Friday, July 10, 2009

The Unlikely Disciple

I read myself hoarse tonight, poring over a fantastic book that Stacey and I could not put down. What began with me spouting off a few funny quotes while we sunned ourselves this afternoon turned into hours of digging deep into the rich loam that is The Unlikely Disciple. I have never read a memoir written by a young person that was this honest and just knocked my socks off. The unique opportunity to see Christian culture through the eyes of someone foreign to it was priceless. Kevin Roose never sought to defame anyone in this book--he was just honest and very graceful. There are some things he mentioned that stung, but these are often things that also bother me about the particular brand of Christian culture purported by Liberty University. Kevin's struggle with faith but complete openness to fully participate in spiritual life on campus was remarkable. I also loved the random shout-out to my alma mater Grove City College that occurred amongst the pages.

But what will stay with me the most is what the book said to me about the value of relationship in a person coming closer to knowing Christ. Kevin presented himself as an 'insider' on the campus and was able to view everything without pretense and bias...and he walked away experiencing what it means to be truly loved by a Christian community. Maybe we should never put labels on people, separating them into camps of 'saved' and 'unsaved' and just live life with them. No shying away from doing the stuff of faith with them, ushering them into the experience but being gracious when they aren't ready to participate. Maybe this is 'relational evangelism' done truly well. I've always had an inkling that living life and drawing others alongside was it, but it never felt fully formed. This book as assured me of that truth.

The hard part is that life is rarely like a residential college campus, where you spend most of your time with the same people, doing all the activities of work (study), meals, sleep, and play together. There is no other time in life when community is so obviously present. This makes me all the more affirmed in the power of the collegiate moment to shape the trajectory of life and all the more empowered that God has me working in this moment with just these people. May He continue to provide me with the grace to expand what I've learned through this book into things I can put into practice on a daily basis with the students I serve.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Not My Home

I had an incredible Boston 4th of July weekend--the kind that makes you incredibly thankful to live in a place where people all over the world desire to come and celebrate the Nation's birthday. I spent yesterday with some lovely old friends and new ones, chilling out on the Esplanade the entire day, enjoying great munchies, games, good books, fantastic people watching, and basking in the heretofore absent sunshine. It was no less than brilliant. As Lia said, it ranks right up there with my top 5 days in Boston, even with the crazy climbing over and through fences, and walking the entire 3.5 miles home with my good buddy Jon.

My blistered feet were screaming this morning along with the rest of my 30-something body. But...time to make the chowder for family meal! It was a sweet morning, prepping the old family recipe and watching the epic Roddick-Federer Wimbledon match. Then Kristin and I ran off to city hall plaza, where she found all the cool free stuff and I ate the other kind of chowder. Tonight we had a super fun family meal night with way too much food (as per usual), lots of laughs, loud talking, and impromptu singing.

All of this was so sweet, but it somehow left me longing. Knowing that so many friends are leaving Boston in weeks or months, I felt a sense of needing to cherish the moment. Just like when I was a kid, savoring each gulp of grape juice, holding it in my mouth to fully taste the sweet layers of flavor before swallowing it, I took in these days. I want to be wrapped in a warm blanket of friendship without anyone leaving me. I've had my share of leaving and being adds up after awhile. I'm missing those old friends from college years more as I approach our reunion this fall. I'm pondering Florida memories and good times with Boston friends who've left.

There's nothing wrong with remembering...but there's something else I need to remember: this is not my home. No matter how I feel about God calling me to Boston, my true home is not here, but in heaven. This sounds bizarre, but it's true. No other place will fully satisfy my longing to be loved, cherished, and respected. Christ is the only one who will never leave me though I may run away from Him. I aspire to be like the followers mentioned in Hebrews 11, of which the writer says, "Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted. But they were after a far better country than that—heaven country. You can see why God is so proud of them, and has a City waiting for them" (Heb 11:13-16, MSG).

Despite the startling beauty of the moment, friends, fireworks...there's more than this that is not fleeting and waiting to be broken. Let me cling to the one who uses our longing to turn to Him.

Friday, June 19, 2009


Sitting nearly a month on the other side of my last posting is interesting. It was really good to read it again just now because my circumstances have changed dramatically. Only a few days after that post, I was informed that as of June 30 the contracts for clients in one school district weren't being renewed. This makes up about 75% of my income. I went through all the stages of grieving, feeling incredibly confused about the whole situation, but seeing God's hand over all of it. The previous malaise and feeling out of sorts was preparation in a sense for the current series of events. This is my opening to step out into something new and slightly scary.

I have my good and bad days where this situation is concerned. I vacillate between boldness to do the impossible and fear that drives me to constantly seek a way to pay for my life. Today is a good day--I feel ready to drive a stake in the ground and declare my intention to walk forward into what I feel is God's desire for my life at this point. I'm maintaining my positions as chaplain at Northeastern and leader at Shawmut Springs Church, and will begin a full-time course of study at Gordon-Conwell seminary in the fall. I will probably be working part-time with my current job (I still have 5 hours a week with 1 client) and am seeking additional part-time work. I have no idea how I'm going to afford to do this, but I am overwhelmed by God's leading to read Matthew 6 and Luke 1:37 this morning. Both passages are about God's abundant provision and His ability to work the 'impossible.' I assent to loving a God like that, but 99% of the time I behave as if that God doesn't exist. This is a time where I'm being called to take steps on the waves, needing to trust fully that fixing my eyes on Him will keep me from sinking.

I've seen God do absolutely incredible things but still foolishly doubt Him with my curse/blessing of a scientific mind and independent spirit. I don't want to be chained to a small idea of Him or myself--I need to release of my vision of our identities. I want to truly trust and lean into a God that I know will fully care for, love, provide, and nurture me. I want to believe that I will not always be this doubting child who refuses help and only trusts what she can see with her own eyes.

These are prayers that God answers and I KNOW He will respond tenfold today.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Just not right...

I am officially burnt out.

I don't feel good at anything right now. I spent most of today researching new ideas for a behavior plan and I came up with nothing. I feel like I'm dropping the ball with ministry stuff too. I'm just off in a way I can't describe or understand.

I do have moments here and there that I catch a glimpse of myself in my element--in conversation with Ben about college ministry and in conversation with my neighbor Julie about the grant project I worked with in Florida. But those moments are few and far between now.

The kicker of it all is that I don't know what's wrong and I can't seem to fix it. I have no brilliant solutions for myself or anyone else. I have little confidence in my ideas or thought processes. It's like someone poked a hole in me and I'm slowly losing air.

Most of the time I'm just numb to it, functioning OK and doing what I need to do every day, but there are days where it just hits me. Today was one of those days. A conversation at a meeting and working on this behavior plan kept me inside and hiding all day.

It's so hard to not know what I need, because if I knew I could ask for it. I'm treading water, drifting farther and farther away from shore. I know it's dangerous but I'm paralyzed from swimming somehow.

I keep crying out to God for some realization or direction and I'm not hearing a response. I know I need Him more than anything else, but there's a blockage I don't understand. When I think about people from the Bible like Joseph and Job who went through long periods of difficulty and confusion I am encouraged, but I forget it all so fast. There is greater purpose in this and there's definitely a war that I can't see that's affecting me. I hate the enemy so much for distracting and discouraging me, but I know God has a greater plan for it all.

Maybe I need to claim His victory more often and rejoice that my life is in His hands. To proclaim His name and fame. To remember every second that I am NOT just a sum of my deeds but so much more than that. To stare in the face of opposition knowing that I don't fight battles alone--curse the enemy speaking that lie in my ear!

This is a pep talk for me and everyone else who is feeling overwhelmed. We can cling to the cross together--we can rejoice more loudly because we are unable to do anything in our own strength.

"His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins." (2 Pet 1:3-9, NIV)

"Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God. The best invitation we ever received! We were also given absolutely terrific promises to pass on to you—your tickets to participation in the life of God after you turned your back on a world corrupted by lust.

So don't lose a minute in building on what you've been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can't see what's right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books." (2 Pet 1:3-9, MSG)

I think I just found some verses to memorize....

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Call Revisited

Chris gave us an assignment this week--to remember why God called us to Boston. I put it off until tonight. I had lots of important things to do, like obsess about cleaning the stainless steel fridge and rearrange all the pictures on it so they are lovely geometric collages. Yeah, important.

So I finally dug out old journals tonight. It firstly reminded me that I should write more. I journaled a little bit then and I do it even less now. Argh...what stuff am I forgetting? It also reminded me that I can be incredibly misguided. Another argh. But then I got to the good part--the list of what God showed me at Passion05. That was where God called me to Boston. It was incredibly moving to read that list over again, especially in light of the cynical journal entry from one of the days just before the conference. I was definitely brought right back to those amazing days.

Honestly, this Boston journey hasn't gone as I would have planned for myself. It has been an intensely shaping, growing, and stretching experience. Despite that, I still often feel like I am not truly sharing in Christ's sufferings in this place. That there is something more that God needs me to learn about carrying Christ in my everyday life. All I still know is that He wants me to continue learning in this place. To continue contextualizing the Gospel to those I meet, pray over, drink coffee with, and love. May my awe at God's call be as fresh on March 30, 2009 as it was on January 5, 2005. Fouryearsthreemonthstwenty-five days is less than a breath to You...You havebeenarewillbeworking in Boston calling people to Yourself, somehow using me in that process. Amen.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Passion 2010 Webcast

The Passion 2010 live launch webcast was Monday night and I was so excited for it. Despite my nagging cold/flu, the equally sick Stacey and I laid on my bed, staring at laptops and worshipped Jesus together. Louie Giglio, Chris Tomlin, and Matt Redman led worship in a super low-tech (for Passion) night hosted in the 'big room' at the Passion House in Alpharetta, GA. There was no giant stadium or massive field to kick off this season of leaning into God calling students for 4 days of worship and rearranging of hearts.

It was awesome to hear them sing off key once in a while and have technical problems. These people are not perfect megastars (not that they ever say they are), but just people God has called to stand in the spotlight for this generation. Stace and I loved every minute of it because it felt a lot like our local fellowship here in the living room down the street.

As a part of signing on to the webcast, you could input your name, campus, and city. Northeastern U got a shout out, which I thought was pretty awesome. At another point in the night, Louie asked for people who are leaders that have been affected by Passion as students to email in prayer requests. Stacey somehow blazed off an amazing email and she was prayed for by name by one of the Passion staff members during the webcast. Additionally, Louie posted nearly the entirety of her email in his blog post the next day. She has been asking God lately for more people to pray for her and our ministry with college students in Boston--God certainly answered in a big way since the webcast and Louie's blog are viewed by a huge audience!

Also amazing was the fact that the discount registration for the event was opened that night. I needed to reserve 10 spots since that's what I felt like God was telling me to do. Only the first 1000 registrations would go for the $99 price. Well, by God's grace we got all 10 of those spots for that price! As Louie's blog stated the next day, those 1000 were gone in 7 minutes 8 seconds. Praise God that I can type quickly and that Stacey manned the computer when I left for a bathroom break!!

It truly was a lot of emotion packed into only 90 minutes of worship and prayer. I'm so thankful that God can use technology to unite hearts from all around the globe. If Passion is able to post the stream again, it would be worth watching!

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Jesus Threw Me In the River

I don't think I can do justice to my thoughts right now, having arrived home just over an hour ago, completely exhausted mentally and physically. I'm overwhelmingly thankful for all who were holding me up in prayer this weekend. I felt it and it made all the difference.

This weekend was a woah moment. I knew God had a lot to teach me and prepare me for, but it was unlike what I expected. I truly learned what it was like to approach students where they were from a position of humility and an openness to dialog. If you know me, you know I love being right. The truth of the Gospel is so important that it often becomes the ultimate "right." Many times the shape of that results in condemnation--more often than not driving people away from Christ. Well, God drove any need to be correct out of my heart this weekend. I found the humanly impossible balance of speaking truth with love. I listened way more than I spoke, but when I spoke, students (and others) listened.

I feel so incredibly blessed to have been used in this way. It was probably some of the most challenging days of my life, but I saw Jesus covering everything. It gives me faith and assurance that God can always work through me like that--when I have a willing and yielded spirit.

I want to be able to continue the conversations that began with so many. There was little idle talk amongst the group--they came to the table hungry. Pray alongside me that I would continue to have contact with all of these students with whom I was able to have more extended conversation:


Several of these students "ended up" in the small group discussions I led, at my workshop, sitting next to me in big sessions, and at my meal table time and again. Nearly all of them do not have Christ at the center of their lives, but they are thirsty to drink from a well that does not run dry. They are hungry to taste and see. They desire wholeheartedly to do justice and love mercy. The piece that is missing is the Lord and walking humbly with Him. May these students be specifically connected to me or other students or people of faith who can walk alongside them in their journey toward Christ. Praise God that He is in control and desires for all to come to Him!

I am so thankful that I am able to be a small part of His movement at Northeastern and in Boston. He is truly mighty to save. He is bigger than the air we breathe.