Friday, December 3, 2010

the way of life

As my last assignment for this semester (besides studying for a Greek test on Tuesday), I was asked to compose a rule of life for my Christian Spiritual Formation class.

A rule of life, if you're not familiar with it, is a guiding set of principles for your life before God. Rules can be written by individuals, but they are also often written for communities of faith. While a rule of life usually does contain challenges as far as who you want to be and what you want to do, it is far from a set of New Year's resolutions. Rather it is a covenant with God in which you pledge yourself to a certain way of life.

Since it's a highly personal kind of thing, the rule and its contents can take any number of forms. As I began contemplating my own rule of life, what came to mind as a focusing concept was a quote from the Didache, which we just covered in Greek recently: "There are two ways, one of life and one of death, but a great difference between the two ways." A rule of life, it seemed to me, should be something which describes and calls me to the way of life. And what better way to focus my life than on what Jesus calls the greatest commands: love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Everything else, Jesus says, hangs on these things.

So, as I began to write this rule of life, I chose to center it on those precepts, looking at a couple of different aspects of life (relationships, stewardship, ministry, etc.) through the lense of what it meant to love God, love my neighbor, and love myself. Though this was written basically in one sitting and could use some time for reflection before it is finalized (if it ever is), I wanted to share with you what I came up with as my rule of life. It's much more theoretical than some other people's are, but that seems to fit me, as I tend more towards focusing on habits of being rather than habits of doing. That may in some ways be a weakness of my rule, but I can also see it as a strength, enabling this rule to serve me for years and years to come because it lays solid foundations that can be further defined as specific situations arise. Anyway, enough talk already. The formatting's off a little (no lines should continue on to another line without being indented), but here it is. I'd love to hear your thoughts!

To this way of life I am consecrated:

to love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.

to love my neighbor.

to love myself.

For there is no commandment greater than these.

First established in flourishing relationship

with my creator, redeemer, and sustainer,

with my fellow sojourners in faith

and those who have chosen a different path,

with the unique image of God I carry within,

I give my fully alive self to the community of Father, Son, and Spirit, to the community of faith,

and to those in the world who are without such wholeness.

Centered in attitudes of joyous expectation and love-filled self-emptying,

I magnify my Lord, humbly submit, and hope unceasingly in divine promise.

I reverence the other as an irreplaceable likeness of our multifaceted God.

I dedicate my all to the service of the kingdom and the praise of God’s glorious grace.

Exceedingly blessed, my life is an incarnation of appreciation for all gifts bestowed upon me—

joyously received from my generous God,

graciously extended to others as theirs,

earnestly cultivated as they are entrusted.

Time, money, talent… each provision an offering back to the one who first imparted it.

Though the materialist myth proclaims unlimited resources, I live instead in moderation,

abstaining from crimes of excess so others may forgo crimes of need.

Ardently I nurture God-given favors—empathy, wisdom, intellect, health—

and employ these endowments of heart, soul, mind, and strength.

For justice and mercy I extend myself,

as one who has received unending mercy from the God of justice.

as one who sees the world crying out

for justice in its fallenness

and mercy in its brokenness.

as one called to and graced with the ministry of this inextricable pair—

two sides of the same coin, two expressions of the same love.

To character and virtue I devote myself,

growing always in thought and in deed towards purity of heart before my holy God,

living from this stance of integrity as the presence of God in the world,

salt and light to flavorlessness and darkness,

seeking always the fruit of the Spirit and the audacious balance

of a God-centered life in a perilously self-centered world.

This is the true way of life. This I choose. This I will be.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

thankful thursday

Inspired by my wonderful friend Deanna, I've decided to post a Thankful Thursday post today. Basically, that means that I either don't have much of anything else to write about or that I don't have the time and energy to do so, so I'll be satisfied with giving you a little insight into things I'm thankful for today. Never a bad idea, though, right? So, right now, I'm thankful for:

1) an absolutely gorgeous day outside today here in Abilene
2) amazing roommates who are wonderful to and for me
3) a good conversation with Brad Carter of CCC this afternoon
4) a good time back home with family in preparation for my brother's wedding
5) Nellie being my sister-in-law!
6) getting to spend some time with my nephew, Jakub, who's insanely cute!
7) the photographs I've printed off and hung on my wall
8) lime potato chips -- AMAZING!
9) the MRNA crew and getting to see them later tonight
10) an hour or so last night that I spent reading FOR FUN!
11) slowly developing relationships with some of the people in the College Heights community
12) the OPPORTUNITY to study Greek and pass a test on Tuesday :)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

colors of summer

As summer is winding down and school is about to start, I just wanted to share a few pictures of how beautiful summertime out west can be. Two of the three are from last summer, but I'm still a fan. There are plenty more where these came from, but they're a few of my favorites. Enjoy!

thunderstorm and sunset on the 4th of July in Kansas

Palo Duro Canyon, last summer

Palo Duro Canyon again

Sunday, August 15, 2010

a glimpse back

Today I'm sharing with you a journal entry I came across from sometime during the fall of 2007 or spring of 2008. I praise God that things are no longer this way in my life, but this is an accurate portrayal of what I experienced for a number of years. Those years very much shaped who I am, as I think you will understand better after reading. For that reason, and also so any of you who have also experienced such a time will know that you're not alone, I decided to share this with you. No pity wanted, just understanding and encouragement.

I feel my soul begin to plunge again into the unfathomable depths of despair. It is an abyss I have become quite familiar with -- an enemy more dreaded than any other I have faced, yet at the same time a comfortable friend. None, not even I, can understand the mysteries of the transformation that occurs within me. It's a bad case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, only less predictable. A whirlwind or tornado that appears as if out of nowhere, wreaks havoc on my spirit, and then vanishes back to God knows where, leaving a perhaps troubled yet strangely tranquil sky behind it and nothing but a trail of destruction and disaster in its wake. And I am left to sort through the mess, the ruins of what once was my life, trying to put back the pieces to give some semblance (to the world? to myself?) of normalcy, all the while mourning with bitter tears as I compare the devastation that surrounds me to the peaceful, joyful, and whole life I once led.

This malaise that has taken possession of me -- what is it? Can I give it a name? I have tried, though none seems suitable, or perhaps it's that all of them do -- depression, despair, frustration, hopelessness, exhaustion, confusion, anger, bitterness, emptiness... What is this ghost that haunts me, a specter I can at times avoid and at other times against which I am utterly powerless?

I cannot understand the inner workings of my heart, the processes of my mind. I do not know why I feel like I do or what it is in me that changes, that begins the dreaded metamorphosis. As regular and yet as unpredictable as the weather here in my northwest Arkansas home, my mindset and my heart move from one end of the continuum to the other. Sometimes it happens gradually, building throughout the day until I have inched my way into this diseased way of thinking and feeling, and other times it is as sudden and as painful as a gunshot. Whether it's a word, an action, a circumstance, or a lack of one of those things, my mood swiftly transitions from the typical gray twilight in which I seem to live into total blackness, like the darkness that surrounds you on a night with no moon or stars and not a single light to be seen.

Every word I hear, every thought I think becomes twisted and dangerous. "Are they talking about me?" It's either, " Yes -- they must have awful things to say," or "No -- no one cares enough to give me a first thought, much less a second." If I take a look in the mirror, it's "Yikes! I look horrible today. If you look closely, you can even see the ugliness of my soul in my eyes." Or there's the despairing "I look all right, or maybe even good, but what's the use? No one is ever going to care anyway. Why try?"

Any faint glimmer of hope is immediately snatched away and turned easily into a weapon to further the piercing darkness that surrounds me and envelops me. Why cannot hope abide? Why must it flee so easily? Why must I be left in my aloneness, seeking always for comfort and companionship and finding none that promises to salve the wounds my heart has had inflicted on it?

photo found through Google image search at

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Yesterday I had a song stuck in my head half the evening. I don't know how or why it came to mind, but once it did, it could not be dislodged. I thought perhaps listening to it would satisfy the craving my heart had to hear it, so I pulled up the youtube video, but that did nothing more than capture my attention more fully, enchanting me with the lyrical, poetic theology of the lyrics and the magnificent talent and artistry of the music. I was enthralled. A number of times over the ensuing hours I was drawn back to the song. It fed something ravenous within my soul.

It's a song that, though relatively new, I've sung a number of times to my God. "Your love is a symphony/All around me/Running through me..." My God's love for me fills every moment of my days and nights, surrounding me in beauty as the majesty of a symphony surrounds its listeners. It pierces to the very depth of my being and cannot be forgotten. This is true art, true beauty, true love -- this love is music that changes lives.

As I praised my God in this song, though, I began to catch a glimpse of another truth. What if this song isn't about God's love for me and my appreciation of it? What if it is rather about my love for God, and God's appreciation of it? While there's nothing in the song to explicitly suggest this interpretation, I cannot help but see the beauty in this discovery as well.

God speaks to me and says, "Your love is a symphony, all around me, running through me. Your love is a melody, underneath me, running to me. Oh, your love is a song!" What if -- maybe, just maybe -- God cherishes my love for him in the way I cherish God's love for me. Is it my love -- our love -- that sounds as a symphony in God's ears, filling God's existence with beauty and appreciation? Does God exult in the artistry of love that he sees going on among us? Does God crave the presence of this kind of love just as we do? Can I -- one person alone, and one very messed up person at that -- delight God through my love for him the way a favorite song delights its hearers? The thrill of beauty that leaves me gratefully speechless -- is this the kind of effect I have on God?!

As these thoughts came to mind, I could not help but think also of Tolkein's majestic creation myth, Ainulindalë. When I first read this tale, also called "The Music of the Ainur," about a month ago, I thought it one of the most beautiful pieces of art ever fashioned. In this story, Ilúvatar, the One, created the Ainur (or Holy Ones), who sang before him, "and he was glad." Ilúvatar delighted in the songs of his creatures, their expression of loving existence before their creator. He was glad. And though Tolkein made it clear that he did not mean his tales allegorically, I cannot help but read my faith though their beauty and wisdom. God was glad for the way his creation expressed itself in beauty because of love.

Tolkein's story goes on, "But for a long while, they sang only each alone, or but few together, while the rest hearkened; for each comprehended only that part of the mind of Ilúvatar from which he came, and in the understanding of their brethren they grew but slowly. Yet ever as they listened they came to deeper understanding, and increased in unison and harmony." Through the harmonies of the Ainur, a new world is brought into being. It is only the "turbulent sound" of one self-important, rebellious Ainur that threatens to upset the beauty of the songs of the symphony the Holy Ones have created in their response to Ilúvatar. I wonder, then, as beautiful as the melodic love of one disciple is to God, how it cannot compare to the unimaginably stunning symphony of millions, billions of voices of love in harmony -- powerful enough in their beauty to create new worlds and please God.

Remember, our love is a symphony. What kinds of beautiful things can we sing into being?

Monday, June 7, 2010

gotta love summer

Thursday, June 3, 2010

powerful beyond measure

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and famous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

~ Marianne Williamson

Saturday, April 10, 2010

portfolio preparation

Just in case anybody's even remotely interested in why I haven't been blogging lately... Well, I have. Just not here. As part of my degree program here at ACU, I'm required to put together a portfolio blog that demonstrates my development and competence in certain expected outcomes. The portfolio is reviewed at the end of every year to determine my candidacy for the next year. So my first portfolio review is coming up on the 23rd, and everything was required to be posted by yesterday, the 9th. It's pretty much done, and, honestly, I'm pretty happy about how it's all come together. If you're interested in checking it out, here's your link: to the praise of God's glorious grace. Happy reading!

Friday, March 12, 2010

This Too Shall Pass

I've been a fan of OkGo's videos for a while now, and this one absolutely lives up to the high standard they've set for themselves. Amazing!!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Thursday, February 25, 2010

thankful thursday

1. laughter
2. finding joy in even the most mundane tasks
3. friends' smiles
4. exciting dreams for the future!
5. a good lunch: poppyseed chicken, green beans, and salad
6. my mentoring group - every single one of them!
7. the prayer labyrinth on ACU's campus
8. getting a fair amount of homework done this evening
9. not feeling too overwhelmed this week
10. God's grace and the encouragement of others which got me through the past few weeks
11. snow sharks :o)
12. Tatia and her crazy stories :o)
13. Paul and the fun I have chatting with him
14. getting to talk to Ivan, my first and always best friend, and catch up with him and his lovely wife, Ariel
15. the bowl of cereal I'm about to eat - the traditional family bedtime snack

Monday, February 8, 2010

just a thought...

Instead of fields, then, buy souls that are in trouble, according to your ability. Look after widows and orphans and do not neglect them. Spend your riches and all your establishments you have received from God on this kind of field and houses. It was for this that the Master bestowed wealth on you, to perform this ministry for Him.

(The Shepherd of Hermas, First Parable, 8) - quoted in Joseph A. Grassi, Informing the Future: Social Justice in the New Testament.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


Well, I've just made out my list of things to do for the next couple of days. Is it a bit overwhelming to think of an estimated 56 hours worth of homework, including over 600 pages of reading, to wade through in the coming week? On top of 9 hours of class, 8 hours of GA work, mentoring group, church, meals, and hopefully some sleep in there somewhere? If anybody out there feels inclined to pray or encourage as the week progresses, all would be welcome!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

thankful thursday

Thankful Thursday sounds like a good tradition to join in on, right? Here's today's list...

1. thunderstorms, even when they soak me through and through
2. a nice new friend who gave me a ride home in the rain so I wouldn't have to bike back
3. a dryer to dry my drenched jeans
4. my mentoring group
5. seeing Kaylynn, even if only for a few seconds
6. a day that's been relatively homework free, meaning, I only spent 2 hours on homework
7. a wonderful dinner tonight at the Childers' house
8. new friends I made at dinner
9. great dinner-table conversation, with lots of laughing
10. wonderful roommates!
11. a moving Holocaust remembrance chapel service yesterday
12. Pre-MAC retreat tomorrow & Saturday
13. Carol & Penny to ride with to the retreat
14. my hair on good days
15. the warm blanket that's covering me now
16. hot chocolate!
17. LOST coming back on soon!
18. good times with friends at lunch yesterday
19. REVIVAL at Hope
20. the really cute picture of Jakub, my nephew, that's my computer background - see:

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

creative weapon of love

My recent review of “The Violence of Desperate Men” and “Beyond Vietnam,two examples of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s amazing insight and dedication. If you'd like, you can click the links above to read (or even hear, in the latter case) the texts. It's absolutely worth the time to catch a glimpse into the life and passion of this amazing man.

In “The Violence of Desperate Men,” Martin Luther King, Jr., tells the story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955-56, an important event in the African-American Civil Rights Movement, which was beginning to take shape at the time. Faced with discriminatory treatment in the public transportation system, the Negro residents of Montgomery, Alabama, confronted the political and social powers of their community and took a stand against the injustices perpetrated against them by boycotting the transit system. These dedicated men and women relied on one another not only for means of transportation but also for reassurance of the importance of their cause. Opponents of the boycott and the Civil Rights Movement attempted to intimidate and divide the Negro community; they spread rumors about leaders of the group and issued false reports of a settlement regarding the city’s transit laws. They arrested and imprisoned Dr. King for a minor speeding violation, and someone went so far as to bomb the Kings’ home. Even in the midst of such disheartening circumstances, however, the members of this fledgling movement withstood the temptation to resign or retaliate. King, despite his own doubts and feelings of inadequacy, sensed a calling from God to continue in this fight, and so he pressed on, leading those around him in a campaign which sought justice and righteousness by promoting the values of peace and Christian love.

Over ten years later, with America deeply embroiled in the Vietnam War, Dr. King continued to speak out for these values, for although the scope of the situation differed, the issues at the heart of the matter were quite similar to the Civil Rights Movement with which King’s name is nearly synonymous. Addressing his fellow Americans and his government, King begins his “Beyond Vietnam” speech with the statement that “a time comes when silence is betrayal.” This time, he emphasizes, has come regarding Vietnam, and his conscience compels him to speak out. Prominent among his reasons for opposing the war are its detrimental effects on American society, his general abhorrence of violence, belief in a spirit of freedom and integrity for America, and his commission as a leader and a Christian to work for the brotherhood of humanity and the salvation of all into the love of God. King gives a brief history of the struggle in Vietnam, speaking from the perspectives of various groups which have remained voiceless. He strongly indicts the powers which have destroyed the lives of the Vietnamese people. He gives immediate and definite steps which should be taken by the American government to resolve and withdraw from the conflict, and he suggests ways for the audience to demonstrate its commitment to peace. He concludes with an extended oration on revolution, quoting John F. Kennedy: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” Calling on his fellow Americans to support a positive revolution of values and to fight against injustice, King presents his audience with the choice they must make: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation.

The most notable premise of these works of Dr. King’s is that resistance to injustice is a Christian duty which must be undertaken in a Christian manner. Even before the influence of Gandhi was felt and the terminology of “nonviolent resistance” was used, the philosophy which enlivened and directed King and many of his fellow protestors in the Civil Rights Movement was that of Christian love. King continually emphasizes that both his support for civil rights and his censure of the Vietnam War are based upon his Christian convictions. A belief in the equality and brotherhood of all humans as God’s creatures and a commitment to promote love, as both a means and an end, are the driving forces behind what King does and says. He continually entreats others to follow these philosophies as well, advocating—in a very Christlike way—nonviolence even in the face of hardship and the embrace of those who might be considered enemies. He calls on his listeners to “protest with the creative weapon of love.”

An important secondary theme of these words and deeds of King’s is the acknowledgement that our actions in the present have an immense influence on the future and must therefore be carefully chosen and employed. One the one hand, if not chosen wisely, they may set into motion a series of events which proves detrimental or even disastrous. The mess in which America found itself in Vietnam is an excellent illustration of this premise. Knowing this, King worked intently during the bus boycott to avoid an escalation into violence, enabling the movement to successfully avoid calamity. On the other hand, if chosen prudently, our words and actions may favorably change the face of society forever. King reminds his audience that they are living in revolutionary times and that there is an urgency to act in a positive way before it is too late and the opportunity is lost; indecision and uncertainty must be conquered if the world is to move forward. Even small actions can have a momentous impact, as is illustrated by one astute elderly woman who struggled to take each symbolic step to her destination during the Montgomery Bus Boycott: “I’m not walking for myself. I’m walking for my children and my grandchildren.”

MLK Day March Reflections

I'm going to go ahead and share here a blog entry I wrote for my Contexts of Ministry class earlier this week. The assignment was to attend Abilene's local Martin Luther King, Jr. Day march and to write a reflection on my experience of the event, where people gathered to commemorate the man who has done so much in the fight for justice and equality in our world by walking in solidarity across a bridge bearing his name. To read the reflections of my classmates (and professor) visit our class blog here.

(Photo by Nellie Doneva of the Abilene Reporter News.)

As I reflect on my own experience at the MLK Day March, and as I read about the experiences of my classmates, I struggle to put into words what exactly it is that I saw and felt and thought during the event. I think the main reason I struggle to verbalize it all is that my expectations were not met in the ways I had anticipated they might be. I, too, had never participated in any events to commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and ministry. This was new to me. Even though that was the case, however, I still came into the event with expectations—not so much expectations about what would happen, but rather expectations about how I would react to it. In light of the ministry of Dr. King, which I wholeheartedly appreciate and support, how would I act in this situation? How would I be affected? Who would I be?

There were encouraging and inspiring things about the march, to be sure, and I don’t want to forget those or lay them aside too easily. So that is where I begin. People gathered for a purpose, an important purpose. They took time out of their day to make a statement about their beliefs, their hopes, and their goals. The crowd which gathered showed some diversity. Those very important beliefs and dreams are shared by people not only of various skin colors, but also of various ages, economic situations, genders, and educational levels, among other things. The name of God was spoken reverently and in connection with a cause which (I at least believe) God supports and champions. All very good things which deserve more attention that I am going to give them here, but my focus is elsewhere.

Perhaps I allow myself to be too much of a cynic. Perhaps, for that very reason, I should take the time to focus on those kinds of positive aspects above rather lament the fact that the fullness of meaning which could have lay behind the events of the afternoon was conspicuously absent, at least in my own heart. In many ways, I identify most fully with Josh’s and Keith’s descriptions of the march, especially with the sense of purposelessness and even loss which Keith experienced. And I know much of that is of my own doing. My heart was not completely invested. I had an amazing opportunity to be a part of something meaningful, and instead of embracing that opportunity, I mostly squandered it by staying within my own comfort zone of known acquaintances and predictable and (dare I say?) hollow rhetoric and actions.

“Hollow.” Now that that particular word comes to mind, it is a fitting descriptor for experience. “Meaningless” is far too dire a take on the afternoon, for I know that there was meaning there to be found for those who earnestly sought it. “Hollow,” however, seems in many ways appropriate to my own participation. I gathered, but I gathered without purpose. I prayed, but my prayer does not always touch my life. I marched, but I marched without focus and without meaning. I was present, but I was absent. I was hollow.

As I reflect on the march and its purpose, I can’t help but think about the power(lessness) of the march as a symbol. To some, both participants and observers, this event was surely a potent symbol of the good that has been done as well as the long road that is left to traverse in issues of justice and equality. At the same time, I wonder just how much of an effect this statement had on the individuals, the community, the larger culture, and the world as a whole. Was the symbol itself hollow in some ways? It’s wonderful, yes, but was anyone paying attention? Did it really mean anything? Did it change anything?

I wonder, also, how would my experience have been different if my history and my perspective were different? Doubtless, it would be. I am the majority, the person of power, the elite in many ways. True, within my religious culture I have experienced discrimination as a woman, but for the most part, I know only what it is to be privileged. I’m an educated white upper middle class American. That definitely places me among the elite in the world, places me among those who have had little experience with suffering and oppression. And despite my burning internal commitment to the causes of justice and righteousness, sadly, my outward commitment often remains untested or falls short, leaving me with merely theoretical protestations of the abominations I claim to fight against. Surely this is one decisive reason this event was hollow for me?

To finally confront the cynic in me, I have to remind myself that while this event may have regrettably been bereft of much significance for me in the particular way it played out, there is yet another, more redemptive, aspect of the term “hollow.” Something which is hollow is prepared to be filled. So the questions with which I end this reflection are similar to how I began, only looking further toward the future: How will I act? How will I change? Who will I be? I pray that “hollow” is nowhere in the description.