life: worth doing right

Film poster for Amistad (1997 film) - Copyrigh...

"If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right." Thanks, mom.

I grew up angry at these eight words because hard work was always the guilty result of this catchy little phrase. It appeared when we discussed our 4-H livestock projects and how little we had worked with them (if you are not from the country, you wouldn't understand leading a cow around by a halter in your yard). It wedged into conversations about refinishing projects and youth group commitments and grades in school. Many a conversation ended with a knowing, stern look from either Mom or Dad and these words, "If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right."

Now, working with youth, I wish more parents used this guilt trip method to motivate their kids. I realize guilt should not mainly motivate us to do things 'right,' but guilt is not the lesson that has stayed with me these 25 years. The lesson is about worth.

Last night I watched one of my favorite movies - Steven Spielberg's "Amistad." In one of the last scenes, the attorney speaks on behalf of the Africans being prosecuted for insurrection on the slave ship where they were so inhumanely transported in the slave trade en route to Spain.

John Quincy Adams, played by Anthony Hopkins, says these words in front of the Supreme Court (7 out of 9 of which are Southern slave owners),

"Yea, this is no mere property case, gentlemen. I put it to you thus: This is the most important case ever to come before this court. Because what it, in fact, concerns is the very nature of man."

At this point in the movie, something very human in me connects with the John Quincy Adams leaning against the polished hardwood handrail. I want to shout, as his quiet words seem to do so well, "Yes, gentlemen, what are WE WORTH? What is man worth?" Is our nature - the nature of man - carry some inherent value or is rather something to discard?

I can tell you what I felt about our worth as I watched one of the captured Africans, Cinque, struggle against the chains that bruised his wrists and neck.

We were not made for this.

In Genesis, when God breathed life into the man He'd formed from the dust of the earth, He was intentional. His ways are perfect, so I refuse to believe any part of His creation process was not done "right." Every piece and particle, from the smallest micro-organism to the most complicated systems in the human body, God designed us exactly right.

In His image we were made (Genesis 1:26-28), male and female He created us in His image. I can't help but think my parents' old adage came from a deeper understanding of God's own very intentionality in our design. If creation was worth doing at all (and, I'll admit, sometimes I wonder), then God would be the only One able to do it right. I really believe the 'nature of man' is a question of beginnings, which (not so ironically) is what the word "genesis" means.

Our genesis (beginning) is bound up in the intentional mind of a sovereign God, whose purposes are forever, beautifully... right.

I say all of this because I am pondering what it means to live life. I made up a word last week when I was trying to process the biography of Bonhoeffer because I was grasping at dictionaries to find a description for his approach to living out theology. I came up with vivology, after a quick greek/latin roots and suffixes search.

The question bouncing about in my head lately has been, "How do I live right?" Because, I know live is worth living (God's intentional, perfect design)... so it must be worth doing right.

What are your thoughts?

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Today, I'm doing my best to

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.

falling, falling, falling

I have a history (see fright story 1 and fright story 2). Before you ask about a traumatic encounter I had as a small child, I am completely unaware how this dreadful thing started. All I know is, surprises often find me on the floor or grabbing the nearest arm.

I've become pretty good at recovering from these episodes. Unfortunately, the stories keep piling up! The only good thing to come out of this fright syndrome is that I have crazy good material to make people feel better about their follies. I love to see people walk away saying, "I might be embarrassing, but HER stories make mine look like nothing!!"

So... with that, I'll give you some material to refer back to the next time you feel foolish.

Location: Office Cause: 7th grade student, Ricardo Story: I'm not sure why, but I arranged my office so my desk and I face the wall opposite the open door. So, when students or staff come in quietly, I am unaware. It just so happens that Ricardo is a very wonderful and mischievous 7th grade boy who had not been informed of my response to surprises. Last week, as I worked away at my desk, Ricardo slipped in and gave a shout directly behind my chair. With the scream of an adolescent girl, I jumped and promptly fell off my chair, grasping the edge of my desk as I went. The worst part is the few moments following, when I realized the entire hallway had heard and several classes wondered who had just seen a ghost. SO embarrassing to have the guidance counselor be (rightly) the one to blame for such an interruption!

Location: Micah Project Cause: Nelson slammed a door or dropped a chair, I'm not sure which Story: This past Sunday, I was spending some fellowship time at the Micah house... and by fellowship, I mean, ducking from flying soccer balls and rough-housing with the boys who behave like wild brothers. So, we were fellowshipping and I had turned my back for one second from Nelson when I heard the most surprising BANG and my hand shot out, uncontrolled, toward Kristi who happened to be right in front of me. I grabbed her arm and scattered my feet until I regained my composure and then hid my head in her shoulder... Ah! The worst weakness to show a bunch of adolescent boys is that you scare easily! They wouldn't let me leave without making me jump a hundred more times!

Location: Victoria's house Cause: this time I'll blame it on the dark and the cowboy boots I love Story: I had just spent some wonderful time hanging out with Victoria, a senior who has a special place in my heart, and her new puppy Milo. The cowboy boots were a gift from my mom this summer, anticipating the birthday in October when I'll be here. It's amazing how boots can make such an impression - it pretty much carried my smile all day long, straight up until I was walking out her front door. It was dark and we were talking... and then next thing I knew I was floating backwards through the air and onto my back in the grass. Slow and fast quite together explain the descent, but once I was there comfortably situated in the soft grass, I realized how silly it must all look to the guard who stood a few feet away! Victoria could barely pull herself together to help me up, she was laughing so hard. So, I lay there in my green cotton dress and cowboy boots, looking helpless and embarrassed as red punch. When I finally got up, I said, "Victoria! Oh my gosh, you can't tell anyone that I just did that!" but, moments later I followed, "uh... just kidding, I'm sure I'll tell everyone tomorrow!"

And, so I did!

Especially today, don't forget to

let LOVE FLY like cRaZY

sunshine on a saturday

[slideshow] I re-organized my room when I returned in August of this year so that my bed is cattywampus in the corner. A long, plant-patterned ribbon stretches down from the ceiling to hold a hanging basket that is growing several books at the moment. Beside my bed, stacks of books have already claimed floor space like good friends claiming the best seats. Creativity finds all sorts of places to hide and I hope I never grow tired of searching it out.

Today, the sunlight drifted in through the window and pranced straight across my morning face at 5:30 am. Even though it was Saturday, the day seemed to be saying there was much to live and that I better start early.

By 6:30, I had already made coffee, enjoyed whole wheat waffles, and finally sent several messages I had been writing in my sleep. I love mornings. Some mornings seem just so suited to curl up in covers warmed by a night's rest. Other mornings seem to beckon like a playmate outside the front door.

Today the morning beckoned outside my window, but instead of a playmate it sounded like a man on loudspeaker selling avocados, tomatos and onions out of the back of a truck. Well, no simile needed there. He really did start his rounds that early!

But, truly, this day made me thankful to live it. Do you ever get those?

Even as 5:30 am rolled into 6:30 and and then as 7:30 led to plans for the entire sun-drenched day, I felt more sure that this day was a gift. Maybe it has something to do with my obsession with Germany and the mid-1900s (thank you Bonhoeffer and Eric Metaxas) that I can't seem to shake, as I read the letters Bonhoeffer sent to encourage all his students to live with a robust courage to live hopeful. Though Bonhoeffer was involved in the conspiracy to end the reign of a tyrant (and also knew of the imminent danger posed to his ordinands in battle), he exhorted them to find joy.

In any case, 7:45 found me on my way to meet a friend and to visit Hospital Escuela, the most affordable (and least sanitary) places to get medical care in Tegucigalpa. After a second round of coffee, we met up with a medical mission team from Arkansas and offered our morning to cut, package, and stuff as they needed. I felt of little use, but hugely blessed by the opportunity to see what the Lord is doing through willing hearts and able hands! Because of their service, this week will be full of desperate-turned-joyful stories of patients receiving medical care.

We parted ways before lunch and set off, my friend and I, on the next adventures Saturday was hiding for us. Currently, she is reading "Becoming Conversant with the Emergent Church" by DA Carson and I am reading "Bonhoeffer," as you well know. Our conversation drifts in and out of the page turns, but I am so thankful to be in community. In fact, I dug up an old post I wrote in 2007 about community and, ironically, Bonhoeffer's "Life Together."

Then, while I was digging up posts, I found an old post I wrote after I attended the first ever Gospel Coalition conference in Chicago. It rocked my world, to say the least. I'm pretty sure that's when I picked up Carson's book (above) and jotted down then these thoughts.

After our book-reading, sun-loving afternoon, we met up with another friend and celebrated a birthday. A night of laughter and new faces and... did I mention laughter? Maybe one of the most encouraging things, as I continue to love learning this language, is succeeding at humor. If I am 3/5 for jokes in the States, then the odds that I would be witty here are pretty slim. As it turns out, I'm not all that bad! And, if I can do anything to add laughter to a room, it's a good day!

Well, I obviously spent far too much time trying to recap this little Saturday. I hope some of it makes sense.

Mostly, I hope that we

let LOVE FLY like cRaZY!

I love a crowded kitchen

[slideshow] As a five-year-old, I remember the kitchen as one of the best places in our whole house. We didn't have the best layout (our kitchen could fit in some people's closet space), but that didn't keep the constant stream of people from laying on the linoleum and crowding the counters and sitting on step stools.

The kitchen was a crowded place where we discussed the events of the day, dreamed about future plans, and practiced reading papers and reciting speeches (okay, so the last was something just I did to my ever-so-patient mother). The kitchen was a place where my brothers and sister and I would gather to taste the simmering spaghetti sauce and find the boldness to ask how much time until dinner made its way to the table.

If I'm honest, our crowded kitchen became no less a hub for activity as we got older. In fact, we might have noticed the crowding even more as we sprawled out on the floor or claimed space atop the counter, next to the bread box. And, if I'm honest, those times spent in the kitchen inspired and challenged and grew in me an appetite for community that I'm hoping is never satisfied.

So, last night, as the girls crowded me with mixers and containers and pizza and spatulas, I delighted.

I love the chatter and laughter and outrageous guesstimations about the amount of fruit needed for our newly invented angel food cake topping recipe. I love the exclamations of pride at the surprisingly good taste of a new creation. I love the huddle that forms in the space that is too small to hold the bodies moving around. I love that a flying elbow or spoon or hot pad holder can make contact at any point with a shoulder or side. I love the hopeful look lingering over a delicious bowl of fruit topping, imploring a sneaky taste of the concoction.

I love it all.

I think I love most that we were created to enjoy community. It was no accident that, when Jesus walked on this earth, He set apart time specifically and intentionally to eat with people. To recline and savor and enjoy food and drink as a way to invest and love the community around Him.

I love a crowded kitchen. Who is crowding yours today?

let LOVE FLY like cRaZY

sometimes...

This is a day of many sighs. They aren't all sad or overwhelmed, but there are just so many! As I sit in my office and finish up the tasks of the day, this sermon by Mark Driscoll is spurring me on:Jesus Heals the Paralytic:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Th8kw72uuBY]

What a great reminder of the humility it takes to approach how we live out this Christian life.

beginning again

[slideshow] Wow. It's hard to know how to begin. I didn't write all summer, but I don't feel bad about that. I never really do. There's something about taking a break to live life and let the words drift in and out on the wind instead of flow from my fingertips. I spent some time putting pen to paper, but I even let that just be for a while.

What I DID do was enjoy the people who stood right in front of me. What a beautiful blessing it is to have community that builds us up, gives us new energy, and reminds us of the One who is responsible for anything good in this life.

I spent quiet mornings at the farm, drinking in newness of day. I passed time on the patio with my grandparents, listening to updates about neighbors and the bird family that just grew by three.

I ran the quaint streets of Atlantic and ate at my favorite Mexican restaurant. I played competitive nertz games with people who make joy bubble out in every direction and stayed up until 4 am debating politics and Christian living.

I barbecued homegrown steak with my parents on the East porch and talked about old times and the upcoming year. I spent beautiful time at my family reunion and then road-tripped for weddings in Chicago.

I picked up the biography of Bonhoeffer by Metaxas and rediscovered the biography of John Calvin. I watched some of my closest friends decide to love someone forever and I celebrated family every chance I got.

My summer was at the same time full and spaced out. It was a double-spaced, ten page paper on the most interesting topic imaginable and it never felt rushed.

And so, with that little prelude, I walk into this year with fresh eyes. All my excitement is bound up in the sincere decision to trust God in all things. In his grace, He makes every good work abound. If I could borrow a phrase from Mark Driscoll, I hope this year sees me working to the "glory of God and good of all people," knowing that God is moving regardless.

If you are still confused about this outlook, the soundtrack to Peter Pan captures it pretty well.

and, as always, I'm setting out to

let love fly like crazy