Until the Dawn Appears

Well the man of sorrows walked the shores of Galilee And his eyes were cast with joy towards the crystal sea Well the shadows will be gone and all these bitter tears And my heart will hang on that until the dawn appears

Matthew Perryman Jones is one of those folk singers. He croons with a heart outside "mainstream" and his new album makes me emotional. Every time I hear, "Until the Dawn Appears," my heart hangs on the last verse because without it the song would be only sad. Jones has a way of singing sorrow. It kind of seeps out slowly and settles in deep. The last verse (above) transfers all the sorrows of this world onto the shoulders of one man. One man who will bring the dawn that banishes the shadows.

One man who will never let me go.

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/40319898 w=500&h=281]

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

practice resurrection

So, friends, every day do something that won’t compute. Love the Lord. Love the world. Work for nothing. Take all that you have and be poor. Love someone who does not deserve it.

. .

Practice resurrection.

(snippets from Wendell Berry's 1973 poem, "Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front"from The Country of Marriage)

I've been meaning to read more of Wendell Berry and summer seems like a good time to "get around to it." The vibrant green leaves and the smell of blooming peonies seem a fitting backdrop to his poetry. I map my runs to intentionally include the rowdy peony bushes on S. 3rd Street. I always "stretch" long enough to fill my lungs with peony air before putting my race face on again.

The smell of peony makes me sad for people who don't lean over to breathe in their beauty.

And that's why Wendell Berry's advice to, "practice resurrection" is nestling nicely somewhere deep in my soul. We are so forgetful. We live like we don't know we're resurrected. We live like we're not sure how this day will end. We live like Christ's resurrection was too long ago to rearrange my daily toil. We live like all the wonder in the wind moving through the trees is something not everyone has the time to admire.

We live like we've forgotten how to practice resurrection.

We were dead in our trespasses and sins. Dead. Gone. Lost. Limp. Lifeless. Stuck. Trapped. Suffocated. Dead.

There's no way to make that sound nice or easy. But if that were the end, I would have a hard time getting you to stop and smell the peonies.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

(Ephesians 2:4-10 ESV)

But, God...

What a beautiful interjection! What an altogether unexpected and undeserved display of mercy! What glorious gratitude is birthed when life displaces death!

This is our resurrection. We are made alive together with Christ. We are raised up from the grave to sit with Him, to search out the immeasurable riches of His grace, to seek all the beauty of His face reflected in the glory of creation. This is our resurrection.

Practice resurrection today, friends. Practice resurrection and do not forget. Practice resurrection because, in Christ, life has displaced death.

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let LOVE fly like cRaZy

do you feel salvation in your fingertips?

Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live and I will make for you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. Isaiah 55:2-3

Oh, the thousands of times I have not listened. And the thousands on top of those thousands that I have lacked diligence.

And, oh, the rotten food I have eaten as a result.

Listen. Listen diligently.

These words dripped like the sweet sunshine that rushed to meet me in mid-afternoon - God's reminder that delight always waits on the other side of diligent listening. His invitation hovers patient, woven through my schedule and rests the right kind of heavy on my heart.

"Child, if you just incline your ear and come to me... delight is on the other side and inside my words."

Listen. And I will eat what is good, I will delight in rich food, my soul will live and I will enjoy an everlasting covenant.

On this side of the life/death/resurrection of Jesus Christ, these sweet words mean salvation. It means joyful abundance in the depraved, daily trenches of our days. It means being satisfied (Psalm 63) in a way the best home-cooked meal will always fail to do. It means tasting and seeing that He is good (Psalm 34:8). It means feeling life leap in our souls and it means experiencing a love with the certainty of an everlasting, covenant promise.

It means pushing myself back from the table of my rotten concoctions and trusting that delight will be on the other side of diligent listening. It means stretching out my arms and feeling salvation in my fingertips.

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let LOVE fly like cRaZy

heaven's my home, anyhow

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.(Philippians 3:20-21 ESV)

I used to think heaven was a far-off, mysteriously cloudy place with a full orchestra on loop. I understood my "heavenly citizenship" to mean I had a ticket to get into some gloriously holy, underwhelming theme park where all the rides would be safe and all the fun would be clean.

Man, was I ever wrong.

No, I don't believe that heaven is full of unholy and unsafe rollercoasters with unruly people. Rather, I realized that my knowledge of heaven was incomplete because I believed an incomplete description. It's hard work to find out what the Bible says about heaven, true. But, it's work that allows us to live like the Gospel is invaluable. What we think about heaven and eternity completely informs what we think about today, what we think about life, and what we think about the message of the Gospel.

When we share the Gospel like this, "Believe in Jesus because otherwise you'll go to hell!" we are not doing justice to the message. If you were a sought-after artist, it would be like telling someone you would paint a masterpiece and then only covering a corner of the canvas with paint. Is it a part of what will be the bigger masterpiece? Yes. But would someone admire that little corner of the masterpiece as he would the whole? No. They would call it incomplete (actually, I wouldn't be surprised if the art community would seize the unfinished and project meaning anyway). I would call it incomplete.

And this is what I think we do with heaven. It's that place somewhere that I'll be someday because I believe that Jesus died for my sins, according to the Scriptures - because I believe that Jesus took on all the messes that ever were and ever will be and stood in the place of their consequence. But, why?

Because of Christ's work on the cross, we are brought into right relationship. This is what eternity is about. This is what heaven is about: right relationship that I do not deserve. And it's not as mysterious as we've been content to think. A more robust view of heaven and eternity means a life blooming with gratitude and joy. When we have eyes to see God's plans for heaven, we have a heart to reach out and pull others in to gaze at the wild beauty.

Randy Alcorn says, “If you lack a passion for heaven, I can almost guarantee it’s because you have a deficient and distorted theology of heaven (or you’re making choices that conflict with heaven’s agenda). An accurate and biblically energized view of heaven will bring a new spiritual passion to your life.”

Heaven is not an escape from this earth. It's not where we will finally run where no evil can find us. Heaven is God's idea of complete restoration - a peace between God and man and all of creation that hasn't happened since the Garden of Eden. This gives perspective to our momentary troubles, but it also brings a passion to live absolutely abandoned for God's purposes.

This song, "Heaven's My Home" is another among the many that focus on a distant land, another home, a forever refuge. Featured in the film, "Secret Life of Bees," this song captures some of the reasons why we hope for something beyond right now. The brokenness we see and feel in this world is unsettling. That little piece of eternity set in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11) is uncomfortable thinking this is all there is. But, I hope we are not content with simple descriptions of harps and clouds and mystery. I hope we dive into the Word and trust that the Lord knows best what eternity is made of... and that He might want us to know a thing or two.

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/1146654 w=400&h=225]

Sam & Ruby Live- "Heaven's My Home" from sammy b on Vimeo.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

brown sugar vanilla cappuccino

I know what you're thinking: this is either me taunting you about a delicious drink I bought for $5.00 OR me taunting you about a delicious drink I found on Pinterest that you would never make. Surprise! It's neither.

This delightful little number will make your morning, noon, and/or night taste like comfort. And, just so you know, the directions are about as simple as they come (which is good, because I spend a lot of time trying to make things in my life complicated).

Here's what you do:

1) Throw some of your best brew in your coffeemaker (nothing fancy, but make it on the strong side) 2) While your java's brewing, fill your mug halfway with skim milk 3) Add a capful of vanilla to the milk and a few lumps of brown sugar 4) Heat the milk in the microwave for 30-45 seconds 5) Place a wire whisk in your warmed milk and slide your hands back and forth to create a good, stiff foam 6) Pour your hot java into the foamed concoction 7) Sprinkle a little cinnamon on top to make it look like someone else made it

ENJOY!

This is how my morning started today - with a coffee that looked like it was ordered off a hip, chalkboard menu. If that doesn't put a person in a good mood, I don't know what would.

*My cousin Vince told me yesterday that my post was, "weird." I guess I'm trying to take a little break from the long-winded posts as of late. I'm sure my grandparents will thank me. 

every day in May

Happy May Day!

Back in 2010, my sister accepted a challenge to do something she loved every single day for the month of May. The idea is not all that unique (type "every day in may" in Google and you'll see what I mean), but she made it her own. She painted every single day for a month. Don't worry - her house still had wall space at the end because she gave much of it away. She issued the same challenge to me and I accepted - in the form of writing. I wanted to stretch my creative muscles and try writing in ways I hadn't tried before. That was in 2010. 

One of my writing prompts during that month also came from my sister, who asked me to write a creative interpretation of the boy with the fish and loaves that fed the five thousand. I loved the prompt and the process of writing, "the story of a boy and a satchel," which was used during the Sunday morning youth services at my sister's church.

This year, for the month of May, I'd like to challenge you to choose something to do every single day. Something you love, something you do well, and something that you wish you did more. Can I add another something too? It must be something that will add to someone else's life as well. When I first accepted the challenge, I was writing for myself. I love everything about writing, but when I wrote for my sister's church it was bigger than my little love for my little craft.

I know, it's a big commitment. But big commitments take bold action and can produce serious amounts of joy. I'm in. Are you? If you are taking the challenge, put this image on your blog or facebook so others can follow the journey.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy every day in May!

Occupy Life: he bought a corvette

He nodded at the two young men "in charge" on Sunday nights at the soup kitchen and then pointed toward a crooked, framed certificate on the wall, "Those two boys got started here with him, Jeremy Benton, back in 2007... Yep, he was a real neat guy - consistent." Don paused and looked at me under sagging eyelids, letting the silence add weight to his next sentence, "He got himself a good job and went off and bought a corvette."

He was still looking at me, both of us standing there admiring the crooked certificate hanging just above the stainless steel industrial sink, "Guess he wanted to see how fast it could go... it, uh, it didn't end well."

Don washes the dishes every sunday for the program that feeds anywhere from 30-80 people in our community every night in the basement of a downtown church. When I first got there, Don was methodically preparing for the night - quietly setting out trays and arranging his washing area just so. When I was assigned the "reheat meat and make sandwiches task" at a counter not far from his work area, I knew we'd be friends before the night was over.

He's the kind of man whose face begs you to ask his story.

"I wear these nylon pants because they dry real fast," he told me just loud enough to make sense over the appalachian banjo playing on the stereo. Everything served a specific purpose for Don.

He hadn't always been a dishwasher for the soup kitchen on Sundays, but he wasn't the type to establish credibility or elevate his status on the scales so many use. He asked questions to the rhythm of his dishes and wondered how I got to Ames. As it turned out, he had a roommate from Honduras while he was in graduate school at Iowa State for civil engineering.

"Guess I didn't learn it the first time around... had to hear it again," he said with the surest twinkle in his sage eyes.
He would wash and dry and sort and then pause for conversation - all calculated.

So, when he wandered over to the crooked certificate hanging above the stainless steel industrial sink, I wondered why he chose that story for that moment. Why did he say "corvette" the way he did and why did his eyes say the story wasn't so simple and how did Don manage to honor a memory and mourn folly at the same time?

___

Just another night lived...This is another in a series of posts called Occupy Life. Each day you and I occupy physical time and space, making bold statements about what is most important in this life (whether we’re holding picket signs or not). Other entries: StonesSpanish at an Irish Pubpancake battertying ribbonsAlejandra,  Lunch HourDelaney and Roland or the original post Occupy Life: Things One Might Do While Unemployed.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

"everything's crooked but it all seems straight, cuz everyone's looking sideways..."

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhuZzQ7p3EI]

Think on These Things

Too many times we imitate what we see in the world around us. We settle for mediocre instead of magnificent; for better instead of best. As C.S. Lewis lamented, we are content to play in mud puddles instead of enjoying a holiday at the sea. This infographic from challies.com is helpful in understanding how God has designed us for BEST.

If you would like the graphic in high-resolution, you can download it in JPG or PDF.

blessings are sojourners

It took awhile, but Vince is finally on board with this idea (although he's still skeptical) of blessings as sojourners. In church this morning, I was scribbling and doodling and arrowing and marking on my journal pages (taking bullet notes is so overrated). Right when the service ended, I leaned over and said, "I figured it out!" pause, "Hoarders!" Vince, not surprised in the slightest, just waited for me to flesh it out. "Quarters?" "No... You know, blessings are meant to be always transferred, always moving, always given... but we love the blessing so much we keep it. We hoard it!"

He chuckled a little bit, "Oh... hoarders! Alright... I can see that."

I'm so thankful to have a cousin/friend who equally loves processing through ideas, asking questions, and challenging assumptions. This afternoon, I had to stop myself in other company and ask, "Is this too much?" Because sometimes I forget how spoiled I am to have such a friend around.

So, this idea that blessings are sojourners and we are hoarders has been rolling like a snowball and gaining serious speed and mass in my mind. This is week two of Perspectives class and the first several lessons focus almost exclusively on God's blessing - what it means for Christians and for the world. Pair that with a series in Ephesians at church and my personal obsession with the a la orden philosophy and I've got a dump truck of blessing on my hands. I'll let you in on the processing side of things, if you promise you won't reject it right away or laugh. Sometimes it's fun to throw something up on here that I don't think is finished quite yet. The thoughts still need punctuation and perhaps a more obvious thesis, but so do most of my posts I suppose.

_______________________

Blessings are sojourners.

They tread crowded roads and lonely trails to visit million dollar homes and corrugated metal shacks. They knock on expectant doors and ring doorbells of disinterested tenants. They dance with the leopards and race the rivers to the sea.

Blessings are sojourners.

They pack light. They carry purpose and reflect sunshine, but they are not weighed down. Their shoulders bear the weight of inheritance, but never long enough to slow their pace. They have no suitcase, no cargo pocket, no oversized handbag.

They are at home in motion.

Blessings are sojourners.

__________________________

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

does God giggle?

Apparently, Iowa has a high tolerance for awkward as well.My state made caucus a verb (it was a strange enough noun).

Yesterday, after my very gauche post, my best friend from college sent me an email with this little inspired nugget to capture the lengthier explanation. I love it.

Oh, goodness. I love how a friend can still know you so well, but live so far.

Today I laughed with gumption and it felt spectacular. I'm not sure what to hold responsible, but if I figure it out I'm going back to say thank you. In fact, I wouldn't mind doing some gratitude back-tracking right now before hitting the books and my sweet pillow.

here's some blessings as I counted them today:

the early morning moments when I sit with my coffee and my 3650 Challenge, soaking deep in Truth. the acoustic guitar in the office singing bon iver, adele, and hanson. dreaming about an office space where inspiration happens and stories unfold. the office printer, when it does and doesn't work, is a magical machine. check marks - oh heavens! I am ever-so-thankful for checkmarks in even slightly important places to make me feel legitimate and productive. finding a remote control car in a co-worker's office; laughing like a child. forgetting my lunch and then getting invited to hang with the cool kids. wearing my thrifted boots (thanks, Dad) that make my feet feel like snuggly eskimos. chasing around my cousins and hearing their laughter unleashed. the balance of cousin cate, who loves make believe and cousin charlie, who loves to cuddle.

mischief.

I know it sounds weird, but I can get riled up (in a good way) about some good-old fashioned mischief, the same way I get excited about mystery. I kind of think they are related. And, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say I think both are, um... holy.

If you've read Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday, then you've at least thought about how God must have a perfect sense of humor and maybe you've wondered (with me) a little bit about what that humor looks like.

I mean, have you ever wondered why we have armpits or why every blade of grass is distinct or why things like treehouses are places where children play, but where insects probably reign?

Do you wonder what His laughter sounds like? I often do.

What did God think of the caucuses in Iowa tonight? Does He giggle at that funny word?

I don't know, but I'm sure excited to find out one day.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

how lofty are you?

There is snow falling in flaky clumps outside, freckling the brown ground. I couldn't call tonight dreary even if I stretched my imagination to its stretchiest state. The moments are delicious with laughter and Jasmine Green Tea and new things to puzzle.

The blooms of poinsettias and the static-y, sticking up hair in the winter... the Mercury Villager that nearly ran me off the road on 13th street tonight and the whir of the washing machine... the smell of fresh coffee grounds and the safety offered by three comforters on my bed.

Hm. I'm trying to make new habits - to count as blessings all things in my life. Inspired by Ann Voskamp and my close friend, I'm making thanksgiving a habit by living wide-eyed in search of life's gifts.

A light that turns on by a switch, recycled paper grocery bags to wrap gifts, the welcome company of a dog I don't even like, a newspaper on the doorstep in the morning - all gifts, these.

What is it that causes us to only count the big blessings? Why don't the little, menial details of this life qualify?

It is sometimes truly the smallest of details that make up the biggest of blessings.

Sometimes we assume our existence is inevitable. We forget that we are God's speech - walking, breathing, loving, and savoring sunlight. We are the physical fortitude of divinely penned, intricate poetry. N.D. Wilson's "Notes from a Tilt-A-Whirl" speaks about how silly our sense of entitlement appears when we realize we own nothing. We control nothing, yet we presume power.

Are you too important to be amused at your own finitude? Are you unaware that your bowels move daily? How lofty are you?

How lofty are you? Too lofty to admit you are limited?

It's a good question, and not just for a Sunday School in lecture about being humble, obeying your parents, and doing your chores.

It's way bigger and way smaller than that.

Naming the symmetry of wooden cabinets as a gift is perfectly acceptable, because how is it that materials can be shaped as such?

Am I above naming the small gifts?

Am I above laughing at the whimsical things in this life that seem to only serve the purpose of God's divine humor? Am I too lofty to marvel at a delicious drink made from soaking leaves in hot water?

Not that long ago, I felt the Lord leading me beside still waters and making me lie down in green pastures - a very literal slowing of my spirit and schedule. After a bit of a search, I took a position working at a church as an assistant in youth ministry. Today, I added two more employers to that list and now work in three completed unrelated fields (unless "customer service" covers all the bases).

Christ was not too lofty for this life, not too lofty for this skin, not too good for long walks in the desert. Christ made Himself the lowliest when He came as a babe. Our Lord and Savior had daily bowel movements, too.

If God can live inside this skin and still be holy, then there is much to rejoice about that is being forgotten - so many mysteries to have wide eyes to see.

I intend to do just that, Lord willing.

Rejoice in the Lord always, friends! Search Him and you will know Him, if you search with all your heart.

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Let Us Not Forget

The story is not just about a babe in a manger. This babe would pay it all - the price of our sin. The babe would have crimson stains so that we would be washed as white as snow.

This is the babe we celebrate. This is the Christ child. This is Emmanuel, God with us.

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/32459389 w=400&h=225]

Advent: God With Us from The Village Church on Vimeo.

Let us not forget, for He did not forget us. He engraved us on the palms of His hands.

let LOVE fly like CRAZY

thoughts on the Tree of Life

I'm here and there today, working on the marvelous pile of "Christmas gift could-be's" I found in my parents' storage room. Turns out, after living in Honduras for three years and Austin for one and four years of college in Michigan before that, I let quite a few things pile up there. Old corkboards, frames, half-finished canvas paintings, sketches, journals (that's a two hour sidetrack right there!), and other knick knacks. Nothing like some good handsaw therapy - throw in a screwdriver and a pair of pliers and you've got a world of "what could this be?" waiting for you! I'm taking a break to return to a topic I promised to write about awhile ago.

The film Tree of Life by Terrence Malick stands out from the cinematic crowd for loads of reasons. The first is filmmaker Terrence Malick. All Movie Guide at the New York Times says, "Terrence Malick is one of the great enigmas of contemporary filmmaking, a shadowy figure whose towering reputation rests largely on a very small body of work," which is why you've probably never heard of him. My intrigue started because I follow Brett McCracken at his blog The Search. I am always impressed with McCracken's assessment of culture and film, so I thought I would trust his strong support of Malick's work.

Fast forward to last week when I watched Tree of Life with my good friends in their living room, cradling a hot cup of spice tea. Sometimes (all the time), I get nervous watching films I've suggested. I have a complex because in high school I was notorious for picking out lame movies. So, I was almost sweating I was so nervous and hopeful my friends would like/and understand the film. We had heard it was very slow and very deep, so the living room was the perfect set-up. I had my journal handy to write down common symbols, metaphor, and anything that came to mind.

Now, I'm looking at those journal pages going, "Whoa. Linear thinking isn't anywhere in my vocabulary, that's for sure!"

I know I'll be processing this film and it's meaning for a while (which is something I love about what Malick did). Today, I just want to tackle the (maybe) obvious overarching theme in the film of nature vs. grace. Malick pulled us in and then stretched us apart with his shots of nature's beauty and man's limitations. At the very beginning of the film, the narration sets up the message of the entire film.

It's hard to get past this stunning contrast.

Before I start giving my scattered opinion, what do you think?

Watch this. (I'm sorry I canNOT find the nature vs. grace narrative anywhere on youtube)

and then this featurette where people talk through the story of the Tree of Life. (spoiler alert here!)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tuwn4Bqa9LE&feature=related]

Here's a write up over at White Horse Inn, if you need to hear someone's opinion. I kind of promise I'll chime in soon! I know, I know... I less than tackled this, but it's SOOOO big!

Happy Friday!

the greatest party that ever was

There is something distinctly urgent about endings. We become keenly aware of our submission to the passing of time. We can throw any kind of emotional tantrum, but the hands of the clock march steadily on whether we look at them with anger or pain or excitement. There is absolutely nothing we can do to slow down the moments before a farewell.

Urgency usually holds hands with action, at least in my experience. You won't find me pondering the merit of a deadline when it is fast approaching; you will find me in a frenzy to get done what needed doing.

And so it is today. Somewhere down in the place I call my soul, urgency and action are holding hands. I am looking ahead to June 24, an ending that looms like an ominous thundercloud on one of the distant mountains surrounding this beautiful city and what I feel is urgency.

What if the 18 school days left on the Seniors' calendar is really all I have left with them? What if I never see them again? What if I never get the chance to hug the Micah boys again or make a Mother's Day craft at the feeding centers or visit the orphanage in Valle? The urgency sets in and I feel the insistent squeeze on action's hand.

The past week, quite unintentionally, I have realized the beautiful urgency of the questions,

"For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?"

No encouragement is too cheesy and no compliment is too awkward, no question is too silly and no conversation is too strange; and eternity is always relevant. More than any words of wisdom (as that creeping clock trudges on toward my June 24 farewell), the action my urgency brings about is all about ETERNITY.

What do I say if I'm facing a great wave of "lasts" and "don't knows" from people who have woven their way into my story?

I tell an old, old story about love. I tell a story about a perfect, powerful beginning broken by bitter disappointment and resolved by the only thing strong enough to redeem and restore: a sacrifice of greatest price. I tell a story of Creation, Fall, and Redemption, Restoration. I tell a story about lost sheep and celebrations and the greatest party that ever was.

This past week, I told this story five different ways to one student who, after 14 years, finally has ears to hear. God's story - the Gospel story - finally started making sense and it was the only story I wanted to tell when I thought about leaving. God's story has the power to change a person's eternity. God's story has the power to give hope and a future, to cast out fear, to give purpose and meaning, to bring joy and pleasure forever, and to throw the greatest party that ever was.

In my students, I see a desire to search out the most joy and pleasure. I see a search for meaning and worth and purpose and excitement. In all sorts of ways, I've tried to communicate where these desires will be satisfied - always and only in Christ alone. But now, with the days flying off the calendar like jet planes from a runway, nothing else matters.

Because I care about these kids so much, the best thing (really the only thing) I can think to give them is an invitation to the greatest party that ever was. I just want to give them Jesus.

more than ever, I'm feeling the urgency to 

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

[slideshow] 

beautiful things

Sunday morning started what I like to call the parade of palms. They hang out of windows, attach to cars, frame doors, and suffocate in the fingers of the scurrying crowd of church-goers. The triumphal and humble entry began without much pomp and circumstance here, though I did relish the louder-than-normal worship songs drifting from the streets. As I read, write, and listen to these messages from the Gospel Coalition conference, I am making note of beautiful things. If you have a chance, take a peek or a listen and see what you think.

  • This is an artist I really admire and a song that has roots than run deep to the very character of God and our refuge in Him. Also check out the hymns of Isaac Watts, remade.
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  • This sermon hit me HARD today. We are either true disciples of Christ or not disciples at all. It's not about becoming a disciple or helping people on the way to becoming disciples. We either are or we're not. We are either encouraging someone who is truly a disciple or we are encouraging someone is not yet a disciple at all. And how can we know if we truly are or truly are not? If we abide in the Word. I need to hear this Truth this morning! I can divide my time with books and sermons and journals and still not abide in the Word - in Christ Himself. Anyway, take a listen and treasure the invitations to abide! If You Abide In My Word, You Are Truly My Disciples.
  • Recently (I have no idea how... it's a social networking story, I'm sure), I found Here's Life ministry - an organization that is mobilizing the Church to live out God's heart for the poor in US inner cities. You should DEFINITELY check out what they are about and what they are doing for Easter! www.hlic.org
  • Check out this new book... AH! So many new books to read! Here's a book trailer for The Greener Grass Conspiracy. Sidenote: I love that books have trailers now. Why should films get all the screen love? http://vimeo.com/21402348
  • This article is interesting, from the Wall Street Journal on Gandhi. Might surprise you what story history tells.
  • We must pray for our brothers and sisters in Yemen! Read up on the news here.
  • Okay, this is awesome to me because I am not necessarily a  "Steve Green" fan, but I can wholeheartedly agree with what he's all about!
  • I just saw a few movies I would totally suggest: Walkout - a refresher in history and specifically education in the States. It's worth a view. Also, Empire of the Sun - the Japanese occupation of China through the eyes of an English boy. I really can't believe I hadn't seen this classic before! Away we Go - okay, so it's more than a bit unconventional. But, I think the film communicated how deep brokenness can be and how strong a desire to mend it through relationship. I also laughed a lot :)
  • I haven't made mention of this during the Lenten season, but now may be the right time. Please check out LIVING WATER INTERNATIONAL - an organization that is daily drilling wells all around the world in an effort to bring physical, clean water to people who have none. In the process, they offer the Living Water of the Gospel. Being a part of this special H2O project for Lent has been one where I've realized my tendency for things I don't need that confuse my heart for the things I want most.
Okay. I'm back to reading. I finished a book today and hope to finish another one tonight, before or after I chase down some students. Rest is truly a gift I cannot measure. I can only hope that in this time God would fill me up to be sent and poured out once again.
Lastly, I am praying for this kind of Holy Week (Blog post taken from the Desiring God blog).

The week between Palm Sunday and Easter is not intrinsically holy, except that all time is holy, since it belongs to God. But we can make it holy by setting it apart for sacred focus.

May I encourage you to do that, for the sake of seeing more of the greatness of Christ. He reveals himself through his word. Take up his word and focus your attention on him in his last hours. Set aside some time this week to fix your gaze steadily on him as he loves you to the uttermost (John 13:1).

The passages in the Gospels that record his final hours are:

You may find that a volcano erupts in your soul. Like it did for me 28 years ago.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy!

my mom misses my blog

I miss it, too. I kept thinking of opening lines over the past few weeks, but they never found their way to the keyboard. I apologize for the absence of electronic words, but my excuse is that I've been living. I'm trudging through a great mix of emotions as I fill my days with sometimes the most random things. Yesterday was the Junior/Senior banquet... which made the end of this year even more final.

Well, my mom has suggested in more than one way that I will regret it if I don't blog during these last months, so I am going to throw out some bullet points to get started. This is a mezcla of things I've been up to lately:

  • I am just eating up every message from the Gospel Coalition Conference that's happening right now in Chicago. They are not only posting the plenary sessions online for free, they also made the live hymn sing available! Go check it out, download it all and then send me a message so we can talk about it! The only (BIG) downside to not being there is the discussion that I'm sure is happening over coffee and around book tables.
  • This quote by John Stott, as I think about the cross,

“Every time we look at the cross Christ seems to say to us, ‘I am here because of you.  It is your sin I am bearing, your curse I am suffering, your debt I am paying, your death I am dying.’  Nothing in history or in the universe cuts us down to size like the cross.  All of us have inflated views of ourselves, especially in self-righteousness, until we have visited a place called Calvary.  It is there, at the foot of the cross, that we shrink to our true size.”

John R. W. Stott

  • I love this new blog I found llevo el invierno where a super creative, crafty lady from Monterrey, Mexico posts some great stuff! Also enjoying this and this.
  • I have found out that working out and strength training doesn't necessarily mean slimmer... I feel like I'm training to be a football player or something!!
  • This year is winding down and I'm all mixed up with how to feel about it. The seniors have 23 days of school left and I'm getting as weepy as they are! I have other students in and out of my office and I try hard to keep my emotions at bay because if I don't there's no controlling them, they'll just go crazy!
  • The Nichols siblings are about to embark on a half-marathon journey for the fall. I'm super pumped to do this with my sister and brothers (praying for James's injuries to be completely gone in time to train). This is something I'm so excited about, amidst all the other confusion and changes.
  • Mission trip momentum... this is the time where I need to be praying the hardest for my students. They are getting attacked on every side by people and things that say they should be "over" the mission trip by now, but in their hearts they know it's a lifestyle they've been called to. I love them so incredibly much and want to pray them into the Lord's presence!
  • Next year. Oh heavens! The Lord has this, too, in His hands.
  • Semana Santa is next week and I have a lot of hangout time planned with students, as well as some goals to spend some reflective time with books and words and writing and (yes) even my blog. I want to hit up the stations of the cross with these Songs for Lent, which you can pick up for free.
  • I have been doing this really cool fast/pray/give thing with Living Water as a practice for Lent and I've got nothing but good reflection about it. Hard at times, but good.
  • Tonight I made a bucket list of sorts for the seniors/students/mission trip/me and it is completely unfinished but even as I was writing it I felt excitement and sadness go back and forth like ping pong in my soul.
Okay, well I guess I'm back in blogging action.
let LOVE fly like cRaZy
once again!

5 ways to keep stress out of the kitchen

A ball of chocolate chip cookie dough ready fo...

There are a lot of possible stressors in the kitchen, but I strongly feel that the kitchen is a place where stress should be relieved not added. If I let baking stress me out, I would certainly be in quite a predicament at the moment (launched a bit of a baking business in order to raise money for an upcoming mission trip). So, here are some personal tips if you are finding yourself conditioned to dread the combination of cookie dough and cookie sheet.
  1. exact measurements Yes, I do have and use measuring cups... occasionally and as strong suggestions. I believe strongly in the power of estimation and (to be honest) I enjoy the uncertainty and risk involved in "eye-balling it," as my mother used to say.
  2. noise I hope this is an indicator of a future of full kitchens: I like to bake while talking, singing, and laughing. I've also been known to have the occasional intellectual discussion over a healthy lump of cookie dough and I highly suggest it. No philosophical argument will come to fists when you've got something as sweet as cookies in the oven (with gooey fingers)! If I'm not talking on skype, hanging out with friends, then I'm singing my favorite sounds and some you can get for free: noisetrade, briterevolution, designers.mx, just to name a few.
  3. stray drips, splats, and the occasional cookie on the floor Everything while you are baking is EDIBLE, so don't forget you can clean up/taste test all in one enjoyable finger swipe! While baking and talking to my mom on skype about this stress-free post, she says, "don't forget about the flotsam and jetsam..." to which I reply, "I have no idea what language you are speaking right now, mom." After a half second blank stare, she says, "Well, I don't really know what it is either....(giggles) but I'll look it up for you." We finally figure out it's originally a nautical term used to describe floating debris or items thrown overboard. Apparently, my mom thinks this also means things spilled in the kitchen. I'll take it, mom.
  4. burnt edges Here's the deal, folks: you will inevitably get a wee bit past the recipe-prescribed "golden edges" every once in awhile. It's just one of those kitchen facts of life. So, be "easy" as my Canadian friend Heather would say. Just go with the flow and, trust me, there is always somebody who genuinely prefers cookies the way you've just taken them out of the oven. Burnt, brown, or between gooey and barely baked... they will get eaten and enjoyed!
  5. clean up As much as I want to say clean up can be skipped entirely - that's actually a way for you to smother all the silly cheer of freshly baked goods. My method? Scrub a dish or two while the cookies are in the oven. As I use bowls, spoons, etc., I collect things in one bowl and put it in the sink to soak so when I do get to it everything is in a clean-ready state. I might also use already floured, sugared, and soda-ed utensils over again in a different recipe if I've got many things happening at once (regular occurrence). Lastly... keep the conversation or music going through cleaning. I certainly don't like to be standing at the sink alone, scrubbing out the last bits of tasty cookie remains from a pan. No need to resent the cookies for making a mess! Even clean up can be social!

Okay - so there are 5 things. I'm learning here and I'm hoping to store some of these lessons for the days I can manage my own kitchen. If baking is as stress-free as I just made it sound, I might want to think about a new career!

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

how NOT to gain 100 pounds while baking

I think I could almost say I am studying baking as a second language right now. I won't say it's easy, but I will say it is very rewarding (even if only in the "kitchen smells good all the time" sense). Anyway, I thought I might share with you some of the things I'm learning in BSL. I hope, if you ever choose to take on this delicious course, you'll take note of this extremely important advice so it doesn't become painfully obvious that you've enrolled in said course.

 

  1. Do NOT brew a fresh pot of coffee while the cookies are in the oven
  2. Make sure you begin the cookie process just after you've filled your tummy with good things, not before
  3. While the dough is rising in the oven, throw some green beans on the stove - fresh, crispy green beans with salt, pepper, and a bit of butter. Then MUNCH on those instead of the "broken cookies"
  4. Hide the milk!!
  5. Entice your friends into the kitchen with the job of "taste-tester" and then TRUST them!
  6. Remind yourself with each batch or finished cake that these items are going to be sold - and that finger-licking isn't necessarily professional.
  7. Intentionally plan a workout following your baking session so you can't over-indulge... you know you will regret it later.
  8. (This is my favorite) Allow yourself to lick the cake pan, once the cake is safely on its serving plate. There's no point in completely denying yourself the good stuff!

That's all I got for now. Any other suggestions from fellow bakers-in-distress?

let that LOVE fly like cRaZy!!

You lead me out of myself

I'm getting ready for the SO-FAMOUS Sweet Dinner (10, 09, 06), which is happening on Thursday!! I have been thinking so much about what it means to love - really, truly love people. Loving these senior girls for the past three years makes it hard to write about love without crying. They make fun of me for it, but I'm not ashamed. Maybe tears are part of the overflow, too?

All I know is, I've got a GIANT lasagna (ahem, I might have used a turkey pan) and I have big plans for the special heart tins my mom sent me in a package last year. I'm working on parodies and decorations.

And in all these things, every once in awhile I take as deep a sigh as I can manage to remember that all this is just a reflection... it's all overflow and I've got to keep getting filled.

So, I thought these words would be good to start out the morning. One of my favorite sounds to rummage up inspiration in my soul is The Arrows from South Africa. Two ladies rocking out, weaving clever lyrics with layered melodies is what I call a good time. Well, maybe if you read these lyrics for pilgrimage you'll get the picture. I wish I could find a youtube video to post (if you can, let me know!). Here is their myspace page.

On this pilgrimmage to the new Jerusalem and it's the highway of holiness that gets me there start of the journey is the day when I let the seed fall to the ground and the day that I die is the day I start to climb

On this pilgrimmage to the new Jerusalem and it's the highway of holiness that gets me there every time I choose Your way instead of going my own direction those are the times when I fall right behind that You come to lead me along will You lead me on?

and if I ever lose my hope You're there to light the fire You bring me everything I need when You quiet me with the Love you give and You sing those songs all over me and You tenderly You lead me out of myself and You walk with me

On this pilgrimmage to the new Jerusalem and it's the small and the narrow gate that gets me there I know that many are called but that only few are chosen those are the few who abandon themselves to pursue Your kingdom come Your kingdom come

and if I ever lose my hope You're there to light the fire You bring me everything I need when you quiet me with the Love you give and you sing those songs all over me and you tenderly You lead me out of myself and you walk with me and you walk with me and you walk with me and you walk with me ---

Today, my chorus is, "Lord, lead me out of myself"

and let LOVE fly like cRaZy