Travel Advice & Summer Plans

I haven’t even left the airport and I already have a valuable piece of travel information to share. No matter how much it entices you with its delicious guacamole and relatively healthy ingredients, say no to the burrito so large that no average human should be able to fit it in their mouth. Please, make a far more sensible choice, such as something that comes with a plate and a fork! Why is this so important you ask?

If you want to be humbled and embarrassed, be my guest. Attempt to whittle away that behemoth one bite at a time as you hold it in flimsy foil that allows for escapees no matter how delicate your process. Watch as chicken bombs repeatedly fall to the seat next to you, spraying rice and guacamole debris in a six inch radius. Attempt to clean the sauce out of your jeans without grinding it in. Try to convince yourself that the smile on the face of the elderly gentleman you just made eye-contact is not because he is laughing at you internally. Grimace as a man in an expensive suit sits next to you, and pray that you succeeded in cleaning the grease from his seat. Ponder the thought that you haven’t even boarded the plane, and you already feel gross from this experience, feeling none of the class you secretly hoped to exude on a plane headed to Paris.

However, if you would rather avoid such disturbing happenings, the answer is clear. Simply say no to gargantuan burritos before your next transatlantic flight.

Why am I at the airport? Apparently, I’m going to Scotland. I say apparently because it hasn’t quite sunk in, even now. While I am there I will fulfill my internship requirements by working with a great Christian ministry called CLC, in a bookshop with a cafe in it. For those of you so inclined to pray, I would surely appreciate it. Please pray for travels, acclimating, that I’ll be a blessing to the team and anyone I meet, that this will help give me direction for the future, and most importantly that I would learn to love people well and be able to live and speak in a way that reflects Jesus to all I might meet.

I can still be contacted via the internet and snail mail, but my phone will be off for the summer. I’ll attempt to keep updating those interested here as time allows.

I truly have no idea what this summer holds, but that’s fine because He does, and He is going with me on this new adventure.

Published in: on May 26, 2016 at 4:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

Weeds.

IMG_6063[From the archives: Spring Semester 2016]

It all began in chapel.

I had decided that I was going to listen.

I was going to pay attention.

I was going to learn something!

Yet as the speaker went on, I found myself mentally sinking back in my chair in relief. Here was a sermon that was not for me.

Actually, I didn’t quite think those exact words to myself, but I did categorize this sermon as addressing something that actually wasn’t a struggle for me. Finally, I could relax a little, trusting that I would never become like the person in the illustration the speaker was using.

It was then that I noticed Pride had a smug little grin on his face, and he was  kicked back in his chair, relaxing. He had done his job. He had planted a seed.

In that moment I knew I was in danger, and I swiftly asked the Lord to keep me humble. It was a sincere prayer, and somehow even as I prayed it I had the feeling that though I had no idea how it could play out, I would soon see that I struggled more in this particular area than I thought.

It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes I just don’t want to be right.

Less than three hours later I found myself curled up on my bed sulking. Thankfully the expansive pity party I was planning in my mind was called off as I was drawn to take this to God. The last three hours had been painful for me, and I mulled over them with the Lord. As I prayed I realized that things has had proven painful not because of others’ actions, but because the way I was thinking about the situation was wrong. Enter the irony.

The very thing I had so recently been sure I would never do, I had just done.

“Surely not!” I began to protest.

All my objections melted into tears.

I hated this feeling. My heart that had seemed so pure had failed the white glove test, and I was ashamed.

Yet as I repented and talked through this with God, my pain was soon soothed with the balm of thankfulness.

I had asked the Lord to keep me humble, and here He was humbling me. I regularly ask the Lord to show me the ways I grieve Him, and here He was revealing buried sin. He was helping me weed it out before it could grow into a full-fledged poisonous plant. Ripping out that weed truly hurt. Yet I would far rather experience this short lived painful process now, than wait until the bitterness of my bad way of thinking had gone beyond my own mind to affect those around me. Not only that, but He was removing a weed so that a healthy plant could grow.

Through this I was reminded of the sobering truth that it is never safe to assume that I am beyond any sin. How dangerous it is to think otherwise, and apparently I must learn to guard against even that which might appear ridiculous. I found that though He has done a great deal to change me already, I apparently do not know how much grime is still left in my heart. Oh to be fully sanctified!

Yet until that day of complete sanctification comes, I can rest in the fact that He knows the true state of my heart at all times. He always did; I do not surprise Him.

And He still loves me? I am still His child? He has not given up on me? He longs to help me grow?

This is a delight that makes the painful weeding process worth it.His love assures me that which might hurt for a moment is ultimately for good.

How kind He is to discipline those He loves, and how amazing it is that He loves us indeed.

 

Published in: on May 25, 2016 at 9:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Spackle.

[Mostly] Written during Summer, 2014, when we were building our house:

I have dreamt about spackle* three times in the past week. Yes, spackle; that gooey substance one uses to fill holes in drywall, etc. You see, I have spent many hours this week spackling our new living quarters. As I have climbed the rungs of spackling procedures (but without intensifying ability), I have become inadvertently obsessed with spackle. When I drive home from working with it all day, no matter how I attempt to think upon anything else, all I can notice are the grooves, cracks and pot holes in the asphalt that I feel compelled to fill and smooth. I have begun to pay close attention to the walls of our apartment, noting each flaw. I found myself attempting to fill an indentation on my face with my foundation, and I see spackle and a mud knife when I close my eyes. As I was drifting off to sleep the other night, I dreamt that a fantastically colored hot air balloon drifted down from the skies. I boarded it, and was blissfully enjoying soaring through the clouds when my relaxation was shattered. The basket of the hot air balloon suddenly and inexplicably morphed into a giant spackling pan, and a mud knife descended upon it to scrape itself clean. Like it or not, for some reason I am fixed on this spackle thing.

It even came out in conversation with a complete stranger at a coffee shop. He laughed and said something to the effect of “Isn’t it funny how the things we focus on come out like that?” He then told me that after working on a poetry project, he dreamt that a man in his business meeting began speaking completely in poetry.

It struck me a bit odd how quick I was to talk to a stranger about something as rudimentary as spackling. It just slipped on out, since it was on my mind. And in my dreams.

What in the world.

Here it was, concrete proof that what you focus on will affect you.

It seemed that my life so revolved around what I was doing day after day that I was being consumed by it. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the irrepressible words and thoughts that were my obsession proved to be something far less dismal and more meaningful than a drywall process?

Wouldn’t it be great if I speaking of the greatness of God just slipped out as easily when speaking with strangers because it has absorbed my life?

I have no great cogitations on this subject, dear friends.

I simply want to see this, in my life and the lives of my brothers and sisters in Christ. That we will continue to grow in degrees of obsession. That the praise of God will ever be on our lips, and that our conversations would be ones that build each other up. I could ramble on forever concerning how to make this happen, but I think most of us know deep down where we individually need to start. But collectively, here’s my challenge. Church, let us be known for our love for the living Christ and each other rather than meaningless obsessions and behaviors that in the scope of eternity do not matter anymore than my silly spackle will.

*Disclaimer to anyone who understands construction: I might use incorrect terminology here. We were doing drywall, and I was told the goo was spackle, and spackle I shall go with.I only mention this because people have been confused by me with this before.

Published in: on April 19, 2016 at 7:22 pm  Comments (2)  

Oh the wonderful . . . what?

IMG_4947The silver cross ornament dangled from the rearview mirror of our vehicle, its pastel jewels catching the sun as it swayed. It had been a long trip to Colorado, and I remember pondering during those hours just how different this cross was from the one my savior died upon.

I remembered this moment years later in chapel as we sang “The Wonderful Cross.”  The message of the song as a whole is indeed good, but I became stuck on that one line that composes its title. As we sang the phrase over and over again, my imagination kicked in and I suddenly felt a bit sick. I had to push through the words. Could others see me grimace?

The cross is a gruesome instrument of execution, meant to bring an end to the life of a criminal. I suddenly felt I was singing, “oh the wonderful electric chair,” “oh the wonderful noose. “

“Oh the wonderful guillotine!” Complete with splattered blood, limp body and jeering crowd.

I’m not trying to be disgusting here, but this is the sort of cross Jesus endured. Not the Americanized, bejeweled sort of cross that is embroidered on purses or worn around the neck.

There’s nothing wrong with identifying yourself by using the symbol of the cross, but I know that I for one have become too accustomed to it. I have let myself accept the pretty version of the cross, the version with the blood of my Savior scrubbed clean. The version that included the shame of a criminal’s death and the scorn of an angry mob. A mob that might as well have included me, since it was for my criminal deeds He died.

I think it is dangerous to forget the grim reality of the cross on those days when we are tempted to be ashamed of the gospel. When we are tempted to be angry at God for our suffering. When we are being treated unfairly by those around us. When we are lonely. Jesus endured the pain, the jeering, the shame, the separation from the Father: publically for all to see. He understands experientially the horrors our world can dish out, and this is another of many reasons that he is the perfect intercessor before God for our sin scarred humanity.

When I forget this and look only at the sanitized cross I am not allowing myself to be comforted and strengthened by the One who experienced suffering and abuse in ways beyond my imagination. When I am lonely and I grumble, I lose the chance to look to the Messiah who cried out from that cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Surely there is no depth of loneliness greater than what Christ felt when the Father poured out His wrath on Him because of our sin.

Sometimes I bypass the cross entirely. I sing the words to of this hymn and only remember what the cross led to, which is in fact, why we sing out “oh the wonderful cross.” It is the result of Christ’s obedience on the cross that makes it wonderful to us.

Please, when you think of the cross, do remember His victory and His glory. Remember that He is no longer on that cross. Be in awe of what His resurrection means. Remember always that He is alive, and that He is coming back for His own.

But on those days when you feel the sorrows of sin, or the pain of suffering please remember also the truly sacrificial love He exhibited by taking the route of the cross. He exchanged heaven for earth, humbling Himself to the point where He was led to death by the people He created so that He might obtain victory; glorifying the Father by giving us the chance to be made right with God.  Let that, or rather, let Him be your comfort and your strength when the temptation to despair rises. His was the greatest sacrifice, and His is and will be the greatest victory.

Published in: on April 16, 2016 at 3:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

Contemplations on a Dreary Sunrise

Fullscreen capture 1222016 83234 AM

I imagine that watching the  sun rise through drizzling rain clouds is not a favorite pastime of many. I also doubt that its monotone hues cause any pauses of admiration. There are no dramatic bursts of color that mark the horizon with beauty, but instead progressively lighter shades of grey slyly permeate the expanses.

And yet, the main purposes of the sun have not been thwarted.

It remains there, shedding light so that we might see and navigate the world around us.

It remains there, providing the warmth our planet needs to insulate us from the deathly chill of space.

The sunrise that comes through rain clouds might lack the dazzling beauty that we long for, but it still provides light and life just the same.

Therefore on those grim days where it might seem that the sun isn’t even shining, it is good to remember that we are still being sustained by a far away star, and a nearby Son.

Published in: on January 22, 2016 at 3:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Persistent Artist

brushesIf my life is as a canvas

And God is working a masterpiece

I am sometimes as a wayward child

Smearing fingerprints across the handiwork

Of the one who gave the great artists their skill.

 

When clarity and conviction meet

I stand in utter shame before what I have done,

My pride has again blighted

Something He was making beautiful

To show off His might

 

Time passes

And others stare disapprovingly

As I try in vain to fix it

Running my stained hands across it

Smearing it, making it worse.

 

I stare at the mess in sorrow,

Repentance on my tongue,

Knowing others have seen this folly.

Yet suddenly hope springs

As I realize that the Artist is still working.

 

My life is not a watercolor painting

Which can be irrevocably marred

With one slip of even the most careful hand.

No, my Master paints in acrylics.

His is a medium of grace.

 

Layer upon layer he covers over my stains

His hand works His skill and a picture emerges that is no result of my hand

I keep him busy as this child grows,

But His artistry is persistent.

He works redemption in His artistry of forgiveness, in His medium of grace.

Published in: on September 10, 2015 at 2:44 pm  Comments (2)  

Yearbook

1238143_594117287955_1638468698_nSummer has passed the halfway mark, and some of us are itching to return to school, while others are now slightly perturbed that I have reminded them of that fact. As the return to university grows imminent, I have been reflecting on my first year and pondering what the return will be like. There will be many old friends to catch up with as well as friends whose absence will be felt. There will also be fresh faces to meet. All of this leaves me in great anticipation. Flipping through my yearbook shows me that in spite of the fact that there were occasions I felt a bit hermit-ish during the first semester, the people at school were definitely responsible for many of the joys of this past school year.

I find people to be delightfully fascinating, as they are something akin to walking, talking pieces of art and collections of stories. I tell you this because for a little bit here it might sound as if I don’t care for people at all. That’s not true, rather the case is that sometimes I allow my viewpoint to become skewed. This is especially true when thrown into a new situation with crowds of strangers, where good sense seems to flee and pride or insecurity fight each other to take its place.

Pondering how this new season might progress has led me to rehash some of the lessons I learned during this past year.

Lesson One: Don’t write off people as potential friends.

During orientation I sat with a girl in the caf who was dressed in our school’s athletic paraphernalia. She consequently explained to me what cross country was, and the thought passed my mind that we wouldn’t be friends. The reason?  Athletic people don’t like me, I told myself. Thankfully, I was proven wrong. If I had clung to this idea I would have missed out on an amazing friend.

Lesson Two: You never know how your common interests or differences will connect you

Begin asking questions, and you might just find that you have strange things in common. A favorite preacher, family members who know each other, being part of an obscure missions agency, a love of old TV shows, jazz, or Anne of Green Gables. All of these can serve to spark a friendship. Or, you’ll find that your differences are a chance to learn and stretch yourself. How good it can be to make friends with people who are not just like you, for it makes life so much more intriguing.  You learn that what is normal for you might not be perceived as normal by someone else. For example, some people don’t view smelling books to be an enjoyable activity. Who knew?

Lesson Three: Don’t assume. Don’t do it. Really.

For the outgoing introvert such as myself, being forced into a crowd of strangers provokes many assumptions. They can range from disparaging thoughts of “oh, they’d never want to talk to me” to the desire to instantly shove others into manageable categories. However, doing this is a recipe for trouble.  I have found that I can learn something from everybody, and taking the time to get to know someone better often reveals startling discoveries.

The quiet one is just waiting to be asked to tell a story.  The insecure girl blooms when given a little encouragement. The suave guy is actually not very kind, but some of the slightly awkward people truly are. The unassuming fellow is exceedingly talented. The girl who seems to have it all together needs Jesus just as much as the rest of us. The “carefree” ones often use jokes and smiles to cover the pain they deal with regularly, whether it be physical or emotional.

This has shown me that I must seek to love people from the beginning, and not wait until they show me some quality that I deem “likable” before I decide to do so. That is Biblical, after all, while my temptation to categorize people (including myself on occasion) according to “worthiness” is not.

Lesson Four: Observing other people is a chance to be inspired

This past year I  found myself inspired by many who were likely unaware of this fact. I saw the pains they took to finish a job correctly, or how they listened attentively when others were speaking. I saw them include the person who appeared lost in the cafeteria, and sometimes that lost person was me. I saw how they spoke the truth in love even though it made them uncomfortable. I saw how they humbly accepted this loving rebuke. I saw how intent they were on learning, their endless hospitality, the love they have for people groups they’ve never encountered, or the simple joy they gained from a good conversation.  I’ve observed the ways God has changed them, the ways He’s using them, and the passions He’s given them. I saw their honesty about their brokenness, listened to their thankfulness, and observed their willingness to drop what they were doing to pray with those who needed it.  In these things I saw God’s handiwork.

I am thankful for the dear people at school who became friends and are becoming friends. I am thankful for the nights I came home to scads of shoes scattered across the entry way, and a living room so crammed full of smiling faces that I had to step over people to get to my room. I might not have always been awake enough to join them, but I most certainly enjoyed hearing their laughter from the other room as I drifted to sleep. I am thankful for those who included me when I was too tired to attempt to include myself. I am thankful for those who shared stories with me this year, whether it be their testimony or fanciful fiction drawn from their well of creativity. I am thankful that the Lord has reminded me that we all are in different chapters of our redemption stories, and that instead of drawing swift conclusions about people I should rather seek to encourage them in this grand story. I am also incredibly thankful for those who have chosen to encourage me in this way.

Encountering a person is encountering a new volume of stories, and as they say, you can’t judge a book by its cover.

Whether at school or the grocery store, we meet them every day. It’s all rather exciting, don’t you think?

Published in: on July 12, 2015 at 8:21 pm  Comments (4)  

OklaHOM(E)a

wildflowerIt’s been only a week since my last final, my last essay, my last class. Yet it seems ages since I bid friends goodbye, and temporarily exchanged realities. The world of academia, sweet community and stately pines has been put on hold while I return to the world I left behind.

I’m back to the familiar landscapes of my youth, where memories emerge from the most mundane of landmarks. Even the weather is familiar.  The sporadic cool days of late May will soon exchange its lively greenery for sun-faded grass of July. Nights filled with tornado sirens and flash floods will be exchanged for still stifling evenings where we will be free to venture outside.

Drives through the rural areas near my home are fraught with distractions. Tiny calves enjoying the freshness of the world gaze at me with wide eyes as I pass by. Nights are filled with the awe inspiring diversion of glowing orbs whose praises illuminate the heavens. Conversations are interrupted by abrupt swerving in attempts to spare the lives of gutsy turtles that eek their way across the pavement.

Currently my favorite roadside distraction has to be the wildflowers. These blooms gaze brightly at the sun,  unaware they are being admired (as most truly beautiful things often are). Though it seems a bit cruel, one cannot help but think plucking them and placing them in a vase is the best way to cling to their delicate beauty as long as possible.

My memories of this past school year are much like those flowers. I want to hold on to these sweet moments and keep them from fading, for university life already seems so distant. Coming here is a bit like putting life on pause and forgetting about the future.

I look at the empty boxes in my calendar and though I hate to admit it, I am afraid. No longer is my time dictated by homework. Oddly enough, I actually get to decide what to do with most of my time, and ponder how to make the best of it. Finishing finals week has left me antsy, as if I constantly must be doing something. I need to learn how to truly relax and rest when it is needed. Yet hanging over me is the knowledge that something about this place makes me lose my motivation to do anything worthwhile. This summer especially, time is a gift. In the midst of my scholarly pursuits I always tell myself I would do such-and-such-thing if I only had the time. Now I am faced with the challenge of that: will I actually do those things now that time presents itself? Opportunities for good things rarely come without at least a bit of trepidation, for they are usually coupled with a chance of failure. I have decided that this fear cannot dictate my summer. I might not have everything worked out like I want it to be, but that’s not a terrible thing. God’s grace is ever present, and every day I wake up to the reminder of his faithfulness in the form of Lamentations 3:21-26. I literally awake to it because I carved into the wet plaster of my wall at the end of a particularly difficult summer when I was spackling my room.

I find myself almost a year removed from that day, yet my need for God’s faithfulness is still very much present. So here I am, rambling on in an attempt to sort it all out and to preach to myself:

No matter how mundane, exciting, simple, difficult, unproductive or fruitful this summer proves to be, no matter how many “successes” or “failures” in tasks, ministry or relationships may come about, one thing is certain. The Lord God, the maker of delicate wildflowers, the sparkling spheres of the night and those pine trees I miss so much is the same God who has always proved faithful. He ties my two realities together, and proves the only constant. He knows my past and He knows my future, and He is what will get me through the present. Yes, there is a challenge before me, and I must do my best to meet it. Yet I must remember that if only I can keep my eyes on Him this summer, no matter how interesting or boring my summer tales might be at the end of it, if I continue to pursue Him, obey him and live in His love, this summer will be a smashing success.

Published in: on May 26, 2015 at 11:01 pm  Comments (3)  

The Last Verse

During the past week there have been several nights in which I have emerged from the library in a haze. After being boxed in for hours, my weary eyes were drawn on both occasions to the sky above that boasted a glittering array of objects ready to be admired. I was inspired to sing praise, but feeling feeble I turned on my phone and listened to Phil Wickam sing “You’re Beautiful” as I gazed into the expanse on my walk home.

Part of the reason I chose that song is for the verse that says:

moon

Indeed, what a Creator could make such things?!

Yet the part of that particular song that has been lodged in my heart and soul these past few days as I contemplate Easter has been this:

IMG_0274-001

 

The last verse.

The last verses of hymns or songs of praise often move me the most.

Perhaps it is because many songs follow a linear progression. Sin, suffering, the cross . . . and then the music swells, and the voices rise: it all cumulates in the final scene where His broken people finally shed their sins for good and stand in front of their perfect, glorious maker. Everything ends as it should have remained from the beginning.

Yet it could have ended as a dirge; a funeral song stretching on forever. The final song of the ages could have been one of despair.

Good Friday reminded me of this fact.

What good news it truly is, that Jesus is alive!

Today I feel the need for what Resurrection Day means. My weary heart has been reminded again just how much it needs a living Christ to sustain it through every heartbeat. As I have struggled lately to keep a proper perspective through situations that I already realize will seem paltry in retrospect, I have been able to find a song that I can sing. A song to the praise of the One who loves me even now in my brokenness, and whom I will be able to one day love in utter completeness.

IMG_0287

 

Published in: on April 4, 2015 at 10:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

Sunset.

The semester is already off to a running start. I have thus realized that my idealistic intentions of editing the things I wrote over break into perfectly crafted bits of text is utter nonsense. Therefore, I am going to be posting some things I wrote before they are completely outdated. Here is the first:)

——————

I was swaying back and forth on the bench swing, feet unable to touch the ground. I was taking a moment to just breathe. My last final exam was the day before and I had since been busy relocating my things from the old apartment to the new. It felt weird to simply sit still. No worries of homework to finish, no need to hurry. I had a chance to sit and simply “be.” How I had missed this!

The sun was beginning its descent over the apartment complex below and my mind was drawn back to humid August days. I moved on campus about a week before most other new students arrived for orientation. The university grounds seemed dead then, and I often would spend my evenings on this same bench, watching the sunset, praying and wondering what the semester would hold. And now I knew.

As the sun traversed closer to the horizon something beautiful began to happen. A flock of birds cut across the sky in a “v” formation. They were flying into the sun, like a group of cowboys signaling the end of a western movie. It seemed fairly fitting.

Another group soon followed them, each bird bouncing to the beat of its wings within the designated pattern. The birds were just silhouettes now against the blue and orange sky. Birds have long been creatures that make me smile. They are a reminder of God’s tender care for me, and I see them as living works of art that are somehow able to defy gravity. So at this point, I was already smiling. However, my smile would continue to stretch, for the birds kept coming. They dominated my entire field of vision, as formation after formation streamed across the sky. Just when I thought they were finally finished, I would see more tiny dots coming out of the north-east, morphing into sleek avian shapes as they passed before me.

I counted at least sixty “v” formations, not counting the stragglers who apparently missed the memo.

I finally grew too cold to remain there on the bench. The light was waning, but as I left to go inside, the flow of birds was not.

It’s difficult to explain how this made me feel, or just why.

But if simple words can attempt it, it made me feel awe, as if I just had stumbled in to some sort of complex aerial performance. I would have been pleased to have only seen those first few sets of birds, but instead I witnessed more than I could count journey pass. It was a sweet ending to my semester. A semester in which I had many times of weakness, but God showed how great He is in ways better than what I expected. Like the birds, His goodness just kept coming. That did not always mean that the problems were alleviated, but rather that when I looked upward I saw something good. Something beautiful. Someone majestic.

I began the semester knowing I could not make it through successfully without the LORD’s help, and at the end of it I was just as certain of that fact. So, as the sun sets on my first semester back in school, I want to express my gratitude for what He has done, and who He is. I look back in thanksgiving and forward in hope.

 

Published in: on February 5, 2015 at 7:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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