Week one is done.


Things I haven’t told you this week that we need to get out of the way:

– I’m a literacy intern in downtown Chicago. That pic is from my L stop. 

– Air conditioning is nice, but you can totally live without it in the Midwest, even on the third floor. Or maybe that’s just because we have a strict box-fan-in-every-window policy.

– I almost picked up a 4 foot tall stuffed giraffe from the sidewalk yesterday because it had a free sign on it. The only thing that stopped me was 1) hygiene and 2) I was on my way downtown and wasn’t sure about lugging a giraffe of unknown cleanliness on the way. Unfortunately, the giraffe wasn’t there on our way back, so I’m giraffe-less.

Let’s talk about how God knows me better than I know myself. Let’s talk about the way that I was just sitting in Austria, registering for classes, hoping to get into all the classes I needed and found I didn’t have enough credits.

So then this opportunity just popped up out of the blue yonder of InternMatch.com. And not only did they let me Skype interview, but they offered me the position early on. And they have the perfect, book-filled office in a great neighborhood. And I get four free books a month and get to work to promote literacy in a city where there are so many who have not been encouraged to read.

And I have a mug with my name on it. And my own little desk. It’s a dream come true. And there’s a Keurig and lots of coffee.

God also knows what I need to hear. I met him at church this morning, and he met me, too. He said, “hey, remember that thing that’s been tapping on your heart and asking to be dealt with? Well I just told your pastor to talk about that. Yes, this is a word for you. No, you didn’t know you needed it.”

God knows that I needed a third floor apartment this year because the view is beautiful in our little alley when the sun is going down. I have a great vantage point. I didn’t know I wanted a third floor apartment.

When I got frantic about money again, I got another email – “hey, I have a friend who needs an editor for their book!” 

The. next. day.

I still can’t get over that. Why is God interested in my life? Why is he involved? (because we all know you can be interested from a distance and not be involved) Love? Oh, that’s crazy.

Here’s my jumble. That’s what’s going on in my little bundle of heat brain. I hope to gain some coherency as the semester goes on.

Headphones and being blown away.


Someday, I’ll get a picture of me and Hannah sitting in church with our deejay headphones on. Then we can talk about how much I love that lady who sits in the back and translates for us.

I love that lady. And I am so thankful to have a church where I can hear the sermon in English and sometimes sing the worship songs in English.

Do you ever get blown away by God? Follow-up: Are you ever wearing big silver headphones when he does that? I’m just blown away by how God meets me right where I am. I’ve heard about it before, and God has been reminding me of it more and more over the past year. Not where I should be, but where I am. It blows me away.

Like if you think of the windiest day you’ve ever encountered and multiply it by ten, that’s how blown away I am. Way up in the air like a hot air balloon.

The pastor preached (in German, while that lovely lady translated) about how when Jesus was resurrected he met different people in different places and in different ways because they needed to be met in different ways.

Does that sound like duh?

It makes me think of the different ways I introduce myself to people. If you’re over 80, I’m smiley and speak slowly and clearly. If you’re under age 5, my eyebrows will probably get going like crazy, and I’ll tell you I like your light-up shoes. Can I borrow them? Do you think they’d fit me?

But either way, how you respond will determine our conversation. And how I respond to your response will further change the interaction. And we’ll keep interacting like normal humans do until one of us terminates the interaction for some reason or another.

Of course Jesus would meet us that way. Of course he would respond to us when we say we have questions and doubts and needs and worries. That’s what someone who wants a relationship with you does. They have to find out who you are and what you need before you can have a real relationship. Likewise, I have to find out who Jesus is before I can rely on Him and figure out how I live with Him.

I’ll just be here, being blown in the Jesus wind, if you need me.

 

Addicts and daily bread.


I’ve been doing a lot of silent (happy) screaming today. Lots of hand twinkling, ecstatic smiling, eye widening, toe tapping, and seat dancing.

I applied for an internship this morning. You’d think we were made for each other. And we just might have been. If it get it, I’ll tell you about it.

Oh baby.

Excitement central over here.

Today was another French Toast morning. Also a ginormous mug of coffee morning, but when isn’t it a ginormous cup of coffee morning? As I contemplated my possible addictions to cream cheese and coffee (we all know that my addiction to coffee isn’t just possible though… it’s certain), I thought about God.

We talk about going to church in terms of being fed. And I’ve heard people say that we should be at a place in our lives where we crave God and want more and more of Him.

Something about the metaphor bothers me. Is God a hit? A dose of some substance that I need to stop the shakes and the demons in my head? Is he a temporary satisfier, something that tastes good, but I’ll need more of it later?

Somehow, that doesn’t fit to me. I think God would rather be my daily bread, something that I make time for on a regular basis and enjoy deeply. Something that I need to live, desperately but not like an addictive substance. I’m not addicted to God. I run on God. There’s a difference there. Addiction indicates unhealthy dependence, that it’s something that we have a love/hate relationship with. Daily bread is something we can’t live without and are still dependent on, but it’s something we eat as a means of living well. It’s empowering rather than creating an obsession.

I don’t think God wants us to be obsessed with him like a stalker or an addict. I think he wants us to respond to him as you would to someone who loves you deeply and is fulfilling your needs, not your cravings.

Perhaps in the end, it is God who changes our cravings so that instead of wanting single hits of his presence, a strong wave to last us til we’re ready for the next one, we want daily doses, a consistent presence in our lives that changes us continuously and keeps us healthily seeking Him.

 

There is absolutely nothing that I can’t relate to food.

Crypts and bow ties.


Well, it wasn’t in English.

I attended my very first mass today at a nearby church in the hopes of finding it bilingual. It ended up being a very monkey-see-monkey-do experience. First, finding the door.

The church’s website was in German, so I used a translator to try to figure it out. The first translator I used said that church was in the crypt until Easter, which kind of sent a red flag up in my mind. crypt? Google translate, however, straightened it out by saying that it was actually in the under church.

Whew. No crypts for me.

Right, so finding the door. I followed a few older ladies and gentlemen to a door I certainly wouldn’t have found otherwise. I watched how they entered and made sure to cross myself with holy water when I walked in.

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Prettiest crypt I’ve ever seen. It was Fasching Sunday (the Sunday before Fat Tuesday, part of the Carneval celebration), so the altar boys had big bow ties on, many of the children in attendance wore costumes, and there was more than one gaudily colored wig in the house. I’m not sure if it was normal for the altar boys to walk in to accordion music, but they did!IMG_20140302_102651I did catch a few words of the service: God, bread, fish (from which I gathered that we were talking about Jesus feeding the multitude), Father… And that was about it.

It was an expansive experience. Got my first contact with kneelers and holy water. Also, it might be sacrilegious to say it, but I think the wafers taste like cake ice cream cones, those kind of styrofoamy ones. Who says those can’t be holy, though?

I think I’ll go back. It’ll be an incentive to keep learning German. Fortunately, they talk slowly, so it’ll be good as I become slightly more proficient.

As much as it was an isolating experience since I didn’t understand the words, it was communal. Though I was separated from these people by language and religious experience and customs, we were still there because of the same God who shed his blood and broke His body – then repaired it – to redeem the world. There was still something to kneel for, a reason to sing, and holy words to read. Even when you don’t understand them, they’re still holy.

Though I like them better in English.

I think these kind of experiences are what travel is all about.

 

Let’s talk.


I’m writing a paper on a Friday night. It’s not even totally necessary. I have a lot of hours tomorrow that I could use to work on it.

I’m just fired up about it, and that’s not just because I like writing papers. I mean, I do like writing papers, but I’m fired about about this because it’s about overconsumption and how our society ignores and normalizes it.

I’m writing about materialism.

And I’m writing about PORN.

It sounds like an indecent topic. It also sounds like it will be slightly awkward to talk to my professor about when I meet with him about my paper. It sounds like something you wouldn’t say in church.

But we need to start talking about this, especially in church. Read a book about the history of porn (Andrea Dworak, The Social Costs of Pornography, Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality, The Theology of the Body for Beginners by Christopher West using Pope John Paul II’s notes about sexuality), and you’ll likely be just as disgusted and angry as I am.

I’m really angry because Satan has taken ahold of our society’s concept of the body and sexuality and twisted it into something that is so horrid and shameful, I can hardly bear to think about it. I’m so ashamed of all these things that are true of the world in which we live. And I’m so angry that we don’t talk about it. I’m pounding my fists on my desk because few people say that it’s bad and that it lies and that we need to get rid of it. I’m fuming because people defend something so invasive and awful. I’m angry that there is little I can do on my own…

Little I can do but speak up.

So that’s what I’m doing.

I won’t be silent because when I’m silent, I stew. Instead, I will write my paper and blog and tell my friends to stand with me against pornography and defamation of sexuality.

Because pornography affects everyone, whether you’re the person trapped in it or using it or affected by the culture that it has formed.

Because real love is patient and kind and doesn’t envy or boast. It isn’t proud or rude or self-seeking. It doesn’t keep a record of wrongs. Love doesn’t delight when Satan gets to have his way with our sexuality but rejoices that we can reclaim it. It bears the horrible culture, believes that it can change, and endures and presses toward that day.

Giving time.


Here’s what’s real right now:

  1. My black Skechers are absolutely soaked right now from 2 miles of walking in the rain.  Also, it was totally worth it to be at church this morning.
  2. French toast with friends makes a great Sunday lunch.
  3. There are a lot pages of writing that are waiting to be edited.
  4. John Mark McMillan is singing me through it.
  5. Tonight, I’m going to go to the House of Blues to hear Jon Foreman and friends play at an event with To Write Love on Her Arms.  I feel incredibly cool just saying that.  I also feel like they’ll have a “coolness” detector at the door, and when I walk through I’ll be rejected since I wear Skechers almost every day and participate in Skirt Wednesdays (which is exactly what it sounds like) and talk to myself a lot.

Thanks to posters up around my school, Lent isn’t going to sneak up on me again this year.  It almost did last year, since I forgot that we start that in February.  It’s just a sneaky season.  Or maybe I’m just forgetful.  Either way, I’m ready for it now.  So when it starts on Wednesday, I’ll be prepared.  I’ve been thinking.

I started thinking a couple days ago about how I wanted to be intentional about Lent this year and determined that I didn’t want to give something up for the sake of giving it up.  I really don’t eat that much chocolate.  At this point in my life, I’m completely obstinate about never giving up coffee.  I gave up Facebook last year, and it was great.  But I want to do something different, another experiment.

Then, this morning, as my pastor was talking about tithing, I thought about what I’ve been giving God lately in terms of my time.  We have breakfast together every morning, but sometimes I chew while I talk to Him and get distracted by how tasty the muffin that I’m eating is.  Or, because I haven’t had enough coffee yet, I go off into a trance and stare at my big toe for a while and forget what I was saying.

I think God deserves more commitment than that.  And I sure as heck could use more of Him.

I have 24 hours in a day, right?  I sleep about 8 of those (and since I know that sleep is really important, I’m going to tithe out of the time that I’m awake), so there are 16 left.  What if I committed to spending an hour of my time with God every day?

I suppose I’ll have to answer that at the end of Lent.

 

What if day.


I’d like to share something ridiculous with you.  I have shampoo, conditioner, a bar of soap, deodorant, a toothbrush and toothpaste, a Tide to-go pen, gum (even though I can’t actually chew gum), an entire roll of toilet paper (for nose blowing), a dictionary, a sewing kit, a stapler, Altoids, and airplane peanuts, in addition to my textbooks and computer.

But I don’t have lip balm.  It’s the item that I use most throughout the day, but I don’t even have one in my backpack.

Sometimes, I don’t make sense, even to me.

I went back to my Chicago church this morning, a reunion that I had been looking forward to for quite some time now.  We had a long, cold walk to get there, but it was worth it.

The posture of worship is something that’s attractive to me.  It’s something about focusing my whole heart and my whole mind on the One who makes me complete.  I suppose that in those moments, I feel complete, which is probably why it’s attractive.  I crave the worship experience sometimes, wanting to immerse myself in praise of my Savior.

Today, though, I thought what if… what if my whole life was like this.  

And I think that’s the point of worship, that it’s supposed to consume our entire lives.  We’re supposed to catch the fire and let it burn everything we do to make it all about God.

I’m going to transcribe some videos this afternoon, and I’m going to make it worship.  It sounds a little bit weird and maybe new-agey, but it’s really not.  It’s Biblical to live a life that is all about God, a life that worships with every action – not just musical worship in a church building.

So, my whole life is going to become worship.  And I’m going to put lip balm in my backpack.  Productive Sunday.

I’m a hoarder who cries on the bus.


Sometimes you just sniffle on the bus and use some of the tissues your sister gave you before she hugged you and put you on the bus.

Sometimes you try not to make ugly faces while you let some of the inevitable tears out, while making sure you are facing the window.

Sometimes you just have a perfectly wonderful weekend with your best friend – who happens to be related to you – and don’t want to leave.

But that’s just sometimes.  And that makes the whole thing okay.  The time spent with my sister was totally worth the $50 Greyhound bus ticket.

I knew that I’d value my family more than I already did when I didn’t see them every day or every week or even every month, but now I understand how that plays out.  It plays out in countdowns to the next reunion and lots of hugs while we’re together.  It plays out in starting my Christmas shopping really early, because maybe that will make Christmas and a month at home come faster.

In addition to realizing that I seriously love my family (enough to cry on a Greyhound – you can’t even measure that), I’ve been realizing that I’m kind of like a magpie.

No, I don’t hoard shiny things in my nest.  I don’t have a nest, really.  There’s sometimes enough hair on the floor of my dorm that you could almost call it a nest, but then I grab Blanche (the vacuum) and make it a human residence again.

The pastor at my sister’s church was talking about consecrating ourselves to God today and about the power that comes when we do that.  He was talking about how consecration is personal and wholehearted.  And I was thinking about the “whole” part of that phrase.  And then I was thinking about how I keep finding things in my heart that I haven’t yet turned over to God.  There are hesitancies to trust Him (which are logically ridiculous, but that’s humanity for you) and some things that I think I can handle.

Or maybe I just want to handle them.

I’m like a hoarder.  And it’s with problems and issues and things that seem big.  And joys and people.  And things that make me smile.  And other things too. I stash them away when they really don’t belong with me.

I can’t handle anything.  Good grief, I cry on Greyhound buses. But even if I was as stoic as a rock I wouldn’t need to hoard things from God.  My immediate response when I find things that I need to hand over should be to… well… hand them over.

And perhaps leave them in His hands.

Even the circumstances and things that make me happy.  Because when my whole heart and life in consecrated to Jesus it will be the way it was supposed to be.  That’s a good aim, right?

Cravings.


I’ve said it before, and I probably shouldn’t keep it saying it.  But I’ll say it again: the dining hall food is not like my mother’s.  I hope no one’s mother cooks like that, actually.  I appreciate that the food is readily available though.  And the people who serve it are nice and friendly.  I love the sandwich bar, and the pizza is pretty good too.  And, on special occasions, the french fries aren’t too shabby either.

It’s hard to eat a balanced diet as a veggie-o-saurus in there, though.  It’s really a meat-eaters world.  I’m not saying meat is bad to eat, just that I don’t like it, and that there are few healthy alternatives to it.  Man cannot live on salad alone, or sandwiches or pizza or french fries.  As I am now completely responsible for what I eat, I’m having to keep consciously choosing the good stuff, to make sure that my body will start craving it.

The idea is that if I just keep on eating good things (aka, even though I have a sincere love for pizza that is way beyond skin deep, to avoid it most days and also run away from the greasy french fries) like salad and salad sandwiches (the sandwich people always give me weird looks when I ask for cheddar, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, and that’s it.  “no meat?” No meat.) and fruit and yogurt, then I’ll start to crave it and not even really give a second look to those things that offer temporary happiness and the freshman fifteen.

At my church this morning, the message was about Romans 13:11-14, about having a mind that is pure and that is clothed in Jesus.

There are so many worldly things to crave, and some of them are a lot more readily available than what’s good for us or more attractive at  first glance.  It’s so simple and convenient to indulge in them and to keep doing it until it no longer feels like an indulgence.   It seems like such hard, unpleasant work to fill ourselves up with Jesus until He’s all we crave.  We think we’re missing out, but it’s really replacing the things that were unhealthy with a life-giving alternative.

It’s worthwhile.  My goals this week are to 1) not eat pizza or french fries more than once and to substitute better alternatives 2) to allow Jesus to fill me up spiritually, to take time to do that.  To be clothed in Him.

It’s all for my good.

Pearl, being closed, and getting found.


For those  of you who were holding your breath awaiting my choice of name for my phone, the wait is over. After much input and deliberation, her name is (drumroll please)…… Pearl!
For those of you who weren’t really that interested in what I decided to name my phone, here is this post’s dedication:
To: BJ, a faithful subscriber, truck enthusiast, and friend. Here’s to you.
BJ was a leader on a couple of trips I’ve been on in the past few years, always trips with too many students and too few chaperones. One of my favorite memories from Panama last year occurred right at lights out in our hot, sticky girls’ dorm, when one of the many female students called out to Miss BJ to ask a question right as she was turning the lights out on what was surely a 15 hour day of ministry for all of us. Her hilarious reply was, “Miss B is closed for the evening. ”
(Just so you know, she answered the need after that lil joke.)
After reminiscing about that moment a bit with her this weekend, I started thinking about being closed.
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Now, what does that mean? I no longer possess the energy to fulfill any request you may make of me with any competence.
That seems like a good enough reason to be closed. I think I say “no, I’m closed” for lots of reasons. (I don’t usually use that phrase, but I’m saving it for a perfect time in the future.) I say no because I am busy, because I’d rather spend my time doing other things, because I don’t particularly care for the requester, because I think it would be harmful to say “yes”, to keep myself from getting into awkward/dangerous/unwise/otherwise negative situations.

I wonder how many of my reasons are valid.
That may be a question I answer later on.

I went to church today in Chicago at James MacDonald’s church, Harvest Bible Chapel. I spent the sermon pondering several of the themes of his message while he spoke and thought about how well they could fit together in a blog post… Then I remembered where I was and why I was there and started paying attention to what he was saying again.
He was speaking about what motivated Paul to do all the church planting and service and preaching and to endure all the persecution and suffering that he did. One of the main ones comes out of II Corinthians 5:17, “for the love of Christ compels us…”
The love of Christ. Paul’s love for Christ? No. That doesn’t get you anywhere when you’re telling burned out and feel like you just wanna be closed. Jesus’ incredible, unfailing, redeeming, compassionate love. That is what sent Paul to plant churches, to endure beatings, to share all that he had. Then MacDonald went on to talk about why Paul was so amazed by God’s love. Because-as Paul puts it- he, “the worst of sinners” was redeemed and sanctified. Jesus called him while he was persecuting and killing Christians. He found Paul in that horrible place of unrepentant sin and brought him into a full life of service to Himself.
That got me thinking…
Where did Jesus find me?
Where was I when Jesus captured my heart and made me want to live for him?

It’s a question I’m still trying to answer because I feel like I’ve always had Jesus in my life, whether in my rearview mirror as someone I’m aware of but not concerned with, or someone who is in the driver’s seat of my car.  Actually, those aren’t the only two positions I put Jesus in. Sometimes He’s like the cars who follow me for more than three turns, so I get paranoid that they’re following me with malicious intent, and I try to shake them. (that actually is my criteria for determining stalker behavior, three turns…) but I know Jesus isn’t a stalker, sometimes just a presence that makes me uncomfortable since my life isn’t in order.

It’s like when I tell people they can’t look in my room when they come over.  We’ll just stay in the kitchen… it’s too messy in my actual dwelling.

So, where was I? I don’t have the kind of testimony where one moment changed my life forever. It’s more like I’m the seashore, and Jesus is the waves crashing down on me. He keeps coming back and pouring newness on and into me, a process that refines me and pulls me closer to Him. Just like the sand is made smoother and is drawn towards the ocean. I’ve always been a little rough, not always beautiful like those white sand beaches, but the rescue come sin the form of renewal and refinement.

Here’s where I was: I was with me, myself, and I, under the impression that I was all that mattered. I was living under the delusion that God doesn’t get any more personal or real than just knowing about Him.

If you ask me this question in twenty years, I’m sure my answer will include something about the fact that at 18 I still didn’t know everything about how to be a follower of Christ – but I was learning.  Then, if you ask me twenty years beyond that, I’ll say the same thing of my 38-year-old self.

I’ll still be getting washed.  Still be getting refined. Praise the Lord that He’s not finished with me yet.