Saturday, August 19, 2017

My One Comfort

I sit in the summer shade listening to geese, half asleep; then in a comfortable overstuffed couch. I eat three meals a day and am blessed with computers and a full time job. Cars transfer me places and buildings house me. Hot water flows easily from the faucet and I would be foolish not to recognize that I live in a life of comfort. I live in a “first” world country. I am rich, though there are days I certainly don’t feel it, and as I settle into a stable life and find myself in a quandary over questions like whether to attend conferences for one or two days I’ve wondered if I am in danger while in comfort.      
                Is comfort a danger?
                After all, no offense to America, but consumerism is a deep in-set part of culture, and worse is a blindness to the difference between selfishness and self-care. I who have seen the dangers of over extension now sit in the danger of the other and I wonder, what is this?
                I have seen suffering. How can you even consider spending money to go to a writer’s conference when there are people starving?
                It is a first world problem: and they are legitimate. Perhaps.
                What if, my dear friends who are blessed with homes and money and clothes on our backs, our problem is not comfort?
                What if we have forgotten the point of Revelation 3? As John so aptly wrote to our brothers and sisters in Laodacea, we must return to our first love. Just as I could be distracted by questions of so many natures in so many places, the issue is not comfort, but our focus.
                There is a promise that all tears will be gone someday.
                Which means that our battle with sin will be over—thank goodness. Wars will have ceased. Natural disaster will be over. World hunger will no longer be an issue and I imagine that climate change will not be a question since, if we read Revelation literally there will be no sun, it’ll just be God’s light.

                But if my eyes stray from my Lord, then I am in danger of cruelty. Then selfishness can seep into my being and laziness my soul. So Lord, let me seek you, my first love. And follow you to the ends of the earth—wherever that might lead. Ultimately in both life and death our comfort is that we are not our own: we've been bought with blood. We are safe, secure, beloved in Christ's Lordship. Father, draw me closer to your everlasting self. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

A Defense of the “Conservative”

               “I didn’t think the republicans care about the poor.” The words made me swallow as I went on to explain that we hold a difference of philosophy of how to help, not a difference of values towards those in need.
And yet, when I scroll through my facebook page, my heart breaks.
People are angry about the suffering minorities face, and they blame the common man. They say sin, or life effected by sin is what should be allowed, and while we both long for the freedom and well-being of our country, I wonder if we are in danger of creating a new prejudice: against the “majority people” (Which, for the record, really doesn’t exist.)
                If you are a “minority” group person reading this post, I am sorry for the suffering you’ve faced. If you are close to someone of minority groups, you see social objections every day, and I’m sorry. But, I would argue it’s time we be honest.
There are many conservatives out there serving the lower, lesser people, not in facebook posts, but in action. I know people who walk the inner-city streets of Chicago who work with the women who need to be loved, and would still call themselves pro-life.  I know someone who gave up his freedom to protect his people, who defends the right to bear arms. There are those who walk into homes with dirt floors and flickering lights who believe it is through the middle class that the truly poor can gain jobs. I work in a group home that serves the physically disabled, but I still believe the fact that they are disabled is a loss—they are not less because they are disabled, but I do believe that Jesus will give them whole bodies on the final days.
You see, I am pro-life. I believe being gay is wrong, as well as sleeping with your boyfriend before marriage. I am one of the rare Christians of my generation who refuses to drink (and may sometimes wonder if it’s wrong). I am probably the least feminist woman in my family.
But you are wrong if you think that means I don’t love people. You are wrong because one of my biggest heroes was in prison for drug trafficking. Her son (she is single) is my foster brother. You are wrong because my childhood hero suffered from cerebral palsy and yet always taught me to smile. You are wrong because if I had the chance, I would return to my internship with Immigrant Connection at the drop of a hat. I documented many cases of male abuse and told women in tears that they were valuable.
You are wrong because my reason for guidelines comes from my reason for love, and God himself—the extremity of both liberalism and conservativism—did not give up His standards when He chose to love us. He held His standards and chose us at the highest cost to Himself.  
Conservative does not mean hating bigot. Pro-life does not rule out my love for the mother. Straight (versus gay) does not mean I don’t understand the battle against sin or the idea of a sexual desire that may never be met. Conservative means I want to help people help themselves—I want to educate the poor, not give them handouts. I want to disciple them in Christ, and teach each person to give their last penny to God. The question I find myself asking, is if you am brave enough to believe the minorities matter, are you brave enough to believe it is because God created them? Are you brave enough to believe that God love you—so much that He found a way for His standards and His character of love to intermingle? He did this for you and the person sitting behind you, do you believe that too?
In this time of political and physical upheaval around the world, remember God is our king.  When it comes down to it, He will rule the heavens and the earth. Are you on your knees before Him?

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Dear Cornerstone University Senior,

Today marks a month out from graduation: those of you counting down can probably tell me the number of hours. It is an exciting time! (And scary, don’t forget scary.)
We are going from “college kid” to “adult.” Some of us will maintain the name of “student,” others will drop that role as well. We will be done with this set of stresses, and, oh, how beautiful that sounds.  
As buried as we are under homework, it is easy to rush to the next thing, hope for the one relief of no-homework, and look forward to whatever it is that is coming next (if you even know what that will be!).
But, I have a challenge for you. Slow down. Live today. If you don’t look, you might miss the beauty and joy of transition.
Yes, the beauty and joy of transition.
This change is good, and necessary. If we were to stay here too much longer, we would be out of place; already I feel my wings preparing to fly. But before we do, it’s important to take a look around.  This change is a chance to recognize our growth.  It is a chance to internalize those things we want to carry with us, and filter through what habits we might not want to continue. And, hardest of all, it is a time to grieve. Leaving Cornerstone includes loss.
Transition is beautiful, but it’s not easy. Why else would we continually rush to the next thing?
This is our last month on campus.
How has school been hard? Is there an attitude you’ve carried you need to confess or something we’ve done wrong that we want to make right?
What are the things of Cornerstone life you love?
What friends have you made here that you will (or already) miss?
What professors have influenced you?
Where are your favorite spots on campus?
Who have you become because of Cornerstone?
Where has God met you here?
            This is the beautiful part about saying goodbye, recognizing what we’ve had. For some of us, this will hurt a lot as good bye is not easy to say, for others, we may not cry at all. I cry during change, it’s part of who I am. I have friends who are ready to move forward.  But if we rush onto the next step, we miss the chance to further internalize and recognize the life and growth at Cornerstone University.
            I probably won’t see you at CU next year, but I hope we both go out with the memory of our lives here. As we look to the excitement of what comes next, let’s thank God for what has been.  

Goodbye Cornerstone, it's been good, it's been hard, you've been home. 


Thursday, March 31, 2016


Alaska. I might, possibly, depending on a few unanswered questions, have an opportunity to go to Alaska. Not just to Alaska, but an isolated island to spend the summer helping a well-established author. I would even meet other authors. It’s a childhood dream of going to the frontier as a pioneer mixed with a current dream of connecting with and meeting authors who could guide me. (Did I mention Mountains? I want to be near mountains…). I wasn’t looking for it. It landed in my lap and sent my heart pounding and my mind rolling. Forget the fact that I might not be able to do this, I was excited.

I was excited.

I haven’t been really excited in a long time. Just the idea of something beautiful and filling was making me happy. And just being happy and excited made me more excited because I was dreaming. This could happen in just two months. Forget homework, forget sleep, my mind circled around and around the idea imagining standing by my two favorite sceneries, ocean and mountains, my unedited novel ready to receive some loving care  even as I journalled descriptions for the sequel, which co-incidentally is about people isolated on a small island… I could go to one. Did I mention I had just prayed about that childhood dream of a living museum? This was a dream beyond a dream.

And then I realized. I have a dream… But I have a bigger dream.

We will kneel at our Savior’s feet.

The one whose resurrection just celebrated, the one whose death saved us, the one who made beauty and mountains and stories in the first place. Him. We will get to spend eternity with Him.  As sure as it is that I will graduate (which right now feels very doubtful), no, more sure than the promise I will be handed a diploma on May 7,  the certainty of God’s physical Kingdom covering the Earth is sealed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

He will come and judge the living and the dead. And in that judgment, for those who confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, repent of their sins and chose to follow God, intimacy will be the result. Not the sometimes emptying kind of intimacy, the filling kind. Our adoption will be complete. We will be family with Christ and we will rule with him.

All beauty deepens in the chance to step into God’s presence. Colors will deepen, the awe of mountains will grow because we will be looking at their creator, who is so, so much bigger. We will be on our knees in worship. I won’t just be in the presence of a man who happens to have intelligence, I will be in the arms of the one who is the source wisdom.

In this hope, we don’t have to say “if God wills it.” He does. This is hope. We have a happy “ending.” It is not a scary one without life or color. It does not mean that we will be bored, no we will finally be satisfied. Our restless days will be calm. Our empty longings will be filled. The definition of intimacy will be found as we settle into who we were supposed to be. We will be, and are today, in the presence of the most holy, famous, powerful person who ever existed.

And we wait, with eager, active expectation for the world to be set right.

This is hope. Not dreams in possibilities, but certainty in the spectacular.

Friday, March 18, 2016

When God provides

“God is telling me He’s got this.” My friend sits behind a desk and computer, a little overwhelmed with the tasks before her.  A little overwhelmed by the fact that she is nowhere near half way to her support due in a few days. There are six dollars in my wallet. Six. My debit card is finally working, and I have no excuse for not going to the ATM machine on campus, but at the moment, I only have six dollars in my wallet. 

                The excitement in her voice as she tells how God’s provided becomes my focus, but my heart is somewhere listening. Give. I try to remember if my laundry card has money on it, will I be able to wash my clothes? Give. I think I can do it later...after the weekend is over, after I get more cash at the store. Give. What about…Give. I remember the woman who took me to lunch yesterday, who spent much more money than I ever would have spent on myself to feed me and challenge me to follow God. Give. I pull out my wallet, find the larger of the two bills and throw it on the keyboard. “Jennifer…that is not why I am telling you this story. No.”

                I shake my head. “I know it wasn’t. But God told me to.” (We will not mention that we just spent the better of two hours in class two days ago discussing whether or not God actually tells us what to do with decisions and just go with the fact that sometimes you know it’s the Holy Spirit and not emotion.)
                She rounds the desk and gives me a hug.

                After I finally got home for my nap, I flipped onto facebook and was surprised to see my co-worker was on campus. I needed to go say hi. As much as I wanted to avoid people or another migraine, or anything of the sort, I knew I needed to go. Sighing, I shade my eyes from the sunlight as I walk back across campus, berating myself for not procuring sunglasses to at least help. I speak with her and her daughter. The eighteen-year-old girl I’m meeting for the first time has my full respect and I wonder if she knows that. Finally,  I can go home to peace and quiet. I say good-bye, give hugs and start to walk away when my co-worker calls me. “Jennifer, wait.” She leads me out of the cafeteria and opens her wallet. “I still wanted to…” I try to protest.

                She had wanted to buy me groceries. I had conveniently forgotten to send her the grocery list. Not so much because I don’t need them…but because her financial state is so much more precarious than mine, and she has to feed three children.  “Nobody knows I’m doing this.” As if that mattered to me. I don’t care if anyone knows, I want her to be safe. I try not to watch what number bills she pulls out, not wanting to know how much, but the bills drop to the ground and I see it is more than I want to accept. I don't really need it and I don't want to admit the fears this is beginning to calm. 

           God doesn’t let us choose who to let help us. He doesn't let us decide whether or not we're in need.  

                A friend’s friend is asking why if he has given faithfully, God has not returned. I don’t know. For three years my parents and I searched for a home appropriate for our family on the mission-field with consistently failed results. Why didn’t God give a house if we were willing to give our lives? I don’t know.

                But why does God give at all?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Is change good?

Change certainly isn’t easy for me. I wouldn’t be up at 11:42 for almost any other reason.
But, this week I realized something absolutely amazing about change.

Change is an opportunity to see meaning in a world that we so often forget how it special is and it is a time to see how you’ve changed and grown since the last big change.

The semester has ended. I will not again take a Bible class in my undergraduate education (I’m not sure capstone counts) and I can see so much that is different in how I see the Bible.
The semester is ended and I’m getting a chance to see just how important some people have become to me, some who were important starting freshman year, and some who slipped into my heart three months ago.

My character is not what it was at the beginning of this semester, I have grown and become a new person—though that person is certainly still growing and evolving in the environments God places me. But change, change can be good. Because without change I might not remember to stop and see how much where I am and who I am with influence who I am and how I think.
Without change, I wouldn’t get a chance to see new things—which according to a friend of mine new is good.

Change is like changing lanes.  This time, you don’t just glance in the rear view mirror, you turn your head look back at your blind spots, and then look forward again and then back once more, just to be sure. So look back catch your blind spot, grasp hold of the person you’ve become, and look forward to a new, and good thing. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Ending Well

We’re looking at the end of a year coming up, and for some of us an end to a semester. I am 4 weeks away from the end of the semester—the first semester of my senior year. Applications for new worlds have been sent in and now I sit looking at the fast line to the end. And I began to ask, what does ending well look like? And after that, what does ending well look like for me?

                I know ending well has a combination of saying goodbye well, of keeping commitments, of leaving a legacy.

                And it stuck me today, as a fellow student stopped me before I could leave work to come home from work, that right now ending well means being available. Available for fellow students who don’t understand the material or want me to proofread a paper, available for my new friend down the hall, available for my roommates and for my friends “from last year.” Available to freshmen who are adjusting, to sophomores who are finding school is harder than they expected…Available to the person God puts in front of me.

                Ending well means putting work into school, but to be totally honest my classes have begun to be a bit repetitive, and now, what was once taught to me is now being ingrained. Ending well means being thankful for the growth and what I’ve learned.

                Ending well means writing, even though I don’t have a class asking for my next story anymore.
                Ending well means saying thank you for what this school has given me, from beloved friends, to insight, to a deep inlaid fear of God.

                Ending well means looking beyond my world, and praying for France, Lebannon, and Ukraine.

Ending well means leaving a legacy, even perhaps, if that comes with the opportunity cost of performance. Let’s be real, I never was a hard core scholar.

                 Ending well means letting go, saying good bye, and looking forward. Ending well means having a heart in the past, hands in the present and focus on the future. Being fully here. Being there.
I have 4 more weeks to support my classmates and friends before I go home for a break. I have four more weeks to challenge my writing skills and put forth big projects. I four more weeks and a semester...or is it eternity? Time, after all, is inconsistent. 

                What is a beautiful ending? As the days pass, what do you hope to remember?