monday: from bizarre to brilliant

You may not believe it, but Mondays are capable of bizarre to brilliant status. When you start the day off with your clothes on backwards, you have to wonder how things are going to go down. Add to that a proclivity for post-weekend depression (especially after one so beautiful), and you've got yourself a recipe for Monday morning disaster!

It's pushing 10 pm right now and I won't hesitate in saying this Monday shone brilliantly! I want to pack it neatly into a pretty package and send it to you, so your day might open just as wonderfully, but since I cannot this list will have to suffice. I know all of these elements are a result of God's great goodness (and in spite of me), so maybe your Mondays can sparkle too!

REASONS WHY THIS MONDAY IS BRILLIANT

  1. Last night, I set out my outfit for today and therefore squeezed at least seven more minutes into my morning coffee-quiet time-journaling routine.
  2. My morning soundtrack is bumping with some new tunes.
  3. Before school even began, the smile would simply not be suppressed... a group huddled outside my office and I cannot tell you why, but I couldn't help the top-of-the-morning tilt of the head and lopsided smile.
  4. Mondays always add an extra boost because we have chapel in the morning. There's something about standing with my seniors in worship that gives me goosebumps every time. (I also love that they've been bringing their Bibles lately... nevermind that it might be due to a little baking bribery :) A little bribery always worked just fine for my Aunt Jane during swimming lessons!
  5. We are gearing up for another SLEEPOUT this year on October 22nd and the first promo ran in chapel today... the excitement is building!
  6. Though it is temperaturally (made up that word) impossible in Honduras, it felt every bit like fall today, from the bold sun to the cool breeze... and I wanted to burst out singing Patty Griffin's "Heavenly Day" at the top of my lungs.
  7. Over lunch, I got to pray with a beautiful, dear co-worker and God made Himself so alive in those moments of community.
  8. Armed with a can of pumpkin and after beautiful discussion on every topic imaginable (so deep I missed our turn), I started what might make Mondays most beautiful this year. If that interests you, check this out.
  9. On the car ride home, I belted OUT some mad tunes from Starfield, Bright Eyes, and Joel Rakes.
  10. Now, night. I get to sleep sound, curled into my bed.

I praise God for brilliant Mondays!

let LOVE FLY like cRaZY

Delicious Adventures!

Last night, we experimented with a recipe from my Good Housekeeping Healthy Choices cookbook. The recipe was for tortilla pizza, but we transformed it into a lasagna and it was so wonderfully delicious! My roomie is a veggie (my affectionate term for the vegetarians in my life), so I'm always on the lookout for recipes that we would both like. This one turned out to be the BOMB! Then, for dessert, I made baked apples with a recipe from the same cookbook in an effort to welcome fall to the rain and sun of this country that knows not the four seasons.

Tonight, I'm having my high school girls over for movies and THIS incredible apple cinnamon cupcake dessert! Doesn't it look amazing?

Here's the description from the website:

Shredded apple replaces some of the oil and keeps the cake moist in these cinnamon-spiked cupcakes. There is a generous amount of fluffy marshmallow frosting to mound or pipe on top for a festive look.

via Apple Cupcakes with Cinnamon-Marshmallow Frosting.

We'll see how it turns out!

****UPDATE**** Here is the result of several hours in a warm kitchen... lots of laughter... and maybe a few foibles. The recipe is posted below the slideshow.

[slideshow]

To make the CUPCAKES

  • 1 1/2 cups shredded peeled apples
  • 1/2 cup diced dried apples (I used a baked apple leftover from yesterday to save on cost)
  • 3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar, plus 3/4 cup, divided (I used 1/2 cup loosely packed for less sweet)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 3/4 cup cake flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup nonfat buttermilk (I made my own with milk and vinegar)

FROSTING

  • 1 cup light brown sugar (I used 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 4 teaspoons dried egg whites (I used 2 egg whites)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more for garnish

PREPARATION

  1. To prepare cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 12 (1/2-cup) muffin cups with cupcake liners or coat with cooking spray (I made about 17 cupcakes with this recipe)
  2. Combine shredded and dried apples in a bowl with 3 tablespoons brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Set aside. Beat oil and the remaining 3/4 cup brown sugar in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until well combined. Beat in eggs one at a time until combined. Add vanilla, increase speed to high and beat for 1 minute.
  3. Whisk whole-wheat flour, cake flour, baking soda, salt and the remaining 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon in a medium bowl.
  4. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and buttermilk to the batter, starting and ending with dry ingredients and scraping the sides of the bowl as needed, until just combined. Stir in the reserved apple mixture until just combined. Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups. (The cups will be full.)
  5. Bake the cupcakes until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean, 20 to 22 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for at least 1 hour before frosting.
  6. To prepare frosting: Bring 2 inches of water to a simmer in the bottom of a double boiler. Combine 1 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup water in the top of the double boiler. Heat over the simmering water, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved, 2 to 3 minutes. Add reconstituted egg whites, cream of tartar and pinch of salt. Beat with an electric mixer on high speed until the mixture is glossy and thick, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the top pan from the heat and continue beating for 1 minute more to cool. Add vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and beat on low just to combine. Spread or pipe the frosting onto the cooled cupcakes and sprinkle cinnamon on top, if desired.

bursting with joy

Cover of "The Four Loves"

I'm sitting here, under my tree, with books stacked high to my right and my heart full to overflowing with thanksgiving. I just spent way too much time looking at old blog posts trying to find some musings from the book, "The Four Loves" by C.S. Lewis, but I came up empty-handed.

I'll have to rely on my memory to relate the bliss I'm feeling and how I think Lewis explains it best.

It is only fitting, I might add, that I'm comfortable under my tree, where roots are stretching out underneath, reminding me where I find life.

Many of you are probably well aware of Lewis's famous book on the four different types of love, but I want to just skim the surface of what has me flying so high tonight: friendship. Lewis suggests (apologies for my crude summary) that friendship draws out God-designed parts of us that we never knew we were hiding. In community, we are able to watch God reveal Himself in us because of the way we are made to live in community together.

Isn't that magnificent?

Today is a repeat of so many other times in my life where I realize there is joy bubbling up in my soul that is set free when I place myself in community. It's like a pen full of words that finds paper or a box full of seeds that finds ground.

Community is a place God has specifically designed to reflect Him and point to His glory. I love how C.S. Lewis says that God ordains our friendships. There are certain people ordained for certain times in our lives for a very certain purpose - to draw out ways in which we never knew we were capable of giving God glory.

How beautiful!

I can't tell you all the ways this makes sense for today, but I can tell you that this day (beginning, middle, and end) made me ready to burst with the joy and inspiration of community. God's design is so very good!

Here is one of the reasons for my joy... one of my students Alejandra! She has a wonderful way of drawing out something strange and silly and spectacular... and I always walk away blessed!

I hope you are intentionally putting yourself in the company of others who are pursuing Christ. You will be so blessed by the new ways you find to give God glory for His design!

As always, .let LOVE FLY like cRaZY.

pursuing lower pleasures

Here's something I wrote in May when my friend Heather was visiting, but it certainly applies to tonight. I just got home from a MARVELOUS night of capture the flag with my favorite seniors, then dinner, then dinner #2, and then various antics following. I think my joy almost burst a couple times I was so full of it! I laughed and laughed and laughed and I praise God for every surprising snort and crazy convulsion. I love laughter. I will have to write more about that later. For now, enjoy this REPOST from May.

-------------------- After a crazy day, an afternoon filled with charades and catch phrase and laughter, and a typically cheesy serenade for the 11th grade girls... Heather and I went for coffee and finally caught up a bit. I chose the Latte Au-Lait, which means I am now WIDE awake and she's zonked out (getting the sleep she needs so we can leave at 5:45 am to lead worship tomorrow at staff devotions).

I just want to write something quick tonight... maybe it will turn into a poem, but right now it's just thoughts about pleasure. As I think about the students and this culture and (maybe) popular culture in general, I decide that our greatest sin is pursuing lower pleasures. I know C.S. Lewis probably illustrated this idea more deeply than my brain can think it right now, but still it seemed a mini-revelation tonight.

God promises in Psalm 16:11 that in His presence there is FULLNESS of JOY and at His right hand there are PLEASURES forevermore. Wow! What a promise!

God promises the kind of joy that bursts out from inside our souls and overflows to uncontrollable laughter... the kind of joy that you can't keep from showing on your face... the kind of joy you can't wait to share with everyone you meet... the kind of joy that makes your heart feel like fire and makes you want to dance and shout and play in the rain...

NOT ONLY that, but also pleasures forevermore. God offers us pleasure that never ends - He created us with the desire for pleasures forevermore and He is delighted when we pursue the highest kind. He planted that little seed inside us, in the soil of our humanity, that tries to break the surface and soar toward the sun... all the ways our humanity longs to have pleasure can be traced back to the way we were created in His image to experience pleasures forevermore.

The moment I decide to pursue a less pleasurable pleasure than what I was created for, I am choosing sin. I know, it sounds confusing. Usually we associate pleasure with sin, but right now I am saying that we sin when we pursue less pleasure or lower pleasure. Because I know God created me and placed in me a desire to have infinite joy and pleasure, I know that anything less than a pursuit of THAT means two things:1. I am not experiencing the most pleasure possible (can only be found in and through God)2. I am trying to make lower pleasures fulfill my God-given desires for the BEST pleasure (which, of course is a fail from the start).

God created us, knows us, and delights when we are absolutely bursting with joy.

chocolate cupcakes

Normally, this day would have already ended. I'd be tucked in my bed and flipping pages (trying frantically to finish with Germany and Bonhoeffer so I can read over all the scratches I've made in the pages) until I finally fall asleep. Not so tonight. After school and a teachers' meeting, I met up with the first of two Vivians. We caught up and zoomed around town and jammed out to Coffey and smiled the perfect amount.

Then, I met up with Vivian number two and we endeavored to make chocolate cupcakes for tomorrow's even with the seniors (a hopefully very competitive capture the flag game). We got creative about the frosting and thought up this new recipe: 2 cubes almond bark 1/2 stick butter 1/3 cup powdered sugar 1/4 cup milk 1 - 2 tablespoons peanut butter

Add in this order over a medium-low heat stove top. Taste OFTEN and continue stirring. Taste for adjustments. Lick the spatula (then swear to not tell anyone you licked the spatula). Let it cool a bit and thicken. Add to cooled cupcakes and put sprinkles on top .....

ENJOY!

[slideshow]

How Deep the Depths

I wrote this back in May of last year... full post here. I'm going to try to start re-posting some of my writing and poetry here so that I can have it in one place. I'll admit, it's also kind of fun to see what has found its way to the cyberpages over the last couple years. How faint the fool who treads the way and tarries about; runs blind to the fray.

How heavy the heart, hardened by years of abuse and betrayal and manmade fears.

How sad the sigh learned by repetition - disappointment, abandoned by man's wild volition.

How complete the chasm built with words great; explanations attempt determine eternal fate.

How stuffed the souls with semantics and speeches and tolerant voices crowding out holidays at beaches.

How lost the lonely, desperate to find a rhyme or a reason to be sanctified.

How dead is this end and reason to fight, with an honest confession - broken and contrite.

How firm the foundation, without shame, is the cross that bears my Savior's name.

How perfect the peace in God's Word alone that restores and revives a heart once of stone.

How deep the depths of this Love, divine, to reach through great wicked and make this faint soul alive. -----

.let LOVE FLY like cRaZY.

how foolish a coward

I am merely reposting this here. I wrote it originally in 2007. I am a coward. Oh man, oh man I am a pathetic coward.

But I am healing, heavy under the fragrant weight of mercy - for words spoken, promises broken, conversations averted, open doors ignored.

Unclean creatures caught tragically among unclean others soon, swiftly turn for familiar. Freedom escapes and vernacular is tangible what is left needs redemption

can these things be forgiven - these repeat offenses? the same voice stuck always when its throat should sing the eruption of song on the hazy horizon, waves crashing, storms threatening, but glory well living.

eyes set, jaw determined in a steady line the words need said to defend, clarify, and define the glory made flesh

the Word. offenses taken, but please don't mind my mind. Fear crouches dangerous and clings the edges of Truth, making fuzzy the path and curious the question

Oh, but the effort is so great; the community meets, lives, retreats, but this conversation of confusion .interrupts.

the Holy One is not pleased by politics not impressed by feet soft tread on evil He is glorified in life, in death, in good, in evil, in perfection, in failure

He is.

how foolish a coward. how foolish a coward.

this is what I LOVE

[slideshow] I just wanted to post a few visuals so you can see some of what I've been up to since returning in August.

Laugh Circle If I haven't mentioned it yet, it is a completely unintentional oversight. I love to laugh. Thankfully, these girls humor me and also enjoy the laugh circle from time to time! The second week of school we went on mini-retreats for one day at a nearby camp. It was a time of fun, fellowship, laughter, and getting excited about what God will do this year!

A tree grew in my room I have had this idea for a long time, but apparently all it took was a good two weeks of sickness for me to get the creativity on the wall. The idea is that everyone who visits this year will hug the tree and I'll capture it on camera.

Bible study begins! One of my favorite things these past two years has been the relationships I've made with these now senior girls. They have taught me SO much about what it means to love without condition. My excitement is hard to express in these mechanical typing strokes, but it's safe to say this year might be the best yet!

Angel food cake with strawberry whipped topping If I have learned about my Bible study girls, it's that they love to eat anything sweet (okay, let's be honest - that's all girls!). Ever since I made the first angel food cake, the girls have gone crazy for it! That led to both from-scratch versions and stuffing my suitcases with mixes to bring back from the States. The result: our first Bible study was complete with angel food cake and a new whipped cream/frozen strawberry topping. Mmmm good!

melodies and parodies

I like to be silly and creative and hopelessly sentimental. So, when Heather was here, we wrote up this little parody for our 11th grade girls. Last year we did a parody of "All the Single Ladies" and this year it is "Soul Sister." The funny thing is, when we do these parodies, we don't know the original songs, so we have to learn that as we are writing the parody.

So, here's the video - mess ups and voice breaks and random improvisational interludes and everything in between. Enjoy this little ditty - hopefully you will see how much we love these girls!
WORDS:
Heey Heeey heeeeeeeeeeeeey
Your sophomore year slipped away just like a dripping tear
You knew we wouldn’t forget you
and so we went and let you get inside our hearts
Your sweet, sweet smiles
and the laughter filling every single mile
We knew that when we started you’re the ones we have decided
this love will take us far
Hey, soul sister, forget those mista mistas in the barrios, don’t you know
the way you groove, just let it show
hey soul sister, please don’t miss a single moment of this life
Heey Heeeeeeey Heeeeeeeeeeeey
Just in time, we’re back together to celebrate this life
We’re searching out direction
in our lives we want affection, don’t even lie -ie-ieee
We’re so impressed
you’ve made it another year without a great big mess
We’ve got faith in you, you know it, girl now
you’ve to show your beauty inside
Hey soul sister, forget those mista mistas in the barrios, don’t you know
the way you groove - keep it free you know
hey soul sister, please don’t miss a single little moment of.... this life
(bridge?)
Well you can find the joy
deeper than any kind of speed
so gorgeous, just enjoy
the life God’s given you and the dreams
Just be yourself now finally
forget the lies and find the love sweet
the world won’t let you see
Hey soul sister, don’t let those mista mistas in the barrios, make you go
the way you’re made is for something great you know
Hey soul sister, please don’t miss a single little moment of ... .this life
Heey heeeey heeeeeeeeeeeey (this life)
Heey heeeey heeeeeeeeeeeey (this life)

http://www.youtube.com/get_player

i write, i dance

So, I don't know if any of you realize this, but.... May is OVER! It took me a whole day to get used to the idea. I'm pretty excited, now, though, because it means my parents come on Sunday, my sister a week after, and (with MUCH time hanging out with students in between) I'll be heading for a stateside tour on June 24. I'm not a big fan of countdowns (I'd rather count on today), but I do find myself a bit antsy for barbecues, family gatherings, road trips, and beaches.
Well, in my favorite bullet style, here is a rundown of what I've been up to (or some of it at least!)
  • My cousin Anna visited for TWO whole weeks! Other than a rough departure, the rest of the time was amazing! We even played in the junior high band concert because they needed more instruments! She wanted to experience life here and I think she did just that :) It was truly a blessing to have her and to see her big heart to serve and love and seek the Lord. In her searching, she also encountered an unbelievable amount of mosquitos, possibly a parasite, many rainy days, and an uncomfortable amount of airport hassle. It makes me love her even more to know that she enjoyed it despite everything that happened! This is an awkward junior high picture we took at the concert. Do we look like we are 20 and 25? Nope, I didn't think so!
  • I'm still reading through Luke with Mars Hill Church in Seattle and learning so much. Here is an interesting little piece on adolescence as we read about John. Kind of strong, but thought-provoking I thought.
    http://www.marshillchurch.org/v/hyan4gewgdny
  • Here's an article by Andreé Seu in WORLD magazine I read recently that really blessed me: http://online.worldmag.com/2010/06/01/friends-of-god/
  • THIS, my friends, THIS is a gem. Remember how I tried to write every day in may? I was inspired by Frenchtoastgirl for that challenge (by way of Christina).
    Well, now I'm going to try to become part of this little movement, started by Molly over at i dance the revolution
    She is trying to learn how to dance from her friend amanda and she wants us to be part of the revolution. I am pretty excited about it, especially because my college friends and I always talked about knowing a dance to do at all of our weddings. Just so happens that I have THREE of those weddings coming up in summer/fall and I would love to have this ready! :) Anyway, they post one video a week and the first 24 seconds looks HARD!
So, there's that. Oh, and I also am wrestling with some sort of parasite or tummy nuisance along with a ferocious red eye. Hopefully all of that will clear up in the morning, where we will go to school for the first time this week (classes canceled due to national emergency, courtesy of Agatha).
as always, friends,
let LOVE FLY like cRaZY

rain

I know I am slacking, but here's another post for Every Day in May. I wrote this in a cabin on a mountain, listening to the rain gush from overflowing clouds.

RAIN
rain is like a slow train
with a steady, pounding beat
the rhythm comes in blankets
dropping delight, the cloud's sweet release
the destination is not the ground
but deeper dug into the soil
where all sorts of earth can be found
and all kinds of life roots toil
the drop's journey is not a steady path
directed by two parallel metals
but instead drawn by gravity's catch
and interrupted sometimes by obstinate petals
the noise of a single, solitary drop
is not likely to be noticed
but multiplied by millions non-stop
the din of drops is nearly uproarious
and so rain is like a train
though altogether different still
the rhythm and sound rush with refrain
but the life-giving nature is what thrills

sometimes we are just called to be willing

After 45 minutes listening to dramatic pauses and well-placed Scripture references, I was ready to sign up. My elbows propped against my knees my chin strained forward as if I could hear the words faster if my face was closer to the stage. Every word fell in its rightful place and my heart became all twisted and stretched and then I heard this question,

"So, who will go to Africa this summer?"

The blood pumping inside my veins forgot its course and all rushed instead to my nodding head. "Yes," I was saying with the almost hypnotic up-and-down-motion, "Yes, I will go to Africa this summer."
I walked up with a mass of young, eager-to-change-the-world collegiate types and we all affirmed one another's calling to serve in Swaziland the following July.
I left the meeting exhilarated and ready to tackle the problem of practicalities. I called my parents and my joy bubbled over into our phone conversation, only tempered by their advice to pray and be cautious.
Days went by and the emotions wore off. Both gradually and suddenly as I prayed, I knew I would not be going to Africa and I then met a fierce dragon called doubt.
If the Lord hadn't told me to go to Africa, then who? If I was pursuing the Lord then why the mixed signals? Was I so far from God that I couldn't even discern His calling?
A mess would describe the spiritual struggle of the following days. I was so confused and frustrated with myself for being controlled completely by emotions, as it seemed. Then, in a conversation with my dad that I will never forget, he gently spoke these words,
"Sometimes, Caroline... sometimes God just wants to bring us to the point where we say we are willing. Whether you go or not doesn't matter as much as how ready your heart is to do whatever the Lord asks. You were willing to go and God saw your heart."
I rolled those words over in my mind for days, really hoping they were true. I questioned and wrestled and arrived at the conclusion that our pursuit of God is not dependent on His answers. My pursuit of God is not on pause when I receive an affirmative or in high speed when I'm waiting for a reply. God calls me to a constant, passionate pursuit of Himself and promises (regardless of my progress) He will be faithful and He will be sufficient.
As Isaiah, I hope I will respond to every call with, "Here am I. Send me." Even if the call doesn't amount to the movement of my feet, I pray I will be willing.
sometimes we are just called to be willing to
let LOVE FLY like cRaZY

when I grow older, I will be stronger

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8__lUfx7zdo&hl=en_US&fs=1&]

If you don't know that the World Cup is in South Africa this year, you are missing a major excitement-building frenzy around the globe. Let me back up, if you don't know that there IS a soccer World Cup championship then you need to do a little culture study before reading on (here would work).
I love that I live in a country that becomes so passionate and unified over 11 guys, a rectangular field, and a round ball. I don't think I necessarily understand it all yet, but I do love seeing the loyalty and excitement that comes with this championship because Honduras was able to come together when so much was falling apart.
When I first heard this song above (one of several for the World Cup), I thought it was catchy. Every time I listen to it I go around humming it until I consciously decide to do otherwise. The rhythm is bumpin' and the words make you want to love soccer if you don't already.
So, now is the not-so-popular part.
As I listen to this song, I wonder if it is secular worship music.
Sometimes, it is easy to make fun of the cheesy worship songs with every other line a reference to sin or Jesus or redemption. Maybe they are too predictable, maybe they are "too ideal," or maybe we just straight up don't want to worship what the song declares.
So, how are we worshipping? This song just strikes me as a cry out to declare humanity does want unity and joy and peace and love. But, will we find it in a game? Can we worship a game?
------
I'm merely asking questions at this point, but you can guess where this is going. Really, though, what other worship songs do we sing?
I'm just thinking and I am so tired, so I suppose I'll just end it here.
Your thoughts are welcome!

is this freedom?

"not always, but sometimes...the thing you wanted the most is the thing that you now want the least."

Lucy tugged at the corduroy strap of her pink overalls and listened to the soft crunch of forest beneath her feet. The morning scene drifted in and out of sight, while she tried to focus on the sporadic groupings of trees and the unmarked path winding in front of her.

Freedom fell on her lips in the misty haze cloaking the friendly trees... and she breathed. She welcomed the familiar motion in her chest - rising ever-so-slightly while the pure oxygen gathered in her belly. This place was a sanctuary, an escape, a shelter, and a friend. It was strange to feel as if she'd just walked into her home, kicked off her shoes, and cuddled up in the overstuffed sofa. Physically, she was far from the place where her presence was expected to emerge upon sunrise. But, Lucy's heart lept at the joy of this new place. Every single bristling green leaf responded to her deep breaths, moving with the slight motion of her chest.

The energy was almost electric around her, though Lucy's relief at the lack of electric current was obvious. She let her hands drop to her sides, smoothing the corduroy pattern and testing the silence. With a slight shoulder shrug, which seemed to say to the trees, "you're my new friends, right?" Lucy slowly stretched her arms up, up, up into the air as far as her little frame could manage. When they reached the highest height, her mouth opened and an unplanned yelp escaped.

Startled, Lucy turned around (with arms still extended to the highest height) in a small circle and waited to see if there would be a protest. Sensing none, Lucy's eyes relaxed and this time the yelp was every bit planned. In fact, it turned into a joyful song and dance, with complete abandon to the freedom of the place.

Moments or minutes later (Lucy's joy did not let her keep track of time), Lucy wandered over to a stunning green shoot, growing from a fallen tree. The colors seem magical almost, or painted. Afraid to touch it, she got real close and smelled its smell. Wet, dirt, clean, and earth filled her nose. Her pause was altogether too long, but now Lucy knew she could linger without worrying. She stared at the little green shoot sprouting from the fallen tree until her eyes started to blur and her limbs began to droop.

Lucy felt the soft bark underneath her fingers and slowly laid her head down for a moment. Her legs still limp, she let them hang over the edge and float in the forest air. She slept.

A faint tickle traced her right knuckle and Lucy roused with half-open eyes to examine the cause. A caterpillar was making its merry way up, over, and around her in search of something, it seemed. Her eyes spread wider and accustomed to the forest light. In the hours that past between the abandoned dance and waking from the most restful nap, Lucy thought the clusters of trees might have changed. The dampness soaked into her and the full shade above her kept the leaves from glistening.

She remembered the joyful dance before her nap and wondered if she could muster the same song. The morning scene that started this whole excursion seemed so long ago.

---------------

My friend Nicole inspired me to write this little piece that I'm quite sure is only the beginning. I still haven't decided how old to make Lucy, but I already know I love her dearly. For now, it is called, "Is this freedom?"

I know you've got it in you, so
let LOVE FLY like cRaZY

pursuing lower pleasures

After a crazy day, an afternoon filled with charades and catch phrase and laughter, and a typically cheesy serenade for the 11th grade girls... Heather and I went for coffee and finally caught up a bit. I chose the Latte Au-Lait, which means I am now WIDE awake and she's zonked out (getting the sleep she needs so we can leave at 5:45 am to lead worship tomorrow at staff devotions).

I just want to write something quick tonight... maybe it will turn into a poem, but right now it's just thoughts about pleasure. As I think about the students and this culture and (maybe) popular culture in general, I decide that our greatest sin is pursuing lower pleasures.
I know C.S. Lewis probably illustrated this idea more deeply than my brain can think it right now, but still it seemed a mini-revelation tonight.
God promises in Psalm 16:11 that in His presence there is FULLNESS of JOY and at His right hand there are PLEASURES forevermore. Wow! What a promise!
God promises the kind of joy that bursts out from inside our souls and overflows to uncontrollable laughter... the kind of joy that you can't keep from showing on your face... the kind of joy you can't wait to share with everyone you meet... the kind of joy that makes your heart feel like fire and makes you want to dance and shout and play in the rain...
NOT ONLY that, but also pleasures forevermore. God offers us pleasure that never ends - He created us with the desire for pleasures forevermore and He is delighted when we pursue the highest kind. He planted that little seed inside us, in the soil of our humanity, that tries to break the surface and soar toward the sun... all the ways our humanity longs to have pleasure can be traced back to the way we were created in His image to experience pleasures forevermore.
The moment I decide to pursue a less pleasurable pleasure than what I was created for, I am choosing sin. I know, it sounds confusing. Usually we associate pleasure with sin, but right now I am saying that we sin when we pursue less pleasure or lower pleasure. Because I know God created me and placed in me a desire to have infinite joy and pleasure, I know that anything less than a pursuit of THAT means two things:
1. I am not experiencing the most pleasure possible (can only be found in and through God)
2. I am trying to make lower pleasures fulfill my God-given desires for the BEST pleasure (which, of course is a fail from the start)
God created us, knows us, and delights when we are absolutely bursting with joy.
Here's what I'm praying:
O, that I might be an instrument on which God chooses to boldly play the joyful song of redemption.

.let LOVE FLY like cRaZY.

It's only Wednesday?

I am exhausted.

I can't really think right now, but I know I need sleep. My creative writing for the day? I'm working on a rap with a student and we had a fun go of it this afternoon! Writing every day is DIFFICULT!
Lately, I've realized how much I read. I read articles, journals, tweets, blogs, posts, books, and more articles that lead me to a little gem that makes me think I know nothing and must keep reading. I realized this when I told a friend today, "Oh, I found this article about guilt by Kevin DeYoung that is really great - you should take a look." Then he said, "Yeah! You should tell me whenever you find good articles like that worth reading!"
I just stared at him. In my head, I thought, if you are serious then you'll be getting more emails than you can handle in one day. Between counseling articles, theology, philosophy, and culture, I read a LOT. I take comfort in the piece of advice I remember reading in a C.S. Lewis book - something like a good writer has to be a good reader. So, maybe it's making me better at the craft, who knows?
Anyway, I wanted to give you a couple things to read or peruse at your leisure... things that I've read in the past day or so. My cyber friend (he doesn't know he is, but we are) Tim Challies does this often and calls it "A La Carte."
Poison of Quaint Moralism is written by an Acts 29 pastor in Raleigh, NC. He suggests that the South has succumbed to a poison made by their own hands. He says, "Our churches are full of good-looking, upright, moral people. The tragic irony is that our goodness is our poision. A great many Southerners claim Christianity as their religion, mimicking righteousness on the surface while their hearts remain unchanged by the gospel of Jesus."
Kevin DeYoung gets to the heart of something I struggle with every single day: guilt. How much should I feel and how much is lacking a full view of grace? Read this article and ponder it yourself.
This is not an article, but I hope you will link to discover the musical treasure! I first found Joy when I was looking for all things Philly because my friend Nicole decided to move there. She's not typical, so don't expect that.
This isn't an article as much as it is a new person I am following. I love all the people at the Gospel Coalition (partially because I was there in the beginning - the very first Gospel Coalition conference in Chicago) and I am finding new people to respect, admire, and read every day. His unique perspective and style are sometimes just what I need.
Alright, friends. Enjoy the rest of this crazy Wednesday (and the entire Thursday if you read it in the morning!)
Don't forget....
.let LOVE FLY like cRaZY.

Jon Foreman, Andrée Seu, Joan of Arc, Peter, and me

I'm super tired. But, these two articles have been on my mind, so I'm going to crank out some processing about them and call it my creative writing for tonight.

In The Huffington Post, Jon Foreman recently wrote an article and then alerted all his twittlers (tweet followers) about his recent journalistic activity. Like the good twittler I am, I checked it out and found "The Dark Horse: Joan of Arc, Elliot Smith, and me" to be sufficiently thought provoking. Not long after, I read Andrée Seu's article in WORLD magazine after a more dedicated search for her writing. I can't find a twitter account for her ... or other ways to be creepily connected, so I have to do the old-fashioned thing and just search the WORLD website. It led me to a gem titled, "Falling from steadfastness" that has secured a space as one of my tabs ever since.
So, how could these two articles possibly intersect? Foreman eases us into a history lesson, via the web mecca of knowledge (Wikipedia) about Joan of Arc's visions as a young girl in an English controlled France. At the age when many young girls are learning to drive a car, Joan of Arc disguised herself as a man, and heroically led the French armies to battle and then victories.
Foreman's conclusion: Joan of Arc was only a hero because there was adversity.
We see the narrative story all around us, playing out in real-time and real consequences. We are all the underdog against this big, nasty opponent called sin. The odds are stacked entirely in its favor and the most obvious and safe and preserving decision would be to surrender before any battle begins.
Foreman is processing what this means for the way we're tempted to see the world through cynicism and bitterness. We're tempted to look at the opponent on the other side of the ring and give up before we begin. But, what better time to display our God-given abilities than in the face of adversity?
Because I am so "this generation," as I'm reading Jon Foreman's article I'm also popping over a few tabs to see what Andrée Seu has to say and totally digging it. She's talking about 2 Peter 3:17, "You, therefore, beloved.... be aware lest you fall from your own steadfastness, being led away by the error of the wicked." Seu calls steadfastness, "a moment-by-moment believing in God" and says that this fall Peter talks about is pretty serious. Then I get down to this little paragraph describing the error of the wicked,
What is the “error”? It is a slightly skewed view of grace that encourages passivity and discourages a striving for greater faith, since all striving—or any muscular “steadfastness”—is suspected of being works righteousness. Never mind that God says to “grow in grace” (2 Peter 3:18).
I read it and moused over to the Jon Foreman tab at the top of my screen and wondered if the articles were working in cahoots. If the error of the wicked is "a slightly skewed view of grace that encouraged passivity and discourages a striving for great faith," then turning back from adversity is not only making a statement about your view of the opponent, but also about your view of grace.
Foreman's article ends pleading with the reader to not approach life with mere cynicism, but to see adversity as an opportunity for heroism. Seu's article ends portraying this kind of heroism in the everyday grind of life... where our view of grace will carry over onto the kind of co-worker, mother, father, daughter, son, and neighbor we are. Seu writes,

There is a “holding on” that must be part of the Christian’s everyday life (Hebrews 3:6,14). “Steadfastness” is not the staunch maintaining of a theological position but something much more personal and difficult: It is fighting for your very life, using every weapon listed in Ephesians 6. These articles of armor were not meant to be admired on a shelf but scuffed up in battle.

And so, at 11 pm, I'm not sure if this makes sense at all, but I just mashed two articles together and came up with this: adversity is an opportunity for heroism as much as defeat. But, to even hope for heroism, one must be with a right view of grace and armored up to go into battle.

the story of a boy and a satchel

This is a fictional story to put human flesh on the boy who gave up his fish and loaves for the five thousand. I completely made up everything, but maybe it will help us see this boy as a person and not just a name in typeface. Enjoy!
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Theo's eyes refused to open. Sleep had sealed them shut and even the obnoxious chickens in the front yard couldn't rouse him.
"THEEE-O!"
The scream breezed in and halted right next to his ear drums and seemed to reverberate in between his ears. Theo wrapped the scratchy threads of his blanket closer around him and tried to tune out the sound.
"THEEEEE-O!"
In moments like this, Theo downright despised his name for being two syllables. Why couldn't he be like the other kids, who had good-sounding, tongue-twisting names like Abinadab or Bizjothjah or Gath-rimmon. No one ran around screaming out those boys' names.
Theo's two-syllable name made the dull, gray morning even less desirable as he swung his bare feet to the cold, dirt floor. He rested his hands on the side of the cot and took a deep breath with half-open eyes and then slid his feet into leather sandals and laced them up his dusty calves.
"THEEEEEEEEE--"
"Yes! I'm here!" Theo grumbled, just as his sister Hannah appeared with mid-screaming mouth in the open doorway. Theo grabbed his satchel and slung it over his shoulder, barely hearing his sister's endless chatter.
"...and because of that, I am still not ready to leave to get water for the well and you have to feed the animals because they have been bellowing all morning and you know I also woke up extra early to help Mama because Father set off for the Sea and don't you remember that today you are going to the Sea of Galilee to be with Father? And--"
"Wait, what did you say?" Theo was extremely adept at tuning out his three sisters, but it sometimes kept him from important information, like today. "Did you say I'm to go to the Sea of Galilee to be with Father?"
"Yes, Theo, of course! Now, feed the animals so they will quit bellowing and ask Mama to pack your satchel with food for the meal. You don't know how long you will be away today." With that, Hannah smoothed her long mantle and tucked some stray, wind-swept strands into her chocolate braid.
Theo, with the news of his day's agenda, startled himself into wakefulness and went about the morning chores all the time thinking about the gathering at the Sea of Galilee. His strong, calloused hands worked the burlap bags easily and before his sister could return to pester him, he had already finished. He rushed back inside, sending a cloud of smoke to cover him head to toe, and went in search of Mama.
"Mama! I'm to meet Father today at the gathering over at the Sea of Galilee. What have you to send with me for food? ...But, I must hurry!" Theo had only heard rumors about all the commotion about prophets in the region lately, but he knew enough to know that the gathering at the Sea would be more interesting than a day working at home. A day at home would be filled to the brim with mundane chores and errands and two-syllables screams.
"Okay, okay. Calm down, Theo," as she spoke Mama moved toward the kitchen to retrieve two fish from the ice drawer and loaves of barley bread from the pantry. "Take these to your father and bring back a full report. Even if your father doesn't return tonight, I want you to be back before twilight, do you hear?"
"Mama, do I really bring fish? I am walking and you know how they will begin to stink on the way!!" Though almost 12, Theo still whined like a small child... especially about fish. "I don't even like fish, Mama!"
"These fish are all I have to send, okay? Please, just take them to your father and refresh him with this food and your presence," Mama now wrapped the fish in paper and carefully placed them in Theo's satchel with five barley loaves.
Reluctant, Theo resigned to his duty, happy for the reprieve from chores but unsure about the prospect of smelling fish for the two-hour-long journey to the Sea.
"Okay, Mama." His hazel cinnamon eyes smiled ever-so-slightly before he turned and started walking along the path.
After 15 minutes, Theo quickly realized that walking in the heat of the day was easily as horrible as doing chores at home. He spent the next 15 minutes arguing with himself which he would rather do. The argument ended without conclusion, except that both were undesirable and he had another hour and 30 minutes before he reached his destination. He could feel the sweat pooling on his back underneath his tunic and he shifted uncomfortably. The heat was unbearable.
Finally, he came upon the Sea and saw a great crowd assembling at the base of a mountain. He maneuvered his way (the benefits of his still-small frame) through the people to find his father. His eyes accustomed to the search for the broad-shouldered man, Theo found him quickly and they exchanged stories from the morning. Theo listened carefully as his father explained that the man, Jesus, had been speaking. The great mass of people had gathered abruptly, leaving work and daily agendas to hear the famed "healer" talk about authority and judgment and the glory of God.
Theo strained to see the man who had caused all the disruption, but could only see shoulders and beards. He raised his hand to feel his smooth jaw-line, silently wishing for the day he would have a full, man's beard and strong, broad shoulders like his father. He brought his attention back to his father's description,
"...and there's nothing really unique about him. That's the strange thing - everyone is drawn to him and his message, but no one exactly knows why. He talks about heaven and life and maybe we are desperate to hear about some hope. I don't know, Theo, this man is either really dangerous or.... or.... well, I don't know."
Theo nodded along at his father's words as he looked at the people around him. They all stood transfixed and in hushed conversation about the "healer" and his ways.
Suddenly, a small group seem to be conferring just above the crowd. Several in the group seemed agitated, but one man lifted his hands and placed them on their shoulders. He motioned out to the crowd and spoke a few more words before the men dispersed.
"That's the one - the man in the center who just settled that dispute. That's Jesus," Theo's father said.
Soon, the two men from the dispute were circling around the crowd and asking if anyone had any food. They walked amongst the crowd, searching (quite desperately) for someone who had food with them.
Without thinking, Theo approached one of the men and opened his satchel, "I have two fish and five barley loaves." He looked up at the men and searched their eyes. A quiet burning pushed him to say again, "Did you hear? I have some fish and some barley loaves here in my satchel." Theo lifted it up for their inspection.
The men nodded at one another and then, thanking Theo, swooped into his satchel and left it limp at his side. They wove back through the crowd, asking the same question, "Does anyone have any food?"
Theo returned to his father who stood with an unpleasant, furrowed brow. "And now, son, what do you expect us to eat?"
"Uh, I... I don't know father. I just, well, I don't know what happened. I saw they needed food and remembered I had some. I couldn't think of any reason why I shouldn't give it to them.... I...."
Before Theo could finish, the man named Jesus was holding the loaves and the fish and blessing them. Theo looked twice and a third time to make sure the man was the "healer" and that what he had in his hands were the very stinky fish he had carried in his satchel. Having confirmed these things, he began to squirm through the crowd to get a closer look. Within minutes he was at the very front, watching Jesus motion for the men to bring him the baskets.
Theo realized that his food was the sole contribution to the questions from the men earlier. And now, Theo watched as the man named Jesus blessed and broke his bread and filled baskets with it. The five barley loaves seemed never to grow smaller, only breaking off into more pieces. Now, Jesus was telling the men to pass the bread around so everyone would eat and be full. Theo thought for sure the fish would be a personal meal for the healer, but it was not so. The man named Jesus took the fish next and broke it and filled baskets for the men to pass around.
Theo stood incredulous as the baskets passed by him and he took from the bounty. He could have filled his whole satchel several times with what he saw in front of him. Then the basket passed with the fish and again Theo marveled at the way the food had multiplied right in front of his eyes. Even the long journey with smelly fish seemed a small thing compared to this crowd enjoying a full meal.
He came only with two fish and five loaves and gave it away without knowing why. Now, he saw that all he gave was multiplied for thousands of people. Twelve baskets stacked up around the edges of the crowd because the people couldn't eat another bite!
This was no ordinary day and no ordinary adventure and no ordinary healer. Theo silently declared he would be willing to give much more to a man like this.
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Unnecessary car parts and unnecessary breakfast

I just want you to know I disassembled an (apparently) unnecessary portion of my car with a borrowed wrench set, two multi-tools, and some expert parking over a small ditch. Dirty hands and all, I marched down the hallway to ask the owner of the borrowed wrench set if: 1. this (the one I was carrying) plastic part is necessary 2. the oily residue is important 3. I should do anything with it - like keep it or sew it back on.

The laughter was too much - the whole thing was ridiculous enough to be hilarious and so I laughed until tears came out my eyes.

I have very little time, but I wanted to do a little bit of creative writing. Since I am making the rules about what it means for me to write every day, I'm saying it's okay to revisit pieces from days past and expand. So, we're back to the man who skipped breakfast.

He chose a table by the window, but nestled next to a book shelf filled with classics and comics - a strange combination, he thought. Without warning, the aproned girl set herself down across from the man and asked where he was walking from.

That morning, the man skipped breakfast.
(now continued)

The firm swish of her skirt as she sat startled the man and he couldn't process her question. Though he was seated, he couldn't manage to remove his lint-laden hands from his pockets, which made him look rather hunched over and awkward. It also, however, appeared that he was leaning in to listen to the aproned girl's words. Whether intentional or no, she took the hint as friendship and asked once again,
"So, where are you walking from?"

The wrinkled flannel shifted and the man brought his pale green gaze in line with the aproned girl's greys.

"I started this morning from my apartment on East 52nd." It occurred to the man that this was a strange question even for typical social encounters. Maybe it was its oddity that kept him seated in the cafe window, next to the bookshelf filled with classics and comics.

"Oh. I like your shirt," she said, "My name is Amber."

"I like my shirt too," he fidgeted and let his eyes fall to the empty table.

"Well, are you going to order or what?"

"I think I'll choose the 'or what' option," The man said whimsically, allowing his hands to venture from their hiding places to rest on the table's top and smooth the surfaces of the placemat.

"Okay, then." She said it like a the phrase of a folk song, building up to, "You know what's funny about this place?" Her eyes flitted from the flannel to the glass counters and back again, "the memories are like tippy-toes."

The man chuckled through his nose and then something barely audible escaped resembling soft laughter. His shoulders relaxed a bit and he allowed himself to study the strange, aproned girl named Amber who had memories like tippy-toes. An untrained smile split his lips and he expected her to squirm beneath his stare. She didn't. She caught one of the wild wisps of her hair, twisted it in her fingers and magically hid it into the auburn mass.

"Every day around 11 am, my mom would put down her pen and say, 'Well, I could use some fresh air' and just like that we were in golashes or sandals or winter boots (whatever the weather demanded or fit our fancy) and out the front door. Thirty minutes later we would show up here, at Café Sueno. My mom would also think and purse her lips together before ordering the orange cinnamon scone with English Breakfast tea. I would ponder in similar fashion and end up always with a peanut long john doughnut and a whipped-cream topped hot chocolate."

The man waited for Amber to continue, picturing her and her mother sipping drinks and munching at 11:30 every day.

"I was 5 years old and I waited all morning for those words, 'Well, I could use some fresh air.' When they came, it took all my five-year-old strength to not burst with excitement. So, I managed to keep my composure from the waist up (or at least I thought so), but for the entire walk my excitement seeped through to my toes and there I bounced until we'd ordered and sat down at that table right over there." Amber nodded her head toward another table right next to the window. "Tippy-toe memories." The words were lethargic and thick and sweet rolling out.

The man's smile was no longer awkward, but had made a kind of home between the creases of his cheeks. He thought about the rhythm of the world for this five-year-old and almost snuggled in to the sound of it.
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This is day FOUR of the Every Day in May Project, where I am writing every single day creatively.

Do you have an Every Day in May challenge?