Friday, April 30, 2010

I'm in Diva mode...

but I'm totally in love with this arrangement of this song. Oh, and that Kristin Chenoweth is singing it...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

An Apathetic Blogger...

Oh how I would love to be someone that keeps up with this thing better than I do. But my blogging quantity and quality is entirely at the mercy of my mood. That's unfortunate on weeks like this and may very well be the reason that the good Lord did not call me to be a professional writer. Yet.

(...my people and His people are still in discussion about that).

Monday...oh Monday. You know how people say, "I hate Mondays." I never was one of those people. Monday is just another day. But this past Monday made me rethink that. And I discovered that it's not so much that people actually hate Monday...it's just a good excuse for having a bad day, and a good reason to hope that the next day will be better.

So on Monday, I said, "I hate Mondays," and sincerely believed this automatically meant Tuesday would be better.

Well that's hilarious because for some reason Tuesday did not get better. And my boss said, "This is a horrible week."

I was like, "You know it's only Tuesday right?"

And then today I thought, "Yay it's Wednesday!" And much to my dismay Wednesday is apparently as grouchy as Monday.

So...my boss has taken to calling this week "Hell Week" and we have resigned ourselves to just hunkering down and holding tight for the next two and half days. My Bible has been open next to me all day and my boss laughed, said that was a great idea and that she was going to go get hers out of her car.

My grace with others this week is nonexistent.
My hope for better right now is waning.
My love for mankind is shrinking at a rapid pace.
My joy in what I do was gone by 10 a.m. Monday morning.

BUT...

then there's that voice that won't go away.

That voice that says, "MY grace is sufficient."
That voice that says, "Hope in ME. I have never failed."
That voice that says, "I AM LOVE. And if you abide in Me, you've got all the love you need."
That voice that says, "Get out of bed. You've got a job to do. And your joy will be found in My calling for you."

And as I find my heart restless and my mind weary and my emotions failing and my body tired, somehow, it's just that voice...the loudest whisper I've ever heard, the only whisper that can clear out all the other noise.

The whisper that says, "I am here."

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Elizabeth Gilbert

I was genuinely surprised at the amount of truth that can be taken from this video...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Weekend Update

Oh my heart...meet Dennis. This kid...I don't even know what to say. Well, he's the best salesman that you'll ever meet (notice the perfectly positioned CD he was trying to sell in the photo). But it has more to do with a smile the size of Texas than anything that he actually says. Friday night, Andrea and I went to see the Mwangaza Children's Choir. I have no words...

Conversations that last 3 1/2 hours before you even realize what happened? Yes, please. That up there would be me, minus my voice. But it was SO worth it. Loved. It.
San Marcos with my girl Cristina! Such a sweet time to catch up and laugh with a precious friend.
Kells Bells. :) Doing our normal...dinner and a coffee shop and finding the funny in every little thing.
And then some of the delight that Char and I fell upon on our camping trip Easter weekend. Thank you Photoshop. :)
Precious time spent with precious people does my heart well...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Waiting On God

Psalm 88

"O Lord, the God who saves me,
day and night I cry out before you.
May my prayer come before you;
turn your ear to my cry.

For my soul is full of trouble
and my life draws near the grave.
I am counted among those who go
down to the pit;
I am like a man without strength.
I am set apart with the dead,
like the slain who lie in the grave,
whom you remember no more,
who are cut off from your care...

From my youth I have been afflicted
and close to death;
I have suffered your terrors and am
in despair.
Your wrath has swept over me;
your terrors have destroyed me.
All day long they surround me like a
flood;
they have completely engulfed me.
You have taken my companions and
loved ones from me;
the darkness is my closest friend."


I left out some pieces in the middle of that...but let me tell you, what I left out is darker than what's there. I didn't take out the part that speaks to hope and peace and light.

A man named Heman felt this way at some point and wrote his cries to God. I would venture to say we all feel this way at some point. And God in His grace allowed this to be in the Bible that we may see that these feelings will come...thousands of years later, what I'm feeling, what you're feeling, isn't anything new.

"What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done
again;
there is nothing new under the sun..."
Ecclesiastes 1:9

A sweet friend, at the leading of the Lord this morning, said, "Maybe all this is just about waiting on God."

In Isaiah 38, a man named Hezekiah became extremely sick and was told by Isaiah (a prophet) to get his house in order because the Lord said he was going to die, and soon.

"Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, 'Remember, O Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.' And Hezekiah wept bitterly."

Waiting on God.

Though our hearts and our heads believe in the hope of eternity, trust in the promise of God...waiting on those promises isn't easy. Waiting can be painful.

This same friend then reminded me of Peter. Peter who had an extremely close relationship with Jesus. Like...BFFs. Peter who denied ever having known Christ and then had to watch him die.

Peter had to wait on God.

And I can only imagine how excruciating that wait was. After all Christ had done for him, taught him, and how he had loved him, Peter said he didn't know the man. And then he had to watch him die the most painful, drawn out death one could endure.

Jesus died. And he didn't immediately rise as I'm assuming many hoped that he would. For three days, Peter had to live with that. Live with the pain. Live with the tears. Live with restless sleep. Live with anxiety. Peter had to wait.

For three days, God simply made him wait.

Even Jesus had to wait. Jesus knew what was coming to him. He knew he was going to die. He knew what kind of pain his body was about to experience. And in the time shortly before that, he went to a place called Gethsemane and it says he began to be, "deeply distressed and troubled." In his own words, he said, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death..." But God didn't expedite the process because of the pain of anxiety and fear. Jesus fully experienced every minute of those days.

Waiting on God. It isn't easy.

We can wait to be healed. We can wait to know the answers. We can wait to find joy. We can wait to die. We can wait to be with our family again. We can wait to be with our friends again. We can wait for peace to come. We can wait for hope.

And as we wait it may hurt. We may be afraid. We may be anxious. We may cry. We may even laugh. We may end up moving a blanket and a pillow to the couch in the middle of the night to watch The Golden Girls. We may eat frozen pizza and coke for dinner. We may isolate ourselves or distract ourselves. We may look at pictures or we may tear up pictures. We may listen to sad music or we may listen to happy music.

But as we wait, we can turn to the promises for those who are called to it...

"Since ancient times no one has heard,
no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who acts on behalf of those who wait
for him.
"
Isaiah 64:4

"Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
he rises to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for him!"
Isaiah 30:18

God only asks that as we wait, we wait for Him.

In a moment I cannot even fathom, the waiting was over. And the Lord reappeared to Peter who literally threw himself out of the boat he was in to swim to shore. Although it doesn't say this in the Bible...I don't imagine that you throw yourself out of a boat without swimming as fast as you can, to run as fast as you can, to throw yourself at this man and embrace him with fervor you've never experienced before.

And Hezekiah was given 15 more years to live.

And Jesus...well, we all know what happened there. :)

How we wait doesn't matter so much as that we do. I don't know much about birds, don't really even like them. But I've heard that eagles use the wind to fly. The stronger the winds, the higher they fly. They use the force that's coming against them...

"...but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint."
Isaiah 40:31

Waiting on God. It isn't easy.

But it's worth it.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Dear Mr. God,
I’m writin’ You today
Because it seems like lately
I’ve forgotten how to pray
I know I don’t need this pen
But everybody likes to get
A letter now and then
I’m sorry for not writin’ more

‘Cause I need you
But it’s hard to see
Why anyone as big as You
Needs anything from me
I know You’re there
So how ya been?
I’m alright but I can’t lie,
Sometimes I feel like givin’ in
You’re all I’ve got

Dear Mr. God,
Sometimes I wish
You lived next door
So over coffee You could tell me
What You started all this for
I guess you saw
That sunrise yesterday
Thanks for the reminder
That You’re never gone away
It gives me hope
Telling You what You already know

I need you
But it’s hard to see
Why anyone as big as you
Needs anything from me
I know You’re there
So how’ve You Been?
I’m all right but I can’t lie
Sometimes I feel like givin’ in

Dear Mr. God,
Tell me do You ever cry
When we forget to thank You
For the good things in our lives?
I know I can’t always understand
Why You do the things You do
But I know in the end
I’ll make it through
If I stand next to You
So here I am

Dear Mr. God,
I’m writin’ you today
Because it seems like lately
I’ve forgotten how to pray

~The Warren Brothers

Healing is in Your Hands

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Things I've Pondered Today...

That I'm really glad the bruise from running square into a wall isn't bigger. No bruise, no questions, no telling people that I ran into a wall.

Why it's here and when it'll go away. And what kind of damage it will do until then.

Why I thought it was a good idea to wipe yogurt off my black pants and blue shirt with a white Kleenex.

What I'm not trusting about God and His promises.

Why the cards that have the perfect front say the stupidest things on the inside.

Why I can't go live in a forest for the rest of my life. (I already have at least one answer for this one.)

That Subway would be a delicious and free lunch since I have a gift card.

If the fact that I'm standing at the Subway counter and can't find my gift card solidifies today as being "one of those days."

Where my Subway gift card went.

Why Subway has THE BEST chocolate chip cookies. Ever. I don't care who your grandma is or what "secret family ingredient" she uses.

If God is listening.

If Ruth got her cast off today.

When I'll be up to putting the camping gear away.

When I'll go camping again.

If somebody, somewhere has Biblical community figured out.

What it would be like to be a Roman soldier and have Jesus tell you that He's never seen faith like yours. Whoa.

Why the end of my nose has been cracked and peeling for 4 days. Whatintheworld.

That Kara Dioguardi singing Terrified is better than Katherine McPhee.

That Kara Dioguardi should maybe just record all of her songs instead of turning them over for other people to sing.

The Attack of the Zombies

The Attack of the Zombies
Why Community and Belonging are Hard to Construct
April 5, 2010

Andrew Root
Note: This article is an adaptation of chapter three of The Promise of Despair: The Way of the Cross as the Way of the Church (Nashville: Abingdon, 2010). This excerpt was extracted and edited by Jonathan Davis.

Preface: In conversations about the future of youth ministry or the need for the church to attend to young adults, it is almost universally asserted that community is essential. In other words, both what younger people need and what the church must recover is not its moral superiority, its religious purity, or its denominational loyalty, but rather, local congregations must shape themselves into communities. I’m all for this! I actually think that there are significant theological reasons for it. However, I tend to think it is easier said than done. In this excerpt from my new book, The Promise of Despair, I explore the difficulty of creating community in late-modernity. I call most of our experiences of community short-lived and risky. In other words, I think that the reality of death (or what I call “the monster”) has ways of encountering us through our many frayed experiences of community in our society.

I was only four or five years old, and I remember vividly having free rein. I remember being blocks away from home with no adults present, hanging out with other children. I remember walking to the nearby junkyard and hauling back old rusted metal and nail-filled boards to build an airplane. I remember darting out of the house to roam freely, exploring all sorts of dangerous things in our newly built suburban neighborhood that was still surrounded by farmland and old silos. I was five and had free rein. And it wasn’t that my parents were negligent; there were kids everywhere, filling this neighborhood of starter houses. And we all were free to ride our bikes streets away. We were free to go as far as yelling distance.

My son is quickly approaching five, and I simply can’t imagine allowing him to do the same. I can’t imagine my five-year-old being blocks from our house, with no adult nearby to watch him. In conversation with my friend one day my unease was confirmed. He explained how busy life is with two children ten and eight. “Most of my life is driving them from one play date to another; from lessons to practices, our calendar is packed. It’s not like when we were kids, when we could roam, when we were told, ‘Just don’t cross that busy road or go through the park, and be home by 5:00.’ ”

Why in the last few decades have we shifted from kids free to roam our neighborhoods to kids needing to be under constrained supervision, even within the parameters of organized play dates? I think it has everything to do with the fact that we don’t know our neighbors anymore. The last three decades have not become more dangerous, but they have become riskier, not because the world is suddenly flooded with pedophiles, burglars, and child abductors, but because we have lost more and more civic or communal connection to each other. Truth be told, I not only don’t know most of the people in my neighborhood, I only know a few folks on my own street. If my son were blocks away, most people would have no idea who he was and where he belonged. The world is not more dangerous, but it has become riskier because communal belonging has died.

FROM COMMUNITIES TO INSTITUTIONS
For most of human history our social lives were organized by communities and the traditions and rituals that they upheld and protected. But modernity, for good or ill, has freed us from this fundamental need for community. We turned over the job of ordering our social world from communities to institutions. It is institutions, and not communities, that we depend upon. It is institutions that don’t know my name (most know me as number) or my story (only my balance or record) that I have built my life around. It seems that I can live without my parents or friends but not without my ATM card, driver’s license, and Internet access. I can live without knowing anything about my great-grandparents but I must know my Social Security number and credit rating.

Or to put it more pointedly, who would take care of my family if I died in the next few years? Who would make sure my mortgage was paid and my wife had money to maintain her life? Not my community, not my church, not even my extended family. They may all help, dropping off a casserole and offering a shoulder to cry on, but their job, we assume, would be emotional support. No, if I died it would not be a community that would take care of my kids and wife; it would be an institution, the insurance company I’ve been paying to provide for them if the monster of death takes me sooner rather than later. For most of human history this was the work of the community: widows and orphans were to be cared for by uncles, aunts, and neighbors. Their emotional, but most fundamentally their basic financial and material, needs were the responsibility of those who knew them and were part of their story. This was not easy and I’m sure a burden, but it was dependable and communal.

ZOMBIE INSTITUTIONS
What do we do, and what is our future, when institutions (i.e., insurance companies, various governmental agencies) continue to show us they cannot always be trusted to care for anything other than their own survival? Most of our institutions are what Ulrich Beck calls “Zombie institutions.” 1 They are still moving and breathing, but they have become more haunting than helpful because they are more dead than alive. Standing in late modernity there is more than a little despair knowing that we cannot go back to the tradition-based community, but that the institutions of modernity are ghouls.

As in all good horror movies, what zombie institutions do (and this has great relevance for those who work with teenagers) is infect all of our places of belonging, striking them with the scent of death. Institutions no doubt bring people together (many of us met our spouses in college), but the institution’s primary objective is not to form deep communal connection but to bestow a degree, make money, or keep order (depending on what kind of institution it is). Once it has fulfilled its task or is kept from doing so, the connections we have built through the institution are over, and if they are to continue they must take on a new form.

For instance, at my school (Luther Seminary) there was a group of six young women who met the first week of their first year. They became deep friends, creating a rich community of belonging. They ate together every Sunday night, shared in each other’s pain and tragedy, and celebrated with every joy. They created a deep community that changed each of them. And this community had its genesis in the fact that an institution, our school, had brought them together. They would never have known each other, or shared life together so deeply, if not for Luther Seminary. Luther’s apartment building became their sanctuary of meeting, their place of prayer and conversation. Without the institution there would have been no deep community of belonging (and their community was deep).

But something happened as the first semester of their final year was coming to an end; you could see it on each young woman’s face. Their community was given a terminal countdown. They had deep community, but beyond the will of each of them, it was going to end; one more semester and it was over. For the next four months they mourned. They had grown together so much, loved each other so deeply, but with graduation it would be over. Sure, they would remain friends, still to this day meeting in Las Vegas or other places to reconnect, but now more as a reunion than a community, now more to catch up than to bear existence with each other. The institution had brought them together, giving them the space to form deep community, but that was not the institution’s primary objective. So just as the institution giveth community, it taketh it away. The implications here for youth ministry are obvious, as graduation and the call of other institutions always seems to bring the youth group’s community to an end.

THE EXPIRATION DATE OF COMMUNITY
Almost every community we form in late modernity comes with an expiration date. You can have deep belonging, but this belonging comes with an either explicit or implicit ending. We can have deep belonging, but once one of you has a child, everything changes; once you get a promotion you will move; once you have finished your basement you will no longer need your help group. There are many places and many options to form community, but almost all of them come with the warning label, “This belonging is belonging until further notice.” There is death in the marrow of our communities.

COMMUNITIES’ SECRET SAUCE: OBLIGATION
Why is this? Why is rock solid community impossible for us? Because solid community is based on obligation, and obligation is a dirty word for those of us living in late modernity. Community cannot be community where individual free will is king. Community demands that I give up my own freedom for the good of the group. Therefore, lasting community asks that I see myself obligated to these people (my belonging is deeper than my job, education, place of residence, or personal identity—I choose the community over it). But we don’t see things this way; rather, we expect our communities not to come before these personal things, but to serve us by enhancing them.

When it is solely my free will to choose a community there is the great benefit that I feel that it is mine, that it is part of me. But in the end there is nothing keeping me there but my sole choice. If at any time my preference, style, or taste changes, I’m gone. Community throughout history has been based on the necessity of obligation. In late modernity, we are trying something never done before: we are trying to have belonging in community based not on obligation but on feelings. I’m in community when I feel it! These feelings give me great desire and wonderful experiences; the problem is, of course, that feelings often fade.

I can’t choose community like I choose my favorite coffee shop. I choose my favorite coffee shop because I like the atmosphere, the people seem interesting, and the coffee is good. I don’t feel obligated. If the d├ęcor changes or I switch from coffee to smoothies, I’m under no obligation to remain loyal. Our communities may feel like places where we really belong, but they are very easy to move on from, because they are based in our preference and taste, not in obligation. I like that I can easily choose in or out. But what happens if the monster of death gets me? What happens if I become so maimed that I become a burden to the community? What happens if those ravaged by seeing the monster face-to-face, those suffering from schizoid episodes, fill our communities? Will we stay? Will the community still exist? Or in other words, can a group of people face death even in the pits of hell and remain together? What will keep them together? Preference, taste, and style are no match for the monster of death.

THE CHURCH AND COMMUNITY
Community has become a buzzword within the church; it is one of the essential marks of the emergent church sensibility. We have realized that in our world we must be more about community than denominational bureaucracy, more about places of belonging than places of airtight doctrine. This is all good and right, except that we have rarely explained what we mean by community and what it is that will keep us together. Is it the music? The preaching? The location? The children’s ministry? The people? I presume we would say the people, but what about the people? That they’re cool? Interesting? What in the end holds the church together? In a world without obligation it would be hard to force community to be formed around obligatory structure. In the end, for the most of us, community is just about the feeling of belonging. But, again, feelings fade.

I wonder if there are not many who would love to be in community, who enter our buildings or meeting areas and feel nothing, who have been so beaten up by life and experiences of death that they feel nothing. I wonder if there are not many who see us in our moments of community worship and community fellowship and wonder if we have really dared to see and admit how alone we really are and how deeply painful loneliness is. Psychologists say that patients have the hardest time talking about loneliness because loneliness is the closest feeling to the annihilation of death.

Church is about community, we say. But does the church and its packaging of community simply hide us from what is truly deep inside of us? We have shouted to the world that church is about community; the church of the future will not be about institutions or doctrine but about being together. Maybe we should be shouting, with so many others in world, that we are lonely, that we are alone, that death kills all in our communities and we are scared. Maybe the world does not believe because we have offered personal options for community instead of belonging in a community that knows and speaks of the despair of loneliness. Maybe the only way to form a community that can withstand preference, style, and taste (and the institutional failures we confront) is not to base it on feelings of togetherness but on naming and bearing the despair of our shared loneliness.

Action Points•How do you define “community”, and how does your church and/or youth ministry define “community”? Take some time to consider how Andy’s reflections on our culture’s understanding of community interact with those definitions.
•In your opinion, what is community based upon? If you were to ask your students that question, what do you think they would say?
•What can we do about the tendency to put “expiration dates” on our expressions of community? If youth ministry by its very nature has an expiration date (e.g., high school graduation), how can we facilitate “real” community—both within the youth ministry and beyond it—that can last beyond expiration dates?
•What communities have most shaped you? What can you learn from these communities that could have a positive impact on your youth ministry community?

To read more see The Promise of Despair: The Way of the Cross as the Way of the Church (Nashville: Abingdon, 2010).

Monday, April 5, 2010

It's Okay to Cry

by: LaRue

God will save you, boy
You just have to believe
That beautiful things will come from broken times
Just like these, just like these

God could save you, girl
In this desert time of need
Just lay your ashes down
In hope of what you'll receive, you'll receive

And it's OK to cry, it's OK to cry
It's OK to wonder why
And as your tears fall down, they heal the ground
A place that once was dry
It's OK to cry

God will save us now
Let His presence bring us peace
Lay your burdens down
Let them fall at His feet

The fears are great in your mind
Your heart just aches for a sign
But there is hope and there is grace
In these gray skies


It's OK to cry

Monday's Fabulous Moments

1. Early morning text messages.
2. Scripture that just comes to mind. Scripture like this:

12"Yet even now," declares the LORD,
return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
13 and rend your hearts and not your garments."

Return to the LORD your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love;
and he relents over disaster.
Joel 2:12-13

Even now...Like God saying, no. matter. what. Just come back.

3. White bread peanut butter sandwiches.
4. This goodness:

Thursday, April 1, 2010

"You're a single lady ok!? Ok?"

This is a video that you have to watch at least 3 times. The first time...watch Losiah, the entire time. (The kid in the car seat.) The way he goes crazy when Single Ladies starts. The second time don't do anything but watch the girl all the way on the left. The one who is all mothering and caring. The third time, ONLY watch the girl in the middle. AHAHAHA. It is priceless. She's got this look that's all, "Oh. Dad. I know you di'nt just tell Losiah he's not a single lady."



It is also crucial to watch Losiah when his mom asked him if "that hurt his feelings."

Yes...yes it did.