Thursday, December 15, 2011


It's been a particularly tough day, one when I've felt sort of forgotten. 

{Thank goodness for friends and wine and Christmas movies and cheer!}

After all the jolliness of an impromptu Christmas celebration at my house, I am sitting here with the Advent readings and a cup of tea.  The Psalmist is reminding me that "the LORD loves righteousness and justice," and that His plans "stand firm forever" (Psalm 33:5, 11).  Such sweet truth as I sometimes question what, really, is going on in the world, in my life.

Perhaps even more fitting after the day I've just had is Alistair Begg's sermon excerpt in Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus.  I've already read it once today, but it is hitting me in fuller measure tonight.  Reflecting on some of my favorite verses from Philippians 2--according to scholars and theologians the world over, some of the richest theology ever written--he writes about the incarnation and what it tells us about the nature of God the Giver:

In other words, instead of holding onto his own uninterrupted glory, he chose to set it aside... 
Jesus did not approach the incarnation asking, "what's in it for me, what do I get out of it?"
In coming to earth, he said, "I don't matter."
Jesus, you're going to be laid in a manger.
"It doesn't matter."
Jesus, you will have nowhere to lay your head.
  "It doesn't matter."
Jesus, you will be an outcast and a stranger.
"It doesn't matter."
Jesus, they will nail you to a cross, and your followers will all desert you.
And Jesus said, "That's okay."
This is what it means, he "made himself nothing, taking on the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men."
I'm reminded for the hundredth time that those of us who want to be identified with him will experience these same feelings of being deserted, made an outcast, misunderstood. 

Not that my tiny little troubles hold a candle to the disgrace he bore. 

Still, it's beautiful in some small way to find that my story is his story, that on these days of feeling small, I can look to his example.  That in Christmas, he provides a resource for me to lay aside entitlement and say with him "I don't matter."  

May we become nothing this Christmas!

He must become greater, I must become less.
-John the Baptist (John 3:30)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

we will cast our stones at him

The gospel Scripture for tonight's Advent reading is John 8:1-11,  Church tradition disputes whether the story was part of the original manuscript, but it made its way into the Cannon--and it sure sounds like something my Jesus would do.

The people are gathered around Jesus as he is teaching in the temple courts, when in march the pious religious leaders with a woman caught in adultery.  Looking for a way to accuse Jesus, they demand an answer: "Do we stone her as Moses said?  Do we give this woman the justice she deserves?"

Quietly, Jesus begins to write in the sand.  Scripture doesn't tell us what he is writing, but we can imagine what he is thinking: that he will be accused--for us.  That his body will be broken instead of hers, instead of mine.  That he will die even for the self-righteous ones, those religious folk who care more about looking good than loving God.  We will cast our stones at him.

Jesus dares them to stone her--but only if they are without sin themselves.  With this challenge, he shuts up the hypocrites.

He knows he is the only one worthy to cast a stone; he is the only one without sin.  And he will not do it.  He will not condemn her.

Tonight, at our area high school WHY Groups, students discussed the temptation of Jesus in Luke 4.  For one student in particular, the discussion raised some heady questions about the nature of sin.  "How much is too much to sin?  And why does it matter anyway if they're just little sins?  If Jesus was tempted too, does he really blame us for giving into temptation sometimes?"  (Man, I just love the ones who ask questions!)

This passage from John can raise some similar concerns for us.  "Why does Jesus let her off so easy?  And how does he really know she will leave her life of sin as he directs her?" the legalist in each of us might venture to ask.

The point, my friends, is grace.  Because of the Incarnation and the Cross, you and I have been "let off" too.

He has silenced our accusers. 

He has taken the beating we deserved.

He has wiped the slate clean.

And grace never leaves us where we are, but calls us instead to leave our old lives behind.

But he was wounded for our transgressions;
   he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that brought us peace,
    and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
   we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
   the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
   yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
   and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
   so he opened not his mouth.
Isaiah 53:4-7

Sunday, December 4, 2011

let there be light

Today I discovered my new favorite Christmas song of. all. time.  Buy the song on iTunes and/or check out these lyrics by Ross Byrd of High Street Hymns (in Charlottesville!):

One Winter's Night
If only that which is assumed could ever be redeemed
Then come to us within a womb; be born and wash out feet
And not our feet alone we pray but everything we know
That thou O Love would come and stay and all our sorrows go

Yet thou will not be welcomed here, still Love please come and be
Our refuge, wipe away our tears though we will murder thee
But darkness only turns to day if You become the night
And we on You our darkness lay that it be swallowed in light

The gods we trusted and became will find no solace here
Beside his creatures low and lame the Son of God appears
A thousand years of "progress" past, a million hearts beguiled
Now Love alone will reign and last within one little child

O Love, make a way, come find us
Search the darkness, light the way, come and guide us Home
Oh the sunrise burns the night away
Find us, find us
Blessed One, born today, come and find us
Search the darkness, light the way, come and guide us Home
One winter's night begins eternal summer morn
If only You are born

Those words have ruined me for cheesy Christmas music.  Beautiful.  I listened to this song on repeat yesterday--no less than 25 times--and then found myself in tears throughout the day

when the single woman on a TV drama underwent in vitro while a sick little boy lay in a hospital bed without parents

when a friend told me about a marriage that is failing

when I read about women who are still enslaved in brothels

And it just struck me again and again how much we need this LIGHT that has come!

to dispel our darkness...

 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
John 8:12

to come and find us..
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
   and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
   the night will shine like the day,
   for darkness is as light to you. 
Psalm 139:11-12

to put His light in us...
“I will keep you and will make you
   to be a covenant for the people
   and a light for the Gentiles,
7 to open eyes that are blind,
   to free captives from prison
   and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness."
Isaiah 42:6-7

You are the light of the world.
Matthew 5:18

The power of the Incarnation is that in Jesus, the Kingdom of Light breaks in and dispels the darkness of broken humanity. 

As Simon Tugwell has put it, "He has followed us into our own darkness."

In Jesus, we have hope that things will not always be as they are, that as C.S. Lewis so masterfully wrote, it will not be "always winter and never Christmas."  That all things will be set right when this Heavenly King returns, once and for all.  That all of our longing is stirring up anticipation for Him.  That the light of the Son continues to shine in us, His Church, even as we wait.

"One winter's night begins eternal summer morn, if only You are born"--what a thought!
You, LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.
Psalm 18:28

Saturday, November 19, 2011

What Advent Means

In my family, a greater-than-average love for Christmas is mandatory.  Cue my baby sister, who once said, pertaining to a boy she was seeing and why she liked him, "well, he really loves Christmas!"  It's true--we Kingston (Russell) women are nuts about the holiday.

My preparations for Advent have been frenzied.  But I am determined that Advent itself, the discipline of preparing oneself for Jesus to come, should be just the opposite.

My mom reminded me this weekend while I was home for Thanksgiving that as a little girl, I badgered her for months about the coming of Christmas, counting down the days many months in advance.  Once December rolled around, I couldn't sleep at night for the excitement!  That is just the spirit that Advent recaptures each year for me.  I may not be that enthusiastic seven-year-old anymore, but sitting in my cozy Connecticut apartment with the tree lit and my Bible open, I feel as though she and I have been reacquainted.  Only now it's not Malibu Barbie or American Girl Dolls that get me excited.  It's that this Jesus whom I love has come...and He will come again!

Christmas on Greenwood Ave.
Tonight, on the first night of Advent, the Scriptures speak of Jesus' second coming as much as his first.  2 Peter 3:1-10 reminds us that He is "not slow in keeping His promises," but He is waiting for just the right time to return for His bride.  And in Matthew 25, we're reminded to be prepared for that any-day-now arrival.  This is the hope of Advent: That Jesus would come through a birth canal (as Alistair Begg has pointed out in an essay "Wrapped in Humility"), and what's more that He promises to return for us, fully, finally, once and for all.

For those of us who love Jesus, this hope also means that we will live differently.  I'm increasingly challenged by that thought recently, especially as it pertains to my materialism.  {Ouch...this being vulnerable stuff is painful at times.}

I was really excited to see that my favorite non-profit/parachurch ministry/human rights organization is to be the recipient of this year's Advent Conspiracy campaign.  Advent Conspiracy is an organization that challenges Christians to remember what Christmas really means by giving more and spending less.  Check out the  video and support the work of IJM here!

If you want to follow along with the Scripture reading plan I use each year (it's adjusted from the Book of Common Prayer), you can find it below.  

Much love to you this Advent!

It will be said on that Day "Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him."
Isaiah 25:9

Advent Readings 2011

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

For this I have Jesus

Our college pastor recently said something so inspired.  As we were chatting about the demands of ministry, he pondered a minute, then said "In ministry, all my weaknesses come out in full force.  And in ministry, I find that God's grace overflows for my weakness."  (That's my own paraphrase, and it's probably not quite as eloquent as he said it!)

Well it's been one of those days when I am soooo so painfully aware of all my weakness.  And it's true, God's grace does overflow.  I recently heard a story about a gentleman in the UK who clung to the words "for this I have Jesus" in every circumstance.  Such grace!

My world feels full of kids in impossibly hard situations who are languishing for a Savior.
For this I have Jesus.

As I meet with students, I'm overwhelmed by the need--they are steeped in religious tradition but do not understand the gospel; they are looking for something True but have so few resources.
For this I have Jesus.

I am weak and small and broken.  And even when I respond to God's call in obedience, the Enemy is lurking to tell me I've done the wrong thing, said the wrong thing, messed it all up.
For this I have Jesus.

I confess, on days like this one I selfishly wonder who is supposed to take care of me while I take care of others. 
For this I have Jesus.

The [New England] harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.
For this we have Jesus.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Nassau 2011 Video

I couldn't be prouder of the 17 high school students who served on our Nassau team this summer! 

This team was so special to me because of the way they served the Lord, the Haitian and Bahamian communities, and each other.  They made Nassau 2011 the highlight of my summer and maybe even my year!

The song in the background is another team favorite--Gungor's "Beautiful Things."  The entire album is awesome!  Thanks to our friend Elenore, who took some gorgeous photos of our students with the kids at Carmichael Evangelical Church.

p.s. Pastor and Madam Joseph are coming to visit Walnut Hill this weekend!  (Past participants of the trip, holler at me if you want to hang out with them!)  More about their stay next week.

Summer Trips in Review

I figured it was about time I shared a little recap of our Walnut Hill Youth Ministries 2011 Summer Trips!  Coordinating the five trips is a labor of love for me, as the minute details consume a huge portion of my time at work from Christmas until the start of the new school year.

Summer Trips are also one of my FAVORITE things we do here at WHY Ministries.  It's so exciting to see students' hearts enlivened to what God is doing through His Church around the world!

This year, our team and more than 80 students served 

locally in downtown Danbury, CT for our middle school trip to the Jericho Partnership

regionally in Portland, ME for our entry-level high school trip serving with African and Asian refugees through a ministry called the Root Cellar

and at the Joni and Friends Family Camp in New Hampshire for our high school trip serving kids with special needs and their families

internationally in Nassau, Bahamas, where our older high school students served with Haitian refugees at Carmichael Evangelical Church and with hospice residents at a local AIDS camp.

We also offered a leadership expedition in New York's Adirondack Mountains through the La Vida Center for Outdoor Education at Gordon College.

Here's a video our staff audio-visual guru, Pete, made to showcase how God worked through the trips!

p.s. The song in the background is a favorite of this year's Nassau team--"Give Me Faith" by Elevation Worship.  Check it out!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Just a quick post to say..."Call your senators, please!!"

International Justice Mission's office of Justice Campaigns designated today "National Call-in Day," to involve the American public in helping to pass the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA). It's a mouthful, I know. But that's one of the things I love so much about IJM! They make this Washington politics stuff so accessible to us average-Joe Americans who want to help put an end to slavery, once and for all.

In short, the TVPRA is an extension of a bi-partisan bill that has helped to combat trafficking at home and abroad since 2000. The original bill made trafficking a federal crime in the United States, and it imposed a minimum global standard for confronting human trafficking. The renewal of the bill will ensure that these positive advances continue for another three years.

Even though the clock is inching toward midnight, you can still join the efforts to pass the TVPRA. Congress will vote on the bill late in the fall--so if you call your senators tomorrow, they can still be moved to pass the TVPRA! IJM has made it so easy--I was able to call both of my senators from Connecticut and both from Illinois (I live in Connecticut and still have residency in Illinois, so I figured I might as well make some noise!) in fewer than ten minutes.

Visit IJM's National Call-in Day page to quickly find the phone numbers for your senators in their DC offices and for a script to use when you call. This is such a practical opportunity to be a voice for the voiceless.

Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.
Isaiah 1:17

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hunkering Down for Irene

It seems crazy to be bracing for a hurricane in Western Connecticut, but that's exactly what I'm doing here in Bethel. The experts are saying that even though Irene is only a Category 1 storm, she's about 300 miles wide and could really wreck havoc on parts of New York and New England. They've even evacuated parts of New York City, which is just 70 miles west of where I live.

Something about this experience is conjuring up memories of my sophomore year in college, when Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. Even though we were states away, things were tense at the University of Richmond. My good friend Megan's dad was missing for days on end after he went back in to New Orleans to search for friends, and we received several displaced Tulane students for the semester. I know that I'm in about as much danger now as I was that fall in Richmond (i.e. none), but there's still something about these experiences that makes me realize how powerful are the forces of God's creation.

I don't typically get worked up about the weather (other than to turn my nose up at the winter months, that is), but I have to admit, it's a little eerie here! The streets are crowded, and grocery stores, gas stations, CVS, Ace Hardware--everywhere in Bethel--are all overrun with people rushing out to get last minute essentials to weather the storm.

I brought everything in off my porches:

And I'm even bracing my windows here on Greenwood Ave. (does my renter's insurance cover hurricane damage?!):

There's something about the whole experience that is just a little spooky. I find myself humming the Laura Hackett song I've been kind of obsessed with this summer:

when I am afraid I will trust in You
when I'm overcome I will cling on to the Rock
that is higher, He's higher
the Rock that is higher
...oh for there is no peace of mind
outside of truth in Christ

I'm headed to our Saturday evening service, which is replacing all our weekend services because of Irene, to proclaim that truth in community on behalf of New England. Good stuff! Then I'm "evacuating" to my friends the Whites' house for camaraderie and most certainly some good food.

More updates later, provided power and internet hold out.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Hello From Nassau, Bahamas!

Our Walnut Hill Youth team of 17 students and four adult leaders arrived here safely on Sunday morning. I know it sounds like we're really suffering for the Kingdom here in the Bahamas, but I promise--this is NOT an easy trip! In fact, out of our five WHY Summer Trips, this is the one we reserve for the most mature students because of the conditions and the emotional content.

The team has been amazing. The students are meshing so well, serving the kids at Carmichael Evangelical Church with big-hearted enthusiasm, and grabbing hold of some deep spiritual truth in the process. I'm so proud of our students and so humbled to be their leader!

Here are some pictures and a video from the week so far!

Over the next couple of days, please pray for:

-the team as we process our time here. We've had some amazing time together as a team worshiping, talking about Scripture, and asking tough questions about God's justice in the world. Please pray that each student would be open to what God wants to show him or her this week, and that each one would walk in greater boldness with the Lord.

-the safe return of Pastor Joseph, who has been in Haiti this week. We were hoping to make it to church at Carmichael for the Wednesday evening service tonight, and can only go if the pastor returns this morning on schedule!

-our students as they have the opportunity to go to All Saints Camp and visit with residents living with AIDS. It's looking like everyone from our team will have a chance to go! But visiting with the residents is heavy--so pray that our students will be able to process this well.

-our last two days of VBS. Wednesday is typically the toughest day of this trip--will you pray that every team member would have an extra measure of energy and physical strength as kids tug on their hair and ride on their backs?

-our time as a team on Friday and Saturday. Please pray that it would be fruitful time spiritually and that we'd have fun together as a team!

-the church we're with whom we're serving. We value the partnership with a local church here in Nassau so much, and it was encouraging for me yesterday to speak with Madam Joseph at length about what God is doing here. Please pray that he would continue to raise up Haitian leaders and that He would give the church favor in meeting the needs of the community.

Grace and peace!

Let them give glory to the LORD and proclaim his praise in the islands.
Isaiah 42:12

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Ruth Chronicles

Oh, how I've loved spending some time in five Southern states (Alabama, Georgia, North and South Carolina, and Virgina) this past month!

I'm not sure I've ever been homesick a day in my life, at least not in the usual sense. But my travels made me as close to homesick as I've ever been. I just love Southern people and the Southern pace of things. I love the weather, the sweet tea, and the accents. There's something about being down south, that puts me at ease and makes me feel at home.

So you can imagine, as I traveled I found myself feeling a bit...well, conflicted! I love my life in Connecticut, and I continue to feel a sense of purpose and calling here. Mostly, I know that God is doing a work in me. But during my time in Richmond especially, I was feeling that old familiar pull. Richmond is just home to me in a foretaste-of-True-Home sort of way.

When I picked up my rental car at the airport in Richmond after a weekend away with my pledge sisters, Chris Tomlin's newish song came on the radio. The lyrics are borrowed from the Book of Ruth--"Where you go, I'll go; where you stay, I'll stay; when you move, I'll move. I will follow You. Whom you love, I'll love; how you serve, I'll serve. If this life I lose, I will follow You." I had been prepared to wrestle a bit with the "Why am I not in Richmond?" question during my day and a half there. And those Tomlin lyrics echo so poignantly my heart's desire to always be "where the Cloud settles." It was an interesting start to the visit.

Then, just before I returned to the airport the following evening, I made one final visit to my beautiful Alma mater. As I sat in one of my favorite spots, a little academic quad where the bulk of my English and journalism courses took place, I was expectant for God to speak to me, as He had done so many sweet times before on this campus.

As I sat in that lovely familiar spot, I was looking for God to speak a practical, human answer, as in "Stay in New England for the next five years," or "Move back to Richmond next month." Instead, He spoke to my heart in a much more profound way.

I opened my Bible to Ruth chapters 1 and 2, the One-Year Bible's Old Testament passage for the day. I immediately laughed, realizing that I was going to be reading the passage from the Chris Tomlin song that had been stuck in my head since the day before:

But Ruth replied, "Don't urge me to leave you or turn back from you. Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay.

Then, I read on and these words jumped off the page at me:

Boaz replied, "I've been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. May the LORD repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge."

I can't totally explain it, but I just felt the Father's pleasure in those words. It's not informed Bible study or careful exegesis, but sometimes He just speaks through His Word like that. Call me a mystic if you like. I think it would be taking too much liberty if I tried to apply that to a specific course of action. But I don't know--somehow Boaz's words flooded my heart with peace there on that stone bench in the middle of the Jepson quad. For the first time since the start of winter, the questions about whether to go or stay ceased for a moment and I basked in God's pleasure.

It's funny, because my friend B paraphrased that same verse for me earlier this year when I was so OVER the snowy Connecticut winter. I love it when God repeats things in our lives--usually means He's up to something.

I know I'm rambling. But I guess my point is just to say, here I am. Living right here in Connecticut, where the Cloud has settled. It's tempting to try to map out all of life, to want the particulars about the whens and whos and wheres. But I think, once again, God is just calling me to rest under this Cloud--to settle in enough to enjoy His presence, but not to get so comfy that I can't pick up and move when it's time to set out again.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

He is Risen!

If you called any member of my friend Sarah's family today, he or she would answer the phone with a hearty "He is risen!" The obligatory (and joyful!) response is "He is risen, indeed!"

I love that! He is risen, and it's beautiful to reflect on that truth on this Resurrection Sunday.

My family had a lovely Easter celebration in Savannah, GA, where we've convened for a long weekend. (Taylor and I made a little road trip down from Birmingham.) We attended a service at Independent Presbyterian Church this morning, where the senior pastor is a Gordon-Conwell grad. Lowell Mason, the musician who wrote the music to several famous hymns, including "My Faith Looks Up To Thee" (one that the Walnut Hill band played last weekend at the Strand!) and "The Wondrous Cross" played the organ there back in the 1820s.

Probably my favorite thing about IPC was that the choir loft is in the back of the church, situated in a balcony high above the congregation. It's so powerful to be led into worship from the back of the church--especially when the sung worship includes the Halellujah chorus from Handel's Messiah. Needless to say, Mom was in tears!

I want to know Christ--yes, to know the power of his resurrection and the participation of his sufferings, becoming like him in his death and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Philippians 3:10-11

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Behold the Lamb of God

It's Passover, and if I weren't currently touring some of my favorite Southern cities (and people!), I would love to be attending a Seder meal somewhere tonight.

Seder meals--the true Jewish ones--are such instructive celebrations of the heart of God for His people. During the Passover meal, Jewish families impart the history of Israel's redemption to their children through the reenactment of the first Passover. Appropriately, today's Lenten readings include Exodus 12, the Passover story.

And today, on Maundy Thursday and on many other days throughout the life of the Church, Christians reenact Passover through the method given us by Jesus himself, the Lord's Supper. We read in Matthew 25 that it was on the first day of the feast that Jesus invited his twelve closest friends to observe the Passover with him. There in the upper room, Jesus breathed new meaning into the Passover wine and unleavened bread, commanding them to remember him each time they partook of this meal. Still, they did not understand that he was their final Passover Lamb, the one who would remove the barrier of sin forever.

We find in this meal the significance in John the Baptist's remark, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29). To a first-century Jew, it would have been remarkable to think that one lamb could absolve the whole world of its sin. R. Kent Hughes points out (in a book excerpt in Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross) that during the Passover feast, more than two hundred thousand lambs were slain in Israel. He continues:

"John mentions in [chapter 18] verse 1 that "Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley." A drain ran from the temple altar down to the Kidron ravine to drain away the blood of sacrifices...So when Jesus and his band crossed the Kidron [following the Passover meal and their vigil in Gethsemane], it was red with the blood of sacrifice."

I love the lengths Jesus went to in order to help his disciples understand what was happening.

Since I'm in Birmingham, visiting my baby sister at her new home away from home, Samford University, I went to a Maundy Thursday service tonight at Christ the King Anglican Church, which meets in Beeson Divinity School's beautiful Hodges chapel. I'd never been to a Maundy Thursday service before, but it was a beautiful way to begin Easter weekend--and I loved worshiping with Evangelical Anglicans.

Dr. Lyle Dorset, a Beeson professor and the father at Christ the King, spoke of the way in which the Communion meal ushers in Christ's presence for us. Before we took the bread and wine together, we sang one of my favorite Easter/Communion songs, "Behold the Lamb of God" by Keith and Kristen Getty.

I know this post is getting long, but I have to share these lyrics with you:

Behold the Lamb who bears our sins away,
Slain for us: and we remember
The promise made that all who come in faith
Find forgiveness at the cross.

So we share in this Bread of life,
And we drink of His sacrifice,
As a sign of our bonds of peace
Around the table of the King.

The body of our Savior, Jesus Christ,
Torn for you: eat and remember
The wounds that heal, the death that brings us life,
Paid the price to make us one.

The blood that cleanses every stain of sin,
Shed for you: drink and remember
He drained death's cup that all may enter in
To receive the life of God.

And so with thankfulness and faith
We rise to respond: and to remember.
Our call to follow in the steps of Christ
As His body here on earth.

As we share in His suffering,
We proclaim: Christ will come again!
And we'll join in the feast of heaven
Around the table of the King.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

What a Savior!

Happy Palm Sunday!

I got to be part of something historic last night, as Walnut Hill led our second worship night in the Connecticut Valley, which is also the site of our third campus (launching November 2011). What I've loved about these nights of celebration and preparation is that we have been looking back to how God has worked in New England in the past, even as we seek to be His vessels in what He's up to now. In that spirit, the Walnut Hill worship and arts community has arranged ten hymns originating from New England, setting them to modern music. The hymn resurgence has come to Walnut Hill--needless to say, I am over the moon!

Last night, the team played "Jesus, What a Friend for Sinners," aptly timed for Palm Sunday and the start of Holy Week. This hymn was only slightly familiar to me when I re-discovered it on Matthew Smith's (from Indelible Grace) EP several years ago. Love it!!

As I think about this hymn and humanity's (my own) need for a Savior, I'm reminded of the Jewish celebration of Simchat Torah, in which Jews celebrate God's giving them His Word. Messianic Jews understand this gift in a really beautiful way, linking it to the coming of Jesus, the Word who has come to dwell within us (i.e. to be written on our hearts as in Jeremiah 31:33). You can read more about this understanding here.

Even non-Messianic Jews say something interesting on Simchat Torah, though. As the Torah scrolls are danced through the aisles, Jewish worshipers cry out "Ana Adonai, hoshia na!" which means, "Oh Lord, save us!" The volative verb hoshia stems from the root yeshua (meaning "salvation."), the Jewish name for Jesus. Wow!

And this is obviously the same Hebrew word from which we derive the Greek Hosanna!

In effect, the people who welcomed Jesus on that first Palm Sunday were enacting a Simchat Torah celebration, declaring Jesus the very Word of God, the hope and salvation of all humanity.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

O LORD, save us...Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.
Psalm 118:25-26

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Bible Studies About Justice

Hey, friends!

My March Bible two-part Bible Study for myMISSIONfulfilled posted a while ago--I just noticed today! The studies are on forced labor and God's heart for justice. Here are links to them individually: Out of Bondage and The Kingdom is Near.

Can I ask a favor of you? Would you read them, and then comment on this post or send me a message with some constructive criticism and feedback? Especially if you're a woman in her 20s or 30s (but even if you're not)...

1.) On a scale of 1-10, how helpful were the articles to you in understanding the Scriptures?
2.) Did the questions provided provoke deep thought, or were they more geared toward "Sunday school answers?"
3.) When you think about getting in the Word, what kinds of resources from a online zine like myMISSIONfulfilled would be helpful to you?
4.) Is there anything that would motivate you to read MMF's Bible studies every month?
5.) Is there anything else you'd like me to know about these particular articles or online Bible studies in general?

Thanks for reading and responding!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Lenten Tunes

I'm taking a day off (sigh...I really love these) to recuperate after a weekend away with 30-some girls at the Revolve Tour in Hartford. It was a blast! And even more fun was the epic sleepover we all had in between sessions at a sweet family's home. I love my job!

Today I've been reading and spring cleaning me a nerd, if you wish...listening to Easter tunes! That's right, I have a whole playlist of songs for Easter. We're well past the halfway point in Lent, so I figured now would be a good time to share a few of my favorites!

Since my trusty source for sharing music is no more (RIP, Lala!), you'll have to look these up on iTunes for yourself. Do it! It will get you in the Lenten spirit. (Sorry if that sounds trite. It really will get you thinking about the Cross and the Resurrection and what they mean for us.)

Many are hymns (no apologies here) redone by some of my favorites (Indelible Grace, Red Mountain, Ascend the Hill, etc.). Others are just great, timeless ballads and worship refrains. The list intentionally starts and ends with songs by Andrew Peterson--gosh, I love him. I think his music just hits at the season. (More on the meaning and significance of hosanna as we approach Palm Sunday in a little more than a week!)

Hosanna--Andrew Peterson
Lead Me to the Cross--Hillsong United
How Deep the Father's Love for Us--Philips Craig & Dean
Hallelujah! What a Savior--Ascend the Hill
Nothing but the Blood--Charlie Hall
The Stand--Hillsong United
My Jesus, I Love Thee--Red Mountain Church
God Who Saves--Caedmon's Call
Cling to the Crucified--Indelible Grace (Jeremy Casella)
Behold the Lamb (Communion Song)--Keith and Kristyn Getty
Unto You--Shane Barnard and Shane Everett
Jesus the Lord My Savior Is--Indelible Grace (Sandra McCracken)
Before the Throne of God Above--Dave Hunt
We Love You Jesus--Shane Barnard and Shane Everett
Stronger--Hillsong United
Behold the Lamb of God--Andrew Peterson

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives by believing in me will never die."
John 11:25-26

Friday, April 1, 2011

Liturgy for Lent

I've been digging through liturgy for Lent and Easter, looking for things that resonate. I really miss the influence of corporate liturgy on my life (mostly in college at Third Pres and Tikvat Yisrael in Richmond), and Lent seems like a good time to read it aloud in my apartment. I came across this prayer and thought it was beautiful. Hope it encourages you today!

Has its source in you
Creator God
Flows from you like an ocean
into a world as unyielding
as any shoreline cliff
And like the ocean
which batters
and wears away
even the hardest stone
your love persists
finds cracks and inlets
in hardened hearts
flows inside and works a miracle.
Who would think that water
was more powerful than granite
love mightier
than the hardest heart
Thank you, Creator God
for the power of your love

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Lenten Encouragement

My heart is so full tonight as I catch up on news from Japan. In one of the most unreached nations in the world, the Church is being mobilized.

I received an e-mail from Food for the Hungry (the organization through which I sponsor a little girl in Rwanda) detailing some hopeful stories about the Church in action. From the e-mail: "One of the pastors told of working at the feeding center and how one person exclaimed to him...'Thank you for being Christ to us!' It is just one example of how Christ's body is making an impact here in Japan."

If you haven't read my friend Sue Takamoto's blog, you really should. She is one of my most treasured heroines and writes so poignantly about her family's ministry in Japan, especially during this current crisis. Yesterday she posted a video about one American business man's (a friend of the Takamotos') impressions of the way God is working through hardship.

And another video of Eric Takamoto, who is in Sendai helping with the relief efforts through a Christian organization called CRASH:

As I was doing my Lent readings tonight, a piece by R. Kent Hughes resonated in relation to these things. He writes,

Christ was in control when life was falling in, when things looked the worst...Gethsemane was not a tragedy, and neither are our Gethsemanes. This does not do away with the wounds of affliction in this life, but it is encouraging to see that behind human tragedy stands the benevolent and wise purpose of the Lord of human history. Life may be dark at times, tragedy may come, and at times the whole world may seem to be falling apart. The wheel may appear ready to crush us. But this is not the end. "And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28), even in Gethsemane.

The Jesus who drank the cup of wrath for us and the Father who sent Him to do it are infinitely Wise, Sovereign, and Good--even when the whole world seems to be falling apart. Praying expectantly for God to continue moving in the hearts of those who do not know Him in Japan.

Monday, March 28, 2011

On Lent and Healing

I've been feeling broken lately.

Let me explain: Several years ago, I had some traumatic horseback riding experiences that changed the sport for me. Six years out of the saddle have only aggravated the fear. So when I brought Aiden Magee here in September, I knew I had my work cut out for me. I believe that fear is decidedly NOT of God, so it seemed like a worthwhile spiritual pursuit as well as a practical one. Only, it's been much harder than I imagined.

Don't get me wrong--I looove Aiden and have so much fun with him. But there's this alarming degree of anxiety that rises up in me when things aren't going 100% perfectly with him...and especially when I even try to imagine riding him out on the trails. It's alarming because I'm not used to feeling this way--I'm mostly an I-can-tackle-anything kind of girl. I wouldn't generally consider myself an anxious person. So this fear, this lack of peace in my life, is pretty foreign. It has made me think of the Jewish idea of shalom. The Hebrew word we often translate "peace," also equates "wholeness" in Jewish culture. So a lack of peace signifies something that is broken.

My riding PTSD of sorts started with riding incidents during a season of spiritual darkness in my life, so no doubt there is a connection there. But more importantly, I think my inability to conquer this obstacle has challenged my idea of myself as someone who's competent. I want to feel confident, together, and in control--but riding taps into a place where I feel insecure.

In our can-do Western mindset, we try to devise a means to fix ourselves. We don't want to be vulnerable, needy, broken. This is the downfall of all religion--even our American brand of easy-believism Christianity.

But the reality of walking with Christ is that we must acknowledge our need. Like the Buddhists and the Muslims, we'd like to think that we can get to Him on our own. Really, His grace is the means for even our pursuit of Him. I am learning this afresh as I face my own brokenness. The nerdy head knowledge of my Reformed education is making its home more and more in my heart as I grasp my humanity.

Yesterday's One-Year Bible passage from the New Testament was Luke 7:36-50, where the "sinful" woman hears that Jesus is in town and rushes to the home where he is eating. Overcome by his presence, she begins to weep. Then kneeling before him, she washes his feet with her tears and lavishes them with perfume from an alabaster jar. I haven't been able to get her out of my head.

Jesus' response to her vulnerability is profound: "Your faith has saved you; go in peace" (Luke 8:50). "Go with my shalom, dear one. Your faith in me has made whole the broken things in you. No more fear."

What does all of this have to do with Lent, you ask? Well, a lot, I think. If it weren't for our broken humanity, what need would we have for a Sovereign who put on flesh to conquer the things that have bound ours? By his wounds, his brokenness, we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).

In this season of fasting and prayers, I'm increasingly thankful for the practical living that makes it all real in my heart.

The Lord is near. Do not be anxious for anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known before God. And the peace (shalom!) of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:5-7

Monday, March 14, 2011

When the Earth Gives Way

I haven't been able to turn off the TV as I've read my Bible the past couple of days. I am glued to the news, failed news writer and hater of bleak news stories that I am. The devastation in Japan is weighing heavy on my heart tonight as I try to focus on my Lent readings.

As a little kindergartner who was sad to be losing friends who were moving back to Tokyo, I vowed that I would learn the language and someday travel to their homeland. Thus began a journey that included years of language study (much of it resulting in tears and frustration), a strange call to ministry that I still don't fully understand, and two trips overseas to visit the land that God had placed on my heart. All these years later and my heart aches for the people of Japan--of whom only about 0.5 percent know Christ--in a whole new way.

This week, I am thankful that my friends who serve in Japan with Asian Access are okay. The entire mission was gathered together in the Nagano Mountains, just 200 miles from Sendai, for their annual ministry retreat. A time that was meant for reflection and refreshment became a time for prayer in the midst of total devastation.

On Friday, my friend Sue Takamoto wrote:

God’s timing is strange. Last Saturday Eric and I attended an all-day training to help Christians in Japan be prepared to respond in case of earthquake. Eric was supposed to teach that day, but we felt this was really important. We both sense that it is likely that Eric will go and be part of relief efforts. How thankful we are for God’s timing in preparing us to be able to more practically help. We will pray and wait to see how God may use our family, our mission, and the Church to bring much-needed relief as the days unfold. Our prayer is that God will quickly move and unite the Church to reach out during this terrible tragedy. The news that we are hearing is that it may be the worst earthquake in the history of Japan.

We also believe that God has our mission gathered at this time for His purposes. Pray that God will give us wisdom and allow us to be strategic in what will be challenging days ahead. We do pray that the God of Psalm 46 will bring hope to those who right now are buried in tragedy. (More on Sue's blog.)

Asian Access president, Joe Handley, writes along a similar vein:

We have been praying fervently and are convinced that this is a "kairos" moment for the Church in Japan. This is an historic opportunity for the Church to be the Church and rise up to serve the needs of the country in the name of Christ. We at Asian Access believe that God has called us similar to how Mordecai spoke to Esther centuries ago, "you have been called for such a time as this." (Read more at the Asian Access blog.)

Thanks to the many of you who have texted and called to find out how the Takamotos are doing and to say that you are praying for them and other Asian Access missionaries. It is encouraging to know that just as the Lord has been faithful to use them in their everyday comings and goings to "love people like crazy" (as Sue and Eric would say!), He will use them now in a special way.

I am praying Psalm 46 along with them:

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging..."Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Psalm 46:1-3, 10

To donate to Asian Access' relief efforts and join the work God is doing in Japan, please send checks marked
"Japan Tsunami Relief Fund" to:
Asian Access
P.O. Box 200
San Dimas, CA 91773 USA

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Lenten Beginnings

It's Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.

Once again my Baptist upbringing puts me at a disadvantage when it comes to the rhythms of this liturgical season. But I am learning. I've never been to an Ash Wednesday service, nor do I feel that it's especially important. I do, however, want to temper my heart these next 40 days to think about the Cross and what it means for every nook and cranny of my life.

Of course Lauren Winner's words are helpful as I think about becoming a person who lets the traditions of the church rub up against my here-in-this-moment life more than my Baptist forefathers might approve. From Girl Meets God: "During Lent, I don't have that always-cure, and I find myself, not surprisingly, praying more."

I have thought long and hard about what my "always-cure" might be so that I could give it up for the next six weeks. But I can't think for the life of my what would be most profitable to give up. I heard someone say once, maybe when I was in high school, that it's best to add a practice to your life during Lent rather than to fast. To just give up say, chocolate, doesn't do much good for your spiritual state if you chow down on it first thing Easter morning and never look back (and besides, who can do without mini Cadbury eggs this time of year anyway?) The point of Lent, I think, is to feast on the Cross in such a way that I might be just a little more Christ-like when it's over.

I've decided that I want to do something equivalent to my Advent tradition of meeting with the Lord over Scripture and other readings morning and night. Since I'm working through the one-year Bible reading plan, I'll move that to mornings and do my Lenten readings at night. If it sounds like I'm trying to be super spiritual, I'm not. It's just that my always-cure is many things that aren't God, and I want more of Him, more of His Word. I want Him to be my default.

Here's a link to the reading plan I'll be using, which is adapted from the Book of Common Prayer. The book I'll go through is Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross, compiled by Nancy Guthrie. I'll share liturgies and prayers as I come across them.

Here's one from the traditional Ash Wednesday service:

Accomplish in us, O God, the work of your salvation
That we may show forth your glory in the world.
By the cross and passion of your Son, our Lord,
Bring us with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Awesome News

It's shocking what you hear on the news these days.

Today I learned that the end of the world is coming on my 26th birthday--May 21, 2011.

I say this tongue-in-cheek, of course. The idea that anyone can predict the day or the hour when Christ will return is preposterous according to Jesus himself, quoted in the pages of Scripture:

"Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come."
Mark 13:31-33 (also Matthew 24:35-36).

The folks who presume to have the authority on when Jesus will return clearly contradict Scripture in their predictions. But that doesn't stop them from claiming to hold to biblical teaching. Members of a movement called Project Caravan patrol the southern part of the country in a long line of RVs, canvasing the nation with their message: "Have you heard the awesome news? The end of the world is almost here! It begins May 21, 2011--the Bible guarantees it!"

You can read the full news story at Here's CNN's video coverage:

Project Caravan's umbrella organization, Family Radio, isn't the first movement to make such outrageous claims about the end of the age, and it certainly won't be the last. Just like all of those who presume to have the inside scoop on the matter, they will be wrong. God knows, and according to His Word, He'll be keeping it hush-hush until that Day.

I feel so sad knowing these folks are giving their lives for a misguided gospel full of half truths. The Message the apostles gave their lives for, the Good News (or "gospel") they proclaimed, was that Jesus' Kingdom is already being ushered in. In Acts 5:42 we read that "Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah." We can know Him in the here-and-now, even as we wait for Him to "make all things new" (Revelation 21:5) because He gave himself up to make things right. That's Great News! Wonderful News! That is News Worth Giving Your Life For.

The Awesome News is not merely that Jesus is coming again, but also that He's already come. And we don't have to wait until May 21 for life in Him to start.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Ascend the Hill

A post to tell you about my new musical crush is overdue. A couple of months ago, I discovered a new-ish band called Ascend the Hill. They've got a hymns project out that is uh-mazing...and the best part is, you can download it for free!

On my first Sunday at West End Community Church in Nashville, Carter Crenshaw preached on Psalm 24. When he read "who may ascend the hill of the Lord," and linked it to the Cross, I looked at my then-boyfriend and knew we were both hooked. We had been all over Nashville and not heard preaching like this. (Carter's a brilliant exegete and an even better shepherd.) I've loved that passage of Scripture ever since. Whenever it pops up in Advent readings, I get so pumped! So the name of this band struck a chord with me (eek--am I a total cheeseball, or what?!) before I ever heard the music.

Call me a hopeless romantic, but I'm still thinking about love post-Valentine's Day. (It could be because my red and pink decorations are still up!) Anyway, this old Jewish poem-turned-hymn has been especially precious to me around this lovey-dovey time of year!

Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the skies of parchment made
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry
Nor could the earth contain the whole
Though stretched from sky to sky

Be sure to check out this band!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Resources for Praying Against Sex Trafficking

In just two days, the madness of our Wild Winter Weekend at Walnut Hill will begin! I'm feeling the heat, as I've been pushing for an in-house, Disciple Now-style retreat for over a year--if something goes wrong, I will feel sooo responsible! Not to mention the volume it takes to pull off an event of this magnitude on our own turf. It's like taking a typical retreat (where everything's taken care of by the venue) and multiplying it by 20. The good news is, we have 130 students signed up. ONE HUNDRED THIRTY!! That's a record in my time at WH. And we're saving our families $65 or more per student! Our youth team is pumped!

The other thing that's exciting about this weekend is the justice theme. We're bringing in Love146, a New Haven, CT-based ministry that raises awareness about child sex trafficking and slavery. (I tried for IJM, but they were only avaialble for one of the three days. sadface.) I'm so excited for our students to catch a vision for God's heart for justice! I'm sitting at Molten Java (a Bethel hot spot for coffee and all things granola) working on the small group curriculum now--another thing that has added to my workload the past couple of months, but such a JOY at the same time.

As we've been preparing for this weekend, I've had some freelance work come up that has been justice-themed. One article, a piece on prayer resources, just went live on the site a week or two ago. You can read it here.

Prayers appreciated for our team's sanity this weekend!! Trusting that God will reveal more of Himself and His gospel!


Monday, February 14, 2011

How We Know What Love Is

I may be the only single girl in the world who doesn't hate Valentine's Day. Well, there have been a couple of years when I've hated it. But on the whole I look forward to the cheesiness. Case in point, freshman year of college, my roomies and I staged a cry-fest, complete with The Notebook, plenty of Nutella, and ample tissues.

I love the red juju hearts, the pretty homemade cards (sooo wish I had made some this year!), the sappy movies. And I especially love the excuse to wear red and pink in the same outfit! Plus, my parents always make me feel ridiculously loved on this day when it can be a little tough to be the single girl. Maybe that sounds cheesy, considering I'm 25. But they are so sweet--my dad always sends flowers and my mom sends gifts/candy/etc. This year they combined forces and everything was from both of them. It came in waves--first a bouquet of flowers, sent to the WH office, then a package of gorgeous heart-shaped sugar cookies and Russell Stover sent to my house, and finally a sweet card in my mailbox.

Tonight though, in spite of all the extra TLC, I expected to be just a little sad. Usually I make plans with girlfriends for Valentine's Day, but this year I just worked until 8:00 p.m. I know, depressing, right? Only for some reason, it wasn't.

I came home, made some dinner, and settled in for the Bachelor. Go ahead and judge me. It is a horrible, classless show and I deserve it. But I watch it. Every week. And every week I look at Brad and his entourage and I wonder, what on earth makes these girls willing to throw caution to the wind with this guy who may or may not be in love with them? The answer is so obvious.

We are all, whether we like to admit it or not, absolutely desperate for love.

Not to get all Platonic on you, but the kind of love we conjure up for ourselves is just a shadow of the Love that we're intended for, the Love we were created to be swept up in. I don't know about you, but that makes me feel so sad for Brad and his posse. They don't even know what they're really looking for!

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.
1 John: 16

The grammar in 1 John is just so great. John writes about love using the construction above over and over again. It's like he's saying, "in case you didn't know...THIS (i.e. Jesus) is what Love really is.

I've been a little obsessed for about the past year with this Indelible Grace hymn sung by Laura Taylor called "To Christ the Lord Let Every Tongue." (I quoted it in a post about some Messianic Jewish teaching I heard around this time last year.) As I've been listening to it lately, it has struck me as so SO perfect for Valentine's Day, especially the last (and my favorite) stanza:

Since from His bounty I receive
Such proofs of Love divine
Had I a thousand hearts to give,
Lord they should all be Thine!

And there's just one last little tidbit I want to share (this post has been such a hodgepodge, I know!) from "The Love of Jesus" in Valley of Vision:

I am never so much mine as when I am His,
or so much lost to myself until lost in Him;
then I find my true manhood.
But my love is frost and cold, ice and snow;
Let His love warm me,
lighten my burden,
be my heaven.

May it be so. Happy Valentine's Day!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The God Who Gives Examples

Aiden was completely defiant yesterday. I think these winter months are getting to him a little. One of the barn employees told me that he was pacing the pasture gate all morning...meaning he is seriously over the cold.

When I put him on a lunge line, he was perfect to the left. Walk, trot, canter, and a few bucks for good measure. But when I asked him to go to the right, he made a fuss, as he often does. It's his harder direction, and he tries to get out of it whenever possible. Thing is, once he gets going, it's also his best direction. Go figure. Anyway, usually I just stand my ground and he obeys. But not yesterday.

I wish I had a picture of him, neck braced, feet firmly planted. Would. not. move. And when I tried to get behind him (like you're supposed to do when you lunge a horse), he completely outsmarted me by moving to stay face to face with me. For a moment, I panicked, thinking I might not win this battle. Finally, I went to get his bridle. (Aiden's usually so good on the lunge line that I can just lunge him in a halter.) As I was changing tack, I gave him a little pep talk (read: gave myself a little pep talk) about how he was not going to win and how I am the boss. Once that bit was in his mouth, I actually was the boss again. He obeyed and gave me a good walk, trot, and canter, complete with an impromptu flying lead change, to the right.

Throughout our annoying little battle of wills, I kept thinking that somewhere there was some spiritual significance. Then when I woke up this morning, I read this in today's Psalm (I'm a couple of days behind this week, for those of you who are reading, too):

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.
Psalm 32:8-9

Isn't it cool to serve a God who puts things in terms we can understand? I mean, most of the time we might need to study Jewish culture and historical context a little to get at what God is saying...but still we find Him as the God who has always given relevant examples to His people.

This was one of those modern-day examples. Hate to admit it, but I'm soooo like my stubborn horse. Sometimes I have no understanding and yet I defiantly persist in my own ways.

Yesterday I found myself a bit bewildered by Mageester's disobedience. Doesn't he know I have a whole bag of apples I'm just waiting to spoil him with? Doesn't he know that he's just a horse? And that I have a whole, wide understanding of his life? Doesn't he know that I'm his momma, who just wants him to be healthy and happy?! God must ask similar questions when I'm being a brat.

So I'm taking some time today to realign my life and my will with the counsel of a God who's understanding surpasses my own. His wisdom and instruction are so infinite!

Thanks to AM for being a vessel in the sweet spiritual lesson!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Home Again

After my last post, I'm afraid some of you New Englanders think my hand's on the door. It's not--you're stuck with me for a while! In spite of my winter frustration with the climate and sometimes even the culture here, I really do LOVE the work God's given me to do, and I LOVE the sweet friends He's blessed me with. Thanks for the extra encouragement last week--it was needed!

After a few days in the sun soaking up Vitamin D, I'm feeling more like my sans-Seasonal Affects Disorder self. In a couple weeks I might be SAD Chelsea again, but I promise to try to choose a happy heart :)

I figure I might as well practice now--so here are a few of my favorite things about winter in New England:

I heart patterned tights! I always say, there are only two things I love about winter: Christmas and patterned tights. Polka dots, plaid, diamonds, you name it! I love black ones with a short skirt and ballet flats.

Cozy nights with good friends are the only way to make it through the winter months. Whether it's dinner out or vino in, it'll do the trick!
Snow days! I've had more of them (from work!) this year alone than I had in grades K-12 back in Illinois combined. Even though I've gone a little stir crazy this winter, it is sooo nice to be able to work from home in my PJs on cold, snowy days. Hey thanks, Walnut Hill, for not making me drive to work in hazardous conditions! Here are a couple of pictures of my house covered in snow and ice on.
And my number one favorite thing: AIDEN MAGEE!! Seriously, this guy is so fun. Even when it's 20 degrees outside. I love him to bits for giving me a reason to don my Cuddl Duds (yes, that's for real how you spell it) and snow boots. He's the best! As you can see from these photos, my aloof man gets extra pensive in the winter months. So cute!

So in this long wait for spring, I'm committing Hosea 6:3 to daily consideration:

Let us acknowledge the LORD,
Let us press on to know Him.
As surely as the sun rises, He will appear;
He will come to us like the winter rains,
like the spring rains that water the earth.

Even this dreaded winter rain and snow speaks of God's faithfulness--how about that!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Get Me Outta Here

My midwinter escape to see Grandma Cherry and Grandpa Corwin in Ft. Myers Beach, Florida came not a day too soon. One more day in the frozen tundra of Connecticut, and I might have lost my mind. Or my religion.

Of course, I didn’t get out of town today without a fight. More white stuff this morning. Fed up with the snow and ice, I cautiously tip-toed down my slippery front porch steps and avoiding the mounting pile of snow next to my car, flung my bags in the front seat. Noticing my well-used snow scrapper perched below the passenger seat, I positioned myself to grab for it while trying to keep from sticking my suede boots in a snow drift. It can not have been a pretty picture. I’m sure I looked decidedly ungraceful with my toes as close to the drift as possible, rear end angled outward for balance, and one hand on the side of the car to steady myself.

That’s when it happened.

First one cowgirl-boot-clad foot lost traction, and then the other started to slip. And before I could catch myself, I was face down in the snow, legs splayed in either direction, still clutching the exterior of the car. A not-so-fancy word followed.

Can you really blame a girl for letting a curse word slip in a moment like that?

I continued to yell—albeit no more expletives—as I completed the task of removing the snow from my car and myself. Hopefully my neighbors didn’t hear as I hollered at the heavens, “Get me outta here!!!”

I confess, I have grown weary of Connecticut. I’ve grown weary of doing good, even. It seems the Words of Affirmation tank is perpetually on empty and my patience with the culture has all but expired. I’m tired of feeling like the outsider. Tired of waiting for spring. Tired of getting flipped off and cursed out behind the wheel. Tired of spending myself on behalf of others only to struggle financially in one of the most expensive counties in the nation.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up,” (Galatians 6:9).

I have to guard my heart, lest I start to question the Lord’s wisdom in bringing me here. Spring will come again, after all. And God's Word promises there WILL be a harvest—at the proper time.

So for now I'm just waiting for spring where the Cloud has settled.

Friday, January 21, 2011

When Kids Hurt: Parenting Class for Moms at WHCC

One of the "assignments" I'm most excited about this semester at Walnut Hill is a parenting class our team is helping to teach for the morning women's ministry, AM/FM.

Maybe it seems a little presumptuous for a 25-year-old single girl with no kids to teach a class on parenting teenagers, but I've always felt that my family's story lent itself to interacting with students AND parents. So I'm super-excited that I get to teach the week on families! And since I'm the resident "party girl" on our staff youth team, I get to teach on teen partying one week, too.
The class facilitators collaborated with our crew to choose the book: When Kids Hurt: Help for Adults Navigating the Adolescent Maze. It's a paired-down version of an earlier, more textbookish title by Chap Clark that addresses the issue of teenage abandonment and how it affects every area of a student's life. The idea is that we adults who care about adolescents (parents, youth workers, teachers, etc.) need to boldly step into a teenager's world and reverse the systemic abandonment he or she feels. It's a tall order, but one our team wholeheartedly believes in.

I commend the book--and the class (if you're a mom here in CT)--to you. We've given a copy to each one of our Walnut Hill Youth (WHY) Ministries leaders to read in the coming months, so I'm excited to see how this line of thinking will impact our ministry!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Just One Resolution

I love the idea of New Years resolutions, but I hate my follow-through. There's something about determining that your life will change on January first that sort of sets you up for failure. As if the start of a new month in a new year in a new decade meant a magical solution to the fact that I eat ice cream and skip the gym and say ugly things about people. As if the new year will mean a whole new me.

And anyway, I made my New Years resolutions back in August this year. (I'm still almost-daily asking God for the grace to accomplish them, by the way!)

So there's just one thing I really want to resolve to do in 2011, and that's read the Bible all the way through in a year. It's been years since I did it, and I just want to be really intentional about being in the Word this year.

At certain times in my life, I've felt so...addicted to Scripture--during the summer I worked at Poplar Springs Baptist outside of Richmond, in particular. I had shared with my students that I felt like a different person when I wasn't in the Word. One morning at a youth event, I was a little out of sorts. One of my high schoolers, a really special kid named Buddy, asked me, "Chelsea, did you read your Bible this morning?" I confessed that I had not. "I didn't think so," he replied, shaking his head. "You'd better go read it."

Since moving to Connecticut, I've lost some momentum. (It happens in full-time ministry, I'm afraid. Sad, but true.) Anyway, I don't want Bible reading to be a legalistic thing, but something that I depend on to be who I am. During Advent, I always feel like that--like I just can't get by without the Word morning and night. It's the sweetest time, and I guess I'm inspired to build on that.

It's Day 11, and I'm happy to report that I'm on schedule. And what I love about disciplined Bible-reading is that it always yields such fruit in my life. Like on Day 2, when I uncovered a little nugget of truth in Genesis that fit oh-so-perfectly into a two-part Bible study I'm writing for myMISSIONfulfilled on forced labor in Exodus and Matthew. Or on Day 10, when I read something in Proverbs that jumped off the page and hollered "apply me!!!!" I'm always amazed at the connections in Scripture, and how the Word shapes us to be who we're becoming in Christ. It's a beautiful thing.

I encourage you to read along with me this year! It's only January 11, after all, and if you start today, it will only take you an hour or so to catch up! If you don't want to purchase the One Year Bible (because really, you have 16 Bibles at your house already, and couldn't you use the $10 to buy a Bible for someone else?) you can use the reading guide I found at

One Year Bible

One last thought: Even though I'm not naive enough to believe that I'll become a whole new person in 2011, I do believe that we Christians are being transformed and made new every day. My favorite Advent passage this year--and just one of my favorite Scriptures in general--was Revelation 21:1-5 (I had my dad read this aloud to us on Christmas Eve, and we wept, thinking about Grandma and Grandpa Russell who are now living in the fullness of this reality!):

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

To Him who is making EVERYTHING new!