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  • I think it was a holy moment.

    Yesterday I watched a 10-month-old baby see a cat for the first time. She sat up straight, held her breath, barely blinked, and looked back at mom to see if she was seeing this previously unknown creature, too. She was truly in awe. A common house cat caused a holy moment. I thought more about this moment and wondered how many other marvelous things have become mundane. We assume the sun will rise again tomorrow, and it does. We wish away the heat of the summer, then complain about the chill of the winter. We forget the mystery surrounding a plump, segmented, crawling caterpillar that morphs into a weightless, graceful, fluttering butterfly. We become bored with the grandeur of thunderstorms and mountains, the beauty of a cotton candy sunset, the precision of the hummingbird, and minute details of the anatomy of a simple flower. We crave more clamor to distract us from the stress of our day rather than acknowledging the holy around us. Imagine fearlessly watching an unknown creature–something your size and weight– walk past you and becoming fully captivated, never wondering if it will hurt you, just enjoying the moment. Imagine being awed by a common house cat. May we slow down and marvel at the seemingly mundane with fresh eyes. May we recognize the Creator’s reflection in each of his designs. May we respond to a holy moment when we see it. May we applaud such precise workmanship. May we be awed by a common house cat. “Let the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” (Psalm 91:1) “Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens… when I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” (Psalm 8:1,3–4)

  • Standing

    I’ve been reading Strong and Weak by Andy Crouch with my Facebook reading group over the last few weeks. He defines “flourishing” differently that I would have initially, but after his explanation, I agree with him. My paraphrase of his definition is doing the thing that requires risk and all of you- and doing it with abandon. It doesn’t really matter if you succeed from the perspective of the onlookers, it doesn’t matter if you’re the best at it, it doesn’t matter if you entirely fulfill your goal. It’s the heart behind what you do, it’s the motivator for why you do what you do. I kept comparing his definition of flourishing to parenting initially, as did some of my friends who are also reading the book. Parenting is tough. It is a daily sacrifice and servanthood to little people who may or may not ever know. It’s a stretching past limits I previously thought I couldn’t reach. It’s relying on Jesus in a way I never knew...because I simply want to do it better than I’ve seen it done before....or just better than I did it yesterday. But then I started to apply this expression of flourishing to ministry, campus ministry in a dark and empty place. What does it look like to flourish at this, here in this place? If I use Crouch’s definition, it really has nothing to do with huge numbers, crazy growth, big names or respect from fellow ministers or missionaries. It has to do with challenging the one to grow, with pushing the few farther than they’ve been pushed before, it has to do with being obedient even when it seems to not make sense, it has to do with being brave and creative and willing. And at the core of it all, flourishing can sometime be just standing and not swaying. Serving in our ministry capacity, as far as flourishing is concerned, is simple to say and hard to do. It’s being vulnerable and leading. Vulnerable to extend yourself beyond your limits. Vulnerable to share your life with people that may or may not ever know or care. It’s vulnerably giving up your assumed right of a “successful looking from the outside” ministry. It’s leading because it requires speaking about something that isn’t yet visible. It’s leading because it telling people what it could and will look like. It’s being there for the seemingly unimportant things. It’s training and teaching. It’s having a broader perspective of things than others, yet leading from a place where others sit. Again and again and again. And ultimately, at it’s most basic job description, flourishing in our context- whether others agree or believe it- is just standing. It’s having the honor of the one to declare that where you stand is Holy Ground. It’s representing Christ in a place where He is ignored. It’s putting the time in even when it feels pointless. It’s doing what God has asked you to do whether anyone ever sees it or values it or high-fives you for it. It’s praying for miracles and being ok with not getting the chance to see them happen. It’s throwing the seed on the ground that isn’t ready, or acts like it isn’t ready, or just doesn’t want it.

  • Becoming Preppers

    I heard a nugget of truth at a regional Chi Alpha staff conference that has stuck with me. It has nothing to do with Chi Alpha at all. It was an answer to a question given during a Q & A session and I can’t seem to shake it. The speaker said, “plan for the life stage five years from now.” His point was to begin planning for where your family will be in five years, so that the next stage of life will not surprise any member of your family. What seems like a “duh” point of advice, really will be life changing if it is implemented. Most of us have seen the three or five year plan for Chi Alpha and goals in ministry, but we often do not look at family life with the same lens. Personally, my kids are currently 11, 9 and 4. I homeschool them while doing Chi Alpha with my husband. If I am thinking through the roles that I play in my family- wife and mom- it will all look different with kids ages 16, 14, and 8. I need to begin prepping for parenting a potentially driving teen, what school options we may or may not choose for all three kids and how two teenage girls will share a bathroom with their 8 year old brother. I will also be celebrating 19 years of marriage by then and might want to begin planning a little kid-free vacation for our 20th the year after. (***Gasping for air, here!***) Perhaps you hope to have a few babies in the next five years? Could you be knee-deep in the teenage years or have high school graduates heading to college or the workforce? Maybe you will be empty nesters with a suddenly quiet house? Or maybe you are not raising children, you may still have family life issues that need planning, such as caring for aging parents and you own retirement. All of these phases and stages bring about new aspects to family life and we can give ourselves a head start by prepping now. The first thing you can do to arrange for life’s next curve is to position yourself in the audience of someone that is already there and knocking it out of the park. Don’t be weird about it, but become their friend and ask questions, observe, take note of how they do things, what kinds of conversations they are having with each other, their kids and with their friends. This is one of the beautiful aspects of being a part of a multi-generational church or small group. Also, continue to develop your own interests and skills. (Or make a list of things you want to learn or discover once you aren’t swimming in the physically exhausting stage of baby and preschool years.) Nothing could be more boring than arriving at the empty nest stage without something fun to do in your off-time. Perhaps you have been dreaming about speaking for weekend retreats and always said no “because of the kids”. It’s possible you will suddenly find yourself with a wide open school-day schedule because the baby is now in kindergarten and you are available to meet with your Chi Alpha students more freely. Thomas Chrisholm wrote “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” based on Lamentations 3:22-24 because, despite having a humble and ordinary life, God continued to be faithful to him each morning. Family life can be boring and extremely fast-paced at the same time, yet God promises to sustain us, with new mercy every morning. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23

  • Tattered Towels and Bumpy Blankets

    14 years and 11 months. 179 months. 5449 days ago Gil and I got married. We were blessed with some amazing bridal showers and wedding gifts, all of which filled cabinets and closets with wonderful things that made our home comfortable. We had a big stack of navy blue towels, light blue towels, and a arm load of sheets. Large creamy blankets, dish towels, and cozy throw blankets for the couch. A large portion of those linens died miserable deaths over the years, but the blue towels and the creamy blankets still remain. I remember trying to use the towels without washing them (gross, I know, but I was a new wife and didn’t think about all the grossness hanging out on them) and how they left navy blue fuzz all over us. The blue towels taught me that new towels aren’t useful until they have been washed several times. These towels dried sweet baby faces, cleaned up mega messes, and have hung- practically every day- in my bathrooms for 15 years. Recently, they have been showing their age. One has a little bleached spot, one has a visible hole, some of the hems are coming undone and they are all getting a little thinner than they once were. A few months ago, Gil began a subtle quest to figure out what color towels I would pick out if I were to replace our navy towels. He tried to be sly, but I picked up on it right away. The first time he asked, I told him I would think about it and get back to him. I thought and thought and, as silly as it sounds, couldn’t think of another color. Blue has hung in my bathroom for so long. Nothing else would match the rest of the bathroom as well as navy blue. I also couldn’t think of getting rid of these silly towels. Our towels have outlasted dishwashers and power tools. Our towels have survived 4 moves and countless (potential) attempts at finding themselves in the lost-towel-bin at the gym. Our towels have left to get stinky in the hamper, handled numerous hours hanging in the sunshine to dry and soaked up just about everything that can be spilled inside of a home. It’s silly how much these towels represent to me. They are like a visible reminder of an invisible pact Gil and I made many moons ago. So, to answer your question G, I just don’t know if I can part with my navy blue towels yet. 😉

  • The most embarrassing thing I have ever googled

    I have recently decided that not only do I not like to cook or do dishes, I also have started to dislike grocery shopping. My poor family. This comes at a rather inopportune time also, since we are trying to continue down the path of eating healthy. However, avocados and protein balls don’t come in packages ready to eat, nor do they arrive on my doorstep prepared. This food we all want to eat just seems to require attention I’d rather give to other things and my personal assistant hasn’t show up yet. However, I think I have hit an all time low. I googled the most embarrassing thing this afternoon. You see, there wasn’t much left in the fridge or freezer because I avoid grocery shopping. But, being the good mom I am, I couldn’t let the kids go hungry. So I looked at the random foods we did have and asked google for help. Did you know there are about four dozen websites that give you ideas on what to do with frozen chicken nuggets? Now you do. And now I know 11 different ways to use them in strange ways. Thank you Megan Splawn for compiling this list. So, lesson learned. If you find yourself in the desperate place of needing to serve your family chicken nuggets for the third out of the last four meals, just know there are plenty of creative things to do with them. If you can pick which of the 11 things I did with my ziplock bag full of nuggets tonight, you win a prize. It’s a su-prize. PS: If you find my personal assistant, send her to my house. ASAP.

  • Under the Pew

    Since my youngest has been old enough to wiggle, I have continually found him laying down beneath the church pew. I have tried my best to silently wrestle markers, crayons, pens and pencils out of his hands before he left an everlasting impression upon the seats, but I am certain he scribbled on the bottom of the pew at least once already. One day, I just might get down there and take a look for myself. Last Sunday, I snapped a picture of his view during service. We sit on the last row, so it showed all the rows ahead of us and it’s quite an interesting view. A low view. An unimpressive view. A quiet view. A grounded view. Ben’s view made me think of how young children see people. They can’t tell the quality of our clothes or the status that we try to portray to other people. Kids can’t determine our value based on the cute shoes we wear, the loud voices we turn on, or the smart sounding words we employ. Kids are straightforward and honest. Their view is grounded. We should, like always, be more like young children. We should be grounded. We should stay focused on building our foundations and worry less about boasting our status. And, I think, when we are comfortable enough to get very low.... very quiet... very grounded while in the presence of God, He will guide us and show us wonderful things about himself and other people.

  • Washing

    I listened to Philippians today. It’s a letter from Paul to the church in Philippi. One theme stuck out to me: servanthood. Paul reminds the body of believers to serve others, to be humble, to work hard with your body and to take note of others doing the same, to become like Jesus even to the point of death. This seems to run perpendicular to the idea that “every knee shall bow at Jesus’ name”, but this is what we are called to do. My mind wandered to the stage of life I am in currently and the tasks required of me to serve, tending to the needs of those that can’t quite take care of those needs all on their own yet. I wash bodies, clothes, sheets and towels, dishes, food, counters, floors, windows, myself, the dog, the sinks and tubs all these things are washed in, and even the car. I go through a lot of dish soap, vinegar and baking soda. I am beginning to realize that there is a lot of washing that happens in the Bible, too. You see, we are cleaned by the washing of the water with the WORD (Eph 5:26), we are invited to draw near to God with a true heart and have our bodies washed with pure water (Hebrews 10:22), and that the Living Water that we can use to do all this washing will never run dry (John 4:14). This washing is soul shaping. These things we strive for- titles, status, degrees and diplomas to hang on the wall, letters after our last name, wealth, accolades from colleagues, recognition from employers- aren’t what we are actually striving for in this upside-down, seemingly mixed-up way of living. Those things can all be good and lead to other good things, but at the simplest level, we are called to do the sacred things. Being humble is sacred work. Serving is sacred work. Washing is sacred work. I don’t always wash with a pleasant attitude. In fact, lately, I have joked at myself wishing for a maid or personal assistant of some kind...and we all know there is a little bit of truth in every joke. I hope to remember to use all of these opportunities to remind myself of the power in serving well and that all this washing I do is actually truly holy work, smelly feet and all.

  • Twinkling Cedar Log Moments: a lesson in treasuring children

    Whenever I smell cedar logs burning in a fire place, I am immediately brought back to sweet moments in my childhood. You see, my sister and I were lavishly loved by our pastor and his wife, something that we deeply needed. The church was huge and broadcasted live on TV each Sunday, but they made time for two little girls that they knew needed some extra loving. They even let us ‘adopt’ them as grandparents. I remember the days we would go to their house for a few hours. We got to play in their pantry and pretend it was a grocery store. We went on walks in their woods and he struggled to button my denim jacket because it was a little too cold to be outside with my jacket open. I remember their big, antique looking bathroom with a clawfoot tub and the big windows upstairs in his Study. I remember all the pretty things around the house. But I mostly remember the smell of cedar logs burning in the fireplace. Maybe it’s just my own understanding of how heating with a fireplace works, but in my world, cedar logs are reserved for when you have important company over. The other logs produce heat, but cedar brings warmth and a beautiful smell throughout the house. As a little girl, I didn’t know this. I just knew that I felt loved there and now always associate cedar with that kind of love. I remember the day, as an adult, that I realized how important we were treated. It had been a really long time since I smelled a burning cedar log, but the memories came flooding back. People don’t normally pull out the really good stuff for kid visitors. And, usually, when we do something a little extra for a child, we point it out to them so they can see the value in what they are being given or offered. This wasn’t the case in this home. We were lavishly loved, treated with superb kindness, and handled like we were royalty...which wasn’t quite what we experienced at home. These visits made a lasting impression on me. There were other days when we were picked up in his fancy-to-me car and taken for ice cream at Baskin Robins. We were given full authority to pick any of the 31 flavors or size we wanted, which was very unlike normal days. Grandaddy would also order a single scoop of vanilla and reach across with his spoon to “just taste a bite of each of our flavors”. Whenever we were out with them, he was recognized by people in the community. He politely shook their hand and smiled, but made it a point to communicate that he was out with special girls. More honor heaped on us. At Christmas, we would have our annual date to see the Christmas lights downtown. These nights included ice cream, too. But I remember one year in particular, that I felt a little more grown up and decided I didn’t need to hold his hand while crossing the busy downtown streets. Grandaddy gently took my hand anyway and told me that I might be big enough to cross without his hand, but that he wasn’t big enough to cross without mine. I smiled and secretly appreciated the protection. Years and years later, he was the one that then placed my hands into my husbands on our wedding day. During the ceremony, he told the stories I mentioned, minus the cedar logs. It’s likely that he has no idea what kind of impression that left on me. And now, as an adult on the closing end of a lot of healing, I struggle to find the words to express the magnitude of how wonderful those moments were. The ice creams he and his wife splurged on for us were tasty, but the tender time and safe spaces were the real treasures. These were holy moments. Now in ministry myself, I realize that it isn’t possible to spend this kind of time on each of the people we minister to, but when we give ourselves fully to ones that we can, it is life changing. “Do for one what you wish you could do for many.” If we all did that for one person, the world would certainly be a different place. And if we do that for a child, we may be impacting their entire future. I am so deeply grateful for the way were we treasured in these moments. Looking back on my experiences with my pastor, AKA Grandaddy, I realize that I had pockets of time with my own real life Mr. Rogers. They had more than being ordained ministers in common, they had a strong belief in loving children well. “Fred Rogers respected the value of childhood. He believed in a world in which love, understanding, and kindness could triumph.” “In the external scheme of things, shining moments are as brief as the twinkling of an eye, yet such twinklings are what eternity is made of – moments when we human beings can say “I love you,” “I’m proud of you.” “I forgive you,” “I’m grateful for you.” That’s what eternity is made of: invisible, imperishable good stuff.” -Fred Rogers As parents, we often feel like we aren’t doing enough, like we aren’t providing the most opportunities for our kids or giving them what they need. But, what I am learning is that what they really need and want is us. They want our full attention. They need us to be there and they need to feel treasured like the priceless jewels they are. I don’t mean that we need to spoil them with brand name things and expensive toys, in fact, I mean just the opposite. But we need to prioritize them with less things and a slower schedule. Being the defender of the schedule and saying ‘no’ to even the good things sometimes is healthy. In doing this, we are teaching our kids how to set healthy boundaries. Kids don’t need to be building their resume in elementary or middle grade. Let us never forget, that although children might not be able to verbalize their feelings or impressions of a moment, those memories dig very deep roots and resurface later. So, how can we realistically replicate the cedar logs and ice cream dates? The answer is short, but often so difficult. Simplify. We might not have a fireplace to burn a cedar log in, but we can occasionally do for our children what we would do for special company. Here are some ideas: Make mundane days unexpectedly special. If you always eat dinner at the table, pick a day to make a picnic in the living room or in the back yard. Carry your plates in and have fun eating somewhere else. Or, if you never eat at the table, spend 5 minutes to uncover it from the piles of papers or laundry and eat there occasionally. Perhaps even light a candle. Don’t overcomplicate things, just make it feel different than normal. Create simple traditions and remember to repeat them. Go see the Christmas lights, play flashlight hide and seek every few weeks, or some other fun thing your family likes. Repeating it makes it a tradition. Look at your kids when they talk. Even if it’s just for a few minutes, stop what you are doing and actually look at them. Another wise person told me to try to memorize their face. Communicate to them how valuable they are. Both in words and in deeds, make sure your children know they are treasured. Have you had an experience where you felt overwhelmingly love and cared for? What are other ways we can be sure our kids are confident in where they stand with us, as parents who love them deeply?

  • New Campus Missionary's Survival Kit

    You’ll need to following items to survive your first few semesters in Chi Alpha. Prep well and gather these essential items: New XA Shirt- Promoting your new logo is a secondary benefit of new Chi Alpha shirts. You need to make sure you have many of these around because you won’t be able to do laundry for a solid three weeks. Use the wear & air method; wear it once, air it out, wear it again. When in Rome, right? Name tags- People think you need name tags to learn names. This rarely works, but we do it anyway. However, the pack of 500 name tags you’ll burn through is more there to remind you that this mission will begin to show you who the real you truly is, and more importantly, who God really is. Call on His name. We can’t do this gig without him, don’t try. Duct tape- Every seasoned campus missionary stashes a role of duct tape in their supply bag for ministry events because you never know what you will need to repair. This also comes in handy to tape your berks back together and to temporarily repair your car bumper. If done right, this repair job can last awhile. Any color will due, but get the role with at least 100 yards. Sharpies- Don’t get the cheap brand. Get the real sharpie brand markers. You’ll need both the thinline and the fat ones. These remind the new campus missionary of their name (look down on that name tag you’re wearing, you’re too tired to remember it’s there), but also you will need reminding that God doesn’t change- what he said yesterday is still the same tomorrow- and, that what God does can’t be undone. And, like the artwork my kid left on the hallway at home, Sharpies can’t be erased and neither can the work God has done in you. Sunscreen- We ALWAYS forget our sunscreen during Welcome Week events...our farmer’s tans are proof. But really, our sunscreen is a reminder that we need to put on our protection from the harm from others, the brutal words, the disappointments, the hurt from the times we tell people we can’t be somewhere because of our schedule or distance. God is our protector and salve. Use it or get crispy. Frisbee- The frisbee comes in handy to throw at the office walls when you’re frustrated, as it only leaves minimal damage. Also it can act as a plate to eat or serve communion from because, like the laundry, the dishes haven’t been done for much longer than you are happy to admit. Also speaking of eating, try to remember that you stashed several protein bars in the bottom of your backpack. You’ll need to refuel after the frisbee-to-wall stress relief. Everyone thinks we keep frisbees around for fellowship activities on the quad....if they only knew... Tissues- Fall allergies are a big problem in much of our nation, but these tissues aren’t for that. These are part of the survival kit because you’ll find yourself using the basement bathroom in the one building that the rest of the university forgot exists- even the custodial staff- and the toilet paper hasn’t been replenished since flip phones were hot. A secondary reason for tissues is for the cryer in the group. We’ve all got at least one, so be prepared for waterworks at any moment. It’s ok, because God is doing amazing things, but still. A small pack of Puffs can save the day in the most amazing way. There ya go. If you have these 7 items nearby, you will survive your first semester as a campus missionary...and try not to think that once you’ve been doing Chi Alpha longer, you won’t need them. Wrong. We all need to resupply our survival kit every fall. As we tell our students when packing for our retreats: “pack light and tight”, and you’ll be prepared for any situation. - LB

  • Mental Space

    At the time, I had two small daughters. My husband and I were directors of a campus ministry and our schedules were so busy that we often high-fived each other as we swapped duties both at home and on campus. My daughters were born 19 months apart, so between October 2005 to sometime in the spring of 2007, I was carrying a baby in my womb, breastfeeding a baby, or carrying one or both on my hips. My heart and arms were full and life never stopped moving. I was tired but I loved it. I was relentless with my schedule. My girls and I had our days super planned so that we had an idea of how things might go, but be willing to shift plans when something else came up. I also knew that if I got behind in my day, I would have to scurry to catch up, so I rarely let time slip. It was impossible to be still. The schedule kept my attention. The schedule was intentional. The schedule was necessary. Soon after my younger daughter was big enough to be left with a relative for a weekend, Gil and I went to a planning retreat with a small group of our colleagues. We were there to pray and plan out the next few goals in our growing ministry at the regional level. The evening we arrived, we spent a little time in refreshing worship. Most of the people were standing and walking around the room as they talked with God. I just sat there. Just sitting still forced me to focus on God because it was such the opposite of what my body was normally doing. I wondered what everyone else thought of me not moving, but I reminded myself to not care. It was as if the two sides of my brain were in battle with one another, one rooting for Martha and the other for Mary. The doing and the being. The stillness caught my attention. The stillness was intentional. The stillness was necessary. Martha invited Jesus over. Her sister just sat at his feet to hear what he had to say. Martha was distracted by all that needed to be done and was upset that her sister wasn’t helping. Jesus told Martha that all that she was busy doing wasn’t needed. He didn’t say her work was wrong, just not needed. He said that Mary chose what was better and that it will not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:38-42) Sometimes, it feels like we get so swept up in the pace of hurry around us. The things we get sucked into aren’t necessarily wrong, but Jesus calls us into something better. The love of crossing off to-do lists, the applause of accomplishments, the achieving - it’s all so intoxicating and it’s hard to pull away. The silence catches our attention. The silence is intentional. The silence is necessary. Lord, I need you. Oh, I need you. Every hour I need you. My one defense, my righteousness, oh God, how I need you.