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Archive for December, 2008

Well, the time is upon us: reflection on another year gone by, resolutions for the year to come.  It seems that every year is momentous, filled with joy and sorrow and significant change – 2008 has been no different.  I can hardly remember the final days of 2007 – it seems like my life now is so far removed from where it was just a year ago.  So much has changed, and yet so much feels exactly the same.

It seems as though it were just yesterday when I drove back to Fremont after spending a week in Cleveland for the Christmas holiday, returning to a community that I had grown to love and a job that I had grown to love even more.  I spent the winter and spring diving deeper into my position as Director of Youth & Education Ministries at Grace Lutheran Church in Fremont, Ohio and embracing all the opportunities that youth ministry provides–lock-ins, a children’s ministry conference in Chicago, the annual youth dinner auction, the joys of hosting groups of youth in my tiny apartment for lunch and Bible study after church on Sundays during Lent, and the celebration at the beginning of June of surviving my first year in congregational youth ministry.

In May I enjoyed a brief respite from the always-busy youth ministry schedule as I traveled with my sister, Kristen to Nashville, TN for a few days.  It was a nice way to break up the transition from school-year ministry to summer ministry as I prepared for a summer that would bring about a number major life changes.

As the seasons changed from spring to summer, some significant events and difficult decisions brought some major changes in my own life.  The catalyst of these changes was my long-awaited engagement to Scott on June 14, 2008 when he proposed to me at Mentor Headlands Beach during a weekend trip home to Mayfield.  The month that followed was quite the whirlwind as I took a group of Jr. High youth to the ALIVE festival, spent a week leading music and directing Vacation Bible School and spent two incredible weeks on Spoke Folk with a group of Sr. High youth from Grace.  Along with the joy and excitement of summer ministry, that month included the difficult decision to resign my position at Grace Lutheran Church in Fremont and accept a part-time position at Parma Lutheran Church in Parma, Ohio so that I could move home to the Cleveland area to be near Scott and allow time for grad school and planning a wedding.

At the end of July I moved back in with my parents and began my part-time position as Director of Youth & Young Adult Ministries at Parma Lutheran Church.  Scott and I began the process of wedding planning and are now looking forward to September 12, 2009 when we will join our hearts as one in marriage.  In October I began full-time studies at Ashland Theological Seminary where I will spend the next three years pursuing my Masters of Divinity degree.

Since starting seminary in October I have enjoyed the fast-paced life of being a full-time student and part-time youth minister.  I’ve enjoyed the many opportunities that I’ve had to settle into my position at PLC through various youth and church-wide events–a fall sr. high retreat, a service trip to Redeemer Crisis Center in Cleveland, and a Christmas lock-in event.

Now that I’ve reflected on the past year, it’s time to start looking ahead.  Resolutions, anyone?

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It’s been a few years since I was first introduced to this beauty performed by Relient K.  I remember hearing the song for the first time… the lyrics completely awakened me to a new way of understanding the whole miracle of Christ’s birth.

This year I’ve been finding it difficult to get into the “Christmas spirit.”  It just doesn’t feel like Christmas.  And yet, tonight I find myself once again drawn back to Relient K’s “I Celebrate the Day.”

And with this Christmas wish is missed
The point I could convey
If only I could find the words to say
To let You know how much You’ve touched my life
Because here is where You’re finding me
In the exact same place as New Year’s eve
And from a lack of my persistency
We’re less than half as close as I want to be

And the first time that You opened your eyes
Did You realize that You would be my Savior?
And the first breath that left Your lips
Did You know that it would change this world forever?

And so this Christmas I’ll compare
The things I felt in prior years
To what this midnight made so clear
That You have come to meet me here

To look back and think that
This baby would one day save me
In the hope that what You did
That you were born so I might live
To look back and think that
This baby would one day save me

And I, I celebrate the day
That You were born to die
So I could one day pray for You to save my life

Once again the lyrics are striking a chord with me.  The miracle of the God of the universe invading our world in human form – as a baby no less – is nothing short of just that: a miracle.  And I hope it remains that way for years to come – whether I feel like cozying up with hot chocolate and new pajamas singing along to carols, or whether it just comes again like every other year (kind of how this year has felt) – I hope that the wonder of “The Word became flesh” (John 1:14) would never cease.

Merry Christmas, from my world to yours.

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My sister has recently got me hooked on singer-songwriter JJ Heller.  It’s been a long time since I’ve been so refreshed by such grace-filled lyrics and haunting melodies (perhaps since Missy Higgins?).  Over the course of 4 or 5 days, the songs from her albums “Only Love Remains” (2006) and “The Pretty and the Plain” (2007) have come incredibly close to landing among some of the most played songs in my iTunes library.  I’ve been especially hooked on the title track to the 2006 album Only Love Remains (maybe this has something to do with the fact that I’m pretty sure Kristen has been running the song on repeat for approximately the last 203849822 hours in the room next door).

Usually such repeated play of a song causes me to get sick of a song really fast, but every once in a while a song comes around that deserves such airtime.  Such a song is one that resonates deeply in the core of my being – one that needs to be soaked in through the pores and made part of one’s being.  This is one of those songs.  So, here are the lyrics and a video of a live performance.  Let it permeate your soul.  Mmmhmm.

Scenes of you come rushing through
You are breaking me down
So break me into pieces
That will grow in the ground
I know that I deserve to die
For the murder in my heart
So be gentle with me Jesus
As you tear me apart

Please kill the liar
Kill the thief in me
You know that I am tired of their cruelty
Breathe into my spirit
Breathe into my veins
Until only love remains

You burn away the ropes that bind
And hold me to the earth
The fire only leaves behind whatever is of worth
I begin to see reality
For the first time in my life
I know that I’m a shadow
But I’m dancing in your light

Teach me to be humble
Call me from the grave
Show me how to walk with you upon the waves
Breathe into my spirit
Breathe into my veins
Until only love remains


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Wishing Time Away

Not sure what brought this on tonight.  Just some thoughts that have been bouncing around my head.  I apologize for the stream-of-consciousness feel.

When I lived alone in Fremont, I complained about it a lot.  I complained that I was bored, and lonely, and all those other things we say when we move to a town where we don’t know anybody and live alone.  And I honestly believe that at some points I actually was bored, lonely, etc.

But the truth is, there are days when I really miss the simplicity of my life in Fremont.  Maybe what I’m really missing are the people from Grace, but sometimes it manifests itself in other ways.  For examlple, there are days (or nights) when I’m driving home from PLC and wish that I was driving back to my own place.  Don’t get me wrong: it’s been a real blessing being around my parents.  But the truth is, I just miss having my own space – sure, I have my bedroom.  But as small as that tiny upstairs apartment in Fremont was, it was my place.

It saddens me a little bit that for the entire year I spent in Fremont I was wishing it away.  I’m coming to the realization that I’ll most likely never again have a place that is mine.  Next year when I move out of my parents’ house, I will be married, and the place we live will become ours.  Don’t get me wrong (again):  I’m excited for that.  I suppose I just wish I had taken advantage of the luxury I had in Fremont of having my own space.

In many ways, life in Fremont seemed simpler, too.  It was definitely less busy.  Sure, I worked full time – but without in-town friends (or classes to take), the majority of my time outside of working was spent alone.  I had time to think, time to write, time to pray, and yet I feel like so much of that time time was wasted away watching hours of TV.  I didn’t have internet in my apartment in Fremont, so when I went home I wasn’t tempted to spend hours surfing mindlessly around the internet or Facebooking.

So, whatever it is… it’s been on my mind lately.  And now it’s at least “out there” instead of “up here”.  Maybe I’ll complete these thoughts someday.

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“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.  For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” Exodus 7:8-11

This is one of the more difficult commands from God for me to obey.  There are others (you know, thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, etc.) that come fairly easy for me, but this one – remember the Sabbath is a difficult one for me.  We live in a culture that honors busyness, where the more you “do” the better off you are.  Honoring the Sabbath has become sort of a “lost art” in 21st century America.  Yet, it is a command from God, and one that I believe we should all strive to obey.

When I woke up this morning (at 11:00am – I love sleeping in!) and booted up my computer, I noticed something very very rare as I did my normal “Monday morning” things.  I flipped through the four open tabs in my Firefox browser, checked for new updates from my friends on Facebook, caught up on blog posts in my Google reader, and then flipped to my Google calendar to what I found to be a rather pleasant surprise:  In the next three weeks, there are currently 8 days on my calendar that have NOTHING scheduled on them.

This season, though it is a busy one for the church is affording me the incredible opportunity to rest, and I couldn’t be more excited.  Sure, I’ll probably spend some of these days doing “productive” things, but I have the luxury of doing those things at my own pace.

Most of all, during these next three weeks I hope to remember the Sabbath… to spend time resting in the love of my Savior, reading for pleasure, writing and recording some music, and just enjoying the company of family and friends.  Sure, there are going to be some days in the next three weeks that are busy and chaotic, but they’re balanced out by days of nothing.

So, as I enjoy this season of Sabbath remembering, I hope you will also find the same.  That you can enjoy this season of expectation and celebration of the incarnation of God in the birth of Jesus Christ, and simply rest.

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50,000 Shoes

I realize I’m a little late in posting this, but with only 19 days remaining in the 50 days of the challenge, I’m really saddened by the huge gap remaining to reach the goal of 50,000 pairs of shoes.  Soles4Souls is a Nashville based charity with one goal: to make shoes available to people in the world who need shoes.  It seems simple, but with the extent of poverty around the world, it’s a bigger challenge than we can imagine.

Nashville-based Soles4Souls(TM) facilitates the donations of both new and used shoes, which are used to aid the hurting worldwide.  Since its inception, Soles4Souls has distributed more than 3.5 million pairs (or one pair every 23 seconds) to people in 61 countries, including Honduras, Romania, Thailand, and the Sudan.  The Charity has been featured on CNN Headline News, NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, ABC News, FOX, CBS, and hundreds of regional outlets around North America.  Soles4Souls is a 501(c)(3) recognized by the IRS; donating parties are eligible for tax advantages.  Visit www.giveshoes.org for more information.

So, I’m not sure how many regular readers I have here, but I figure I’ll do my part to get the word out.  This is a cause I believe in.  Everyone’s got $5 (or more!) – just skip that morning Starbucks for a day or two and make a real difference in someone’s life by meeting a simple need.  There’s still a long way to go before the 50,000 pairs goal is met – let’s do this thing!

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