As long as I live there will be something worth fighting for, worth writing for, and worth dying for.

Friday, December 17, 2010

On This I Stand

I just finished reading a beautiful post by a photographer friend of mine.  Julie and I met my last summer of Bible college.  Our interaction was brief and limited, but I remember Julie.  January 1, her life will change, and today, I stumbled across her last blog before becoming Mrs. Johnson.  In it, she talked of a little picket fence and how God had brought this chapter in her life full-circle, literally. 

Two years ago, as she- a young single woman- stood on the edge of seeing her dream career take flight, she came upon this picket fence.  It was a backdrop for her first 'professional' photo session.  God is so amazing in His providence, because it was also the backdrop for her last 'professional' photo session before she gets married and moves to Japan.

How it must delight our Savoiur's heart to pour out such blessings on His children.  We truly can never know where His plans are leading us.  What we can do, is be faithful to follow. 

A few weeks ago my contentment was threatened.  I can't tell you how much these people annoy me.  People who think they have God's will for my life figured out and have been ordained as His messengers to relay it to me.  I stood face to face with one of the biggest threats to my faith and heard, yet again, "Life isn't going to come to you here."

I am so grateful for other women who stand with me on this truth: that God is enough, and that "life" only exists in following His guidance. 

I think of women like Annie Wesche, who left home to become a little-known graphic designer in Colorado but is so overflowing with love for her Saviour that it is crazy.  I think of women like Katie, a 22 year old girl who forsook the American dream and moved (not traveled, not went on a missions trip-  MOVED) to Uganda where she now is mother (yes, mother) to 14 beautiful little girls.  I think of Julie, who bucked the system and devoted her talents to the One who gave them to her, and in turn felt the joy and fulfillment of using her talents to demonstrate the love of Christ.

I think of women, years ago, who sat with me and declared, "Jessica, you will never make it unless you go to college."  I didn't listen.

Life wasn't supposed to happen for any of us.

Yet, it has, and in more abundant and overflowing ways than ever imagined.

I think of Julie, who on January 1, will marry the man God only recently brought into her life.  We started our 'ministry careers' right about the same time.  In fact, Beggar's Daughter was Julie's first comissioned work.  And on January 1, Julie will say "I do" 24 hours after I hold my first international speaking engagment.

Life wasn't supposed to happen for us.

If "life" is the boring and mundane process and procedure we have come to know as living, then it hasn't.  If "life" is living up to the cultural status quo and following the American dream, then it hasn't.  If life is marriage, a white picket fence and tons of kids, then it hasn't.  If life is becoming great, then it hasn't.

But that isn't life.

Life is Christ.

And for those few people who understand that-who embrace that- life, in fact, does happen, in every moment of every single day- life happens.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Everyday Birthdays

In the past year or so, I have come to ascertain that my 'love language' is a close tie between quality time and words of affirmation. Birthdays are fantastic for both of those, and I have received them in excess today. My love tank is well beyond full.

My favorite moment of the day was a series of moments spent with my mom. We went dress shopping, and, for the first time ever, I own a formal gown. It was quite a sight, me trying on a dress in the middle of a thrift shop while trying to be modest. I love how all of the women around immediately become your best friend when you are trying on a dress- "Oh! well, if you let out a little here" "Oh, that looks perfect on you!" "Oh, that's nice." It was quite the comical experience.

We followed that by a little Christmas shopping and then a nice dinner out -- just the two of us. (For you locals, I highly recommend Mama Lucia's Veal Chesapeake- amazing!) That was followed by shopping for our church's AWANA ministry. On our way home, we swung by my boss's house, where a beautiful white chocolate raspberry birthday cake waited for me. We brought it home, and I savored a piece before slipping upstairs to try on my dress again. I feel like a princess today.

But it begged the question- what happens tomorrow?

We often encounter similar situations in life, especially spiritually. There are days when God is just so real and we just feel so close, it's as if we could reach out and touch Him. Within days, we feel lost- wandering adrift on the darkening sea.

Has anything changed? Not for the most part. It's just another day. God is still God, still loves us, still wants to be with us. Maybe what makes our lives fall apart is our own expectations.

We just can't have a birthday everyday. Not saying that we have to have a bad day everyday, but if we are expecting nonstop texts, calls, e-mails, cards, messages, hugs and well-wishes everyday, we will be disappointed.

My boss and her husband came by just a few minutes ago to sample her amazing cake handiwork. As they left, he swung his arm around me and pulled me tight in a hug. "Happy birthday!"

That will be the last birthday hug I get this year. I have 364 days til I can have another birthday hug. In those 364 days do the people around me change? Do they love me any less because it isn't my birthday? Of course not. The same is true with God.

He doesn't change, and though there are days full of intense spiritual relief and joy, there are still others full of pain and sorrow. Unlike any human being, He knows exactly what we need, exactly when we need it, and promises to stick tight through it all.

Friday, November 26, 2010

So Many Blessings

Did you have a good Thanksgiving? I did! That was, of course, after God taught me a lesson I have been teaching others. I hate it when that happens. When you preach something (in a loose use of the word: preach) and God looks down and says, "Oh. Really? Let's see how well you do on this."


I have a bad record of not passing these tests the first time around. At all.

Last Friday, I got to go hiking. It was a field trip, so I had to go out in the beautiful fall sunshine, in perfect hiking weather and hike the Billy Goat Trail in Great Falls. Shucks. Can I just say right now, how much I enjoy my job!

Of course, there is always that one student bent on making a perfect day a miserable one. And, of course, this teacher has to stay with said student and practically drag them through the trail. It was tedious. He didn't like dirt, bugs, the thought of snakes (regardless of how many times I told him it was too cold for snakes), water, leaves, rocks, heights... we still have not determined why he even went on the trip. Needless to say, after about an hour of his incessant whining, the student who had stayed back to help spoke the words that I, in all of my teacherly political correctness, could never speak. "Would you please just shut up and stop complaining."

Took the words right out of my mouth.

So a couple more hours passed full of gentle and not-so-gentle prodding and encouraging. At one point the other student actually grabbed this particular slow student by the front of his jacket and drug him over a rock. I couldn't figure out if it was appropriate to laugh.

His whining and attitude were making it a miserable trip for everyone near him. It's hard to enjoy the dirt, bugs, water, rocks, leaves, heights, and such when someone is fussing about them. As we neared the end of the trail, I decided to use a teachable moment. I'm trying to work on spotting those.

"Now look," I said, "you were going to get here either way. You could have made this trip a lot more fun if you had just tried to enjoy it instead of complaining about everything."

Funny. I didn't remember those words the next day when my boss scheduled me to work all day Thanksgiving. In fact, I kinda threw a fit (not really). I am a teacher. These are my only days off school. How dare he make me spend time away from my family and force me to not only work Thanksgiving but waitress, of all things. I haven't been on the floor in months. This is ridiculous. This is unfair. And then he was going to try to force me to wear a tie *pause for outburst of hysterical laughter from those who know me well*  That wasn't happening.

Oh, I had a list. I was hot. I was so frustrated and disappointed and felt so used. The money didn't really matter, it was the fact that I couldn't spend time with my family and that I had to work during my vacation (which after last Friday, I figured I deserved).

My mother offered a bit of encouragement. "We'll just have Thanksgiving dinner when you get home." I wasn't scheduled to get home until about 7 or 8. Feeling a little late for Thanksgiving dinner. I will confess, I woke up yesterday morning with a bad attitude. Yes, I had a bad attitude on Thanksgiving. One of those, "God, I am grateful for everything except for the fact that I have to work today. Everything but that."

I got to work and the first words were, "Thank you so much for coming in. We're going to try to get you out of here as soon as possible. You are first off." (Meaning when things die down, I would get to go home first). I was feeling better then. Maybe Thanksgiving dinner wouldn't be at midnight after all. Hours before expected, we were cleaning up and resetting the room when my coworkers' morning coffee must have worn off. Meanwhile, I'm being pulled into the office to do stuff and being told that as soon as the room is reset, I can go. Well, the room isn't getting reset while said coworkers are sitting around staring at each other. Frustration level rose again.

We lit a fire under them and got them going, but I still ended up resetting the room by myself, more out of bitterness and anger than teamworking. I finally got the room reset and ran back to the office to finish up a last-minute printing. My poor mother had been waiting outside for an hour and a half, while our potatoes boiled dry on the stove (true story). As I tore around the office, my boss handed me an envelope and said, "Here, for you. Just so you know how much we appreciate you." It was a holiday bonus. Like a bigger bonus than the tips I made going in yesterday.

Do you know how much of a jerk I felt like?!?

It wasn't until I got home and sat down to eat my turkey and smoked mashed potatoes (they were actually pretty good!) at 7:30 that I remembered those words I had said a week ago, "You were going to get here anyway, you could have made it more enjoyable."

When we develop a me-focus, we become easily frustrated.

I am learning that. If my student had focused on the beautiful weather and the fact that he is well enough to hike such a trail and that it is actually kinda fun, that field trip would have been very different. If I had shut up and stopped complaining long enough to be thankful that I have a job this holiday season and that I can cover while some of my coworkers travel to visit their families, this week would have been so different. I would have made it to today either way. I go back in tonight to work a late party and then back in tomorrow to work office. Not the vacation I had planned, but you know what!? It's OK. I am blessed.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Worship and a Grilled Cheese Sandwich

A number of weeks ago, I read an article by a friend of a friend in regards to teetotalling (the practice of not drinking alochol- at all, ever). He brought up some great points about Christian liberties in Scripture as it comes to motives and such. Long and the short, I have never drank and never will, at least not intentionally. I ate a bread pudding in bourbon cream sauce once and do believe the bourbon was not sufficiently creamed.

All alcohol aside, though, last week I encountered a different application of Christian liberties, equally controversial. Worship.

First off, it's a shame that worship is, in fact, controversial. It shouldn't be, but we like to make Biblical commands controversial. Apparently, life is more exciting that way.

I "attend" two "churches." To one I claim official membership, while the other I claim a majority of my fellowship. One, I am faithful to attend every Sunday morning and Wednesday evening. It is where I serve in the prints and publications division (there isn't one, but that's the best way to describe what I do). In the other, I get to be one of the body. My purpose in the second is to fellowship with likeminded believers of similar place in life. It is markedly more contemporary.

Sunday night was one of the first nights I made it to the worship service of church B. I usually miss that because I am trying to finish up my church A. Last week, I skipped church A altogether and went to church B instead.

I am still adjusting to it all. About two hundred people crammed in a teeny tiny room with really strong acoustics. It gets loud. Not because we are trying to make it into some kind of rock concert, but because it's just loud. The people there want to worship God. It's a far cry from the drolling Sunday morning hymns squeaked out by the people around me. And I'm not talking the 'praise and worship' Christian contemporary stuff people like to fuss about. We sang "Take my Life and Let it Be" (a hymn) louder than I have ever heard it sung before.

It was something else last week that drew my attention-- a man and his wife in the front row. At first, there was judgement. One moment he would be on his knees, the next standing up with his hands in the air. His wife would be the same. I had a list of reasons why they shouldn't be doing that. Then, an interesting thought popped in my head:

Worship is like a grilled cheese sandwich.

A few nights ago, we had grilled cheese and my sandwich, to my dismay, was cut straight up and down. It was fairly upsetting to me, actually. I was rather miffed. When the second sandwich was made, it was cut diagonally, and I was happy.

Now, did the sandwich taste any different? No! Did it stop being grilled cheese because it was slice the "wrong" way? No. Why did it matter? Because it wasn't what I was used to. Grilled cheese sandwiches- any sandwich for that matter- in my book, should be sliced diagonally. That's the way I do it.

Here is a man and his wife, worshipping God. As am I. I am not lifting my hands. I am not moving. Does that mean I am not worshipping? No. They are lifting their hands and kneeling. Does that mean they are not worshipping? No. Would I do that? Probably never. Just like I will never cut my grilled cheese straight up and down. It's not how I was raised. It isn't how I worship.

But it can still be worship. One isn't better than the other, one isn't worse than the other. Just because I'm standing still doesn't mean I am a better worshipper, and their hands and kneeling doesn't make them a better worshipper. It all boils down to our hearts. No one can judge the outward appearance, because we are all used to something.

We all have a norm, and every now and then, someone will come along that challenges that norm. They aren't intending to destroy that norm or tell us we are wrong. They are simply letting us know that it is really ok if the grilled cheese is cut a different way. We can all still get along.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Exploring God

When will we learn that God is beyond our searching? I know it may take me a couple millenia to understand that. He is constantly opening Himself up to depths I never understood were there. But, praise Him for knowing me better than I know myself, because He knew that if He just poured over me all at once, this little one would drown and not come back.

I was in conversation with an older Christian the other day and he said, "The major problem with the church is that we are sitting around waiting for God to show us what to do, when He's already told us!"

It isn't original with him, but it bears repeating over and over again. We have to stop waiting for God to bring a big light show that reads "This is my will for your life." Let's face it. We are not called to flashiness. Sorry. That's just not where we belong.

There is no corporate ladder in the body of Christ. You are just that, part of the body, and you have a purpose- unique and designed for you. A purpose that, when you surrender to Him, He will equip you to be able to carry it out.

How I wish I could adequately express all that God has done over the past couple weeks. How He has brought me through trial and into a beautiful place of peace. Then, He opened up the next level, and my life entered the waves again. But He is here.

We cannot be afraid of faith. We trust God with our forever. We trust Him with the salvation of our souls. Can't we trust Him with our moments? Our mortal moments. The next breath you take is one He gave you. Still, we run from Him. Run from His will. Run from using our talents and gifts except in a case that is comfortable and convenient for us.

We are not called to convenience. We are called to drop it all; to pick up a cross and turn and follow our God. That's His will. It looks different on each of us, but that's it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Simple God, Complex Faith

I think with time must come to ability to discern what opportunities are God-given and those that are "everything I have ever wanted." For now, I rest somewhere in the stage that trembles at an opportunity and may even be readying to jump before I step back and say, "Wait a minute. Let's think this through."

But, I love how God, if you are listening, always orchestrates a way to communicate His will to you.

A verse that came to mind today as I listened to my boss give staff devotions was this:

"And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?" I Kings 19:11-13

On occassion we look for the things that show God's power. Things "only God can do." When an opportunity comes up for us to do what we once thought impossible we immediately think, "Aha! God must be in this." There is even a Christian song that says, basically, "If it makes no sense, it must be God." That might not be the best philosophy of faith, but there is truth in leaning not on our own understanding. Still, sometimes, being still long enough to find God in all of our self-created chaos can be difficult.

A week ago an opportunity came up. I was shocked by it. Everything in my life would make sense here. Everything. It was just perfect. It had to be God! Yet, when I started considering it, there was this gut-wrenching feeling of "Well...maybe it wasn't."

Could you tell that the recurring theme at this point in my life is "be faithful where you are." Over and over again that is what my Father is trying to teach this wayward daughter of His. To simply be faithful. When He wants to move me, He will let me know. He is not always in the big stuff. Not always in the earthquakes and fires. Sometimes, let's face it, God is just plain simple.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Sarah's Choice

I believe it would be fair to say that the life of a Christian will be one of ups and downs. After all, the life of Christ was. For that matter, the life of God Himself is. One moment, the world cries out to Him, the next it wants Him to go away. Humanity, as a whole, is bipolar. We just don't know what we want. We want the love and security of a Heavenly Father but we don't want the accountability that comes with that. Far easier to worship things and find scraps of love wherever they can be scrounged.

I wrote a couple weeks ago about Sarah, one of my clients at the pregnancy clinic. A client who I think adequately represents where my life could be if I had done everything my way. If God had not intervened by whiping out one of my role models at the age of 23. I've already outlived her, which is mindblowing to me.

At any rate, as I backed up my bags last Friday to head out to visit old friends, I received a call from Sarah. After weeks, and I mean weeks of battling about what is right and what she should do, she caved. Two weeks ago, her little girl went to be with her Creator. The product of her mother's bad choices and fear.

I often wonder what that reunion must be like in Heaven. I wonder if Christ, the Creator, stands there at the edge of Heaven. As the Spirit pleads one last time with that mother to change her mind, I wonder of the mansion being prepared for this little one. I wonder if she doesn't show up in Heaven completely bewildered by what just happened, by the pain and terror that penetrated her safe little world and consequently ended her short life. I believe our Father weeps as He reaches out His arms to her and knows that all of the hopes and dreams He had made her for are now gone. How that all works is beyond my comprehension.

I don't know what happens in Heaven, but I do know what happens here. I do know that Sarah spent an hour on the phone with me weeping about her decision, wishing she could take it back. I do know that an anger rose within me as I learned she was weeping the whole time she was at the abortion clinic. They shouldn't perform abortions on women who aren't sure. My heart broke as I listened to her. Part of me wanted anything to have called her that day and just asked how she was doing- maybe, just maybe, if I had, she would have changed her mind.

But Sarah said something that blew me away. She is a very head-knowledged Christian. She can spout Bible verses right and left and tell me all about what God thinks about this and that and the other thing. She knows her stuff. But as our conversation came to a close and we were discussing where to go from here in regards to a pending divorce she said, "I just wish I knew the right thing to do. I can just never seem to figure out the right thing to do."

That, my friends, is the difference between head knowledge and heart knowledge. Until you allow God's truth to govern your life, you have nothing.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Customized Faith

Journey with me as we meet Naaman, a character in one of my newfound favorite Bible stories. It's funny how, we sometimes read the Bible like we read the newspaper- just skimming for the latest gossip or the most interesting headline, forsaking the rest. Then, later, when some news comes up we wonder why we didn't know. Is it because we didn't have the information? No. It's because we didn't deam that information important.

The same thing happens with the Bible. In the middle of the Noahs, Jonah, Davids and Joshuas, we miss some of the 'smaller stories'- Rahab, Gideon, and Naaman.

I came across this story in my Bible reading last week. I am embarking on a journey to read my Bible through for the second time from cover to cover. Believe me, there are "dry" days- and he died...and he begat... and he died...begat...died...begat...died- I still haven't figured out how to apply that to my life. But, there are days I find little treasures and that makes all of the 'extra searching' well worth it.

We meet Naaman in 2 Kings, chapter 5. In fact, his name is the second word of that chapter.

"Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honourable , because by him the LORD had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valour..."

This story kinda pops out of the middle of nowhere. It actually follows right on the heals of an Old Testament version of the feeding of the five thousand (honestly, how many of you knew there was one of those?). In these first few words we are introduced to a man who is fairly impressive. He was a big boss in Syria- noble, respected, in good standing with the king, strong, brave. This guy was pretty important stuff, but did you notice the little "..."?

...but he was a leper .

That, my friends, is a problem.

As God would have it, there is a Israelite maid in Naaman's household who says one day, "Man! I wish that Mr. Naaman was with that prophet in Samaria because he could heal Mr. Naaman from his leprosy" (paraphrase, for those of you wondering). The grapevine reaches Naamana and he gets all excited and tells the king (remember, they are friends), and the king of Syria sends word to the king of Israel inquiring about how to make this possible.

Well, the King of Israel is a bit slow on the upbeat. He spazzes thinking that this is some precursor to war. (Talk about a lack of faith!) Well, Elisha (the aforementioned prophet) hears that the king is having an issue and send him a message (paraphrase again), "What is your problem?! Send him to me and I will show him that there is a God in Israel." Happily the king sends Namaan on his way.

Elisha doesn't even come out and speak with Naaman. Elisha sends a messenger to Naaman to instruct him to go dunk himself in the Jordan seven times. Naaman is probably insulted- after all, he is some top-ranking official in his home country. He is obviously upset. If you read through the chapter, Naaman wanted a show.

He wanted Elisha to come out, call upon God and do a song and a dance and cure Naaman. That's what Naaman wanted. Easy, breezy, done. Instead, he gets instructions to wash in Jordan, which make him mad and send him on his way back home. If I want to take a bath I'll take one in the clean rivers back home.

Praise the Lord for Naaman's servants who stop him and try to reason with him.

My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash , and be clean ?

That is the verse that just jumped off the page as I read this. They were saying, "Listen, if Elisha had asked you to go drink snake venom or go do something extraordinary, would you have done it? So, why are you mad that all he is saying is wash and be clean?" Naaman listened, dunked in Jordan, and walked away knowing that there was a God.

There are so many ties you can make from this story. The one that jumps out to me the most is the idea of a 'boring faith.'

How often do we wish we were the other guy? I have been following up on a young woman named Katie, who moved (not went short-term as a missionary- she straight up moved) to Uganda when she was in her early 20s and now, probably in her mid-late twenties is the mother of 14 beautiful girls in Uganda- orphans that God has given her. When I see things like that, there are times when I think, "Now God, why can't You give me that assignment? Seriously! Give me something big. Something with 'GOD' stamped all over it. Give me a big faith!"

And sometimes He does. We all have those Abraham-Isaac, David-Goliath, Daniel-Lions moments in our lives, but more often than not, we have a Naaman-Jordan moment. It's a surety that the whole world isn't going to know about our Naaman-Jordan moment. It won't make the headline of any newspaper. It won't gain applause or recognition. It may even seem stupid and insignificant, but it is no less important.

It's hard, at least for me, to be faithful in those Naaman-Jordan moments. I will catch myself thinking, "God, if you called me to China, I would go. I surrender to Your will for my life." But what if His will for my life has nothing to do with China? What if His will for your life has nothing to do with spiritual extravagance? What if His will for your life is as simple as sharing the Gospel with the gas station attendant? When He prompts you, do you listen or do you scoff and say, "Pssh! That's nothing important."

We have to learn to be faithful in the little things. You know, there was a degree of faith exhibited by Naaman. He had no reason to believe that the murky waters of the Jordan could cure his leprousy. He dipped his toe in that water in faith. This man of great renown bathed in a dirty river- that was his Isaac moment, his fiery furnace moment, his Goliath moment.

How our faith works out will be different for each of us. Katie's faith seems so much stronger than mine, but that isn't necessarily true just because she has landed herself in Uganda. Uganda is where her faith has led her. My faith will not lead me there, but it will lead me somewhere.

Whether in Uganda or sitting in a college classroom, we are called to be faithful. Whether your faith leads you to pioneer some mission field or leads you to raise a family (or maybe both!) God does not ask for a song and a dance, He simply asks that you trust Him.

"Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Defining Moments

It's September 11, and I feel horribly that I'm not taking time to really reflect on everything that happened nine years ago. It's not like I don't remember or that I've chosen to forget; it's just that there is so much life going on now that it's hard to find reason to sit down and really reflect and simmer in what happened.

I remember exactly where I was. Exactly what I was doing. Exactly what was said. I can remember seeing my English teacher's TV on and thinking a bomb had hit tower one. We were handed tests for MLA formatting in research and looked up as the second plan flew in. She took the tests back. I remember the call to evacuate the local nuclear plant because if it was hit, it would take out a 10 mile radius.

I remember sitting in my 4th period study hall and watching Flight 93 fly overhead and the panic in the cafeteria as we realized that plane was flying so low and the wrong way. Less than 30 minutes later, that flight went down. So, yes, I remember.

Isn't it amazing how some days we never forget, no matter how many years have passed yet we can't remember where we just set our keys. The difference is one is a defining moment. Our lives are full of them. The defining moment of when you become a spouse. The defining moment of parenthood. The defining moment of graduation. Our lives are full of physical defining moments.

How many spiritual defining moments do you have? Some don't feel their spiritual walk is that big of a deal, but do you remember that moment when you truly grasped in ingraspability (new word!) of God's love for you? Do you remember that moment that you realized the work of Calvary? Do you remember that moment of surrender?

I remember a few: major 2 by 4s that God used to get my attention and reroute this crazy train. Still, how often to I sit and purposefully remember them?

How often do you sit and meditate on what God has done in your life, privately? We, as a nation, remember nine years ago. When this generation is gone, the nation will forget, but what about God's working in our lives? What about His continual goodness and grace offered to us? That is more life-changing than any terrorist attack, any war, and how often we forget.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Rolling with the Punches

God's Word tells us His mercies are new every morning. Ever have a day that you wish had a few mornings, or one of those rewind buttons. I need a rewind button.

This morning was a salute to braindeadness, and, were it not for God, it would have made for one rough day, let me tell you.

I left my house this morning, late (for those of you who are curious "late" is On my way to take my brother to work, I realized I had left my mom's bag at the house, the bag she called me the night before to remind me to take to school. Yes, that bag. Not with me. Not going to school.

I get to the pool (my brother is a lifeguard) and go in to swim. As I open my duffle bag I notice a certain something missing. Namely, a swimsuit- at home, probably with the other bag I was supposed to bring. So, I shower and get ready for work. Walk out of the locker room and realize I could have spent the last hour pushing weights instead of blow-drying my hair and chilling with the high school swim team after their practice.

I drive to school, arriving a whole hour and a half before school starts. While retrieving my stuff for work (the other work- the one after school), I discovered I had left a box of work at the house, probably next to the bag and the swimsuit.

To cap it all off, as I closed the trunk, I realized something tragic. My school shoes, and my lunch box were not at home. They were, in fact, in the trunk of the car, right next to the keys.


This is one of those, "You must certainly be kidding me!" moments. I stared at the trunk in disbelief and then looked down at my flip-flop clad feet, complete with a toe still swollen, sore and healing from an encounter with a jagged metal edge two weeks ago. Flip-flops are not part of dresscode, and they weren't my intended footwear of choice. Minutes later I had fellow staff members questioning why I couldn't follow school dress code policy. I'm such a rebel.

Ever have one of those mornings? My whole day was like that, even up to 8:00 this evening, but I will spare you the details. It is so easy for us to get caught up in the stuff and happenings of the day. I praise the Lord for the boss I have at the school who has taught me to laugh at moments like this, and to laugh at myself.

It's a rough lesson to learn- to laugh at yourself. To not beat yourself up over the little brain moments we have every day (some of us much more than others). I do not know how many times I have to look at my students and seriously ask them, "What was I doing?" My first year of teaching, I tried to act like I had it all together, and would get frustrated with myself, with them, and with the dog next door if I didn't get everything perfect. Not any more.

That's the beauty of God's mercies. It gives us the safety of falling. I know that seems so strange and you may be thinking, "Ok, Jessica, God's mercies have nothing to do with you locking your keys in the trunk of your car." Oh but they do.

See, new mercies bring hope! New mercies means that God in all His fullness is available to me every single day. I'm never going to run out! He will never stop pouring Himself out upon me, and while so often I am deserving of His wrath, I believe on days like today I hear a ripple of laughter coming from my Father. As I forget this, lose that, lock this there and just act like a completely knucklehead, He must certainly sit in Heaven surpressing Divine laughter.

"Oh, Dear Child, if you would just slow down for two seconds and learn to think clearly... What am I ever going to do with you, little one?"

With life comes the maturity that learns to fight the battles worth fighting and to let the small stuff go. We learn to just keep plugging on because when this is all over no one is going to remember how many times our brain shut off in the middle of something. We roll with the punches, even if that means rolling for quite some while. We have this confidence that God is there with us (and more than likely amused by our human stubbornness in some cases) and that He will never leave us, no matter how many times we send ourselves scrambling for the rewind button.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Learning to Let Go

It's hard, when you pour time and energy into something to really completely surrender. Must be what Abraham felt like offering up Isaac.

"You want me to give up my son? My son- whom I have spent years raising, years teaching right from wrong, years training, nurturing, developing, praying for and working with- that son? If You were just going to kill him off, why did I even bother?!"

If I were Abraham, that's what Abraham would have thought. That's what I have been thinking over the past couple days.

In June, I began counseling at a local crisis pregnancy center. In that time, I have had some easy cases- women who come in ecstatic because they are pregnant. Wham bam out the door they go. No big issues. I have had a couple abortion-determined clients who came in already well decided. Then there is this one. This one who, by confession of the staff, is one of the hardest cases we have had. This one, who has weasled her way into my heart and soul and it is killing me to let her go.

The first appointment usually lasts 45 minutes, and they don't usually contact us again. My first appointment with Sarah was 3 hours long, and we have talked for a couple hours since. She is still leaning toward abortion, and it is taking all of my willpower to not just straight up tell her "don't do it." She had a follow up ultrasound scheduled for today, and I had planned on going.

I felt as if everything was lining up as an 'all systems go' for me to go to the ultrasound. It was a half day at school today; I didn't have to report for jury duty. So much was going my way, except for this nagging feeling that I was wrong. I was wrong to want to be there with her. Wrong for having a list of 'things to discuss' with her. Yet, how could I not be involved. It was a gut-wrenching predicament. Would I do more harm than good by showing up for this ultrasound? Finally, I decided to write a letter to Sarah, telling her how much God loves her, how much He wants to shower His grace on her and pleading with her to seek His heart in this.

I drove it to the center and she hadn't yet arrived. I dropped it off with the nurse and slipped over to the other side to pray. A few minutes later, I returned, the nurse mouthed "She's here. She's in the bathroom." I slipped out the front door, said a quick prayer and fought off tears of surrender as I got into my car.

The accuser of the brethren had snuck into my car while I was inside. "You failed. You know she is going to abort. It's over. All of that work. All of that prayer. All of those hours. God didn't hear you. It doesn't matter. You wasted your time." The battle raged for a few minutes. My heart cried out that he was wrong. I just knew he had to be wrong. He was, and is (as always).

After reaching a dangerous point of brokenness (like my eyes need windshield wipers) I heard a question posed by the director of the pregnancy center. "Whose ministry is this, anyway?" She hadn't asked me that question; she was sharing a story about one of her first counseling experiences. She had been frustrated because a client wasn't listening to her. My situation differed in that my client was listening to me. I was simply running out of time. Still, the question God asked me was, "Jessica, whose ministry is this anyway?"


I can't change her heart. No matter how much I plead, threaten (not that I threaten), or stuff with facts, I can do nothing. She did not need me at that sonogram appointment; she needed Him, and He was there. In the form of nurses and counselors on shift, He was there. It has never been my job to save her, but it has been my job to love her.

It is my job to fulfill the calling of Christ on my life in whatever ministry He has given me. Today that was letting Sarah go and knowing that I had done everything I could to be a channel for God's grace on her life. Tomorrow it will be to go to school and be an example for my students and then going to work and getting the paperwork done. That's it. Just be faithful. That's all He asks of us. Sometimes that is not so much an action. Sometimes it is just simply standing back, letting go and allowing God to take it from here.

Friday, September 3, 2010

More alive than ever

One month away! Sorry! That wasn't intentional. Guess I've spent too much time catching up with my Facebook people. A lot has happened in that month, but it's just too much to go through- ha! I will tell you that right now a lot of big changes are on the horizon- the honest-to-goodness life changing changes that require a lot of prayer and counsel, so if I disappear again, I will be back.

Truth is, in this last month, I have been honeymooning with my Saviour. No, we haven't gone anywhere special, just here. Life has progressed at a mind-melting pace, but still, I have never felt more at peace.

I was sharing with a friend today that the relationship I have with my Saviour is overwhelming. It is intimate beyond comparison and just blows me away every morning. To know that every morning, He waits for me. He watches me while I sleep. He knows when I awake. He is there with me. My God, the Lover of my Soul, my Jehovah, my Comfort, my Sustaining Power... right there, with me, every single day. Blows me away.

I couldn't begin to capture it all, seriously. Couldn't begin to describe this change, this life I have now. I am more alive than ever and all I can do is let my fingers blubber across this keyboard in an attempt to express speechlessness. I can't. So instead, maybe I can lead you here. It's one of those "you have to see it for yourself" types of things, and all I can think to do is tell you how I ended up here, piece by piece.

I strongly encourage you to take up the challenges I lob at you. It's not because I am some great expert in Christianity. It's all because one day, in December of last year, a complete stranger did the same to me. I took him up on that challenge and my life has never been the same.


Spend two hours at the feet of your Saviour.

I know. Two hours?!? I did the same thing. I seriously thought my 30 minutes was worthy of a metal. I was fairly consistent at reading 4 chapters of the Bible and reading through my prayer list. Two hours was overkill.

Truth be told, I've never made it to the two hours. I average right around one and a half. The point is not to set a kitchen timer for two hours and sit around until the bell goes off. The point is to set aside time for God.

So often, we pencil God in. We fit our devos in between meetings. We get our daily bread via e-mail so we can read it while we check our e-mail. But two hours. Two hours alters your day. Your day centers around that. Your sleep schedule changes because of that. Life changes because of that.

And I promise, you will change because of that. If you make God the number one most important thing in your life. So much so that you make plans to spend two hours a day with Him, He will meet you there. He promises to.

If you're trying to figure out exactly how to fill those two hours, here's a basic outline of what I do:

1) I journal. Jessica, that isn't very spiritual. It's cleansing. It helps me clear my mind of everything going on. It gets all of the stuff out of the way and helps me focus. Not everyone has to journal, but I do.

2) I read. Pick something that takes you about 45-60 minutes to read, seriously. Start at Genesis and just read it through. It's amazing! I promise. Earlier this year, I did the Bible 90x (a read through the Bible in 90 days program). It was intense but I began to see connections I had never seen before. After that, I began reading a specific number of physical pages in my Bible. Whatever amount takes you about an hour to read- to actually read, not speed read, but actually read.

3) Reflect. This combines 1 and 2 (at least it does for me). I sit back and reflect on 2 and how it can apply to the situations in 1. It's meditation. It's something we are told to do.

4) Pray. This is my hardest spot. People say they can pray for hours, apparently I just think fast. I must be a speed-prayer. I am learning, and you will too. For my prayers I usually follow a pattern.
a) Reflection on God's character based on the reading
b) Praise (just plain praise)
c) Family
d) Close friends
e) Ministry needs
f) My heart's desires
g) My needs for the day
h) Thankfulness for filling those needs (because He will)
i) Amen!

It may seem like a sudden change, but it all starts with determination. I am no saint when it comes to this; believe me. I have missed more days than I care to count, and there are others when I barely clear an hour, but your spiritual life does not grow on its own. It must be nurtured. Nurture it.

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Letter of Love

How often have we heard the Bible compared to a love letter? Even days ago as I sat in a counseling room with a client at RPC, the lead counselor said, "God's Word is a love letter to you." But when life is going great, how often do we really need a love letter?

Maybe it's just me, but there are days when I don't need someone to love me. The days when I'm pretty much in love with myself. Oh, Jessica, good job! You rock this girl! Those are days when I don't search for hugs and can lay my head down a sleep well having never once uttered or heard the words, "I love you." Some days, we just don't need a love letter. Then there are days we do.

There are days when I desperately need that compassion, that acceptance. Days when I curl up on the couch with my head resting against my mother's shoulder just because I need to feel loved. When I'm sick. When I'm sad. Those days. I can walk into the kitchen and, much to the shock of my mother, ask for a hug. I need to feel loved.

The great thing about God is that He loved us most during our worst days. The days when we looked Him in the face and said, "No! I don't want You to love me. I don't need You to love me!!" He still loved, and gave, and loved some more. If that is the case, imagine how much more readily available that love is now to those of us who accepted it. Yet, there are still days we don't want to be loved. Still days we wake up and see that Bible and think, "No thanks. I'm good. I don't need You today." Still, He's there. Talk about faithful.

But it's more than just being there. He is in love with us. Actively, constantly, loving us. This morning, as I reflected on His love, I thought of Hosea, and how Israel actively ran from God searching for another lover and God would pursue her and bring her back to Him. Then, my mind rested on Psalm 139.

How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.

Even on the days when I look at Him and say, "Nope, sorry. Don't need You today." He doesn't stop thinking about me. He is in love with us. Doesn't that blow your mind? It blows mine.

We look at Him and say, "No! I don't need Your help, I can do this on my own!" and all the while He waits, loving us, thinking about us, never giving up on us. That is a love like no other, at least none I have ever experienced, and even on my best days, that is a love I need.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Open Doors

This morning I prayed a pretty weird prayer. Taken out of context, it could be gravely misinterpretted. My prayer? "Please let her want an abortion." I know. I know. Let me explain. One thing working at this pregnancy center has taught me is to test God. Does that sound strange? I have learned to willingly, even enthusiastically, jump into uncertain situations only because I know God will be big in those situations. It brings to mind a verse I first heard years ago while in college.

They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep. Psalm 107:23-24

Since first reading that in Oswald Chamber's My Utmost for His Highest, I have found it a great challenge in my faith to step away from the shallow waters and be willing to launch out into the deep. Today, I was itching for that chance.

It is week three of my internship at the pregnancy center. Before today, I had sat in on three client sessions. Two were positive and wanted to carry, a third was negative. Not really hard stuff. Not difficult. You just share in their joy and give them information about our resources. While that's part of why I am there, it is not part of why I am there. I received my schedule for next month this morning. I will officially begin counseling on August 11. That is my first shift (so if you are thinking of me between 10-1, pray for me). I realized though that I am really not prepared to counsel an abortion-minded client. Hence this morning's prayer, "God, please bring someone who wants an abortion." After all, that's why the entire clinic is there!

Our first client this morning was Spanish-speaking, so I answered phones. Our second was obviously pregnant, only seven weeks away from her due date, just needing a positive test. (Yes, I know, it's weird). The lead counselor's native language is Spanish and she told me, "I have a hard time with the English speakers so if you want to talk to her, please do." Well, I can't counsel on my own yet, but God was paving the way for client number 3.

She is my age, just a few months older, and by our calculations, is five weeks pregnant. She wanted us to give her an abortion. It wasn't even, "Well, I'll have to think about it." No, it was, "Give me the abortion pill please, I can't have this baby." The lead counselor deferred to me, and, after a brief moment of thinking, "Oh my goodness! I have to change her mind!!!! WHAT DO I DO?!" I found comfort in one thing alone, "Jessica, just give her truth." That's what God reminded me of as I flew around the clinic talking to nurses trying to figure out some of the side effects of the abortion pill (which are many).

The lead counselor barely spoke at all, only redirecting back to our training when the room grew silent. In that visit, all of my years of interest in pregnancy and child development (I used to want to be an OB, for those who did not know that about me) came rushing back. I was able to explain ectopic pregnancies and explain the risks of the abortion pill, all the while helping her understand that we were concerned about her (which we are) not just her baby. An hour went by and there were tears as she realized that this was not a simple solution. There was no, "Just take this pill and it will all be better" option. Either way, her life would change.

I moved from the chair to the couch beside her, holding the box of tissues as she cried. I cradled a fetal model en utero as I explained why the pill wouldn't fix an ectopic pregnancy and how an ectopic could kill her. We encouraged her to wait for an ultrasound, told her that her baby's heart would have started beating... today. We assured her that she still has options. She still has choices, and still has time, even if she eventually does get an abortion.

She left still leaning strongly toward abortion, and, oddly enough, I wasn't discouraged. Don't hate me for that. It's simply the truth. God works in their hearts, we can't. I read her evaluation form and one thing brought confirmation. When asked if she would refer family or friends to us, she said yes. That, to me, is a big deal. This girl is not a Christian, fully agrees with abortion, and we dealt with her in a way that made her feel loved and respected, not condemned or looked down upon.

It was yet another door I have seen God open in the past couple days. Literally, in the last few days, He has begun answering the cries of my ministry heart. Yesterday, I received an e-mail offering a freelance editing job for 2011. The beautiful thing about freelancing is I can do it whenever. Then, this morning, I have my first abortion-minded client, and it wasn't even like I got to observe, God gave me the opportunity to counsel with a senior counselor supervising. That never happens! He put all of my worries at ease. Then, to top it all off, I get this e-mail today, from the young adult group I am associated with:

If you've ever asked yourself these questions (or similar ones): "Is she really homeless?"; "If I give him a dollar will it go towards drugs?"; "God's word says to provide for those in need, but how?"; then come to the interest meeting on Sunday, July 25th at 6:00pm in the Green Room (downstairs). We'll be looking at God's heart for the homeless and developing a practical way to share Christ's love throughout Silver Spring.

Now THAT's what I am talking about. A proactive outreach to those we are called to reach. This group is amazing, and I am so grateful to be part of this ministry. They developed an outreach to a bunch of skater kids in the city. They saw an opportunity ( and chose to use it. Three days, THREE DAYS after reading that article, they had a ministry group at that park sharing the Gospel with those kids. That's what we are called to do, and I am proud of them for stepping up to the plate and answering that call.

Fact is, doors sit open in front of us every day, but they open both ways. On one end, God may lead someone to us through an open door. On the reverse, He may lead us to someone. We don't have to work at a place like a pregnancy center to reach out to people. The world is all around us, not locked away in a cage for us to visit every now and then. We live in it, and it's time we start impacting it. Pray for God to open a door, and He will.

Friday, July 16, 2010

When the Earth Shakes

It's a good thing I am a morning person or I would have not appreciated my room being rattled around at 5:04 this morning. It lasted only a matter of seconds but was significant enough to wake my entire family and me. My sister sat up in her bed and I could make out her eyes looking at me in the dark. "Was that an earthquake?"


I had gone through a small list of possibilities before drawing that conclusion. Thunder- no, it was felt more than heard, besides, the sun was rising. A car crashing into our house- while that would have been exciting, again, there was no noise other than our furniture hitting the wall, creating a low rumble. So, I drew the conclusion, that either WWIII had just begun or we had an earthquake. I got up walked into my mom's room and stood in the doorway. I was there for a matter of seconds before she just said, "Yes, and yes."

It actually isn't the first time I have experienced one. I had a similar thing happen as a young girl at my grandparent's home in Ohio. That one was strange. My grandmother's china cabinet just began to rattle. It rattled so hard, I thought the dishes were going to fall out. I didn't really feel anything (maybe they have a super strong house), but the china cabinet went crazy for quite a decent chunk of time. I remember telling my family and many of them thought I was nuts. When it came out on the news later, all I could think was "told you!" Of course, the young mind thinks, "I could have died and you guys didn't believe me." (I did a little research and there were many earthquakes in Ohio during that time, all were over 4 on the Richter scale.)

Being a science-minded person and understanding that there just aren't any major fault lines in the area, I went down to flip on the news. The news had no clue anything had happened. It was hilarious.

"Umm... we're getting phone calls from all over the area that there was some sort of shaking, or tremor. We thought it was construction in our building, but we will figure out what it was for you."

A bomb could have just gone off (definitely on my list of possibilities) and they thought is was construction.

It sent four news stations on a simultaneous scramble for the break. First place is awarded to Fox News who stopped their story on the Apple iPhone 'scandal' (which was running simultaneously on every station-- boring) to bring breaking news that DC had been struck by an earthquake fourteen minutes after the fact. The epicenter was just a few miles north of my house. 3.6 they are saying, not bad enough to cause damage but enough to scare a bunch of Eastern Sea Boarders. Now the search is on for the reason why and if we are in continued danger. TV off.

I crawled back in bed and an interesting thought crept into my mind. A praise and worship song I learned when I was little: "The earth shakes at the sound of His voice, the nations tremble before Him..." A smile crept across my face.

"At the sound of His voice." God was apparently speaking this morning at 5:04, and one of the most influential areas in the world heard Him, they just don't know it's Him, or won't acknowledge it is Him. One newscaster even said, "Wow! That was a humbling experience." Humbling because, for once we finally realize how much we can't control everything. But I know the God who can and does.

So, around 6 o'clock, after giving it much thought and reflection, I turned on my side, snuggled down in my sheets and recalled Psalm 4:8, "I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety." For the next two and half hours, that is exactly what I did.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Dream Giver

Last night, a man from our regained his sight, met his Saviour and left behind his wife of exactly 21 days.

They were an older couple, both over 50. He had spent his lifetime dreaming, hoping, praying for a wife, and God granted him that wish. Ironically, a month ago, it was the bride we were worried about losing. She was very ill and in need of surgery, so the wedding was pushed forward and held on a Sunday evening after church. The following Thursday, she had her surgery... and survived. They had plans of him finishing school and then embarking as an evangelistic team.

I had the privilege of photographing their ceremony, and overnighted the pictures to the bride today, with a card of sympathy. What a mixture of emotions. To have pictures capturing a day of love and joy coupled with a card expressing sorrow and loss.

We just never know, but our God does. He alone is the one who holds our dreams and with them all the power to make them come true. He alone has thoughts that are higher than ours, timing far better than ours, plans more meticulous than ours and dreams far greater than ours. He has it all, and chooses to delight Himself in us. Just over three weeks ago, plans were being made for a wedding. Now, we plan for a funeral more than likely in the same sanctuary.

What an overwhelming comfort to know that our God knows.

To many it may seem cold and harsh. What kind of God would do that? Let a couple get married only to snatch away the groom before they could celebrate even one month together! But, as believers, we have a different perspective. At least I do.

I like to see it this way, and you may disagree, but I know that my God knew when Dale would struggle to take his last breath. My God knew. My God knew that the desire of Dale's heart was to know love, to have a wife. I choose to believe that my God knew Dale's time was coming and said this, "You know what, my son, you have waited so long. Before I call you home, I will give you this one last dream." He did.

For that, there is nothing but praise and adoration offered up to the Giver and Fulfiller of Dreams.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Put on Your Grace

Bear with me. This is raw, unfiltered, unorganized and completely not thought through. Again, courtesy of my Tuesday night Bible study, which is quickly becoming the highlight of my weeks, so much so that I may have to request to have Tuesday nights off for July and August. This is Bible study, my friends, at its core.

Tonight, we continued our study in Colossians 3 with the idea of putting on the new man. How often do we just whip past that?

Yea, yea, put off put on, blah blah blah...

Hold the phone. Seriously. Stop. Think about that. Put on, like putting on clothes in the morning. The question was posed to the group.

Why this analogy? Why putting on clothes?

Shame on the writer in me for not stopping and thinking about that before.

One man in the group said, "It's an act of the will. Your clothes just don't fall on you, you have to choose them and actually put them on." The simplicity of that statement made all of us chuckle, but the depth of it caught many of us off guard. We choose this. Hello! We choose it. Excuses are now gone. I can't hide behind the "well that's the way I was made excuse" because, while that may be true, it is irrelevant. I am commanded, because of who I am in Christ, to put on attributes that reflect Christ.

More than that, I am to wear them. We have this willful putting on of the clothes, but we have to wear them. Would it make sense for me to dress in a nice black pant suit and then cover it up with grungy jeans and a holey t-shirt and then go to work? When the boss questions my wardrobe choice what do I say, "Oh well, I am wearing the right clothes underneath." Does that make sense?


But how often do I do that? How often I hide behind the "Well, I am a really nice person once you get to know me" line! That's not how it is supposed to be. Someone should be able to meet me and say, "Wow! You are a really nice person" and then, after knowing me, be able to say, "Wow! What I saw was real." But it's all flip-flopped, and I am sure it is that way for so many of us.

That isn't how it is supposed to be! Put on your grace. Put on your compassion. Put on your humility. Put on your kindness. Put on your patience. Wear it proudly (if that ain't an oxymoron) and boldly! Quit running around in your old clothes with a Heavenly wardrobe at your fingertips.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Beauty in the Broken

Ever have one of those weeks? One of those weeks when you hit the end of the road and there is this mirror. You see yourself and think, "Wow... I look horrible..." (figuratively-speaking). This week has been one of those weeks. There has been the high of being in the fellowship of Christian friends only to come crashing down as the Devil has assualted harder than he has in recent months. What was beautiful has been broken.

The past twenty-four hours have been difficult. Frustrating, and now... humbling. Even in the moments of our putrid weakness, God still has the ability to use us, in spite of ourselves. As I bore assault after assault at the hand of my heart and all its devices, God was preparing the restoration. My mind finally cleared enough to look at my ministry e-mail to find two e-mails. Two e-mails sent while I was in the heat of my battle, while my defenses were crumbling, and if I had only taken a moment to pull up and cry out to my God, I would have taken a moment to remind myself of all He is and He has done. I would have checked that e-mail and the battle would have ended.

But we are stubborn. So stubborn. I fought on, late into the night. Damaged, weakened, broken.

Then, God reminded me, through those e-mails, after I had long since given in, that He still has a plan, a purpose and a reason, and that in spite of nailing Him to His cross yet again, He still chooses to shower His grace on me enough to use me. He still chooses to take the broken and make it beautiful.

"So faithful. So constant. So loving, so true, so wonderful in all You do. You fill me, and You see me. You know my every move, and You love for me to sing to You.

I know that You are for me. I know that You are for me. I know that You will never forsake me in my weaknesses. I know that You have come down, even if to write upon my heart. To remind me of who You are.

So patient. You're so gracious. So merciful and true. So powerful in all You do. You fill me, and You see me. You know my every move, and You love for me to sing to You.

Lord, I know that You are for me. I know that You are for me. I know that You will never forsake me in my weaknesses. I know that You have come down, even if to write upon my heart. To remind me of who You are."
~ "You are For Me." Kari Jobe.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Last night, for two hours, I sat with a group of Christian young adults. We spent the entire two hours discussing the effects of Colossians 3:11 on our lives. Two hours on one verse. That is intense. From the whole night, though, I came away with one burning question. It is a question I present to you now.

Why aren't there more homeless people in our churches?

Now, obviously, it doesn't have to be 'homeless.' Why aren't there more single parents in our churches? Why aren't there more hopeless people in our churches?

Why is it that the body of Christ seems altogether incapable of actually reaching out and including within the community of Christ those whom Christ Himself came to save?

If a homeless person, a gothic person, a witch, a tattooed muscle man, a biker, a hippie, a whatever... whatever it may be that makes you feel uncomfortable or breaks the church's cultural norm. If that person walked into the back doors of your church, what would you do? Honestly.

Monday, June 28, 2010


This is not always an easy one for us. We live in a go-go-GO! society with a slow-slow-SLOW! faith. It's one of the paradoxes of our lives. The world around us contains so many pressures. There are ads, commercials, newscasters, movies, all screaming at us telling us what we should be, shouldn't be, could be and mustn't be. Too often it is too easy to allow them to rule our hearts and minds.

When our eyes shoot open in the morning after a one hour snooze button marathon, the first thing on our minds is the 101 reasons why we shouldn't have had that one hour snooze button marathon. We are busy busy busy people, but we are called to be still.

Faith can never be convenient. Faith done right is like a Sunday afternoon slow-cooked meal. That is real food. That real food takes time, planning, sacrifice. It takes dedication. It's no wonder we settle for toaster pastries and zap-a-snacks. But there are no zap-a-snack shortcuts with faith. It's not like you can take a quick shower, grab your orange juice and an apple with a prayer bar that you can scarf down on your way to work. That is not how faith works.

In Psalm 46, we encounter a Battle Psalm, a song praising Jehovah Sabbaoth, the Lord of Hosts.

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah

There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early. The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

Come, behold the works of the LORD, what desolations he hath made in the earth. He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah"

Obviously, we enjoy parking our sermons on "Be still, and know that I am God..." But oh! What we miss in this context when we rip that verse out and slap it on a bumper sticker. Look! Look at this chapter, listen to the heart of the Psalmist as he cries out to God. As he stands in the midst of turmoil and says, "God is our refuge...we will not fear... though the world falls apart around us... God is still with us." Wow.

How often do we approach life with that faith? Better question: How often do we not approach life with that faith? Our mountains crumble, the heather around us rage, and we throw a little white flag in the air shouting, "Ok! I give up!" We succumb to the ebb and flow of life. We are battered by its waves. Like Peter, we have been called to walk on the water in the midst of a stormy sea but we are too focused on the storm to remember that we were in fact told by the Master of the Sea to walk.

There may be a storm in your life. It may be that your eyes pop open in the morning and your mind is already whirring. To-Do lists may already line your wall on brightly-colored post-it notes. Somewhere, in the midst of all that chaos, is God. He's standing, waiting. Waiting for you to give the word. Waiting for you to cry out to Him so He can look at the chaos around you and say, "Peace! Be still." But first, it's your turn.

Monday, June 21, 2010


This is the first in a series I have affectionately named the "B" series (no, there is no A series). Grant you, having a series of "be"s is nothing new. Jesus did it first with His "Beattitudes." Still, we often forget that so much of our faith is action. The only "be" we tend to care about is "be" saved. That's about it. We forget that our faith is a continuous call to action. A constant call to serve. A standing command to be everything we can be and even that which we cannot in order to further the Kingdom of Christ. We are altogether to comfortable sitting around doing nothing, leaving all of the 'spiritual stuff' for those 'spiritual stuff kinda people.' We are supposed to be those 'spiritual stuff kinda people.' We need to be available.

This is a personal antagonist of mine. I loathe being inconvenienced. Many of us do. We settle into a one track mind and believe that A, B, and C are going to happen. We plan accordingly. So, when K walks up out of turn, we become highly annoyed. Still, in that moment, we have a choice. We can run K over and proceed directly to A. Do not pass "Go." Do not collect $200. Or, we can handle K first and embrace this little change in plans.

God tells us His thoughts are higher than ours and His ways are beyond searching out. What this means is that, more often than not, when K wanders up to us out of turn, God is the one who put K there.

Case in point, the other day I was inconvenienced by one of my students. He decided to announce that he was not going to be able to go home for another 30 minutes. Translated, this means: Miss Jessica, you have to stay here with me for the next 30 minutes of your life, wasting your time watching me because I didn't have the wherewithal to make sure I told my ride to be here on time. At least, that's how I heard it.

In that moment, I had a choice. A) I can be very annoyed and make sure he, and the entire world know that I am being inconvenienced. B) Be available. I took a deep breath, excused my coworker to go home and braced myself for a long 30 minutes. A minute later he was gone. Well, that's convenient. Instead, I was left after school with a group of students (brothers and sister) waiting for their mom, who would be 30 minutes late.

In those thirty minutes, God smiled on our little powow. One of my students started talking about faith (rare, even for a Christian school) and shared his testimony. I watched as this young man literally became lost in his Saviour and in all that God had done for him. He talked, and talked and talked. Normally, that would annoy me too, but I had made the decision to be available. I listened, smiling with a genuine joy, sharing in his rejoicing, praising the Lord that in this dimly lit school there was one little light trying to shine.

I couldn't help but smile, even laugh as I drove home. How God used those moments to encourage my heart, to strengthen the faith on which I stand. To prepare me for the test coming later that evening.

As I turned in to bed that evening, I was still swelling with emotion from the encounter earlier in the day. God is so good!

I picked up my phone and discovered a text message. Long story short, the girls had the wrong number but the same names as some of my students so it took us a while to realize that we actually did not know each other. I had a choice A) Inform them that they had the wrong number and that I was not going to stay up any longer dealing with them. B) Be available. After the events of the day, I again chose B. The following hour led to a friendship with a young preteen girl, nervous about entering high school next year and worried about how she will handle math. As our conversation ended, she texted me: "Good night, Miss Jessica." I slept well that night, praising God for a day, that to me, was more about victory than anything else.

We have to realize that God's ways do not fit within our logic. The broken down car on the side of the road may very well be an opportunity to be Jesus to someone who is hurting. The young mother of four behind you in line at the grocery store may very well be an opportunity for you to further the Kingdom. What we see as inconvenience may very well be God's divine appointment.

We need to wake up every morning expecting God to use us, not wondering if He can fit Himself into our daybook. As your feet hit the floor in the morning and your mind starts laying out "A, B and C" take one moment to step back, grab a Sharpie and over it all write: "Be Available" because that is the most important thing on your to-do list, any day. And that way when L walks up to you completely out of turn, you can face it with a smile and say, "I've been expecting you."

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Lived Out Loud

Just a matter of hours ago, I read a eulogy of a man on a friend's Facebook page. She wrote of his faith and of his drive to draw people toward Christ. At first read, it sounded like he was some sort of cancer patient. One of those people that just knows his time is short. I've known a few people like that, and assumed he was one of them.

I was wrong.

This young man, not even 24 years old, had plans for this past weekend. I have found and read through eulogy upon eulogy about him, trying to piece together who he was and his last moments here. I visited his Facebook, which is open to the public and saw a post from Friday afternoon about how he was going out with friends to a triathalon and was inviting others to come. I read a note from a friend who was with him Friday, just hours before his life changed forever. I just received an e-mail from one of his close friends, who I happen to know from college (it's a small world after all). This is what it said:

I just graduated from Grace College this past Saturday (the 8th) and that was the last time I saw {him}, he drove from Grand Rapids to my graduation in Indiana, then right back to MI for his brothers graduation from Hillsdale. My open house was Sunday afternoon at the parsonage that belongs to my home church in MI, I used to live there, but now the youth pastor does, and {he} had been renting a room in the house. He had posted on the wall for the event (for my open house) "I probably won't show up, but I'll be there".... a joke on the fact that he lived there, but boy oh boy did that turn out to be true or what...

He had plans. Plans that did not involve losing his life. Still, the faith he lived his life with was vibrant. It reflected a constant awareness of the weight of eternity.

On Friday night, hours after his last post on Facebook, his last Frisbee match with friends, this young man was involved in a serious bicycling accident that caused severe head trauma. On Monday evening, he met his Saviour face to face, and though I have never met the young man, it is clear to me that he received a hearty, "Well done, my child, enter into the glory of the Lord."

We just don't know. If we knew today would be our last, what would we do? Would we live our faith out loud? Many do, and that's why I thought, at first glance, that this man had resigned himself to death. That wasn't the case. This man had resigned himself to Christ, and lived every day as if that day he would have to answer to his Saviour.

Can we say the same?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

How Silent is Faith?

Faith is such a tricky thing to try and navigate at times. We have such a variety of examples of faith in the Bible that it can be very difficult to figure out what faith truly is and how it is supposed to flesh out in our lives.

A college professor of mine once stood for abortion (yes, at a Bible college of all things). His reasoning was that if the baby would harm the mother then the mother's act of faith was to abort the baby...
We didn't get it either. In fact, we, as a class, loudly protested saying that faith would do nothing. He began to pull Biblical examples of faith being actions not stillness. By the end of class, we were thouroughly frustrated and confused, all trying to figure out this new faith we had just been presented with.

Here's my take on it. Faith is shown to other men through our works. That is what James is all about. Faith to God is shown through our belief in Him, which is what the Gospel is all about.

Going back to the abortion debate. In the eyes of men, is there faith involved in fear? No. If I abort my unborn child because I am concerned that he or she may take my life, is that faith? Personally, I don't think so.

My professor would say, "What if there were children at home? It would be selfish to die for the sake of one." Would it? Isn't that what Christ did? Offered Himself for the sake of one? Even if only one person had come to Christ, woudl that have been enough? Yes, I believe so. I just struggle with this logic of taking matters into our own hands and then with our mouths confessing to be depending on God.

However, faith does not sit at home and do nothing either. For instance, if God calls you to be a medical missionary, you just can't sit around and expect a medical mission board to walk up to you and say, "Hey! Would you like to join our team? We know you haven't had any schooling, but figure we can train you." Does that make sense? No!

If God calls you to be a medical missionary, then your act of faith is to go to school, get your degree and begin pursuing positions as a medical missionary. The key is to trust every step to Him, and that's where Proverbs 3:5-6 come in. Sometimes our steps do not make human sense. God sense is really the only sense that matters.

This is all something I have been muttling through as I try to determine God's next step for me. I know it now, but there is this hesitation. I know the end objective, I just haven't figured out the process at this point. Does faith just sit back and wait for God to move or does it gently knock on the door and say, "Alright, God, if this is it, I will walk through. If not, I will wait for You to show me where I am going." Is that still faith? To pursue what you believe to be the place where God is taking you? Can you be a medical missionary without first becoming something medical??

Not that I am planning on becoming a medical missionary. It's just musing, trying to figure out where God begins and my strength is of none effect. At what point does God say, "Ok, hands off!"? Interesting thought, isn't it...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Light in Dark Places

Today the sun is shining brightly. I walked out the door this morning into a balmy and beautiful 70 degree day. It's beautiful. Perfect, even (well, not really). Still, the reality is sinking in more and more that we live in a dark world.

At this very moment, across the room from me, a friend of mine is getting ready to enter the lions den. She is taking a Danielesque stand for her Saviour and the opportunity gives me goosebumps. To think it all started with a paper.

She is taking classes at a local college. A local secular college. For further clarification, this is a local secular college outside of DC. Meaning that this college isn't just tolerant, it is a forceful tolerant- pushing and teaching that students should believe in evolution. Pushing and teaching that students should be tolerant of homosexuality. It is an actively secular college.

It is for an English class at this actively secular college that she wrote a paper expounding how nature proves (yes, proves) that there has to be a Creator. Already, she has taken heat for it. After announcing her topic, she was e-mailed by her professor. He had provided a link to a video "proving" evolution. She was unscathed and pushed on. She turned in the paper last week, but the beautiful thing is that her paper is not an anti-evolution paper as much as it is a pro-Creator paper (not to be confused with procreation). She presented the facts found in nature and left the reader to decide. It was a beautiful paper, and I'm sure her Father was proud.

In fact, I'm positive He is. Today, in just hours, she will stand before a body of her actively secular classmates and point them all to her Creator through creation. What an opportunity! What a thrill!

It made me think of how often we forget to shine. Instead of being a light to light the way to Christ, we become an interrogation lamp blinding those who would seek Him. She did not get in anyone's face. In a simple and honest fashion she presented her Saviour in the way He chose to present Himself to us (through nature). Now, He has given her more room to shine. He has given her an audience before which she can stand and say, "Let me introduce you to my God."

We live in a dark dark world. A world desparately in need of hope. If we are willing to shine, willing to glow, He will, without a doubt, use us to show Himself.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Call to Show Love

Over the past month, I have been intently studying the nature of true love reflected in the love God has for us and the love He has called us to. This weekend, those reflections were brought to a new love as I celebrated the marriage of a dear friend.

We, as humans, are given a high honor. We were created with the ability to love and to communicate that love to one another. Marriage is a unique, even divine, expression of that love. The love a husband and wife have for each other serves as a picture of God's love for the world. In that, it is a serious calling, not something to be taken lightly. Not just because one is responsible for the other but because one is responsible for how the world views their relationship with the other. Marriage is serious, holy business because it is meant to reflect God in His most intimate potrayal.

For that matter, the love we have for each other (married or not) is a picture of God's love for the world. God loves the world; that goes without question. The problem is, the world doesn't know that yet. How are they supposed to see that if we aren't showing them?

My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.
I John 3:18

Monday, March 15, 2010

Spoon Fed Faith

Two days ago, I happened upon a video about The Naked Gospel, a recent best seller about the truths of the Christian faith. I haven't read it, but the video itself was, at first, offensive. The author of the book, Andrew Farley, is a minister, though I question his adherence to Scripture since he states in one of his sermons that he once married a woman to a corpse (something just seems off about that). At any rate, in this 'teaser' video, he asked ten questions about our faith. Ten questions that most Christians would answer "true." For instance:

Every time we sin, we must repent and ask forgiveness: True or False.

Christians must give ten percent of their income to the church: True of False.

The answer, in his opinion, to every one of the questions was "False." Now, I am not saying that I agree with the first glance of that, but I also know, as a writer, that we purposefully create controversy in order to grab the reader's attention. As I looked up reviews for the book, it seems that Mr. Farley based his answers on different perspectives and definitions of words. Still, the controversy was well appreciated, especially since I am in the beginning stages of writing a book entitled, "True Loves Does Not Wait." I picked that title on purpose, for two reasons:

1- it will draw in those who say, "Oh finally, a Christian who supports premarital sex!" (Which is definitely not the case.

2- to draw in the critics that say, *gasp* "How dare someone attack our doctrine of purity."

At any rate, since watching that video and writing for my own book, I have been increasingly disgusted by how much we are spoon fed our faith. Even the 'core' beliefs of it.

I just read through part of Ezekiel this morning. I don't know that I have ever heard a sermon on anything in Ezekiel except the dry bones. Everyone loves the dry bones story. I am not there yet. Instead, I just finished reading through when God basically calls Israel a whore and says, "You know, you have slept with everyone else, but hello! you are mine! I chose you, remember?" The specific chapters I read this morning showed a foreshadowing of grace and asked the question many ask today, "Is God's way unfair?" to which God replies, "Don't question whether or not my ways are fair. You are the unfair ones." As I read, I thought, "Now why haven't I ever heard of this passage before? Why hasn't this ever been taught??"

How much of our faith is just mashed up and pureed so that it is pallatable? How much of our faith do we actually own? Do we actually know is true?

Yesterday, in church, the entire sermon was on tithe. The pastor never once brought up a Scriptural support for a tithing mandate. There isn't one for the New Testament church, so preaching it as such is unBiblical. Does that mean we shouldn't give? No. We should. But does God still mandate ten percent? No. At least, not from my personal study.

In Sunday School yesterday, we talked about purity and I listened as one of my co-teachers read a passage from Genesis and somehow twisted it to prove that every person on the face of the planet has someone made specifically to be their mate. She should get a Pulitzer, really. That doesn't have Scriptural basis either. Still, the girls were taking it in. She had used God's word to promise them that some day they would get married. Now, all they had to do was wait. True love doesn't wait.

Is it any wonder our faith is so weak? We pick Scripture to skip, and others to twist. Still others we mash up and flavor until it is barely recognizable. We ingest it and become sick, because it is all wrong. It isn't God's word, it is ours- our spoon fed faith.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Journey of Reconciliation

Moments ago a phone call with a long-time friend ended. It was unintentional; her phone died. Ah memories. We often talked until one of our phones died. Usually it was mine, but this time I had four battery bars. I was prepared. We haven't talked in months.

It has been a painful few months, and the conversation we had this morning made me think of what it means to be reconciled.

Reconciliation is not an action. It is an ongoing process, at least as far as I see it. Even when it comes to grace, although we are immediately accepted into the family of Christ, we must continue to pursue a deeper relationship with Him. It is not reconciliation, it is not sanctification if we just say, "Woohoo! Great! I'm a child of the King. Alright, God, catch you later!"

If that is our grace, we have missed the point entirely. Yes, we are saved by grace and it does not require works. We don't have to earn our salvation, but we should remember that, like reconciliation, the act of salvation is a process. It is a continuing, ongoing process that does not end when we come to a saving knowledge of Christ.

My friend, for instance, is still my friend. Could we be closer? yes. We are working on that. But it does not change the fact that she is still my friend now. In a year I pray we are closer friends, but I just can't ignore her and expect that to happen.

On the flipside, we can't expect to be best friends again when we wake up tomorrow. Likewise, in the Christian life, you cannot expect to be Joe SuperChristian when you get up tomorrow morning. It is a process, and that is important. Not only can we not give up on that process; we can't rush it either.

Do not expect to wake up tomorrow morning and be one with the will of the God. Sanctification is a process. It is a journey. God promises to meet us on that journey. To take it with us. To continue the work He has started in us. That is a promise He gives us. Take note, it is His work to continue, but it is our responsibility to be open to its continuance.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Did you see the Tim Tebow Ad?

I have to say, I missed it, but I just googled it (coincidentally, it is not on YouTube). I honestly wonder if everyone from NOW is collectively chewing on their feet. They raised all of this fuss and stink and ruckus about this ad destroying a woman's choice... blah blah blah.

Have you seen it? It never once talked about abortion or choice or anything like that. They spazzed and, frankly, look like a bunch of idiots because of... fear.

If any other football player had decided to run an ad, it would have been fine. But face it, Tim is a Christian, and the world knows that, and they are, frankly, scared of it. His light is shining and it is shining bright. People are afraid of his Christianity.

What a testimony to the rest of us. I remember hearing a quote once:

"You need to live the kind of life that every morning Satan says, 'Rats! She's awake.'"

That's the kind of life Tim lives, at least in the public eye. He is not afraid to stand up for his faith and his morals. He asks for a Superbowl ad and the entire United States freaks out.

This woman was interviewed on a news show, she said she had never seen the script for the ad, she had no clue what was in the ad but she knew they shouldn't run it. If it had been a beer commercial she wouldn't have cared. But they knew it wouldn't be. Nevermind the fact that shutting off a commercial because the message is feared to be Christian is in stark violation of Constitutional rights. This isn't America or anything, we citizens don't have something called free speech. Yet she says it was a scam commercial by Focus on the Family (because no one would dare call Tim Tebow a scam, so, by all means, attack a corporation).

The hindsight brought to mind another Biblical point. Many times in Proverbs, we are basically instructed to hear a matter through before inserting our opinion and to not meddle. All of these people who freaked out, God used them to draw more attention to what would have been a very neutral ad. They made the controversy and they made it a Huge! deal, and God is going to get the Glory. How cool is that!

On one of the sites though, there was a poll that asked, "Do you think they should have run this ad or do you think that the Superbowl isn't the place for this kind of content?" Here's my thought: first off, we have free speech, and if someone is willing to foot the million dollar tab to secure a Superbowl slot, then let their ad run. Secondly, I would rather see a neutral, friendly, even funny commercial before the raunchy, sex drugs and rock and roll that was everywhere.

Thank goodness Ice Age was playing on another channel. It is the constant flipping back and forth that made us miss the Tebow commercial in the first place. But honestly, there was not one commercial that I can recall that didn't have suggestive nature, partial nudity, chauvinism (that one made me mad-- the women's groups should have gone after that one), alcohol or all of the above. It was disgusting. But Praise the Lord for one light. One commercial that was different than all the rest, and coincidentally, the one that will be remembered the most.

Funny how that works.