Saturday, December 25, 2010

...that glorious day

..."but when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law."

In the thick darkness that was the world, God invaded.  He made Himself near.

In the midst of heavy oppression, idolatry, ugliness, despair, and seeming hopelessness, God broke in.  Putting aside His kingly rights, He put on flesh (becoming like us), and was born in a dirty food trough.

And it was in that dirty food trough where the HOPE of the world laid.  Mercy laid.  Eternal life laid.

To a people who believed God could only be found in a temple, found after "cleaning themselves up," found after practicing the right "rituals," God came -- in the form of a baby -- and made Himself near.  He was to be called "Immanuel," which means "God with us."  He is the "with us God".

And it was in that very baby boy that perfect love was embodied.  That the God of the universe was embodied.  That the salvation of the world was now made possible.

This was it.  This was their Messiah!  This is the one they waited for.  This is the one who would offer forgiveness, freedom, salvation, a new Kingdom.

..."a thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices."


Merry Christmas, friends!  "Today a great light has come upon the earth!"  A wild celebration is in order.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The night before...

It wasn't peaceful.  It probably wasn't silent.  It wasn't gentle.  The world was not at ease.  People were not calm.

The people labored under a tax rate that would go unmatched -- even to this day.  The Jewish Temple (the place, considered by many, to be where one can actually meet with God) was being filled with forbidden idols by a selfish king.  The worship of many gods was accepted and encouraged.  Syncretism rang as Rome's anthem -- but, of course, under brutal Roman rule.

There was rebellion.  There was hatred.  Hostility.

It was vicious.  Merciless.  Oppressive.

Herod, promising to rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem, simultaneously building pagan temples in Samaria.  A slap in the face to the Jews.

Rome was thriving monetarily -- a lush extravagancy of finances, luxuries, infrastructure, etc.
Rome was bankrupt in spirit of character.

Herod commissioned for a brutal massacre of all infant Jewish males.

And, all the while, the Jews waited.  They've been waiting since the days of Abraham, Isaac, Jeremiah.  They have waited in utter silence for 400 years.  They were waiting for a King.  They were waiting for someone to come and set them free from foreign political power.  They were longing for their Messiah to come -- to bring spiritual renewal and political freedom.  They were looking for the one who would come and rule as king and who would put to shame the brutal Roman government.

It was ugly.  War raged in the hearts of men and women.

It wasn't a "silent night."
Rather, indeed, "long lay the world in sin and error pining"...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"Snow"

This is brilliant.  Beautiful.
Sleeping At Last asked their listeners to send holiday/winter themed video footage with the intentions of assembling it all into a community-made music video of sorts for the Sleeping At Last original Christmas song, "Snow."

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Gift-giving

Everywhere you go this time of year, you hear them.
Each street corner has one.
Every store has at least one.
And the season wouldn't feel the same without them.

The Salvation Army bell ringers.

There's just something about the bells' musical refrain, mixed with the glow of white Christmas lights, and that certain crisp winter chill in the air, that makes the season feel right.

And I don't think it's because the people ringing the bell have some musical ability to play Beethoven's 5th.  As a matter of fact, I think the bells in it of themselves are quite annoying.  Like total clamor with no melody.  Like me playing the trumpet in 5th grade.  

I think those sweet bells make the season feel right because of what they represent.  They represent gift-giving.  They represent something we were originally created for.  They represent this idea that we were made to give.  We were created to bless.

And it's in these few, small moments when I see the joy of others' giving, that I believe I get a glimpse into the original earth we were created for.  An earth filled with individuals who give, who bless, who sacrifice, who lay down their own lives for others, and in doing so find the greatest joy ever.  I am looking forward to inheriting a new home, a new home where every moment is characterized by blessing -- not just the moments in December.  But for now, these are the sweet moments I will cherish.  These are the sweet-laughs-with-the-head-cocked-back moments I will cherish.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Monday, December 6, 2010

Is he really the one?

Everything was perfect.
The sun was shining
yet with a sweet coolness of the day.
Perfect peace was intimately known.
There was no pain.
No brokenness.
No suffering.
No death.
Life flourished -- plants, animals, the heart of man.
There was a romance that went unmatched.
Love was real -- and full.
Beauty exploded at every turn.
Joy knew no bounds.
It was as if everything was fulfilling its own unique purpose.
Everything was exactly as it should be.
Perfection.

And a question was posed,
"did he really say what you think he said?"
Doubt entered.
And a seemingly better option was on the table.

The sweet coolness of the day was replaced with a smoldering hot sun.
Eyes became blinded by the trees.
Deception crept in.
Darkness introduced itself to souls.
Brokenness violently moved in.
The once intimately known peace now felt like a stranger.
The once never known pain felt strangely familiar.
Distortion burst onto the scene.
Stinging the tongue was the bitter taste of death.
Memories of a wild romance felt like they belonged to a long-lost lover.
Freedom was pierced by guilt and condemnation.
Creation suffered bitter enmity with its creator.
Nothing seemed as if it were how it should be.
Imperfection.

And another question was posed,
"will you wait?"
Will you wait for the one who will restore to perfection?
Will you wait for the one who brings freedom?
Will you wait for the one who puts flesh to the word "love"?
Will you wait for the one who binds up the broken hearted?
Will you wait for the one who romances the prostitutes?
Will you wait for the one who puts everything as it should be?
Will you just wait?

Through brutal wars, seemingly broken promises, famines, clouds of darkness, and seldom encounters with mere angels, men and women of faith waited.  They waited for the Good King they were promised.  They waited, by faith, for the one who would save them -- the Messiah.

And in a dirty food trough the supposed King -- the Messiah, the one they waited thousands of years for -- entered the world as a crying baby.
Born, scandously, of a virgin.
Born, a Nazarene -- can anything good come from there?
Born from the lineage of women plagued by shame.
Born into a fractured world --
with immediate commands that he would be killed as a baby.

Was this really the ONE generations after generations had waited for?
Is this the ONE we celebrate as Emmanuel, "God (is) with us"?

By sheer faith, I am believing so.
I am believing "this, this is Christ the King."
I am believing he is the one generations waited for.
I believing in him as my Hope, my Peace, my Joy, my Love, and my Christ.
And, by sheer faith, I am believing this Emmanuel will come again to set all things right.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving fail

Every year, as November rolls around, it seems like every good American makes a deliberate effort to be thankful.  To be thankful for specific things, even.

And so, this year, I decided to do the same.  I committed to, every day, write a few things of my own I found myself thankful for.

Wow, what a list that could've been!  But ugly confession: it never got created.

My heart SO does not gravitate toward gratitude.  My heart SO does not naturally gravitate toward giving thanks for the things God has done, for the things He's given, for the things He's called me out of (nor for the things He calls me to), etc.

Instead, honestly, my heart so easily gravitates toward the me-centered things, how the world doesn't work in MY favor, toward the things I want and don't have, toward my own distorted thinking that says God is holding out on me, etc.

So, my thankfulness list of November never got created, and I wish I could say I, at least, spent Thanksgiving Day full of gratitude, full of joy, and full of praise toward the One I claim as my Savior and Provider.  I wish I could say, that for just one day, I was able to put aside my pride, my selfishness, and my discontent...but I can't.

As a matter of fact, I spent Thanksgiving Day pretty grumpy.  While I read of friends' sweet text messages, Facebook statuses, and Tweets claiming thankfulness, joys shared with their family, and wishing for others celebration of gratitude...I sat grumpy.  I sat grumpy at the Thanksgiving table!  Who does that (other than pre-pubescent teens complaining they don't like green bean casserole)?!  I sat there tired, I sat there bitter like I should have rights to things I didn't have, I argued trying to prove my point that I was right about something, I wanted to punch my family for not being good listeners, and I sat all weekend busy being critical and judgmental of my family.

What goes on inside my soul can be so ugly.  And if I'm being honest, the more and more I'm confronted with the ugliness that can be found within myself, the more and more I'm tempted to hide...the more and more I'm tempted to try and make my own soul beautiful...and, ironically, the more and more I'm tempted to deny the fact that I need a savior to save me from my own self.

I'm tempted to believe, that in my ugliness, God can find no delight in me.  I'm tempted to believe, that until I clean up the ugliness of my own soul, I cannot approach God.  I'm tempted to believe that God has no desire to have anything to do with me until I'm "cleaned up" on the inside.

But here's one thing I am thankful for everyday: that God says He DOES want something to do with me even while I'm a total disaster.  He says He DOES want for me to approach Him even while the inside of my soul may look like the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina...and even in that horrendous wreckage, He finds great delight and joy.

I want to be more deliberate to live with a grateful heart -- for the things to be grateful for are abundant.  However, I know that with this soul that's prone to wander, I will fail to live the way that I wish -- with an overwhelmingly thankful heart.  So, I will rest in the belief that God finds great joy in me even when I fail...and for that, I will forever be thankful.

(And a small piece of redemption: I did end up spending a few moments post-Thanksgiving (out of sheer discipline), listing out a small portion of the things I am thankful for.  You can read that incoherent list here if you're super ambitious).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A simple joy for your day...



"Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."
     [Picasso]

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
and sorry I could not travel both
and be one traveler, long I stood
and looked down one as far as I could
to where it bent in the undergrowth;


then took the other, as just as fair,
and having perhaps the better claim,
because it was grassy and wanted wear;
though as for that the passing there
had worn them really about the same,


and both that morning equally lay
in leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.


I shall be telling this with a sigh
somewhere ages and ages hence:
two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
and that has made all the difference.
                                          [Robert Frost]

I want to be the first to trodden the leaves black.  Although more difficult, more risky, and more unknown, may I have the faith to take the road less traveled.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Just some Moleskine ramblings

If anyone knows me at all, you know Wags can keep her cool pretty well.  Not much tends to rattle this ol' soul -- most likely because I'm an off-the-chart Myers Briggs' P.

But not today, people.  For whatever reason, I'm starting to mildly freak out.  I'm starting to feel like I need to hold on for dear life.  Like I am in desperate need for control; like I am in desperate need for some answers.

I'm scared that the things that used to make me come alive, no longer do.

I'm scared that moving somewhere is just running away.

I'm scared of taking risks.

I'm scared of putting all of me into something, for fear I might get hurt.

I'm scared of wasting my life.

I'm scared of being different and taking the untrodden road.

I'm scared of dying in an empty hospital room; I'm scared of an empty funeral home.

I'm scared of becoming numb.

I'm scared of living a life that doesn't count.

I'm scared there's more to this life that I'm missing out on and that I may never experience it.

I'm scared that I'm not meeting expectations.

I'm scared of never feeling fully alive this side of heaven.

I'm scared of looking back with regret.

What do ya do, people?  I have no answers.
What do you do when you're 24, when you dreamt life would be more than this, when you feel restless for something you're not sure what it is?  What do you do when it seems easier to bag up your childhood dreams and settle for mediocrity?  What do you do when your soul longs for something more and you're trapped by the confines of this skin and these bones?

Honest thoughts, honest questions.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

E:60 Josiah's Time


"Josiah loves the game for the game.  Not win or lose.  His love is just to swing the bat, and hit the ball, and run the base."  (Grandpa)

I want to live like Josiah.  I want to live in such a way that I simply "love the game."  I want to enjoy without concern of outcome.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Being 25(ish)


What To Know When You're 25(ish) [Shauna Niequist]
Here are the things really worth caring about in your 20s.
When you’re 25-ish, you’re old enough to know what kind of music you love, regardless of what your last boyfriend or roommate always used to play. You know how to walk in heels, how to tie a necktie, how to give a good toast at a wedding and how to make something for dinner. You don’t have to think much about skin care, home ownership or your retirement plan. Your life can look a lot of different ways when you’re 25: single, dating, engaged, married. You are working in dream jobs, pay-the-bills jobs and downright horrible jobs. You are young enough to believe that anything is possible, and you are old enough to make that belief a reality.
Job
Now is the time to figure out what kind of work you love to do. What are you good at? What makes you feel alive? What do you dream about? You can go back to school now, switch directions entirely. You can work for almost nothing, or live in another country, or volunteer long hours for something that moves you. There will be a time when finances and schedules make this a little trickier, so do it now. Try it, apply for it, get up and do it.
When I was 25, I was in my third job in as many years—all in the same area at a church, but the responsibilities were different each time. I was frustrated at the end of the third year because I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do next. I didn’t feel like I’d found my place yet. I met with my boss, who was in his 50s. I told him how anxious I was about finding the one perfect job for me, and quick. He asked me how old I was, and when I told him I was 25, he told me that I couldn’t complain to him about finding the right job until I was 32. In his opinion, it takes about 10 years after college to find the right fit, and anyone who finds it earlier than that is just plain lucky. So use every bit of your 10 years: try things, take classes, start over.
Relationships
Now is also the time to get serious about relationships. And “serious” might mean walking away from the ones that don’t give you everything you need. Some of the most life-shaping decisions you make in this season will be about walking away from good-enough, in search of can’t-live-without. One of the only truly devastating mistakes you can make in this season is staying with the wrong person even though you know he or she is the wrong person. It’s not fair to that person, and it’s not fair to you.
Counseling
Twenty-five is also a great time to start counseling, if you haven’t already, and it might be a good round two of counseling if it’s been a while. You might have just enough space from your parents to start digging around your childhood a little bit. Unravel the knots that keep you from living a healthy whole life, and do it now, before any more time passes.
Church
Twenty-five is the perfect time to get involved in a church you love, no matter how different it is from the one you were a part of growing up. Be patient and prayerful, and decide that you’re going to be a person who grows, who seeks your own faith, who lives with intention. Set your alarm on Sunday mornings, no matter how late you were out on Saturday night. It will be dreadful at first, and then after a few weeks, you’ll find that you like it, that the pattern of it fills up something inside you.
Don't get stuck
This is the thing: when you start to hit 28 or 30, everything starts to divide, and you can see very clearly two kinds of people: on one side, people who have used their 20s to learn and grow, to find God and themselves and their deep dreams, people who know what works and what doesn’t, who have pushed through to become real live adults. And then there’s the other kind, who are hanging onto college, or high school even, with all their might. They’ve stayed in jobs they hate, because they’re too scared to get another one. They’ve stayed with men or women who are good but not great, because they don’t want to be lonely. They mean to find a church, they mean to develop honest, intimate friendships, they mean to stop drinking like life is one big frat party. But they don’t do those things, so they live in kind of an extended adolescence, no closer to adulthood than they were when they graduated college.

Don’t be like that. Don’t get stuck. Move, travel, take a class, take a risk. Walk away, try something new. There is a season for wildness and a season for settledness, and this is neither. This season is about becoming. Don’t lose yourself at happy hour, but don’t lose yourself on the corporate ladder either. Stop every once in a while and go out to coffee or climb in bed with your journal. Ask yourself some good questions like: “Am I proud of the life I’m living? What have I tried this month? What have I learned about God this year? What parts of my childhood faith am I leaving behind, and what parts am I choosing to keep with me for this leg of the journey? Do the people I’m spending time with give me life, or make me feel small? Is there any brokenness in my life that’s keeping me from moving forward?”

Now is your time. Become, believe, try. Walk closely with people you love, and with other people who believe that God is very good and life is a grand adventure. Don’t spend time with people who make you feel like less than you are. Don’t get stuck in the past, and don’t try to fast-forward yourself into a future you haven’t yet earned. Give today all the love and intensity and courage you can, and keep traveling honestly along life’s path.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Cleveland responds

Lebum -- I can't help but find myself especially favorable toward this particular nickname of Lebron's.

In response to Lebron's newest Nike ad, Cleveland's decided to film their own commercial.

I find it quite delightful (albeit maybe a bit brutal, eek). :)

Check it out for yourself:


And to see the original commercial:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdtejCR413c

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Merry Christmas?

It's official: the red cups are back.
The red cups designed with snowflakes, ornaments, and an ice skating couple.  The cups that mark the change of a season.  The cups that, to many, signify joy and peace and time with family and cozied up with a loved one.  They're back.

Does that make it official?  Is the holiday season already upon us?  Is it time to string up the lights?  Is it time to ring the doorbells and sing Christmas carols?  Is it already time to rush the malls and buy gifts for the ones we adore and admire?  Uhh...I don't think so.  Not quite yet, people.

Let's enjoy Thanksgiving.  Let's enjoy the turkey, the potaters, the cranberry sauce, the yams, the pumpkin pie, the dysfunctional family chatter across the long banquet table.  There will be enough time to cut out Christmas cookies, purchase gifts, sew scarves, and definitely enough time for more dysfunctional family chit chat.

How bout 'dem Pilgrims, eh?  They deserve some props.  Why so easily overlooked?  ;)

May we specifically aim, this season, to remember to give thanks.  May we live these days with deeply grateful hearts.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

It's a great day for a mask, right?

Driving down Main St. this evening, Bowling Green was packed with monsters, witches, bees, Spidermans, walking pumpkins, Lady Gaga's, and far too many Snookies.  (No offense to those who thought dressing up as Snookie was brilliant -- her "Bump-It" is STILL brilliant, no matter how many times I see it).  Not only were the streets filled with innocent little kiddos and young-at-heart college students, but also with creepy fog and crazy colored lights -- thanks to my dear friends' neighbors' Halloween brilliance.

And let's put this out there -- Trick-or-Treating...it's one of the best ideas ever thought of.  What little boy doesn't love the idea of strapping on his cape and getting free candy?  What little girl doesn't love the idea of strapping on her princess crown and getting free candy?  It's absolutely genius.  

As I got to thinking about dressing up, gearing ourselves up in our costumes, and shoving our faces with candy corn (and those even more delicious little candy pumpkins), I started thinking about how I, in essence, seem to play Halloween everyday.

Everyday, it seems, I roll out of bed, hop in the shower, and think through my own mask that I will wear for that day.  I wonder "will it be the mask of, 'I'm confident,' or 'I'm funny,' or 'I'm tired,' or 'I've got it all together today,' or 'I don't want to be approached today,' or 'I've got the answers, why don't you ask me?'"  I've got options of the masks I tend to wear...and honestly, throughout the day, they frequently change.

I don't want to wear a mask.  It's entirely too exhausting.  It's entirely too much work.

I am fighting like hell to live life unveiled.  Fighting like hell to take on the world without a mask.  To allow the world to see the blemishes, the flaws, the imperfections, the mess.  And there's a lot.  I am so far from perfect.  I am choosing to let the world see the junk.  And I'm simply asking my creator to speak words of beauty and of life into this unresolved mess. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Are We Understandable?


I constantly struggle with understanding myself. I feel like what Brennan Manning calls himself – “a bundle of paradoxes.” One moment I feel delightful, the next I'm loathing my very own undelightfulness. One moment I feel bold & confident, the next I question where I could find a shell to hide & bury into. One moment I feel like nothing in the world could shake my “pie in the sky” attitude, and in the very next moment, when I find the teeniest blemish on my face, I feel as if my world just collapsed (Hiroshima proportions, if you will). I'm dramatic. And I'm sanguine-melancholy. It gets messy being me. Maybe you too?

I desire to understand myself better. I want to know what makes me tick, I want to know more the things that make my heart race, I want to know more fully the things that bring me life, and I want to know more fully the things that bring death to my spirit. I want to know more how I convey myself to others, I want to know how I convey the life of Christ better to the world, and I want to know the things I do that jades the world I encounter to the Christ I love.

I found this post interesting as I walk through the muddy paths of discovering myself more and more. Welcome to the twentysomethings, I guess. We're one big, fat enigma.


Do You Understand You?

OCTOBER 27, 2010


For leaders, one of the hardest things we have to do is self-assessment. We have a much easier time giving feedback and positive criticism and providing helpful advice to those we lead, but being able to honestly assess where WE are as a leader is tough. But, self-assessment is one of the most important things we can do to make sure we continue to grow and get better.
A few thoughts on this:
1. You are never too good at what you do or who you are to need honest feedback from yourself, your peers, your family, and your friends. Seek it out constantly.
2. Your ability to correctly provide a self-assessment is many times a reflection of your humility and appropriate self-confidence as a leader. The more humble you are, typically the more self-aware you are. The more arrogant you are, typically the less self-aware you are.
3. Can you and do you laugh at yourself consistently? Are you taking yourself way too seriously? If so, chill out. You’re not that important and you need to relax. Sometimes the more platform and position we get, the more serious we take ourselves. Don’t.
4. As a follower of Jesus, we MUST rely on the Holy Spirit for correction and discernment on areas of our lives where we need to improve and grow in maturity.
5. At the end of the day, no one really enjoys self-assessment. But you can be CONFIDENT that those around you on your team, your friends, your peers and your family are way more aware of you and your style and the things you can improve on. As a leader, you have to be willing to swallow your pride and look yourself in the mirror and correctly assess who you are. A more self-aware leader becomes a way more Confident and followable leader.
6. No one wants to work FOR or AROUND a leader who doesn’t understand who they really are. Many times these leaders lack a clear sense of reality. A good friend of mine Ken Coleman calls this REALITY DEPRIVATION SYNDROME. Unfortunately, many leaders live in this world, and end up making decisions based on their false intuitions and assumptions because they don’t have a clear sense of who they are and how they are viewed by their peers and what reality really looks like.
7. Know very clearly your areas of strength and areas of weakness. The more personality tests and self-assessment tests you can take, the better. Strengthsfinder, Myers-Briggs, Personality tests, etc. All of these are helpful in giving you a perspective of the type of person you are, and the areas you need to be more aware of that can become problem areas.
8. Once you understand who you are, create a game plan for constant improvement. For example, one of my tendencies is to use cynicism as a source of gaining power and making others feel weak. I am VERY aware of this tendency I have, and have tried to create some barriers in my life that will harness this. Another example for me is that I will end up doing everything myself, instead of naturally delegating or allowing others on our team to take on responsibility. Because of this, I’ve had to be very intentional about making sure I don’t micromanage. It’s still something I find myself doing, but am very self-aware of this and work constantly to improve.

Friday, October 22, 2010

IndyCC

IndyCC consistently proves itself to be one of my favorite things I get to experience every year.

IndyCC (formerly known as Indy Christmas Conference) is one of [CRU]'s largest conferences of the year, gathering over 2,000 college students from Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois.  With over 2,000 college students, we investigate deeper the claims of Christ, we explore the deeper realities of spirituality, we laugh a lot, we dance a lot, we sing a lot, we invade the entire city of Indianapolis, we care for those in need, and we simply celebrate way too much.  It's a blast.  And it tends to change the lives of those involved.

Would you consider coming with us?  I can safely say that I don't think you'd regret it.

Check it out a bit more: IndyCC.org.


Indy CC from Indy CC on Vimeo.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Myths Singles Believe

As a single, I found this Perry Noble post interesting:


18 Myths Singles Believe…

#1 – Being miserable is the result of being single…getting married will solve all my problems.
#2 – I’ve messed up in my past and do not deserve anyone good. (See I Corinthians 6:9-11, especially focus on verse 11!)
#3 – Ephesians 3:20 isn’t true for me and my future spouse…I need to settle.
#4 – This relationship that I am in isn’t what I would like my marriage to be like..but when we get married I can change this person.
#5 – Having sex will simplify things and cause the person I am dating and myself to have so much more in common.  (See I Corinthians 6:18-20)
#6 – This person is not God’s best for me…but if I rush through the process of dating and getting married then I have God backed into a corner and He has to bless me because He loves me, right?  (See Deuteronomy 6:16)
#7 – Marriage isn’t that big of a deal…if my first one does not work out then I can drop them and start over.  (See Malachi 2:13-16)
#8 – Getting married isn’t going to alter my lifestyle…I am still going to be able to live like I did when I was single, the only difference is I’m going to get to have more sex.
#9 – I am going to get to have sex anytime I want.
#10 – We are going to cuddle all of the time.
#11 – The things that really get all over my nerves about this person won’t bother me as much when we get married.
#12 – The fact that we do not agree on what we believe when it comes to Jesus and the church will not impact the way we raise our kids. (See II Corinthians 6:14 and Amos 3:3)
#13 – We should live together before we get married to give it a “trial run,” after all, you would not buy a car without test driving it first.  (See Hebrews 13:4)
#14 – I need to keep as many secrets about my past from this person as possible; after all, my past issues won’t impact this relationship at all.
#15 – All of my friends are married…I am not…something is obviously wrong with me.
#16 – The way I handle my money now will not impact my future marriage.
#17 – When I get married my spouse will meet all of my needs.
#18 – Dating is tough…marriage is easy!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Ha!

This makes me laugh so much.
And makes me incredibly uncomfortable.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

First 6 Weeks...

6 weeks.
42 days.
1,008 hours.
The most important 1,008 hours in a college student's life.

Studies have shown the first 6 weeks of a college freshman tend to be the most influential weeks in a university student's life.  These first 6 weeks set the trajectory for how they will spend the next 4 (or 5) years of their life.  And, if we are all honest, these 4 years on campus, the decisions made while on campus, affect the rest of an individual's life.

College students are in the most formative years of their life; the most impressionable they may ever be.  And thousands of voices scream, beckoning for the attention of these impressionable adults.  The search for love allures, the search for an identity summons, the search for a place to belong calls, and the search for acceptance invites the college student in.  And students decide for themselves.  Decide where they will find love, an identity, a place to belong, and where they will find acceptance.  [CRU] longs to be a gentle voice, amongst the clamor of other voices.

As the first 6 weeks on campus draw to a close, it's with a thankful heart I reflect.
Some pictures to capture the journey:







Friday, October 1, 2010

Grab your Kleenex

For whatever reason, I never tend to gravitate towards videos like this.  However, this particular video prompted the tear ducts and provoked a wrenching of the heart.  Cue the tears, people!

I'm struck with the thought of how sweet it will be to return home, once THE ultimate war is declared finished.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Approval Addiction

I'm an approval addict.  There it is.

Can anyone else relate?

I crave to be approved of by others.  I fear the rejection of others.  I long for people to know me, and like me.  I'm scared of being disliked.  I invite and hope for people to bring my soul its ultimate satisfaction.

And it doesn't work.  It never works.  After the praise of man gives a mere foretaste of satisfaction, my soul continues to feel empty and craves for something more.

My soul longs for something more than what any mere man can offer.  C.S. Lewis speaks a beautiful word to this:  If we discover a desire within us that nothing in this world can satisfy, also we should begin to wonder if perhaps we were created for another world. 


These longings and cravings lead me to believe we were created for another world.  A bigger world.  A more beautiful world.  A more satisfying world.  A world in which we know the author of our story.


A member of Cross Point Church (Nashville, TN) shares her story of approval addiction and ends with a captivating thought.  Watch it here: 
Stephanie Paige Story from Cross Point Church on Vimeo.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Daily Affirmation

This is the routine I will implement every morning from here on out.  It will change your life.  :)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

In waiting...

Does anybody really like waiting?  Who really enjoys waiting for the package we ordered on Amazon in the mail?  Who really enjoys waiting in that horrible Wal-Mart line?  Who ever says, "Man, I just wish I could wait a little bit longer in this doctor's office"?  No one.  At least not that I'm aware of.  And not me, that is for dang sure.

We live in a culture where our coffee gets handed to us in mere minutes.  We can order our groceries on-line so it cuts down our waiting time.  Our fries come piping hot in two seconds.  And we rack up debt so we can have that new iPad NOW.

We hate waiting.  And I'm convinced it's not only American culture, but the human condition.

And why do we hate waiting?  I think it's because it reminds us that we are not in control.  It reminds us that there is something (or someone) bigger than us who's calling the shots, and we are powerless.  We feel helpless while we wait.

I'm a dreamer.  And I'm in waiting.  Those two can feel like two very opposing things.  And there is a tension that wars deep at the core.

Committed to living in that tension, rather than manipulating my own control over waiting, I have found Lewis Smedes' words sweet and exhorting:  "Waiting is our destiny.  As creatures who cannot, by themselves, bring about what they hope for, we wait in the darkness for a flame we cannot light.  We wait in fear for a happy ending that we cannot write.  We wait for a 'not yet' that feels like a 'not ever.'"

I want to wait.  And I want to wait well.

How have you found to wait well?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Apathy. Who cares?

Apathy.  I think it's the silent killer to a life well lived.  And unfortunately, it's a Catch 22, trying to shake it.

Before we're forced to shake it, it only makes sense that we would fight tooth and nail before we commit our suicides into a meaningless and aimless life.

If you care, check out this article I found intriguing.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Monday, August 16, 2010

I Am Second.

I am Second.

I'm usually thinking, "I deserve to be first."  It sounds so arrogant, I know.  But if we're being honest, most of us are thinking it.  Most of us put ourselves in positions to be first.

"I have the right to be first."  "I've deserved to be put first."  "The best way I can achieve success is being first."  "To be anything but first is a failure."  These are tracks that play on repeat everyday in my mind.

This website convinces me of something different.  These stories convince me that life is found is being second.

Check it out.  What do you think?  Can true life be experienced when we're second?

Friday, August 6, 2010

VBSP '10

VBSP '10
Virginia Beach Summer Project 2010.

It needs unpacked.  I don't tend to gravitate toward full sentences when I unpack, however; scattered words are my preference.

So, here goes:
     freedom      unique        pick...up...the...bat         life         experience, embrace, engage        play! explore! gather!            putting to death the fear of man           be you, LeBron!                 delight           gospel                 love      "love God and do whatever you want"            feel deeply              friends        "turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace"      laughter

A good summer.  That it was.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

How do I smell?

What has the largest kitchen in the world, the smallest family room in the world, black carpet, no couches, no pots and pans, no internet, and no cable?

If you guessed my new house...you're exactly right!

Summer, post-project, has been hilarious.  Hilariously weird?

I've spent much of my time, following Summer Project, in the ghost town of Bowling Green.  Moving into a new house alone, while waiting on 2 roommates, has been surprisingly refreshing.  I've been able to sing and dance as loud or ridiculously as I want to (not that having roommates usually ever stops that...sorry, Kaleigh and Alyssa), I've been able to wake up super early and spend my morning with the rising sun and my Bible, I've been able to eat as much ice cream as I want, I've been able to pray out loud without feeling silly, I've been able to watch as much Dawson's Creek as I want without being judged, etc.  It's been fun.

It could have been incredibly lonely.  But I am convinced that it was God who was sweet to make Himself known to me and to make Himself feel near in my heart.

I've started studying 2 Corinthians the last few weeks and I am simply blown away at how the Bible continues to speak into my life after hundreds (thousands) of years being written.  The Bible really is alive as it claims.

I want to share one thing with you sweet blog-readers.  One thing that encouraged my heart and one thing that has begun shaping much of my thinking.

2 Corinthians 2:14 says this: But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere. 


This verse is on the heels of God opening a door for Paul to preach the gospel in the land of Troas, however, Paul did not stay there to do so.  Was Paul being disobedient?

I don't think so.

I texted this exact thing as an encouragement to my friend a few days ago and it's begun shaping much of my own thinking:
   God may open different doors in our lives, and whatever one we take, He is more concerned with our fragrance of Him rather than the route. 

This breeds a feeling of freedom in my soul.  It seems like a daily battle where I wrestle with God asking, "this door," "that door?"  "This door?"  "That door?"  Repeat.

I think He cares more that I simply love Him dearly and give others a taste of His love wherever I am than He does about what stinkin' door I walk through.

That is good news, my friends.  The God I serve is obsessed with giving His people freedom.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Pick...Up...The...Bat...

Defense wins championships.  It's true.

But offense isn't just an option.  It's a necessity.

I spend my days playing defense.  All day, everyday.

I stand in the outfield -- grounding balls, catching pop-flies, throwing out runners, etc.  And I can play defense well.

The moment, however, that I'm asked to pick up the bat and take a swing...I become paralyzed.  My eyes drift from the game to the bleachers -- to the massive crowd that surrounds.  I become overwhelmed and, in defeat, surrender my at-bat.

I'm resolving myself to fight.  To fight to pick up the bat.  To fight to keep my eyes on the game, not on the bleachers.  To fight to take a swing.  To fight to be okay with mere grounders, with foul balls, with pop-flies.

I want to be so distracted with the choir of angels who cheer me on.  I want to be so lost in the love and glory of my Savior.  I want to be so focused on the One who calls me to bat that I pay no attention to the surrounding crowd.

I am going to pick up the bat.
And it won't be a grand slam.
And that's okay.

I need cheerleaders.  I need people who will root me on.  I need friends who will beckon me up to home-plate.  I need cheerleaders who hoot and holler ridiculously for a pathetic grounder.

I will pick...up...the...bat...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hope

Found myself journaling and scribbling words in my journal a mile a minute today.  I thought I might share with you some of the inner chambers of my heart.  If you ever wanted to be a fly on the wall of Wagner's heart, here's your chance.  An excerpt from my journal musings today...

I've found myself not worshipping the GOD of my journey, but, rather, the journey itself.  I want to worship the GOD of my journey and not what He gives me or where He takes me.  If I were truly worshipping God, I believe I would embrace more fully where I'm at and entrust myself to Him...and the rest of my journey, too.

I think I began worshipping God -- but somewhere along the way, I became twisted, manipulated, and corrupted.  I was told to take my eyes off the Creator and onto the path.  So I did.  I took my eyes off the upward sky as they would behold its Creator and shifted my attention to the dirt path under my feet.  My attention was paid to the path -- not the Maker of the path.

I soon began looking at the dirt road before me, under my feet, and even started looking backward.  I longed for what was behind.  I longed for the flourishing greenery, the cool water, and the gentle breeze that I could see behind me.  I looked back and saw all this while in a dry, hot, and barren land part of the path.  As I look to the path (especially while standing in dry heat, dust, barrenness), my heart loses hope for something better to come. All I know that is good now stands behind me.  The flourishing greens, the cool water, and the cool breeze seems as if they wave to me up ahead.  Their waving seems like mockery.  So I look to and cling to its familiarity, and, no doubt, presence.  It's all that I know if my eyes are planted and gazing upon the trail.  All I can see is what's behind and what's directly under my feet.  And I don't dare stare at what's directly under my feet -- it's too painful.  What's directly under my feet is nothing more than dry dust and no hope for a better tomorrow.

But when I lift my eyes, lift my eyes to the Creator of this journey, I have hope for a better tomorrow.  I have hope.  I have hope because I know the Creator is creative; I know He creates nothing less than beautiful; I know He desires beauty for the characters; I know He is trustworthy; I know He loves His characters.  I know He is good.  I know He has been faithful; I know He completes the journey; I know that He doesn't abandon His characters; I know that in every stroke of the brush, He paints with intricacy and precision.  I have hope because the Creator of my journey loves me.  And not with an indifferent kind of love, but with an aggressive, jealous love.

But it's only when my view of the Artist is correct that my eyes are compelled to gaze upon Him.  It's only when I see Him correctly that my eyes gain strength to lift themselves from the path to the sky.  My eyes began feel weary and droop when my view of the Artist is faulty.  For when my view is faulty, there is no hope.  I find no hope in an Artist who is emotionally removed from His creation; no hope in an Artist who doesn't desire good for His characters; no hope in an Artist who doesn't love His creation.  I find no hope in an Artist who isn't good.  And these are the things I find myself believing when my heart is not aligned with my Great Artist, my God.

Look up.  For there is hope.  A hope that will never disappoint.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

You're Invited!

They're here!

After much anticipation and waiting, the students have finally arrived in VA Beach!  After a week of staff planning, bonding, and mischievousness, we now feel mostly complete with the arrival of our students (still anxiously awaiting full completion with our sweet quarter students' arrival).

Being here in VA Beach with our staff team (and now students) has felt just like downing the largest bottle of cold water ever in the middle of parched desert.  My soul has felt refreshment it has yet to taste in a long while.  My heart feels cared for, spurred on, encouraged, and even desired to be known.

As sweet conversations with friends flavor the local coffeeshops, the boardwalk, the city streets and sidewalks, the sandy beach, and the humble Cerca Del Mar hotel, may others hear of a more beautiful story.  My heart feels beckoned and called to a "be all in" my story.  There's a gentle voice, that speaks to the deepest parts of me, inviting me to live.  Inviting me to experience freedom.  Inviting me to a beautiful, transcendent story.  You're invited!  Will you join me?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Off to Virginia!

The iPod roadtrip playlist is created.  My room has been shoved into boxes.  The bags are, well, starting to get packed.  And the board shorts are just waiting to be worn at their appropriate home -- the beach. Two days from now I will be making my way to Virginia Beach (with a nice pit-stop in Athens) for Summer Project!

I'm so looking forward to sharing six weeks with 100 other [CRU] staff and students from around the country!  I'm excited for new friendships, crappy boardwalk food, meaningful conversations, and engaging with others about the things that matter most in life.

Throughout my summer, I'm hoping to frequently update this blog so that you may travel with me.  I just hope your roadtrip playlist is as good as mine. ;)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Better Stage

"Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl" ...a book I just cracked open with incredibly low expectations. I mean, after all, it was free. It's not a common thing when free gear ends up being much to brag about. But, this...this book is a treasure.

With language that makes you actually feel like you're on a Tilt-a-Whirl sometimes, your head feels like it's spinning as your mind tries to keep up. N.D. Wilson invites his readers to view their lives as if living in the form of a narrative and likens our world to the Carnival.

He writes, "Step outside your front door and look at today's stage. Speak. God will reply. He will speak to you. He gave you senses. Use them. He will parade His art. He will give you a scene, a setting for the day. He will give you conflict to overcome, opportunities for your character to grow or fail."

How often do I step out my door, onto today's stage, without any regard to this great narrative I've been cast in? All too often.

Lately, I've found myself longing for a better stage. A better setting.
Too often lately, my stage has merely been filled with props, and not fellow characters. Props of facebook, cleaning, books, packing, shopping, laying out. (Wow, to actually write that makes me feel even more shallow). But where's the climax of my days? Most stories' climaxes involve characters and conflicts between them. Who wants to watch a one-person story where all she does is conquer silly props, silly tasks? No one. It's not a good story. People make stories good. Not inanimate props.

I want a better scene. I want to write a better story. I want to speak and wait for God to reply. I want to lose myself in the art He parades around me -- and what more beautiful art has He created than the human?

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Curse

What will we call the curse this year?
"The Elbow?" "The Contract?" "The Lebacle?"

This was supposed to be the year.
But isn't every year supposed to be the year in Cleveland? I mean, afterall, our mantra at the end of every season has become, "that's okay, maybe next year."

Well, as of less than 12 hours ago, Cleveland is found no longer singing their already-pitiful mantra. Our hope has run dry as the suspicions of Lebron's leave have sky-rocketed.

Maybe next year Cleveland, maybe next year. Or not.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Home


The familiar hills. The familiar scenes and smells. The familiar path. The familiar faces. The familiar winding roads that bring me home.

I'm home for a few days before I leave for a 6-week trip with [CRU] to VA Beach. Every time I visit home, I'm greeted with the smells of warmly lit candles, and something baking in the oven. I'm greeted with my dad meeting me outside, offering to help take in my stuff and my mom enthusiastically exclaiming, "Well, look who it is!"

Home's a funny place, these days, though. Memories flood my mind of Friday night football games, Saturday night hot-tubbing parties, homecomings, volleyball championships, volleyball sleepovers, summer pool parties, sneaking out of study hall to play frisbee, and late-night conversations. Nostalgia, thick as the August air (thank you, Matt Wertz).

As faces appear in my mind of old high-school friends, I think of their 17 year old faces. I think of them in their sports jerseys. I don't think of their new, more mature faces -- surrounded by new husbands, new wives, new children.

Home doesn't fit my soul like it used to. It used to fit tight and snug and just like I was created for this place. And it was good. It felt nice. It felt right. Today, though, it feels like I walked into the store, found my size of jeans, but they just look funny; just don't fit quite right.

And it's not that I long for the days past. I don't. They were sweet, indeed. But, as a matter of fact, I am glad familiarity has been stripped, and the strangeness of surroundings and emotions has filled its place. I don't necessarily feel a sense of establishment I once did. And I like it. It convinces me I wasn't created to call this blue and green sphere shape home.