heart now is beating,
My deepest stains now clean.
Your breath fills up my lungs.
Now I'm free. now I'm free!
Lift my hands and spin around,
See the light that i have found.
Oh the marvelous light
Lift my hands and spin
See the light within...
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Wow. I have to say Paul had some kind of foresight to write "forgetting what is behind and strain toward what lies ahead." Cap and gown lies just ahead. And, yes, it's all those things - you know - all those things that are written neatly and cleverly on greeting cards. It's a 'new beginning' and a 'great achievement' and the first steps in the 'real world.' Really, anything can be made fuzzy and sentimental, but what is the point of this whole charade?
What a question to ask, right? I mean, you'd think I have enough theses, models, and paradigms mixed up in my brain! As I'm looking around, we're just trying to get past this week. We're just trying to finish, get to the other side, take pictures next to tulips and on the beach, and smile with that accomplished grin.
I better just lay it out right now. I am no more accomplished than I was as a feisty, blue eye-shadowed middle-schooler (I was actually probably more confident then). If there's anything in me working towards something I can attain, my sorrow will always shadow my joy. Woe is me! For I am a woman of unclean lips and I live with a people of unclean lips. I can't wait to one day see what Isaiah saw when he came before the Lord. The whole of his being knew conviction and became aware of God's righteousness.
Praise God! For we are redeemed and called His children by name. I still can't fathom it.
My wish to write more will soon give way to worry over stresses, so I'll have to leave off. There's a whole lot stirring in the Spirit. I want to leave the lyrics of a beautiful song we sang in community last week:
There is a sweet,
anointing in the sanctuary
There is a stillness
in the atmosphere
So come lay down
the burdens you have carried
for in this sanctuary
God is here
He is here
God is here
To take the yoke
and lift the heavy burden
He is here
God is here
To restore the wounded heart
and bless the broken
So, come lay down
the burdens you have carried
for in this sanctuary
God is here
Amen and amen.
Saturday, April 14, 2007
My mind feels like a webpage - so many stimulating, flashy buttons and colors. I don't know where to go next or what to push. I am scrolling up and down for the information I need, but I realize I'm not on the right site at all and when I try to backtrack I come to deadends. Stress? Sure, probably. Anxiety about graduation? Not completely sure. Just plain old misdirected energy? For certain.
The more crowded the pages of my mind become, the less I turn to the only Source for peace. We all know where that leads you: to the breakdown dead-end with no keys, no excuses, and no good reason to be asking for or accepting pity.
Let's be straight about this, folks. At this point, all I need is a good talking to - the old fashioned kind that grandmother's would lovingly give when they found out you'd been taking "breaks" from helping in the garden to sneak cookies in the kitchen. But don't worry - I'm managing a pretty good war of words in my own mind, admonishing, advising, and alerting when I stray.
Oh, how I wish I could actually sit and think... and then type. I know it would be more productive and useful - and FUN - I so enjoy a good romp on the open-air, word terrain (see, it's times like these that even you wish I had more time!). But, I have officially self-diagnosed (something you're never supposed to do) myself with ADD and I must return to a psychology lab report.
I did have a wonderful chat with my sister today - it's amazing that even states away God can give us experiences and lessons that encourage and build up one another. She seems to be thriving as only a well-dressed, office cubicle up-and-comer ought to be. The joy and pride she finds in her work speaks so much of her character... but I also have to smile to myself because I've seen glimpses of big and bold dreams coming from that girl that I can't wait to see unfold!
My mom had contest today for her students and my thoughts drift back to when I would tag along, her cloth music bag on my left shoulder, heavy with contest pieces. I always tried to be thumbing through important papers or adding a clever remark about judges, contests, or sound-proof rooms. I absolutely loved those times - so special! We would drive the school bus home and we would go through each student's performance, naysaying judges and praising the hard work of her tight-knit group. A teacher could not be more fond or attached! Go Cougar Vocal!
See - I AM distracted!