Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Saturday Kind of Worship

If you know me at all, you know that I'm a huge college football fan. I think my favorite day of the year besides Christmas is opening day of NCAA football. I love getting up to watch College GameDay, I love the rivalries, I love the pride and passion of football traditions... I just love everything about it. During the time we lived in Tennessee, and the years my sister Stephanie was at the University of Tennessee, I became a giant Volunteers fan. There's just nothing more awesome than 100,000+ people in bright orange, roaring around you as you hear "It's football time in Tennessee!"... and the Power T opens up, Rocky Top starts playing, and the Vols come running out of the tunnel. I mean I literally have chills just writing about it right now. It's awesome.

My little sister Sydney now goes to Texas A&M, which, as you probably know, is known for being a very tradition rich school. So about a month ago, Stephanie and I went to College Station to see our first Aggie football game. I knew it was supposedly a really cool environment to see a football game in, I'd seen Kyle Field on TV plenty of times, with the Corp and all of its traditions, waving the white towels and all that... but nothing I had seen on TV or heard about from people who'd been there before could have done justice to what I got to experience in that stadium. To see like 90,000 people, arms around one another, singing in unison and swaying back and forth... I don't care who "your team" is, that is hands down one of the coolest things I've ever gotten to see in person. I promise it will make every hair on your body stand straight up. It's incredible. Stephanie and I just looked at each other and said, "Yeah... that was awesome."

So then I started thinking, why is this such a powerful thing? What is it about people, unified by a common love or passion, that can make the hair on the back of your neck stand up, give you goose bumps and even put tears in your eyes? What is it within us that wires us to feel that way?

It's worship.

The definition of worship is "a feeling or expression of reverence and adoration."

And if God put inside of us the desire to have that feeling of unity and power for one greater good — which we use on Saturdays to cheer on our team — what kind of power would it have if we really used it for what it's intended for?

I wonder what Sunday mornings would look like if we worshipped with the same passion and unity then as we do on Saturday afternoon. I wonder what our communities would look like if we lived a lifestyle of worship that was as unified and passionate as a stadium full of football fans. I wonder what our nation would look like.

I just can't imagine that God gave us those feelings just so we could use them for ourselves. Because believe me, I believe one hundred percent that the joy I get from college football is from the Lord... seriously! But how much more powerful would that joy be if we used it to glorify HIM as much as we do to glorify the earthly things we love... like our favorite team. Or whatever else it is that you're so passionate about.

Just something that's been on my heart lately...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Ode to Williamsburg.

I feel like this year my roommates and I have found ourselves reminiscing a lot. I guess with the end of college on the horizon, there's this sort of sense of self-observation and reflection that's set in ... hoping for what's next, loving where we are and appreciating where we've been together over the last few years. We spent some time tonight talking and laughing about our sophomore year — it was an interesting one.

Your sophomore year is awesome in a lot of ways, because you're no longer a scared or homesick — and probably a little to "free" — freshman. You've probably found your friends by then ... the ones that are going to last. You've been away from home for long enough to feel independent and "grown up," but you're still young enough to be a bit of an idiot. You're settled in to your college life, and life is just pretty fantastic.

When I was a sophomore, me and two of my best friends spent about 70% of our time with a group of people who became somewhat like family to us at our friends Jake and Kevin's apartment. None of us quite knew who we were or even who we wanted to be yet, but we sure had a good time together. Tonight we were reminiscing on all those good times, and it inspired Kelsey and I to co-write an "Ode to Williamsburg" ... a painted picture of the movie of memories that plays in our heads when we think about that year.

When I think about Williamsburg, I see...

dance parties.interpretive dancing to "hide and seek".PBR.clouds of cigarette smoke.ten friends standing in a circle with arms around each other, singing "hey jude" but inserting each others' names instead.jake standing on furniture singing "piano man". a police man at the door because we were singing miley cyrus "party in the usa" too loud.james coming into the living room, guitar in hand, ready to sing a few johnny cash numbers.rooftop chats.lacey walking it out.bob dylan, rilo kiley, mgmt, avett brothers, cold war kids, and edward sharpe sing-alongs (among many others).heated political debates between kevin and randoms.seth and all of his peer pressure.colton's free spirit... and all of his ginger hair....remember that time kelsey broke the ice tray?. aleigha's epic dance moves.the later it got, the more mysterious james was in his corner.the little blonde from atlanta came along, and kevin fell in love. glad we found you, matter how loud the music got, jake's personality was always louder.once in a while we were graced with jody's presence, and the party would start all over again.we found haley that year, when she started dating... well, you know. the day we ventured to little rock to see frightened rabbit ... and seth and i thought it would be a good idea to drive back before the sun came up.

It was a year of laughter, of not quite having ourselves or anything else figured out, and embracing our youth in the meantime. It's funny how we've all grown up and gone in different directions... whether that's grad school, a big kid job, dental school, being a nomad, or running away to the mountains, each of us has somehow found where we always wondered we'd be going, or are at least on our way. But for that one year, we really loved each other well. Our friendships have lasted, but they've evolved as we've all grown up. But when I think about that year, it's like time stopped for a bit, just so we could enjoy life and enjoy each other... I'm really thankful for that. We'll probably never (nor should ever) relive the times we had in that Williamsburg apartment, but I think in a way we were all somehow, in some small way, shaped by that place.

From Kelsey and I, here's to you... 
Jake, Kevin, Dawson, Seth, Lacey, Aleigha, James, Haley, Colton, Jody, Melanie...

We sure are thankful for you. As our friends the Avett Bros would say...
"Decide what to be, and go be it."

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Momma Bear.

The family series continues... almost a month later. I've been a little busy, OK?


In case you're struggling to figure out which of these is my mother and not my sister, she's the second from the left. I remember someone asking her once why she looks like she's our sister instead of our mother and she jokingly replied, "I started having them when I was 12."

... Fairly close. Mom was 18 when she got married and had my older sister, Stephanie. (The brunette between Mom and me) The reason I tell you that is because it highlights an important thing about my mom: she's spent more of her life being a mom than not. And she's only 42! Whew, Trish. Good job.

As soon as she grew up and left home, she started her own family. Being a Mom is all she's ever known, really. And she's really good at it. My mom is the epitome of "the mother hen." I wouldn't call her an overbearing mother — that term has a really negative connotation. She's just a good mom. Though I did think about jokingly writing about how my mom, like God, is omnipresent — thanks to facebook. Haha just kidding, mom. :)

My mom loves to have us all together at once, which seems to happen less and less as we get older. The reason I chose the picture above is because the moment this picture is capturing is a perfect example of how much my mom loves us, and loves having us all together. Mom always gives us matching pajamas on Christmas Eve. So this one year, I want to say this was two Christmases ago now, she gave us our pajamas and made us all put them on to take the ritual "matching PJ photo in front of the tree." As Dad's about to take a picture of us, Mom has disappeared into the back of the house... and then she comes out, cracking up laughing and fist pumping better than The Situation himself, because she's bought the same ones for herself this year. She had gone into her room to put on her matching pajamas... she was so proud, and it was awesome. We still laugh about it. I'm actually laughing writing about it right now.

The point is that my mom just loves having us home... it turns her into the joyful goofball that buys matching pajamas. And I love it! She hates that we are no longer all in the same place. For the last 3 years, my parents have been in Houston, where they still are now. My older sister has been in Knoxville and I've been in Jonesboro. So Stephanie and I haven't spent a whole lot of time at home since they moved back to Texas. That drives my mom crazy. She just doesn't like missing out on our lives, only seeing us once or twice a semester and at Christmas. And who can blame her? We're pretty cool. (Right, Steph?)

Stephanie has recently moved home though, so I'm now the lone faraway kid in the family. And my mom is constantly dropping hints (that are really more like atomic bombs) about all the pros of me moving back to Texas after I graduate in May. If she could have it her way, we'd all live in the same place again. Which sounds great... I keep telling her if God calls me home I'll be there in a heartbeat. It's safe to say she's praying often for that to happen. And to be honest, though I've been coined "the independent one that's always just passing through," I'd love to go home. I love to be home.

When I was sixteen, I ran away. That is a story for a different time, but I did run away... for an afternoon. I was probably gone 2 or 3 hours at the most. Most sixteen year olds probably get angry and leave in their car... I decided to go old fashioned, and run on foot. Over the river and through the woods, literally. All I took with me was my phone, which my parents were calling constantly, each time leaving a more emotional voicemail. I think my dad threatened to call the police a few times. I'll never forget what my mom looked like when I finally came home. She was laying in her bed, sobbing. I walked in the door and she wasn't angry, she just looked at me, and through her tears and sobs she told me to never do that to her again... and she hugged me, and told me she loved me. I felt awful. I felt selfish. But I felt loved... and even though I knew there was a serious grounding coming, I felt forgiven.

I think we do the same thing to God. We run away, and we come home expecting punishment. And sure, because God is a just God, we get what's due to us. But more than anything, what He sees as due to us is grace. We get grace when we come home... because I really believe that just like my mom, God just wants us home. And He hates that we don't get it... He hates that we only show up once or twice a semester, and on Christmas. He doesn't want to miss out on our lives.

I wish I could be home more often, because I know the joy and fullness my mom's heart feels when we're all under the same roof. But what being away has taught me is that just like my mom longs for me to come home and be with her, my God longs for me to be with Him. And the best part about a God that's omnipresent is that I have the option of being at home with him every single day.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sharing my dad.

Today I was missing my family, and as I spent some time thinking about them and praying for them I was inspired to start a little series of posts in their honor. I realized today as I talked to God about my family members, that each one of them has taught me about different aspects of who HE is.

So I'll start with my Dad.

My Dad is a teacher and football coach at Kingwood High School, in a suburb of Houston, TX. He started out teaching and coaching right out of college, then went full time into ministry with Young Life for something like 20 years, and has only recently gone back to teaching and coaching in the last couple of years. The reason I'm telling you what my dad does for a living is because you can learn something important about him by knowing what he does: he's got a huge heart for high school kids. Such a huge heart for them that he's basically been in high school his whole life.

I've always admired my dad's heart for people. All people, really. I'm really not sure if I've ever seen a better example than he is of what it looks like to love like Jesus. I think a lot of the reason for that is because he has such a heart for the lost. Most parents like to make sure their kids are staying away from "those people" ... you know the people I'm talking about. The ones your mom wouldn't let you hang out with, and if she heard you were seen with them, you were grounded. My dad, though, has asked me on multiple occasions if I'm spending just as much time with people who need Jesus as I am with people who already know him.

How many times have your parents called and said, "Hey, how many heathens have you hung out with this week? None? Oh, you should probably get on that."

When I was in high school my dad was on Young Life staff. He led the YL club I attended every Monday night for four years, and he met weekly with most of my guy friends. Basically, I went to high school with my dad. And I think at times that got on my nerves (as it would any teenager). At times I just wanted to blend in and know that my dad didn't know every single thing about every single person I ever hung out with. Sometimes I wanted to walk into the lunch room and not see my dad sitting at the next table with a bunch of my friends. Haha.

But one day when I was probably sixteen I had a conversation with a friend who changed my perspective on my dad forever. This friend of mine, she had a pretty broken home life. Her dad had cheated on her mom and left their family, and as you can imagine it was just a hard season for her and her mom and siblings. One day she and I had been at my house... we got in the car to leave, and I guess my dad had just done something goofy that we were laughing about. And she said, "I love your dad. I wish he was my dad."

Man, those two sentences hit me pretty hard. All I could say back was, "Well, I'd love to share him with you."

And at the time I think it just seemed like the right response to her comment about my dad. But looking back, what I said to her was pretty profound. I don't think I realized when those words came out of my mouth what I was learning at that moment. In fact, I don't think I learned it until much later.

When I was seventeen, my best friend's dad died. Her dad also happened to be my dad's best friend. It was a pretty hard time for all of us... and later that year, my friend who had lost her dad came to live with my family. Because she needed a dad, and I had one that I could share with her. Her living with us didn't last long and it's kind of a long story how she ended up leaving, but to this day she would tell you that if there's any man in her life who she still looks at as a father figure, it's my dad. In fact, she told me that just last week. I love that though she probably doesn't take advantage of it often, he would be there for her if ever she needed him. I love that I get to share my dad with her.

My dad has taught me not only how to love like Jesus, but how to share the love of Jesus. And he's taught me how to share Jesus simply by being a dad that I want to share with other people.

I was reminded of that this morning as I sat in church thinking about how I miss him, and how it's about to be football season. See, what happens to football coaches' families during football season is this: football wives and football children become football widows and football orphans. (OK, so that might be a harsh term. But let's just go with it for the sake of making a point) From August to November, Dad's a pretty busy guy. School all day, practices in the afternoons and evenings, freshman games on Thursdays, varsity games on Fridays. Film watching and coaches meetings on the weekends. And then it starts all over! Needless to say, Dad and I play a lot of phone tag during the fall.

But this morning I thought, "Gosh, so many high school kids get to be so blessed by my dad. They get to be so loved on. They get to experience a love that's bigger than they ever imagined, because my Dad loves to love on people with the love of Jesus. I'm glad I get to share him with them."

And then I started thinking about how this should be the same way we feel about God. We should have the mentality of, "I can't wait to share my Dad with everyone I encounter. I can't wait for them to experience the love He has to give."

That's essentially what Jesus did. Whether it was the religious, the lost, the blind, the sick, the rich, the poor, Jews, Gentiles, men, women... I feel like Jesus, no matter who it was he was interacting with, just wanted to ask people, "Do you know who my Dad is? I want to share him with you."

I love that. I love that I have an earthly Dad who I've always enjoyed sharing with other people. And I love that no matter what our earthly dads our like, we all share a Heavenly Dad who we get to share with others.

That is a gift.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

My story isn't about me. Ouch.

I've been talking a lot about stories lately. I just love a good story... who doesn't love a good story? You know, the kind that has you up late at night because you can't put a book down and sleep until you know what happens. Like in any Harry Potter books... as soon as Voldemort is on the scene, you're not sleeping til it's over. Or the kind of movie that has you on the edge of your seat in a theater, adrenaline pumping or tears flowing. Or the kind of story that your hilarious friend tells in a room full of people, where you know that it doesn't matter what the story is about, the way he or she tells it will have you rolling with laughter. My friend from high school, Grace, has that ability. I always tell her she missed her calling — she's supposed to be doing stand up comedy.

I think it's in our human nature to crave a good story. I think it's also in our human nature to desire to live a good story.

But what does that mean? What exactly makes a "good story?"

I like to get lost in a good book or watch a good movie because during that time you immerse yourself in another world. It's an escape, in a sense. A good story by my own definition makes me feel for the characters in it as if I were living it with them. There's laughter and there's conflict and there's emotion. Life happens in a good story.

I wonder if we live those kinds of stories. The kind that takes people to another place. A place they want to be... a story they want to experience for themselves.

Don Miller defines a good story in "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years" as a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it.

What do we want? And what kinds of conflict do we have to overcome to get it?

It's funny how every good story in literature and in film usually has an element of love in it. Almost always, the conflict at hand is resolved in an act of love. It doesn't necessarily have to be romantic love, it could be a love between a parent and child, or just the love of a friendship. But it seems like most stories that we deem "good stories" or even "great stories" are in some form or fashion, a love story. We crave that as human beings... and I think we were designed that way for a reason.

So, if we know conflict will make our stories great, and if we know love will be not only something we crave but something we need along the way... then I think we're in a great place to begin our good story.

And I think up until this summer, I had those two things down for the most part. I've seen enough conflict, enough adversity in my life to understand first of all that it's inevitable, and second of all that the old saying is true... it does build our characters, shape us into a different person in the end than we were in the beginning, and probably make us a little stronger. And, again, in a good story we usually see that happen to characters. And there's been a love relationship along the way that's held my hand through it all — my relationship with Jesus. And on top of that, He's given me love relationships with other people that have showed me bits of HIS character... unconditional love and incredible wisdom of a great earthly Dad, the love of earnest prayer and constant encouragement from my Mom, the love of friends and sisters that have showed me grace over and over, and have taught me the power of community, and, most recently, he's given me a romantic love relationship with my best friend, who consistently leads and challenges me in my faith.

So by those two standards, overcoming conflict and being in love in every sense of the word, up until this last month or so I would say that this year, I've been living a great story. And I really do believe that I still am — but here's the kicker. The lesson God's been teaching me about my story this summer: my story isn't about me.

WHAT!? I was a little bit offended when He first told me this. MY story... isn't about ME? Come on, God. Are you sure? ... Turns out He is.

See, the world tells us that this life is about us. Especially in America. Do what YOU want. Life on YOUR terms. American dream. And you know, I don't think that's all bad. I know I tend to usually lean to the "radically liberal hippy" side of things, slamming the American Dream mentality. And I do have some strong opinions about how we don't love on the needy enough, and one day I do want to do a social experiment and just go live on the streets with some homeless friends and see how it feels. (Sorry if you're reading this, Mom... I know that just made you very nervous.) But I know there are people who make millions of dollars and give much of that away for the kingdom, so I know it's not all bad. But I do also believe that a majority of it is... because we're about living our own great stories. Everyone else is just an accessory to our story.

In the season of life I'm in right now, the world tells me that in less than a year I'm going to graduate college and I should pursue a career and chase a dream, and maybe along the way find a husband and have some babies and raise them to lather, rinse and repeat. So as all my friends and I approach our senior year, with our whole adult lives ahead of us, we're taught to be selfish. We're taught that from here on out we're on our own and it's all about us.

Whoa... time out. "We're on our own and it's all about us." That's what the world says. But what the WORD says is the opposite. We're not on our own, and it's certainly not about us. Right? Jesus said that several different times in several different ways.

So I've been wrestling with that lately, because I feel God calling me to a story and a purpose that I may have a role in, but it's certainly not all about me. It's so much bigger than me. And I want to be obedient to that, and I know there is patience involved in waiting on God to show me the who, what, when, where, why and how.

I've been frustrated at times this summer. I've been a little bit fearful and selfish, but in that He's teaching me that seeking His face is so much more important than seeking His answers.

So last week, I had to surrender my whole story to Him. And it hurt a little bit. But our stories aren't about us... they're about glorifying Him. So I told him something like this...

"Lord, I want to tell you today that though I've been selfish lately, I'm still on board. I know you're good, and I know whatever you have for me is going to be good. I'm going to stop searching for answers to all of my unknowns and just start searching for you. I know you'll provide all that I need. I know that you're a good father. I know that you love me. I know that you want to make my story great... and I know that the only way it will truly be great is if I step out of the spotlight and allow you to step in."

... and nothing spectacular has happened yet. But it will. Oh, friends... it will. And I can't wait to share it with you.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The stories we live

I've spent the last week at home in Houston with my family. It's been great — we went to the beach for a couple of days, came home and spent two days with some of our oldest family friends, went to the lake in Crockett to celebrate my grandparents' 50th anniversary, and spent our Sunday together, just the 5 of us... we went to church, then lunch, then the country club pool, then we ate dinner in the car as we literally took a trip down memory lane, driving past every house we ever lived in, the old soccer fields we spent more Saturdays at than anyone could ever count, and of course our elementary school, where dad was the PTA president the one year that we were all in school together, Stephanie in 5th grade, me in 2nd, and Sydney in kindergarten ... and then we came home, ate ice cream and watched a movie. It was a great last day at home with my family.

My best friend Ashlee came over tonight to spend some time with me before I leave. Ashlee and I grew up together... we're kind of like cousins that aren't actually blood related. She's just always been around. Ash moved home this week because she just got a job teaching theater at a middle school here in Houston. For the last hour or so we sat here talking, reminiscing and asking each other, "when did we get so old?" Life certainly seems to be going by fast. But you know, there's something really sweet and comforting about having a friend who's always been there. There's not a single season of my life that I can remember that Ashlee wasn't a part of in some way... even if from far away and over the phone. (Or in more recent years, Skype. Thank you, technology.) We've just literally walked through life together. Bike rides, birthday parties, swim meets, New Years Eve's, 4th of July's, family trips to the beach, AstroWorld, packing...moving...packing...moving...packing...moving, first loves, first cars, breakups, tragedy, coffee dates — more often than not via skype, planning crazy roadtrips we'll never actually take... the list could go on, but the point here is that Ashlee and I have been through a lot together. And the funny thing is, most of it has not actually been together. We've just had a friendship that's lasted years and distance.

I'm leaving in the morning, and for some reason it already feels harder than it ever has been to leave. I think part of that is because my sister Stephanie just moved home, and I'm now going to be the only one far away. And Ashlee is here now too, and our families are really close, and it's hard to not think at times that I'll be missing out on something that's happening here. But at the same time, I'm excited to get back to Jonesboro, because that's where God has me right now and He is doing great things there that I'm so excited to be a part of.

I'm reading a book right now about stories. I know that sounds silly, a story about stories... kind of like looking at a picture of a picture... but it's actually really good. And challenging. It's a Don Miller book called A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, and he talks about what makes a good story, and asks a lot of questions about the stories we live... and whether we're living good stories or not, according to these "elements of good stories." You can see how as a writer this book has been particularly interesting to me.

This past week, as I've been spending time with my family and my oldest friends, I've been thinking a lot about the stories I've lived. I've been touring the "set" of many of them here in the place that I was born and spent half of my childhood. And I've even been living a few funny stories that I'll tell some of my friends when I get back to Arkansas tomorrow.

So often when we think of stories we tend to just picture the "Happily Ever After" without the series of events leading up to it. But Donald Miller challenges us to embrace the journey up to that point... because who would ever pick up a book that said, "Once upon a time, they lived happily ever after" and then say, "man, that was a great book! What a story!" Of course they wouldn't... because there's no emotion in that. There's no following a character through ups and downs, getting to know them and identifying with them and falling in love with them. That's the stuff that makes a good story.

I talked to a friend of mine today who's just been struggling with some stuff lately. She's realizing she has some things in her past that she needs to deal with so they'll stop affecting her future, and she's struggling with feelings of fear and loneliness. We talked for like an hour, and the whole time as I just tried to listen and comfort her I couldn't help smiling and thinking, "what a story she's living... what a beautiful ending it will have when she beats all of this."

Because in our stories, in our conflict, we've already won. God has already won. He always wins. And when our hearts are his heart, we win. So we get to just go on, living the story, persevering with joy because we know how it ends. There's a whole chapter of this book I'm reading about Miller hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. They start off on this 4 or 5 day trek, and as they climb thousands of feet, looking down at the river, their guide tells them that if you just followed the river, it would only take 6 hours to reach Machu Picchu... but the emperor (however many years ago) made the Incas take the long way through the mountains. Miller reflects on how he believed the emperor knew that the people would have such a greater appreciation for the beautiful city if they had suffered along the way to reach that place. And he says he experienced that same appreciation. "The pain made the city more beautiful. The story made us different characters than we would have been if we had skipped the story and showed up at the ending an easier way."

Our stories are full of uncertainty. But aren't the unpredictable books and movies always the best ones? My sister's story has brought her to Texas, and she has no idea what will happen next. Ashlee's story has brought her home... and besides having a job, her life is one big question mark right now. Part of me isn't ready to leave tomorrow because I know there are new stories to be written here with people who are such central characters of my story. But the story God has me living in right now is in Arkansas, and I've got to say that I'm so excited to get back and continue living the adventure He's got me on.

I'm a senior. I have no idea what the future holds. There's uncertainty. There's so much change ahead. There's a little bit of fear... but mostly just anticipation of what's to become of all the unknown. But I'm confident that there will be a good story at the end.

It was a refreshing week at home. Sweet to revisit some of the stories I've lived. Sweeter to write a few new ones. It's safe to say there will be tears in my eyes as I board a plane in the morning.

Cheers to the stories you're living... to the conflicts you overcome and get to tell about later... and to the relationships that seem to appear in all of them.

And don't be afraid to get a little creative in your story... I plan on going on some new adventures this year. :)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Pick up your spoon.

Wow... it's been a while since I've written. To be completely honest, I haven't felt super inspired to write much this summer. Don't get me wrong, it's been a wonderful summer. Full of blessings — overflowing with them, even — but it's just been so routine. Work. Summer school. Jonesboro. (No offense, Jonesboro... I do love you) It's my first summer in Jonesboro... the first time I haven't gone off and done something adventurous. But God's been in it, and He's showed up in some of the sweetest ways. I think He's teaching me to grow up a little... I've learned some tough lessons this summer.

He's disciplining me, because that's what good dads do.

One thing I've learned this summer is that there will be seasons of my life when people are pouring into me and I won't have to do much in order to be fed... and those seasons are wonderful! But there will also be seasons when I have to work harder to feed myself, and I've been in one of those seasons this summer. I was talking to God one day recently, telling Him I was kind of frustrated with the way this summer has gone for me spiritually. It just hasn't been as rich and abounding with growth and purpose as summers past... and then I realized I was kind of complaining as if it were His fault or something. So I stopped and began to tell Him I'm sorry that I've not been spending as much quality time with Him lately as I'd like to. And then I remembered a conversation I had with my "yoda" Eve Sarrett probably two years ago...

"Sara, how old were you when your mom stopped feeding you?"

"Umm... like actually feeding me with a spoon? Without my help?"

"Yeah, do you remember it?"

"No... I don't. I assume it was when I was much too little to remember stuff like that."

"Why do we think we need to be spiritually spoon fed then?"

"Hmm... I don't know. Good point."

"Sometimes I just want to tell kids to pick up their damn spoon."

... Pick up your spoon. It was like God told me that the other day. And that's not to say that we don't need people pouring into us, and challenging us and helping us grow. Community is HUGE. But I think it's so easy in Bible Belt America to just go to church, attend a Bible study, let somebody else do all the work and not have to really put much effort into our relationship with Jesus.

Why do we do that? There was a period of probably 2 weeks this summer that I was so frustrated, knowing that what was missing was a closeness to the Lord, something I have complete capability of changing, and I just kind of let it happen... being in a bad mood, being mentally and emotionally exhausted, probably slowly becoming less enjoyable to be around... and I was just coasting along in that state of being. Gross! Who wants to hang out with that!?

And then I picked up my spoon. And the best part about a God who's a God of grace and unconditional love is that He never withholds anything from us. The sweetest thing about Jesus is that even when I'm stagnant in my pursuit of Him, He is always pursuing me. And when we come back and we say, "Dad, I'm sorry I haven't checked in with you in a few days/weeks/months, etc..." He just says, "I've been waiting for you... just so I can tell you I love you too."

What constantly blows my mind is that even though I go through these selfish seasons of, "God, why don't I have ______? Don't you know that I need it?" ... He still wants to pour out blessings as soon as I realize that He's bigger than all my worries, frustrations and wants.

He's a good dad. That's why He disciplines. That's why He teaches us to pick up our spoons. And when our hearts are aligned with His, He also blesses us... because He's a good dad.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Why Nashville still feels like home.

I spent the last few days in Nashville, getting to catch up with some of my favorite people. My parents moved from Nashville to Houston at the same time that I went away to college, so technically Nashville hasn't been home in almost 3 years now. And I've actually finally started calling Houston "home" within this last year... which I guess makes sense since my family is there. I have absolutely the best family in the whole world — wonderful parents and incredible sisters. Home will forever be wherever they are. But what I was reminded of in Nashville these last few days is that there are people in my life there that are a part of my "extended family" — which I guess I have Young Life to thank for, since that's the one thing they all have in common — that continue to make Nashville feel like home as well.

There are four women in particular in my life that have been such significant influences in my walk with Jesus over the last 4-6 years, and they are the four people that I always make sure I get to see when I'm there.

(1) Annie. Annie has known me I guess since I was in middle school, but we really started getting close around my sophomore year in high school when I started baby sitting for her all the time. The Thomas's really became like my second family during high school, and during my angry/rebellious year(s), their house became kind of a safe escape for me. Annie loved me through some interesting times in my life... when I was straying from the truth, she just loved on me, wanted to invest in my life, and thankfully still trusted me in caring for her children. Haha. Annie was one of two people (I'll get to the other in a minute) who took me by the hand in a state of brokenness and confusion when I was seventeen and said, "I want to walk with you, with Jesus." And that changed my life forever. Annie, thank you for sharing your family with me, for always wanting me to come and spend time with you when I was in high school, and for speaking truth into my life even when I wasn't ready or willing to hear it. Eventually I did... and you had the perseverance to not relent until I did. Your house was one of my favorite places to be when I was in high school, because it was full of a love that I didn't understand but wanted to have.

(2) Adrienne. Adrienne came into my life during "the dark year" ... or what I like to refer to as "the year I was grounded." My junior year... I was bad news. Adrienne was kind of an adopted member of our family, and she was always around... and for some reason she really loved me. This was during a time that I had, in my irrational 16 year old mind, decided my family didn't understand or want to be around me, and I kind of shut myself off from them. It was a weird time in my life... I was angry and rebellious for a lot of reasons. And Adrienne walked with me through that year or so closer than anyone else. She watched me be an idiot, listened to me be ridiculous, and just loved me all the way through it. She was and still is like a sister to me. Adrienne, I'm not sure I've ever told you how much you simply taking interest in my life during that season changed my heart forever. Yesterday Eve said to me, "I don't know anyone who loves Jesus who wasn't first loved by someone who loves Jesus." You were that person for me. I am forever grateful for you because of that, sister.

(3) Eve. Eve was/is on Young Life staff with my dad. So I always knew her, but didn't really know her until she was my leader at camp the summer after my junior year. Eve led me through a week of dealing with a lot of the brokenness I had been living in during that year. She prayed with me through some of that, and spoke truth and wisdom into my life frequently over the next year as I grew away from that broken, rebellious kid and into the woman of God that I started to become during my senior year. Eve continues to be one of my favorite people to talk to... so full of wisdom that you really want to make sure you have a notebook when you hang out with her, because she's bound to say something profound that you'll want to remember and use later. Eve, thank you. Thank you for walking with me from that week at Windy Gap until now. Thank you for letting God speak through you in every conversation I've ever had with you. Thank you for taking me in as a member of your family last summer... it was one of my favorite summers ever. Thank you for continuing to speak truth into my life even in the few times I get to spend with you.

(4) Ellie. Ellie came into my life in the transitional period between my junior and senior year in high school. We met at camp, and really didn't even spend that much time together during the one year that we both lived in Nashville. It wasn't until my freshman year in college that we started to really get to know each other, as we talked before one of her & Drew's shows in Memphis. We had breakfast before both going to camp for a month that summer, and so began a really cool relationship that's been for the most part centered on prayer. We've kept in touch and involved in each others lives over the years by exchanging prayer requests often and staying updated mostly via email on each others' lives and all that God's doing for each of us. Over the last 3 years, Ellie has taught me what it means to truly be in constant communication with the Lord, praying earnestly and watching as He continues to be faithful. She's challenged me to write scripture on my heart and pray His words back to him, and she's encouraged me through some of the hardest things I've ever had to faithfully be prayerful about. Ellie, thanks friend. I hope you know what a huge role you've played in strengthening my faith over the last few years. You continue to do that every time we talk! I'm so excited about all that God is doing in each of our lives, and loving getting to pray with you through it all.

...what's cool about not seeing any of these four people very often is that every time I do, I get to share with them all that God's done in the last few months, and it's always fun to reflect on that. I left Nashville yesterday and just cried for a good 15 minutes because I was so overwhelmed and so humbled by the fact that God has been so good to me this semester, and I got to share His goodness with each of them as I spent time with them this week. It's so fun to go back to the people that have played such a big role in shaping your faith and share with them what God's doing in your heart and life as a result of the work that He began in you through them.

I hope all four of you know what a blessing you have been and continue to be in my life. I'm so thankful for you. Thanks for making Nashville feel like home.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Thoughts for Eve: Tales of a Manic Waitress

A couple of weeks ago I was stressed with school and needing to channel some sarcasm into something beneficial, so I wrote this column to fill some space on the Opinions page I had to design for the newspaper at ASU. It was about the funny things that turn into great stories from waiting tables. Thought I'd share it here.

One of my favorite things I've ever written for The Herald:

Tales of a Manic Waitress

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Thoughts for Eve: Drowning in school work.

This picture pretty much sums up how I feel about life this week. Final projects... final papers... final exams... barf. I just want to watch "Telebubbies."

Let's take a look at my week, shall we?

In my News Design class: magazine page spread for final project due Tuesday. Video and other multimedia for same final project due by the end of the week.

In my Public Affairs Reporting class: Story due by 5 p.m. tomorrow. City Council meeting Tuesday night; story due Wednesday. Must attend court one day this week, in all my spare time, and write a story. "News Analysis" due on day of final exam.

In my Comm. Law & Ethics class: Group project due Tuesday. Have to write a paper to go with it. Have I started? Of course not.

In my Multimedia Storytelling class: Final project (creating a website) must be published by 3 p.m. Wednesday. Actually almost done with that one though.

In my History of the Mass Media class: Research paper due Friday at 11 a.m.

Welp, see ya next week.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Arise, My Love

So last week I mentioned that I was going to post "my favorite thing I've ever written" here once it was done... and it is! And I'm really excited to share it with you!

To make a long story as short as possible, I have a very dear friend who's just been in one of those "valley" seasons in her life. One day about two weeks ago she was just really heavy on my heart, and I had been praying for her all morning. I was driving to class that morning just declaring freedom over her life, and telling God how much I hurt when she's hurting, and how I can’t wait to be “on the mountain” with her when she gets there, to rejoice with her, and just soak up all of God’s goodness. And what I learned that morning is that God feels the same way... He told me so!

So I sat down in class that morning, and it was one of those moments when God just started speaking. So I started writing down what I was seeing/hearing in my mind. (And now I sound like my aunt Karen, the schizophrenic) Don’t worry, it was the Spirit — I promise. Ha. Song of Songs 2:10-13 came to mind, which says this:

10 My beloved spoke and said to me,
“Arise, my darling,
my beautiful one, come with me.
11 See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.
12 Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
is heard in our land.
13 The fig tree forms its early fruit;
the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise, come, my darling;
my beautiful one, come with me.”

I just love the idea of God inviting us to come away with him … the idea of him wanting to take us on a little adventure and show us something new. I love that those verses talk about winter ending and rain stopping, and flowers blooming and birds singing… it’s God telling us that spring is coming. And he wants us to be a part of it.

I’ve honestly never experienced God’s presence quite like I did that morning, in Communications Law & Ethics class, of all places. He just kind of started painting this picture in my mind, and I wrote it down as he did ... And it came out in the form of lyrics. So I gave them to my friend Noland and he’s been working on it, and he and our other friend Brandon finished recording it last night. It turned out beautiful!

The best part about all of this was getting to give it to the person it was written for last night. It was probably one of the top 5 sweetest moments of my whole life. To see her in tears because of her hope being restored by the words of this song was absolutely incredible. It was so humbling and so encouraging, that God would speak to me so that I could speak — or sing — encouragement into the lives of others.

My hope and prayer for this song was to encourage someone who's struggling... to reassure them that spring is coming... and I hope that if you find yourself in a similar season of your life, these words would speak to your heart and give you a hope and a joy in the promise that God is bringing you towards better days. That they wouldn't just be words that I wrote coming out of Noland Gilmore's mouth, but that you would hear a sweet invitation from your Heavenly Father to just come and be with him.

So here it is: "Arise, My Love"

Monday, April 4, 2011

Thoughts for Eve: Simple Goodness

I was flipping through my journal this week, just reflecting on this semester. How does anyone who doesn't journal keep up with their life? I'm not sure I would have remembered half of the things that happened this semester if I hadn't written them down — it's flown by! As I read through the last few months of my life, one thing popped into my mind that sums it all up:

Yep. Nilla wafers. Have you ever noticed the slogan on this box? It's my favorite: simple goodness. This semester, God has given me nilla wafers. And it's been some of the sweetest months — full of his presence, overflowing with blessings — full of simple goodness.

And you know what you do when life hands you nilla wafers? Make it into something even sweeter: banana pudding! Yum! Haha. Or maybe not, I don't know. Banana pudding is just one of my favorites. Reminds me of my grandma. Simple goodness... what a way to describe my grandma.

Here's to hoping God sends some nilla wafers your way... cheers. :)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A few random thoughts...

Haven't really blogged in a while. But gosh, this last month or so has been wonderful! God most certainly has me on a "mountain top" right now... feeling so blessed! More to come, I promise.

Also on deck:

1. Just finished Rob Bell's "Love Wins" — thoughts on that to come. It was a good one.
2. Recently wrote something I'm pretty proud of ... as soon as it's perfectly polished I'll be sharing it here. :)
3. "Thoughts for Eve" will again be posted tomorrow afternoon... topic still TBD.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Thoughts for Eve: Groupie or not a groupie; that is the question.

Yesterday I had lunch with a friend in Nashville who reprimanded me for not blogging enough. So from now on, once a week, I'll be posting a light-hearted little something called "Thoughts for Eve." Sunday seems like an appropriate day for "St. Eve" ... AKA "Steve."

I spent the last week in Myrtle Beach on spring break, and took a detour through Knoxville to spend the night with my sister Friday night. Steph wasn't the only reason I went though... Drew Holcomb was playing at the Bijou in Knoxville that night. I can't pass up an opportunity to see the Holcombs. As mentioned in previous posts, it's just good for my heart to see Ellie Holcomb once in a while. In fact, I've seen her about once a month this semester, which has been awesome. Jonesboro in January, Memphis in February, Knoxville in March.

So this got me thinking... I feel a little bit like a groupie. What exactly defines a groupie? Because if it's simply attendance to shows in multiple cities on one single tour, I'm definitely guilty. When I saw the Holcombs with Marc Broussard in February, I'm pretty sure I stood next to a hand full of middle-aged Marc Broussard groupies. Oh gosh I hope I'm not "that girl." But then again THAT girl would be defined as "the one who's following (insert musician here) until she finally gets in his pants." Rest assured I am most certainly not trying to get into any of the neighbors' pants.

Now I say all this completely jokingly — Ellie's a good friend, and I cherish every time our paths cross and I get to go see her. But I sometimes wonder what other people think. You might be asking yourself, "What other people that know you are seeing you at all of these different shows in all these different cities?" Until last night, I would have said no one.

Well, Drew's brother is on the road with them right now running merch. I met him briefly in Memphis in February, not thinking he would recognize me again. Well when I walked up to the merch booth Friday night he says to me, "Hey I met you in Memphis didn't I?" While I was both impressed and flattered that he remembered me and enjoyed a quick small talk conversation, I'm thinking to myself, "this guy is probably so confused as to why he's now seeing me a month later clear across the state of Tennessee." But I couldn't be like, "oh you must be wondering why I'm here also, well funny story I was just in South Carolina and my sister lives here and so here I am..." Because either (a) I sound like an idiot and maybe he's not thinking anything of the fact that I'm here, or (b) news flash, Sara, he probably doesn't care about your spring break or your sister ... and now you sound like an ass.

It gets better. Yesterday I was driving through Nashville on my way back to Jonesboro, and stopped to meet a friend for lunch. I kid you not, I'm driving down 21st Ave trying to find a place to park, and there he is standing on the sidewalk outside of the place I was about to eat. (They were in Nashville for a show the very next night.) So now I'm thinking, "oh my gosh, I feel like I'm following this guy. Please, please, please don't see me... this is almost embarrassing." To make it even better, I'm wearing my Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors tank top I bought from him the night before. Now I definitely look like a groupie/creepy fan.

Well to save myself an awkward conversation and slightly embarrassing moment, he was gone by the time I parked and walked back up the street. And so I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to decide if I've reached groupie status or if I've safely escaped it due to actual friendship...

Groupie or not, I'll be seeing my new friend Sam again in Little Rock in just a little over a week. Hope he doesn't judge me. :)

Monday, February 28, 2011

Passion: the kind that's contagious.

I've been reading Brennan Manning's Abba's Child with a group of girls I meet with once a week, and the chapter we went through this week was my favorite so far. It's called "The Recovery of Passion."

Manning starts with defining passion as "to be affected by," and he uses Matthew 13:44 to illustrate the idea of being effected by the kingdom of heaven. The verse says, "The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field which someone has found; he hides it again, goes off happy, sells everything he owns and buys the field."

Now if you think about what's really going on here, it's kind of crazy. Here is this peasant that's plowing a field who barely has anything, and he finds a treasure worth millions... so he hides it, goes and sells all he has, and buys the little plot of land the treasure is buried in. To everyone else, selling everything to buy that field looked crazy. But he knew what he was going to gain from that treasure. Manning says "he is deeply affected by his splendid find ... he knows he has stumbled on an extraordinarily profitable transaction and rejoices at the thought of the payoff."

Passion begins with us being deeply affected by what we've found: Christ.

But Manning goes on to talk about how we often allow ourselves to get distracted and lose sight of this treasure. He talks about how his distraction was his alcoholism. He says, "it's one thing to discover the treasure and quite anther to claim it as one's own through ruthless determination and tenacious effort ... whatever the addiction — be it a smothering relationship, a dysfunctional dependence, or mere laziness — our capacity to be affected by Christ is numbed. Sloth is our refusal to go on the inward journey, a paralysis that results from choosing to protect ourselves from passion. When we are not profoundly affected by the treasure in our grasp, apathy and mediocrity are inevitable. If passion is not to degenerate into nostalgia or sentimentality, it must renew itself at its source. The treasure is Jesus Christ. He is the Kingdom within."

What keeps us from being numbed?

Passion comes from not just knowing about Christ, but truly knowing and experiencing the heart of Christ.

Manning says of the heart that it is "the symbol we employ to capture the deepest essence of personhood. It symbolizes what lies at the core of our being; it defines irreducibly who we really are. We can know and be known only through revealing the revelation of what is in our own heart."

In John 13:23-25, during the last supper, John, the disciple Jesus loved, "reclines next to Jesus ... He leaned back on Jesus' breast." There's a lot of significance in this moment for John. First of all this is the gospel of John we're reading, and this is the first time he refers to himself in his writing as "the disciple Jesus loved," and from this moment on, that's how he refers to himself. Manning suggests this is because of the intimate moment he experienced with Jesus that night, as he rested his head on his chest and heard the heartbeat of God. My dad said in a sermon I listened to last week that in this moment he "felt the breath of God."

That's a moment that I think would probably define my entire life ... experiencing the heartbeat of Christ, feeling his breath. It's in those intimate moments that we go from knowing about God to truly knowing God. Because so many American "Christians" can tell you all about Jesus. They know all the right answers to all the Sunday School questions. But our passion comes from the moments when we hear his heartbeat, and truly know what lies at the core of his being.

So if we claim the treasure, if we are deeply affected by finding Christ, and if we experience that intimate moment when we truly know his heartbeat, what should be different about us? I really believe that once we're affected by Christ, and once we truly know him instead of just knowing of him, the obvious result should be this:

Passionate love for Christ makes us so crazy about him that we long to be where he is.

There are examples of people who truly knew Jesus longing to be where he is all over the gospels. In John 11:29, it says that Mary got up quickly and went to meet Jesus. Later on, after his death when she's at the empty tomb and she hears him call her name, she clings to him. (John 20:17) When Mary goes to tell Peter and John that the tomb is empty, it says that they ran together to the garden to see. (John 20:3-4) And I love Peter's passion here. It says that John stops and doesn't go in, but when Peter gets there after him, he doesn't even hesitate — he's got to see it for himself.

Peter was a passionate guy. I love that about him. He would do absolutely anything to be where Jesus was ... so much so that he would jump out of a boat to get to him! Twice, actually! When Jesus walks on the water, all the disciples are in the boat. But it's Peter that says, "Jesus if that's really you, then here I come to join you." And some translations even say that he jumped out of the boat. He didn't just ease into the water ... I envision him running full speed ahead to jump out onto the water and walk with Jesus. What's interesting is that all 12 disciples were there that night — they all witnessed a miracle. But only Peter experienced it.

And then after Jesus dies and rises, the disciples are in a boat again and they see Jesus on the shore. Again, Peter jumps out of the boat and swims to meet him. He didn't care what was between them, Peter was going to get to Jesus no matter what. He loved him with such passion that when someone tried to arrest Jesus, Peter cut the guy's ear off! Passion was just Peter's nature. I want to love Jesus with that kind of passion.

Lately God's just been teaching me about being passionate. About being so overjoyed with the treasure of Christ and the Kingdom that I would do anything to have it. He's been challenging me to remember those intimate moments when I've heard his heartbeat and felt his breath, and to know that I, like John, am a disciple that Jesus loves. And he's been teaching me to have a longing, like Peter, to be where He is.

I don't want to be a Christian that just has all the Sunday School answers, and knows a lot about who Jesus is. I want to be a Christian that's heard his heartbeat, felt his breath, and been so lit on fire with passion for him that I would do anything to be where He is. That's the kind of love that's contagious. The world needs that passionate, contagious kind of love. Isn't that why He came in the first place?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

'Can't get enough' of Drew & Ellie...

I woke up this morning with a heart full of so much joy... much due to some sweet friends that I got to spend some time with last night. I know I've mentioned Drew and Ellie Holcomb here before, and that I've shared bits and pieces of just appreciating Ellie's friendship in my life, but for some reason they are just really on my heart this morning (morning? It's 1 pm... I just woke up, so it's morning), so I feel like I want to share some things about them with whoever happens to be reading.

I met the Holcombs at Young Life camp in the summer of 2007. At the time I was a pretty angry, rebellious, lost teenager. As Jesus softened and recaptured my heart that summer, their music and voices just so happened to be the soundtrack to that chapter of my life. Ironically we were both from Nashville, so we were able to bring relationships back from camp to real life at home. I'm not really sure how it happened from there, but Ellie and I just developed a relationship that's grown into a sweet friendship from afar over the last few years. When we happen to cross paths, whether in Nashville, Memphis, Little Rock, Fayetteville, Asheville or some other random city, we seize the opportunity to get a few minutes of quality time... and more often that not, it's way too short.

But she's just one of those friends that it's worth a 5 hour drive for a 10 minute face-to-face conversation — it's just good for my heart to see her face once in a while. Last summer, while I was living in Nashville, we were lucky enough to be there at the same time for a whole 3 weeks or so, so we got to hang out a few times during those weeks. I was going through this season of kind of hearing a new calling on my life from the Lord, and as I shared it with her one morning over breakfast, it was Ellie that made me really believe in it, and really believe in myself... and she's continued to encourage me through that over the last 6 months or so.

I think it was last night that I really realized that just as she believes in me and believes in my calling and purpose, I believe in what she and Drew feel called to do. Which is why some friends and I raised the money to give to their kickstarter campaign in October and bring them to Jonesboro for an acoustic show. And it was so fun to watch all the people in that room last night fall in love with them. I love to watch them change hearts and lives just by telling their own stories through their music. I think music is one of the most powerful forms of art and communication... people listen to music because they want something to relate to. They want to know that they're not alone in whatever they may be feeling, and a lot of times you can find that in music. And to see two people that I love with such beautiful hearts for Jesus and for people doing that, and doing it well, is such a sweet thing.

So to the two of you, Drew and Ellie, thank you for being who you are, and for ministering to hearts through your music. It's a beautiful thing! To Ellie, my sweet friend, thanks for pouring into me, for encouraging me, and believing in me. I believe in y'all too. Which is why I love to share you with other people... after all, that's kind of what the gospel is about, right? Sharing with others what you believe in.

...And to anyone who's reading this and doesn't know them, allow me to share the love a little more! :) ... check 'em out.

A few photos from last night, at ReMix in downtown J-town:

Drew & Ellie

Way to show up, friends :)

We were really happy to be together... we jumped on the couch. Until Ellie almost broke an ankle.

Gosh, I love you.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

learning not to tiptoe.

Lately God has been teaching me a lot about faith and prayer... and how the two go hand in hand. I had a conversation with a friend last weekend about how we don't allow the Holy Spirit to really move in us sometimes because we don't really believe in it. And we started talking about how Jesus was human, with human limitations, but he performed all these miracles because he knew who he was. Not that I'm trying to take away from any of the glory of Jesus, because obviously there never has been nor will there ever be another Jesus. But he even says himself in John 5:30, "By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me."

And when you read any of the gospels, and look at instances of Jesus performing healings, there's this common denominator of him saying, "your FAITH has healed you." (Or some rendition of that) And then there's so many instances of Jesus getting on to people for their lack of faith. When Peter walks on the water with Jesus, and he begins to sink and cries out for Jesus to help him, Jesus says to him afterward, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" (Matt. 14:31)

Then there's another instance when Jesus gets frustrated with his disciples because they didn't have the faith to cast a demon out of a boy, and when the father of the boy brings him to Jesus he tells him that he went to the disciples first and they couldn't heal him. His response: "O unbelieving and perverse generation! How long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? ... Because you have so little faith, I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." (Matt. 17:17, 20)

And again when Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, and Martha doubts that it's possible, Jesus says to her, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" (John 11:40)

So why in the world do we continue to doubt? I think we're kind of like Nazareth. Jesus' hometown. We think we know him... we've created this Americanized, Sunday school Jesus that fits perfectly in our little box and he wants so badly to be let out of that box so that he can show us the glory he's talking about with Martha. In Matthew 13:53-58, Jesus is back in Nazareth, preaching, and the people keep asking themselves, "Isn't this the carpenter? Isn't it Mary and Joseph's son? Don't we know his brothers and sisters? So where did he get all of these things he's telling us?" And they get offended. Jesus says to them, "Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor." And they very next verse says, "And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith."

I think in America we are so numb to the power of the Holy Spirit because we don't really need it. We don't need faith, because we're so self sufficient. And gosh, I think that's a dangerous place to be. We miss out on miracles because we don't have faith. And we're so numb to the word miracle that we don't even understand what we're missing out on! And maybe I'm just hyper-sensitive to this issue right now because I just got back from a place where you would think, in your American mind, "none of these people should have faith," but they have a faith that is so much greater than you can imagine.

And here's the thing: Jesus even says that if we have this kind of faith he's talking about, we will do things even greater than him. This is the son of God speaking, telling us we're going to do something even greater than what he did. How did we miss that?! John 14:12-14. "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it."

So this is where I started thinking about faith and prayer being so connected. I think we pray selfishly a lot. "God, do this for me." Sound familiar? But if you look at the way Jesus lived, it was never about him. It was about where God had him. And he even struggled with that at times, like when he asks God before his death if there is ANY way he can not have to go through that, to bail him out. But he ends it with this: not my will, but yours.

That's where I think we go wrong. We don't want to pray for God's will, because it probably doesn't really match up with ours. And since we live in the good ole' Land of the Free, we don't really have to. We can live in our will and get by just fine. But we continue to miss out on the miracle of letting the Spirit that lives within us lead our lives.

I've been learning that prayer starts with me thanking God for where he has me. Because where he has me is exactly where I'm supposed to be, and if I begin by thanking him for that then I'm already living in his will, and asking him to keep it that way becomes a lot easier. I believe that it's when our hearts are willing to be where HE wants us to be, that we will truly experience the truth of his promise: "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."

There's a chapter in The Irresistible Revolution called "Jesus made me do it." Shane Claiborne talks about facing the "dangers" of living in God's will. He starts with a story of a lady that basically told him Jesus would be ashamed of his recklessness in going to Iraq in the middle of war. Then he says this: "I listened, silently, wondering what Jesus she was talking about. The Jesus who died on a Roman cross and invited his disciples to do the same? The Jesus who taught his disciples that if they wanted to find their lives, they should lose them? (And most of them did, perhaps leaving behind some angry parents.) For centuries, Christians have been jailed, beaten, and executed for preaching Jesus. How was I to tell this lovely lady that Jesus was actually the one responsible for my traveling to Iraq in the heat of bombing, not a decision I would rationally make, even on my worst days?"

In the same chapter he quotes a college professor of his who said, "All around you, people will be tiptoeing through life, just to arrive and death safely. But dear children, do not tiptoe. Run, hop, skip, or dance, just don't tiptoe." And later on he quotes a passage from the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, when Lucy is about to meet Aslan for the first time and she asks if he's safe: "Safe?" said Mr. Beaver, "Don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you."

He isn't safe. But he's good.

That's what I'm learning. That living in God's will is hard, and it's scary, and it never takes you anywhere you would have chosen to go on your own. But he invites us to have a faith that will allow us to experience all the miracles he has in store. I'm learning to pray differently because of that. I'm learning not to tiptoe.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

seeing Jesus in the eyes of some pretty precious kids...

As mentioned in previous posts, probably the one thing that made my heart go "pitter patter" the most during my time in Honduras was the kids. Although I didn't have to travel all the way to Honduras for kids to make my heart melt; I've always loved little kids. I just think there's something so precious about their innocence and the joy that they find in the simplest things.

Innocence and naivety are funny, because I feel like once we lose them we never really get them back. And I'm not really sure when it happens, either. I guess a psychologist would say whatever age we can truly begin to have cognitive thought is when we may begin to lose that naivety of being a child... but I saw something so sweet, although a little bit heartbreaking in the naivety of some of those Honduran kids.

Everywhere we went, we gave the kids beanie babies. Somebody donated hundreds of beanie babies to my grandparents, so we would just take a bag full of them every time we left their apartment. And the looks on some of those kids faces when we would hand them a beanie baby... it was priceless. They were so excited to get a gift. It didn't matter what it was. Now, having just had Christmas, you can imagine what a kid in the US might have done if all you handed them on Christmas morning was a beanie baby. No kid in the United States in 2011 wants a beanie baby... beanie babies don't have 3G.

One day we were walking down the street and there was a group of kids (they seem to travel in packs of at least 5 or 6) just playing in the street, and the only thing they had to play with was a bike tire. They were just rolling it down the dirt road, chasing after it. And having the time of their lives. There's something so sweet about being free of want. Those kids are exactly that.

But on the flip side, I struggled with the thought of them not knowing what they're really worth. They have nothing so they want nothing — which is amazing. But like I said in my post before, their government makes the system work so that they can't afford to get an education, so many of them won't be literate and will end up never voting... so all the country's wealth will remain in the hands of government officials and a few aristocrats. I mean, this sounds like crazy archaic stuff to Americans today, because we just don't have to deal with that. We go to school, we learn things, and we vote... we have a voice (to an extent, anyway) in our government. That's not the case in Honduras. Those kids don't even dream about ever having a life outside of the slums they live in because it's all they've ever known. They don't know they're capable of something better.

But they're so precious. They find joy in the smallest things. And they GIVE joy with every smile, every hug and kiss, every word that comes out of their mouths. And part of me doesn't even want to rescue them from poverty and show them "success" or "money" because on one hand they have such sweet spirits of joy and lack of want, since they don't know any better. But at the same time you don't want them to continue to live in oppression. I wish there was a happy medium. I wish I could just pull a Robin Hood and take a little from the rich and give a little to the poor. (I know what you're thinking... now I'm a socialist) But really, it's not a bad idea. We don't need all that we have. And someone else does.

I was talking with my grandma one day about the selection process for kids in the program. She said they have groups of people within each committee that choose the kids, so that she and my grandpa don't have to. She said often times just one kid from a family will go to school, so that the others can work and help bring income to the family. I asked her what happens to all the other kids when the ones who have the funds to go to school are in school. She just told me, "so many of them just get left behind."

Can you imagine? All your friends going to school and you just not being able to, because there isn't $10 a month... something like 30 cents a day to send you to school. But see, we are heartbroken over that because we can't imagine life being like that. But that's just the way it is for them. They don't know that they deserve to get an education, so they can have an understanding for the injustice that's done to them and fight back. They don't know that they're worth anything beyond what they've always known.

That's why I have such a desire to tell my grandparents' story, to help them create their website and market their organization a little bit, because they are literally changing the world with every kid they get sponsored down there. But right now, there's still so many left behind.

If you met them, you would understand why I fell so in love with these kids. They just exuded joy in all that they did. Their little faces, so innocent and precious, always covered in dirt, for some reason just made me think, "Jesus loves these kids." And He wants us to learn from them... and just as we take away from the love that they so freely give, He wants us to give something back. I really believe that. And I think if more people actually took the time to go and experience that, we would give more freely to them as well.

But we stay comfortably where we are, numb to the oppression of the outside world... but that's for another time. :) Right now, just take a look at some photos and let your heart melt...

Some of these pictures still bring tears to my eyes. I'll look at them and just start praying for all of these kids, because it's really the only thing I can do... I don't even know half of their names, but I fell in love with every single kid I interacted with while I was there.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Sneek peak: a little glimpse of Honduras

Here are just a few photos from Honduras... I have videos that I'll upload as soon as I figure out how to do that on here. I may have to put them on YouTube first. Anyway, enjoy a quick glimpse at some of my experiences! I've got a few more posts up my sleeve of other things God revealed while I was there that will be coming soon. :) Stay tuned, folks.

Some little boys that we met as we walked down the street in one of the communities just outside of the city of Teguc. Soon after we started talking (and playing charades) with them, about eight more of their friends came running up from all over. It was precious!

At the two different daycares we went to, we took kids' pictures, printed them, and helped them decorate frames. Their moms loved it! They can't afford things like this... which is crazy, since it probably costs less than $1 for each of them. Here is a mom holding up the photos of her two little girls.

This is one of my favorite little buddies from my trip. I'll be dedicating an entire post to the kiddos later, so stay tuned :)

This is how people store their water... they only get it one or two times a week, and it obviously is not drinkable, but they use it for washing, bathing, etc... this family lived way up on a mountain, so I can't imagine that they get water too often.

...more from Teguc coming soon! Dios te bendiga!