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Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

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.

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We live in a culture that is obsessed with instant gratification.  We are conditioned to want the world, and to want it now.  We tap our foot with impatience as we wait in line at the fast food drive through, despite the fact that we don’t even have to get out of our car to get food anymore.  If someone is driving “too slowly” on the freeway we flash our lights, give some gestures and then zip around in anger as though that person were interfering with some divine plan for us to get where we’re going in record time.  Newspapers and “snail mail” are becoming obsolete as people get their news instantaneously online and send e-mails, instant messages and texts in lieu of hand written mail.

So, what’s the deal?  Have we lost something in this sea of instant gratification?

I’ve had a lot on my mind the past few days.  During this this Lenten season I’ve experienced some of the joys of living at a more relaxed pace of life, and have gained quite an appreciation for some of those things that you just can’t get in an instant.  There are just some things that an instant won’t bring – things for which we must wait.

We don’t like to wait.  We’re conditioned to think that we’re somehow entitled to not have to wait.

You know what, though?  God wants us to wait.  He wants us to learn to wait.

Tonight, as we were studying Luke-Acts in my New Testament class, Dr. Myers pointed out a brilliang juxtaposition.  At the end of Luke, Jesus gives some clear instructions to his disciples before ascending into heaven.  He says:

“I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)

At the beginning of Acts, we are given another account of the ascension with similar instructions from Jesus to his disciples.  He says:

“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about… It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerualem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:4, 7-8)

In both of these cases, Jesus final instructions to the disciples before he ascends into heaven are not to go, but rather to wait.

So, what’s all this waiting about?  What’s the use in waiting around for something?

Like I said before: There are just some things that an instant won’t bring – things for which we must wait.

I’ve got more thoughts on this topic, but before I share my thoughts, I want to know what you (you know, my four faithful readers) think about this topic.  What are the things that you have to wait for?  Is it worth the wait?

While you’re thinking about it, check out this song by Brandon Heath called “Wait and See”:

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God has been challenging me this Lenten season in big ways.  I journaled about this on March 2nd, but figured that it’s definitely blog-worthy:

I noticed a lady in the waiting room at the Cleveland Clinic today who seemed to be upset about something.  I couldn’t tell for sure, but as I occasionally heard what sounded like the sniffles of sorrow, I began to notice something: I was aware.  Not only was I aware, but I felt compelled to do something – talk to her, pray for her, anything.  I’d like to say that the story ends with me walking over, striking up a conversation, and then praying with her.  Unfortunately, though, the ending is quite different.  Rather than acting out of compassion I just sat there, minding my own business and occasionally glancing over to observe her state.  Then a nurse came in and invited her back to the recovery room to join whoever it was she had accompanied to the office today.   I then watched in humility as this woman struggled out of her chair and into two arm braces/crutches and struggled across the room on her clearly handicapped and under-developed legs.

Now, I know nothing about this woman.  I don’t know if she was upset or if she was just getting over a cold.  I don’t know her story, who she was waiting on, or what she believes.

What I do know is this:  I failed to express the love of Christ and seize the opportunity to serve him by loving another person.  It makes me wonder – if she had been undeniably upset would I have done something or said something?  Do I have the courage to step out of my comfort zone like that?  Did I miss out on an opportunity to minister to someone in the name of Christ?

There are some life lessons that you just can’t learn in a classroom.  One of them is humility.

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I’ve been journaling a lot through this Lenten journey.  What I have lacked in “blogging” I have certainly accounted for in pages upon pages of internal reflection during this time.  I think it’s been healthy.  Here’s a glimpse at where I’ve been so far:

Tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, marks the beginning of the liturgical season of Lent – a time for returning to God, a time of preparation for Christ’s death on the cross, and a time for emptying ourselves of those things which hold us back from a deeper relationship with Christ… I am so excited to see how God will use the extra time and energy in my spiritual and relational walk.  I am anxious to see what he has planned. (2/24/09)

I’m not so sure this would be such a big deal if others didn’t make it so dramatic…I haven’t felt it yet, but I half expect to experience at least some phase of loneliness during this thing. (2/25/09)

I’m finding that it’s really easy to make this whole deal into some over-dramatic pity party about how I’m completely cut off from civilization, blah blah blah.  I’ve tried to blame it on other people being over-dramatic, but I must admit that I have committed much of the dramatization myself…I’m really experiencing a considerable amount of FREEDOM… I’m praying for the endurance to run this course and to finish it better than I started it. (2/26/09)

If I spent half the energy I do on wondering what everyone else might be doing right now actually seeking to understand what God is up to right now… there would be freedom… I could potentially feel much more connected to what God is already doing around me and could thus become more connected to His mission and will.  (2/28/09)

I’m sure Satan is lurking and just waiting for my guard to drop – I pray that it will not! (3/1/09)

While there are certainly challenges in a culture that is so chained to the internet, the blessings have already far outweighed any “suffering.”  It’s hard to put into words the ways in which things have changed.  There’s a sense of freedom that I love. (3/3/09)

I continue to anticipate the ways that God will continue to provide provision, pardon, and protection in this season. (3/4/09)

I know that I can’t place my self worth in what other people do or say, yet I found myself doing exactly that on several occasions today… I’m in a position where I’m forced to face these feelings… No more escape.  No more running.  Just some real honest reflection about what’s really going on here.  Where do I get my self worth?  To whom am I really connected?  How do I face feelings of loneliness?  What do I do about it?  Where do I instinctively turn?… The breaking isn’t fun… the truth is, though, that we need the brokenness to experience the healing and restoration.  That is the hope that we look for in the resurrection.  (3/5/09)

It’s raining right now.  Well, it just started raining.  It always rains, doesn’t it?  I don’t really want to be around anyone, but I feel really lonely… God is definitely humbling me in this Lenten journey.  It’s not glamorous.  It’s not supposed to be glamorous.  I don’t want it to be glamorous.  (3/6/09)

The breaking – the tearing – the destruction of the old for the sake of new life.  I feel it… I feel it in my soul and I feel it in my bones.  Little by little God is tearing me down – peeling away the layers upon layers of selfishness, of pride, of fear, of insecurity – slowly working His way into the depths of my soul.  It’s a painful process.  My failures and insecurities are being revealed.  (3/8/09)

I feel like a complete and total failure… I am terrified for the rest of this week.  I feel disconnected from people.  I am worn out from awareness of my insecurities… I’m incredibly frustrated with myself – for being selfish, for acting defensively out of anger, for getting angry with people, for not putting enough into my school work, and for failing at doing the things I am most passionate about. (3/9/09)

Thy will be done.  Use me as you will.  Be my everything. (3/11/09)

I do find it interesting that God does not simply offer rest for the weary, but he commands it. (3/12/09)

I feel like I am learning so much lately – and not just head knowledge… but heart knowledge… It has included breaking, and humility, and heartache… I know that God is up to something big in me, and I’m excited to see it as it continues to unfold.  (3/13/09)

Tonight I am completely and totally exhausted.  I need rest – the deep kind of rest that revives the soul.  This process of breaking down has been a challenge unlike any I have experienced up to this point.  I have become raw in the process as my own flaws and insecurities and fears have been brought to the forefront.  I have been reduced to tears, and anger, and humility.  And now I am longing for restoration.  I’m aching for the hope of the resurrection.  I long to rest in Christ – to know that I belong to him and that I am loved. (3/15/09)

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This Lenten season has already given me plenty of opportunities to [Re](insert verb here).  It’s amazing what can happen when you begin to break the habits and cycles that have come to define your lifestyle, and whatever those habits may be (watching too much TV, investing too much money in expensive coffee beverages, over-indulging in sweets, or developing a pattern of disconnected-connectedness) Lent is a time that the “traditional” Church sets aside specifically for the purpose of breaking those habits.  Throughout this journey I hope to periodically write about some of the [Re]sults of that breaking.

One of the joys I have experienced already is a sense of [Re]connection, which has actually been a pleasant surprise considering I was half-expecting to experience loneliness and isolation to result from “cutting myself off” from the outside world through an internet communications fast.  In the past week I have had the opportunity to visit with several friends who I haven’t seen or spent time with in quite a while, and I’ve really appreciated the opportunity to [re]connect with those people.  I’ve had authentic conversations that have been worth more than any amount of time spent checking facebook statuses or browsing through pictures and profiles.

I’ve found that in the midst of this journey, I have become so aware of and appreciative of face-to-face interaction with people.  It seems like it’s somewhat of a lost art in our fast-paced, “I’m too busy for that” culture, to just sit down and enjoy the company of another human being, and yet it is a form of connection that cannot be replaced by anything a machine can do.  There is something about looking into the eyes of another person, seeing their joy, excitement, grief and sincerity, that is simply unmatchable.

So, with that I challenge you.  How are you [Re]Connecting this Lenten season – with family, with friends, with God?

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I love watching people who I care about do the things that they are passionate about.  And more than watching, I love involving myself.

Perhaps that explains my recent fascination with high school basketball.  It’s strange.  When I was in high school, I never attended a single basketball game, and I had no desire to do so.  This past December, I attended my first high school girls’ basketball game to cheer on a girl from our youth group (and a friend of hers who is a frequent visitor) who play on the varsity girls basketball team.  Since then, I’ve made it to four additional games and become almost compulsive about checking scores for not only their team, but other teams in the district and conference, and even my own high school (which I graduated from over 5 years ago!).  I don’t even particularly care for the sport, but since I have a connection through a person I’m invested in, I have become involved.

I love watching people who I care about do the things that they are passionate about.  And more than watching, I love involving myself.

While in college I used to sneak up into the balcony of the chapel during the times when the worship dance ministry practiced.  I would sit up there reading, or journaling, or just watching.  It was almost as though through watching the movement of others in worship I was able to participate in that which they were so passionate about.  I’m not a dancer, and probably will never have the poise or grace to lead others in worship through dance, but since I had a connection through people I was invested in, I became involved.

I love watching people who I care about do the things that they are passionate about.  And more than watching, I love involving myself.

What is it that draws us into things?  What is it that involves us?  For me it is the passion of a person in whom I have a vested interest.  It kind of makes me wonder.  What is it that I do with such passion that others are drawn into involvement?  Is there anything that I do with such passion?

I’d like to think that I am passionate about following Christ.  But do I really follow Christ with such passion that others are drawn into a relationship with Him?  I sure hope so.

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This year marks the first in quite a number that I have not been able to attend an Ash Wednesday service (mainly because all of the churches I would attend for a service only have one at 7pm which falls right in the middle of my night class).  While I miss the symbolic act of the imposition of ashes as the start to the Lenten season, I have had the opportunity to spend a considerable amount of time today in reflection over the beginning of this journey (especially with all of the newfound spare time I have without the old ball and chain of internet communication tying me to the computer for every waking hour).

In particular I’ve been reflecting on a passage from the Old Testament book of Joel that is typically read during the observance of Ash Wednesday:

Rend your heart
and not your garments.
Return to the LORD your God,
for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
and he relents from sending calamity.
(Joel 2:13)

Rend your hearts and not your garments. This season and journey is not primarily about giving up facebook, instant messenger, twitter, or any other form of internet communication (or whatever else you may choose to abstain from).  Rather, it is about “rending one’s heart” and “returning to the Lord.”  And it’s about doing whatever is necessary to make that happen.

Obviously I’ve made some sort of judgment call as to what is necessary for me.  For you it may be something different – it may mean adding a discipline, intentionally engaging in additional service to others, or eliminating something else from your life in order to make more room for Christ.

Whatever it be, I pray that you are blessed as you walk this journey.

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