Mistaken identity.

Dear Pope Benedict XVI,

I was mistaken about you.

Actually, I just didn’t know anything about you.  I knew you were the head of the Catholic church, but since I’m slightly ignorant of all things Catholic, I didn’t know that you were actually serious about it.

That sounds pretty dumb now that I put it in writing.  I suppose all the years of learning about the corrupt popes of earlier times made me think that perhaps the position was one of a figurehead now.  I assumed that you would be the type of Christian leader who takes the popular stance on the hard issues and excuses immorality to avoid getting flack.

I’m happy to say that I was dead wrong.

Thank you for standing up for what the Bible teaches, for using your immense influence and power to speak truth.  Thanks for getting a twitter so that anyone can hear from you.

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Thanks for proving me wrong.  It’s nice to be surprised by character sometimes, since most people in the public eye don’t surprise us with anything good.

Happy New Year, Pontifex.

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.

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.