Mental Digestion

I’ve been mentally digesting two important thoughts today that seem to oppose each other.

Thought number 1 came this morning from the Twitter world. It struck me so soundly, that I typed it into a sticky note on my computer. It’s been staring at me all day.

“Hyper-individualism leads to spiritual homelessness.” -Bevin Ginder

This makes so much sense. I have walked that particular road, although I have also seen God pushing me ever toward interdependence with other believers.

Thought number 2 came this afternoon in class. Ron Smith, the founder of SBS is here teaching the Gospel of John to us. Today, in the first four chapters, he touched on several great things about Jesus, but one that got stuck right in my throat. In John chapter 1 Jesus is baptized. John the baptist (who dunked the Lord himself), says that he saw heaven open and the Spirit descend upon Jesus like a dove. He saw the Spirit, and it was like a dove.

Ron pointed out something that makes the dove particularly unique among birds; their flight pattern is unpredictable…. Continue reading “Mental Digestion”

The Other Cheek

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. – Jesus

This love- the kind of love that allowed Jesus to meekly receive beating and insults, was the same love that allowed him to choose 12 unfit men to be his disciples. He chose them, even knowing how they would fail him.

He did this because his mission was about adopting unworthy beggars into his family. That means you and that means me. It was always about his goodness and love and never about our deserving anything… Continue reading “The Other Cheek”

The Look of Love

Today I’ve been thinking a lot about “image.” Yesterday I watched several interviews with this actor who professes to be a Christian (at least in articles I’ve seen) but when he speaks (though very gifted, charming, funny and handsome) I don’t see a whole lot of Jesus. He drinks, he swears, in general he talks just like anyone who doesn’t care much for God.

Please don’t stop reading, I’m not about to rant about this man’s shortcomings. He’s actually pretty amazing and I found myself envying him a bit. At the same time, I appreciate the goodness of blessing and the temporary nature of things like fame. It’s very possible that his heart is deep and full of the love of God.

Then, today I encountered another kind of Christian. This man is a pastor. What comes out of his mouth is misogynistic, homophobic, arrogant and unloving.

Both of these men have influence, both are gifted and well known, both profess to love Jesus. My mind wanted to judge between them. To decide about them…. Continue reading “The Look of Love”

Caffeinated Rant

This morning in the coffee shop I had this really typical conversation with a young lady. I ordered my usual, a decaf quad Americano. Well, it’s my new usual, really. I had the stomach sick about a month ago and since I wasn’t able to eat, I kicked the caffeine. I figured I might as well keep up that good habit and switched to decaf.
Anyway, so the conversation started with my order and next  came her questions and then my confession that I don’t drink caffeine. She then asked me, with sincere bewilderment, “How do you wake up in the morning?”

In some ways I find this kind of thing delightful because I like to mess with established assumptions about reality, but in other ways I find it disturbing that in so many ways we’re all still in high school.

I’m not making jabs at this young woman because The Need For Coffee is just a symptom of a bigger issue. That issue is our fenced in thinking.

You might be shocked to hear a missionary invite you to be open minded, but that’s just what I’m doing…. Continue reading “Caffeinated Rant”

Don’t Freak Out

Last Monday I taught the book of Philippians to the students in our School of Biblical Studies. I get nervous before teaching- not because I have stage fright and not because I’m afraid of what they will think of me. I get nervous because I really want to do a good job- I don’t want to waste people’s time, but I also want desperately to convey something of who God is when I teach.

I know, I know- this is really only something God can do. At the same time, I am responsible to invest time in studying the books I teach so that I do have a foundation. God can speak through any donkey, but I don’t actually want to be an ass.

Teaching Philippians was a really good time. A few hours before the teaching started I had this wave of gratitude for the fact that I get to do the thing I’ve dreamed of doing! It’s ridiculous, people. I have no degrees and very little experience. But I get to spend serious time in God’s word and then I get to lead this awesome group discussion. This is what teaching mostly is to me. I love asking the students, “What do you see?” because even after studying for weeks and weeks they still see things I have not seen. It’s an honor and a joy. We laughed and we cried. Together we had a clearer picture, a fresh reminder of who Jesus really is and who God is really calling us to be together….

Continue reading “Don’t Freak Out”

Failure Loses Its Sting

How was Paul the Apostle so confident? So active, so joyful, so sure of his position in God?
How am I so insecure? So easily discouraged, so doubtful of my position?

As I asked those questions, I heard in my head, “because you make it about you.” I make it about how I feel, what I think, what I’ve done, who I am.

When I woke up Friday morning I felt a kind of inner turmoil- like there was something rotten that needed attending. As I sat down to write in my journal I couldn’t really think of anything to say and I couldn’t figure out what my problem was. Because I’ve been slowly learning this lesson about the fact that my identity is not swayed by whatever my current emotion is, I just asked God in my head, “Is my heart in your hands, Lord?” and he simply responded, “It is.”

As I study Philippians, I’ve been kind of astounded by this statement, “If I am in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me.” (Philippians 1:22)

Paul knew that his work would accomplish something because he was doing God’s work, following God’s call, living in obedience. He was sure that God would make it fruitful.

He even says later in chapter 3 that he puts no confidence in himself and his abilities – it’s not about what he can or cannot do. He counted all of his former trophies as garbage so that he could cling to the sacrifice and perfection of Jesus. He strained toward identifying with Jesus in love and suffering – looking to position himself firmly in Christ… Continue reading “Failure Loses Its Sting”

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… Continue reading “Let Down Your Nets”

Be Still My Soul

I just received a beautiful email from a friend. It read much more like a hand written letter and I’m tempted to copy and paste it into a document and print it on paper.

Besides sharing her struggles and joys, she ends her letter with a very simple statement which left me stunned for a moment while salty liquid rushed into my eyes.

“I pray for you, Peggy, that your faith would not fail.”

I sat up late last night trying to write a different blog post and then trying to write something for just myself to make sense of life right now. One metaphor that seemed fitting was that of being out in choppy water on a small pontoon. Just as I think I’m grasping what it means to be still inside, the scenery changes and I’m sliding toward a metal railing with pinwheel arms. Three things I forgot to do and seven things that need to be done right now, and several questions I’m not completely sure how to answer slam into me at the opposite end of the boat…. Continue reading “Be Still My Soul”

Worthy

Two things have been standing out to me in the last week and they are connected.

At the beginning of the week, my friend Angela taught the students an overview of the Bible. She went from Genesis to Revelation to give them a big picture look at the whole story right before they jump into the moments and details of this epic Book with the inductive methoWhen Angela got to Jesus and how he fulfilled so many things spoken in the Old Testament, she showed a video clip of him in the garden of Gethsemane from The Passion of The Christ. What struck me as I watched the clip was how truly he struggled with doing what he knew the Father sent him to do. It wasn’t just a little hard for him to go to the cross. It made me think of Hebrews 12:3-4 which says, “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.  In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” I had not really connected those verses in Hebrews with Jesus because I had never considered Jesus’ struggle in the garden as one of temptation to sin… Continue reading “Worthy”

God In My Homework

The School of Biblical Studies was both the most difficult and the most rewarding thing I have ever done. Because I had not had a positive experience with school in the past, I had never wanted to do the SBS, afraid it would just be another opportunity to fail. And so when I felt like God might be calling me to do the school

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(just about 3 weeks before the school started) I wrestled hard to be totally sure I was hearing him correctly. To be honest, when it came down to it, I made the decision based on who God is and not upon what I feel I’m capable of accomplishing successfully. I took a dive because I would rather fall on my face in pursuit of God than be “safe” and miss what he has for me.

What I discovered during the SBS, was God himself… Continue reading “God In My Homework”

Terrifically Specific

This weekend our School of Biblical Studies staff took a retreat to the charming vacation town of Pagosa Springs. Our training goes for 6 weeks before the students arrive and so far it is a lot more fun than I usually picture myself having at “work.”

We ate together, prayed together, hung out, made plans,  held the baby… There’s one thing we did in particular that I would like to share. Each of us took a turn giving a “devotion.”  The general instruction for the devotional time was to share something that God has been teaching you recently. Something I love about God is his willingness and his patience to teach us on an ongoing basis. I loved that each of us had something different to share.

What I shared with them I want to share with you now. This is something I began learning at the beginning of the last school I staffed and I feel like it’s a good thing to revisit.

…Expectations… Continue reading “Terrifically Specific”

Boundless Joy

I’ve been really into this song lately called Up In Arms.
The lyrics that hit me the hardest are;

So here I am,
Your love has got me up in arms again,
And this hope won’t let me go
My joy is boundless,
My soul knows its worth
In arms stretching wider
Than my heart could ever fall

Joy is something I think about pretty regularly, as I have experienced a lot of sorrow. Some of the sorrow came from circumstances, but much of it came from an inner sense of emptiness or worthlessness. I admit that even after I started following Jesus I experienced that second kind of sorrow. It has taken much, much longer than I would have liked for me to grasp my value as a daughter of The King. There were so many lies to contend with…. Continue reading “Boundless Joy”

As You Loved Me

Do you ever wonder what Paul was like in person? Until I actually studied the New Testament as a whole I pictured him so pious and judgmental. After reading all of his letters and really considering what his life looked like, it’s impossible to remember how I got to those assumptions about him.

I do remember being vastly comforted  by the book of 2 Corinthians. I felt he must have been writing to people like me. When I discovered that the Corinthians were actually super critical of Paul, the humility with which he wrote becomes a hundred times greater. Standing in the face of those who say you are weak and explaining how much deeper your weakness goes than they could ever know… Well.. it has shown me what a deep trust and love Paul had for Jesus; how much his identity was based not on what men thought of him, but based solely on what the Father had done for him…. Continue reading “As You Loved Me”

Dating in Antiquity

I’m in the middle of a study on the book of Exodus for a teaching I hope to give at a kids camp in July. I discovered this fascinating book called The Pentateuch As Narrative. Although my roommate informs me that it’s not a universally intriguing title, I was drawn in by it. Here’s why- I love stories. I love stories of all kinds: true, fiction, short, long, funny, disturbing or serious. I came to discover, last year while doing the School of Biblical Studies, that the Bible is chalked FULL of true and interesting stories.

I see that yawn/eye roll. But don’t give up yet. In studying about Moses, I found a treasure that I want to investigate with you. All throughout the Bible (from cover to cover) are themes and connections. The connections are sometimes too big picture for us to catch and certainly too subtle for a cursory reading.

Here’s what jumped out today: this book about the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Bible, written by Moses) points out that Moses met his wife by a well (Ex. 2:15-22). Not only that, but she was not a Hebrew (not so shocking for us, but for the original reader, this would have been noteworthy). This is a pattern with many of God’s chosen men preceding Moses. Isaac (Gen. 24), Jacob (Gen. 29) and Judah (Gen. 38) also met the mother of their children (all foreigners) at a well. These are not just men, these men are the ones through whom God promised to get the whole world blessed (ancestors of Jesus).  Although Moses is not an ancestor of Jesus, he is a foreshadow of Jesus in that he delivers God’s people from slavery into the land of promise (The book of Matthew shows the parallels between Moses/Israel and Jesus in detail)…. Continue reading “Dating in Antiquity”

Inner Healing, Outer Armor

This week the students are learning about spiritual warfare. Their speaker is a power house of a guy named Wes Tullis. His teaching method is much more circular and story oriented than our Western minds are used to, but it’s also kind of blowing my mind.

In my own DTS (in 2003)  the speaker used the book of Ephesians to teach on spiritual warfare. Things like knowing the truth about who God is and who we are in Christ. There was more to it, but her basic message was about living from that place of truth to stand against the enemy because it is God’s power which has already defeated that enemy.

Secular humanists would say there is no spiritual realm and Spiritualists (or animists, Buddhists, Hindus, etc) would say there really is no physical realm but only spiritual. As a follower of Christ, I believe that both physical and spiritual are real. Whatever your beliefs are about angels and demons, the spiritual realm is real and is intrinsically linked to what happens in the physical realm- both directions.

There are two things I want to share on this topic… Continue reading “Inner Healing, Outer Armor”