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Let Jesus Transform You

There’s been a lot going on lately.  In the midst of the roller coaster I’ve been living, I’ve been slowly working my way through Henri Nouwen’s The Inner Voice of Love.  Last night I was brought to tears as I read and re-read “Let Jesus Transform You.”  This is good stuff folks, a window into my soul in the words of Henri Nouwen:

You are looking for ways to meet Jesus.  You are trying to meet him not only in your mind but also in your body.  You seek his affection, and you know that this affection involves his body as well as yours.  He became flesh for you so that you could encounter him in the flesh and receive his love in the flesh.

But something remains in you that prevents this meeting.  There is still a lot of shame and guilt stuck away in your body, blocking the presence of Jesus. You do not fully feel at home in your body; you look down on it as if it were not a good enough, beautiful enough, or pure enough place to meet Jesus.

When you look attentively at your life, you will see how filled it has been with fears, especially fears of people in authority: your parents, your teachers, your bishops, your spiritual guides, even your friends.  You never felt equal to them and kept putting yourself down in front of them.  For most of your life, you have felt as if you needed their permission to be yourself.

Think about Jesus.  He was totally free before the authorities of his time.  He told people not to be guided by the behavior of the scribes and Pharisees.  Jesus came among us as an equal, a brother.  He broke down the pyramidal structures of relationship between God and people as well as those among people and offered a new model: the circle, where God lives in full solidarity with the people and the people with one another.

You will not be able to meet Jesus in your body while your body remains full of doubts and fears. Jesus came to free you from these bonds and to create in you a space where you can be with him.  He wants you to live the freedom of the children of God.

Do not despair, thinking that you cannot change yourself after so many years.  Simply enter into the presence of Jesus as you are and ask him to give you a fearless heart where he can be with you.  You cannot make yourself different. Jesus came to give you a new heart, a new spirit, a new mind, and a new body.  Let him transform you by his love and so enable you to receive his affection in your whole being.

I’ve been walking lately through some of the refining fires of the process of transformation by Jesus’ love.  How is Jesus working to transform you?

I’ve Got Nothing

It’s not that I have nothing to say.  I’m just not sure how to say what I’ve been wanting to say.

I’m finding myself in kind of a strange season right now – I’ve been internalizing a lot, but experiencing a lack of words to express that with which I am wrestling.

Praying.

Wrestling.

Waiting.

columbine_breaking_news_photography

Every generation has a defining moment.  Everybody has days that will foever be ingrained in their memory.  While there are have been a number of those moments and days in my own life, there are few that I remember with such emotional clarity as April 20, 1999.

It was on this day 10 years ago that news quickly spread across the country of the horrific events at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado.  Two armed students entered the school, opening fire and tossing homemade bombs killing 12 students and a teacher and then turning their guns on themselves.

I remember coming home from school that day (I was in 8th grade, which in my district is included at the high school) and being glued to the coverage on CNN.  Fear, grief and uncertainty overcame me as I watched the continuing reports.  There are images (like the one above) that will be forever ingrained in my memory from that day.  Students running for their lives out the door of their high school, a place that up until that point had always seemed to be a “safe” place.  No high school would ever again be considered “safe.”

Even more than the media coverage, though, I was shaken to the core by the stories that began emerging regarding the supposed martyrdom of Rachel Scott and Cassie Bernall.  I had heard ancient stories of people who had been killed for their faith, but the emerging stories (whether fully true or not) of these girls being questioned about their faith in God or being targeted in the shooting for their Christian faith made such martyrdom a reality.  These girls were just like me – typical American teenagers who happened to be actively involved in their churches – and in an instant they were gone.

In light of this year’s 10th anniversary of the shooting, I have been re-reading some of the books on my shelf about the stories of these two girls: Rachel’s Tears and She Said Yes.  I first read these books in high school, and re-reading them has allowed me to revisit some of the emotions and challenges that I faced as a high schooler dealing with the nation wide impact of the events at Columbine.

Now, 10 years later, I choose to remember: not the violence and tragedy of that day, but rather the hope that I have seen rising up as a result.  The events that took place on April 20, 1999 will forever be etched on our minds and hearts – may we rise to the challenges, remember the lost, and embrace the hope of healing.

Pride Hurts

… really hurts.

So, as I’ve been participating in the Hundred Pushup Challenge for the past 5 weeks or so, I’ve been getting a little bit of an ego boost in the form of arm and shoulder muscles that had been previously non-existent.  That ego boost has also been a bit of a pride boost. (Just picture me parading around the house in a sports bra and sweatpants flexing my arm muscles in front of every mirror – it’s actually kind of ridiculous.)

So, yesterday (on Easter Sunday, no less) as I sat with some of the youth from PLC at the Easter Pancake Breakfast, I was bragging (just a little, I swear!) to them about my buff arms and washboard (ha! not yet) abs from working out.  So of course on of them was like, “prove it!” and challenged me to an arm wrestling duel.  Well, being the competitive soul that I am, I had to take her up on the challenge and easily defeated her on the first try – piece of cake, right?  Yeah.  So then she told me I should arm wrestle Scott.  Since my ego had already been inflated at that point, and I was pretty confident in my new found arm strength, I took her up on the challenge and prepared myself to pin Scott’s arm to the table.

After several minutes of hard-fought battle, neither Scott nor myself were getting anywhere in the battle.  We were at a stalemate (and I was pretty proud of the fact that I was holding my own against my super buff fiance).  Then, perhaps in a moment of brilliance, that youth grabbed both our arms and pulled both down causing me to “lose” the match.

And that, my friends, is when I began to feel it.  Soreness began to creep into my shoulder.  Oh, the pain.  And today, it was multiplied.  My arm is weak.  I fear the gravity of the injury, so I’m waiting it out before I jump to go see a doctor about it.  Either way, I’m feeling the consequences of my pride, and if I can tell you one thing, I can tell you this: pride hurts in the end.

The Easter Promise

Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you – unless you have come to believe in vain.

For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was burried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.  Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.  Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.  For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.  But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain.  On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them – though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.  Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.  (1 Corinthians 15:1-11 NRSV)

This, my friends is the promise of Easter:  Christ crucified has risen from the dead!  Like Eric, today I am reminded of the promise that Jesus is more than a “good man”.  A good man doesn’t do much for me other than give me a warm fuzzy feeling.  The Son of God in human flesh crucified, dead and burried and then resurrected from the dead – that is a promise that I can cling to.  That is the promise that gives me hope and joy.

It is with the assurance of that promise that I now step out of this Lenten Journey and into the hope of the resurrected Christ.  I pray that you were blessed both in this Lenten Season as well as in today’s joyous Easter celebration.

May you know the hope and promise of Christ raised from the dead.

101 Things Update

Well, so much for a regular update on the status of my 101 Things list.  I haven’t even been very good at keeping up the list here at the site.  I did go back and make some updates, though – so here’s what’s new with 101 Things:

#1: Call one friend a month just to catch up
I’ve done a fairly decent job of keeping up on this one, making some intentional effort to connect with friends the good-old fashioned way over the phone.  So far, three months and at least three phone calls.

#20: Read the Bible in its entirety
Thanks to seminary classes that require a fairly heavy amount of Bible-reading, I’ve been keeping up with this one.  So far: Matthew, Mark, John and Galatians (all for classes), and Philippians (during my silent retreat at Mowana)

#30: Attend 30 On-Turf Youth Events
Three PSHS varsity basketball games, one community league indoor soccer game, and a spaghetti dinner sponsored by the PSHS volleyball teams.

#43: Complete the One Hundred Pushups Challenge
I began this program at the same time as the Two Hundred Situps Challenge.  After four weeks of the program, I am currently able to do 32 consecutive pushups.  I’m hoping to be able to do 100 by the time the next few weeks are over!

#47: Tackle the Tower
Finished!  February 7th Scott and I joined a group from PLC to Tackle the Tower for Ronald McDonald House.  It may not have been my best athletic performance to date, but I did it nonetheless!

#49: Complete the 200 Situps Challenge
Finished!  After completing only four weeks of the six-week challenge, I was able to do 210 crunches on 4/5/09.  I will be finishing the last two weeks of the program and then maintaining by doing a minimum of 200 crunches three times per week.

#52: Read and Finish 101 Books
I’ve definitely been keeping busy with this one – between reading for classes and a voracious appetite for personal reading that I’ve had lately, my list now includes the following titles:

  • The Shack by: William P. Young
  • The Synoptic Problem by: Mark Goodacre
  • Mad Church Disease by: Anne Jackson
  • She Said Yes by: Misty Bernall
  • The Way of the Heart by: Henri Nouwen
  • Holy Bible, Human Bible by: Gordon Oliver
  • Eat This Book by: Eugene Peterson
  • The Last Word by: NT Wright
  • Fundamentalism and American Culture by: George Marsden
  • The Real Billy Sunday by: Lyle Dorsett
  • Crazy Love by: Francis Chan

In addition to those, I’ve got about nine more that I am currently in the middle of reading both for class, ministry and personal enjoyment.

#53: Spend an entire day in silence
Finished!  In fact, I spent two entire days in silence while on a personal silent retreat at Camp Mowana from March 22nd through 24th.

#54: Watch 101 movies I have never seen before
Added to the last list are: Wall-E, The Final Cut, and Down With Love

#82: Go one week without logging into Facebook
Finished!  And beyond a week, since I gave up Facebook for Lent, it has currently been 41 days since I was last on Facebook.

#88: Spend at least 15 days at Camp Mowana
Two down, 13 more to go!  I’m definitely hoping to make a few more silent retreats down to Mowana during this 1001 days, and hopefully a few trips with the youth group and this goal will be more than met!

Changing Seasons

Although you wouldn’t really be able to tell from looking out my window at the 3 inches of snow that fell today, the seasons are beginning to change.  Winter turns to spring.  Academic busy-ness turns to spring fever and summer fun.  The ministry madness of the Christmas to Easter season begins to turn slowly to the more relaxed pace and flexibility of summer ministry.

As I was glancing today through my calendar for the next few months, I couldn’t help but notice something.  While there certainly isn’t a lack of work to do, events to plan, and family functions to attend in the coming months, they are looking significantly less full than the past few months have been.  Things are beginning to wind down for a season – you know how I can tell?

  • The number of youth events on my calendar has dropped.  SAC lunches are down to a minimum (due to upcoming holidays that fall on the 2nd Sunday of the month) and we’re preparing to wind down this academic-year-season of youth ministry at PLC.
  • There are fewer classes on the calendar this quarter.  Since one of my registered classes this quarter is Field Study, which is mostly taking place in conjunction with my ministry at PLC, I have fewer classes per week and at least the notion of less homework.  It’s a nice reprieve and lead-in to summer.
  • My little sister graduates from college in a month!  Even though her academic calendar finishes up about a month before mine, I’m already hearing the sounds of summer.

In addition to the change in perceived busy-ness, I’ve noticed a bit of a shift in my ministry.  What does this season look for me as I face a calendar with fewer events and more office hours?

  • Evaluation – For the first time I am facing the end of this academic-year-season of ministry knowing with certainty that I’ll be continuing in my ministry in this place.  I’ve been spending a lot of time lately reflecting on how we’ve done youth ministry this year at PLC and trying to figure out ways to build on that for next year.
  • Relational Connections – I’m beginning to step up my efforts in connecting with youth on their “turf” through coffee connections, texting (as much as I despise it sometime) and just checking in to see how they have grown during the course of the year.
  • Future Planning – I’m in the early stages of figuring out where Youth Ministry at PLC will be headed next year.  We’re in a place right now where some shifts are beginning to happen, and I’m excited to see where God is calling us to go this Fall.