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

Monday, October 13, 2008

CATALYST Diary - Part I

The first thing I went to at Catalyst was this pre-conference/lab think that was put on by Community Christian Church (from Naperville, IL). They are one of the leading churches in this country for church planting. A few of us from HCC went to a conference of theirs this past January and it was awesome. It was actually an e-mail from them that told me about Catalyst in the first place! I honestly wasn’t expecting a whole lot out of this seminar because I’m not particularly looking to plant a church (at least not right now J). But I really liked the people putting it on and…I mean, free breakfast. J

One of the things that I have been praying and seeking the Lord in is that He would give me a dream. There are so many things that I am passionate about. There are so many things that get my blood pumping. But I so desire that God would give me a DREAM… a specific vision for something for His Kingdom. So I got to this session early and sat down at one of the tables to find a journal sitting in front of me. I open it and inside the front cover it says, “I’m praying that you will discover the dream God has for your life” and it was signed by Dave Ferguson (lead pastor at Community Christian). Crazy…I knew that I was supposed to be there. The session that morning just happened to be called “Discover the Dream”…awesome.

I was expecting people to get up there and basically talk to us the whole time…but the morning started off with worship and journaling…which just happen to be two of my favorite things in the world. They put 3 journal questions up on a screen and gave us time to write/pray/reflect. I would encourage anyone who reads this post to go get their journal, or a piece of paper, or a napkin…anything works. But I would encourage you to spend some time wrestling with these questions. When you were born, you were born with a dream. You were given specific gifts and talents for the purpose of furthering God’s Kingdom. It’s time for the CHURCH to wake up and start dreaming…living “wide awake” as Erwin McManus says. So here’s the 3 journal questions…

  1. If I could do anything for God, I would…
  2. The barriers that are keeping me from doing this thing are…
  3. A specific people group, culture, or country that God has given me a heart for is…

I’ll spare you everything I wrote that morning, but one major discovery was that the barriers that are keeping me from reaching the dreams God has put in my heart all go back to FEAR and they all go back to ME. And when I say “fear”, I mainly mean a fear of the future. A fear of a loss of security. A fear that other desires of my heart may go unfulfilled if I pursue these dreams. A fear of the unknown. There’s part of me that SO DESIRES to go against the “normal patterns” of this world, the cookie-cutter American life, but I also think there’s a deep-seated fear of it as well. And what I noticed was that all of these fears point back to a concern for ME and a lack of trust in HIM. So I’m praying that God will break me of those things. They are straight from the evil one.

So what about you?? I would seriously encourage you to spend some time thinking and writing on those 3 questions. God may just wake you up to a few things!

“I’m praying that you will discover the dream God has for your life”!!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

more than I could ask...

So if you read my last post, you saw that I had some pretty high hopes for my time at the Catalyst conference. I'll admit that while I had really high expectations, I secretly feared that I wouldn't get out of the week what I was hoping to get out of the week...that my hopes may be too high. 
I am so thankful that I have a God who can do more than I ever ask or imagine. He just took my little meager prayers and totally blew them up into so much more. This week was amazing. I went in with so many questions/thoughts/desires/hopes and I feel like God met each one of them in only a way that He can. And as typically is the case, He spoke to those things in ways that I would NEVER have anticipated. I love that His ways and His thoughts are so much higher than mine. 
I have much to process about this week. There were things that speakers said, but also things that God specifically spoke to me that I need to continue to think about and pray about. And I've decided that I may just use my blog to do some of that processing because I want other people to be blessed by the things I was blessed with over the past 3 days! And there's no way that I can write it all out in one post, so I'm going to start my "Catalyst Diary" tomorrow and just keep writing from day to day until I'm done! 
So stay tuned...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


If you've been following my blog for long, you likely know that I've been wrestling with a LOT lately. One of the biggest has been this tension that I am feeling between the way I am living as opposed to the way I know 80% of the world is living. I have found it impossible to justify the fact that I live in comfort, wealth, and ease while the majority of the world lives in poverty, disease, and danger. I'll just be honest - I have come to despise my possessions. I can hardly look at my iPod or my Macbook without thinking about the children who could be alive today with the money I spent on them. That may sound extreme...but it's where I am. I have been seeking the Lord a lot on what He would have me do with this tension. I still don't have the answers...but I have come to learn that my soul is not going to be at rest until I have heard from Him. 
I got an e-mail a couple of months ago about Catalyst, which is basically a big leadership conference that's held in Atlanta every year. I started looking into it and saw that there was a "lab track" that the conference was offering on "Justice". The basic premise of this track is going to be about the church's role in this new age of awareness of what is happening in the world around us - how the mission of the Church intersects with these needs. When I saw who was going to be speaking and what they were going to be speaking on, I got pumped. And I eventually got to the place where I just couldn't NOT go. So here I a Cracker Barrell right outside Chattanooga on my way to the ATL! 
I'm really excited about the next couple of days for the following reasons:
1. I am going to hear these people speak tomorrow:
  • Joel Hunter (Author of "A New Kind of Conservative") - Topic:  "Compassionate Conservative"
  • Peter Greer (President of Hope International) and Phil Smith (Co-Author of "A Billion Bootstraps") - Topic: "Microfinance: Ending Poverty"
  • Jena Lee Nardella (Director of Blood:Water Mission), Jeff Shinabarger (Founder of Rwanda Clean Water), Bethany Hoang (Director of International Justice Mission)  - Topic: "Doing Good"
  • Dino Rizzo (Lead Pastor of Healing Place Church) - Topic: "Servolution: Ignite a revolution through serving"
2. I get to hear MATT CHANDLER speak tomorrow night! This was another huge draw to the conference. Matt led a Bible Study that I was a part of in college and he was a major influence on my spiritual growth during those years. I cannot WAIT to hear him speak again.

3. I get to see Doyle Corder tomorrow! Doyle has been a friend of my family's since...birth? (as long as I can remember!). I guess we're kinda related through marriage, but anyway...I JUST found out last night that he's going to be at the conference, so we're going to grab some grub at some point.

4. I get to enjoy 8 hours in the car! This may sound strange, but I miss the college days of the drives home by myself when I get to just crank up the music and either A. dance to some hip-hop B. rock out to some boy bands or C. raise my hands (or HAND...I'm driving) to some worship. Yes, I've gotten weird looks from drivers around me but OH WELL

5. I am by myself. Now while some of you may not find this something to be excited about, I do. "Me-time" is super hard to come by these days. But I love it...and I need it. I'm looking forward to learning, listening, seeking. I am praying for the Lord to speak to me in the next couple of days. 

6. Getting home...because the Ordinary Radicals movie is waiting for me when I get back!!!!! Right, JP????

Monday, October 6, 2008

I Have a Problem...

I really don't know when or how it happened. I've always enjoyed fact, there is more than one photo of me as a two-year-old sitting on the couch (in my diaper only) with a stack of books sitting next to me as I go through each book one by one..."reading" in gibberish. My parents are both teachers, so I think it was just a natural things to always have books around. 
But at some point in the last couple of years, I fear that I may have developed a slight addiction to....books. It's getting a little ridiculous. One of my roommates has started referring to my room as "the library"! And what's SUPER annoying about my addiction is that I cannot ever stinkin' FINISH a book that I'm on before I buy another one and start reading it! So on top of addiction issues, I have a commitment problem as well! 
Seriously...I have currently gotten through about 1/4 of each of these books and have not finished any of them yet! 
Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne
UnChristian by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons
Gorgeously Green by Sophie Uliano (please see one of my first posts entitled "Chartreuse is the New Black :)
Sex God by Rob Bell
Wide Awake by Erwin McManus
And this is only the beginning...these are all the books that I still have waiting in LINE after I finish those five!
Walking With God by John Eldridge
Technical Virgin by Hayley DiMarco (yeah this is a youth ministry one :)
God's Neighborhood by Scott Roley
Green Leaf in Drought by Isabel Kuhn
So I told myself (and many others) that I REFUSED to by any more books until I finish the ones I have! Last week, JP and I are at Lifeway trying to find some material for youth...what do I do? I purchase 3 more books. Now granted, these are all mainly for what we're going to be doing with the youth this semester...but they ARE books, now let's add these 3 to the list:
2 Die 4 by Ryan Dobson
Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris
Be The Change by Zach Hunter.

Yes. I have a literature addiction. If anyone else out there has struggled in this area and has since found freedom, your words of wisdom are greatly appreciated.
and dear LORD, in the midst of reading lots of cool books, may I never forget THE Word. Lots of books vying for my attention...but heaven forbid I ever forsake my first love!