The battle lines have been drawn

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photo by Matt Cockbain

Do you feel that you are a woman of strength? Are you powerful? Strong? Equipped? Do you feel prepared to face the battles that may come your way? Are you angry? Hurt? Burdened? At war?

Do you know what “Victory in Christ” is?  I wonder if any of us truly do, because it seems clear that very few of us are living victoriously. The saving work of Jesus and his Gospel is an ongoing event in your life.  It predates the moment when you accepted Christ and submitted to him—because he was working toward this goal before you knew it—and continues every day after.  Salvation in Christ is MORE than simply acknowledging him as God and your Savior.  The work that Jesus does in the life of every believer is a continual process that includes saving, healing, equipping, instructing, and sanctification. Continue reading “The battle lines have been drawn”

What happened to Hospitality?

Perhaps this has always been the case, and I just missed it by years of attending the same church, but I can’t help to feel that the church has all but abandoned the concept of hospitality. In the last couple of years, as I moved to a new city, completed grad-school, and relocated (again), I have had the opportunity to visit many churches.  The most overwhelmingly common characteristic of the seven churches I’ve attended in the last three years? A cold, unwelcome, or insincere feeling.

Continue reading “What happened to Hospitality?”

Letting Go of Holding On

I’ve been all but paralyzed all day. There is plenty to do, and I’ve been so stuck that by this time I am not confident that I can pull off the few pressing things that really need to be done right away.

The thing is, that I’ve been putting more hope than I’ve realized into things that are beyond my control.

No, not quite faith exactly.  Just that I suddenly realize that I have been counting on assumptions that I’ve made, and that others have made around me and my family.  And those assumptions have been boiling to the surface lately to bite us.   Continue reading “Letting Go of Holding On”

How Do You Count?

I am not a woman who is capable of finishing everything I attempt to start; nor do I finish things with perfection.  I make reading plans so I won’t fall behind in class, and then fail to use them.  I plan ahead so that I won’t be frantically finishing an assignment the same hour I have to go to class–and still end up printing and sprinting. Even this blog is something that I have attempted to bathe in self-discipline, only to fail.  Daily we are all asked to take on things that we are capable of doing — many of them things that we could do well.  We get a lot of them done, but not all.

But is it failure?

Continue reading “How Do You Count?”

A Life of Quiet Desperation

It is already week two of the new quarter and I find myself feeling terribly behind in both homework and other sundry life-things.  Circumstances being what they are, last week was horribly busy for me, and did not really allow any time for school work to be done.  This is not a complaint, however, because I made thoughtful choices about several of the things that took my time, and felt that they were the more important ones.  Not one of those choices stand out to me at the moment as one I would go back and change. But, as the case often is, there are consequences for our choices, and the consequences I face at the moment is a flurry of activity as I try to make up lost ground before things get too far; before I resign myself to simply being behind and mildly disappointed with myself (as those two things are usually linked for me.) Continue reading “A Life of Quiet Desperation”

Who are you attracting?

There’s a New Age guru following me on twitter.

When I discovered this, I actually laughed out loud. Not that his beliefs are funny to me; but simply, I didn’t see that one coming.  Somehow this person found me and decided that there was some kind of value or benefit even, in clicking the follow button on my profile. There’s a myriad of reasons he could have done this, many of which have nothing to do with who I am, or what I’ve been saying on the internet–so I’m not going to be so arrogant as to think that I am going to be the key to some profound things in his life via my excellent tweets. Continue reading “Who are you attracting?”

Questions from NYC ala Brehm Center

You may remember a few months ago I posted some questions for your consideration.  This week, as we went around the group to introduce ourselves to one another, I couldn’t help but really stand on that leg for a moment.  I want to know what the questions are, specifically for people who are in my position, or positions similar to mine.  What are we dealing with?  Struggling with? What have we learned the hard way, and what were we graced to know without having to pay a costly price to learn? Continue reading “Questions from NYC ala Brehm Center”

41 blessings in one day

1. I woke up on time (yes, on a day like today, undoubtedly a blessing)
2. I managed to get to my 8 am class on time
3. before I got to class, I actually had time to grab a cup of coffee.
4. and before that, I managed to eat a decent breakfast (this will be even more important in a moment)
5.  I had finished my scholarship application the night before, and was able to head right out to the post office
6. made it to the post office in time to send scholarship materials via priority mail instead of express mail, at a savings of ten dollars
7. because of some very lovely friends, I had my bicycle here in Pasadena, which was a nice alternative to driving my car around town all day wasting gas that I can’t afford to buy.
8. had first dental check up in over two years (thanks to my new handy-dandy dental coverage) and have no “problem spots” or cavities
9. I have dental insurance for the first time in years, and because of this, I did not have to pay for my e-xrays or check up.
10.  the bike ride on to my next stop, the DMV, had light traffic, and was mostly downhill.  Yay for coasting.

11. I made it to the DMV to get a shiny new California drivers license just a few minutes before a ton of people, and ended up in a long line, instead of a LONG LONG horrible long line.
12.  Happened to be in line with a lovely lady for about two hours who was very nice, had great stories about her family, and was a pleasant waiting companion.
13.  got inside into the air-conditioned shade of the DMV in under an hour and a half (again, you might not think that this is a blessing, but people behind me in line waited longer than that)
14.  once I got my number inside the DMV to wait my turn, I was told that I should expect another hour and a half wait until my number was called.  It was less than half that time.
15.  the creepy guy who sat next to me in the waiting room, who kept talking to me, was called in first
16.  the nice looking biker setting behind me gave me the “do you want me to take care of the creepy guy?” nod.
17.  I didn’t have to tell him yes
19.  every DMV employee I dealt with was actually very nice (well, except one, but she only took my picture, so she hardly counts) despite the fact that the place was crazy busy.
20.  One of those very nice employees yelled at creepy man when he tried to make a pass.  

21.  I managed to actually get some reading for class done while I waited in various lines today
22.  Although it did not occour to me that I should be spending that waiting time reading the California driver’s handbook in case they have some crazy laws I don’t know about, I still passed.  And yes, there were questions about crazy California laws that I didn’t know about.
23.  I realized near the end of my DMV experience that I had not eaten since 7 am, and was gratefully only mildly hungry.
24.  SOMEHOW I was patient through the entire process.
25.  the cute elderly couple I got to watch go through the process of getting ID cards together.  They were easily 500 years old, each, and still twitterpated.
26.  my bizarre temporary paper license that I can send a copy of to Idaho, and will end my woes with the Idaho State Jury Commissioner.
27.  Somehow, I managed to get through the whole DMV process before they closed at 5, thereby avoiding the need for a return trip.
28.  Upon returning to where I had left my bike locked up, it was still there, with nothing missing, and was not boiling hot.
29.  the target store that was close to the DMV:  by now my body was mad at me for not having food or more water (I’d had my water bottle with me, but I’d long since finished it off) so I could go in for more airconditioning, a snack and some water
30.  target carries baskets that will attach to the handle bars of your bike (and man, my backpack was at least 20 pounds.  seriously.)

31.   The security guard at target went out into the parking lot with me and attached the basket to my bike for me since I did not have the necessary tools.
32.  In the TEN MILES that I rode today on my bike (well, it’s a ton for me.  don’t judge) there were no scary incidents with any other solid objects, moving, stationary, or otherwise.
33. as I pathetically continued to peddle myself home, way too exhausted, sunburnt and dehydrated, somehow I made it home to a big piture of water, and a nice, long, cold shower.
34.  I didn’t have to heat up a dinner, I don’t think my body would have accepted it.
35.  I was able to stay home once I got home.  I don’t think I could have gone out again.
36.  the aloe that I keep in the fridge
37.  the light ice cream that was in the freezer. 
38.  the last of my stock of lactaid that was enough for me to eat that ice cream.
39.  I have lovey friends who would care enough to let me tell them about my crazy day in a list of 38 things that turned out to be blessings.
40.  I can recognize that God blessed me in at least 39 ways today, and I wonder how many more that I didn’t notice.

I think some of the circumstances I encountered today could have given me a really bad mood, and then today would have been the worst.  Instead, I kept looking for something lovely, for ways that things went right instead of wrong. 

41.  God blessed me with the perspective today that enabled me to see a busy, stressful day as an adventure full of blessings.  There’s no way my human self would have seen it that way if He hadn’t of  helped me to.

The Paradox of the Mourning Christian

Tomorrow, the Fuller community will gather together to mourn. Over the Christmas break Ruth Vuong,  Dean of Students, suddenly passed away. 

There are many people on campus who knew Dean Vuong personally, and many who did not. Personally, I only had the privilege of meeting her on a couple of occasions.  Yet even to someone who did not really know her personally, her loss is nearly tangible on campus, as the community collectively mourns.  I do not need to have been in personal relationship with her to know how this feels.  We all have experienced loss, haven’t we?

Loss and mourning are strange creatures, especially for Christians. At times, it seems wrong to be sad, to mourn, to feel the pain of loss over another Christian.  After all, no matter the specifics of our theology of Heaven, we all basically understand that death isn’t the end, right? Don’t we know, somehow, that if she goes to heaven, and we go to heaven then that means we’ll be together again? Isn’t that what we believe? And if it is, then why are we sad?  Afterall, haven’t we all heard the saying, “it’s not good bye, it’s see you later”? So why do we still mourn?  Does it betray us, showing what little faith we actually have? Or is it something else?

This gets me to thinking about Lazarus; well more specifically about Jesus and Lazarus. Jesus stood at the tomb, knew what he was about to do, and how did he respond? He wept. Jesus wept knowing he was about to restore Lazarus. 

I don’t think our mourning betrays our faith. We have lost years of opportunity for relationship with Ruth Vuong. Opportunities to create memories, to benefit from her wisdom, to have shared experiences, to get to know her.  It is our loss, and it is right to acknowlege it. We are created for relationship and community, and a measure of it is taken from us when someone dies.  Jesus knew this, and felt the very real pain of that loss before he restored Lazarus.

There is the paradox of the mourning Christian.  We weep over a temporary loss, that in our finite understanding feels so eternal.  But this is, in a sense, good.  If we can mourn, despite our understanding of the afterlife, it reveals the value we have for relationship.  And there, the God of relationship can and does minister to us.

Look UP


Before I left Idaho I would frequently look up and catch sight of an osprey, or from time to time and eagle, and think to myself “here’s one way I will miss Idaho. Surely I won’t be able to look up and see birds of prey in the sky above LA.”

As I became aware of this thought, I started purposefully looking to the sky to see if I might catch a glimpse of something large and majestic in flight. The more I looked, the more I saw. I looked for sentimental or even spiritual significance that could be attached to these sightings, and thought of a few. I cherished each sighting as a treasured parting sight of my home, as an encouragement from God, and as a reminder of promise.

When I drove out of Idaho, I chose to ride the first shift alone (with three of us traveling in 2 vehicles, there was always someone alone) because I was sure I’d probably get a little emotional. I thought about the goodbyes left unsaid, the relationships I’ve nurtured and the ones I’ve neglected. I chased the promise that the discomfort of change makes room for the fulfillment of God’s bigger plans. And as I drove the lonely stretch between Boise and Mountain Home I saw what I believed would be my last bird of prey.

I’ve been in California three weeks now. My birds were in Idaho, and I am not, so I stopped looking up.

For a while.

But something caught my eye not too long ago. Just as I was leaving the Santa Monica beach, I looked up, and there it was. The largest bird I had ever seen in flight (I am pretty sure I was a condor, based on the markings. I had to look it up). At first, I thought it was a small plane, but as I continued to stare, it happened: wings flapped, and I knew it was a very large bird, much closer than the distant plane I had taken it for.

Today, as part of a class requirement, I spent about three hours alone with God in silence at a beautiful convent. I spent most of the time just listening, and abiding. And I just happened to look up. Circling the convent as if simply waiting for me to notice, was a golden eagle. It circled a few times overhead and then, making a few large grand passes, it flew away.

I mention all of this only to point out that I had no expectation to see such majestic birds once I was in the middle of such a big, busy city. But my experience continues to defy expectations, and I will remember, and continue to look up.