Hello. Welcome.

I'm a very determined kind of individual. Sometimes my determination is misplaced and things get very ugly. But, sometimes my determination leads to laughter, deep thoughts, and words on paper.

I write everything. I'm not very good at filtering ... so you will see it all. Maybe there will be a little inspiration for someone else along the way. I hope so. My sister also likes to guest blog and I'm sure you will appreciate her wit and wisdom.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The bittersweet taste of humble pie

Sometimes it's a lot easier to bite into the bitter and almost impossible to sense the sweet. I understand these things are necessary, yes, but if I'm honest sometimes I don't enjoy it.

For example, I have already sobbed the story of Bonnie, the sad silver 1995 Pontiac that has graced the all-important, distinctive Meridian neighborhood in South Austin. But, there's more! After multiple trips to Carter's Transmission on South Lamar (during which my new mechanic friend Doug and I practically had each other on speed dial and after our multiple encounters I thought the shop deserved thank you brownies... they weren't so sure:), it was established that the Bonneville's fate was a slow power steering fluid leak, which means that I will continue my absurd little routine every time I leave or arrive at the new house on the corner.

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!

Falling from fright

Yes, I did just screech and fall down in the middle of a quiet hallway after my boss greeted me with a normal-voice-level "Caroline" from behind. It's more of an involuntary twitch than it is a lame attempt to attract attention or cause passers-by to question my sanity (although it probably does produce these outcomes as well).

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

Just right

The small window is a sage,
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
just right.

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
just right.

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


A short history
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.

Life Together
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

Don't think...

Don't pray in my school and I won't think in your church.
(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

Laboring on Labor Day


I meant to write this on Labor Day, but my day started at 6:15 and wound down around 11:00. It was the first service project since I came on as Service Coordinator and I'm so proud of the students! In one week of school they managed to get the word out, sign up students, collect paperwork, and get to the event.

I gambled and opted for the city bus instead of using the vans (liability and insurance is so much more of a hassle when you're on the side obsessed with risk management) ... and the morning began with a crowd of college students running to catch a bus that turned out to be the wrong one! But, we found the bus, which took us to our destination...

The students jumped right in and before long, what was a dull wall became a brightly colored work of art!
I was definitely nervous, but thank the Lord it turned out all right!