Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Church, Your Mother

I have started going to a different church here in Knoxville, and feel that I have finally found a home at Redeemer Church of Knoxville (huge sigh of relief and contentment...)

It is a small church in the heart of the city, with a delightful mix of tradition and fresh perspective; simplicity with depth; and people of all ages and walks of life.  I feel known here, like a part of the family, and I realize that I have been searching for this for over a year.  It is also of the Presbyterian tradition - new for me, but I am finding much to appreciate.

We are currently doing a sermon series on the life of David, and today's focus was on "David and His Community" during the time that he was hiding from Saul in the wilderness, and people began to come out to him and join him, and then also during the time that he lived among the Phillistines (1 Samuel 22&27)

I was struck by several things as we looked at this passage:
Much of the Old Testament is a foreshadowing of Christ coming - and David himself often serves as this - a sort of forerunner to the ultimate king of Israel.  I was struck by how these verses describe those coming out to David in the cave of Adullam, his place of refuge, and how it is such a parallel of all of us coming to Jesus today:
"David departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam.  And when his brothers and all his father's house heard it, they went down there to him.  And everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul, gathered to him.  And he became commander over them..."

The pastor was drawing parallels between the cave of Adullam (a place of sanctuary and community for David) and the Church today, and he made this statement, which really struck me:
"The church must be the King's place of safety and welcome."

Is Jesus "safe" and welcome in our churches today?  Do we accept Him as He truly is, on His terms, or do we try to put Him in boxes, make excuses for Him and the aspects of Him that we find confusing, or offensive, or even unpallateable?  Do we seek Him truly, and welcome Him among us?  We want to respond, yes, of course He is!  But is it true?  Because I fear the answer is becoming more and more often, just the opposite. 
I fear because many people that I talk to, who claim the name of Christ, are hesitant to even make the statement that He alone can save!  They'll claim Him as the means of their salvation, but feel it isn't fair or accepting or tolerant to make that statement for anyone else. And I have to wonder - how can we claim to know and live by the gospel, if we fail to even understand & proclaim that He is our only hope!  Not just "us" the Christians, but "us" humanity.  He is the only one in all of history who came after us when we rebelled against Him, who fought for us, who rescued us, who took our guilt and shame and death, transferring to us His innocense and freedom and life.  He is the only one who made a way for us to return to God.  And therefore - the only way back to God is through Him. 
This is good news!  There is hope where all seemed lost!  Yet somehow our culture has taken the infinitely good news that there is a way to be rescued, and twisted it, saying, "how closed-minded of God, to only make one way for people to come to Him. That can't be good at all, that I have no other options.  No, I don't think I want a God like that."  How incredibly ludicrous!  Who scorns a rescue helicopter, complaining that they didin't get to choose the means of their rescue?

Yet, as I was reminded once again today in my wonderful church, though the church is broken, twisted, fallen in many way, She is the Bride of Christ, and I must love her, because Jesus died for her, because I am her, because, as Augustine said, "The Church is a whore, but she is your mother."  I feel that the Lord has specifically called me to love and serve and minister to the Church in the U.S.  I don't know what that looks like long-term, but currently, it means working with college students - teaching them who Jesus is, who they are in Him, how to believe accurately about Him and His word, and to live accordingly (things that I struggle to live out myself!) 
Thankfully, we do it all by the grace of God.  And so I leave you with the Confession of Sin, and Words of Encouragement spoken over our congregation this morning (one of my favorite aspects of my new church home):

Confession of Sin
Lord Jesus, your church is a gathering of people who are at the same time sinner and saint. Since we have confidence that nothing will ever separate us from your love, we freely confess our sins to you now. Though we have been saved by the patient grace of God, we fail to deal patiently with one another. Though we know our own weaknesses and failures, we get frustrated wiht this same condition in others and treat them harshly. Though we are filled with hope because of the resurrection, we often become hopeless about your church. Though you have made your church one, we grieve that we have become a broken communion in a broken world. Dear Savior, forgive us. Thank you for never giving up on us; may we never give up on your Bride, your chosen partner, your beloved, your church. Amen. 

Words of Encouragement (Ephesians 5:25-27, Isaiah 1:18)
Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himslef in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
Christians, though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


I haven't written in forever.  I can't seem to get movtivated.  I would apologize, but then I thought about how it would be silly to post something that is done poorly and that I don't really want to, yes. 

One day I will write again.

Today is not that day :)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Why Hello, Blog! Long Time, No See... (or type, or whatever.)

Well friends, it has been awhile, and I have been busy travelling about! 

I finished up in Charleston at the beginning of July, passing the torch of leadership on to students to run the project for the rest of the summer.  What an interesting process that was.  Here's some insight into what was going through my head and heart:
- Seriously?  We're just going to leave and they're going to carry on our jobs on top of all that they're already doing? 
- How on earth can I just hand over my Bible study and trust someone else to lead and disciple these girls?
- Lord, who should I choose, and how do I make this decision?
- I feel like I'm picking people apart...
- So many people have said that "project doesn't start until after staff leaves" and "yeah, I don't even remember much about project when staff was there"  -  well geez!  What am I doing here anyway?  Does my role even matter?
- What IS my role, really?
- This giving people the "freedom to fail" thing is hard....

But ultimately, it was so good for me.  Wanto to know why?  Because I had to do what Jesus has done with me.  I got a glimpse of Jesus' perspective on me, (except He knows how it will all turn out, and how He'll fix my mistakes, and all...).  But the point is, Jesus handed over leadership!  His mission, His purpose, His entire reason for becoming God incarnate and rescuing us - all of it He placed in our hands.  He left, and entrusted to us the message and ministry of reconciliation.  The entire advancement of the gospel was left in the hands of 12 guys who hadn't really proven themselves to be that bright so far.  I mean, the lives of people were at stake, the entire redemption of humanity rested with their faithfulness to preach the gospel!  (From that perspective, it wasn't as hard to hand over my Bible study and entrust the success or failure of the Outreach team to a couple students). 
Here's the thing though.  He didn't just peace out and leave us alone to guess our way through it all.  In fact, He said it would be better if He left, because then we'd have the Holy Spirit, who would enable and empower us to fulfill this mission in even more incredible ways than Jesus Himself carried it out while on Earth (it's true, I promise - check out John 16:7-11 and John 14:12).  So I can entrust leadership to the students I have chosen because I have prayed in the Spirit for wisdom to appoint the right people; those students have the Holy Spirit at work in their lives and I have seen His fruit in them, so He will be leading and empowering them too.  And it's His mission after all.  We're just invited into the process.  He will accomplish His purposes.  He has led and guided me, accomplished my victories and redeemed my mistakes, and He will do the same with them.  

Whew!  Pressure: off.  Leadership: handed over.  Summer: almost over.
Updates on the rest of summer soon to come!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Oh Law!

Something that I have been learning about myself this year is how very broken I still am.  I know that sounds depressing, but I hear it's a good thing.  Apparently, as we grow in the Christian life and get to know Jesus better and better, we also begin to recognize the brokenness and sin that is in us more and more as well.  So it's like a good and bad thing at the same time.  But what's incredible about this is, as I realize more areas of sin, brokenness, pride, lies that I believe, etc., I also am more and more actuely aware of my absolute need for the gospel.  I am broken.  I have an utter need for a Savior that didn't disappear when I gave my life to Him - it simply is, and will never change.  I will always need Jesus to be my righteousness, for I have none in myself apart from Him.  Even if I do a good thing, my motives are all broken and twisted. 

What we church people tend to do is have this moment in our lives when we become aware of our sin, recognize our need for a Savior, choose to give our whole selves to Jesus because we recognize the truth that He is our only hope....and then try to bust out goodness and righteous living from that point on in our own efforts and power, because, after all, we're supposed to be "good Christians" now. We come to Christ based soley on His grace, but then in our practical living, we place ourselves back under the Law - trying to earn God's favor by our righteous acts.  We get caught in cycles of guilt when we fail, rather than being amazed at the continued grace of Christ in our lives, and we fail so often becasue we feel like we should be able to be righteous in our own power now, rather than relying on His righteousness to flow through us. 

Preach the gospel to yourself every day. 

This is what I have been teaching my girls this year, and am teaching my D-group this summer as well, through Tim Keller's study on Galatians.  One of my favorite sections is a section that Keller includes from Martin Luther's intro. to Galatians:

"Oh law!  You would climb up into the kingdom of my conscience, and there reign and condemn me for sin, and would take from me the joy of my heart which I have by faith in Christ, and drive me to desperation, that I might be without hope.  You have overstepped your bounds.  Know your place!  You are a guide for my behavior, but you are not my Savior and Lord of my heart.  For I am baptized, and through the gospel am called to receive rigtheousness and eternal life...So trouble me not! For I will not allow you, so intolerable a tyrant and tormentor, to reign in my heart and conscience - for they are the seat and temple of Christ the Sond of God, who is the king of righteousness and peace, and my most sweet savior and mediator.  He shall keep my conscience joyful and quiet in the sound and pure doctrine of the gospel, through the knowledge of this passive and heavenly righteousness."

Good stuff, that. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

"Getting to Know You"

We've had a great time over the past week as students have spent a lot of time getting to know one another and beginning their jobs, ministry teams, discipleship groups, etc. 

One of the highlights of last week was our "Low Country Boil" night!  We cooked up a HUGE pot of shrimp, potatoes, corn, and sausage and everybody had their fill.  Talk about some amazing food!  The students also had a great time chatting and getting to know one another as we waited for dinner to be served.


On Saturday we had our first beach outreach.  I have continued to be incredibly impressed by the high caliber of the students that we have here on project.  They all seem so eager and ready to learn, grow, and jump in to share the hope that they have found in Christ.  We planned several ways of initiating with people on the beach, including playing corn hole and volleyball; providing a tent with the Soularium survey, an art expression wall (pictured above), and free water; and then sending students out in pairs to simply initiate spiritual conversations with people on the beach using Soularium.  We expected people to mainly want to stick around the tent or play cornhole and volleyball, but the majority of students wanted to go out in pairs to talk with people!  Seriously, these students are gung-ho about evangelism!

We wanted a non-traditional question that would cause people to think and also provide a way to get into spritual conversations.  Many times we ask people how they view God, but not how they believe He views them.  It was cool to see people consider this question and respond by writing their responses. 

Like I said, our students were awesome about taking the initiative and jumping right into conversations with people, sharing about Jesus and how He has changed their lives.

Last night was our first D-group Bible studies!  I took my girls to dinner at a famous local place called Taco Boy (incredible guacamole!), and we decided it was a great time for a photo.  I have also begun my first discipleship appointments with my girls this week.  There are five girls total in my D-group, and so far it has been great getting to know them.  It is a little overwhelming realizing that I only have 5 weeks to get to know them and figure out how to best pour into their lives in such a short amount of time.  I feel like everyone has such high expectations of learning and growing and being transformed on summer project, and I can begin to put the pressure on myself to be the one who causes that growth.  I have to constantly remind myself that the Lord is the one who transforms lives, not me, and if anything is to happen in their lives through my influence, it will totally and completely be through His Spirit working through me.  So I'm having to keep reminding myself to get on my face before the Lord, recognize my inability, and ask for Him to work through me. 

The schedule here has been pretty intense, so moments of rest are precious to us, and SO life-giving!  This was my Sunday afternoon activity, and probably the best few hours of my week :)

"He leads me beside the still waters
He restores my soul..."
~Psalm 23

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Time in Sweet Caroline (South, that is...)

Hello friends!  After a couple of weeks in Charleston, I decided it was time to write about it and give you a peek at some of what I've been doing, the sights I've been seeing, the people who are quickly becoming my family while I'm here, and the FUN we've been having! 

I really like Charleston.  I love old, historic areas in general, and Charleston definitely exceeds my hopes and expectations.  One of my faovrite things about the city is that people bike all the time.  I brought my bicycle and have been exploring the city - bouncing down cobblestone streets, making note of all of the quaint locally owned coffee shops, enjoying parks, and taking in the scenery along the river.  I have also found a great running route right along the river, complete with great views and a nice breeze the whole way!
Don't you wish you could look a this on your morning run? 

The first week here was spent with just the staff team (which is pretty much an all-star team, if I can just make that quick judgment - we seriously have an amazing staff team and I'm so blessed to work with such great people!)  We had lots of meetings, spent lots of really good intentional time getting to know each other deeply, and also just hung out and had fun together.  A strongly bonded staff team is a really important aspect of a healthy and great summer project. 
One day, we went on a historic boat tour! We learned all sorts of things about the history of Charleston, got to be out on the water, and just enjoyed the river together.  This photo of the famous Cooper River Bridge was taken from the boat.  Charlestonians are really proud of this bridge for some reason.

One thing I have really appreciated about working for Cru is that the organization as a whole really values the overall health of its staff.  We are encouraged to take time for ourselves, take care of our bodies, and do what we need to do to stay healthy in all areas of life - physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually.  One way that they really care for our spiritual health is by scheduling a "Day with the Lord" once a month in which we take a whole day to just be alone with God.  No phone calls, students aren't allowed to call us unless there's an emergency, and we just rest and delight in the Lord.  On project we also have time scheduled into our week - both for the staff and the students - for time alone with the Lord. 
Sunday afternoon I spent my time with the Lord in this park.  It was lovely.

My new favorite park.  Next time I'm bringing my hammock!
My favorite term is "on the project."  Translated - something fun that was planned for and budgeted into our project cost from the beginning; a.k.a. - we get to do it for free!  One of these lovely events was a minor league baseball game that we went to as a staff team.  Much fun was had by all!

Some of my coworkers - Aaron, Pete, and Sarah - at the baseball game. Sarah is also my roommate for the summer.  She is great.  
In case you though Cru staff people are past their prime and are really boring and no fun at all, I have proof that we can be as crazy as our students!  Once the students arrived, we planned a scavenger hunt for them in downtown Charleston so that they could become familiar with the city.  They got bonus points for finding staff members at some key locations.  I don't think they expected us to disguise ourselves quite as well as some staff did...

Pete and Chad's attempt at thwarting students from finding them.  It worked pretty well.  Also, Chad (on the right) is our project director, a.k.a. - my boss.  Don't you wish he was your boss too?

We really like working together!
So now that students are here, we've been doing a lot of orientation and training for them this week, but in the next few days they'll get into their work schedules and routines, and project will begin to get a steady pace, which we're all pretty excited about.  Today is a day packed full.  We just finished evangelism training, and we're about to head to the beach this afternoon to put that training to use as the students do some initiative evangelism.  Then we have a smoothie night this evening.  It should be a great day.  I'll let you know how the outreach went in the next couple of days! 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Looking Back, Building Altars

I read the blog of a friend a few weeks ago who spoke about altars, and it has been resonating with me ever since.  The Old Testament is full of God commanding His people to build altars.  We usually just read those parts quickly, thinking it was some weird Ancient Near Eastern cultural thing that isn't really relevant to us anymore. But this friend pointed out how the Lord isn't really interested in a pile of rocks; the reason He commanded His people to build altars was so that they would remember. The word "memorial" is even often used in these altar-building commands of His.  He knows us initmaely.  He knows how limited our vision is, how we forget so easily the ways He has cared for us, providing for our every need; and go straight into panic mode every time an obstacle comes across our path. 

So He tells His people to build altars - physical monuments to what He has done, how He has worked, the truth that He is for us, not against us.

As the students are taking exams, and the our time on campus is wrapping up until August, I want to take a moment and build some altars - worshipping the Lord for what He has done this year, and remembering the ways that He has worked.  This will in no way be a comprehensive list (He's done a lot this year!), but there are certain sweet moments that I have kept coming back to this week, and I want to share them with you. 

The spring semester has been a really incredible time of watching my Bible Study girls grow in their understanding of the gospel. I literally watched them grow in new ways every week.  Most of them grew up in Christian families, but they began to learn how the truth of the gospel - that we are saved by grace alone through Jesus's sacrifice - is more than the moment they decided to follow Christ, but the thing that defines their acceptance, their righteousness, their position before the Father each and every day.  They learned to plead the blood of Christ as their righteousness regardless of how "good" they thought they were being as Christians.  They began to really walk in the freedom that the gospel brings, and it is a beautiful sight. 

In February, I was struggling with how to confront one of the girls that I disciple about a sinful attitude that I saw in her.  I wanted to speak truth, but gently, because it was tied up in her own view of herself as less than who she really is in the eyes of our Father.  But before I had a talk with her, she came to me, asked to talk, and said that the Lord had convicted her of the very thing that I was going to confront her about.  And He gave her much more insight into the issue than I would have been able to!  Praise Him for working in hearts and preparing the way before me.  And I am so thankful for girls who are listening to the Holy Spirit as He reveals truth, and are willing to submit to His discipline!  What a blessing. 

I was training some of my girls to use one of Campus Crusade's evangelism tools on campus a couple of weeks ago, when we ran across a student organization that was hosting an event outside in the amphitheatre. It was a progressive students movement, representing different causes ranging from how to live in a more communal, socialist type society, feminism, a woman's right to choose, etc. They were holding a "Really Free Market," which basically means that everyone showed up with something to offer for free.  Some people brought clothing, some gave free manicures, some offered baked goods, some gave information about certain causes, etc. The girl that I was with said, "well, we have something to offer that is free!"  So we sat down, made a sign that said "Free Conversation," and proceeded to discuss questions like, "What would you like your life to be like right now?"  "What best describes your view of God?"  "What does your spiritual journey look like, and where do you want it to be headed?" In a group of people who were mostly agnostic and atheist, and generally had very negative views of Christianity, we were able to engage in honest and open conversation about God and life and spirituality.  They appreciated our time and the conversation, genuinely thanking us, and inviting us to come back to the next "Really Free Market," even making sure we knew the time and place!  I pray that the Lord uses that positive interaction to make them a little more open to Him and hearing the gospel in the future.

One of my girls admitted that she was terrified the whole time she was doing evangelism for the first time, and knows that she will be again, but still asked me to give her materials before the semester ends so that she can use them to share with people at the pool this summer.  This is the attitude toward and heart for evangelism that we have been praying for our students to have (and it is what I continue to pray for myself as well - she's right, it can be scary!) 

These are only a few of the ways He has been working this year, but it just amazes me every time I think about it.  He is working in the lives of our students.  He is instilling in them a heart for evangelism, and building them up as gospel-centered believers, rooted and grounded in His love, knowledgeable in the Word, and walking in His Spirit.  He is showing me that He is bigger than my successes or failures as a campus minister, and delights to use me in spite of me.  It has been an incredible year, and I can't wait to see how He works in the lives of students in Charleston this summer! 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Sweden Stories Contd...

Happy Monday everyone!  And it's time for another Sweden story. 

A huge way that we meet people on campus, both in the States and overseas, is through a tool called "Soularium."  It is an "Art and Spirituality survey" in which we use set of 50 photographs to ask and answer questions about life and spirituality.  We approach someone, or a couple of people, ask if they would be willing to take the survey, and if they say yes, we ask the following 5 questions:

1) What 3 photos describe your life right now?
2) What 3 photos describe what you wish your life was like right now?
3) Which photo best describes your view of God, or if you don't believe in God, which photo describes why not, or what you do believe.
4) What 3 photos describe your spiritual journey up to this point?
5) What 3 photos describe what you want you spiritual life to look like?

It's amazing how a few simple questions can really cause someone to open up to you, and how willing people are to talk about deep things, if only given the chance.  These are great questions to start spiritual conversations in a nonthreatening way, and we are often able to follow up with deeper questions and conversations that really get to the root of different perspectives, worldviews, issues with God, past emotional wounds, etc.  We are also often able to share the gospel in one way or another as a result of Soularium.  I'm a big fan of it!

So now that you know about Soularium, on to my Sweden story! 
I was with an American girl named Krista, who has been in Sweden for 2 years, doing Soularium on one of the campuses at Uppsala University one day, when we approached a group of 3 girls.  We told them who we were with, asked if they would participate in the survey, and they said, "sure!"  When we took out the photos, one of the girls said that she had done Soularium this summer with one of our summer project groups who had come over for 6 weeks from the States.  She stood up, said something in Swedish to the other 2 girls, and walked away!

I wasn't sure what to make of that, but hoped she was leaving just because she'd already done the survey.  Later, Krista told me that she had told the other girls that we were going to talk to them about believing in Jesus Christ, or something along those lines.  The other 2 girls decided to stay and participate in the survey though, so we proceeded to ask the 5 questions.  I noticed that Krista wasn't pushing too hard into deeper questions, so I followed her lead.  After she told me later what the other girl had said, I realized that she was trying to show the girls that we were open to conversation and hearing their thoughts and ideas, and weren't just talking to them so we could add another "convert" to some list or something.

When we were done with the 5 questions, however, one of the girls asked, "So what do you believe?"  WOW!!  It's amazing that she would ask that question, especially given the fact that the other girl had already told them that we're Christians and were going to talk to them about Jesus.  This was such a clear message from the Lord to me that if we are faithful to seek opportunities and initiate with people, HE is the one who will direct the conversation and work in people's hearts!  So we began to very simply share the gospel with her, when she stopped us and said, "So, is this God personal?"  Krista and I both somehow kept straight faces, but I pretty much had to stop my jaw from dropping!  "YES, I said, that is the most important thing about Christianity, that God desires a relationship with us more than anything else."  We were able to share, in a few sentences, about how sin broke that relationship, and the reason why Jesus is the center of Christianity is that His sacrifice paid for that sin and restored the relationship between God and man, if we believe in and follow Jesus.
We didn't get to share very long before I could tell that they were ancy to leave, but they thanked us and didn't seem too weirded out ;-)  The thing about Sweden, and really, about sharing the gospel anywhere, is that you and I don't know where someone is on their journey toward the gospel.  This could have been the first time in that girl's life that she had been told that God is personal, and that He desires relationship with us.  That is a HUGE step toward acceptance of the gospel.  So my prayer is that one day I will see that girl in heaven, and I will be able to hear the rest of her story - the other people who were put in her path, and to see each of the steps that led her to the feet of Jesus.  And how amazing if I get to be a part of one of those steps?!  And all because He moved her to ask what we believe, and if the God we follow is personal.  He really works in pretty awesome ways! 

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Swedish Stories

I want to share a couple stories from our time in Sweden, because I have realized that a primary source of moivation for me in ministry is hearing how God is working in people's lives. He is so incredibly personal, and all of the details the He brings together to create each person's story is just amazing to me!

I think my favorite aspect of my Sweden stories lies in the fact that we did absolutely nothing in our own power to advance the gospel - actually pretty much every opportunity we had to share with people while in Sweden came straight from the Lord. It is such a picture of what He has called us to do and be in the world. Sometimes we get so bent out of shape - either so overzealous to share with people that we aren't sensitive to their needs, or so afraid of offending that we don't make ourselves available to be used by the Lord. Somehow, in Sweden, I got a clear picture of the Lord providing opportunities with me doing absolutely nothing other than being open to being used.

Story #1 - Jen
On Wednesday night, after spending a day in Stockholm, we went to an open house party for the Swedish students who have connections with Agape (the name used for Crusade in Sweden). It was your basic, run-of-the-mill "Meet the Americans" party! A lot of students came, some of whom are believers, but a good number who aren't came as well. As the party was under way, a Swedish girl named Jen showed up, but seemed pretty unsure of whether she wanted to stay, because she knew it involved "religious people."
However, Lindsey, a woman on my team began to talk with Jen - not at all trying to get into a spiritual conversation, simply asking her about her life and chatting, when all of a sudden, Jen says: "So, why did Jesus have to die?" WHAT?!? Why on earth would she ask that question in the middle conversation like that?! Why, other than the Lord working on her heart? So Lindsey was able to explain the entire gospel to her in detail, and she seemed to be genuinely interested.

THEN on Friday morning, when we were supposed to fly home, Lindsey got really sick with a stomach virus and ended up having to stay in Sweden and get a flight a few days later. It was a 24 hour virus but she was there several days more, so she ended up contacting Jen and meeting her for lunch at a cafe, where they continued their conversation for another few hours! She asked a lot of questions, and finally said: "I think I'm going to have to do something about that promise that I made to God." Of course Lindsey was like, what are you talking about? And Jen went on to explain how she had an operation a couple of years ago where something went wrong, and as she was basically bleeding out on the operating table, she somehow became conscious or at least aware that she was dying, and she prayed and promised God that if He let her live, she would believe in Him and follow Him.

Of course, as you already know, she did live, but she hadn't done anything about her promise, maybe hadn't even thought about it, until this point, two years later! What an amazing orchestration of events on the part of the Lord - He's just so amazing that way! And how crazy that Lindsey "just happened" to get sick and have to stay in Sweden, and randomly think of contacting Jen, and ended up having that conversation with her. AND, the fact that Lindsey is the one who talked to Jen at the party rathen than any number of the other people there, because it just so happens that Lindsey is moving to Sweden in September to work with Agape in Uppsala for the next 3 years. I'm pretty sure she'll be having more lunch conversations with Jen....

We serve El Roi - the "God who sees" He sees the tiniest details of our lives, and works it all together for His good purpose. Amazing, simply amazing.

Monday, March 28, 2011

World Travels

Well friends, it's been awhile, hasn't it? I've been a travelling fiend, for which I am so grateful and excited that this chapter of life affords, but now I am back in Tennessee for the rest of the semester (with a few side trips :) and glad to be able to update you on all of my travels!

I think I might do this in several posts over the next few days, so stay tuned for tidbits, stories, facts, praises, and photos!

My recent travels are as follows:
March 4th: Friday morning - leave Knoxville @ 11 am, drive to Charlotte, board a plane @ 7 pm, fly to D.C., board a plane @ 9:30 pm, fly to London (arrive @ 10 am there, 5 am here), board a plane at 1 pm there (8 am here), land in Stockholm @ 4:30 pm there.
Spend a week in Uppsala, Sweden.
Fly home the following Saturday, land in Charlotte at 4:30 (10:30 Sweden time, which I was then functioning on). Spend the evening with friends in Charlotte, having SO much fun but forcing myself to stay awake until 11 pm (5 am to me - eek!)
Go back to the airport Sunday afternoon and fly to Daytona Beach, FL to join our staff team and students for our Spring Break trip!
Spend Sunday-Thursday on the beach hanging out with students, spending some time relaxing, some time building community, and some time doing outreaches on the beach.
Leave Daytona Friday morning, drive to Savannah, GA - spend a couple hours there while the guys watched the UT basketball game and I read a book in a park.
Leave Savannah and drive to Charleston, where we have an amazing dinner, time in the city (preview of the summer for me, woohoo!), stay with a staff member's family, and awesome pancake breakfast in the morning.
Leave Charleston Saturday morning, stop in Spartanburg for lunch with my dear friend Courtney at the famous Wade's restaurant, and then....
FINALLY drive into Knoxville around 4:30. The date was then March 19th.

Holy Moly, it was a lot of travelling. But I LOVED it!

Today I will tell you some general information about Sweden:

In March, Sweden is very cold, but apparently not as cold as most of the winter, because people kept telling us that we cam as it was beginning to get warm (the temperature was right at freezing the whole week, with a couple days maybe getting into the 40's F.)

We walked a lot and used public transportation, which I absolutely LOVE about Europe. I am in love with Europe. I would absolutely love to live there except that all of my friends and family are here and I am a communal creature, so I would probably be homesick a lot. But otherwise...Europe is the place for me!

The only downside to the walking a lot is the fact that there was a layer of ice several inches this all over the sidewalks, and I nearly busted my tail on the sidewalk on a daily basis, but I did manage to keep my feet under me - a big accomplisment!

Sweden has stinkin' awesome coffee. For. Real. Also, Swedish Fish candies are named that for a reason - Swedes love their gummies!

Sweden is known as one of the most secularized countries in the world. Most of the people, especially university students, are either atheist or agnostic, yet only 2 generations ago Sweden sent more missionaries than most countries in the world. This is what is called a "post-Christian" culture. There is the idea that we have advanced beyond the need for faith or superstition or the need for a system of beliefs to explain the world to us. There is either a big reliance on science or the influence of postmodernism and relativism - "your truth is your truth, mine is mine, we can agree that each of us arrives at truth differently and no one way is better than any other." I am convinced that our culture is rapidly heading in the same direction as Sweden, and in a couple of generations we will look very similar. And when I say "our" culture, I'm talking about the Bible Belt, because pretty much everywhere else in the country the philosophy is very similar to what we saw in Sweden. However, it was incredible to see how the Lord is working among the university students of Sweden, and to hear how walls have begun coming down in the thinking of students even in the past several years. Its like they are beginning to recognize their own dissatisfaction with their beliefs (or lack thereof). Like they are realizing that there has to be more, and that relativism doesn't work - it doesn't satisfy. This dissatisfaction was so evident in some of our conversations with students, in the way that Uppsala students are interacting with the Crusade staff team there, even in the questions that Swedes are asking.

It's incredible to see how God is working, and I can't wait to tell you a little bit about it! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Home is Wherever I'm With You...

"Home, let me come home, home is wherever I'm with you..."

A favorite song of mine, brought to you courtesy of Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros.

This idea of "home" has really been on my heart this year. There are moments when I feel, with a strange kind of ache, that I am homeless. I know that sounds weird, because I have a house here in Knoxville, I have my parents' house in NC where I grew up, and then I have amazing communities that I have belonged to along the way in Boiling Springs and Spartanburg. So in one way, I have many homes, but the unexpected flipside of this is that I also feel like my heart is spread out a little more with each move. I leave part of it behind, and when I go back to visit, I realize that life continues on in these places without me. It's silly, I know, because I knew that it would, but its still a kind of funny feeling when you go back to a place that is so familiar, to find that it isn't as familiar anymore - it has changed, and so have you.

The Lord has been slowly taking apart my heart regarding this idea of home this year.

(Aside - for those who haven't had their hearts taken apart, or who have forgotten what that feels like, it's kind of painful).

There are these moments when I realize that I have been seeking something familiar, something warm and inviting that says, "you belong here" - and I'm just plain let down. There have been many people and places in my life in which I have been blessed with exactly this sense of home, but this season is slowly removing them and pushing me toward the only truly reliable Refuge.

I have known people in my life who are so at home in the arms of Jesus that they seem to exude a sense of peace and joy wherever they go. Even in hard times, they have this air of serenity about them that is so incredbily attractive to me. I want to be like this. I want to be so at home in Jesus, that wherever I go on this Earth, I carry this sense of home with me. I hope this is what He is working in me...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Lots of Excitement

Well life sure is exciting right now!

Last Thursday we had an awesome event called The Maze on campus. Crusade sponsored it, almost 900 people came (the max number the auditorium could hold), and 111 people trusted Christ and decided to become His followers that night! WOW!!! Now we have the awesome priviledge of meeting with all of those new believers and helping them process this decision and begin "walking in a new way of life." We're also getting to meet with people who didn't make decisions to follow Christ, but want to talk about the event, things that got them thinking, life, God, eternity, truth, etc., so hopefully even more people will set free through Christ as they have these conversations and wrestle with some big questions.

I hit a HUGE pothole late Saturday night that flattened not 1, but 2 of my tires, leaving me to wait for AAA at midnight, get my car towed the next day, and all culminated in me purchasing 4 new tires (the others needed to be changed anyway) and probably having to get my alignment worked on in the near future. So lots of excitement there!

I thought I lost my phone for a few hours yesterday, which created a lot of panic and stress, especially due to the fact that my best friend since I was in middle school is pregnant and past her due date and I was expecting a call at any moment telling me that she was going to the hospital! I freaked out slightly, then found my phone and was fine.

Em is, in fact, in labor now, and I expect to head to the hospital in NC in the next couple of hours!!!! YAY! I'm going to be an aunt!!! I'm so excited I can't hardly stand it!

I have been calling some of the girls that I work with to discipleship over these past couple of weeks. Basically it means that I am asking them to commit to meeting with me once a week for the purpose of helping make them into biblically mature disciples. That sounds serious and scary, but I'll pretty much just be doing the best I can to help them grow in the areas the God is revealing in their lives, challenge them, pray for and with them, and train them by giving them practical experience in different areas. The goal is to make disciples who will go out and in turn, become disciple makers. I absolutely love doing this and I am really enjoying going deeper with these girls!

Finally, on Saturday I will be going with the Bridges team (Cru staff who work with International students) to Ober Gatlinburg ski slopes. They're taking about 50 international students, most of whom have never skiied! So I get to help teach these students to ski, and ski myself, and it should be loads of fun, along with a lot of laughs!

That's all for now - but don't you agree about it being a pretty exciting time lately?!

Monday, January 17, 2011


With Christmas break and all of the snow and now MLK day, I'm beginning to feel really spoiled with all of the days off that we've had! I mean, I'm not complaining :) But it is a little weird.

Today I am trying to be really productive. I'm making a gift for a friend; looking into ordering a special mail-delivered cupcake for a friend's birthday; purchasing, printing, and binding the new Bible study I'm doing with my freshman girls - very excited about it - Tim Keller's study on Galatians! I'm also going to the grocery story, blogging (currently), picking my roommate up from the airport, and going to the gym. Whew! Don't be too impressed with me though - this is totally making up to complete laziness for the past few days of snow!

On a more reflective note, I was at small group last night and was challenged to express where God has me right now, even just this past week. I love this group of women that I meet with on Sunday nights - it is such a blessing in my life, and such an answer to prayer that the Lord literally dropped in my lap soon after I moved here. We usually just take one discussion question and spend the whole night just talking it through - sharing what God is doing, how He's speaking to us, praying. So simple, yet such beautiful times together. Last night's question was simply, "Where does God have you right now?" Interesting question, since this has been my question to Him lately! One of the women began to share how she has been in a hard season of life, and how she is learning even more deeply how we are always looking for the "next thing" to satisfy and fulfill us. She was comparing her situation (a wife and mom of 4 kids) to a friend's (a 35-yr-old single woman), and how both of them were talking the other day about the lies that we believe will make us fulfilled. She said maybe we are supposed to have this unsettled feeling, this longing for more. Maybe we just need to recognize that this is our longing for our true home, and we will always have it, at least hints of it, this side of eternity. Or it is simply a sign that we have yet to figure out how to be fully satisfied in Jesus all of the time. Maybe both.

I was just struck by this thought, because it is so true and so clearly part of what the Lord has been teaching me lately. I have had these thoughts circling in my head for months now - how this place is not my home, yet how I long for community and to feel at home in a place. How much of this is because I was created for that and is a good thing, and how much of it is me seeking fulfillment, sense of belonging and value, and joy in things that will never satisfy. It's sad and strange how we as humans seem bent on taking the gifts that God has given, and twisting them into something that they were never meant for. He made me to find joy in community, He made us with a longing for that feeling associated with home, but when we look to people and places and even those feelings themselves to satisfy us, we are missing it all. He is home. He is fellowship and joy. And He provides us with amazing gifts of friends and family and familiar places simply because He loves us. But heaven is my home.

So I seem to be in a place where I'm not quite comfortable yet. I think He's doing it on purpose. I think I make comfort and the sense of belonging and great community an idol in my life, and He will have no idols. I feel a little out of place in my life right now. But I want to invest where I am. I want to have joy each day, in the simple gifts that are given, and take delight in where I am, right now. I want Him to be my home, and because of that, to be at ease, full of joy, and at peace wherever I am. I want to bless others with the infectious attitude that comes from one who is at home in the Lord first - and everything else is simply added onto that. He leads us down the paths that lead to true joy, true belonging, true community... He leads us to Himself. He leads us home.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Enconter 2010

We had an awesome time at Encounter 2010 - Crusade's winter conference!

These videos will probably say more than I could ever write about - enjoy!

Video made by one of our UT students, featuring our students!

The official video - Midsouth Region Encounter 2010 Recap.!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

It's Been a While

Wow! It has been such a long time since I've really posted anything of worth. Life has been out-of-the-ordinary for about a month now, since the students have been on Christmas break, and I have been really enjoying the time with friends and family, and resting up for next semester. So for this post, I think I will just hit on some of the things going on in my life and the lives of the people I love over the past month. Things that have been on my heart, and just good times that were had this Christmas break!

Right after leaving Knoxville I was able to take a week and travel to Spartanburg, Charlotte, and Boiling Springs on a marathon visit of old friends. It was such a wonderful time - I was able to see so many friends who have become dear to me over the years. Seriously - couldn't believe how many people I was able to spend really good quality time with. The only bummer was that I missed a few in Boiling Springs, but hopefully I'll get back there soon - I really love that place and the community that became my family. Also, let me just say how much I realize I love the people of Spartanburg. I mean, I knew that I had come to really love being there, but it hit me afresh when I visited a few weeks ago - I have been blessed with AMAZING people who really love me and care for me in that city, and I miss you all terribly. Thanks for showing me the love of Christ and just pouring your lives into mine.

My brothers and I spent the entire week before Christmas working out tails off to make an NC State Corn Hole board for our dad's Christmas present. We had to try and apply a million layers of paint and use saws and drills, etc. without dad finding out about it. Also, paint takes about 10x longer to dry when its cold outside. Suffice it to say - I was paranoid for a week! BUT, it all paid off. I thank Chris Keene and the Gardner-Webb Theatre Dept. for my excellent training in detail work in painting - the end result was pretty awesome!

Another awesome thing - it SNOWED on Christmas! I absolutely love snow, and I absolutely love Christmas, and the two combined was wonderful! We got about 12 inches total, and it really was a Winter Wonderland.
I was really grateful to, and excited by, my family this Christmas. We scaled back our Christmas to each other so that we could give to others and invest in the Kingdom of God. What a blessing.

The day after Christmas we went to our friends, the Teaters' house, and had a sledding party! I love it when we do things like that - like we used to when we're kids. I hope I never get too old to have sledding parties. Also, Luke and Betsy came from D.C., which was wonderful, since I think they're awesome and I want us to be good friends. My not-so-secret hope is that one day Betsy and I will be able to have coffee dates on a regular basis.... Also, I'm dying to visit them in India.

Once they move there, that is!
On December 2, my friends Aaron and Abby had their first baby - little Eli. From what I've heard it was a wonderful day, in that Eli was born, but otherwise pretty terrifying, in that he was way too early, Abby went into seizures and almost died, etc. Their journey has been incredible to watch and read about (Facebook and blogging can be huge blessings when keeping up with friends!). I am amazed at the provision of the Father in their lives, and so thankful for this sweet baby boy who I know already is, and will continue to be, such a blessing. I'm also amazed to see the vast community that has gathered around them in support. They inspire me, and I hope to have such an impact in so many lives. You can read about their story here.

Dec. 27th - Jan. 1st I was in Greensboro, NC for the MidSouth region of Crusade's Winter Conference called Encounter. Wow - lots of capitol letters in that last sentence. It was really an amazing time with students, fellow staff, and the Lord. A huge blessing for me was that it was the first time since coming on staff with Crusade that I began to feel like I "fit." Not that anyone has made me feel like an outsider - quite the opposite - I have been truly welcomed and made to feel at home among the staff and students at UT. But you know how it is - it just takes a while to feel like you're not the new person, especially in my case, not having a Crusade background as a student. It was a wonderful time, and included a dance party - one of my favorite things in the world!

The past few days I've laid around and read some awesome books - another of my favorite things in life. I can seriously get caught up in a story. Something I decided a long time ago - music and books are always worth my money! (not that I blow it all, but if I'm going to spend some - that's a good investment!)

Finally, my best friend is having a baby in about 3 WEEKS!! I think it's really cool that she got to experience being super pregnant at Christmas time - could kind of identify with Mary. (thought I don't know if she feels the same way!) But I get to be Aunt Cayli so very soon, and I CAN'T WAIT! If I love this little baby so much already, what will it be like to be a mom? I hope I get to find out one day!

Siblings and cousins on Christmas day!

Betsy and I at the sledding party!

Beautiful winter berries. Isn't God's creativity and beauty astonishing?