Thursday, September 30, 2010

Band Outreach!!

The Cru Outreach Team had the great idea to spend a week loving on UT's Pride of the Southland Marching Band!

I just wanted to post a few photos from the outreach. Students showed up and gave out free Gatorade on Monday, Icy Pops on Wednesday, and Ice Cream Sandwiches on Friday, which was great because the temperatures were in the high 90s last week! We also had all of the students at our weekly meeting last Thursday write encouraing notes to give to everyone in the band - that's hundreds of people! Maybe a student will wonder why a group of people would stand in the 90+ degree heat just to serve him or her. My prayer is that that question will be asked, that the people of God would be such a presence of love and encouragement and acceptance, while still speaking the Truth of the gospel, that these students will be inexorably drawn to Jesus.

Monday, September 27, 2010

This Year Fall Smells Like...

So, I do this semi-weird thing where I pick a scent for a certain season or event in life, so that whenever I smell that specific scent, it brings back all of these memories or that certain time in my life. Does anyone else do this - purposefully choose what smells they want to associate with seasons of life?

What began this quirky habit was this really weird lipgloss I had in middle school. It was from the Gap and the flavor was chocolate orange. Don't know why I even owned that - I hate chocolate and citrus together (it must have either been a gift, or really cheap!) Anyway, it had a very distinct smell, and for years whenever I opened up that lip gloss, or smelled it on someone else, all of these memories and feelings from middle school came flooding back. Fortunately for me, I had a pretty positive middle school experience (I realize I might be one of the only people in the world who can truthfully make this statement), and so I began to recognize how closely smells are connected to memory. It would happen with certain lotions that I had a different times, and so I eventually began to choose smells on purpose for certain seasons or even big trips I went on, to help bring back memories later.

Warm Vanilla Sugar = Costa Rica (I still can't tell you why I didn't choose a tropical flavor)
Herbal Essences (the pink one) = my dear friend and once upon a time roommate Sandi
Coconut Lime Verbena = summer in general, especially during college and the last couple of years. Also, the Bahamas.
Winter Candy Apple = Thanksgiving through Christmas, plus winter in general.
Pumpkin Spice candles = Autumn in Spartanburg

And now.....

Caramel Apple candle = Autumn in Knoxville. (I'm seriously obsessed with this candle. I light it, literally every time I'm going to be home for more than 10 mins.)

So there you have it, the scent of fall this year.

*For those who would also like to enjoy my fall scent, the Caramel Apple candle can be purchased at a participating Wal-Mart near you for the extra low price of only $5!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Real Forgiveness: Costly Suffering

Today I want to write about forgiveness. It is something that God has been challenging me in, and calling me into, for a while now; but it seems like all of the points have aligned in my mind and understanding through a couple of conversations in the past week, and I am finally beginning to understand what true forgiveness is, and to finally submit to this process.

See, I always thought when people talked about forgiving others that it sounded all sweet and nice, and I totally agreed that it is something that we should do as Christians. But it always sounded to me like they just up and decided to do it one day, and that was that. Which is fine, until you're actually faced with forgiving someone in a situation where there is real pain - the kind that roots down deep and starts to reproduce bitterness in the heart. That isn't something you just decide you'll overlook and get over.

I was talking to my dear hermana the other night, who has this incredible ability to get straight to the heart of issues, convict me at every turn, and still speak hard truth in love and grace (if that's a Latin American thing, I totally need to spend some more time there & aquire these skills - thanks, M, I'm so glad you're in my life!) I was telling her about recognizing unforgiveness in my heart lately (I think the Lord has been gently revealing it to me for months now, honestly) and how I want to be free of this anger and bitterness and hurt that rears its ugly head every so often. I told her that I felt like waiting until "time has healed the heart" to forgive felt wrong to me - disobedient and not at all following the example of forgiveness that Christ has set for us. I mean, what about "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" and the fact that He asked the Father to forgive those who had put him on the cross, while he was dying on it? No, we are to forgive in the midst of the pain, not after enough time has passed that we can do it more easily. She gently affirmed this conviction, reminding me of the Lord's Prayer, where we ask Him "to forgive our tresspasses, as we forgive those who have trespassed against us" (ouch! - in a state of unforgiveness, that would be asking Him to hold onto anger and bitterness and a desire to see me suffer). She also spoke of the idea (I think coming from the Gospels where Jesus says that if we don't forgive others, neither will God forgive us) that unforgiveness causes a veil in the heart between the two people in question, and if there is a veil between you and another person, there is a veil between you and God as well. Our relationships with one another have profound effects on our relationship with the Lord, because he is a relational God who created us for community.

For some reason, those words hit me in a way that nothing else has so far. Would I let the anger and hurt that I don't even want inside of me get in the way of intimacy with the Lord? I don't even want a veil between me and the other person - I want to give that person freedom to walk in joy and honor and dignity. I don't want to withold that freedom from them. But then there is that part that remembers the hurts. That can list them. That is still healing. That can't let go and want's the other person to have to suffer somehow. To feel the pain that I feel. So how do you let go of that?

I think its incredible that we hear so little about the "how" of forgiveness. It can't be cheap. It can't be just looking past all of the hurt and wrongdoing - believe me, I've tried that and there was still bitterness in my heart. It feels cheap, to just "get over it all" like everyone seems to describe forgiveness. It feels like ignoring the very real wrongs that were done, and that flies in the face of the sense of justice that we all have a longing for, deep down. I was sharing all of this with another friend a couple of days ago, and she mentioned some of Tim Keller's words on forgiveness, which finally completed all of these ideas for me. The reason that the idea of "just forgive and forget" seems so cheap and impossible is that it IS! Justice has, in fact, been violated.
A few quotes from Keller's chapter, "The (True) Story of the Cross" in A Reason for God:

"We still have a sense of violated justice that does not go away when the other person says, 'I'm really sorry.' When we are seriously wronged we have an indelible sense that the perpetrators have incurred a debt that must be dealt with."

(He speaks of how there are 2 options - make the person pay, either actively lashing out at them in word or deed, or passively, hoping they suffer, telling others how you were wronged, etc.)

"There is another option, however. You can forgive. Forgiveness means refusing to make them pay for what they did. However, to refrain from lashing out at someone when you want to do so with all your being is agony. It is a form of suffering. You no only suffer the original loss or happiness, reputation, and opportunity, but now you forgo the consolation of inflicting the same on them. You are absorbing the debt, taking the cost of it completely on yourself instead of taking it out on the other person. It hurts terribly. Many people would say it feels like a kind of death."

And here is the answer. You don't simply choose to ignore and "get over" all of the pain and hurt - you can't. That sense that my pain is real and must be acknowledged as such is absolutely right! That gut feeling that someone must pay is, in fact, correct. Its just that in forgiving, we take on that debt ourselves. We suffer without requiring the other to suffer as well. We bear the burden, and it is a kind of death. All of this is beautifully illustrated and defined by the way that Christ forgave us. Why did He have to die? Because a real debt was incurred. Real wrong was done to God by our sin, He just chose the path of forgiveness, by taking the burden of the debt upon Himself. But just as His absorbtion of our debt led to resurrection, so does our forgiveness:

"Yes, but it is a death that leads to resurrection instead of the lifelong living death of bitterness and have to submit to the costly suffering and death of forgiveness if there is going to be any resurrection."

And so we forgive, choosing to bear the burden of the pain and suffering, because it leads to resurrection - both for us and the other party. We forgive because Christ first forgave us. I desire to see the other person walk in the freedom and lightness of forgiveness because I live and walk in that freedom, and how could I not want it for someone else? And that kind of love and forgiveness changes everyone involved - as Keller said, it leads to resurrection. We are a resurrection people. Let us choose to walk in the life and light and love that sometimes comes only after passing through the dark suffering of forgiveness.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

So I Skipped Town for the First UT Football Game...

I love holiday weekends. I love the mountains. I love staring at the stars. And I love to be with friends and family. I got to experience all of this the past few days for the small price of missing the first UT football game and the Boomsday festivities which are, apparently, Knoxville's claim to fame. This came at the end of a very busy, but rewarding week in which I was able to meet with a lot of girls and saw a girl come to Christ!!! Woo-hoo! It was awesome, and I'll defintely write in more detail on my next post about her, as well as some of the other experiences/observations/ponderings that I've had in sharing the gospel over the past few weeks, but tonight I just feel like reflecting on and rejoicing in my weekend.
I got to spend a weekend with people who I know and love and already have years of life history built up amongst. I spent a whole day doing nothing but reading, cooking, and having girl time. I played ultimate frisbee and introduced several people to the apparently addictive game of Corn Hole. We had an oyster roast. It. Was. Fabulous. The lovely Rachel Buckner bought Reese's cups just so that I could have them on my s'mores, and it was sooo good. I got to ride my bike down the Virginia Creeper Trail twice, with the smell of Appalachain summers on the wind and the sun shining through the trees. I got to sit around a campfire talking and laughing and marvelling at our incredible Creator. The nights were so clear that we could see the Milky Way stretch all the way across the sky.

"You should see the stars tonight
How they shimmer shine so bright
Against the black they look so white
Coming down from such a height
To reach me now, reach me now.

You should see the moon in flight
Cutting 'cross the misty night
Softly dancing in sunshine
Reflections of this light
Reach me now, You reach me now..."

This is the song that has been playing in my mind ever since I came back from Virginia. It is true that the creation speaks of the glory of the Lord. He is so evident in it all, and I am so looking forward to upon beauty.