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? 


Saturday, November 7, 2015


Turn into
Hours, no
In the tick
Of a clock
I have
Into something
Not myself
I cannot
I cannot
But I feel
Oh! I feel


Sunday, October 18, 2015

A Warning to the Bible Scholar

It’s mid semester of my senior year as I Bible major and I don’t want to read my Bible…to be totally honest I want to run from it. I love God, a lot. But I’m weary of the Bible. I have filled my mind with head knowledge, but my heart is starving. They say the Bible is supposed to change a person’s life…so why in four weeks of intense study of the Bible have I come away with one soul filling lesson? Why only once did the vision of the gospel grasp hold?
                I am in Gospel Literature, but have learned nothing of Jesus.
                I am in the Psalms, but really could stand never to read one again.
There’s something wrong here.
Why is it that the philosophical ideas outside of the Bible are giving me more life than that ancient document written for all of God’s followers?
This is my warning: dear Bible scholars who bless us with your knowledge, don’t forget your soul.
Rationality matters. Understanding the text matters, but if you read the Bible when it’s not about the study or the concepts, but about how God works.
Are we asking the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts?
Are we REALLY letting Him guide us in understanding? In all 4 years of my college I haven’t heard reference to this once in class.
Don’t lose yourself in knowledge, because no matter how many historical arguments there are for Scripture’s validity, no matter if a psalm was written by David or not, no matter if the Christian existence in the world will begin to end with rapture or if there not even be a millennium,  God is looking for those who want HIM not knowledge OF Him.
And so Bible student, I urge you, remember to pray.  Remember that God is God and seek His face. Don’t let the Bible become your idol, and don’t let intensive study drive you from experiencing it. God’s story matters because by it we may more fully know God.
And God is worth knowing.
That’s why we read His Word…because He and His servants co-authored the Bible.  That’s why we study the historical context: so that we can understand how the human author and his audience thought and meant to write. That's why we pray, because His Spirit talks through His word. 

God, please, help us to understand, so that we might know you and love you more. We're hungry to hear you speak. 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Another Day

I stand over the bridge and watch cars go underneath, underneath, underneath…I like watching them: I like the highway.
 The highway feels like home.
I linger to soak in the reminder that I am but a small piece. I take a breath and keep walking, listening to the cars below me  as they still run with their high pitch sound.  
I see a girl running towards me and I wonder if she minds that I stay by the side of the bridge rather than move by the road. She does not move over and I wonder if I should.
            She stops. 
           One earphone is in her ear. 
           “Hey are you okay?” her long blond hair is pulled back in a high ponytail and I recognize her poignant features and Florida blue eyes. We met the other night. She lived under me and had told me that we had some of the bigger classes together. She remembered me because I had asked many questions in those classes and that had helped. 
                 I smile. “Yeah.” I’m not sure what makes her ask.
                “Okay,” She hits my arm lightly as she turns to go. “I don’t like people standing on bridges.”
     And then she is gone. Fast steps take her back to campus.
                My mind follows, even as my feet continue to carry me forward. It’s quite possible that, in another situation, on another day, she would have saved a life.

Monday, July 20, 2015

A Response to How To Love ____ Personality Articles

The other day I stumbled across an article about loving “creative people.” I read it because someone I love dearly often falls into of the many categories they described and I found it interesting. But a friend of mine had a point, when we defend personalities in articles that simply face a defense they can be “a blank check” it can either fall into excuse to leave boot prints on hearts behind us or become tools to navigate the balance beam of relationship. But I think, in order to walk the balance beam of relationship we have to realize two things:
1.       People are different
2.       We can grow and learn from differences.
        The stereotyped logical personality often shakes one's head at the emotional whimsical person who goes off the beaten path and often finds themself lost in a forest of confused emotions. But as long as they insist on staying only on the road of logic, they miss the streams bubbling, the quiet of melancholy, and the passion of anger. On the other side of the picture, the emotional person judges either oneself or the logical person (often both) because the logical person continues walking in a straight line which serves a purpose. 
Neither are necessarily right or wrong, but neither will probably ever land in the same footprint and people are as unique as their finger prints.
To be fair, you must know I write as someone who often operates primarily out of emotion. Purposefully, I do not work on some things when I experience certain emotions, no longer as a lack of self-discipline, but as a choice for the quality of the work, and the quality of my life. But perhaps it is important to understand, some of the people I hope to emulate are quite the opposite. If a task is on the list, it will generally be accomplished, sometimes to the forgetfulness of the emotions, but mostly the logical person might say it is more that the emotions are channeled through a structured road of thought.
Both hold a purpose. 
Roads enable us to get from here to there. Imagine life without any roads, at the least, food would not be transported and jobs could not be worked at. I lived in a country where roads were either filled with holes or were dirt roads. The difference between the pothole filled panamerican thirteen years ago and the one today is the difference between calm nerves, car sickness and at least an hour of driving... But so too emotions serve a purpose, as beautiful as the forest is, it also offers oxygen to all. 
On either side of the spectrum there sits value and detriment. My wandering emotions sometimes cause me to lack trust, to speak out of turn. I forget that whatever this moment holds God still stands as the ultimate reality. On the other hand, my emotions often give me a deep sense of love and affection, the ability to question what I once took for granted, and depth of life that intuition guides me to. I cry tears not just because I often find myself hurt, but because of how deeply I love a person. I dance inside simply because the sun shines and life for me can go anywhere from shouting songs to melancholy satisfaction.
And yet, my way of life is one I struggle to accept. I admire another’s. Discipline can guide some into an organized, smooth moving life filled with accomplishment, focus, and drive.  Logic can lead to strong arguments  and assurance of belief. Logical lives are easy to understand and emotions rarely effect the quality of work performed.  And yet, they too suffer from and enjoy emotion, just as I secretly hold self-discipline. Some of those with organization love with a quiet constancy I do not understand. They may not say “I love you,” as I often as I want to hear, but I’ve watched and seen grace when I did not deserve a second chance. (We harm ourselves when we stereotype for we see only one side of the jewel that people are.)
The “love me as I am” articles hold value in that they state what a person is whilerecognizing that value. But the wording often sounds prejudiced towards that person and against another. (Take for example the fact that I compared roads to oxygen...)
 It is sin, not personality, that is wrong with a person.
Sometimes it proves difficult to discern the difference, but personality is neither sin nor an excuse to sin.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

“Be where you’re at,” Part 1

                Almost three years ago, a very dear friend of mine used to shake her head at me and urge “just be where you’re at.” I didn’t know then that when she urged me to “be where I am at” that she urged me toward the core of love. For love, often posed as sacrificially giving rests in a matter of the heart as well as the will and seems to linger on two very big points: presence and acceptance.
           Being present means fully immersing myself in the moments of my life where I am now and the moments of those around me. It is enjoying the rain that is falling on the ground outside the house where I am babysitting. It means actually reading the messages from my friends when I’m skyping and responding first to what they say, stepping into their world, not making a commentary on or demand of their hearts. (Sometimes lessons get learned the hard way.) 
           It means seeing the rain in their hearts, or the sun, and rejoicing with those who rejoice, and weeping with those who weep. We don’t necessarily stay in their weather of emotions and thoughts, but if we never step into the world as far as they let us, we will never really understand. How can we sacrificially love and meet needs if we don’t see them?
      Sometimes this is hard for me. I like my world and all the interesting twists and turns often sing with familiarity. I’d rather judge your weather from a window, and not step in, be it to rain or sunshine. Or, I try to push a new lesson, new words, new clouds into another’s life. I’m missing it. I’m missing that my friend might be going hungry and does not need emotional support, but help to find food. I’m missing that a different friend is graduating and just needs space and grace to adjust. I’m missing that I am pressuring myself to be better and my own emotions and reactions may need attention and maybe I just need to spend a long time talking with God, or talk with a close friend after I talk with God, not before.

       I miss it all because I try to pretend and become something I’m not. I am not talking about growth, or change itself, but a pressure to have grown and have changed.  To be where I am not.

     If I don’t recognize that I am a finite unique human and accept that, how can I let you be one who acts and thinks differently than me? If I am not where I am at, hanging somewhere in a strange mix of Redemption and Fall, then how do I accept that we are both enough and not enough; both good, loving and kind, and selfish and wanting the world to be the way we long to demand; both feeling loved and unloved.
Maybe together we can be where we are at, on this earth, in this moment, be it struggling against sin and its effects or rejoicing in promise, or more likely a strange combination of both.  God is where we are at, and where we have grown. He does not necessarily ask for our performance in the future beyond commitment, nor actually expect us to fix the people around us, but to be where He is at, with His heart that sees and fixes, hands dug into His work, standing beside Him, leaning into Him. In that point where He works in our lives, He asks us to work now, commit now.

 He knows the future, and He is there too, but since we can’t get there, I wonder if being where we are at might help, even as “being here” sometimes gives space for dreaming and preparing for "there" without pressure to pretend to be somewhere else.  

Monday, June 1, 2015

Loss, Loneliness and Looking

The idea of following God is perfect.  A treasure glitters at the end of his path, eternity with Him, eternal security, life everlasting. It’s really the first that delights, but the cost of following the narrow path was higher than many wanted.  I started on this path and ran into red pain. Then loss glittering blue, an ocean of salty tears until finally I found myself buried in a grey loneliness, hating these colors worse than I might have because I had tasted the fresh green of life. The fresh green of life could be many shades,
The essence of being surrounded by a God who loves me completely.
 But grey? I did not bargain for grey.
In fact, I had thought that God promised that we would never, ever encounter loneliness because He would always be with us. Yet I found myself, standing in the middle of a grey lonely cloud, sinking in a blue ocean. And I said, “God, this is not what I asked for.”
I tried to run, jump off the path into the briers, but I was too buried in the path, I was all in or all out and I knew it. I tried to turn and stop, but really, stopping never did anyone any good. No one stops in the middle of a path. And I tried to close my eyes and keep walking. Peeking them open occasionally for green. There was nothing. Still, steps were taken. One more. One more again. I step out of grey. Then back in. Then out again. Bright colors appear in grey and I fix my eyes on them, laugh at their sparkles. The greyness started to fade away.
Then the sparkles dance moved, these sparkle’s path did not follow mine, and they but call from a distance.
And if I’m not careful, I could allow the grey to consume me, to seep through my skin to all that I am. These grey clouds have so little swirls.  The grey becomes thick so I can barely see just when I start searching for how I can give green to others. It is thick, I cannot see. One minute to the next takes an hour. I keep moving, head held high, one step in front of another. Still, the storm cloud does not pass.
But this time, this time I realize. The promise of presence is not the promise of green because the Fall tainted all colors. The promise of hope is not the promise of sunny skies because I still live in the battle. The promise that I would never ever be alone did not say that grey’s loneliness would not surround me.
It is time I stop running from grey but look into it.
As I squirm to leave it I miss the peaches and blues you can only see in a grey sky. I see that I am not alone, though loneliness lingers. I feel the tears beneath my feet as I walk, and I cry more into them. Loneliness hurts. Loss aches. There are hands I wish to hold, colorful smiles I want to see dance, stories I want to hear.
The tears swish.
We disobeyed.
I don’t know whether or not separation would hurt quite so much without the Fall, but I have been made two promises. I will never be alone, but I will also taste the effects of the Fall. He walks with me, but to where they will call me names. He walks with me but He does not stop them from judging. He walks with me, but He does not keep all special paths together.
            “Will you follow my path?” He asks in the grey. “You have made you commitment once, and again and again. Will you lay down your fists?  At the risk of work you hate the idea of? Into the risk of red pain? Into the promise of it?”
The thing about following this God is that you have to love Him. Because He asks the best, and hardest thing. “Open your eyes to the pain.” The pain He causes so we will put Him first.
Forgive. Let it hurt  more deeply by not pushing the pain into revenge. Accept that you have been pained and surrender to the fact that I made, love and give justice.  
Trust. Risk that the red of pain will return from the ones you forgive, and others, and My path.
Mourn. Open your heart to the loss, cry tears so that you will not drown in them inside.
Make peace. Put yourself in the way of other’s shots.
Give Compassion. Open your eyes to the pain of another. When you really see, then maybe you can really act.
Face persecution. Do you believe in your cause to the point of torture and death? I let the Fall live, will you live with the consequences even I face?
Across continents, or at home, financially, or emotionally, with the risk that you may be called to leave, will we be His followers? With the risk that He may take what you most love and with eyes open to the pain when or if He does, will we walk? The gift He will give is the one for which every human longs, to know true intimacy. But the way in which He will give it, and the pain we will receive differs. I must face the grey clouds without dancing colors because it touches on the ache and grey within, the grey that must turn not to bright colors of friends, nor the black ink of my pen, but to God first and alone. To your deepest love He may very well ask, "Do you love this more than me?"
 For what purpose does He lead us through pain? Whether it be the loneliness of a Sovereign act of friends moving on or the sharp edge of a knife questioning if you will follow Him, He works all things together for our good, not our pleasure, so  that We will become like Him (Rom 8:28ff).
Pure and True Image-bearers.   
We would be like the One who is, who became image, so we could see what we are meant to be. What a Christ follower is already: that he/she, we, will slowly start to become in reality.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Clichés, Beauty, and the Gospel

                I looked out over the sparkling water. The sun shone brightly, but with the exception of the daytime moon, I found myself rather unimpressed despite the knowledge that I should love this beauty. Countless people on my college campus would probably be commenting on the sunny day, but there is nothing mysterious about a sunny day. It’s like the volcano out my front window growing up. It was a snow top mountain, somewhat isolated, and everyone thought it was pretty. So what? I used to ask. It was big, it had its pretty moments, but it looked nothing like the ridges. The ridges held mystery for I could not know if what lay behind them. Sunny days, sunny days ask very few questions. They are the cliché-beautiful. And I realized, in all my ability to find beauty in the ugly: a cloudy day, rain, a hall way with very few pictures, I have lost the specialness of beauty. Yes, there is a bounce in my step as I walk around the pond, watching ducks dunk their heads into the water. Yes, there are smiles on the people around me. Yes, the sky is vast—but it’s almost too bright for me to look up. Now don’t get me wrong, it was incredibly nice to walk outside and not be so cold my head hurt. It was incredibly nice to feel a warm breeze and have a bounce in my step. But it was still too easy.
The assignment in class earlier was simple, in fifteen minutes go out and ask people how they would share the gospel. I asked two poor people who were recruiting on our camps (It’s not just any day someone walks up and says, “if you were sharing the gospel what would you say?”) The Gospel. Words that are about fifteen years cliché for me: “Jesus died for your sins.” Even when I taught it as a young Sunday school teacher I realized the five year olds had eyes glazing. 
What is wrong with them? It always sickened me that I could watch movies, read books, and listen to Adventures in Odyssey countless times over, but the gospel fell dead on my ears. Was not the gospel the most important thing in my life? But even as my brother commented that “All I have is Christ” is a good song, and I agreed with him, I still had a love/hate relationship with it. It was the same words over again. Except, that Jonathan was right. The words are complete. Almost. Countless times we don’t start with the right picture.
So where do we start? At the beginning. In the beginning God. I think it might be good to start there. Do you know God? How do you see Him? Do you know that He is both wrath and grace? Justice and mercy? How? Well let me tell you a story...
Once upon a time, God was the perfect good King. He decided He wanted to make the world. So He made one. He spoke everything into being. The sun and stars, the earth, water, fishes and giraffes, elephants and ostriches.  Everything. Similar Cinderella’s godmother only nothing existed before.  God said “this is good.” And then He decided that He wanted someone to care for these animals of His—so He created images of His. These creatures were different than the others because of the image bearing. And He gave them a few jobs. Adam named the animals. Adam and Eve were supposed to take care of the earth, do things (maybe invent some stuff), and have kids. There was one other thing: they weren’t supposed to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But then, someone asked them why they shouldn’t and eventually they did. Enter problem. They got kicked out of the garden, to protect them from another tree. When they ate the fruit, they started the process of death. Sin , anything that isn’t good and obedient to God, was passed from person to person. No one was born without it.
Over and over again, God reached out to people in a new way and offered them ways to be close to Him. He gave them sacrifices, but finally, He took another step.  He came Himself. (Enter Trinity Explanation: God is one divine essence in three persons, in other words, God is one and three at the same time. And no, I don’t get it. They are distinct, and the same at the exact same time and it makes no sense in my mind and any more explanation will lead me to heresy.) So, Jesus, the second person of the God-head, came to earth and became a man. He was even born. He lived the perfect life—like perfect, without any sin at all. He loved God first. He was righteous, and loving, and just.
Then He died. For God to be just, someone had to pay the death penalty. Sin was still in the middle of us and God. He had set up a system of killing animals, but it was an over and over again process for each thing that is lost. So Jesus paid the death penalty and God infused all his wrath on what we did wrong (all the inability not to sin we inherited from Satan). End of story right? My sins are paid for. Wrong!
Time passed slowly. Friday night. Saturday. Imagine the memories running through people’s minds. Imagine the tears His mom cried. Did the man who authorized His execution approve of his actiosn still?  Sunday morning. A friend and follower of the God-man went to do traditional burial practices. His tomb was empty. An angel appeared and told her that Jesus was alive. Alive! Jesus had died. No recitation, people had made sure of that. And then He was alive. This has been something I heard so much it sounds cliché. But really, how many people have died completely and come back to life. And how many of these people have already been buried. His disciples saw it. He appeared to a lot of people. Sin is NOW concurred. It was paid for, and it’s control was taken away.
Here’s the really strange thing: when we come to Him and commit to submitting to God as king like we are supposed to, repent (change our mind about doing things that are wrong), we also inherit His righteousness and justice and love. God sees us like that. We become alive at some point in that process. And then, when Jesus left, He sent the third person of the God-head, the Holy Spirit, to come into us and seal us. Now we are in the process of becoming in nature what we are in name. And even while the process is in progress, what Jesus did, and the acceptance of those who choose to recognize that God is well, God, and King, both over the world and individual lives, we get the privilege of being family. And as we are God’s family, we are also each other’s family and we need to love each other, because that’s what Jesus does: we are his followers.
There’s an ending too. And ending that hasn’t happened yet. Jesus is coming back. To reign like He is supposed to. And the world will be remade. All the people who committed to being re-imaged will get rewarded, all the people who didn’t and thus still lived with the guilt of sin on their heads will be punished—forever. How can a loving God do this, you ask? Simple. He’s just. And not He has justice, He is justice. He can’t not be just and punish the wrong things we do. The problem is not God, but our fallen view of sin. Because we do have a messed up view of it: even when we are being re-imaged. God did love them. He let the Trinity be separated and the Son bore the worst punishment in History.
So what does this mean? How is this less cliché to me?
                Sometimes it’s not. But... that might be because it is indeed beautiful. Even with all its brokenness involved, God’s story is perfect. God is perfect, how can He made anything less? It is clear, like sunny day. We’re talking  awesome King, terrible problem, and a hero who dies to save those He loves, climaxed with him coming back to life—only unlike the rest of the stories, it’s not that He didn’t really die.
There is mystery—how can there be trinity—how can a person both fully choose to follow Christ and God choose and elect them at the same time—why in the world would God try again when His perfect humans fell, again and again. What in the world would instill Him with the notion of re-imaging at such a high cost? People die for this around the world. 

Repeated may not always be cliché. God loves you, can be some very cliché words. Jesus died for you probably are too. But  His death and resurrection were anything but. Just like Michigan’s sun, it’s a very abnormal idea. Who do you know who made the world, died in it, came alive again and is gonna come back and rule over the entire world? And you, IF you have or do accept Christ, you get to know this King, personally. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

To Matter...

I have always had a very deep longing. It has shaped how I interacted with people, the choices I made, what I decided to become, how I reacted to anything in life. I have wanted to matter. I have longed to know what it is to be valuable and I have sought it: in thousands of unhealthy methods I have sought to be noticed, to be seen, to be needed...all so that I would matter.
Give me attention, I ask. But it is not attention I seek, it is to know that I am important to you. That I matter to you.
And that is the extravert in me, the person who deep down believed my value must be people-based and not based on accomplishments. Because people matter. People are valuable.
Over Spring Break, someone showed me I mattered to her. In the midst of a world that was already fallen, it spiraled further. That love touched the ache deep in my heart, love from one who might be a little too high on the list of people I want to matter to, love that came offered freely even though in my mind I was messing up. Or it was just because of the pain. It could not have been me.
I believed the need to matter was wrong after so many fallen habits that sprung out of that longing... from keeping long hair to overdependence, from writing because it was unique and no one else had tried it to jealousy, the need to “matter” has practically guided my life. The fear that someday I would wake up and discover that the world would be better without me. And then the day I believed it.
After it hurt people for too long, I crushed the need. I can be accepted by my friends, but it is selfish of me to need to matter. I wrote blogposts and heard no response. I realized there are thousands of books and I said to myself that I write not because it matters, but because I love it.
 But when I tried to crush the longing, I tried to crush myself. Unlike my sister and Emily Dickenson, the idea of being nobody sickens me.. I do not need to stand out at the crowded party anymore, but I do need to know that if I leave it makes a difference to someone in the room. I do need to know that without my story someone’s imagination would be a little bit less rich. I want to be as influential to someone as Gail Carson Levine and Laura Ingles Wilder were to my life. I do need to know that as I withdraw to my room to disappear, or I leave you alone because it is best, that I will still matter to you, that my value won’t simply disappear.

It is not necessarily that you see me, I have been seen by too many people. It is that I matter to you. That me gone would make a difference. That me here makes a difference. This is a longing of my heart. A longing I have tried to suppress. A longing that refuses to be silent.