Monday, December 29, 2008

reunion.




I stood at the airport last week, waiting for my sister, her husband, and their children to fly in. Medford has a very tiny airport. Just one gate. One terminal. People mill around in twos and threes, interspersed with TSA officials. It is quiet, for an airport. Just the crackle of the intercom, assuring us that we should not leave our bags unattended. A few hushed conversations. Lots of people on their cell phones, waiting for their cab, or their relative.I held the hand of my five year old niece as she hopped on one foot, anxious to see her cousins. She clutched her cabbage patch doll by the hand, half dragging her miniature knit afghan behind her, singing softly to herself. We settled down into one of those black leather benches, and she boosted the doll up onto her lap, looking momentarily up at me to ensure I was fully involved in her and her dolly’s imaginary scenario. The plane is late, so we wait some more. We stand next to a couple waiting for their son to return from Haiti. Others around us wait for relatives to return from around the nation, around the world. Everyone restless. All waiting for that moment. The moment of return.
I couldn’t help but think about the reunion that God has in store for us. Reunion with Him, unhindered by the weight of the world. Also, restoration. Of a world that is flooded with sin. With brokenness. In a world where we too, are restless for reunion with our Savior.

That He might restore a nation where over one million babies are murdered before they even get to breathe.

And 5700 people die from HIV daily.

In a world where Human Trafficking is the third most lucrative business in the world, second only to drugs and firearms.

In a world where two million women and little girls suffer from untreated fistula and are social outcasts.

Restless.

26.000 children will die tonight of starvation.

I want reunion. And restoration.

My four year old towheaded nephew rushed out of those revolving doors and into my arms. And I thought of the best reunion of all…when God restores all things to Himself.
Until then, I will be restless.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

a manifesto.

"theres a pattern here, a pattern we find in the bible that gives it insight into the deepest truths of how the universe works. egypt. sinai. jerusalem. babylon. salvation is what happens when we cry out in egpyt. we all have egypts, dont we? addiction, suicide, anger, rage.. we all have darkness, and slavery in our hearts. we could make our lists, and they would be long. the bible uses the word sin for this condition of slavery. the technical definition is to miss the mark. we've all missed the mark. God has done for us what we could not do for ourselves. rescue redemption grace. this grace takes us to sinai. egypt. then sinai. where we find purpose and identity.
God doesnt want to just save us. God is also looking for a body to incarnate the divine.
we're invited at sinai to join the God of the oppressed in doing something about our broken world. that always involves hearing the cry of the opressed and acting on their behalf.
if we forget them, we lose track of our own story.
our story takes us from sinai to jerusalem. and that raises the question:
what will we do with our blessing? will we remember egypt?
or will we lose sight of the plot?

in a world where there arae 27 million slaves.
in a world where 840 million people will go to bed hungry.
Jesus wants to save our church from the exile of irrelevance.
God says to Cain "listen!"
because everything starts with a cry.
it hard to hear the cry when youre isolated from it. in proverbs, it says the rich man's wealth "was his fortified city." walls isolate.
so can gates
freeways
schoolsystems
grocery stores
health clubs
shopping malls
homes
office buildings.
but when we hear the cry everything changes.
because when we hear the cry, we are with God.
listen, God tells Moses. listen and go.
this will take movement. action. life. it will involve risk.
it will not be boring. it will cost something.
the Eucharist always does.
it isnt about just saving the world, its about saving us too.
from the kingdom of comfort
from the priority of preservation
from the exile of indifference. you have to be captivated by a cause so massive and compelling that you would sell everything to be a part of it.
what happens when your religion isnt big enough for God?

what do you do when your system falls apart because the new thing that God is Doing is Better, beyond superior, more compelling?"-rob bell

Saturday, December 13, 2008

there were tears

There were tears

And they swept into the evening

Like a rain sweeps into cracks

Filling them up

Overwhelming.


And there was laughter

And it moved into the room

Like a touch can move

To the deepest part of us

Unconscious.

There was fear

And it tried to hold us back

Gripping tight

Like a rescue effort

Unnerving.

There was possibility

And it whispered softly

Remembering its own presence

Gently nudging

Quietly.

There was relief

When it was over

And it rolled over us like a tide

And we soaked it in.

Revelling.

Over all these things

There was but one more

In the tears of a girl

And the nudging of a boy

There was Life.

Encompassing.

Friday, December 5, 2008

this day's been crazy but everything's happened on schedule...


this week has been a learning experience.
i think maybe God is trying to teach me patience.
or at least a measure of trust.
and yet...its all been okay.
i have become aware, this week, that i will not be returning to nursing school (unless a large miracle occurs) in the Spring as i had initially imagined. was i devastated? yes.
my last five years have been devoted to nursing school. as the epitome of what i defined as success, it seemed the end-all to worth, and self esteem. when asked "what are you up to these days?", nursing school always emerged first. as if i had to make sure that i got that out there, and it set the standard that "im doing something productive, see?" and then i could mention all the other, inconsequential things that i am doing. then i could breathe easy, as long as the other person (perhaps a classmate from high school, or a family friend) knew that i had my life together and was, in fact, accomplishing a superb career.
and then it was gone.
and i realized that i had to swallow hard and say..okay Lord. I get it. I get it.
its not about what i do. its about who I am. better yet, its about Who You Are, and who that, in turn makes me. when your definition of success is taken from you, you have to grasp onto a new definition of success.
maybe it will be the fact that i feel God is caling me to work with sexually trafficked little girls in Ethiopia. success in the world's eyes? probably not really. it's a low paying job, with eternal repercussions. there are little girls the age of my precious niece who are being violated in ways no one should imagine.
and no one is there to hold them. there's even more that defines who i am. i want to get to the point, when people ask me what i am up to, that i say "im loving people. im loving my family. im feeding the homeless. im advocating for children who dont have a voice. im living my life slowly. im savoring the moments before my nephew gets too big to hold in my arms. im smiling more. im running every day, because i love the freedom i have when i run. im listening more and talking less. im praying without ceasing. im spending time people who are drug addicts and alcoholics and inviting them for dinner so i love them like Jesus."
isnt that success?
nursing school...yea. it was important. i made decisions that catalyzed it disappearing. im aware of that. but im eager to step into the Story that God is not yet done with. maybe He wants to move me to another country and let me work for free to save the very least of these. maybe He wants me to get a grip on the events in my nation and my world so i can better see like Him. maybe He just wants me to be Still.
and listen.
i dont know.
i dont have a major.
i dont have a class schedule.
but i have a God who Loves Me Beyond Measure. He died for me. and He will never leave me nor forsake me.
He is still writing. it's not done.
His plans are perfect.
His schedule always runs on time.

Monday, December 1, 2008

ten thousand children.

10,000 children and all I can do is just talk.
While my house is full of possessions that negligence bought.
Everyone tells me that I'm not to blame,
Why do I still feel the same?
Only love can save us all.
Only love can save us all, save us all.
10,000 children are my invitation to change.
To continue in excess now suddenly feels oh so strange.
Prayers and money should not be confused,
But I pray that both still are used.

Only love can save us all.
Only love can save us all
What will become of me?Inside of history
10,000 children and all I can do is just talk.
-dave barnes

today is national aids day. do more than just talk.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

i
need
africa
more
than
africa
needs
me.

Monday, November 24, 2008

facedown



last week i sat in my SOMA (greek for body: a christian group on campus dedicated to changing our campus with the gospel) group and was completely unengaged. you know, that feeling you get when you are physically in attendance, but you are emotionally absent? that's where i was. having just received my SECOND failing calculus quiz after working very hard, i was discouraged, and struggled to pour my heart into worship. oh, i sang. i read, i prayed. but engaged in the connection with my Saviour? in true communion and fellowship? nope.
i was not in the posture for worship.
i didnt know there was a posture for worship. but the Lord has been revealing there is.
and its facedown.
i mean, facedown.
smudging our noses with dirt. eyes to the ground.
grass stained knees.
thats where i desire to be. because i know where standing gets me. Psalm 1:1 says "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers."
look at that. "who does not walk", "or stand" "or sit".
how bout kneeling? how about facedown?
singer Mark Hall says that that verse, to him, demonstrates the way we can so quickly edge into sin by starting out walking, then we stop and stand, and before you know it, we are sitting. wallowing in depravity. distracted. keeping company with those who mock what Christ lived for. so why dont we let our knees being us closer to humility? i know why i dont. i am prideful.
i let my knees stay strengthened by pride.
i brace myself up on selfishness.
i secure my head with distraction.
i dont want to get "dirty".
i dont want grass stains on my knees.
i dont want dirt on my forehead.
but God is calling me to throw myself down.
okay Lord. draw me down. into a posture fit for worship. facedown.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Churched


My earliest memory is of church. I distinctly remember toddling down the aisle at church in California: ambulating my pigtailed, three year old self past several rows of pews. I even remember what I was wearing. Grey flannel overalls with little black puppies peeking over the edge of the front pocket, like watchdogs set on guiding little me safely down to the stage. I am not sure what exactly I was headed towards, or even what the pastor had called me down for. I am not sure whether it was about Jesus or not. I only remember one thing: he was holding fruit snacks. And to me and my pigtails, he might as well have had the world.

Matthew Paul Turner has memories of church, too. In fact, that’s what his latest book is all about. Close on the heels of his quirky, provoking, and sometimes controversial books aimed at twenty-somethings, Turners proffers a new type of book: a memoir. He moves effortlessly through a graceful portrayal of life in a fundamentalist Baptist church, where legalism reigned supreme, and the mercy of God shone through in rare moments. Indeed, the grace of God weaves itself like a ribbon through the poignant and wrenching tale. And it’s funny. Did I mention that? I laugh and cry through a lot of books, but during Turner’s retelling of the creative censoring of cinematic masterpiece ‘Ben Hur’, I was simultaneously gasping for air and crying buckets. He narrates in painfully funny detail, his first haircut, which deemed him a satisfactory Baptist: “To my father, this haircut was about much more than doing away with my Bobby Brady mop. It was about me looking like a Baptist. I think my father thought that the angels in heaven would be a good bit happier once my head looked as clean-shaven as a Marine’s.” He discusses his first Sunday at the new church, describing the feeling as “being kidnapped by Puritans, except without the witch trial and the dunking booth”. He does such a masterful job at retelling the “Barbie burning”(a very innovative way of “scaring the hell” out of him and his Sunday school peers) that one very nearly can smell the scorched plastic.

Turner is a storyteller. With “Churched”, he joins the ranks of Donald Miller and Anne Lamott, with a loping, candid pace that carefully and meticulously shuffles along. ‘Churched’ is like those moving escalators at the airport: you step on and it moves so steadily you start to become comfortable and relaxed, and before you know it, you’re being shuffled off right back into the real world, thirty yards closer to your destination. Maybe this book will move people closer to a destination of a more genuine love affair with Christ’s bride, His church. “Churched” is not a stab at parish life. In fact, it is a kind, benevolent look at a life clouded by legalism, where the grace of God shone extra bright. Rather than bitterly recollecting the hurt and confusion he felt as a child, Turner approaches it with an optimistic cheer, urging us to examine how we view church, and what it means to follow Jesus. He ends with a moving paragraph, and I wept when I read it. “Last Sunday, Jessica and I went to church. It was Easter. A couple people got baptized. The guy sitting next to me took two smoke breaks. I closed my eyes during the praise and worship. Pete gave a sermon about hope. We took communion.
I wasn’t afraid.”
I’ve always admired Turner for his gritty and droll style, and was ready to leaf through another jaunty book where I would laugh and maybe learn something about being a college student in the twenty-first century. At least, that’s what had happened with his previous works. I was wrong. I read it through overnight. I couldn’t put it down.
I cried.
I laughed.
And then I opened it and read it all over again.
I learned something about myself. How I view church. What my role is in the body. Why I come every Sunday, Why trips down an aisle don’t guarantee a heart right with God. That no matter how many sermons we annotate or people we convert, it comes down to loving Jesus with the abandon of a child and an eagerness to do His will.
Even without fruit snacks.

***I AM GIVING AWAY A COPY OF CHURCHED! COMMENT WITH YOUR BEST 'CHURCH' STORY AND I WILL CHOOSE A WINNER NEXT WEEK!***

Monday, November 3, 2008

blood on the doorposts of the universe

i bought a cup of coffee for a man two nights ago at Starbucks.
i handed it to him, steaming coffee on a cold night, and
it moved from my hands to his.
my hands, smooth from little real manual labor, smooth from being protected by the elements of the outdoors, smooth from a life lived in plenty, hands that have never known whats its really like to want,
hands that are always abundantly, excessively, full.
to hands weathered by cold and heat, hands that extend to beg.
hands that i know fingered a trigger to fight in Vietnam,
hands that daily peel duct tape off a roll tucked into a backpack to mend his eclectic wardrobe.
hands that pick at a broken guitar.
his name is Todd, and he is homeless.

i dont know that what i did was right. i know full well that Todd is capable, and indeed, should get a real job and stop begging on the streets. i know that much of what he does with the money he gets is spend it on alcohol and cigarettes.
but i also know that in that moment, all i knew was the movement of mercy that stirred in me as i slid my card across the counter and ordered a second latte.
he needed that coffee. and i needed a reminder that i am not my own.


i have been reading the new rob bell book, 'Jesus wants to Save Christians'.
i am going to be honest, i am on the fence about rob bell. his writings have changed my life, in that i have been awakened to the state of the Church as a whole, my role as a Christian, and how that looks like, to Love, to extend grace, to live out the words coming from my mouth.what does that look like?

numerous situations have arisen this week that have challenged me to rethink how i view Love.
was it loving for me to buy a coffee for him? maybe. rob bell says that there is blood on the doorposts of the universe. as i stepped into starbucks that night, a child died in Africa. as i slid my plastic money across the counter, a little girl wept in Ethiopia. as i jammed my key into the ignition of my Taurus, a little boy woke to captivity in Mali. What am i doing about it?

where is Love, where does Jesus show up in situations like that?
what difference am i making?

i heard a great speaker at the last show i worked publicity for, and he said "If you woke up this morning, in a bed, with food and a dollar in your wallet, you are in the top 1% of the world."

the top 1%.

he said "Jesus has put us at the front of the line, and asks us "What will you do with this now?"
i was talking to a friend the other night, and was so frustrated with myself for caring so much. i get so passionate about poverty and hunger and abuse, and i still live my life exactly the same.
i guess what i want is a heaviness that i am justified in caring. I want God to move me so i dont forget that i am not my own, that caring is something He has placed in me. I want a heart humbled and moved to mercy. I want hands that will scrub the blood from just one doorpost. i want theburden of loving the world.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

did you feel that?

Donald Miller says "It is always the simple things that change our lives. And these things never happen when you are looking for them to happen. Life will reveal answers at the pace life wishes to do so. You feel like running, but life is on a stroll. This is how God does things"
simple things...and maybe not so simple.
yesterday i worked at the salvation army for four and a half hours.
i folded clothes and stood side by side with a woman who was a former drug addict.
i sorted hangers with a woman who told me that she was a former prostitute.
and i am ashamed to say...i judged them first. i mentally attached their former lifestyles to their names. and i inwardly cringed at my lack of compassion.
and then God nudged me.
hard.
and He gave me a glimmer of what it means to look with compassion and look with mercy and look with eyes that remember...i am no better. i felt blinders slip off my spiritual eyes. and i listened. and that drug addict became a woman torn and broken, hurt and lost. she became a woman with four children to raise. she became a single mom who wishes she could afford to get her kids halloween costumes that are brand new so they dont get teased at school. she became a woman who forgot that she is worthy of Love.
that prostitute became a girl just older than me. someone i might have had class with, someone i might have bumped into at starbucks on a friday night. a girl who carried wounds behind her eyes that the heavy makeup could never disguise. someone i needed to know. and someone that i realized, as her hand moved, sorting hangers into boxes...bore the mark of Jesus' awakenings to me. and as God moved me to look, truly look, i saw. i heard Him speak. "do you think you are better than this? That scarlet letter is yours too... as much as you are Mine, she is Mine. and she is worthy of Love."
nudge.
do you get it, He asks, do you see Me?
are you watching?
earnestly seeking for the moments when I lift the blinders and nudge you?
if you dont watch, you will miss it.
nudge.
did you feel that?
and so i ask you..where are you spending your time. God moved me this week. He showed me where He would spend His time. it was right there. he overrode my poor attitude and opened my eyes. He moved my heart to where His is at..with the broken. Billy Graham says the ground is level at the foot of the cross. Level it out, God.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

letters from war

i found a large stack of photos in a box my mom dug out the other day. my grandma was sitting next to me as i flipped through a stack of sepia toned photos, immediately engaged by the handsome uniformed soldiers...about my age probably..but they seemed so much older. in their eyes they carried the weight of a war that i never knew. i paged through about forty five photos. windy beaches that would months later bear the blood of sons and brothers, and smiling groups of soldiers, arms draped round shoulders..the same arms that would hoist each other across battlefields and into trenches. every photo had no name. just a face. a smile. a flash of light reflected across clear, optimistic eyes. a sheen of sunlight illuminating crew-cut blond hair.
i flipped through stacks and stacks, as my mom and two aunts also laughed over old family photos, and they shared stories i had never heard before. i listened.

then i happened to glance up at my grandma.

and the stacks of photos froze in my hand.

and for a moment, i became privy to what it meant to be a war bride. i watched her eyes well up with tears. i watched her hands unfold a letter stamped 1943 and smooth the yellow paper as she read the graceful script. i felt her heartache as a i watched emotions flicker through her eyes. i felt what it must have been like to be married to a man in the service. i was humbled. and i realized that for every moment of freedom i enjoy, for all the rights that are mine....there was a man who fought for them. and there was a woman who fingered letter after letter. women who were wiping away tears of their own as they wiped runny noses and messy faces of their little ones, little ones who asked when daddy was coming home. women who said "i do" to tours of duty and lonely nights and goodbyes.

i considered all this as i watched my friend michelle in her wedding dress yesterday afternoon. beautiful and serene, holding tight to the arm of her husband, a Lance Corporal in the Marines. i listened to her say "i do" with clear confidence because she knew that no matter what, God is going to hold her together, a lesson i have watched her learn with such grace and poise, i am honored to call her my friend.
and i was thankful. that there are women who are called to the high honor of being a war bride.
the wars may have been 64 years apart, but maybe michelle will one day unfold letters and remind her granddaughter that freedom is never free.

thanks grandma.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

deliberate period.

i like tattoos. but not real ones. i like my weekly, meticulous, sharpie ones.

every monday, i take one of those amazing fine-tip sharpies and inscript my left wrist with a word, saying, or scripture, whatever the Lord is showing me that week. the past few weeks have said things like
'hope.'
'peace be still.'
'love is here.'

tiny bits of what God is revealing to my heart in my walking with Him.
after every word, i place a deliberate period.
because i believe that when God says hope, He means Hope.
When God says 'Peace be still' He means...Peace Be Still.
That tiny dot signifies a finality.

a close.

a moment of stillness.

i work at a physician's office, where often i meet people who question the pieces of art emblazoned on my wrist. usually they ask how long ive had it....i usually laugh and say 'oh..two hours'. then they ask what it means. but last week's was different. i heard a podcast two weeks ago that changed my life. it was from a guy named steve chalke. an ordinary man with an extraordinary message. his message is about trafficking, but more importantly..its about ending trafficking and oppression around the world. that's right. end. with a deliberate period. he shares a story about the early gladiator games..where christians would be killed for sport... did you know how they ended? one man got so disgusted at the games that he started yelling during a particularly gruesome match. and he stood up and cried 'stop in the name of Jesus...stop.'
no one heard him. so he tried louder, this time stepping down the steps of the amphitheater which held over 60.000 people. still no one heard his cry. 'stop in the name of Jesus, stop."
he walked further down...repeating his battle plea, as blood dripped onto the arena, mingled with the dust and sweat of the prisoners who were being killed. finally, he crossed the last barrier, slipped his sandal onto the arena floor and hurdled the low wall...until he stood in front of this crowd. in those days, it was common for there to be a comedy act or skit during this portion of the match, or for an additional slave to be brought forth and killed. everyone thought he was a joke. or a prisoner. so they came after him, baring swords and shields as he stood alone.

and as they killed him, with his final breath, he cried

stop. in the name of Jesus...stop.

and the theater fell silent. one man stood up and left.
then another. then another
until 60.000 people were gone.
and all that remained was one man, lying in the dust.

a deliberate period.

he ended the public gladiator games. and after his death, people stopped going. they saw it for what it was...glorified murder. but he ended it. period.
and so on my left wrist i wrote in tiny, solid letters, stop the traffik. and people started asking.
and i told them that in Mali..there is a little boy who was sold into slavery so he can harvest the cocoa beans that we purchase in our supermarkets. and that in Ethiopia, a little girl sleeps on the pavement, afraid to close her eyes because of the evil around her. and that in Thailand there are women my age who never got to be little girls at all.

steve chalke says that the christian life is like a beautiful ballet. it cant be summed up in a minute-long summary..it must be danced. what are we leaving behind? deliberate periods? until we start standing up to this evil..it will remain. he shared a simple way to combat it...stop consuming. stop leaving behind commas, which invite the next sentence of evil and oppression to march onward.
start leaving periods. stop buying chocolate thats not marked 'slave free', or 'free trade'. stop shopping at stores where slave labor is encouraged. it takes research. it takes effort. it takes hurdling that last low wall, and it mean getting closer to the swirling dust and drops of blood.

but we have to be deliberate. period. we have to dance.

Friday, September 12, 2008

i'm churched....are you?


today i found out i was chosen to be a part of a my first blog tour!

i will be reviewing my friend Matthew Paul Turner's brand new book, Churched.

i am so honored to be a part of this, and hope you will check back often to read my review and any new updates about the book! it's going to be really fun.

here's what the book is all about...


"in this first-hand account, author Matthew Paul Turner shares amusing–sometimes cringe-worthy–and poignant stories about growing up in a fundamentalist household, where even well-intentioned contemporary Christian music was proclaimed to be “of the devil.” churched is a collection of stories that detail an American boy’s experiences growing up in a culture where men weren’t allowed let their hair grow to touch their ears (“an abomination!”), women wouldn’t have been caught dead in a pair of pants (unless swimming), and the pastor couldn’t preach a sermon without a healthy dose of hellfire and brimstone. Matthew grapples with the absurdity of a Sunday School Barbie burning, the passionate annual boxing match between the pastor and Satan, and the holiness of being baptized a fifth time–while growing into a young man who, amidst the chaotic mess of religion, falls in love with Jesus."-Multnomah Books


Sounds like fun, doesn't it? I'm thrilled ;)
feel free to leave comments and feedback, and any questions!

Monday, August 4, 2008

walking to beautiful...and watching for God

I hadn't heard of the Fistula Hospital til a few weeks ago, but when a friend mentioned what it was, my curiousity led me to look it up on the internet. When small girls are thrust into poverty, often things get so ugly, that they are sold to husbands who are much older by parents who have reached desperation. For some, their parents never wanted them, so they grasp for the last shred of hope they have: an arranged marriage to what looks like a prosperous man. What it turns into is a glamourized type of child abuse, where ten and twelve year old children suffer sexual abuse at the hands of men who have multiple wives, concubines, and partners. These precious girls are exposed to diseases, but more importantly, often become pregnant as young as ten or eleven. Since their bodies are not ready for childbirth, these girls endure horrific obstructive labor, where the baby often dies. What the little girls are left with is a obstetric condition called a fistula, where they are unable to prevent incontinence. They become the unwanted. The outcasts. The untouchable. Imagine it.

I watched several ten and twelve year olds at church camp this week, tipping out of canoes, laughing and playing with their friends.

Across the world, there are ten and twelve year old girls huddled on dirty sidewalks. Sleeping in their own urine. Left to die an outcast, with no children, shunned by the 'husband' who proferred them such wealth and prosperity.

In Ethiopia, there are 100,000 women and little girls suffering from fistulas. There are 2 million women in the world suffering from fistulas right now. And all this is fixable. There is a hospital in Ethiopia who offers these women a simple medical procedure that will give them back their lives. Do you know how much it costs to give a ten year old her life back?

$450.00.

I was blown away. I want to be a nurse, and potentially a doctor someday. I have been enthralled by the new show Hopkins on ABC, where medical students work through the highs and lows of residency for the audience of America. And I realized how quickly our priorities can go awry. I want to be a doctor. Why? Is it the glamour? Is it because I want to help people? I heard a message from Louie Giglio recently where he asks "Have you had an encounter with Jesus? Have you REALLY?" I realized we can say all the right things...I can stream podcasts, I can read through my bible in a year. I can go to church three times a week and raise my hands in worship. But has God moved me? Has He shaken me to my core? I think that maybe He is working on it. Because when I read the stories of these girls in Ethiopia, girls who I might have been friends with when I was ten...I got uncomfortable. I got restless. I realized that if I become a doctor, I would HAVE to go to help those girls. I would have no option. That's how moved I was. My friend Daley Hake recently posted a blog about how we "are not what we do". He, a brilliant photographer, explained how he prays to be 'more than a brand', that he wants to be remembered for MORE. I want to be a nurse/doctor. But I want God to move me deep within. I want to sense His presence in the eyes of those girls as they get their lives back. I want God to overflow from me at my work. I want everything I do to be filtered through the realization that God is big enough. That I am not what I do. But that what I do must be overflowing from an Encounter with a Saviour.

So I will watch.

I will wait.

I will let God move me.

And as I sleep tonight, I will remember that across the ocean, a little girl in Ethiopia sleeps too, waiting for an encounter with her Saviour too.

Watching for God. Maybe He's closer than I think.


"God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house.
God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives.
God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war.
God is in the debris of wasted opprotunity and lives

and God is with us if we are with them."
-Bono

Saturday, July 26, 2008

a picture i took, and some i definitely did not take.

i snapped this today at the field where we were working with 'wheelchairs for the world'. it came out pretty neat. natural light, heightened contrast, shot on manual setting, with black and white.

i have been so inspired by these two photographers:

mariano friginal, whose photography you can see here: www.marianofriginal.com
and mr. daley hake, whose photography is simply stunning. see his amazing pictures here
www.daleyhake.com.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

one more balloon

slam. the phone hit the wall. silence. "...and i cant get away, cant get away..." i think, in my sleep deprived state, i realized what an ironic ringtone i chose. it seemed cute when i chose it, but at 645, it was downright mocking. the day went slightly downhill from there. i stumbled out of bed to answer the phone, which summoned me to work three hours earlier than i had planned. this meant that the time i had alloted for my freelance writing was now shoved back til when i got off work at 6pm. work was no better, i was rooming people in the wrong places, mixing up charts, and slowly wading through prescriptions that i couldnt pronounce. i made one very significant blunder that i caught as the doctor was in the room with the patient. i feverishly wavered between praying she wouldnt notice, and bracing myself for the moment when she did. when the door opened, i just knew i was in for it. i had forgotten a vital step of taking an oxygen level, and i was well aware that was a faux pas that was nearly unforgiveable. out came the physician...and she called me into her office. i could feel the tears welling up already. i was exhausted, clumsy, and forgetful all day, and i knew i deserved the chastisement i was sure would come. what i got was an act of mercy.

as i walked in to the office, and sat down, i felt the doctors eyes on me and i lifted my head.
i was met with a smile.
"grace...i just want you to know that you are doing a tremendous job." thats all.
with a wink, she had just done the impossible. extended Love in a moment when Law would have been expected, even justified.

i knew she had noticed my blunder, and still, she knew what i needed. rob bell tells this compelling illustration of Grace in his book, "several years ago, i conducted a wedding ceremony on a saturday afternoon in june. the bride wore a white summer dresss, the groom a white linen shirt. they insisted on the most simple ceremony possible. it was held in a park in a grove of trees. their family and friends stood in a circle with the three of us in the middle. i began with a welcome, they exchanged vows and rings, i prounounced them, they kissed, everyone clapped. the ceremony took seven minutes. they were then handed a cluster of helium balloons. the balloons were symbols of their past marriages, pregnancies they had chosen to terminate, relationships that did not last. as a picture of starting over, they wanted their first act as a married couple to be letting the balloons go. they walked into the grove of trees. just the two of them. standing in knee deep grass, exchanging words only they could hear. then they raised the balloons and let go. we watched the balloons float away til they drifted from sight.
there are moments you wonder if youll ever forget. moments that sear themselves on your conscience. that moment was one for me.

a few years later their marriage imploded.

she moved an hour away,

they divorced.

i finish with this story because life is messy. gut wrenching, risky. things dont turn out well. sometimes they dont turn out at all. sometimes everything falls apart. we're tempted to shut ourselves off, fortify the walls around our heart, and forge ahead, vowing we'll never open ourselves up again. but i have to believe that God can put anything back together.

i have to believe God that Jesus invites us to trust is as good as He says He is.
loving
forgiving.
merciful.
God does not run out of balloons."

Sunday, July 6, 2008

seventeen dollar sunglasses

i squirm every time the videos come on. you know the type...sweeping orchestral background, moving portraits of children dying in Africa, villages ravaged by war and disease. they always make me so restless. i just want to pack up and move away and sell all my posessions and go save children. one of my friends had a different take on those videos though. he said "you know what those videos make me think? how absolutely depraved i am. i look at them and i dont think 'wow they have it rough.' i am blown away by the thought that...wow. look how i am living. why in the world did God choose to bless me in this way?" we got to talking about child sponsorship, and realized that the main problem with it (its a wonderful thing), but we realized its a tiny bit selfish. as Americans, as the church, we tend to like problems to go away. by tossing a check in the mail, i can appease the twinge of guilt, and emotionally 'check out' of the problem. a christian speaker once opened his talk with college students with,

"while you slept tonight, 33.000 children died of starvation."

so what do we do with that piece of information? we toss a check in the mail, we buy a "inspi(red)" shirt at Gap. we sport the bracelets, the bumper stickers, we join causes on facebook.
and still we are emotionally detached. i can look at the picture at the top of this post and feel my heart stretch to encompass that precious little boy. but tomorrow morning, my first thought will be the laundry i have to do.
that my car is out of gas.
that i had better go grocery shopping.
and kids are dying in haiti. mothers are dying in africa. kids that should be doctors and lawyers and nurses are starving to death. eating dirt.

dirt.

my friend drew summed it up with "if i sponsor a child, i know thats all i will give that child. i wont give any more than a few bucks in the mail. i cant be involved in that childs life. we are just so selfish. today i bought seventeen dollar sunglasses. i will lose them in about three weeks. and i think 'how in the world are we living like this'?"
i think we have to pray for restlessness. i never want to become comfortable with forgetting. i want to be restless. i want to be stirred. i want to always have that yearning to go. but i want to do it out of gratefulness. giving motivated from a prick of guilt is nothing. giving from a heart overflowing with gratefulness to a really big God is everything. we can still buy our seventeen dollar glasses. but i want to always walk in restlessness, propelled by the realization of the mercy of God, and the knowledge that we will never be at home here. One of my favorite songwriters, Australian Brooke Fraser wrote a song that says "Now that I have seen, I am responsible. Faith without deeds is dead."

make me restless, oh God.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

"love you aunt gwace"

when i was in junior high, my name was such an embarassment. not because it was dorky, but rather because everytime anyone read a bible verse with the word 'grace' in it, i'd get elbowed and people would start snickering. unfortunately for 7th grade me, we memorized just about every mercy-filled passage in the bible. when i hit about 17, my name wasn't so bad. thankfully the laughter disappeared (along with my huge purple glasses), and i began to appreciate my unique name. it had yet to become 'hip' again, and i was one of very few grace's i knew of. when i hit twenty i realized another change my namesake presented...the Nickname. Now, my family has always called me gracey, but when my friends started tacking on the "ey", i realized that like it or not, it was bound to happen. there is just one person who i LOVE to hear 'gracey' from, and thats my nieces and nephews. to them, im aunt gracey and thats just fine with me.

a few months not too long ago, my three year old nephew benny (the cutie above), was going down for a nap. somehow, whenever i put him down for a nap, he immediately goes down without a fuss. his mom insists that he never does this at home, so im not really sure what kind of effect i have on the little guy (it could be my bossy voice), but he just grabs his blankie and snuggles down to sleep. this happens pretty regularly if i am watching him, but occasionally even the bossy voice doesnt cut it.
this particular day, i had put benny down in the twin bed in our guestroom, and the bed was about four times the size of him. i handed him his blankie and doggie and told him 'night night". well he looked at me with those huge blue eyes...and burst into tears. and when i say "tears', i mean the floodgates opened. i dont even know how he manuafactured so many tears, but the waterworks were kindof convincing. out came the 'bossy voice" and i told him again to go to sleep, and he just kept on crying. about ten minutes go by, and now he is a little upset, i am frustrated, and we are both slightly damp.
so i set him down on the bed, and since he's worn out and now REALLY tired, he snuggles down and does that really cute little sniffle thing that little ones do when they have been crying hard. and i turned out the light and went to leave, when i hear his little voice.

Love you, aunt gwace.

oh man. anyone who has ever heard a three year old's lisp combined with the words "i love you" knows their power. i went over and kissed him goodnight, and he fell right asleep. he had never called me aunt grace before. it was always gwacey or grace, when he could get the R sound right. and it struck me that our names hold such significance. look at isaiah 43:1"But now, God's Message, the God who made you in the first place, Jacob, the One who got you started, Israel:"Don't be afraid, I've redeemed you.

I've called your name. "

just like benny called my name, God calls us by name. and our response can be one of two things...we can fight it, or we can listen, ears inclined to the God who knows our name. and still i fight it, you know? i act like my timetable or my priorities are something God maybe has forgotten. i was worrying about something the other day, and my friend drew quickly reproached me with "Do you not serve a sovereign God?" Yea. I do. and He knows my name.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

a place at the table


i talked to my sister last week, and as usual, she was cooking dinner, and changing a diaper and whispering so she didnt interrupt a long-awaited nap. usually it goes something like this: "oh hey grace, whats up? we havent talked in awh-hold on a sec okay? timmy just woke up from his nap...oh okay now i'm back...sorry, im trying to plan a barbeque..we are having friends for dinner..oh wait, now we are having twelve people for dinner...how'd that happen..." i love it. know why? cause with every runny nose she grabs a kleenex for, for every blankie she rescues off the floor, for every person she invites to her home...she is giving. she is probably the most hospitable person i know. her door is always open. her table never too full. not only that, my sister loves the unlovable and lovable alike. she loves her neighbors kids, who are hurting and alone, and who need a place to feel safe. she loves her home group, and has stood by her girlfriends as they have miscarried babies and sent husbands to iraq. she loves anyone who walks through her door.
rob bell says that "in philippians, it says look to the interest of others. subtle in nuance. others. its not look to the interests of those, its not look to those who are in your demographic. its not look to the interests of people we hang with, and its kinda fun to serve them. its others.
its all sorts of people. and essentially, the flow of the argument is, the one soul, one mind..you will encounter this when you serve others. if God is a trinity where one unit is a whole then you, my friends, need to be a whole. mimic this by orienting yourself around others. what paul is getting at (in phillipians), is the others are the strange, the different, the unintelligable. and some of you are thinking "oh yeah..strange...they have a name! three cubicles down!". but paul is saying is do you want to understand Gods love? Gods grace? do you want to truly understand what it means for God to envelop you with his grace, peace, forgiveness, truth and light? then orient yourself around the strange, the unintelligable, the coworker, the relative...circle around them. and in your frustration of trying to serve them well, you will see the meaning of what it means for God to love you in all your strangeness. the person who MOST gets under your skin..they may be the garment of Gods grace that is coming to you to bring you more fully into the love of God. if i could learn to take one step towards that, it will be a step into understanding what it means to be loved by God. if i could learn, maybe i would come to understand the God who loves me in spite of my flaws."
i want to open up my home. to open my heart.
to the unlovable.
to the strange.
to the unintelligable.
to the others.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

most comforting...

'the most comforting thing about my faith...is I dont understand it."-drew aspinwall

Friday, June 13, 2008

conviction hurts

God likes to speak in ways that sometimes creep under my skin until I have no choice but to bleed out what little truth He is trying to convey. Like my friend Will just wrote a great blog about how he finds his self worth in people, and the "stamp" that they place on him, either "youre worth my time" or "youre not". He's totally right. I do it too.
I organize my oft-chaotic life around who I want to hang out with, people I want to avoid, and things I have to do. I. I. I. Did you notice how many times I said that? Its always about me.
God's been working hard on convicting my little heart lately. Wanna know what He's been saying?

You. Are. Selfish.

Yep.

Truth hurts huh. But truth rings true even when there is no audience. I love to dig my little heels in and, like CS Lewis says, continue "playing with mud pies" when paradise beckons from just around the corner. It dawns on me daily how absolutely depraved I am...how much in need of Gods unbelievable grace I am. I am tired of settling for a mediocre faith. I dont think God is placated with a so-so faith, like we can just be "good enough" and slide on by. I think God yearns for a ultimate faith, the kind that would be willing to be stretched until it hurts.

I want THAT.

Brandon Heath, one of my favorite singers wrote a new single called "Give me Your eyes", and I love it. It says "Give me Your eyes for just one second, Give me your eyes so I can see/Everything that Ive been missing, Give me your heart for humanity". Can you imagine what it would be like to have eyes like the Father's? To feel such compassion for others, for humanity, that it just overflows? I see so many hurting people at my job.
Lately God has been revealing some incredible things in the little medical office I work at.

I looked into the eyes of a woman whose eyes flooded with tears borne from a pain of a divorce.

I see parents who told me they spent the day in the welfare line.

I see girls whose eyes, thick with black eyeliner, tell a story full of hurt, abuse, and sadness.

Every day I have to chance to take fifteen minutes and be Love. To reach out with my stupid blood pressure cuff, and offer hope in the touch that I just pray bleeds love. But the truth is, Ill never be enough of Love, enough salt enough Light, without Christ. Because Im selfish! So I pray...


Give me Your eyes, Lord.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

lipstick smudges and humanity




Putting on lipstick is something I rarely do. I am more of a lip gloss girl...I toss it in my purse and put it on at stoplights. But lipstick? Not so much. I wore some for a wedding recently, and the slick berry pigment slid on, reminding me why I dislike it so much. It's thick and sticky, and every sip of water tastes slightly waxy. But there's something about lipstick that reminds me, even amid wax-flavored sips, that I am a girl. There's something feminine, even romantic about old-fashioned red lipstick. Rob Bell reminded me of this when he talks about the experience of Colonel Gonin's experience in the Bergen Belsen concentration camps in WWII. The colonel remembers "It was shortly after that the British Red Cross arrived that a very large quantity of lipstick arrived. It was not at all what we wanted. We were screaming for hundreds and hundreds of other things...I dont know who asked for lipstick. I wish so much that I could discover who did it, it was the action of sheer genius, sheer unadulterated brilliance. I believe nothing did more for these internees than the lipstick. Women lay in bed with no sheets but with red scarlet lips. You saw them wandering around with nothing but a blanket, but with scarlet lips. I saw a woman dead on a table, and she was clutching a piece of red lipstick. At last, someone had done something to make them individuals. They were no longer merely the number tattooed on their arm. The lipstick gave them back their humanity. "

We don't think of these things unless we read about it. I wasn't in Bergen Belsen, I cant imagine the suffering that took place in those walls. But lipstick, I can envision. I can imagine being a girl in that camp, and sliding on that scarlet lipstick. I can imagine the dignity given back to the girls who had been stripped of their femininity. Isn't it funny how lipstick can be about something else? It wasnt about the lipstick. It was about the dignity wrapped up in that little tube of scarlet makeup. I think thats what life is sometimes. Its about loving people, through things that arent even about that. Sometimes I have coffee with friends, at starbucks.


It's not about the coffee.


It's about the humanity wrapped up in that tiny mocha. God uses things to show us...it's not about that. It's always about love. It's ALWAYS ABOUT THAT. Rob Bell calls it "bringing heaven crashing into earth." He says "I have a new hero. Her name is Lil and she is in her late fifties. Early in their marriage, her and her husband decided they would adopt. As they became familiar with the foster care system, they found kids nobody wanted. So they asked for the kids with the most pronounced disabilities, the most traumatic histories. So they have raised over twenty children. When Lil got to this point, she reached down and patted her daughter and said 'this is Crystal. She is 27 years old, but will be about six months old for the rest of her life. She cant walk or talk or move or do anything by herself. She will be like this forever. And I love her so much. My family cant imagine life without her. She makes everything so much better.' What is Lil doing? She is bringing heaven to earth. Instead of labels like 'invalid", 'reject', or 'invalid", Lil sees only 'human'. She has only one response. Love. It makes all the difference"."


See? It's about that. When I go to Starbucks (which, I have realized, is the stomping grounds to learn real compassion for strangers. I am pretty sure God planned it that way. We may think we are just getting a frappachino, but we are really getting a lesson in Love, Jesus style.) There is a guy there, named Downtown Dan. Im sure that Dan has been the brunt of many jokes, and many stabs at his often-funny antics. I have been the producer of such thinking, I admit. But my friend Will captured a moment a while back, a moment captured with film, that changed my thinking about Dan. It's the photo at the top of my post. Look closely, he's reading a book called "crisis".
I dont think the book was about anything really important, but its not about that.
I love that photo. It moved me to tears. Because here is the resident homeless man of Medford, reading a book called Crisis. I hope it hits you as hard as it hit me.
Who has given him his humanity back?
Who has brought heaven crashing into his hell?
Who loves him?
See, like Rob Bell points out, there are "moments when the "enemy" becomes just like me. When a soldier becomes a son. When a prostitute becomes a mother. When they become we. When those become us. When he becomes me. Moments when all the differences dividing us disappear. We are faced with the fact that we are humans. In this together. Marine. Iraqi. Orphan. Family. Pastor. Prostitute. We could be them." I'd add: Middle class college student. Homeless Man.
Them becomes We.
Lipstick hands back dignity.
A handshake to a homeless man gives him back his humanity.
Thats what Love is about.
Its' not about the coffee. or the lipstick. It's about bringing heaven crashing into earth.



Tuesday, May 20, 2008

stop and search


the artwork above and the title artwork in my blog is from an artist named banksy. you probably haven't heard of him, mostly because no one actually knows who he is. he paints his murals (graffiti-style) in the dark on the streets on London, and only his art dealer knows his true identity. His evocative pieces poke fun at commercial American, including a child being dragged away by Mickey and Ronald Mc Donald, and tons of rats on a red carpet holding a sign that says "it is not a race". it is modern art at it's finest, with hard hitting pieces that will hit you at your core, and some that will simply make you laugh.
I have recently picked up the book "Lord Save Us from Your Followers", by Dan Merchant, recommended by my friend Matthew Turner. It is a social commentary about the views the world has about Christianity as a whole, and it asks the question "Why is the gospel of Love dividing America?". In it, Merchant sets out to set the nation on fire, by asking questions some of the church would rather not ask. In perhaps the most poignant chapter, called "confession booth", Merchant invites homosexuals to dialogue with him about the way Christians have treated them. It will make even the most stout republican cringe. He DOES NOT condone the behaviour, or insist it is not sin, but rather apologizes on behalf of the body of Christ for forgetting to love the people God has called us to love. If we are truly overflowing with the love of Christ, then it cannot be exclusive.
He says
"Gloria's round face quickly dissipated my apprehension. "This is my first time in a confessional, so I thought I would confess." I managed with a nervous laugh. "Okay", she said with smiling enthusiasm. I took a deep breath. "I'd like to confess on behalf of the church, a church I love and am a part of, for letting you down, in light of what Jesus has done for us...which is to love one another. our church hasnt done that, and I havent done that." I said in a steady voice. "Oh!", she exclaimed, "Apology accepted". "Next I'd like to apologize for pretty much ignoring the aids crisis." I heard my smooth baritone roll on. I was quickly becoming a spectator to what God was doing here. "Not only did we ignore the crisis, but we cast condemnation on thosewho were hurting and dying. So I'm sorry for that too." "You;re forgiven", my new friend whispered with a nod. "Thank you", I squeaked. "Lastly, I want to apologize for not living up to what Christ has taught me. I'm to show compassion and not judge, the bible says "He who is without sin cast the first stone", and my sins are numerous. I apologize for all the people I have driven away frm Jesus' love through my poor example. I'm sorry." A hot tear streamed down my cheek. "Absolved. You know, Dan, one of the things that kept me from becoming a Christian was being treated so poorly by Christians. And though I am not a Christian, I appreciate the words you are saying to me today". " -Confession Booth, LORD SAVE US
What does this have to do with mystery artist Banksy? Because the title of his piece above is 'stop and search'. I think Dan Merchant got it right. He stopped and searched. He dug down deep. He reached out where Jesus called us to reach. He didn't condone, but he loved.
Stop. and Search.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

put your left foot in...


I have read all of Matthew Turner's books, and they have evoked lots of tears...and lots of laughter. But until Hokey Pokey, they never evoked the curiousity and wonder that I am pretty certain my friend Matthew intended. Well written and intruiging, Hokey Pokey seeks to offer my generation a freedom to follow the oft-intrepid path of God's purpose for our lives. Chock full of Matthew's signature wit, this time the book follows in the trenches of storysmiths Donald Miller and Rob Bell by invoking Matthew's newly honed storytelling skills. Before you know it, you will have read another chapter, unaware you just might be learning something abut yourself, about God...while reading a simple story. Perhaps it's because we identify so well with honesty and community that when we hear stories, instantly we connect. Matthew skillfully draws his reader in, even moreso than previous works, by appealing to our natural curiousity, by simply telling the stories of other "curious people". For those looking for a cut-and dry manual to finding God's purpose for their lives...dont waste the 13.99. But for the rest of us, people eager to put effort into life and "shake it all about", then pick up Hokey Pokey with the realization that there is no formula to find the perfect purpose, but rather it's how you live your life and use it to the glory of God. so go ahead. Put your left foot in. All the way.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

the kite runner

for those of you looking for a good book (all five of you reading my blog, that is), please pick up the kite runner. however, if you are looking for a sweet, happy ending this is not the book for you. for readers seeking a sweeping, evocative portrait of a country at war, for those of you who are willing to be uncomfortably jarred out of middle America, this is the book for you. there is a beautiful movie of the same name, based on tbe book, but its well worth it to read the book first. the movie is well-made, impeccably cast, and painfully raw.

another great movie i have seen of late is "bella", another foreign film, also very moving, and tinged with a realistic pro life message. camera work is brilliant and the storyline is deceptively simple.

both breathe plots seeping with redemption, forgiveness, and true compassion. what does it mean to be a friend, what does it mean to love someone?

how far will love go to seek and save? be reminded how far Love went for His friends.

Friday, May 9, 2008

spirituality of the cell phone

I recently heard a talk by Shane Hipps on a podcast from Mars Hill Bible Church. He was talking about how we are so quick to use our cell phones to communicate, and it will never really replace real relationships. Now, I am preaching to myself here...I text people ten feet away! I am constantly "talking" with text messages, carrying on full conversations with just a few taps. But I have come to realize what Shane was pointing out, that it will never replace our need for fellowship. And as Christians, and as a church, we are made to be communal. Our hearts thrive on fellowship, and community. And the cell phone can actually enable us to become distant and detached from people we should be face-to-face with, by enabling us to skip the conversation and get right to the message. A friend of mine once said "I love texting, because you can just skip right through all the 'how are you's' and just say 'meet me at 7'." At the moment, I thought that was accurate, even correct. But I have changed my mind.

A friend of mine recently lost her dad. I found out the same day it had happened, and I was going out the door to have coffee with another friend. Instantly, I thought 'I need to be with her" and the next thought was "Are you kidding? What are you going to say?". Fear crept its way into my thinking, but I knew I still had to go see her. So I swallowed hard and chose some flowers at Safeway to take by. The whole way over, I was fighting God. How dare He call me to go see her. I was so inadequete. I was tongue tied just thinking about it. How do you go comfort your twenty year old friend, when she has just lost her dad? I had hardly recovered from the shock of his death, and was in no way equipped to extend compassion or love to her. My well was dry.

But God's grace is sufficient. He overwhelmed me with extra grace and love. And when I knocked on the door, I found no words were even needed. I opened my arms, and we cried.

It was enough.

Shane talks about a similar incident in his podcast, and he notes "How do you say that with a cell phone? Just heavy breathing? A blank text message?" No. You cannot substitute community for technology. Never will a text message telling me "meet me at 7" substitute for crying with a friend who needs open arms, not an open cell phone.

So dont let the cell phone become a voice. Often extending my faith to my friends means shutting my mouth and moving my feet. Being love, being compassion. Often it means shutting my phone and getting in my car and going to meet a hurting girlfriend. Or having honest dialogue with a non christian friend.

So I'll continue to text. But when God calls me to reach...I'll hang up.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

i walk with a limp.


I am way too sensitive.

Every once in awhile, I have a cup of coffee with a friend…we have been friends for a long time, and every time we get together, he challenges me to be a more honest person .Usually I leave stinging, with wounds raw from truth and conviction. But I admire his honesty and transparency, and the fact that no matter how hard the subject he will never shy away from telling me the truth. We talk about God, about faith, about relationships. We are on two different hemispheres when it comes to faith…but he constantly challenges me to take a reevaluate the reasons I believe what I do. Sometimes we get into knock-down, drag out arguments about abortion, about homosexuality, and the crucifixion. Sometimes we just talk about the things going on in the world. “Why did Jesus have to die?” “Is abortion still wrong, if it will save the child from suffering?” “How can you be a loving Christian if you are against gay people?” These kinds of questions keep my poor mind working overtime, leave me stuttering about sovereignty and sanctity of marriage, and the facts about late term abortion. Come to think of it, I speak “Christianese” pretty well as a second language. At least I think so.

But whenever I walk away from these conversations, I walk away with an emotional limp. My bruised “feelings” often leave me beating myself up about my lack of argumentative skills, my lack of evidence to support my faith, my apparent intellectual deficits. I always go in with my guns blazing, ready to defend MY faith, touting page after page of Lewis, Kierkegaard, Strobel… But nevertheless, I just leave with a limp. With hurt feelings, and my bruised ego. Yet there is something that keeps me coming back, that keeps me talking with him, a tiny part of me that holds onto the truth I know I find after our conversations. Because I realize that even though it stings, the prick that draws the blood of conviction also helps me bleed out complacency. My conversations constantly keep me aware of my beliefs, and prevent me from becoming stagnant of superficial.

The other day he said to me “Do you know whats going on in China, Grace? It’s a lot bigger than what is going on around us here in the US”. Did I know what was going on in China. No. Are you kidding me? Half the time I have no idea what is going on my own country, and definitely had no idea what was going on between China and Tibet. Once again…a limp. I walked away feeling, well, a little less than a good citizen. I had no clue there was ANYTHING going on between China or Tibet.

Limp. Limp. Limp.

It made me think of Rob Bell’s book Velvet Elvis, where he talks about Jacob wrestling the angel. He came away with a limp too. And it produced a stronger faith. Did it hurt Jacob? Probably. Maybe Jacob went to bed that night saying, “Man, I’m sooooo inadequate.”, that he didn’t measure up to God’s holiness, that he was so imperfect. Then comes the sting…the drop of “truth” blood…he WAS inadequate.

Limp Limp Limp.

His hip was broken, But his Faith? Strong.

And Jacob had a permanent reminder of the strengthening of his faith. A limp. So maybe my limping is leaving a scar on my pride, but its probably making me stronger.


Monday, April 14, 2008

tagged?

1. Ten years ago I was...ten! sure I was going to be the next Michelle Kwan, no joke. I would have been too, if skating lessons weren't a hundred dollars an hour! Maybe I just wanted to wear the pretty costumes!

2 Things on my to do list today: 1) keep finding a job! 2) work out (which I did, I ran a mile and then did the elliptical!) 3) get to bible study on time!

3 Things I would do if I was suddenly a billionaire: 1) buy a house 2) pay my way through Nursing school! 3) go to uganda to do AIDS relief 4) Take the figure skating lessons! 5) Fly to Nashville to work at CCM

4 Bad Habits: 1) Biting my nails 2) Listening to music in the library at school too loud
3) Daydreaming in class, and listening to my ipod when I should be listening to the teacher

5 Places I have lived: 1) Incheon, Korea (duh), 2) Chico, Cali, 3) Medford OR

7 Things people don't know about me (quirky things about me): When I was little I really did want to be Michelle Kwan 2) I also wanted to be the next big wedding dress designer
3) I am deathly afraid of drowning, and water in general 4) I am actually a fast runner! When I was running seriously, I was at a 5 minute, 50 second mile.

8 Things that make my life superfabulous right now: 1) Jesus 2) BETH, BEN, TIM, ALLY 3) My family 4) My wonderful friends 5) My bible study group! 6) My ipod :)
7) I AM GOING TO BE AN AUNTIE AGAIN ;)

okay i tag brenna and anne!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

keeping up with the jones'...

I had another conversation with a friend the other day, about how it struck me the other day how we are constantly trying to keep up with culture instead of engaging it. We make christian movies that "counter the filth in hollywood", we make music as an "alternative" to the mainstream music. We make t-shirts with slogans taken from big clothing companies, and replace half the words to make them 'christian". And what I want to know is...why? Why do we feel the need to counter the culture and why are we not leading it?

I was doing some research for an upcoming article for the magazine I write for yesterday. And one of the new bands I read about was touted as "the next hannah Montana". And then I heard them, and for the first thing, they don't even sound like Miley Cyrus. They might be in the same age bracket as her, but sound-wise they are not even close. And it just confuses me that they have to be advertised as the "next Hannah" to sell records when they should be able to sell records simply by being GOOD SINGERS! They won't be the next pint-size blonde billionaire, but they can excel in the industry by being quality musicians, by being really great singers..who just happen to sing about Jesus. Or maybe some bands, like the Fray, dont even sing about Jesus, but they sing music that is uplifting and well-done, and people recognize it for what it is: good music, made by Christians.

We need to stop reaching for the bar, and start setting it.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

what kind of miracle are you asking for?

to continue audrey caroline's precious story, she passed away with her loving family yesterday. you can read more at http://www.audreycaroline.blogspot.com I encourage you to read the whole blog to about as far back as February 22nd.

As I was telling a friend, it made me stop and think about miracles. Here are some amazing christian parents who loved their daughter so much, and genuinely prayed for a miracle. And as Angie said, "One way or another, our daughter will be healed tomorrow. Praise God with me tonight for this truth." She recognized that a miracle would be worked in their family, regardless of the outcome.

And there was.

Sweet Audrey lived for two hours, in the arms of her mommy and daddy and sisters, when the doctors estimated she would not live at all. So they got a miracle.

So I wonder...are we asking for the miracle that we want....or the one that God wants to give us?
Or, like Angie and Todd, are we open to realize that sorrow can be a miracle too, for the way it pushes us to Christ?

I hope if you can't read the whole blog, you can at least read these two portions:

MARCH 5TH, 2008 "Kidding aside, I do have a passion for instilling a love of the Bible in my children. We have been discussing the story of Abraham and Isaac, and they are fascinated by the fact that Abraham would walk a mountainside in expectation of killing his son, so led by God's voice that one of the only details we learn is that he paused to praise God in the midst of his trial. As a sidebar, this is one of those stories that makes me giggle halfway through. For some reason, I can't stop picturing Isaac continually and more frantically asking his dad where the sacrifice is. In my head, he sounds like one of the Simpsons. "Hey dad, where's the sacrifice? Dad? Shouldn't we have brought up a ram or something? Dad?" I guess that shouldn't be funny, but it kind of is. In our little Bible, Abraham raises his knife while Isaac lays motionless, tied up in rope that his father's hands have wrapped around him. Suddenly, God shouts, "Stop!" and the boy is spared. The girls always hold their breath as we build up to that part, even though they know he will be okay. Usually, we have to remind them that he isn't going to die, because the suspense is too much to bear. I sliced an apple and asked Ellie to tell me the story as she stirred. She did a remarkably good job, but after she repeated God's words, she got quiet and looked at me like she had something else to say. Mommy?"
"What, honey?"
"You know that part where God yells stop?"
I nodded, half paying attention.

"I don't think He is going to say that to you."
My hands stopped moving and I looked at her eyes. Sad, knowing, feeling, see-into-your-soul eyes.
"I don't know that He is, Ellie."
For what seemed like forever, we just continued our motions in silence. I don't know that I can adequately describe what that moment was to me. It was just one of those times in life when you know that God is speaking.
I couldn't stop thinking about it. About the fact that it was his son. His hands. His rope.
And yet it was never his at all.
When people talk to me about what I am going through, they often use the word "trial." I think it is the right word. It was the same for Abraham; the rules have not changed in thousands of years. We listen, we praise, we walk in the direction of God's voice, and we obey. It is that simple.
Sometimes that means we get to unbind and celebrate.
Sometimes it means we don't.
I looked up the original Hebrew word for trial in one of my big fancy books (OK, one of Todd's fancy books) and I hope that as you read these words, you will know the way He quieted me in that moment. This is a direct quote.
TRIAL (Old Testament) noun: from the Hebrew word "sara" which comes from the root srh, which means, "to bind, tie up, restrict." Thus, the noun comes to denote a narrow place in life where one is bound or restricted...
I have carried this image with me for days, and am saturating myself in the truth that I discovered about what it means to be walking where I am. Immediately I thought of sweet Audrey, unable to grow, restricted, as bound and helpless as Isaac. It feels heavy, even though I know I am not responsible for the decision.
As we walk this "narrow place," I am reminded of the power of being still and submitting to the God I trust more than I ever thought I could. During these days, I walk closely, moment-by-moment with the God of the Universe. The God that chose Abraham and chose me.
I can't think of anyone I would feel safer with right now, because of course, the difficult, terrible, beautiful truth is that He Himself is not unfamiliar with the binding.
Jesus, sweet lover of my soul. I bear my wounds tenderly, with worship ever on my lips because You did the same for me...
"But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him and by His wounds we are healed. " Isaiah 53:5-6"

Monday, April 7, 2008

prayers for a precious baby girl

My friend Matthew alerted me this amazing story, and this blog is a testimony of God's grace and sufficiency in the middle of suffering.

www.audreycaroline.blogspot.com

Sunday, April 6, 2008

roller rink memories...




I went to the roller rink yesterday...and it remained the same as when I was about 12...same lovely orange carpeting, and unfortunately, probably the same skates too...


My friend Kevin reminded me that there were many sodas to be won in the excellent, high quality games played at the roller rink. Such as the game "Survivor" where you must beat out every other skater in the rink to get to the "white line" which is virtually impossible unless you want to elbow or knee small children to get there. I am pretty sure that it must qualify as an extreme sport. Then there is the 'corner game", where you have to find a corner when the music stops. Daniel and Ryan figured their best strategy was to just stay in a corner the whole time. I picked the "yellow" corner and was in the first group kicked out. One little girl went to what she thought was a corner, and the announcer said "Just a reminder, the west wall is NOT a corner" and she burst into tears. All this fun costs you $8.50 plus your dignity, but you get a blue slurpee. Ah, memories..

Latest Review

In honour of the last print issue of CCM, which you can see here: http://www.ccmmagazine.com here is my latest review.


LOVE OUT LOUD (a'postrophe Records)

Her first studio album since 2005, Love Out Loud has been hailed as Jaci Velasquez’s “comeback album.” Indeed, the beloved Latin singer sidestepped the spotlight in 2005 and left many fans wondering when she would sing again.
With Love Out Loud, Jaci makes a strong return to the music circuit, offering several promising singles. “Nothing But Sky” resounds with her signature vocal and an utterly singable chorus, which Jaci says, “reflects the journey I have been on and where I am today.” Other notable tracks are “Jesus (The Way),” where delicate vocals carry the worship ballad and “A Likely Story,” a sweet narrative of Velasquez’s courtship with husband Nic Gonzalaz from Salvador. Jaci’s husband also joins her on “Por Escrito,” which offers listeners a breathtaking Spanish duet between the two. As the strongest and most daring track, it showcases their strong vocals, backed solely by a simple Latin-inspired guitar. Unfortunately, the zesty “Tango” is a bit too daring, with a chorus that says, “I think it’s time to tango/oh, oh/Sometimes you need to tango.” Even with its fiery Latin sound and Jaci’s sultry vocal, the song is oddly out of place on the otherwise strong disc. Still, fans will most likely be delighted with the fresh songs from Love Out Loud.
- Grace S. Cartwright

Friday, April 4, 2008

out from the behind the altar

"I meet so many people who have superwhatever rattling around in their head. They have this person they are convinced they are supposed to be, and their superwhatever is killing them. They have this image they picked up over the years of how they are supposed to look and act and work and play and talk and it’s like a voice that never stops shouting in their ear.And the only way not to be killed by it is to shoot first.Yes, that is what I meant to write.You have to kill your superwhatever."- rob bell

I was reading in Matthew yesterday, about how Jesus was telling the disciples to serve (23:11), and it struck me that Jesus was a servant both in attitude and ACTION. So i started looking through matthew, looking at the words connected with Jesus' name; the things He did.This is what I found:-Jesus GAVE (26:26)Jesus MOVED (back to his hometown after John the Baptist's arrest to take up where he left off)-Jesus TAUGHT (5:1-2)-Jesus REACHED (8:3-4)-Jesus REASSURED (9:20)-Jesus BLESSED (14:18)-Jesus DIDNT HESITATE (14:31)-Jesus HEALED (19;1-2)and the thing is, like rob bell says, we have this picture of servanthood, in our heads, that we need to be in africa or uganda to serve, that we need to give away our cars and live in a dirt hut (which maybe would help), but Jesus DIDNT HESITATE. He was a servant in the way He did things.

thats why his name is attached to verbs. not adjectives. and like I told a friend today, sometimes even christians (myself included), can decide that, since we cant do something huge, we will just be silent. and like I told him, we hide behind our altars and we crouch down in our pews. and the world forgets who we are. in order to see real change, in order to watch a revolution, in order to experience real love and to BE real love, we have to start acting. and it has to be real. No more super-christians. God has been speaking into my life to pray for real, not just words that sound right, but words breathed out of scripture, words that are not what I think God wants to hear, but the words pouring out of love for a God big enough to understand my messy spirituality.

"Here's what I want you to do. Find a quet place where you won't be disturbed. where you wont be tempted to role play before God. Just be there as simply and quietly as you can. The focus will shift from you to God and you will sense His grace. the world is full of so called prayer warriors, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. dont fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with. He knows you better than what you need." -Matthew 6:5-13 (message trans)

Here's to being real. Crawl out from behind the altar.