Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Year at a Glance...

2008…wow. This has been quite a year…for so many reasons. I have very likely changed more over the course of the last 365 days than I have in any year past. This has been a year of some major events, and has also been a year of some major moving of God in my life. I have been challenged/convicted in almost every area of my life. These were not easy challenges to face…but very necessary. So I’m just sitting here on the plane headed back to Nashville from Texas taking a look back at the year and decided to list out a few notable things from 2008. I’m breaking it up into two sections: 1. Things that I’ve done or that have happened and 2. Things I have learned (which could feasibly be a whole book’s-worth). So here we go…2008 at a glance:

Things I did or that have happened in 2008

  • I started a blog
  • I had a meal with a homeless person(s) for the first time in my life. (breakfast at Mickey D’s, baby! J ). 
  • My sweet 94-year old Grandaddy went home. I would not be who I am or where I am today without him. I can’t wait to see him again.
  • I had my first experience as a maid of honor. 7th time to be a bridesmaid…first time to be a maid of honor. I learned much about how to be a good one and what to do better next time! J
  • I ran in two marathons and LOVED it (which is quite noteworthy considering I hated running before…).
  • I went on my first-ever beach vacation. Yes, I had gone to the beach before …however, I had never actually gone on a straight-up, beach-only vacation. Wow…so great. Thanks again for that, JP and Jill!
  • I started playing basketball again after a year-long hiatus. Reason for the hiatus? This…
  • I helped build a house from the ground-up in Juarez, Mexico. Amazing trip.
  • Harpeth Community Church moved into our very own building!!!
  • I finally made the decision: I’m going to Africa. I’m initially going for only a month (probably in Nov of this next year) and then…we’ll see.
  • I finally got to visit D.C. My cousin, Haley, did a semester-long internship in congressman Sam Johnson’s office. Ross, Melissa and I got to visit her on Labor Day weekend…D.C. is super cool.
  • My best friend in the whole wide world got engaged. I’ve told her so many times throughout our lives: “I can’t wait to see who you marry one day”…and now I know. It’s a little surreal, to be honest. 
  • Texas Tech football KICKED TAIL! (I’ve never been more proud to be a Red Raider).
  • I got to witness the transformation of a youth group. I could talk about this for hours…and I have. But God has completely changed the heart and mentality of the HCC youth group from inward-focused and consumerist (is that a word?) to outward-focused and missional. I have witnessed CRAZY love happening in that group. And it’s only the beginning of what He’s going to do…I can just taste it.
  • I wrote a book. This actually started in the fall of '07, but I have been writing a book/Bible study (aimed at teenage girls) on falling in love with Jesus ( that can adequately be broken down into a book). It’s not 100% done, but it’s in its final stages…
  • I met my twin…no, not my biological one. This fall I met a girl named Jenna through a mutual friend of ours in Atlanta. I am not sure that I have met anyone quite so much exactly like me…it’s kinda freaky, actually.
  • I met Shane Claiborne (not my twin…I wish).
  • I was introduced to and got involved with Against the Grain ministry in Franklin. It’s a ministry that works with single moms and at-risk children in Williamson County. I am mentoring a couple of the teen moms in that program…they are becoming true sisters to me.
  • God turned my world upside-down…yeah…no big thing.

Things I learned in 2008

  • The more I know about God, the more I realize I don’t know…which is awesome.
  • I am actually capable of standing and moving on a skateboard. A ton of kids in the youth group skateboard. I have fought it for a couple of years, but I finally gave in a few weeks ago. I’m still in the early stages of learning…but I have to admit - I’m actually enjoying it.
  • I am far too materially rich. This is something I’m still wrestling with. And the more I give away or donate, the more I wrestle with it. So I don’t know if God is calling me to do something else about it, or if this is always a tension that I will live with as long as I live in the U.S.? Hmmm…
  • I love backpacking. I’ve been camping before and I’ve been hiking before, but I went on my first actual “backpacking” trip this fall. And I had a stinkin’ blast. I’m so ready for the spring so I can go again.
  • Christian persecution is greater now than ever in the history of the world. I taught a lesson to our youth a few weeks ago on this. Preparing for that lesson was truly eye-opening. I want to know Jesus the way those martyrs knew Him. I want to love Him the way they did.
  • I so desire to live more simply (see 8/4 post - )
  • “Family” is not simply biological. I live 15 hours away from my biological family…not always an easy thing. However, God has blessed me with an incredible “Jesus-family” in Nashville. They mean the world to me…
  • There is no one else for me but Jesus. A question that hit me hard this year was: “Am I more in love with the things of God than God Himself?” It was a hard one…but what a shame it would be to miss out on the greatest gain! (see 11/17 post for more - )
  • The “system” is ugly (much to say about that one)
  • I LOVE PHOTGRAPHY. I had my first-ever official photography gig this year (my friend Mollie’s wedding) and had SO MUCH FUN! These were a couple of my favorites…
  • I need Africa more than Africa needs me (see 12/3 post)
  • God doesn’t always remove that “thorn in your side”…but it is what keeps you dependent upon Him and pressing into Him. And for that, I am thankful.
  • What my ministry needs most from me is not cool new programs or methods of teaching…but someone who has an angst to sit at the feet of Christ. (Thanks for that, Matt Chandler).
  • I am so in need of His grace. I have far to go…
  • I am not that cool…thank goodness.
  • I am blessed beyond words. 
(If you've actually made it to the end of this entry, I applaud you...and encourage you to do a 2008 re-cap as well!! :)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

my favorite gift...

So earlier today, I finished the first of three "Christmases" (AKA - time of opening gifts) of which I will be partaking while I'm in Texas. This was actually the one that I look forward to the most every year - the one with just my parents and my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins (not that I don't love them all, by the way). But I love when it's just the four of us getting to spend time together.

I opened what will undoubtedly be my favorite gift of the year (and I know I have more to come...but nothing will beat this one). But after we had opened gifts, my dad said "Okay we have one more gift for you girls to open and they're in those two little boxes on the fireplace". So Melissa and I each pick up a box and open it to find a computer-generated Xmas card (I love when my dad makes those...they're so endearing...) and in the card was a $100 check from my parents made out one. And the card read:

A few weeks ago, Mom and I attended a Feast or Famine meal at LCU. There we learned about how many people in the world are starving to death and how someone like the Breedlove Dehydration Plant could make major inroads to helping alleviate starvation by their dehydration process. Breedlove works in all parts of the world helping get food to starving people. We were very impressed with the presentation and coupled with your interest in this problem, we decided that we would each give $100 of our Christmas money to an agency such as Breedlove to help fight the loss of life through starvation. Mom and I will be giving our checks to Breedlove.

However, we left the "to" part of "your" check blank so that you can make your own personal decistion to where the money would do the "most" good. Just fill out the "to" protion of the check and make sure that the people get it before the end of the year.

We admire your charitable hearts, and so we honor you by making this Christmas a little more special. Thank you for setting such a good example of caring.

We love you,

Dad and Mom

Yeah, there's not going to be any gift this Christmas that tops that. By the time Melissa and I had finished reading our cards, we were both crying, which of course made my mom cry and I promise you that I saw a tear in my dad's eye...or at least some redness (which is probably like the third time in my life that I've ever seen that).

I don't know why it was so emotional for us...I mean, even saying it now sounds a little cheesy, but it wasn't so much that it was just a sweet gift or sweet words on a card. I think it was because it was like this moment where the the four of us were totally of one spirit and one heart...all believing and agreeing on what is the most important thing. Melissa and I have sometimes felt like a few of our friends/family members have given us that "oh-you're-so-naive", "pat-you-on-the-head" reaction to our ideas and our dreams of helping those in need around the world. But it was such an amazing thing for our parents to love and support our heart's desires and all four of us stand together for what God is calling us to. I'll never forget that moment.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Attempting a "Buy Nothing Christmas"

key word in the title: "ATTEMPT".

Okay so Christmas is "the season for giving". Well...if it's the season for giving then it's also the season for "getting", right? Because whatever you give, someone else is going to get. I know...this is deep stuff. ha. But herein lies the problem for me. (I may step on some toes here, so I apologize in advance...but I'm not really sorry about it:) 

If you've followed previous blogs, you've likely noticed that I have been experiencing some deep conviction over the past few months about the way I spend my money. So when Christmastime rolled around, I was feeling some major battling happening within. There's definitely plenty of Scriptures that call us to show restraint and not hoard goods. If we truly care about the poor and the needy, it's really hard to justify over-indulgence as our neighbors - our family - starve. 

So at Christmas, we're celebrating the birth of a man who had much to say against materialism and hoarding riches...and ironically we celebrate his birth by - and this may be strong - but basically over-indulging in materialism. Seems a little off, right? And interestingly, it's pretty easy to excuse it away by saying it's all about "giving". By the way, I'm not trying to point fingers here...I'm pointing this finger right at myself!!!

So this year, I started looking into this concept of a "Buy Nothing Christmas". There were some interesting devos and such on the website...this was on one of the devos:

We have enough, and to keep adding to our pile not only takes up resources that could go to the poor but also has a devastating impact on the environment. If everyone consumed according to North American standards, the Earth would be completely stripped of its resources in short order. We cannot love God if we do not love and treat with reverence the world that God created.

Ultimately, we must remember that with his life and teachings, Jesus contracted dramatically with his surrounding culture. Christians are called to live in similar opposition to the norms and assumptions of their society. Thus, in a culture marked so heavily by acquisition and consumption, following Christ's example means living simply and aspiring for attitude of “enough.”

Dang. Ouch.

So this "Buy Nothing Christmas" concept sounds like such an awesome idea, but it definitely proved to be much more difficult than I anticipated. Because here's the deal: it's super hard (if not, impossible) to convince your friends/family to not spend money on you. Or just to give donations in lieu of gifts. Because apparently that takes the "joy" out of their giving something. Then on the flip side, if I were to not buy actual gifts for friends and family, I'm just the cheap friend/family member or the one who didn't want to make an effort to go find a cool gift. So I had to come up with some alternatives and here are a few that I found:
  • Making gifts! I have loved getting to do this. Yes, it did require the purchasing of some materials, but I have enjoyed getting to make quite a few of the gifts I'm giving this year. Of course, I didn't think about the potential stress/time factor of making said gifts, but it's so much more fun than dealing with that horrific mall in December.
  • Ten Thousand Villages - There's a store in Green Hills that sells items from third world countries. They work with artisan groups in more than 38 countries to bring fair trade jewelry, home items, etc. here to sell. Awesome stuff!! And so much more fun to tell someone that their gift was hand-made in Kenya or Guatemala and the money is going straight back to those who made it!
So this was my attempt to be a little more conscious this Christmas...I definitely didn't succeed at "buying nothing", but it proved to be so much more fun! 

Sunday, December 7, 2008

good stuff...

Music and books. "These are a few of my favorite things" (that's right...sing it). I have a slight addiction to both, actually. (see 10/6 blog entitled "I have a Problem :) 
Anyway, I always get excited when I discover a new song/artist/album or book/author that inspires and encourages me. So I want to share a couple that I've recently discovered (actually, I can't take credit for "discovering" them, because both were given to me). 
Anyway, the first is the newest Jeremy Camp album, Speaking Louder Than Before. 

I was a huge fan of Jeremy Camp when he first started out, but kinda lost touch with his music for a season. So a friend of mine recently gave me his newest album and I'm loving it. I was reading up on it and what he had to say about it...and that's when I realized why I love's directed toward youth! :) He says,

“I see the hurt, the lack of direction, in this new generation...I always had a passion for youth, but this album is really aimed at them...Some people might think I’m being preachy. I’m not angry; I’m not pointing a finger. Really, my heart is breaking. I’m talking about loving people and serving people...I’m telling my story. I’m pointing that finger at me. If my heart’s not breaking for the lost, I won’t come across the way I need to."

DANG Jeremy...I love it. Check out these lyrics to the title song:

Hear now this Declaration from out across the nation, 
we need to wake up and understand. 
Many hurting hearts are crying, 
but our voices seem to be dying, 
can you see this battle raging on? 

We are the light to reach this world, 
we are the salt preserving these souls. 
lets show them all the love that we've received. 
We are, we are in desperation. 
we need to reach this generation, 
we are speaking louder than before. 
we are the hope that's been forgotten, 
we have a love that has been brought 
& we are speaking louder than before. 

Take every chance that you can, 
move together, taking a stand, 
never losing heart, we'll speak as one. 
We need to be the image of christ, 
to show love and serve at all times.
we can make a difference in this land

Everything's surreal, but this urgency I feel, 
we should be reaching out to all these desperate pleas, 
the need is real, can't you feel this call to revolution? 
My beating heart is breaking for them. 
that's why I am speaking up, that's why I am speaking now.


My second "discovery" is the book that I'm reading with my small group called "Walking With God" by John Eldredge. 

I'll undoubtedly be posting lots of thoughts on this book over the next few weeks. It is challenging me in many ways. It's basically John Eldredge's journal as he walks with God over the course of a year. It's stretching and growing the way I see my relationship with my Father. It's challenging me and encouraging me to walk with God not just in the "big" moments of life and not just in the crises of life, but in the dailyness of life. That's where intimacy happens. 
I mean, how small is God if He's just the God of the big moments? I want to walk with Him. More thoughts to come...

Check these babies out...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I Need Africa More Than Africa Needs Me

So I'm involved with this organization called Mocha Club, that basically is all about connecting communities in the US with communities in Africa.  You start out by giving $7 a month (the approximate price of two mochas) and this money goes to the Mocha Club project of your choice. They have many projects going at any given time including HIV, child mothers, orphan care, job creation and education. Mocha Club is kicking off a new campaign called "I Need Africa More Than Africa Needs Me".
I need Africa more than Africa needs me. Do you?

So I've been thinking about it a lot. It's something that I was already coming to believe way before this campaign started. For so long, those of us in the west have simply looked at Africa as a place of charity. A place where there is only death and starvation and darkness. The media portrays Africans as victims and as statistics. As numbers and not humans.  A people to be pitied. You rarely see their laughter or their smiles.

But there's so much that we don't understand about them. And while there is SOME truth in those previous statements, I have been coming to see and believe that there very well may be more to be pitied about us who live in the west. And there is so much more than just pain and darkness in Africa right now. There is beauty and there is hope and there is redemption. No, I haven't seen it face-to-face (yet), but I have been reading their stories and listening to their conversations. A people who are staring death and suffering in the face but are doing it with strength and courage and faith - a faith that I don't know if I understand or have. But I want it. I want the faith that they have. I want to see and know the God that they see and know.  

My best friend, Ashley, lived in Uganda for a year. When she came back I remember her telling me, "Melanie, they believe in a God that is so much bigger than the One we believe in. Their prayers are so big. Their faith is so amazing." I recently got this book called "Hope in the Dark" (amazing book...please buy it). In it, Jena Lee (the executive director of Blood:Water Mission) writes about a conversation she had with a man in Africa:

"We know that Americans pity Africans," he told me. "But sometimes I think Africans pity Americans."
"How so?" I asked him. 
"Americans seem to expect that everything will be provided for them. For us," he said, "this ear of corn is a gift from God. This evening's rain is a shower of mercy upon us. This healthy breath is life-giving. And maybe tomorrow we will not have such things, but our hearts are so full from God's provision." 

I need Africa. I need to see hope in a dark world. I need to see people in communities that love and care for one another's needs. I need to see people who aren't living under the weight and idolatry of materialism. I need to see people who have TRUE joy and peace, not the counterfeits that many of us in the west have settled for. 

I have come to learn in the past few weeks that I have a distorted view of what I "need" as opposed to what I desire. God has been revealing to me that in reality, there is absolutely nothing outside of Him that I need. Seriously, in the end, what else is there? This is not a new concept to me. But He is actually making this real to me for possibly the first time in my life. And it's not that I want there to be nothing I desire that compares to Him; I don't want to desire anything besides Him. I want to be able to say with David, "Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you." (Psalm 73:25). Ah, I wanna be there. I'm not there...but I want to be. And Africa shows me a people who are aware of their deepest need. They love God for God...not because of what He gives, but because of who He is. Their love for Him is pure and their faith in Him is huge. They may not own much, but what they do have is what I want more than anything. 

This is why I need Africa more than Africa needs me. 

I want to go so badly...I want to connect with them as my brothers and sisters.  hmmm....November '09

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Home Sweet Home

I seriously can’t believe Thanksgiving has come and gone…just when I think life can’t fly by faster! 

I hadn’t actually been home to Lubbock since February, so I was really anxious to sleep in my old room, see our dog Buddy, and just behold the true beauty that is West Texas. J I always joke about how unappealing West Texas is, but there really is beauty in every area of the country. I can guarantee you that you will never see a sunset like the ones you see in West Texas and there is no better place to look at stars than out in the West Texas country. Plus…it’s home for me. So that’s beautiful in and of itself!

Anyway, the week went by entirely too fast, but I loved every minute of it. Wait, I take that back…there were a few minutes toward the end of the Turkey Trot (the two-mile run that my cousin Ross talked me into doing with our friend Ryan) that I did not enjoy…

It was slightly depressing how much those two miles killed me. But it gave me a little extra freedom when it came to Thanksgiving dinner!

I love my family. I really do. They’re awesome. We have so much fun together…we laugh a lot. And are ridiculous most of the time. I love my relationships with all of my family…I particularly love the relationships that I have with my cousins. They are some of my favorite people in the world. I got to see my cousin, Bobbi Nell, for the first time in a LONG time. 

And I finally got to see her new baby, Jayme, who was born in February. She is wonderful. And of course I took tons of pictures of her…to the point of maybe creeping Bobbi out a little (haha). But she’s just so stinkin’ cute! I mean, look at her!

I also got to hang out with my other adorable little cousin (or…I guess “second cousin”), Leah. She’s getting so big…already 3 years old. She’s getting crazy, and I love it. Look at that hair!!!

Thanksgiving dinner was amazing…as always, I felt like I was going to explode when I was done. But what is Thanksgiving if you don’t feel sick at the end of the day, right? My cousin Haley’s boyfriend, Ryan, joined us this year. For some reason, it really hit me this holiday how I am slightly concerned about the possibility of one day trying to bring someone else into my family…we are a...uh...special bunch. It’s definitely going to take a unique person to not think we are all somewhat insane. haha

I also got the chance to hang out with my best friend in the whole wide world, Ashley Adamson. Ashley and I hardly ever get to see each other and our communication throughout the year is quite weak…so it may seem weird that we are best friends. But there’s just this deep, spiritual-level connection that we share that is so rare and doesn't seem to be affected by time or distance. It's totally a God-thing. I am so thankful for her and was so glad to get to spend some quality time with her.

It was also just great to hang with my parents. They are the best. I am increasingly thankful for them. We took some family pictures because mom is actually going to send out photo Xmas cards this year. We hadn’t had a good family picture in a long time, so it was fun. Here are a few of my faves…

Thanksgiving was wonderful. I’m blessed beyond measure…so much more than I deserve. 

Now back to the cubicle…ugh

Monday, November 17, 2008

No one else for me...

Okay this might get a little personal but here we go...

So I mentioned in my last post that I would talk more on the lesson I taught last Sunday night at youth group. We are currently in a study based off of the book "2 Die 4" by Ryan Dobson. It's basically about what it truly means to die for Christ. The majority of the book is about how you have to "die to self" to truly find life. But my chapter was on the total sacrifice - actual physical death for the sake of Christ. Going all the way. 

It was a heavy couple of weeks studying this. I can't believe the things that are happening ALL OVER the world...things that many western Christians are completely unaware of. The number of Christians dying for Jesus’ sake is now more than at any time in history. According to one estimate, there's a total of 600 million persecuted Christians in the world today – one-tenth of the entire world’s population!

There's so much that I could say on this topic, but bottom line for me right now is this: I want to know Christ the way these people know Him. I want to love Christ for who HE IS...not because of what He gives me or because I can find purpose and meaning in life through Him. I want to love Him for HIM. Because when you have a gun to your head or a knife to your throat, that's what it will all boil down to. If you love Him because of what He gives you, you will choose to stay alive. But if you love Him for HIM, you will not deny His name. You will realize there is something that you love even more than your own life. 

Sometimes I find myself worrying about God's provision. But I think it's because I have a warped vision of what I really "need". I have a messed-up view of what is truly necessary.  He has been showing me over the past few weeks the truth that there is truly NOTHING that I need outside of Him. I have heard this and even claimed this all my life...but I think, for some reason, I am really starting to believe it. I love when David says "Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you"...(Psalm 73:25). I want to know Him like David knew Him. 

God is truly beginning to make Him the desire of my heart. I so desire to love Him for HIM...not because of what He gives. There's that song that says "nothing I desire compares to You"....but I don't know...It's not that I want there to be nothing I desire more than Him. I actually don't want to desire anything besides Him. I don't want Him to just be at the top of a list of desires. I want Him to be the only One on there.

And I don't know what that's going to mean...but I don't think there's any way that I'm going to get there until He starts taking some things from me. It's going to be hard to truly believe that He's all I need until He's all I have. So who knows...I very likely have a painful road ahead of me. But HE is the greatest gain... and I want to be able to say with Paul that you can take whatever you want to take from me - even my LIFE - but as long as I have Jesus, I have more than enough! 
I have fallen in love with this song by Christy Nockels called "None But Jesus"...I'm thinking about making it the theme song for my life :)

In the quiet, in the stillness 
I know that you are God
In the secret of your presence 
I know there I am restored
When you call I won't refuse
Each new day, again I'll choose

There is no one else for me
None but Jesus
Crucified to set me free
Now I live to bring Him praise

In the chaos, in confusion 
I know you're sovereign still
In the moment of my weakness 
You give me grace to do your will
When you call I won't delay
This my song through all my days

There is no one else for me
None but Jesus
Crucified to set me free
Now I live to bring Him praise

I am yours and you are mine...

All my delight is in you Lord
All of my hope
All of my strength
All my delight is in you Lord

Oh...and if you wanna watch the video that I put together for the lesson last Sunday, it's on my Facebook. Not sure if this will work, but here's the link:

Monday, November 10, 2008

Playing Some Catch-Up...'s been a while! I took a little un-planned blogging break...but I'm back now. So it's time for all the REST of you who've been taking a break to jump back on the bandwagon too! :)

So first of all, by this time tomorrow, I will have seen Coldplay in Atlanta. And I'm stinkin' pumped. My cousin Ross along with our friends Kate and Grant Minchew are all driving down tomorrow not only do I get to go see Coldplay, but I also get to go on a road trip with 3 of my favorite people in the world...can't beat that.

Hmmmm...I feel like many things have happened since my last post. So I'll just give a list of the 10 most significant moments of the past two weeks (all of which I would have blogged about had I the time...):

1. The Loop - We had a unity service of 4 different youth groups all coming together to worship and pray together...super cool event. And there's just nothing like coming together as THE CHURCH...not 4 churches.
2. Baby Shower - Some girls threw a baby shower for one of the students in our youth group. She is still relatively new to the group, and it has been amazing to see the way our girls have just loved on and supported her. 
3.Little League SOCCER! - I've gotten to go cheer on the cutest soccer player in Franklin at a couple of games. John Mark has definitely stepped up his game a notch this season. I love that kid.
4. Halloween - I got to see Quisha (a girl that I'm mentoring) and her baby, Jevandis (sp?) Halloween morning before she went to school...and I mean, seriously, there's no way there was a cuter kid than this on Halloween.
And then Halloween night was the annual par-tay at the Hackett's...always a good time. I got to hang out with the whole cast of Star Wars...jealous??
5. FHS/CHS football game -  The majority of the students in our youth group go to either Centennial or Franklin High School...and this is always a big rivalry game. I LOVE high school football!!!! My favorite shot of the night:
6. TEXAS TECH FOOTBALL!!! - My hometown Red Raiders have been kicking TAIL!!! I'm so proud of them...I have been loving watching their games and cheering them on. They're #2 in the country right now...I'm so pumped. HUGE game a week from Saturday at OU!

7. Laserchase! We got to hang out with our buddies from Against the Grain at Laserchase, which was bound to be a good time. I lived up to my name as quite possibly the worst Laserchase-er alive. I rarely end up with any points. haha
8. Junior High Lock-in - Definitely an experience. :) One of the more exciting parts of that evening was that I skateboarded for the first time in my life. I'm now consumed with wanting to learn...

9. I spoke at youth group last night on Christian persecution and martyrs. There were a lot of good things that happened last night. It's been a grueling couple of weeks preparing for this lesson...very heavy. Very convicting. More to say on this later. But it is my greatest desire to love Christ and to know Him and see Him the way these men and women do/did. I put together a video for the night that I CANNOT seem to upload on here, but I posted it on Facebook. Hopefully, this link will work:

10.We elected a new president. Kinda a big deal...and I'm tempted to just plead the 5th on this one. Some people think the world is coming to an end...others think Obama is the Savior of all. But I definitely think that as a whole, the responses to this election have sadly indicated a lack of faith and Christian maturity in this country. There...I said it. If we really believe that God is in control, why are we afraid? I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE what Walt Mueller said:
Government can't save us. Numerous societies have been down that road all throughout history, and it's never worked. Those who think Obama is the Savior are wrong. And those who think that Obama is the opposite are equally wrong. . . . simply because their despair is an indicator of the fact that they have relied on the political status quo to save them (whatever that means), and now that the political status quo has moved them from a place of comfort to discomfort, the world and their lives are doomed. Either way is idolatrous. . . replacing the Creator with something created.
100% with you on that one, Walt. Okay, I'm done.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

CATALYST Diary - Part II

You thought I was going to forget about these, huh? Well I know that Catalyst was like two weeks ago, but I still want to keep journaling about the things I heard and learned there. I have a notebook of 33 PAGES of notes that I took during the 3 days at the conference. So I'm going to keep posting various notes/thoughts...
There were many cool things that I took from Catalyst (besides a new BFF...hey, Jenna! :). But one of the things that God spoke to me while I was there has continued to stay heavy on my heart - and it came through the message of (surprise, surprise)...Matt Chandler. I was already so excited to hear him again...and he definitely did his thing! 
Matt was one of two evening lab speakers on the first night. He expressed from the very beginning of his message that he was "filled with angst" for all of us in the room. He said that he was "terrified" that we would all come to the conference and learn lots of cool new ideas to do ministry but miss meeting the Holy One. So he said that he was not there with lots of cool new tips and ideas, but was there to talk about having an angst for God.
He talked about David and about Paul. These men, without a doubt, had an angst for God. They cared more about Him than anything else! David went through crazy hard times yet still talked about how God's love is better than life. Paul got the mess beat out of him on numerous occasions, yet still said he considered everything "rubbish" next to knowing Christ. These men were crazy in love with Him. 
For me, it's been so easy to get distracted by the things of God. I have been in the middle of a season where I’ve become so easily enthralled with acts of service or the “revolution” that I have begun to lose some of HIM in the process. What a tragedy…to fall in love with the things of God over God Himself. 
Matt also spoke in one of the big sessions on the last day and continued speaking some about this idea - about how there are many who know about God, but don't really know Him. He said, (and I quote): "If you're using Jesus to bring you a bigger church, you are an idolater...If you are using Jesus to give you a better marriage, you are an idolater..." Because by doing those things, you are placing your church/your marriage over Him. The greatest gain is Him!
OUCH...this also hit me hard. Does following Christ lead to "life to the full"? YES...without a doubt. Does it bring purpose to your life? YES. Does it give you hope for the future? A better marriage? Stronger relationships? YES. But if the reason you are following Christ is so you can have these things, you are an idolater. dang...that's heavy stuff. That's convicting stuff.
Man, how I want to have an angst for Christ like David and Paul's. I want to desire HIM - not the things of Him and not the benefits of Him - but HIM over all else. I want to yearn to sit at His feet. He is the greatest gain. 
My friend, Ben, sent me this song last week. I think it sums it up nicely:

The more I seek You The more I find You
The more I  find You The more I love you

I want to sit at Your feet
Drink from the cup in Your hand
Lay back against You and breathe
Feel Your heart beat
This love is so deep
It’s more than I can stand
I melt at Your peace
It’s overwhelming 

Monday, October 20, 2008

new discoveries...

Okay so I have failed in keeping up with my Catalyst Diary... I am going to go back to that, I promise. I still want to spend some time thinking on and processing things from that conference. 
HOWEVER, this past weekend I went on my first-ever backpacking trip so of course, I must share this experience with all. I've been camping and I've been hiking...but I'd never done the backpacking thing before. And I must say, I am hooked. We took 16 high school students and adults to Big South Fork near Jamestown. It was BEAUTIFUL!
As expected, it was just so fantastic to get away from normal civilization and live the simple life for about 48 hours. On Saturday afternoon, we went out to this huge rock/cliff that had a ridiculous view. We got to just chill at that spot for a couple of hours...which was a perfect opportunity for each of us to go off and spend some quality/quiet time with God. So here's where me and God hung out for about an hour...yeah, what I would PAY to have a quiet time spot like this every day!
I had kinda already been anxiously awaiting that time that I could spend with God on the trip, because there's been so much going on in my heart and in my life lately that I've just wanted a good chunk of quality alone-time with Him to talk through and sort through some stuff. But it was soon as I took a few seconds to just breathe, I felt like He was asking me to simply "be still". So I was...for about an hour. And I just let Zephaniah 3:17 kinda wash over me. It says:
"He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing".
I really felt like I could just hear Him saying "shhhh...let Me quiet you with My love. You're heart and your mind are running all over the place right now. You're concerned about so many things...but just let Me sing over you for a while". So instead of me spending tons of time pouring out all of my concerns and my questions about all the things that are going on right now, He just quieted me. And I think I needed that more than anything.
And I would just venture to say that I'm not the only one that needs to be quieted with His love right now. I would encourage you to let Him do that for you.
So here are the 10 things I learned this weekend:
1. I love freeze-dried food. 
2. Do not sleep at the bottom of a tent on a slant when there's water all in the tent.
3. You can stinkin' carry a LOT on your back
4. If you feel something poking your foot, you should probably check on it sooner than later. It just might be a beastly roofing nail sticking through your shoe.
5. Tennessee is one of the most beautiful places on the planet.
6. Clean water is something I totally take for granted.
7. I CAN live without my macbook for 2 days.
8. If you think you should put on tights under your sweatpants before you go to sleep,  you should.
9. Everyone has an incredible life story to share...take the time to listen.
10. I love backpacking