giving it all to you

Ah, it comes again…the Lenton season. We all know that I have mixed emotions on the way that popular Christian culture portrays the need to give something up for Lent. Although that could also come from a childhood of giving up sweets and meat on Fridays. (You try explaining to a child that no, we don’t go to church on Sundays but you still have to give something up for Lent and oh yeah, you can’t eat meat on fridays…why? who knows but we’re doing it.)
New readers of my blog, don’t think that I’m a hostile hater, it’s more that simply giving up sweets or caffeine with no “real” reason makes my skin crawl. You are not going to magically become closer to God by abstaining from m&ms. That’s just not how it works. However, if you are giving up chocolate because you have recently discovered that it is one of the industries most responsible for slave labor and poor supply chain (which it is), and you want to give it up in order to take a stand against that. That’s great. Or, say, you are addicted to something (like caffeine) and you want to give it up in order to make yourself more healthy, also great. Although in both of those scenarios, it’s probably not the best thing to be pounding chocolate or coffee on Easter morning “because you can now.” (again, flashback to childhood and many Easters spent in a sugar coma).
Although, what you choose to do is between you and the Lord, so really this post shouldn’t be about judgement but rather about what the Lenton season brings for me this year.
This year, much to my chagrin, one (or more) of my professors has challenged us (for a grade) to do some sort of Lenton discipline. In my Ethics class we were challenged to have the discipline attempt to foster a virtue in us.
I racked my brain. It’s hard for me to come up with something that will be sustainable in this busy season of my life. But finally I came up with it, gave it a catchy name (cause that’s how I do) and I started. I am calling it Project LGLO (Love God Love Others). At least once a week will find me at a neighborhood coffee shop (not starbucks) doing devotions and homework. I will attempt to get out of my comfort zone by becoming a regular at said coffee shop. I will keep myself open by not allowing myself to use headphones while I work. I will attempt to learn how to love God and love others better as I get out of my 1 mile radius of NP and force myself to be better at getting to know others and my neighborhood.
The other thing (which I’m stealing from Jessa) is called Project Face Value. Where we try our hardest to take things that others say at face value without reading into them. We also will try and say things at face value – meaning that if I care about where we go to dinner I’m not going to say that I don’t. It’s not about causing problems with friends but honoring myself and my desires in expressing them, then I can’t get passive aggressively mad for people not reading my mind.
These are two simple things, but I think they will create in me habits that I would like to continue and get me out of my comfort zone in more ways than one. I am also going to try and blog more… but I always say that so…yeah.
(PS. I write this from the above mentioned coffee shop, which is my own little piece of heaven within Chicago. Big windows, lots of light, bit wooden table to work at, good coffee and a great mix of music. But I don’t want to share so I’m not disclosing my location.)

i can't imagine all the people that you know and the places that you go

I was sitting in Church this morning being challenged by a visiting pastor to think differently at the story found in John 4:43-54.  It’s a story of a father, grasping at straws for the healing of his son.  He goes to Jesus because he’s tried everything, he thinks his son is going to die so in a last ditch kind of effort he goes to Jesus and begs for Jesus to come with him to his son’s bedside and heal him.  The pastor was asking us to imagine with him what its like to be a parent trying to hold onto hope out of love for a child.  That the love for your child brings about a hope that requires you to have.  That’s a bit about what he was talking about, but that’s not what this post is about…
The pastor was calling on moments in his families life that help him relate to this story.  He showed pictures of his beautiful daughter and told stories of her struggles and achievements.  It was as if he was asking all the parents in the room to imagine with him what the father of this child was feeling in John.  Now, I’m all about relating the bible to stories in your own life to be able to identify (well most of the time), but I struggle with this at times being “that girl” whose childhood wasn’t all roses and butterflies.  So I’ll be a little honest, I was getting a tad bit grumpy.
Then I remembered this one memory of my childhood.  In all honesty, it was probably one of the most defining moments of my pre-adolescence.  I was in the 7th grade and was getting ready for this “teen night” at my school that was called Teen Canteen.  There’s dancing, sports, refreshments, games…it was the best night of the month to any 6-8th grader at Eric S Smith Middle School.  I remember this one particular night as I got ready there was a weird feeling in my house.  Something wasn’t quite right.  But being the 12-year-old girl that I was – I was more interested in how I looked for my night than to ask what was up with my family.  So I left for my night without concern.  I came home later that night to my dad sitting alone, in the dark, in our living room.  I walked in and saw that he had been crying.  I sat on the couch opposite of him and asked him what was wrong.  To this day I can almost see the two of us sitting there as he told me that one of my uncles, his brother-in-law, had committed suicide.
I remember thinking to myself “why hadn’t he told me before I left?”  I remember instantly feeling guilty for my night of fun because he had been at home, crying.  But as I grew up I realized that he knew this news was going to change me.  That my childhood would be shifted with this news and that he wanted one more night of normalcy for me before we had to talk about funerals, flights to Colorado, missing a school field trip.  I remember having to tell my choir teacher that I couldn’t go see Phantom of the Opera in the city because we were flying to Colorado for a funeral.  I remember all the looks of pity my teachers gave me as I got my homework to do on the plane.
I remember seeing the brokenness of my family in real and astonishingly new ways.  It was the first funeral I remember attending for someone I was close to.  I remember asking really hard questions about why and not getting answers.  But mostly I remember that was the last time I remember my dad having strength.  Something changed in him too, I can see it now all these years later.
I see this moment in my life as the first time I felt true pain, true brokenness.  It wouldn’t be for another few years that I would find Christ and understand for myself how hope and faith flow out of a love that is incomprehensible.
Which I think is why Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13: “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three: but the greatest of these is love.” (ESV).

you don't have to go it alone

Last week was Midwinter which, for those of you who don’t know, is the Evangelical Covenant Church’s annual gathering for pastors.  It’s a week of spending time with people you love but live far away as well as a time of teaching and renewal for pastors.  As a seminary student, I have the privilege of working Midwinter which allowed me to have some really long days last week.
This week we start back in with classes and I am attempting to find rhythm in the midst of the chaos in my life as a student/babysitter/president/cohort member/mentee/mentor/etc….  My classes so far have been invigorating and challenging.  It’s a good place to be when you stay up til 12:30 not because you have to finish a reading but because you want to finish it.  But more on that as the semester continues…
As of late I have had a lot of random thoughts that won’t leave my head so it’s time to get them out…
One of the best things I have ever done is choosing to walk the road of friendship with my best friend.  I cannot express in enough words how much of a privilege it is for me to be living in the same city as her again after a few years of separation.  I can only speak for myself but her role in my life far surpasses that of “friend.”  I think of her more as family than as a friend…Let me explain.  Because of the nature of my family and the ways in which we interact I have always felt a bit of an outsider. (read this as extended family not like my mom and brother).  I always longed to have the kinds of relationships that I saw in the movies with my family.  I’ve also always wanted a sister.  In my best friend I get both.  And this past year and a half I have enjoyed walking this journey of life with her and her husband.  I am ever so thankful for her and the way in which she loves me so well.  The way in which she knows me and knows my passions and brings me alongside of her work and her life.  Our friendship is nothing short of heaven sent and I love every moment I get to stand beside her.
Last week at Midwinter there were a lot of reconnections with people from far away.  I got a lot of time to process my life here and while there have been some really rough moments, I feel like I’ve come out of them more thankful than anything for the people around me.  The chance that I get to live three blocks from my best friend and her husband and their beautiful little foster baby.  The friendships that I’ve made here that will last much longer than my Greek vocabulary.  The chance that I get to struggle though what it means to live the Gospel in our every day lives.
I feel more grounded recently than I have in a long time.  I feel rooted in something that is bigger than myself and like I get to be a part of something new and exciting.  There isn’t really anything new going on in my life to make me feel like this, just a better sense of connectedness to those around me.  I guess it’s hard to explain but I just know that it’s one of those moments where I can’t help but grin and think, “I can’t believe I get to live this life.”  And to be honest, it’s been a long time since I’ve had that thought.