advent journeys: peace

How many times have I said it?
"Peace be with you."
"And also with you."

It occurred to me today that these words from the liturgy are so much more than just words. They are a blessing, and a heartfelt prayer. Made in the image of the God who speaks life in being, who said "Let there be light!" and there was light, our words have power. When we speak peace over each other, we are declaring it to be so. And when we say "amen," we are asking God to let it be so. "This thing we just said, God - this blessing, this wish for peace for our brother, or our sister - please. Let it be so. Let them be at peace." At rest. Healed. Whole. Well. Completely and utterly their ontological selves. Who they were always meant to be.

I haven't always thought about it that way. But it is what we're saying.

The last reading in Beth A. Richardson's The Uncluttered Heart this past week was about being a shalom bringer - the kind of person who brings the fullness of God's peace to people - and I'm pretty sure I met one yesterday.

I tend to steer clear of the holiday crowds, but my laptop bag got swiped last week, and with it (unless it is buried in the untidy-ness of my room) the cable that attaches my camera to the computer. So I went to buy a new one.

An older gentleman, new to the store and a bit overwhelmed by the phone ringing and all the people asking for help, nevertheless went out of his way to help me. After looking everywhere he could think of, he found someone else and asked him about it. "Oh," came the answer. "We don't carry that kind of cable here. You might try this other store." The gentleman who'd been helping me look for the past 5 minutes turned to me and said genuinely, "I'm so sorry. I hope you find one. Thank you so much for your patience." And then he smiled, reached out and touched my shoulder, and wished me a good evening. And he meant it.

I walked away feeling incredibly cared for, and at peace.

Maybe it wasn't a big deal to him. Maybe he's a Christian and behaving that way comes naturally as a result of the work Jesus has done in his heart. Maybe he was simply a kind person. I don't know. But in the middle of a crazy workday, he took the time to see me - not as yet another consumer who needed something, but as a person - and to wish me well.

It mattered. It made a difference to my day. And it made me wonder: how many dozens of opportunities do we have each day to make that kind of a difference, in His Name?

God, make me the kind of person that leaves others feeling that cared for, the kind of person who speaks your peace into the lives of others. Amen.

And friends - may grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. (2 Peter 1:2) Amen.

Santa Claus is blogging again!!!

It's true!

and Santa, it seems, is keeping up with the times. now, you can even follow him on Twitter.

advent journeys: hope

As previously observed, I love Advent. Currently serving at a non-denominational church that doesn't follow the liturgical calendar, I find myself missing the rhythm of it, especially this time of year. So I decided a couple of weeks ago to do what little I could about it: I bought a book.

My friend Amanda and I are reading The Uncluttered Heart by Beth A. Richardson. It's a daily devotional book that starts the first Sunday of Advent and runs straight thru the 12th day of Christmas. Only 4 days in, I can tell already that it is going to be a sweet few weeks with the Lord. (If you're interested, check out Beth's book and the associated website: - it would be fun if all of us read it together - and every reading stands alone, so you can just hop in, and catch up later.)

So the first week of Advent is about hope....

It was a couple of weeks ago when I wrote about how I was looking for something. I think, in retrospect, that maybe what I was looking for was hope. I hadn't quite realized that I'd lost it. I knew I felt a little stifled, purposeless, not-quite-myself - but I hadn't realized how hopeless I felt, and that hopelessness was ultimately at the root of the deep sadness I felt. Then, this past Sunday, the first Sunday in Advent, I sat down and I read about hope. And I skimmed through the discussion guide and noticed the question: "what are you hoping for this week?" I danced around it. Finally admitted that I was afraid to verbalize what I am really hoping for. Realized this was probably a problem. And went to church.

I had the privilege of worshiping in another country this weekend. I went home over Thanksgiving to visit my family out East and drove back through Canada, and stayed with one of my bestest friends, Cheryl. Cheryl is on staff at a very large church in Toronto that was founded with a huge heart for missions. (My kind of church.) :) This particular morning, they had a guest teacher: born in Wales, missionary to South Africa and several other places, now living in Canada, probably in his 70s, and not a single worry line in his forehead visible onstage. The joy of the Lord shines from within this man - and his passion for seeing the lost come to Jesus pervaded every word of his message.

And it was contagious.

As I listened to him speak about the heart of our Good Shepherd for His lost sheep, and the privilege that we have in being his agents that we so often forsake in what John Stott calls "our guilty silence" - simply not speaking of Jesus - I realized (again) that I have to teach.

It's an interesting grammatical construction that - "I have to..." I could have said "I must." And indeed, I must. It's what I'm called to do. But I have it.... it's been given to me. Teaching. The desire to teach. I'm stifled because I'm not doing it. As a worship leader, I got to teach a little bit. I've missed that. I do teach, here and there. In conversations with people, through letters/emails I write, etc. But that's just like icing on a proverbial cake, you know? The real cake is seriously teaching. Maybe even - dare I say it? - preaching.

I know this isn't new. I've known this for awhile. I've written about it here a number of times, I'm sure. But I've been so stuck in the rut of daily routine that I started to forget that this current daily routine wasn't meant to be a pattern for the rest of my days, but is rather still just a stopping spot - a place to fuel up and ready myself for the next stage of the journey. I wasn't supposed to put down roots so deep that I settled in too comfortably - but I'd started to do that, in spite of a niggling feeling that something didn't feel quite right. I'd settled for "this." I let go of the vision. Proverbs 29:18 says that for lack of vision, people perish - and I've felt the truth of that these past few weeks. In context that verse actually means that without the revelation of God's Word we'd all be dead (and it goes on to say that he who has the law is happy) - but the truth is we need God's word over our lives too. His written Word and His Son are enough - but the God who made dolphins to swim faster than they should be able to and bees to fly when they shouldn't be able to also made us, and has specific plans for us, and we need to be in communion with Him to know what they are. He designed each of us uniquely. And troubled Himself to arrange our moments and our days so that in interacting with each other we would learn and grow and change and become ultimately even more like Him. His design is incredible.

And it was no mistake that His design landed me in Canada on Sunday, hearing a man of God who'd been to South Africa. He didn't even talk about it - but he'd been there. He'd been where I'm going someday. And he believed in the importance of bringing creativity to the mission field, and went out of his way to mention it.

Somewhere out there is a place that fits me, I am sure of it. Or maybe, given this wanderlust, there are several, lol. I don't know where they are, or what they look like, or how I will get there. But I know that I will.

Because on Sunday, I got my hope back. I'm not even sure, really, how it happened. It just did. God gave me hope.

One of Cheryl's friends asked me if I'd been not listening to God or if I'd just been waiting for the pieces to fall into place. It was a good question. It seems I keep forgetting what God has said until reminded (tho being able to search my own blog for themes does come in handy for that; now if only my handwritten journals had that feature, lol!) - but really, I think I've just been waiting. And it feels like maybe that waiting is very close to an end now. Maybe.

It's Advent. The season of waiting. But it's only a season - and that for which we are waiting - it's just around the corner. Jesus is coming. He came, and He's here - and He's coming again.

Spera in Deo.


timing is everything

So I will grant you that driving until almost 3 am was probably not the brightest thing I could possibly have done, but being in Geneva - an appropriate first stop - put me on a path that led me through the right places at the right times on Day 2. If i'd stopped driving four hours earlier on Day 1, I would have hit Vermont and New Hampshire in the dark, and missed everything.

I took the highway most of the way to New England, but about 2/3 of the way through New York, I got off the toll road and onto the back roads, and it was the best decision I ever made. And this, too, is life. Sometimes getting out of the fast lane and taking a more leisurely pace through life is exactly the best thing.

No, I didn't take a GPS. But I did take an outdated atlas. :) So I figured out - as I went - which roads to look for and how to get across each state - and the road I took out of New York and into Vermont led me straight through the Green Mountain National Forest.

It was as beautiful as I'd always heard it would be.

There's a spot on the side of the road where, on a clear day, you can see for 100 miles. It wasn't a clear day, but since (true to form) someone had built a store across the street, I stopped. I got maple syrup and maple sugar candy (and one piece did actually make it all the way home!) and a couple of post-cards that I will probably never actually get around to mailing. And I just stood there - in the rain - and looked.

And as I drove through the mountains, and simply soaked in the beauty of God's creativity displayed in the trees and rocks and skies around me, I felt myself slowly becoming myself again. Recklessly and ontologically me. At least for a couple of hours. I caught myself smiling for no reason at all. Came close to almost thinking nothing at all.

It was heavenly, resting while driving. And this is why I do it. I do love to travel, tho 12-14 hours a day in my car does feel like overdoing it a bit. But the peace that comes in those moments when it's just me and God and we're not working on anything or talking thru any issues, but just resting in the fact that He loves me and I love Him, and I'm in awe again of the God who paints with this kind of passion and creativity - it's totally worth it.

looking for... something

Landing in Geneva, New York - and remembering that sense of "you'll know it when you see it" that preceded landing there - reminds me in retrospect that this, too, is entirely like Him. We hear the words "I know the plans I have for you" quoted out of context and ad nauseum until it becomes a platitude - but the truth is, God did know the plans He had for Israel, and He still does. And likewise, the God who knows how much hair came out in my hairbrush today does indeed know where I'm going and how I'll get there. But to quote Andy Stanley, "direction determines destination," and we don't always need to know where we're going in order to get there. It's enough that He does. We just need to do what we can with what we've got and do our level best to head in the right direction. We will mess this up. It's okay. God knows all about that too, and has what to us will seem like a contingency plan, but really, was probably the plan all along because of all the valuable things we will learn along the way.

I have absolutely no clue what the "destination" of my life is right now - a.k.a. what I'm "destined" to do. There are hints, clues, ideas, guesses - vague thoughts and whispers of dreams - but no real place to head for at the moment. Nothing that I'm certain of. Except maybe going to Africa - but that's not for tomorrow, and I don't know what I'd do there yet.

And yes, I think destiny is partially of our own making, but I believe that's because God gives us the gifts and talents and calling and plans "coincidental" events and meetings between people and allows us to contribute to the making of our lives. Lately I've seen a lot of my gifts and talents begin to lay fallow, and the restlessness I've been feeling for months now has gotten tangled up with frustration and a little bit of depression that comes from not having any real vision to pursue, and my internal search for "what's next" has become a little more frantic. I've felt stifled. Lost. Incredibly sad. Disoriented. Not sure I'm headed in the right direction at all.

But just as following the signs I saw for a hotel did eventually lead me to one, through perseverance, a little faith, the kindness of a stranger who gave me directions when I stopped to ask for them, and the choice to be okay with the fact that I couldn't really see all that well in the dark as I journeyed toward - I didn't know what - so too in life. All I can do right now is go with what I know. The last signs I saw pointed me in this direction. I'm choosing to trust and be okay with the darkness - because I know there's Light here, too. And that stopping to ask for directions is okay. (I am doing that.) And wherever it is I'm going - I will get there eventually. It's disconcerting, yes - looking for something and not being sure what it is that I'm looking for. But I will know it when I see it. Because just like landing in Geneva - it will have His touch written all over it.

"you'll know it when you see it"

The first day of a road trip with Jesus tends to be a long drive day. I'm eager to get wherever I'm going - only sort of but not quite thinking about the fact that the journey is the destination. I know this in my head, but I'm still going somewhere, and I want to find out where. So I press on. Sometimes pretty late at night.

So I'm driving along on the highway, and I'm watching exit signs, and I notice something that amuses me... they've re-numbered their exits, but just to make sure you still know where you're going, there's a little sign under the bigger exit sign that says "Old Exit ---" with whatever number it used to be. How thoughtful! :)

I think I want to get off at Exit 47 - I'm pretty sure that's number I heard when I asked Him - so I'm watching the signs, and I go past Exit 45 - and I keep driving, thinking we're almost there - and then I see: Exit 61.

Did I miss something here?

But then I keep driving, and I realize after a while that the exit numbers are going down - 60, 59, 58, ... - I must be in another state. How did that happen? Okay, well, the numbers are going down, anyway, so we'll get to Exit 47 eventually, right?

So I keep driving. And driving. And driving. And it's past midnight and I'm tired. I see a sign for a motel that's only $30/night. I think about getting off the highway and seeing if they have any rooms. But didn't God say Exit 47? I'm not sure. And it's late. And I'm tired. But I really want to know for sure... I just feel this need to find out.

So I keep driving. And when we get to Exit 47 - there is pretty much nothing there.

Okay. So I heard wrong. This happens, especially when it involves numbers, lol. I'm okay with this, but it is now 2 am, and I am way past ready to sleep. So I start looking for signs. And at one of the next exits there is a sign that lists a couple of hotels and motels, and one of them is a name I know and trust, and I think - okay, I'll get off here. Go with what you know, right? So I did.

And found myself in the middle of nowhere.

Now one thing that is pretty great about driving through the middle of nowhere is you get a pretty good sense of the vastness of the universe and how very small you are. You also become pretty aware of how incredibly dark it is when there isn't any light. On a clear night, the stars are beautiful. But this is so not a clear night. It's raining. And I am in the middle of nowhere. And those hotels are nowhere to be found. Except the sign said to go this way....

So I keep driving, and praying, and wondering if I'm totally nuts, and I decide I will give this five more minutes. I am not sure that I've gotten this right, but I am sure that He has someplace for me to stay tonight. But how will I know?

"You'll know it when you see it."

And then, all of a sudden, I am in civilization. I am, in fact, in Geneva, New York.

I started to laugh. I couldn't help it.

"Geneva" is the name of a camp that I used to go to for 4-5 hour personal retreats every now and again. The first time I went, a friend of mine had booked me a day there because, he said, I needed to get away and do business with the Lord, and he was right - I did - and tho I didn't know it at the time, that day was the first step on a trajectory toward a deeper relationship with the Lord. My "Geneva days" (as I have continued to call them, in spite of the fact that I no longer go to that camp to take them) have become sacred, holy days of rest and communion with God. So of course I was in Geneva, New York for the first night of my trip. Of course.

It was so like Him.

a new hallelujah

i've watched this video 4 times today, and it's just too amazingly worshipful and hilarious (yes, both of those adjectives)! had to share. :)

these kids are incredibly talented. :)

....and funny!

open gates

i seriously considered not sharing this story, but since one of my goals for the year is greater transparency, here we are. happy-ness: in all of its silly, blonde-moment glory.

i will defend myself by saying that i did not know that the I-Pass and E-Z-Pass are the same thing. it seems to me that it all ought to have the same name if it's all the same thing. (and, by the way, the "fast lane" in Massachusetts is also the same thing, tho i learned that later.)

so i pull up to the first tollbooth in Ohio and i get in the "ticket" lane, and when i pull up to the toll booth, the gate goes up. but i do not have an "EZ-Pass" (or so i think) and so i assume that the gate has malfunctioned. (please keep in mind that it's been about 10 years since i took the toll roads to New England, and things have changed, as you laugh about this!)

the automated toll booth refuses to give me a ticket, and i don't know what to do, because i know (or think i know) that if i don't get a ticket now i will be in trouble on the far end of the tollway, and i am too honest to do this the wrong way. so i push the button for help, as the line of cars behind me lengthens and people start honking in irritation.

finally, a very nice woman comes across the highway and asks how she can help me. i explain that it won't give me a ticket, and she asks if i have a transponder. i'm sure the look of surprise on my face when i learned that I-Pass and EZ-Pass are pretty much the same thing convinced her that i honestly had no clue, and she was really nice about it, but she said, "it's fine. the gate goes up and you go thru." that's how it works, and i knew that, but i thought there was a mistake about the gate. talking to God about it later, i think honestly He was pleased that i was too honest to try to pull through without being sure it was okay - tho i did feel a little silly. but i learned something in that moment.

open gates are meant to be gone thru. the gates referred to in the Bible are often either city gates or the gates of the Lord's temple - and when they are open, people go thru, and when they are shut, they are meant to keep people out. In Isaiah 60:18, God says that we will call our walls salvation and our gates praise, and as I thought about that, driving thru Ohio, i realized that often i do not treat praise as the open gate that it is to God's presence. but it's true, isn't it? that when we praise Him for who He is and for what He's done in our lives, we stop thinking so much about ourselves and our vision is so much clearer for having looked on Him for awhile.

God also names his gates, and one of the gates in the temple in Jerusalem was called Beautiful. Beauty is an open gate to His temple - and there is so much beauty everywhere, if we will just slow down enough to notice it. Beauty ushers us into His presence, and whether it's the beauty of creation, or the beauty of watching two people in love look at each other, or the beauty of a tremendous musical composition - these too are gates into His presence. And when the gate is open, you're supposed to go through it.

And this is life. I need to be more on the lookout for open gates than I have been, and when I find them - I need to go through. Without hesitation.

and this is life

I would like to tell you that my road trip with Jesus was amazing. Peaceful, joy-filled, fun, adventurous, packed with intimate conversation with the Lord.

It was all of those things.

But it was also incredibly hard.

Spend 4 days alone in a car with Jesus, and it's pretty likely that eventually you'll run into yourself, in all of your miserable, sin-tainted fallenness. And I did. It was pretty hideous. But oh, the grace with which He met me there!

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I suppose I should start from the beginning and go from there...

I think I left with a bit of fear that this year's trip would not be as amazing as last year's trip. It wasn't. And it was. And it wasn't. There really isn't a comparison to be made, except that they were both road trips with Jesus. But if last year's trip was about rest and learning to abide in Him at all times, being at rest, no matter what the current pace of life, this one was about life being a journey, and taking it as it comes, good, bad, and in-between. It was also, I think, about finding peace. I'm not sure. I think, as with last year's trip, I will come to understand far more a few months out from here than I could possibly understand now.

But it was good. Amazing. Terrible. Great. Breathtaking. Heart-breaking. Perfect. Confusing. Wonderful. Beautiful. Long. And way too short.

It was what it was.

And this is life. It's a journey, long and far too short - full of heartbreak and trial and breathtaking moments of beauty.

Just before I left, my friend Amanda and I took a day trip up to Michigan to get coffee at J.P.'s and pick apples and buy donuts (yes, seriously, that's all we went for) - and we found this sign at a store that said "The journey is the destination."

"You should get that. It's so you," she said.
"I know. How much is it?"
"It's $42.00." (moment of thought.) "But you could totally make that."

I really might.

a fitting benediction

I'm off this week for what I hope is going to become my annual road trip with Jesus. :) This year I am headed towards Maine (as soon as I finish packing) and I had to laugh - when I asked my mechanic if my car could make the trip (she's getting a little old), he kind of looked at me funny, and then he said, "Well, as long as you don't hit no mooses or nothin', you should be okay."

And he didn't even know about the bison....

It seemed a fitting benediction.

So I'm off, to really only He-knows-where, to learn whatever it is that I will learn and to get quiet for awhile. I am really looking forward to it, and I can already feel myself slowly beginning to unwind. Yay. :) It is going to be a wonderful week. And I am sure I will have new stories to tell when I come home. (Hopefully relatively wildlife-free.) :)

adventures in set design

So part of my new job at Torch is designing the stage look for each new series. It's challenging - but it's also incredibly fun. The first set I did was for a 2-week evangelism series called Fierce Leap. In retrospect, I might not opt to spend 24 solid hours on a painting for a series that short - but it was fun, and it turned out really well.

The idea behind the set was simply that evangelism can be breathtakingly exhilarating (and a little bit scary) - kind of like taking a leap off a cliff into the ocean - but it can also as simple as inviting your neighbor over for coffee.

This is the full painting:

I am pretty sure it wouldn't have taken 24 hours if I'd taken the fabric off the back and painted it, and then glued it back on. But the effect of painting inside the squares actually came off pretty well from a distance, and made it look like the view through a window. I don't think I'll try it that way again, tho - I don't recover from all-niters as well as I once did!

icons, advent, chocolate, and rest

a fellow blogger posted a brief history of the "christian fish" earlier this week, and wondered how other people felt about Christian symbols in general, and i've been thinking about icons ever since.

i'll admit to being extremely influenced by Madeleine L'Engle's perspective on icons - her thoughts on the subject in A Circle of Quiet make much sense to me. it was Madeleine who helped me to understand the difference between icons and idols. an idol is something other than God that you worship, in and of itself. an icon points you to God. icons can become idols if we become too attached to them - if you were around for the battle of the shoes (about a year and a half ago), you know that i've wrestled with that. but the possibility that an icon can become an idol doesn't make an icon bad. in fact, i'd argue that we need them, whether or not we're aware that we need - or have - them, because without them, we are far too prone to get bogged down in the specific details of our lives and forget the bigger picture in which we live.

i love it when i see a fish on the back of someone's car. i love it more when i see a cross at the top of a church steeple, or on the back wall of an altar. or a Bible in the front seat of someone's car or in their briefcase. these symbols are icons - momentary and solid reminders that we are not alone - that there is a God who loves and saves us and is intimately involved in the details of our lives. reminders that we have an international family whose experiences, while different than ours in some ways, are nevertheless common to man - we are all, together, sinful, fallen, in need of grace. and we can all, together, find it.

there are words that are icons for me. hope. mercy. grace. peace. love. joy. freedom. there are paintings, poems, songs, books, people. doorways into God's presence.

liturgy is one of them. and i miss it.

i read Anne Lamott's Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith this week. there's a chapter where she talks about waiting and advent and the darkness that there is before Christ's coming, and it got me thinking about Christmas (which is what, like 12 weeks away now?!). and how Christmas itself is a doorway into something greater - Christ came, yes - and He is coming again. Christmas remembers, and reaches forward into future hope. and Advent is the path to Christmas.

traditionally, Advent is the four weeks prior to Christmas. realistically, Advent is a way of life. it's an active waiting, in expectation of what God will do, with peace, hope, love and joy - in the face of all that isn't any of those things. it is so much more than four weeks - tho we take four weeks to remember it.

i love that in some countries Advent calendars are made with chocolate behind all the little calendar doors. chocolate is an icon, too - a reminder that some things do always make you feel better. (Jesus and chocolate, right?)

so i am off to a day of actively waiting on the Lord: chocolate bar in hand; Bible, journal, pen; hope, peace, love, and joy seemingly elusive at times, but always there. there were too many details, too many distractions, too many things this week that cluttered the smaller picture and took my vision away from the bigger and better one. time to realign. to be in Sabbath rest.

and this very rest itself points me to Jesus. how good He was to tell us we would need this.


I've been reading a lot lately, and one of the books I am still valiantly plowing through (not because it's boring, but because it is one of the longest books I have ever purchased) is John G. Lake: The Complete Collection of His Life's Teachings - compiled by Roberts Liardon.

John's journal entries are very interesting, and one of the things I noticed as I was reading yesterday was how often he would comment that "so-and-so was wonderfully saved."

It is wonderful, isn't it? I forget that sometimes, in the midst of all the stuff that I do as a Christian and as a pseudo-staffer at my church, that this is all actually incredibly wonderful and amazing. Why is that? I mean, it's ridiculous of me to not remember that grace is a gift, and an undeserved one at that, and to therefore rejoice in my salvation! But I forget, all the same, and get bogged down in the worries of this life, and the task lists, and the lists of things that didn't get done on last week's task lists, and suddenly life is routine and boring and wonder lies fallow under agenda.

I want wonder to wake up. I want to be so captured by the night sky that I simply sit smack down in the middle of the driveway and look up for half an hour. I want to be so taken with the colors in the sunrise that I actually get up to see what beauty He will paint tomorrow. I want to simply stop in the middle of all of these task lists and be completely okay with a not-quite-spotless floor in favor of quality-time-spent with someone I love. And I want to remember all the things that Jesus saved me from, and rejoice with the deepest possible gratitude and wonder that I am indeed saved, forgiven, accepted, and wanted by God.

I am wonderfully saved. How do I even begin to understand the magnitude of that? But it is true. And it is wonder full.

random ramblings, vol. 4

Seven random glimpses into Happyland, as I try to wind down from a late evening and very obviously not decaffeinated soy chai latte:

1. It is Maple Scone season. Yay. And that's all I have to say about that. :)

2. I pulled my first all-nighter in I-don't-know-how-long this weekend, in a successful effort to finish the painting that needed to get done for our new stage look. It turned out even better than I'd hoped. Still, I am looking forward to not pulling an all-nighter again for quite some time. If ever. :)

3. I made applesauce today. I forgot how much I enjoy doing that.

4. If you haven't seen it yet, and you're a woman blogger, please go see Julie and Julia. It was a great movie. Cooking and blogging. How much better does it get? :) It was also incredibly refreshing to watch a movie that involved two healthy marriages. And I thought it had a pretty accurate take on the delicate balance of blogging and real life. That's all I'm going to say about it right now, but feel free to discuss in the comments. :)

5. Today was an incredibly restful day. A little bit of productivity complemented by a walk and talk with a good friend and an unexpected hang-out time with two other good friends who just happened to be sitting outside at the local coffee shop as I pulled thru the drive-thru (on an unsuccessful hunt for a Maple Scone. they are so good you have to get them in the morning, or they're gone.).

6. I found a copy of I.Q. tonight for $5.00. And yes, it is a $5 sort of movie, but it is still one of my favorites. :)

7. I'm re-reading Madeleine L'Engle's A Circle of Quiet. If you are looking for deep, thought-provoking reading material that leaves you feeling more like yourself than you were when you started.... well, when you put it that way, the Bible is really better for that than anything, but A Circle of Quiet is an excellent complement. :)


My alarm went off at 5:30am. On a Saturday! There's a workshop on spiritual disciplines at my church today, and it's one of a series of classes that everyone's going thru, and I was supposed to go.... so I got up. Made some coffee, read for a bit, got ready to go. And then didn't.

I'm not sure why. It just feels a little off to go - like maybe there's something else this day holds that I'm supposed to do or say or experience that I wouldn't if I were at the workshop. I have no idea. But here I am, up and dressed and raring to go at 7:47am on my one day to sleep in, and I have no idea why. :)

It's kind of fun, actually.

And at the end of the day, this may actually be about rest. I didn't have a very busy week, but I am very tired at the end of it. And I have a mountain of art projects to get to, some of which have deadlines. So maybe today will simply be a day of quiet creativity. Or maybe quiet conversations - with Jesus, with friends, with my heart. I don't know. But I am looking forward to finding out. And relaxing into a day upon which there are suddenly no expectations except Presence and Providence. It feels... nice. :)

on being a nickel

it was announced in church yesterday that two new positions have been created to replace my old position as worship director. one of those positions is that of worship pastor, and the other is that of a creative director. it's become increasingly evident over the course of the past few months, through prayer and through plain common sense, just watching things unfold, that God is calling someone else to lead our band, and i am so excited to see the ways in which God has already grown him as a leader and will continue to do so. he's very gifted, and this role shift will only bless our church.

i'll be taking the role of creative director. my job description? well, i think it's still in process, but it includes not only helping with creative planning for our services and finding new ways to incorporate the arts into our worship, but creating "sacred space" from the moment you walk into the movie theatre until the moment you leave. this is no small task. actually... it's a bit daunting. (and if anyone has any ideas, i'll take them!)

i will miss leading worship. i will. but a dear friend wrote to me yesterday and reminded me that i will still be leading worship - just in a different way. i'll be creating a worship environment. i'll be helping artists in our congregation tap their gifts and offer them to the Lord. and as i do it, i'll be learning what Sacred Space was always meant to teach - how to worship God not just thru a song but with my whole life.

and as John Wimber once said, "i am just a nickel in God's pocket, that He can spend any way He wants to." i think it is good for me to remember that.

this new path i am on - it is a good one, because it is His path. i wanted change. i got it, lol. and i think, as i start down this road, i will only continue to see more and more of the beauty that surrounds me in this new place i am in. and there - just over there around that corner - something amazing is still waiting.

expectancy, hope, and anticipation

how do those three words make you feel? expectant? hopeful? anticipatory? :)

maybe they create for you this feeling like something is about to happen - something incredible, something amazing. it's just around the corner, over there, and you can hardly wait to see what it is...

i've been thinking a lot about expectations this week, as i've watched a lot of mine fall flat. i had a plan for this week - and it involved getting a lot of stuff done that i haven't gotten done that i've wanted to get done for awhile. and the only thing i can check off my list is that i moved a lot of stuff out of my room in anticipation of finishing that painting project i began a couple of months ago - and it's now sitting in the hallway, and if i don't paint today or tomorrow, i'm going to have to move it all back in without painting.

there was this one thing that had to get done this week - and it will get done - but i underestimated how much time it was going to take. by a lot. and as day after day passed by this week, and it became more and more evident what a project this one task was going to be, i watched my dreams of getting "so much done" fall, one dream at a time. and i wrestled with so much disappointment. i mean, it was depressing really, to have this amazing expectation of all that i was going to accomplish come face-to-face with the reality that most of it wasn't going to happen at all.

and i almost missed what God is doing in the middle of it. teaching me patience. showing me the weight of the expectations i put on myself that aren't necessarily His. reminding me that while having goals and plans and agendas and whatnot can be a wise way to live, that only the plans of the Lord succeed, and i would be wise to ask Him about them before i try to live them out.

i was up at 4:30am today. no idea why. i'm tired. but i am so much more at rest internally than i have been for most of this week. i spent some time on the front porch swing with my Bible and a cup of coffee, and i could hear His call to come and rest.

"Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)

"Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to Me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare." (Isaiah 55:1-2)

and then:

"Is it because there is no God in Israel?" (2 Kings 1)

It's quite the story, 2 Kings 1 - one of those stories that makes it impossible for me to understand how anyone could think the Bible is boring. I mean, have you read it? If this was a movie, it would be an incredible scene. I've linked to the whole story above, and would encourage you to read it, as I am about to leave out a lot of detail. But the short version is this: King Ahaziah's fallen thru a lattice and broken his leg, and he thinks it's a good idea to send off to some other country's god to see if he'll survive it. Probably not the smartest thing the guy ever did. So God sends Elijah to meet the messengers, and Elijah says something to the effect of, "Is it because there is no God in Israel that you're doing this?" Seriously, people... And the messengers go back and tell the king, and the king sends for Elijah, and Elijah reiterates the message to his face.

I can't take credit for these insights - I heard a sermon Tim Brown preached on this years ago, and it's stuck with me - but they came home this morning as I read the story. Typically in the Bible, when something shows up three times in succession it's kind of a flag to say, "hey, pay attention, this is important!" So here it is three times in one chapter: "Is it because there is no God in Israel...?" And in the NKJV, there's a slight variation on the third question: in verse 16, Elijah asks the king, "Is it because there is no God in Israel, to inquire of His word?"

And that, Tim said, is what the story is trying to teach us. That when we have something for which we want an answer, we are to inquire of His Word. Which for us, I think, means both reading His written Word and inquiring of the Living Word, Jesus, as well. I hadn't done that about my plans for this week. And how dangerously close I come some days to not doing that about my plans for my life. I settle in, expecting things to go according to my expectations, and when they aren't met, I am disappointed. How much better could this go if I really sought the Lord and inquired of His Word?

And so I turn and repent of not having asked, and thank Him for the lesson, and His patience in teaching it. And I begin this day anew with these words, prayed by the saints for ages past:

"In the morning, O Lord, You hear my voice; in the morning, I lay my requests before You and wait in expectation." (Psalm 5:3) I wait in expectation for what You have to say about this day and all it will hold.

And while I may not listen perfectly, I will be trying to listen. And the hope and anticipation for what might come of living this day His way rather than according to my plans fills my soul, and I can almost see it - just over there, around that corner - there is something incredibly good. I can hardly wait to see what it is...

another shameless plug

An old friend from my college days has just begun something along the lines of a weekly webcomic. If you're a fantasy-fiction fan, I'm betting you'll like it. :) Check it out:

Happy reading! :)

this straightly winding road

"Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." - Proverbs 3:5-6

God is the Way-Maker, the Path-Straightener - it's who He is - but maybe for us the key to experiencing that is simply trusting Him. Maybe it's giving up what for me feels like such a natural desire to understand what's going on. I want "the plan." I want to know where we're going, and why, and how we're going to get there. I can be spontaneous (I say defensively) - I can...!

Sometimes I wonder just how long it's going to take me to get it that He's probably not going to fill me in on all that much, and that it's probably mostly because I will try to get where we're going by myself, and that isn't the point.

This is the learning curve my path is currently taking, and in case I wasn't getting it, my friend Rob penned these words this week:

[Jesus] says to us, “Give up your life—give up your plans, your desires, your ideas of how things should be—and I'll give you something better.”

Jesus doesn't call us to stay where and what we are because he's not much of one for staying in one place; he calls us to follow. He calls us to a journey, and a relationship, and like any journey and any meaningful relationship, that means change. It means leaving things behind, and getting new things in return.

And yes, that includes the things of which we say, “God couldn't possibly want me to give that up; he can't possibly mean that I'm not allowed to do that.” In fact, it especially includes those things, because those—whether sinful in and of themselves or not—are the things in our lives that most interfere with his lordship: they are our idols. They are the things which which we must give over to him if we're to follow him; clinging to them is nothing less than idolatry....

And yes, that includes our money, and our careers, and our other family relationships, and our gifts and talents and aspirations, and all the other things that matter to us. He calls us to surrender to him everything of significance in our lives, to do with as he will. This is not the price of his acceptance, but its consequence; it's what it means to be accepted by Jesus, because to be accepted by him is to be invited to go with him, to go where he's going and do what he's doing, instead of going where we want to go and doing what we want to do.

Change. I have such mixed emotions about that word. I love change - I need it. (Hence the ongoing home renovation project, which I hope to finish next week.) I go stir-crazy if I don't have enough of it. But at the same time, I don't like it. I like knowing the status quo. I don't like having it change up on me. It means learning a new set of rules, a new set of parameters. A new way of thinking about things. I wish I understood this paradox a little better. It's right up there and tied in with another major paradox in my life: this crazy wanderlust-filled need to travel paired with a deeply-seated need for home.

I don't know what to do with any of this right now. But it's today's chapter of my story. There is change on the horizon - change I am pretty sure is ultimately coming from the Lord. I am flailing a bit against it right now, trying to find my bearings in what I thought was familiar territory, but suddenly doesn't look quite like I thought it did...

But maybe there are some things I need to leave behind that I have held onto too tightly. Maybe there are new things He wants to give me in return for letting go of my "plan-o'-life."

Maybe this gift He wants to give me is actually a new map - a better one than the map I had last week - the one I was pretty sure I could read and follow without needing to stop for too many directions. And maybe - just maybe - the roads I thought were winding will turn out to be straighter than I thought.

There's only one way to find out.

the summer reading list

Sara over at Coffee Randoms posted her "seven quick takes" for the week about what she's been reading this summer. (You can learn a lot about a person by finding out what they're reading.) :) I thought I'd follow suit.

1. A Place Called Home - by Lori Wick

This book definitely falls into the "summer fluff" category, but what I love about Lori Wick is that her characters grow in their relationships with the Lord in ways that challenge me to do the same.

2. John G. Lake: The Complete Collection Of His Life's Teachings - compiled by Roberts Liardon

I haven't actually cracked this one open yet, but it's next on the reading list. It's a little intimidating - the only books I own that are longer than this one are my systematic theology textbook and an out-dated dictionary. Still, I am looking forward to digging in, hopefully later today.

3. The Transforming Power of Fasting and Prayer: Personal Accounts of Spiritual Renewal - by Bill Bright

This book has been incredibly encouraging. Most encouraging are the stories of people who didn't experience anything all that out-of-the-ordinary while fasting, but who saw their lives, churches, and ministries transformed afterwards in ways they saw linked to that season of prayer and fasting.

4. Kathryn Kuhlman: A Spiritual Biography of God's Miracle Worker - by Roberts Liardon

Kathryn Kuhlman is one of my favorite interesting people. She was one gutsy woman of God. And I was surprised, in reading this book, to learn some things I hadn't known about her, and to find that I am more like her than I would have thought. At the end of this book are a few excerpts from some of her radio broadcasts that made for excellent morning devotional reading.

5. Walking with God - by John Eldredge

Again. :) I read this book last summer and it literally changed my life, and re-reading it this summer with my small group, I am finding that it still has much to speak. If you read nothing else this year, I would highly recommend it.

6. You Matter More Than You Think - by Dr. Leslie Parrott

I've seen this book on a shelf at the bookstore off and on for over a year now, picked it up, read a page here and there, and put it back - but something told me it was finally time. This book spoke healing into my life that I didn't even know I needed.

7. In Constant Prayer - by Robert Benson

This is a very interesting book. It tackles the question: "what does it mean to pray without ceasing, and is it possible?" and suggests that it is, thru the ancient practice of the daily office (a pattern of prayer and worship offered at specific times of the day). I have been wrestling for a while now with the sneaking suspicion that there is more to prayer than I have yet experienced, and I am learning a lot - and trying not to be too weirded out by the fact that the picture of the author looks suspiciously like my 7th grade English teacher, Mr. Benson, whose first name escapes me, and about whom all I remember is that he really liked baseball, and that he once lived in a place in Brazil where cockroaches would come up through the shower drain.

So how about you? What are you reading this summer?

random ramblings, vol. 3

It's been a crazy few weeks - crazy, busy, relatively sleepless - but fun. Here are some highlights of things I've been up to while not blogging. :)

1) Torch Church is officially opening its doors on Sunday mornings starting this weekend! We're meeting in a movie theatre, which presents a myriad of opportunities for creativity. :) There have been a lot of emails and phone calls and meetings these past few weeks in preparation for tomorrow - and I am excited to see what God will do with our church in this new season of ministry.

2) It's summer, so of course we have been outside a lot. It's been strange weather these past few days - feels more like October than mid-July, but we'll take it. The heat wave is likely still coming. :)

3) Tonight I went to see my good friend Nicole in The Sound of Music. It was wonderful! Well-produced, well-done, amazing sets. It was really fun. And now I'm all misty-eyed and weepy. :P A good love story will do that to a girl. Especially when she's up this late, lol.

4) I've had some really great theological conversations this summer. Hoping to find time to write about some of them soon.

5) I've also been road-tripping a fair bit. Two trips up to Michigan, and one up to Indiana - all to see good friends. I think the currently reigning lol conversation of the month is still this snippet from my road trip to Indiana; I went to church with my friends, and when I noticed the wooden cross in the corner of the sanctuary, the conversation began something like this:

me: "Um, why is that cross covered in chicken-wire?"
my friend: (pauses, grins, thinks for a minute how to sum this up): "Well... that's an issue."

It was a great moment in conversational history. :)

6) I'm painting a lot these days. Redoing my apartment one bit at a time. I will try to find batteries for my camera and post pictures once it's done. I'm doing a couple of paintings to match the new color scheme, and painting bookshelves, reorganizing closets, etc. It's been incredibly good for the artist in me to have an outlet, and I'm looking forward to being done, but enjoying the process, too.

7) In the midst of reorganizing and repainting, I had misplace the tickets to the play tonight, so today, in an attempt to find them, I tackled the stack of junk mail. I began going thru my multiple baskets of junk mail over a year ago, and I am almost done!!! I have one basket left, and then everything will be filed or recycled. YAY! I know it's ridiculous, but you have no idea what a victory this is for me. I was amused, therefore, when the stack of junk mail I thought the tickets were in had been sorted and appropriately organized, to finally find the tickets on the couch. They weren't quite in plain sight - there was a magazine on top of them. But I'd left them out for safe-keeping. I'm glad I forgot that, tho - because now I feel really accomplished. ;)

a prayer for the broken-hearted

from Psalm 147:

Father, I pray that You would turn our hearts to praise, even as they break over so many things. Build us up and encourage us, Lord - even as You have already been doing. Your Word says that You heal the brokenhearted and bind up our wounds, and I pray You would do that - continue to do that - for us. Thank You for the ways that You speak to us, for the encouragement we feel as we spend time with You, realizing that You have known all along the way things would go and are with us in the midst of it.

You are great and mighty, Star-Counter, Star-Namer; Your understanding has no limit. Thank You for knowing how much we need to be humbled and graciously bringing us to brokenness and humility before You. You sustain us there, and we would rather be humbled and sustained by You than cast to the ground with the wicked.

Fill our hearts with joy and gratitude as we count the cost of following You, even in situations where it would be so much "easier" to just get mad and sulk. Rain-Maker, Grass-grower, Provider for all of creation - may we be people You delight in. Teach us the fear of the Lord, and to hope in Your unfailing love at all times. As we praise You in the midst of these storms, strengthen us, bless us, grant us peace, and satisfy us with the true Bread of Life. Jesus, You truly are more than enough for us.

By Your word, all that is exists. All seasons come by Your command. This season in our lives is here by ordination - and I pray, Lord, that we would learn all You would teach us here, and emerge the better for it. Reveal Your Word to us - may we be fascinated by You and You alone, Jesus. I praise You, Lord, for all that You have done, are doing, and have yet to do in us. Have Your way.


home again, home again

Yesterday was about as close to a perfect day as any day can get. Good music, good weather, good friends, 7 hours in the car... :)

Highlights of the road trip:

* spending an hour or so on the beach at Lake Michigan, reading, napping, listening to the waves, just being (which was possibly the best part of the day altogether, tho I loved the rest of it too!)

* a great deal at a book store - 2 books and 5 cds for $40! :)

* catching up with 2 of my old roommates, whom I haven't seen in almost 2 years

* celebrating two years of birthdays and Christmases with Jeni in the middle of June (yay, presents!)

* dinner at The Curragh, a terrific Irish pub

* seeing Josh Schicker, an old friend from college, in concert (shameless plug: you should check out his stuff on ITunes - he's very talented)

* sunshine!!!! - which seems like a silly thing to celebrate, but it's been pouring rain for days, and it's cloudy again - so one whole day of sunshine was wonderful. :)

No matter where I go in this world, West Michigan will always be home. I'm not sure how to explain it or even why it's so - but the minute I cross the Michigan border, I just start to feel happier. (pun intended, lol) I smile for the last hour and a half of driving. Katie says I even walk differently when I'm home. Lighter. More free. And especially on the beach there - I just feel more like me than I do anywhere else. I'm not sure why that is, but thank You, Jesus, for the gift of one more day spent there. I needed that.

how to open a present

It's my friend's birthday, and she lives in Texas, so I hardly ever see her, but she was here today, and we had plans for lunch. So of course I got her a present. And a really pretty card. Which she liked. A lot. Like, so much, I was starting to wonder if she would ever open the present, lol. But she did. And I have to tell you - I already love giving people presents, but if everyone in the world opened presents the way this woman does, I would be flat broke because I would want to do nothing else but watch people open their gifts.

It was an eclectic, 4-part present, all from Ten Thousand Villages (which in and of itself is cool - i mean, come on, social justice and a present? how much better does it get?) - and when I said, somewhat apologetically as she opened the box, "it's kind of an eclectic present...", she said, "I would expect nothing less from you!" and that was a compliment. :) And then she proceeded to go through the box.

I probably could have gotten her anything under the sun, and she would have thought it ingenious. She took her time opening those gifts, and the delight with which she found each item in the box.... I'm not sure I've ever felt so treasured. To hear her talk and to see the look on her face as she read the tags explaining the background on some of the gifts and the explanations of fair trade marketing - to see the way she traced the stitches and read the labels - you would have thought every dream she'd ever had just came true. She loved it.

I thought, as I shopped, "well, she's very hospitable and she journals a lot, so..."

She thought: "someone who knows me well just got me the perfect present."

What if we opened God's gifts that way?

What if, instead of simply thanking Him out of habit for our food before dinner, we actually stopped and marveled at the way tomato plants grow? What if we rejoiced over the rising of the sun, and instead of shushing our kids, joined them in hysterical, uncontrollable laughter, in appreciation of humor and the freedom we have to laugh? What if we noticed, not that our shoes got wet as we crossed the lawn to get the paper, but that the dew fell and sparkled in the sunlight? What if we got distracted by the rainbows the sun makes on the ceiling over the kitchen table when it shines just so and refracts through the glass-topped coffee table in the next room?

What if the fact that we can breathe in and out suddenly floored us with an understanding of God's goodness and mercy?

What if the fact that we have clean water wasn't something we took so for granted?

What if a realization of God's incredible, precious, abundant grace suddenly broke over our souls the way waves break over the rocks on a shoreline? What if we suddenly realized (again) how desperately in need of that grace we are? And how blessed we are to know One who so freely gives it - at great cost to Himself?

And what if we really knew how to open a present? I think a lot more people would smile, don't you? :)

reflections on greatness

Maybe it was because I'd just read this passage that I caught it while watching Prince Caspian last weekend - the funny little contrast between Reepicheep's silly arrogance and his claim to "great humility." It's odd, isn't it - the minute you become aware of your humility, it really isn't humility anymore. And yet it's something that, as believers, we strive for, long for, hope for, ask for - humble hearts, no longer full of pride.

Last week, reading through 2 Samuel 7, I caught something I hadn't before. I knew this passage was about God telling David he wouldn't be allowed to build the temple, but that he would have an enduring legacy. But reading it this time, one of the phrases God used really struck me.

God reminds David, in a message relayed by Nathan the prophet, of the great things He has already done in his life, and then He says,"Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men of the earth." (v. 8-9) Almost instinctively, I asked the Lord, "Why would you tell him that, God?" And almost immediately the answer came: "Because he could handle it."

And he could. David didn't go getting all full of himself - "I'm going to be one of the greatest men on the earth." He "went in and sat before the Lord." (v. 18) Can you picture that? The king of Israel slipping into the tent of the Lord and just... sitting.

And then he says, "who am I?" and "Is this your usual way of dealing with man, O Sovereign Lord?" (v.18-19)

Can you hear the humility? He's not jumping around, shouting it from the rooftops. David is remembering the deeds of the Lord (Psalm 77:11-12), and it draws him to worship. He could have fallen prey to some feeling of "entitlement"- after all, God had promised him he'd be king, and now he was, so it was all just justice now, right? and hey, look at all that time I spent hiding in caves - I should hope I'd get some sort of reward for that, and... No. I doubt that line of thinking ever crossed his mind. David loved the Lord, and the fulfillment of His promises led him not to self-righteous, arrogant pride but to worship.

David worships the Lord for His goodness to him and to His people, and then he accepts God's new promise. "And now, Lord God, keep forever the promise you have made concerning your servant and his house. Do as you promised, so that Your Name will be great forever." (v. 25-26)

In other words, "I'm okay with You making my name great, because it will make Your Name great when You do it."

I want that kind of perspective. I want to want God's promises over my life to be fulfilled not just because they're great (which they are) but because His Name will be made great in my life as I walk into the fulfillment of the destiny He's planned for me. It isn't about me. It's about Him. (says the woman indulging her narcissistic tendencies by blogging and hoping someone will read it.) :P

But it is, really. At least, I want it to be. I want the very fact that I live the life I choose to live - going the places He calls me when He calls me to go, doing the things He wants me to do when He wants me to do them - to point to Him, to His glory, to the greatness of His renown. Something we often pray before band practice is that God will help us to be excellent and to play well together not so everyone will think we're so great but so that we can't possibly be a distraction to anyone by our mistakes and fumbles onstage. We don't want to hit wrong chords or walk into the screens suspended from the ceiling on either side of the stage (not that this ever happens, lol) - not because we want to look/sound polished, but because when we do, people are free to not notice us at all. The music we play, the lyrics we sing, point to something greater - become something greater - than we could ever be on our own, and it gives Him glory when that happens. And I think the same sort of principle can hold true in our individual lives. We can become excellent at the things we do for the wrong reasons, and get all arrogant about it - but there are right reasons to pursue excellence, whether that's excellence at a skill or a job or producing the fruit of the Spirit in our lives or walking in His specific will for our lives, etc. - and the best reason is to give Him glory.

And it's interesting how it's often when you don't notice you're doing it that you are.

If I'm going to be "great" - I want to be great the way David was. If I am remembered for anything, I want to be remembered for the way I walked with the Lord, and the way my life pointed to Him and gave Him glory. And I guess what really struck me reading this conversation between David, Nathan, and the Lord is that you don't have to be oblivious to the gi-normity of God's call on your life (tho to put it in persective a bit, the fact that God calls any of us to anything is pretty gi-normous, right?) - you just need to recognize that it isn't about you going anywhere or doing anything - it's about God being given the glory that was His all along - it's about living your life in a way that inspires others to worship.

Maybe it's just because I'm worship person, but I think that's just cool.


A few weeks ago after minichurch, Jake and I got into a swordfight. (Granted, they were styrofoam swords with plastic handles, but still...) I'm not sure which was more satisfying - the look on his face when he realized that I was actually going to fight back, or the fact that I won. (I had a broken sword by the end, but I was still standing.) :)

Rob, one of the guys in our minichurch, took a video of the swordfight on his cellphone. There is a great moment in the video where he was filming over Jake's shoulder, and all you can see of me is a continuous blur of styrofoam sword. "I look like Reepicheep," I observed, while watching the playback after church on Monday with someone who hadn't yet seen the incriminating evidence that yes, on occasion, I really am that randomly feisty.

Our small group has now taken to calling me Hapicheep.

*expletive deleted*

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.
- Ephesians 5:1-4

This is actually a post about expletives, and it does actually have a few in it, so if you think it's possible you might be offended, please feel free to skip the rest of it. :)

I read those verses not too long ago, and the bit about not using obscenities or coarse joking sort of stuck with me. I have a few guy friends who tell some pretty bad jokes. They're funny - but they're in bad taste. Ok... now that I'm thinking about it, some of them are funny, but mostly they're in bad taste. And me? I tend to swear a little bit when I'm really frustrated, and it's starting to bug me. I'll use foreign swear words sometimes - "bugger" was my favorite for awhile - but words like that don't mean the same thing in the States as they do elsewhere, and so it doesn't really feel like swearing, tho I'm sure a proper English grandmother would be horrified. But recently I find the word "sh**" coming out a lot more often - when I'm late, when I make a mistake, when I drop something on my toe... and it's bothering me.

"Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks," right? So where is this coming from? I'm not sure, but I am trying to delete those expletives from my vocabulary, with varying degrees of success - and if I feel the need to verbalize something, I'm trying to consciously at least say "Chitaqua" or "sassafras" instead of *expletive deleted* (which actually kind of makes me laugh...)

So as I've been thinking this through, and trying to discipline my tongue a little more, a friend of mine posted a link to a great xkcd cartoon. I've needed this reminder from the Lord, that obscenities simply aren't to be part of my normative speech patterns; I need to be more intentional about what I do and don't say, and I will keep working on it. But this cartoon reminded me of the extreme value that a well-placed expletive can have. I mean, even Paul swore once, to make a point:

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.
- Philippians 3:7-9

(I hear the Greek word for ... um, rubbish... isn't exactly translated correctly as rubbish. I think it's actually supposed to be ... sassafras, lol.)

So here is a classic reminder from Randall Munroe that sometimes a well-placed expletive really does say it all:

The true irony is that I needed to hear that too.... :)

fueling up for a long drive somewhere

I had the weirdest dream just before I woke up this morning. It was winter, and I lived in this big house with a courtyard, and it had snowed. My car was parked in this courtyard. I was all angsty with whomever else it was who lived in the house (the details leading up to this point are vague in my memory), and it was early morning. I left to go get breakfast at a restaurant nearby, and discovered my car was running on close to empty, but fortunately there was a gas station next door to the restaurant. Which, by the way, had big glass windows - everyone in the restaurant could see the happenings in the gas station parking lot.

So I get to the gas station, and I'm all out of sorts and tired and crabby, and I have trouble getting into a spot by a pump, and my car is still covered in snow. I get out of my car to pump gas, and suddenly I'm not sure about anything. Is this my car or someone else's? Which side is the gas tank on again? I dig thru the snow on the side of my car and find a cap that looks right, assume this is where the gas goes, swipe my card at the pump and start pumping gas. Only to realize a few minutes later, as I'm blinking blearily at my car, that this isn't right. I'm pumping gas into what I thought was the gas tank, but isn't - I'm at the front of my car, about a foot in front of the side mirror. I stop in embarrasment, hoping no one has noticed, and move toward the back of the car. Ah, here we go. I pop open the cap and start pumping gas again. It soon spills over, and I look in horror - I'm still not pumping gas into the right tank in my car! This one is just in front of the side mirror. What?! Finally I get to where my gas tank really is, and I can hear the gas sloshing into the empty tank. I am mortified - and by now, people are watching. I feel like the whole restaurant is watching, and certainly the other people at the pumps have noticed by now, and an attendant has come out of the gas station to see if he can help.

I explain the situation, in complete embarrassment, but am far more comfortable asking this kind stranger who might know the answers than I am about the prospect of going home and telling my mechanic what I've done. My biggest fear is that I've totally messed up the car - that putting gasoline in the wrong places will make it stop running, or worse, explode.

The attendant waits for me to finish pumping gas, and walks me thru what I've done. This first cap, he says, delivers fluid directly to the engine. A passerby jokes that hey, at least I was trying to be efficient - too bad it doesn't work that way. It won't hurt the car, says the attendant - it'll burn off really fast as I drive, and no, the car will not explode. This next cap, he explains (and keep in mind, all three really do look the same) is where all sorts of fluids are delivered to the engine -antifreeze, water, etc. This isn't the greatest place to put gas either - it'll mix with the other fluids and make them less productive, but the car will still work - just not as efficiently. I might want to talk to my mechanic about draining this tank and refilling all the compartments with the proper, undiluted-by-gasoline fluids - but I'll be okay to drive home and to the mechanic's at least. And he knows I'm embarrassed, but I really do need to tell the mechanic what happened and get my car cleaned out a bit so it will run more effectively.

This third cap, he says, is where gas really should go, and good job on finding it. Gas needs to be processed thru the established distribution system in my car to work the most efficiently. So long term, no damage, but my car will need some minor work to get in good shape again, and here, by the way, is the bill. It is expensive. This entire endeavor was way more costly than it needed to be...

It seems to me that God was trying to say something thru this dream, even if it was simply that I am trying to fuel myself, not with the wrong things, but maybe in the wrong ways, and that what I really need is to do it His way... but I'm wondering if any of you have any insights?

south pickerel

You know that whole visual identification thing you have to do sometimes to write comments on a blog or send an attachment to someone? The one I had tonight was "South pickerel."

It made me grin. :) And now I totally want to ride a steamboat down the Mississippi and have a pickle, and fish and chips...

random ramblings, vol. 2

Hello, blogosphere! So much I want to write about, so little time to actually do it this week...

1) This is actually not due to the "normally" busy schedule I tend to keep. This week has its own particular brand of insanity, as it is the week before Sacred Space. Sacred Space, for lack of a better explanation, is a multi-station, interactive worship event, and one of my favoritest things ever. Pictures to come, post-event - they will explain much better than I ever could.

2) I've been thinking a lot about persevering prayer lately. I have always loved the image in Revelation (I forget the reference, but I will try to look it up later) about how the prayers of the saints are like incense that fills up a censer in heaven, and when it is full, it tips, and the answer comes pouring down to earth. I poured a lot of incense into a particular censer last year, and I remember the day it just felt finished... but lately, I've been feeling like I need to pour in a little bit more - like the censer wasn't quite full, but maybe I needed a rest, or someone else was taking a turn, and now it's my turn again. Not quite sure what to make of it, but I'm re-reading Dutch Sheets' book, Intercessory Prayer, and it's helping to shape my prayers a little more boldly.

3) I really love a lot of the music from a band called Carbon Leaf, and I just found out today that they have a new album coming out. This makes me randomly very happy.

4) I am also very happy because the SUN is out today. Yay, sun! :)

5) I am without vehicle for the week, and I have to say - I am actually finding it somewhat freeing. I can't go anywhere that I can't walk or bike to, unless I hitch a ride, and I'm okay with that. Now granted, this is probably because I'm getting my car back on Saturday, and I planned ahead and went grocery shopping last weekend, but still. It's kind of nice - not being able to make commitments to go places and do things, I'm not making them. So in the midst of a really busy week, I have 15 minutes to sit down and blog, and more time to rest than I otherwise might have had, because I'll be home in the evenings instead of running around town. This was good timing!

random ramblings, vol. 1

Jen at Conversion Diary hosts what she calls "seven quick takes" every Friday - basically a mass syncroblog for everyone to say seven random things, maybe about things going on in their lives, maybe not. :) I know a couple of people who periodically participate, and I enjoy reading Jen's blog, but I've not jumped on the bandwagon yet. I've thought about it, but I'm not sure I have seven things to say, and I'm pretty sure Fridays won't be a routine blogging day, especially once I start working summer hours and have more time to bike as the days get longer - and there's nothing like jumping for a bandwagon and missing it, landing flat on your face in the dust kicked up by the departing wagon.

So - in an effort to not be quite such an absentee blogger, and to keep you updated on not necessarily always the main events in my life, but at least some of them - Random Ramblings, vol. 1. The number of random items will be random from volume to volume and the distance between volumes will be random as well, but at least I'll be rambling along about something, and who knows what might end up having a point? Velociraptor Awareness Day seems to have had one... :)

1) Today is Kentucky Derby Day. So despite the beautiful weather, I am home, blogging and watching the pre-race coverage. Yep, for six weeks every year I am almost a horse-racing fan. ;) It's my mom's fault, introducing me to the Black Stallion books one summer. We've watched the race almost every year that I can remember, and I still do, even though I'm far from home. I only watch the Triple Crown races, generally, but it's fun, and someday, I would really love to go to Kentucky and watch the Derby live. Just to say I did.

2) I really want a Hot Buttered Rum from J.P.'s. sigh. It's one of the best lattes ever. Hopefully I will be able to go home in June and get one. I have had coffee in 5 other countries, including Austria, and I still think J.P.'s is the best. Tho I will grant you that Vienna has good coffee, and I will not complain about going back there someday. :)

3) I am really excited about June in general, mostly because for the first time ever I am actually taking my team to the Willow Creek Arts Conference. My pastor's coming too, and I think it's going to be invaluable team-bonding and resource-finding time. (Cathy, if you're coming this year we totally have to have dinner!) :)

4) At some point this year I will be taking another road trip with Jesus. I have seven days of vacation left, so if I plan it right around a weekend, I could have a 9-day break, which would be awesome. The question is, where to go, and when? :) I should probably decide soon. Suggestions, anyone? :)

5) I'm also itching to go on another missions trip soon. South Africa would be cool... and wow. I'm starting to see a theme in all this randomness... apparently I am really itching to get out of here. lol. :) That's actually not all that surprising, actually. For most of my life post-college, one of three things has changed about every 12-18 months: my job, my home, or my church. Not sure why - I've always felt pretty led towards those changes, and it's just the way it's been. So after about 18 months of anything I start to get a little antsy. I've been here for three and a half years now, and sure, there have been changes ministry-wise in that time, and church-planting is no small thing, but it's all been such a natural, organic sort of change - it's not like I picked up and changed denominations or something... So no wonder I'm getting antsy... And yet, in spite of the wanderlust kicking up in my soul, I still feel like His word on the subject is stay. So I'm staying...

but I'm looking forward to those road trips, too. ;)