Thursday, December 22, 2005

Holiday Fun

Brooke, Jess, Richie, PK, and Mark

We had the chance to hang with some very unexpected visitors these past few days. Not only did these three show up, but so did Josh and Robin Fowler. It was two days of refreshing, great times with great people. It was probably one of the greatest Christmas presents we could've even asked for!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Our Random Week

This is what we saw as we were driving home one day. There was a whole gaggle of geese wandering around the busy downtown Moline intersections. Eventually a guy got out of his car and started chasing them around, trying to get them off the road. Cars were honking [as if that was going to help], and it was mad chaos for about 10 minutes.

I found this book on the shelf at a Coffee Hound. It seems like a bit of a twist on the Dale Carnegie favorite, but maybe there was something he missed in his original writing? :)


Kate Chinlund and I learning to snowboard. I think I look like a big red marshmellow, but it does make for good padding if I fall :).

Mark and I on the slopes...he's a stud when he snowboards...he even landed a huge jump! So much fun! Can't wait for Colorado!!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

A Life Metaphor :: Backpacking


Have you ever stood on the crest of a mountain range, overlooking a labyrinth of valleys and peaks twelve thousand feet below you? They stretch on for miles—as far as you can see, and you feel like there is no other place on earth that could reveal the majesty and grandeur of God more clearly. Has it ever crossed your mind to quit your job, buy a whole bunch of high-calorie foods, and walk twelve to fourteen hours per day for four months straight, all the while, knowing that everything you need to survive is in a pack on your back—and knowing deep in your soul that this is somehow deeply connected to life in it’s rawest form?

Every year about three hundred men and women gather at the US—Mexico border to begin their four month trek north through California, Oregon, and Washington on the Pacific Crest Trail. Many have quit their jobs to tackle the trail. Others are in transition. Some are teachers. Many have done it before; two thirds will never see the Canadian border. Their goal? Canada. Their motivation? The journey.

Hiking is something that grabbed my heart during college. I have always loved the outdoors, but I distinctly remember sitting on a boulder at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, overlooking the Colorado River, and thinking, “I have to do this for the rest of my life!” It was that first backpacking experience in the Grand Canyon that really began to open my eyes to the parallels the trail holds for life.

The Journey: Hiking is all about the journey. The destination is a goal, but the joy comes in incredible views and being immersed in nature. If you can’t enjoy the journey, there are high odds you’ll never finish.

“Highs and Lows”: All cheesy puns aside, the trail offers extremes. There will be times that you’ll find yourself on incredible mountain passes with awe-inspiring views. These are the moments that you wish time would stop and nothing would change. You’re happy, full of joy, and everything seems right; there are other times you’ll walk downhill for hours into a valley or canyon, surrounded by trees, your feet are wet from crossing a creek, temperatures are dropping, and the mosquitoes are so intense that you’ll walk an extra hour to reach an elevation where they don’t exist, even though your feet are screaming for rest. You’ll love it and you’ll hate it at the same time. Which brings me to…

Hard Work: Hiking is a lot of work. It’s not easy to walk for 12-14 hours a day. You’re tired. Sometimes you’re crabby. There are times you’d give anything to not have to walk anymore. But you take the next step because if you don’t, you’re not hiking anymore—you’re just standing around. Hiking can often be glorified in pictures and stories, but when it comes down to it, it really is hard work. It takes determination and a willingness to push beyond our tired bodies and bad attitudes to find joy in sore muscles and aching feet.

Fulfilling: However, despite the hard work, it really is fulfilling. There will be challenges. There will be times you’ll want to quit. But at the end of the day, as you crawl into your sleeping bag, it will fill you with the sense of satisfaction of another day behind you and a new one just around the corner. You’ll have experienced things that will forever be burned into your memory, and you realize that every step is far worth it.

It can become mundane: For weeks before a trip, I’m excited. The anticipation is building, and I can’t wait to be on the trail. Even if it’s just a couple days. The first few days are always incredible. However, even the things that I’ve looked forward to the most—the views, the sunshine, the constant beauty—can become mundane. There comes a point,that if I’m not careful, I’ll begin to take them for granted.

Joy in the small things: Flowers. Plants. Vibrant colors. Distinct scents. Bees buzzing. Silence. Creeks rushing. Fruit snacks. Dry socks. Trees. Warm clothes. Trail markers. Fallen logs at stream crossings. Rest. Conversation. Cheetos. You get the idea.

Simplicity: Life most often isn’t simple, but it should be. Every time I backpack, I am reminded of my most basic needs: food, clothing, shelter, companionship. I get home and look around my home and think, “Do I really need all this stuff? What’s the point?” It helps me distinguish between my needs and wants, and I usually end up giving away a bunch of stuff I don’t need.

Dynamic: As in life, the scenery is constantly changing. I remember hiking the Grand Canyon and being constantly intrigued by my surroundings. One minute I’d be walking on a red-dirt trail, surrounded by lush greenery and meadow-like grass, and we’d round a bend only to step onto grey slabs of stone with a shear drop-off to my left and a wall of stone to my right. You never knew what would surprise you next.

What about you? What’s your metaphor for life? A journey? A story waiting to be read? What inspires you to continue “taking the next step” down the trail?

Sunday, December 04, 2005

I'm a Snowboarder!

This is a picture of me yesterday as I learned how to snowboard! I'm a fast learner huh? :)

No really...this is probably more accurate :). But I really had a lot of fun...I mastered the "Rookies Ridge" hill and it only took me 6 hours! [the guys at the chairlift at the bottom began looking at me funny b/c I would come through every few minutes]. It was so much fun...I might be converted from skis, but I'll give myself a couple more days of riding before I make that decision for good :). Mark was a great teacher, and he was even nice enough to spend most of his day with me on the rookie hill so I wasn't by myself! Once my tired, sore body stops feeling like I lifted weights for 6 hours I think I'll give it another go!


Wednesday, November 30, 2005

What we've been up to lately...

We celebrated our 6 month anniversary by putting up our Christmas tree! Now our big bay window has a tree shining brightly in it. Our favorite room just got more warm and inviting!

I got to experience a Schmerse family tradition: Thanksgiving at "the farm." Mark's dad grew up on a dairy farm in southern wisconsin, and his grandparents are finally moving into an apartment in the spring. It was so special for me to be a part of this tradition of theirs that has played a big part in Mark's family's history. I also got to ride a 1950's John Deere tractor, and in the process of getting it started, we rear-ended his dad [on another tractor] and almost went head-first into a cement silo. Woops!


Mark and I don't have a TV, so we have to be creative with our time. One night we didn't know what to do with ourselves, so we drew pictures of one another. There is nothing in our frames yet, so they made the cut :).

This is Mark making a smore...bonfire style :). Hey...we live in the city...we have to make do with what we have!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

How Old Are You??


This is actually pretty amazing. If you haven't read anything on this yet, check it out. An 18 year old--a senior in high school--just got elected Mayor of Hillsdale, MI. So he goes to school until 2:30pm and then to work from 3-6pm.

Don't ever say you're too young to do something! He won on a write-in vote!

Read the Article Here

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Snow Nostalgia

Fall is over. Winter has finally shown it's face. I woke up this morning to discover my windshield dusted with white flakes and flurries rushing past my window in a dizzied pattern, as if they were chasing each other like kids playing tag. The first few snowfalls of the year always bring a smile to my face. It seems to call up memories of coming in after a few hours of sledding or playing in the snow and finding a warm cup of hot chocolate with marshmellows waiting for me; of crackling fires and cuddling under blankets while watching a movie; of curling up and reading a good book, cozy and safe on my living room couch; of fun times with friends--skiing, having a snowball fight, or going on walks late into the night with Mark, all bundled up with nowhere in particular to go--content to walk and talk for hours even though our fingers are freezing and our toes went numb thirty-five minutes ago.

So this morning, even though I'm at work and don't actually get to do any of the above things, I still find myself with a smile on my face. Maybe after work I'll go home, throw a snowball as I walk to my car, curl up with a good book on my couch, while drinking a warm cup of hot chocolate, and pretend there is a fire crackling in the fireplace I don't have. Who wants to join me?

Monday, November 14, 2005

Dodgeball



In honor of the Dodgeball tournament that is being hosted at Heritage on December 2, Mark and I decided to watch the movie that has emulated a game that is normally only enjoyed by those in elementary school. A few unnecessary scenes aside, it really was a funny movie. My favorite quote from the whole movie was said by a man named Patches O'Houlihan:

"You're about as useless as a poopy-flavored lollipop!"
Now if that's not worth two hours of my time, I don't know what is.

Friday, November 04, 2005

RENT


What is RENT? "It's a modern day version of the opera La Boheme. Set in NYC's East Village, it's an emotionally stirring story of a community of young artists struggling to live and celebrate life" [www.siteforrent.com]. It's been about eight years since I first saw this broadway musical--shown in downtown Chicago. It was the craze amidst my music-savvy, music-obsessed high school, and many of us had parts of the sound-track memorized before we even saw the show. I remember walking away from the show having loved it--and it's been deemed my favorite musical ever since.

It was just a month or so ago that I was sitting through the previews of a movie I can't even remember now, and a preview popped up for RENT--and to my great surprise and great joy, they've decided to make it into a movie! This is a movie I've searched stores for, hoping that it had been made into a rentable [or buyable] version. But to my extreme disappointment, the answer had always been no. However, on November 23 my search will be over. My only fear is that I will sit through this movie and that it won't be as good as I remember it to be [my other fear is that no one will want to go with me because I will sing the whole thing straight through--I've still got 95% of the soundtrack memorized].


The point that the whole show is trying to communicate is that “love is all and there is ‘no day but today.’” It features a character lineup which includes several homosexuals, a “dancer”, a starving musician, a movie artist, a transvestite, and many others who would be a lot less controversial. Many of the characters are HIV+, and their driving question, “how do you measure a year in the life of friends?” Their answer? “Measure in Love.” If I remember correctly, it will prove to be a truly thought-provoking film. It’s always interesting for me to watch something that I saw and loved before I was a follower of Christ. What usually happens is that I watch it again and don’t like it as much [hence the fear that I won’t enjoy this production as much]—however, ever since my theology and philosophy of film class my senior year of college, I’ve been challenged to watch all movies through a different—critical—set of lenses. There is Truth of some sort in every film/production out there, and even now, without viewing it again, I can already see some of the threads emerging—many of them values that Christians claim to hold in the highest regard:

1. Love
2. Community
3. Passion
4. Dreams [having them and following them]
5. Justice [especially in regards to the poor]
6. Loyalty/faithfulness
7. Honestly
8. Being Real/Authentic/Honest

…to name a few. I’m sure there are more. If anyone has seen the musical, I'd love to know your thoughts. If not, and you see the film version....I'd love to hear from you in about a month :). So, until [if] my idealism is dashed upon seeing it again, I'm still a big fan. There's something so powerful about anticipation...but that's a post for another day. Ciao!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Baby Amnesia

For anyone who wants a good laugh, check out David Drury's article called "Baby Amnesia." I've been laughing about this for a few days now :). Good writing is always preceded by great observation...this is funny because it's probably true!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

::Inspired and Refreshed::

I got to spend this past weekend with amazing people. We first had Adam and Christin Jones visiting from Ft. Wayne, IN. Christin was my roommate for 2 years at school, and has been a faithful friend since we graduated. We got to spend two wonderful days with them, and then we all hopped in our cars and caravaned back to Indiana, where Mark and I spent two more wonderful days at IWU. Mark spoke in a chapel, and we spent the rest of our time hanging out. I recruited some of my best friends to make the trek to IWU as well...so it was good times had by all. So refreshing. There's just something rejuvinating about spending time with people who know you and love you and who are just simply familiar.

It was during one conversation that someone said, "People don't energize me, but they inspire me." My first thought was, "YES!" I claim to be an introvert that truly does love to be around people. However, being married to an extreme extrovert makes me realize how much of an introvert I really am. I love people, but after spending all day being around tons of people [especially people I don't know well], I feel drained. All I want to do is go and close myself in a room and recoup. It's always been a funny thing for me to pin-point, but I think she said it best. I often leave people and feel inspired, but not energized.

So here I am--back in Rock Island, back to work as usual. Lots to do...lots to think about...yet strangely not the same. I definitely don't feel energized after a long weekend with people, but I do feel inspired. I do feel refreshed.

And I can't wait for 4:30 when I can go home and take a nap :).

Thursday, October 27, 2005

WInc.

I'm officially on the road to becoming a paid writer! I have a friend here at church who writes for a local publication called WInc [Women Incorporated]--it's a publication put out by the Quad City Times, a local newspaper, and is distributed throughout the Quad City area. She encouraged me to call them because they are always looking for new free-lance writers, and yesterday I was offered the chance to write a feature article for them! It definintely isn't my life's dream or my goal to write for magazines or for newspapers, but I do enjoy writing, and I am excited for the experience, for the chance to grow as a writer, and to make a little cash on the side :). If all goes well, I'll be in the January issue - I'll let you know where to find it online when I know it's printed for sure. Cheers!

PS: Mark and I have been married for 5 months as of today! Crazy!

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Two Sides of the Creation Narrative

This was something that I wrote last winter. It is a "manuscript" of a message that I spoke at the church I was involved in. It's pretty readable [it's written out word-for-word], but at times it is written as if a person is talking. Our senior pastor is currently preaching a series on the Names of God, and some of what he said this past week reminded me a bit of what I wrote here...

Genesis 2:4-25

Last time we met, we talked about Genesis 1. It was with the phrase, “In the beginning, God” that God established Himself as the God—the God who created everything. Genesis 1 gives us this cosmic overview…the “genealogy”, if you will, of the creation of the heavens and the earth. In the Genesis 1 account of creation, we see this tiered system, with human beings at its climax—the culmination of all His work. He even says at the end of Day 6 that what He did was “very good”, not just “good.” It paints a picture of a strong, powerful, creative God.

The name used there is Elohim –it’s this word that means “the plural of Majesty” or “the plural of Intensity.” If intensity isn’t enough, here we see that God is multiple intensities all wrapped up into One. If the only account of creation we had was Genesis 1, I believe our picture of God would be off. But the Bible is not only an account of God’s interaction with man, but also the unfolding story of God revealing Himself—His character—to man. Throughout Scripture, God reveals Himself by His names: I AM, Your Provider, Your Peace, Your Healer…and we enter Genesis 2, and the story zooms in on day 6 of Creation. God has just finished creating the heavens and the earth, and He rested. In Genesis 2, the name used to describe God changes a bit. He begins to give us a little bit more of who He is. The name used here is Yahweh or Jehovah Elohim: LORD God. This name means something more than just “the God of Power”, but comes to mean, “the God of Power and Perfection.” He’s a finishing God…a God who seeks to complete His work, and He does that with the creation of man. Ultimately, I believe that Genesis 1 and 2 are put together in order to show us, not only God’s power and strength, but also reveal to us His tenderness and love.

We’re going to first read Genesis 1:26-30, and then move into Genesis 2:5-25. First, I want to point out that God was having a blast during this work of Creation. I picture Him so full of joy at what He’s doing...“light!” “land!” for the first five days, and then it’s like He had this revelation on day 6: “We should make man in our image, reflecting our nature!” Now, to me, that doesn’t seem quite as spontaneous as the first five days…you can already tell that there’s something special going on here. Gen 2 says that God formed man-he didn’t just speak him into existence as He had the rest of creation. The word in Hebrew is the word Yasar, which means “to mold something to a desired shape.” It is the same word used later in the Bible to describe a Potter at work. Right now, I want everyone to close their eyes. You’re now all in Kindergarten, and you’ve all been given a lump of clay to work with, and you’re told to make something—whatever you want, and at the end of the day it’s going to be put in the Kiln to be fired. Now, as a kindergartener, you’re going to put your heart and soul into that work of art…you are going to form whatever you desired to make with the utmost care, and when you’re done, you are so proud of what you’ve done! You want to show it off, and you even carve your name on the bottom to show that it is your work. It is way more special to you than anything you could have bought because you invested part of yourself into it. This is the same idea here. God formed man—yasar—out of the dust of the earth, and breathed the breath of life, His breath, into man, and then man became a living soul. God has got to be looking at this man that He created, this man that reflects His image and His nature, this man that has His signature, part of Him in him, this man that God took the time to form so carefully, with so much more love than we can ever begin to understand. He is just delighted in Adam!

God is so delighted, in fact, that He goes as far as to create a literal paradise for Adam to live in. The text says that He planted a garden in Eden….He could have just spoken one into existence if He had wanted to, but it says He planted a garden. Have any of you ever planted a garden? It’s a lot of work! You have to invest so much time and loving care into it. If you don’t tend it, it dies. Why do you think that people buy plants before they have kids?! If you can keep the plant alive…you’re ready for kids…it takes a lot of work. So God plants this garden in Eden [which means something like, “pleasantness” or “enjoyment”], and Adam got hooked up. If you really look at what the text says, Adam had it made. Not only was he living in perfect relationship to His Creator, but God planted trees that were beautiful to look at and good to eat, there’s a massive river winding through it. He could have just plopped Adam down anywhere on the earth He had just created, but instead, He took the time to create a little haven for Adam to tend.

I know that most of us initially think of work, and wonder how loving that really is. God takes all that time and care to create this man and this gorgeous garden, and then makes him work? But think about it…it gave Adam purpose. I believe that this is one of the most loving things God could have done for Adam. If we really take an honest look at what it would have been like to live without purpose, I have little doubt that you would agree that you need something to focus on…to invest in…it gives you metal, emotional, physical, and spiritual stability as well as brings balance to all these dynamics. My roommate and I have both had experiences that relate to this in the last few months. We each had about a month, respectively, where we really had no purpose, nothing to invest ourselves in, way too much free time. Coming out of college life, where you have more to do than you sometimes want, this was somewhat shocking, and almost freeing at first. But after a week or so, we were ready for something meaningful. It had us emotionally and mentally wacked out, as well as spiritually off balance. God created us with a need for purpose.

It’s at this point that God does two really crucial things…the first is that He gives Adam some parameters. Normally we tend to focus on the negative….God saying, “Don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” But really, the restrictions God gives Adam are very narrow compared with the breadth of His permissiveness. He tells Adam He can eat from any tree…even the Tree of Life…any tree, except the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. All of a sudden, Adam is left with a choice. His love is now voluntary. He knows God’s love…He knows he’s adored and cherished and delighted in. He can either choose to listen to this God who is Ultimate Reality…this God that just IS---“In the beginning, God”—or He can do what he knows will bring consequence and death, and risk losing this perfect love relationship He lives in daily. I truly believe that God’s desire to have us love Him and His willingness to risk that love is a beautiful thing. It’s a hard reality because throughout history, humans have struggled to choose God; the Bible speaks time and again of God’s deep ache because His people prostitute themselves, always choosing other gods; but it’s beautiful, because when it happens, when we do choose God, there is a union there that is beyond comprehension for those who refuse His love. He wants us to learn wisdom, but it’s a wisdom that is tied to our relationship with Him.

The second thing is that, for the first time, God isn’t pleased. He looks at Adam tending the garden alone, and says it isn’t good! It’s the first time in all of the creation accounts that God says something isn’t good. He decides to make Adam a helper/companion. Some other translations render the word, “helper meet [suitable, adapted, completing]”, “a companion…a helper suitable to his needs”, “a helper correspondent to himself.” There is a lot of controversy surrounding this word, but ultimately, the meaning is the same. We are always hearing about how, because woman was described as a helper for Adam, that it is a demeaning term…that it gives her less value, when that isn’t the case at all. Really, the only other times the word is used in Scripture, it is used to describe God coming to the aid of His people. It’s a word that signifies strength and love.

It’s interesting, because I think we always think that God creates Eve right at this point, but instead, God does something that is really cool. He makes Adam wait! Instead of bringing Eve to Adam right away…He forms all the animals and birds and brings them to Adam to name. It’s important to note that the animals were formed from the dust of the ground as well, yet the sole difference lies in God’s signature…His breath of life and His image that is stamped on humanity. It is projected that there are between 5 million and 30 million species that exist on the planet. Even if Adam named one of those per minute consistently, it would have taken him a minimum of 9.7 years and a maximum of 57 years! That’s a long time to wait! I believe that brings hope to anyone here who’s single and feels like they’ve been waiting on God for “the one.” Remember that in Gen 1, God says he wants to create “them” in His image…male and female…He knew from the beginning He was going to create both man and woman, but I think that God wanted Adam to be able to see and understand for himself that He was created for someone specific…that the companion God had for him was perfectly matched for him, and that there was nothing else out there quite like Him. I think it might have been a bit discouraging to get to the end of a seemingly huge task like that, hoping that each new species that is brought before you might be “the one”, yet in the end, to still be alone. You know, we sing all these songs about how God is “enough” and “all we need”, and it’s not true! It really isn’t. Even when man was living in perfect relationship with God, he still needed a companion that was on the same mental, emotional, and spiritual level as he was. Think about it…he had just finished naming the animals…and God had given him dominion over them….in the pecking order, they were below him. On the other hand, God is Ultimate Reality….Jehovah Elohim…the Fullness of Deity…and He is beyond even Adam’s full comprehension. He had to have felt alone.

So Adam has named the animals, and God puts him into a deep sleep....He removes a part of Adam…and forms woman out of the rib and the dust of the ground. He puts the same loving, tender, intimate care into forming woman as He did man…there’s a question as to whether or not Adam was conscious of what was going on….wouldn’t it be cool to think that, even though Adam couldn’t feel what God was doing, he could see God form this companion of His? Then God does the same thing He’s been doing…he brings Eve before Adam to name her. Adams reaction is usually translated, “this is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” How boring does that sound? But I think his reaction was more like how the Message paraphrases it: “Finally!” or it might be read, “At last! Someone I can connect with! Someone else formed in God’s image! The part of me that was missing has now been restored!” He recognizes that Eve is a perfect match…He sees a part of himself in her…she is the same, yet different, and he names her woman.

Now, there is so much more that I could say on the topic of marriage…that’s a whole sermon in and of itself. But what I want us to recognize is that this isn’t just a passage about God creating man and instituting marriage. There is something even more critical and deep here to see…and if we miss it, I think we miss the point of the rest of this Story we find ourselves in. Genesis 1 and 2 are two very different accounts of the same story…and I believe that they were written very intentionally that way. God…the God who IS…the Creator God, the Strong God, the All-Powerful God who can speak something into existence, ex nihilio [out of nothing], is the same God who formed you…who loves you, who delights in you and delights in giving you good things within a context of relationship with Him, and we miss it…we refuse it…and we throw it back in His face, time and again. We will not, and cannot, live lives in the fullness of relationship with God unless we are willing to choose Him. And I believe that until we are willing, we will never fully live.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Ahh Yes...Gus's Koffee Break. My friend Kate and I frequent this place on Monday mornings at 7am (when I say frequent, I mean we've been there twice). But apparently, going only twice is enough to make us "regulars." The last time we went, our waiter, Nick, came up to us and said (before we even spoke), "two coffees? Do you take sugar? I can't remember." You have to love dining in places that are pretty much only frequented by old men ;). Especially when they spell coffee with a "k" and when their window says, "we sold a $1,000,000 instand winner!" Probably the biggest plus is that you get a great breakfast for only $2.49. Ahh, gotta love living downtown :).  Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 03, 2005

Jehovah-Jireh

I was reading Exodus 12 the other day, which is about the first Jewish Passover…when Yahweh sends the final plague in a succession of ten that are in response to Pharaoh’s hardened heart. Moses is continually begging Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave Egypt to go and worship Yahweh in the wilderness, but Pharaoh continually refuses, not wanting to lose the Israelites as slave labor. Exodus 12 lays out the commands given by Yahweh to Moses and Aaron in preparation for their coming deliverance from slavery. Yahweh first tells each family to choose a lamb for sacrifice; then, He says, “If a family is too small to eat an entire lamb, let them share the lamb with another family in the neighborhood. Whether or not they share in this way depends on the size of each family and how much they can eat” (v4). I was struck by this simple command—not because of the specificity of it or even because of the communal aspect of it. I was struck by Yahweh’s heart that valued meeting peoples’ needs, but not giving them so much that they became greedy. He gave them just enough, and if there was going to be too much, they had to share with their neighbors. The same idea is modeled in Exodus 16, when Yahweh provides manna and quail for the Israelites when they are wandering in the desert and starving. Vv. 17 and 18 say this: “So the people of Israel went out and gathered this food—some getting more, and some getting less. By gathering two quarts for each person, everyone had just enough. Those who gathered a lot had nothing left over, and those who gathered only a little had enough. Each family had just what it needed.” Even more than in Ex 12, we begin to see Yahweh’s provision for His people. They were commanded to pick up twice as much on the 6th day, so that they would have enough to sustain them through the Sabbath. I see a beautiful picture of Yahweh’s desire to see His people depend on Him for provision…Jehovah-Jireh…I am the Lord your Provider…they weren’t allowed to horde food for fear of starvation—although there’s no doubt that it was a huge temptation—and Yahweh’s response to that was clear: “But of course, some of them didn’t listen and kept some of it until morning. By then it was full of maggots and had a terrible smell” (Ex. 15:20). Greed wasn’t even an option. He wouldn’t allow it. If greed won out and they gathered more than they needed, it became inedible. The only option was to trust and depend that food would be there in the morning when they woke up—that their basic needs for survival would be met anew each morning.
It’s a beautiful message, and a principle that is not as easy to live out in the here and now—in a culture that lives day-in and day-out in abundance. We are a nation whose poor would be filthy rich if picked up and placed in another culture. Yet there’s a constant, underlying cry for “more.” It seems that no matter how much we have, it’s never enough. We confuse our wants with our needs, and because we have the money, we so often choose to appease that inner cry, which only imbeds it deeper in our bones.
How do we, as the people of God, live our lives in such a way that our possessions and our food are held loosely? What if we gave more than we kept? How do we allow our abundance to reach beyond our homes and lives in order to provide for and bless others? How will our lives—as followers of Christ—challenge the lives of those around us as forces of good in the world? Will we be people who are willing to depend on God to provide for our basic needs, while living at a standard that is lower than we can afford, in order to give more?
As I continue to read and study the Old Testament, I am continually challenged by the principles I see beyond the commands. It’s amazing how the Creator God can see to the depth of humanity’s soul, and knows what is good for us, and what is wholly dangerous for us—and He provides accordingly. Jehovah-Jireh—I am the Lord your Provider…

Monday, September 19, 2005

Keys to the Kingdom


So, I was going to the bathroom today at work, and what do I find in the women's bathroom? Keys to the Kingdom...what else would you find in a women's bathroom at a church? You're probably wondering what this incredible find is...and you should wonder, because if you've never heard of it before, you might be as amazed as I am. It's a board game. Yes...they made our spiritual journey into a board game. Incredible isn't it? Here's a little taste of the game, as written in the direction packet:

Object of the game:
1. to become "born again"
2. Through the Holy Spirit draw closer to God
3. To love your neighbor as yourself
4. To put off the deeds of the flesh and walk according to the Spirit
Explaination of the game board
The game board consists of 5 concentric bands, held together by 12 yellow spokes coming together at the center. the largest (outer) band represents the world. The 4 inner bands represent your growth path in the Kingdom of Heaven, God being the center.
The yellow spokes represent the Holy Spirit (leading your closer to God) while Jesus is represented by the red doors located where the yellow Holy Spirit spokes connect with the world.
There are "key cards" which include things such as truth, faith, humility, and trust, and "flesh cards" which include things like anger, lust, greed, jealousy, selfishness, and the like. There are also "scripture cards" and "crown cards," which are needed to win the game, and are received when you "love your neighbor" and give up a turn or give over a card needed by another player in order to help them out. I'm kind of in awe that someone took the time to make a game out of this, and even moreso, because it was possible to take something incomprehensible and make it into a board game...
I wish I could say more, but I'm off to a retreat. I leave you to ponder the wonders of spiritual board games on your own. Chaio!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Like NASCAR, only mini :) Posted by Picasa
View from our apartment last Saturday. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Professional Go-Cart Racing?

This past weekend the road outside our apt was transformed into a go-cart track. Honestly, this is a very real thing that happens. People truly do race go-carts professionally! It all began on Friday night as fences began to line the streets and we weren’t allowed to park within two blocks of our home. It was further emphasized when we saw truckloads of hay bales stacked up to outline the track, along with huge plastic barriers that served to protect not only those on the sidelines, but those who were driving. We woke up early on Saturday morning to the sound of go-carts buzzing past our house as the racers warmed up and got a feel for the curves and the straight-aways. We were told that it only took 30-40 seconds for one of the go-carts to make one lap…and it wasn’t a small track. These things were absolutely FLYING. We heard they went up to 100 miles an hour. In a go-cart. We left our apartment like normal, about 15 minutes before we need to be somewhere, only to realize, as we wove our way through the fenced in blocks surrounding our house, that we were living in the center of the track; in order to go anywhere, we would have to cross the track. Easier said than done. They had pretty strict regulations on when and where people could cross, mainly because if you were to step out onto the track at the wrong time, you were endangering not only your life, but the lives of any of the drivers that would come zipping around the corner at any given moment. They were letting 3-5 races go without letting people cross. Translated into minutes, it ended up being about 30 minutes in between crossings, and since Mark and I have impeccable timing, we always got to the designated crosswalks during the first or second race :). It was pretty funny. And we were late a lot this weekend :). It was only mildly frustrating at times, and it was easy to put up with knowing they were done in less than 48 hours. Mostly it was just funny to us, and kind of fun to watch. I guess I never knew people did this professionally. It’s pretty amazing to watch people zip around on go-carts, and kind of unnerving at times to watch people hit those plastic barriers and spin out of control or flip. Luckily, we never saw anyone get seriously injured. It was a pretty fun thing, and the best part about it? We could sit in our apt and watch from the window! We had the best seats in the house!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Back on American soil...

After 10 days, 3 conferences, over 1000 Zambians, and 44 hours of flying, we are back on American soil. It was an incredible trip, with a phenominal team, and great conversation and teaching. We had the odds working against us for sure. Our team had a wide variety of ages and experiences. We had a couple high school girls, Mark and I as young adults, a few adult couples, and a lady a bit older than that...we were embarking on a journey that was new to even the leader...it sounds like the makings of frustration and miscommunication to me...luckily, it was just the opposite!

We arrived in Lusaka (Zambia's capital) and began preparing for our first conference. It was just a one-day event, aimed at training pastors in leadership and church growth, but when we got there the next morning, we found about 50 children! This we weren't prepared for! So we recouped and sang a few songs and told a few stories, and were whisked off to a few homes of church members. We had the privilege of praying for a little girl who had been sick for 2 years. She was six, but looked like she was 4. She was so tiny, and medications weren't helping her. All we could do was lay hands on her and ask God to touch her tiny body and leave the family with some money to buy some more medicines. We then had the chance to pray for an 18-year old boy who had had a stroke a couple months back and was paralyzed down the right side of his body. It was heartbreaking and a very powerful, eye-opening time for many on the team, who had never come in direct contact with poverty and sickness before.

We spent the next three days in Choma, a smaller town about 5 hours away from Lusaka. This was a three day conference for pastors and bible school students. Church members were invited, but our aim was to train pastors and bible school students so that they could better lead their churches. We were hoping and praying for 100-200 to show up, and had heard that as many as 450 could show up, but no one really expected that many. When we got there the first day, there were around 600 people, and more kept showing up every day! By our last day, we had close to 900 people there! It was a bit overwhelming at times, but we were able to focus on the pastors and bible school students, and we felt like were able to invest in the right places.

Our last couple days were spent in Livingstone, where we did a 2-day conference at Juden and Prisca's church. Pastors from the surrounding churches were invited, and we had our ideal 100-200 people show up. By this time we were a bit tired and worn out due to full days of ministry, but the conversation was good and we got to connect in a deeper way with some of the Zambians because of the smaller size group. We also got to witness the wedding of Cindy and Keith! They got officially married the night before we left, but waited until the official ceremony on Thursday at Victoria Falls (one of the seven natural wonders of the world!) to call themselves husband and wife! It was so special to be there for that...and it was perfect for them as well. I know their hearts are with the Zambian people and that they wouldn't have had it any other way!

Over the course of ten days, we got to dive into great conversation with Zambian church leaders, learn a ton about the Zambian church, Mark got to preach three times (and he did amazing!!! I was SO proud of him!!), and have a great time with an amazing team! We know our hearts will continue to be with the Zambian church and it's leaders, but we are thankful to be back in America. I think we'll be staying put for awhile now...

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Here We Go Again...

Yes, I know that my last update was about a three week hike we’d just finished, and previous to that, I was just married…so it shouldn’t surprise you much to read that as of Thursday, Mark and I will be….in Zambia. Yes…Zambia. Who would have thought? Not us! A day or two before we left on our hike, Patty Bray, a pastor at Heritage Wesleyan Church, where we work, emailed asking if we’d consider going. They’d had someone drop from the team, and she needed someone quick who was willing and able to preach…and God led her to Mark. We talked…and prayed…and talked…and prayed…and came to the conclusion it would be too much too soon. So we said “nobutifyoureallyreallyneeduswecandoit.” Ha. And that left Patty as confused as we felt. So she called, and we spent some time talking and praying with her, and ended up deciding to go. We’ll be spending our time doing three different conferences in three different locations: Livingston, Choma, and Lusaka. We’ll be teaching on leadership development, church growth and marriage, and leading some small group discussion as well. Mark will preach three times. We’re excited—for the chance to do this together and to see how God is working in Zambia—and how we can increase that momentum through our service. So Thursday at 5:30am (oooh—that means we go to the airport at 4:15am!), we leave for Zambia for 10 days. Please pray with us! I’ll be sure to post some pictures on the return end!

Monday, July 18, 2005

Forester Pass- 13,200 ft.- our last and highest pass before Mt. Whitney. July 7, 2005. Posted by Picasa

One Step at a Time...

It's a crazy paradox to love and hate something at the same time--to do something that takes you through the whole spectrum of emotions and fills you with dread and then elation moments later. Mark and I just finished hiking The John Muir Trail in Central California about a week ago. It's 220 miles stretching from Yosemite Valley, through the High Sierra's, and ending at the summit of Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the lower 48 states (14,497 ft.)...deemed one of America's most beautiful hiking trails. Every pass and valley opens up into another incredible view that leaves you breathless (partly because you just climbed 2000 feet, but mostly from the beauty). Mark and I decided a few months ago that this was the section of trail we wanted to trek, and we even knew before we went that the snow levels had hit 200% of a normal season this year; however, we figured that if we started in Yosemite and headed south, by the time we hit our big passes, much of the snow would be melted out. So we went, ice axes in hand, sights set high. I was excited for my first "longer distance" hike--little did I know what I was getting myself into! I went, never having used an ice axe, never having hiked on snow, never having really done anything I was doing all day, every day...and boy was there snow! For our first week we barely saw the trail! Mark grew to be quite the navigator with a topo map and compass, and we both grew in our ability to spot about 6 inches of trail under mounds and mounds of snow. We could go most of a day only hoping and praying that we were headed down the right valley or climbing the right pass (only to be rewarded with the spotting of trail as we headed into lower elevations). About five days into the trip, moving slower than we'd hoped due to all the snow, we hitched into the mountain resort town of Mammoth Lakes, a bit discouraged, surrendering our hope of finishing the trail before our flight left LA on July 10.

Luckily temps hit the 80's for our second half of the trip, and the snow started melting like mad (making our creek crossings more like "raging river crossings"), and we started seeing the trail at higher and higher elevations. We were able to make up some time and some miles, and we actually finished a day ahead of what we thought we'd do! It was amazing! We summited Mt. Whitney on July 8 at 9am, reaching our goal with amazing views and, what I like to call "a celebratory snickers" (I'd been saving that for the summit as we ran low on food toward the end). Ever ate a snickers at 14, 497 ft? I'd recommend it...it tastes way better up there!

Looking back, I'd do it again in an instant; but I've also never done anything that made me want to cry, panic, and quit time and time again. Luckily both Mark and I are determined people and he was an incredible encouragement to me. He kept me moving one step at a time over the snow and steep slopes when I was overwhelmed; I couldn't have done this without him, that's for sure. It was a time of great growth for the both of us, and a unifying experience that will hopefully be a metaphor for our marriage and life together. Thanks to everyone who was praying for us!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

A Whirlwind

I'M MARRIED!!! As of May 27, 2005, I am Mark's wife! How crazy is that? Life has truly been a whirlwind...I finished up my job in Indiana as of May 20....got married a week later, spent a week in Florida, and we are currently living with Katy and Chad Chinlund in Moline, IL as we search out our own little place to move into when we return from hiking the John Muir Trail in California. I am so excited!! We leave on Monday and will spend 18 days on the trail...hopefully ending up at Mt. Whitney! After that we will start on at Heritage Wesleyan Church as the Young Adult Pastors and pray that stability sets in :). Even though that is highly unlikely (just looking at my life's pattern as of late), I will try to update more frequently when I get back from hiking. Our deepest gratitude to all our family and friends who have walked with us and supported us as we begin this journey together as husband and wife. We are loving it!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

transitions

If I could sum up the last year of my life, I think I would use the word transition. Life has been full of one change after another, whether it’s friendships, schedules, jobs, or my faith. Everything has been in constant change mode. I graduated college, moved to Colorado for the summer, got engaged, moved back to Marion (but not after spending three weeks in four different states), said goodbye to my new fiancĂ© as he left to traverse the world for six months, worked three random jobs, quit two of them to start another full-time position, helped out at a church plant, planned a wedding, said “welcome home” to my fiancĂ© upon his return, and have been trying to figure out the rest of life since :). As soon as something makes sense for more than a few months, it has to change—if it didn’t, it might provide some stability and peace of mind for a moment, and we can’t have that :). I may sound a bit bitter but I’m really not. I’m just reflecting. It can just be a bit overwhelming at times, but I’m learning to deal with it. The transitions aren’t bad…just dynamic…and in order to not fall off the deep end sometimes, you just need to learn to be flexible.

Would it surprise you if I said life is still a rollercoaster at times? I work and spend time with Mark and we’re in the beginning stages of planning our life together. My season of life in Marion is finally ending a year after graduating. My college friends graduated and moved. Other friends are in the prep stages of moving. My season of transition is not ending. It really is just beginning. Mark and I are getting married in TWO AND A HALF WEEKS (insert girly scream here), and we will have a few weeks of randomness where we will be in a couple weddings and prepare for a hike we’d like to take. Then after hiking for a few weeks on the John Muir Trail (JMT) in California, we will take our first real stab at local church ministry as young adult pastors at Heritage Wesleyan Church in Rock Island, IL (www.heritageqc.com). We will be sharing the position, each of us seeking the experience as staff pastors. We are very excited! I hear that the first year of marriage and the first year of ministry each have a steep learning curve…we’re ramping up for an exciting year of learning via experience. It’s time to take the classroom into the church and make all the theory tangible. What will life look like? Only God knows. Will it ever be stable and free from the joys and stresses of transition? I hope not. To live life is to embark on a journey, and that means moving forward. It’s a lesson I’m learning day by day. To stay static and hold onto what is safe and secure would be to hinder growth and the building of the Kingdom. That wouldn’t be life, and last time I checked, life is definitely worth living.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

"Human Doings" vs. "Human Beings"

Success: the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence (http://www.webster.com/). This is our culture-defined view of success—of achieving—of becoming. But where does it really get us? We end up with a lot of stuff, a lot of stress, and weary souls. The sad part is that this workaholic mentality that has saturated our society has also saturated the Church. We profess to be free, yet live in a self-made prison. We do and do and do—for God—and often still end up missing the point. We think t hat if we do more, we earn more of God’s favor. If we do more, He’ll love us more, like us more, delight in us more, bless us more. We strive to be honored by those around us—to be seen as someone great—someone that has it all together—a “successful Christian.” We cease to be a “human being” and get sucked into an empty existence of a “human doing.”

When Moses asked God’s name, He replied with a resounding, “I AM.” If we look at that grammatically, “I AM” is a form of the verb “to be.” In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the OT, the word chosen to translate “I AM” was emui, meaning “I am, exist, live, am present.” God was saying that He simply IS…that He exists…that He is Being. It’s something that is so deep it’s hard to wrap our minds around. However, we were created in the image and likeness of this God who is Being, and therefore we are called “human beings.” Our identity is rooted in our “being,” yet our culture wants to continually judge our lives as a success or a failure based upon what we do. Scripture continually points us back to good works, yet those works should be a result of our being—an overflow of our abiding in Christ—not the standard by which we find our worth. As children of the Creator, let us abide in the values and standards that hold to God’s heart, and may our “doing” continue to flow from the core of our “being.”

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Captive

It's been awhile since I've updated this, and even longer since I've actually written something. I'm going to try to get something out soon...I have some ideas brewing in my heart and mind that are longing to be written down. However, for work I have begun to write a series of devotionals that will eventually be posted somewhere on the website for The Spiritual Formation Dept of The Wesleyan Church (www.headhearthand.com). Here's one...I may post more later...I may take them and expand...we'll see what comes :).

* * * * *

“My heart is held captive by the Word of God.”
~Martin Luther~

* * * * *

Out of the 6,913 languages in the world, only 405 of them have an adequate translation of the whole Bible; 1,034 have and adequate New Testament; 883 have some Scripture translated, and over 3,000 are in need of translation.* Those statistics are staggering when you consider the abundance of translations and the easy access we have to any Bible of our choice. There’s the NIV, TNIV, NASB, RSV, NRSV, KJV, NKJV, NLT, The Message, The Amplified Bible, and many, many more. Within each of these translations, we then have the chance to make our selection from a study bible, life application bible, worship bible, men’s study bible, women’s study bible, teen study bible, teen life application bible, family bible, bible for newlyweds, children’s bible, one-year bible, chronological bible, and dozens of other specific and made-to-order versions that fit my current season of life. We also get to choose between size (travel edition or the big “preacher bible”?), color (hot pink cool design or straight traditional navy blue?), and make (leather or hardcover?), and as soon as this season is over, I will put that Bible on the shelf next to one or two or seven other versions or translations and may open it once or twice again in my lifetime. It’s pretty amazing, actually.

In America we so easily take for granted the ability to have any translation ranging from the Greek and Hebrew to The Message paraphrase. We walk into Christian bookstores only to find walls covered with choices. Bibles are tossed around, thrown out, and regarded as “just another book.” The Gideons have even put one in each hotel room in America, only to have them sit, unopened, for months, maybe years. The deep reality is that there are thousands of people around the world who go day-in and day-out wishing they could have even one page of the bible we so often take for granted. There are Christians who could die for having Scripture in their possession. There are thousands who will never even live to see the Bible translated into their own language. I pray, this week as we read and study, that our heart would be held captive by the Word we are so privileged to have unlimited access to, and may we be reminded to give praise and thanks for the things we are so quick to take for granted.

* statistics gathered from www.wycliffe.org

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Mark and I spent Saturday registering for the wedding. Afterward, this is how we felt!  Posted by Hello

Thursday, March 10, 2005


Jess and Mark reunite on February 25! We are so excited to be together again! Posted by Hello

Monday, February 21, 2005

The Joy of Giving

“This is not just a place for people to meet each other, but a house for GOD to meet us….because my heart is in this….I’m turning over my personal fortune of gold and silver for making this place of worship for my GOD…And now, how about you? Who among you is ready and willing to join me in the giving?...and the people were full of celebration—all that giving! And all given willingly, freely!...David Blessed GOD in full view of the entire congregation:

“Blessed are you, GOD of Israel, our father
from of old and forever.
To you, O GOD, belong the greatness and the might,
the glory, the victory, the majesty, the splendor;
Yes! Everything in heaven, everything on earth;
the Kingdom all yours! You’ve raised yourself high over all.
Riches and glory come from you,
You’re ruler over all;
You hold strength and power in the palm of your hand
to build up and strengthen all.
And here we are, O God, our God, giving thanks to you,
praising your splendid Name.

“But me—who am I, and who are these my people, that we should presume to be giving something to you? Everything comes from you; all we’re doing is giving back what we’ve been given from your generous hand. As far as you’re concerned, we’re homeless, shiftless wanderers like our ancestors, our lives mere shadows, hardly anything to us. GOD, our God, all these materials—these piles of stuff for building a house of worship for you, honoring your Holy Name—it all came from you! It was all yours in the first place! I know, dear God, that you care nothing for the surface—you want us, our true selves—and so I have given from the heart, honestly and happily. And now see all these people doing the same, giving freely, willingly—what a joy! O GOD, God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, keep this generous spirit alive forever in these people always, keep their hearts set firmly in you. And give my son Solomon an uncluttered and focused heart so that he can obey what you command, live by your directions and counsel, and carry through with building The Temple for which I have provided.”

--Selections from 1 Chronicles 29 (The Message)--

Is this our attitude toward building the Kingdom of God? I’m challenged and convicted…anyone else?

Monday, February 07, 2005

Required Suggestions??

I was looking for sermons online today, and I came across something that has made me wonder for awhile now...Someone tell me why we use the term "suggested donation" which denotes a choice, when you really don't have a choice, and what is meant is "you must buy"? If we're going to charge people for stuff, why can't we just be honest say, "here's the price you must pay"? It just doesn't make sense to me...

Thursday, January 27, 2005

The Cry for Community

“So are you from around here?” That’s how the conversations usually start. Working behind a bar automatically puts you on peoples’ “safe” list, and you become the equivalent of a pastor, psychiatrist, and friend. They just talk to you, and assume you want to talk to them. It’s pretty cool, actually. There are people I’ve known since high school that don’t trust me as much as some of these people do. It’s at this point that the conversation spirals into my sharing an overview of my journey and usually ends with the other person asking, “Isn’t that a little bit contradicting—you graduating from IWU, working in Ministry, and working here?” I’ve had some really great conversations that have started out that way.

In many ways this bar/coffee shop parallels the church. It’s amazing to observe people, unchurched people, and it becomes obvious that all humans, Christian or not, have many of the same basic needs and desires. For example, deep with in each human heart is a desire for community. I work here week after week, and the same people keep coming back. There are plenty of bars around the Marion area, and yet they keep returning, knowing that they will see friends and familiar faces when they walk in the door. People have begun to have nicknames, and I could tell you what most of them will order before they speak. I know their names (is the Cheers theme song running through your head too??), and have even begun to build real friendships with a few of them. It’s funny how we have taken the idea of community and made it a Christian thing. We talk about it in our churches and at school, and often we achieve it. But it’s not a Christian thing; it’s a human thing woven deep into the hearts of every human being crafted in the image of the Creator—who was, of course, the first to desire communion with us.

The early church spent time together eating and drinking. They called these “agape feasts” or “love feasts,” and it was a time for community and making sure the needs of the people were met. Now, I don’t want to sound sacrilegious, but something similar happens in this bar each week as well. There’s just something special that can happen when people share food and drink together. People learn to laugh and love. They find common ground and share life stories. They relax and think. They have fun, and when the night is over, the shared experience is a memory to look back on that helps lay a foundation for friendship and relationship that will continue to build into the future.

I believe that something spiritual and real happens when Christians share communion. I don’t want to minimize what God does when His people come together in remembrance of Christ. But in a way, the parallels reveal my point: humans are a lot alike, whether they realize it or not—whether we like it or not. We are wired in a way that drives us, and we will meet those needs in one way or another. So whether we fulfill the need for relationship and community in a bar, in a church, or in some other venue, our hearts will cry for it because it is a part of us. We were created in the image of a God who, from day one, has pursued us relentlessly, giving grace and His Son so that He could reestablish a real and whole relationship with His people. He wants us to know Him, and thus, we long to be known. We spend our lives aching for someone to love us and know the deepest intimate parts of us, and in the end, we hurt those closest to us because we want them to do what only God can do.

Maybe that’s why Jesus hung out with people the religious saw as sinners. Maybe He recognized that they would pursue the fulfillment of that need, and He wanted to be there to redirect them to a community and a God that was healing and redeeming and ultimately transforming. Maybe that’s the call on our lives as well. Maybe that’s the heart of the Great Commission. Maybe it's the fulfillment of the Great Commandment.

"Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practices of all I have commanded you. I'll be with you as you do this, day after day, right up to the end of the age" (Matt 28:19-20--The Message)
"The first [commandment] in importance is, 'Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is one, so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.' And here is the second: 'Love others as well as you love yourself.' There is no other commandment that ranks with these" (Mark 12:30-31--The Message)

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Have I Ever Told You How Much I Love Mark?

He's definitely the most amazing man I know, and I am so excited, that in less than 5 months, I will be his wife. Not only is he a man who truly seeks God's heart, but He is someone who has challenged me and loved me like no other person in my life. He has a passionate heart for adventure and is willing to act on that passion (check out what he's up to right now at www.crossingtheglobe.com). He is a man of integrity, a man of wisdom and discernment, and a man who is willing to admit when he is wrong. He is someone who walks always in humility and joy...one of the most positive people I have ever met! It's contagious, really. He is an amazing leader, who is also willing to follow those in authority over him. He loves to laugh and is willing to cry. He listens to people and speaks life into people. He loves all people, regardless of who they are or where they've come from. He's all this and much, much more! He's not perfect, but no one is...I'm sure not...but he's perfect for me, and I am more than thrilled to call him my best friend and companion in life. I love you, Mark!
Mark and I in Israel at Megiddo... Posted by Hello

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Have I Ever Told You How Much I Love Words?

“To say the very thing you really mean, the whole of it, nothing more or less or other than what you really mean; that’s the whole art and joy of words.”
--C.S. Lewis--
Till We Have Faces

I confess: I love words. I love grammar. I love morphology (the evolution of words over time within a language). I love foreign language. I love sentence structure. I even subscribe to Webster’s Word of the Day via email. I think of life like a story, and as situations happen, I think of life as a book being read by someone else: what emotions would be evoked? What do they anticipate happening next? How do they respond? How would this experience sound written out? I have even considered Bible Translation as a career enough to drag Julie Collins to a seven hour seminar at Wycliff in Chicago (she sat through all seven hours of that seminar too, because there were only thirteen people there. She had planned to hide in a book while I participated in the seminar—props to Julie!). There’s just something beautiful and moving about being able to convey emotion and paint a picture using words. Words are incredible! Really! I mean, think about it: there exist these little symbols, which have become common enough that they are recognized by many, and a sound is associated with that symbol; and that’s not the end of it! Did you know that by putting them in the write sequence, we can form longer, more complex sounds, and those sounds, for some odd reason, mean something to the one who hears them? We call them words. It’s beyond me, but I think it’s a very cool concept.

Words are something that we too often take for granted and they are often misused and abused. We say things so flippantly and carelessly, and without thinking (or sadly enough, with too much thought) we send a dagger into someone’s heart that can’t be removed. Words can be harsh and condemning. James says, “By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony into chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell” (The Message). Unfortunately, we too often choose words that bring death and destruction instead of life, restoration, wholeness, and healing. I believe that our words are a gift, and should be handled as such. God has given us the unique ability to communicate on a level that no other created species on earth can, and because of that, we hold a huge responsibility: to God and to others. The spoken and written word is powerful, and should be used to build up and encourage those around us. This doesn’t mean flattery. Scripture has plenty to say about that, and I can’t think of one place where He’s pleased with it. But when we use our words to speak life into people, the Kingdom is built, and God is glorified. People’s gifts are encouraged, and their eyes are opened to the beauty of God in their lives. I can’t think of a single instance in which this can be a bad thing. Why would we see good things in people, and choose not to spur them on? We don’t have to quote the Bible to speak Truth. All Truth is God’s, no matter how it’s worded. To some, these words may be truly life-transforming; to others, a simple reminder. But either way, they bring glory to God because God is Life. God is Love. God is the Living Word.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Confessions of a Perfectionist

I know that I’ve done a horrible job at keeping this thing updated. It’s been one crazy moment after another, from switching jobs to traveling to Wisconsin or Rome or Israel or Indy. It’s been a whirlwind of thought, emotion, and action, full of new people, new insights, and deepening desires. I sit here and write, for once, not having a clue what will come. I think that is the main reason I haven’t written anything for a long time. My mind felt blank amidst tons of thoughts. I’m continually amazed at how I can think so deeply and have such amazing conversations—conversations that drain me because I think so much—and still feel like things don’t come together when I sit down and try to write. People continually tell me that I don’t have to write a paper to put it in a blog, but for some reason, my perfectionism wants my writing to have purpose and to be “good.” It’s ultimately a fear of rejection and a fear of what people with think that keeps me from simply putting my everyday thoughts out there for all to see. Bearing my soul is a scary thing with the people I am closest to, and risking criticism doesn’t sound like a good time, and I want to put forth a pretense of having it all together, of not caring at all what my peers think of me. But that doesn’t put words on paper, and the desire to write is still there, only now it’s stronger than ever because there hasn’t been an outlet. So, for those of you that have faithfully checked for updates (thanks Kristin!) and for those of you who wait for the email that says so, here is my offering. Sorry it’s not much, but it’s what I have to give right now. Thanks for stopping by!