Thursday, March 30, 2006

thirsty to hear more from the Lord

hmmm. wow. i'm nestled nicely in the best western roswell suites ending a day that was so up and down in ways i don't know if i can explain. i'm sitting here, right in the middle of a conference called thirsty that i've experienced as a revolutionary few days. this is the place 2 years ago where i heard the call of God to move into ministry. this is a place where i saw close friends open their mouths wide and drink in God. this place is a big deal to me.

i don't know if i came with any real expectations other than a break from work and time spent with jess. i got both of those things and a whole lot more. i've been blessed to surround this trip with rob bell's book 'velvet elvis.' i thought it would be another book full of things i agree with and a nice way to spend the plane ride here. the book has been more challenging than i expected. i'm not completely on board with everything he says, but there's a lot of truth in the pages i've read so far. and i'm hearing those words bent into different forms all through talks made by speakers here, my prayer life, the Word, and what jess has said to me. i don't think that's bizarre because i expect that here. but what i didn't expect is the message itself. i don't really know exactly what it is because i've been looking for a vision--what i still need is just a Savior who heals all the broken places.

last night francis chan spoke on the book of haggai (i know...totally crazy) about God saying over and over again that He is with us. the end of the talk blew me out of the water--God called zerubbabel His signet ring. that sounds bizarre, but when one considers what a signet ring symbolizes for a king it's a huge deal. haggai 2:23 is the same as when Christ told peter that whatever he loosed on earth would be loosed in heaven and what is bound on earth is bound in heaven. i never reached around that passage like that before. God is saying that we are His hands here--he trusts us and chooses us to carry out His plans. i knew that all before, but it somehow became personal for me then. He calls me to do His will. He has called me to preach to the prodigals. this is for real. this is not an abstract concept. and the coolest deal is He equips me to do it. totally. all that i need. end of story. i never realized how paralyzed by fear i am until that moment. i didn't know that i was hedging my bets in favor of a safer hand. but God isn't calling me to a safe hand, but rather a life of total abandon to His will.

so i cried those big, horrible sobs that only happen when realization is at its fullest. i was feeling more last night than i have since i moved to boston. i wasn't numb anymore. i wasn't rationalizing anymore. i stood up and was prayed over by strangers around me. i heard affirmations that my soul was parched and longing for. and the coolest deal is this was just the first day...

i read some earth-shattering stuff in 'velvet elvis' today and then voiced about 8 pages of it out loud to jess. i started crying in places and i wasn't sure why. i saw me on those pages. i saw people i love who stumbled in ministry there. i saw my need for a Savior. He's not just for asking forgiveness from--He's just as much about restoration and healing. i never thought i needed to be healed. i thought that part was all taken care of, but of course, i was wrong. i am so broken inside and need to be completely reworked by the Father. He needs to overhaul me in ways i never knew until today.

communion happened tonight at the main session. i didn't know if i could even handle that holy moment. i didn't feel deserving almost. but i walked up and ate of the bread and drank from the cup. i barely choked it down. when i got back to my seat i wrote this:

"there's something throat-catching about communion. how do we deserve that love? that sacrifice? how that we swallow that body and blood? the irony is that we can swallow it because of it. it requires us to choke it down sometimes to receive it. i don't know how that fits into my time here. another great wrestling to come out more like the One i wrestled with. burned down. refined. just simply less of me and more of Him. what this speaks about vision, work, church planting--i don't know. but i swallow it all down. washed clean by tears along the way. accepting the sacrifice that provides the way for accepting. resting in the God of Heaven."

i think i can see more of the fitting in now. i'm glad for perspective and how God washes it over me. Lord, bring more. bring the healing. bring the hope. bring only more of You.

Friday, March 24, 2006

how the duke blue devils steal my joy -or- how march madness reflects the mind of God

my name is jen and i'm a march madness addict. i love the games. i love making a bracket. i love keeping track of the scores. it's like having the super bowl last over several weekends. it's fabulous. when march rolls around i become a full-on guy. i handicap the teams and carefully make a bracket. i never fail to do horribly, but it's fun to cheer the teams on.

i realized the depth of my fanaticism during spring break of my senior year in college. i was enjoying a week in a time share in orlando with my girlfriends and around came final four weekend. i spent a lot of time reading about the upcoming games and attempting to talk about them with my fellow vacationers. that did not go over well. only one of the other girls cared about college basketball and her beloved kentucky had already been eliminated. but duke was still in it. duke is my team and has been since i was in 4th grade. i'm surprised i didn't attempt to go to college there, but i digress...

it was the night of the final and the girls wanted to rent a movie. what?!?! they had no comprehension of the battle that was about to ensue and the importance of being an active observer of that battle. after no short battle of our own, the majority ruled. we rented a chick movie. i don't remember what it was, but i do remember it being horribly sappy and telling them so. they all finally went to bed...and i had the big tv all to myself to watch The Game. it was wonderful, thrilling, engrossing, and horribly disappointing. i think it went to at least 1 overtime but my team lost. i cried with coach k that year. if only i'd been watching the whole time--maybe we would have won!

fast forward to present day. i attacked my bracket with vigor this year, even wagering $5 on the hopes of earning a first place prize of $190. the money didn't mean anywhere near as much as the bragging rights as the winner. work was abuzz with the distraction. comraderie and competition filled the air. updates were published. and i bragged about casting my confidence behind duke to win it all again this year. they have a tradition i said. they have an historical coach. jj redick is one of the best college players of all time. so went my marketing campaign.

duke battled their way through a tight first round game that made me nervous. they destroyed george washington in the second round. and then came lsu last night. it all fell apart at the end of the game, and for a little while, i hated basketball. i watched redick cry and hug his teammates as the seconds ground out of his last college game. then i changed the channel.

there's something entirely passionate about march madness. the conference tournaments in the weeks before and the selection show determine the 64 teams that get to play the last games of the year to determine the "best." seniors play their final games here. no name schools topple giants. no one knows what to expect at any time. nearly every game is a highlight reel on its own. the final 3 seconds are filled with talk of 2-possession games. in no other sport is it so close. at no other time is american sport so desperately primal.

the desperation is the appeal. it's a battle royale spread out over 3 weekends every spring. i wonder if the roman citizens looked forward to the tournaments in the coliseum as much. sport has been around ever since people used tools enough to gain leisure time. we played at war when we weren't actually at war. isn't that what it all is? just war games with different weapons? i think we're all hard-wired to battle in some way. if it's for a cause, the Kingdom, ourselves, or basketball, we all participate in battle. this is especially true for those of us who are believers. as we are being renewed with the mind of Christ, we see more and more the spiritual battle that rages all around us. and even more ordinarily, we feel the tension of the battle that rages within us between our flesh and the desires of God.

march madness can provide lessons for us as believers. on a basic level, we need to show the same passion for Christ as we do our favorite basketball team. the amazing thing about the spiritual battle is that our team (namely the Trinity) will always win out in the end. there's no reason to be disappointed, despite the enemy trying to tell us differently.

i think it's also notable that the teams that win the tournament aren't necessarily the ones with the best players, but those that play as one and listen to their coach. that speaks volumes to me about how we need to function as the unified body of Christ, always listening to the voice of God. we shouldn't get caught up in the spectacular talent of another "player" and let them do all the spiritual work. this battle belongs to all of us. we need to be complementary to the strengths and weaknesses of the Body in order to move forward to victory. this victory can come for the Kingdom as a whole or for each believer personally as the redeemed self wins out over the dead flesh.

i thank God that i can see Him move in something like college basketball. that He can use it to reflect His heart is a beautiful thing. And it makes me even happier that call Him Abba.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

recapturing 'me'

so i cut most of my hair off again. it's the hairstyle i've wanted for years and it finally happened. i didn't really plan it, but it worked out somehow. i liked the style in a pic i found in a magazine and the stylist modified it. i inexplicably ended up with the perfect hair at a salon in a strip mall, located literally around the corner from work. crazy, but very cool.

apparently others like the hair too. i've gotten a lot of compliments from people at work. i think it helps to work in a building with a lot of people and to also be one of the people in charge. ok, so some of these complimentors are maybe giving me lip service, but not all of them....right??

Sunday, March 12, 2006

dance of the dissident daughter

i began reading the book of same title as above thinking that i might learn something about the role of women in the church, but i found something much different. i found a collection of prose only loosely connected to scripture written by a woman who missed the point. i muddled my way through the chapters on her journey to find the 'feminine divine,' scarcely controlling my desire to burn the book or cross out passages. but i couldn't--it's a library book.

when she was finally able to find her answers, i was actually able to agree with something she said. she spoke about the essence of God not as merely other or transcendent, but also close and relational. the question is begged--why did it take so much jungian analysis, feminist research, and participation in mystical women-celebration to get to that point?

unfortunately, the author is still lost, despite her years in the southern baptist church. i think she's a victim of the 'christian culture' of the south, that sometimes empties the gospel of its wholeness. i weep for this woman. she works so hard to make faith complicated and non-traditional and eschews the simplicity of a God-man who died in the place of all. she forgets the glory of the resurrection in favor of the god of self. she shapes god in her own image in an attempt to cure centuries of cruelty to women. that injustice is not the fault of God, but growing out of the sin of man- (and woman-) kind.

i'm not sure if i can say what i learned since i'm not quite finished yet. i can say i'm thankful for a few things: i'm thankful that i can take what any author writes and pour it through the sieve of scripture. i'm thankful for a mind given by God to do that. i'm thankful for freedom from restriction (religious or governmental), so that i was able to even read that book.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

a little reality check

on saturday, rosana and i spent some QT at our fav haunt--the southie target. it's a great combo of classic target value and crazy ghetto-licious drama...but the target is not the subject of this blog, but merely it's setting.

so, rosana and i are in target on saturday. we're wandering around the home organization area (read: plastic containers of various sizes meant to 'organize' everything from trash to sweaters to wrapping paper) just chatting it up. she was talking about the date that was planned for later. i asked her if it was the same guy from last week--the one who stood her up at the restaurant. she said no, and then proceeded to give me a backstory that actually shocked me. anyway, the stand-up guy apparently called her on monday to try to patch things up and get another date. he explained that there was an emergency that caused him not to show up. when she pressed for more of an answer, he shared that his neighbor and friend (a female) had just gone through a breakup and was really upset. he was there consoling her when he should have been on a date with rosana. [at this point, i was already thinking this guy was pretty ballsy to tell such a tale and still ask for another date, but oh, this was NOT the end of the story...] she went on to press stand-up man why then, he didn't take a few seconds to call her. [this is where he becomes even ballsier.] then comes the response...he was having sex with break-up girl. holy crap. i think my chin hit the floor while we were checking out plastic trash cans! i'm not a naive person and i've done more than my share of sin and sketchy things, but this took the cake. i couldn't believe a guy would do what he did and expect to call, completely fess up and get another date with another girl! on top of that my surprise was expanded by rosana's reaction--she RESPECTED him for telling the truth. HELLO--TOTAL CAD ALERT!!

so here's the moral for matter how 'aware' or 'worldly wise' i think i am, the depths of sin will somehow find a way to surprise me. maybe this is a good thing--that i have some semblance of innocence left. maybe it's God's way of reminding me what He saved me from. no matter what, my eyes are opened wider to the lostness of my community and the drive to love that community has grown even stronger.

Friday, March 03, 2006

preach it!

Check out this story about Olympic snowboarder Kelly Clark:

I love the headline--A higher power: U.S. snowboarder Clark finds her victory elsewhere