Growing Young

I know Rich Mullins was not your typical kind of hero. From what I understand, he was a  very flawed and broken man. Nevertheless, the music and the words that God gave him have impacted me in a bigger way than I had realized until seeing  a movie about his life. He taught me two very important things about following Jesus.

His message resonated so quickly and deeply that I didn’t even know it was him that God was using to teach me. While this is about the influence of a musician, it’s mostly about the faithfulness of God to walk so near to me.

Lesson 1: Honesty

“These days I need more than just a line about Jesus.
I need to see his love, these days.”

I grew up going to a Southern Baptist church. What I learned as a kid was that the best Christians looked good and shiny on the outside. They had two parents, and plenty of money, they dressed up for church and they never said bad words. I saw nowhere to express my confusion and pain over life (not to mention I was poor with divorced parents and started swearing in elementary school)…

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Existential Absence

Raise your hand if you want to talk about loneliness!

No?

Me neither. In fact, until this morning I would have responded to the topic with a smile and shrug. “I’m not dealing with that issue right now.” For a few weeks now I’ve had that thought several times, to my own surprise. Who doesn’t feel lonely sometimes?

Apparently not me. Cool.

Then this morning, as I was beginning to question this unexpected sturdiness, I opened up the book I’m reading, The Wounded Healer by Henri Nouwen. In the chapter, Ministry by a Lonely Minister he talks about loneliness as a gift, he looks back at loneliness and says, “The truth is so disconcerting and painful that we are more prone to play games with your fantasies than to face the truth of our existence.” He also throws out a few things we do to avoid loneliness and, reading this, I realized I haven’t been craving people because I’ve been keeping myself so busy. Work, books, movies… even cooking and cleaning keep me distracted…

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Being Here

What I’ve really be thinking about this week is God’s love. I’m stuck on this topic because not only is it taking this long for me to grasp it, but I’m starting to think it may be the only truly necessary topic.

Yesterday at the end of a lecture on the book of Ecclesiastes, Angela wanted us to spend time sharing what we had learned about God’s character this year. She connected this thought to the question that, since life is meaningless without God (vanity, vanity!) how does knowing him give life meaning?

What I’ve been learning about God in the last few years has to do, first of all, with the message of the Bible as a whole. Big picture- God’s desire is to dwell with man. Time and again, we make a mess of things and time and again He steps in to set things right. But this “dwelling” isn’t just about cohabitation- it’s not just about the Most Holy Place or about Jesus coming to earth, or even, ultimately about our final hope of living in His heavenly mansion. The Being Together that God wants is a kind of active presence that I’m just barely able to wrap my mind around.

You know how some people are always someplace else, even when they are with you? Their eyes are looking, not at you as you talk with them, but far away and they merely nod their head in rhythm with the tune of your words. Then there are others who are so present that you actually feel heard. Their eyes pierce into you and they respond to what you’re saying with insightful questions, laughter, tears. They are with you and completely present…

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Land Mines

I hear the phrase “fear of man” pretty often among the people with whom I spend most of my time.

Sometimes, unfortunately, phrases like this begin to lose their meaning for me when they’ve been used too often. I understand them less and less in any practical fashion and they slide past me unnoticed in the daily barrage of words.

Then one day someone will talk about one of these realities without using the common phrase and suddenly I am struck with the truth and given a much needed heart check…

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False Witnesses

I‘ve been writing a lot in my paper journal or on my computer in documents that I’ve begun labeling whatever emotion I feel when I open the blank page. Anger, doubt, anxiety, fear, hope, questions. One exultant document is titled Jesus Is Greater.

These are my Psalms.

One thing I love about the Bible is that it often expresses the emotions that I don’t think people like to see linked up with Christianity. Nevertheless, they are emotions we all feel. God is not afraid of them. I also don’t believe he’s waiting for us to quickly get over them. I think he welcomes our negative emotions as freely as our positive ones because what he wants most is relationship with us- however we feel…

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Send Someone Else

Does being awesome have to be such hard work?

I’m coming to believe that as much as I want to live my life on purpose, show as much love as possible and, above all, help people know God better- as much as I want that, I don’t usually want the difficulties that go with those things.

This isn’t where I give you some moral lesson about how I’ve really just learned to buckle down and do the hard work. This is where I admit openly that I don’t want to.

I don’t.

It’s stressful. It’s exhausting, and I’m pretty sure I’m going a little bit crazy…

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If God

I‘m not doing well with words lately. Every time I’ve tried to speak it’s felt like pulling frozen taffy.

Yesterday morning I talked to a good friend of mine who is in Ireland. Somehow she said all of the things I’ve been trying (and failing) to say for the last few weeks. 

I’ve been asking God some big questions recently and while waiting to hear back from him, I’ve gotten trapped under a huge pile of words and emotions. It hasn’t been pretty. What I know about God speaking is that he usually does it quickly. Nevertheless, I have this sense of waiting on him.

There’s something of Romans 7-8 in all of my personal struggles. Usually, the first half of any hard time consists of me wrestling with myself and losing. At some point I remember the character of God and I’m encouraged to stop looking at myself and start looking at him. This is when I move into chapter 8 of Romans and I begin (again) to believe that he is good and that in my total weakness, he is strong and loving.

And Paul’s questions are the real thing, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”

I also read yesterday, “The moment you realize that God wants good for you more than you want good for yourself, is the moment that you let go.” – Adam Smith

It’s not to say that everything will be easy, but there is real and solid peace involved in struggling with instead of against God. He is so good, so loving and so much bigger than everything we face… even when what we face is our own selves.

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Let Down Your Nets

This weekend I was really wrestling with the feeling that I am not up for the job I’m doing. I had all kinds of questions about how much stress is healthy and leads to growth and how much is unhealthy and leads to deterioration. It’s not as straight forward as setting boundaries for when I work and when I rest because sometimes when it’s time for me to study my brain won’t engage… and sometimes when I feel like I need rest I do actually have to be at that meeting.

Often people will say that if God calls you to do something he will give you the strength to accomplish the job. Thinking along these lines, if I look back at the last school I staffed, I see that it took a while to get the swing of things and until I

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“got it,” I was really wrestling – similarly to how I am wrestling right now.
On one hand it gives me hope that there will be a tipping point when it stops feeling like there’s an ogre sitting on my chest. On the other hand because there is a lot more work with this school, it feels like maybe it’s just more than I would ever be able to handle…

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Better Than I Deserve

I‘ve been wanting to write this post for a few weeks, but I am not sure how to word it so that it conveys the joy, gratitude, elation, and shock I feel.

Last year while studying so constantly I went without a lot of things. In fact, there was one point when I didn’t have enough money to buy food and when I asked God what was up with this,

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he said, “I want you to be hungry.”
I was hungry most of last year. Hungry for a lot more than just food; hungry for a sense of home, for clothes (everything had holes), for technology that didn’t break down all of the time, for people to share what I was learning with…. there were a lot of things I was hungry for last year.

At the beginning of this year God began to teach me how to really receive his love. Maybe I should have known this already? Maybe it will take all of my life? Wherever you stand on this idea of receiving love, it seems to be something that I’m often learning, but this year it has been much more concentrated….

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Crisis of Faith

What is a crisis of faith? To me a crisis of faith is any time anything (circumstances, ideas, people, desires, etc) challenges my current beliefs. When my beliefs are challenged I must wrestle with all of it and either see how the challenge really does work inside of what I believe or I have to adjust my beliefs.

It sounds pretty basic, but it’s hardly ever a fun experience.

I remember once I was sitting in a shared room with my friend Jessica. We were on vacation, we were young and we were up super late talking about the mysteries of the Universe, or men, or both. At some point one of us suggested, “What if we don’t actually exist?” What followed was both frightening and hilarious (in retrospect). Both of us could almost feel the floor of the room slide away revealing a black, sucking chasm beneath us. Although it couldn’t have actually happened this way, my memory shows the situation to me like we were both actually hanging onto the beds for dear life as the room rocked back and forth and objects began to disappear….

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