Chained in by goodness

Not that I knew he ever existed yesterday, but I agree with Sholem Asch, a celebrated Jewish author eventually scorned by his people for promoting Christianity, who stated quite simply, "Writing comes more easily if you have something to say." He must have known something worth talking about.

Usually I neglect reading in favor of writing, forgetting that, as pointed out above, we must have an inspiration for our thoughts. I don't need to read, I think. But really, I am no great creator or artist, because I can only respond and copy. Basically, I realize I must read a lot more than I do now. My mom always said, "All great writers are readers..." and there's probably more truth in that than I would like to admit.

Another great quote from Theodore Dreiser that I so identify with: "Words are but the vague shadows of the volumes we mean. Little audible links, they are, chaining together great inaudible feelings and purposes." Do you ever feel like that? When you write a thought out, attempt to communicate an emotion to someone, words almost always seem unable to work, or they just don't always function for the purpose they were intended to serve. So let that preface the following thoughts on Paul and C.S. Lewis.

One of my favorite verses, that startles and alarms me every time I read it, goes like this, "It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all." In 1st Timothy chapter 1 verse 15, Paul declares himself in total unashamed confidence as the worst of all sinners. Is he joking? I think to myself. No, he really isn't- in fact he actually believed that to be entirely true.

I'm really pretty good, I think many times.
I don't know what I'm supposed to confess right now.
I can't think of much sin that's really present.

On the front end of C.S. Lewis' drastic conversion, he wrote the following, quite humbling words,
"You must picture me alone in that room at Magdalene, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England."

How ironic, that these two, incredibly admirable men in the Christian faith, had a habit of labeling themselves as the worst sinner of all, the most hesitant above the rest...in total sincerity.
I'm coming to understand that the more we see the depth of our sin, the more we'll see the depth of God's grace.
I want to pray that the Lord would surface my sin,
that I could say without doubt or comparison or pointing a finger,
"...among whom I am foremost of all-"
only then do we grasp the joy we were meant to experience in the fullness of grace-


Work in Progress

So...somehow the summer is coming to an end and I'm not quite ready for it to be over. How is it at camp that the days often seem eternal and more full than anywhere else yet the weeks still fly by? Regardless, I am excited about getting back to Athens and reconnecting with so many of you I miss TERRIBLY. As amazing as my summer has been, it's thrilling to know that you have all had unique and separate adventures all over the world, literally.

I think I am scared of transitions. I think part of what is hard is leaving early from camp to get back- I want complete closure here in Colorado. I know that when I get back, my heart will still be here, thinking about what I am missing. It's always a struggle to be immersed fully where I am- Even here though, I am exhausted and eager to be home, not living out of a suitcase. I am praying to finish strong. To not leave with any words unsaid or time unspent or love heldback. Looking back on entries from the beginning of the summer back in Athens, it's funny to see how the Lord brings things full circle and re-teaches them to us over and over. As many of you know, I'm pretty forgetful:)

I feel like the past few weeks I have seen my need for God like never before. Often I can think of nothing else to pray in fact, but "Lord, I so desperately need you..." I know I've shared this before, but it's been even more real and humbling the past few days. I think that I expect that practice in serving will produce perfection- not so, says my sin nature. The truth is that despite working in the kitchen for about 2 and a half months now, my attitude is still regularly selfish and prideful. I find myself frustrated and short tempered, and wanting to bite back at the few bratty kids who have nothing better to do than complain because we didn't refill their pink lemonade fast enough. Ok but really, what I love and am sensing the Lord saying to me often is, "You are missing the point...do you have an idea of how I feel now when you don't accept and treasure my gift to you?"

But there is hope, because what I am utterly and completely thankful for is the fact that Christ is the hope of every relationship. In the brokenness, or gap rather, that happens when two imperfect people interact, Christ is the only one who can restore what is un-fixable, beyond repair- and that is something to be truly thankful for. First of all, that when I refuse to extend grace I forget my own need of it and I simply don't understand nor have I accepted it fully-

It's been an unreal privilege to get to speak several times throughout the summer. I'm always amazed with how the Lord shows up and breathes truth into me when I feel unprepared or inadequate that I find later the kids directly needed to hear. I spoke earlier this week while painting a picture of the hands of a potter molding clay. I shared with these young kids about the volumes it speaks to us that God chose to make us with his hands- to literally get dirty in the process of making us. Nothing else in all of creation did he create that way- he spoke all the rest into existence. We are worth far more to him than anything else. I pray that that simple but profound truth would sink in to your heart and rock your world as it has mine.

I love you friends and cannot but have to wait just a little bit longer before being reunited.
Absence certainly does make the heart grow fonder...


Real, content, overjoyed-

So I asked my T-Crew girls to describe their summers thus far in just three words. I decided I should answer the question as well and my response was the above title-
real, because I have had some of the most genuine, vulnerable, and relational time ever since I've been here. Content, because I am assured everyday of my purpose in being here, and overjoyed because I feel like the phrase "my cup runs over" has been running through my head throughout each day.

Let me just say that I am LOVING being here. While being in Colorado is truly amazing, the weather has been beautiful and the scenery is breathtaking, the people here make it beyond worthwhile.

Working with the T-Crew, or kitchen staff girls has been unreal. Who would have thought that hours of behind the scenes work cleaning dishes and prepping for meals could be this amazing? What has made my time here has been the process of being humbled and reminded of my selfishness. In talking to one of my close friends who is working as a counselor here this summer, she shared that the other day she was struggling with not being patient, compassionate, or gracious towards her kids. So pretty much, I said, your realizing that everything Christ is we are simply not naturally? Yep, that's just it. I am seeing that daily-

While it was challenging at first to not be with the kids, getting to share in my girls' struggles and literally experience their joys with them has made the transition not just easier but revealed that the Lord's desire for my role this summer was beyond what good I could mentally conjure up on my own.

One phrase I want to share with you that someone shared with me just the other day is this-- "I want to ask you to speak truth into my life-"
I love this...to ask each other to breathe not flattering words but truth that refines into our lives as we work alongside one another.

As I'm cleaining I realize how great the extent of upkeep that can always and needs to be done. When left to ourselves, we accumulate filth. In the kitchen, crumbs show up, dust piles everywhere, and as I've seen in many conversations, if we don't constantly filter and guard our hearts, junk seeps in and our words and actions quickly reveal it...

So much to say and not enough time...I have to head back up the mountain now to jump back into camp world and join the kids with the beach bash.

I will write more later, but know that I truly miss you friends and pray for you many mornings as I look out and am reminded of God's sovereignty in one of the most gorgeous places on earth-


Road Trips and Departures

Why are we so scared of change?

I remember reading yearbook notes that never quite sat right with me, "Please, NEVER change!" or just recently someone, meaning to encourage, wrote a card with a similar phrase in it. And the thing is, I know their intentions are entirely complimentary, very flattering in fact-

But I would think the best way to encourage one another, "to spur each other on to love and good deeds," would be to write something more along the lines of, "May you continue to change, rather, allow yourself to be changed daily." If any transformation is to take root in you and me, any refining, each day some sort of leaving must take place.

I feel like everywhere I look, there's a reminder of how we are paralyzed by the fear of moving on, away, out, beyond, forward.
A mom pouting because her college aged son is going off to work for the summer many miles away.
A high school senior scared to go too far from home for the next couple years.
A college graduate hesitant to take a job they know they were made for because it is not the safest alternative.

To steal a long quote from a favorite writer:
"And so my prayer is that your story will have involved some leaving and some coming home, some summer and some winter, some roses blooming out like children in a play. My hope is your story will be about changing, about getting someting beautiful born inside of you, about learning to love a woman or a man, about learning to love a child, about moving yourself around water, around mountains, around friends, about learning to love others more than we love ourselves, about learning oneness as a way of understanding God. We get one story, you and I, and one story alone. God has established the elements, the setting and the climax and the resolution. It would be a crime not to venture out, wouldn't it?
It might be time for you to go. It might be time to change, to shine out.
I want to repeat one word for you:
...or so my fellow adventurer Donald Miller writes in Through Painted Deserts

I think what I love so much about this quote is that he recognizes that each of our lives are only our own, only given to us once in such a way that each day is precious- each new stage of life is not merely to be some safe variation of the last.

This past year in my third grade classroom, my mentor teacher always penned a morning message to the students to kick off each day. At the bottom of each letter she would write "CARPE DIEM!" for the class to read together. So powerful, to hear kids engage early on with the idea that there is much to be enjoyed, delved into, and learned from the multiple experiences they encounter every fresh new day. And I think that's why I love teaching so much, because you can see a nearly tangible transformation taking place in the lives of kids. They amaze me with how quickly they abandon some old habit and learn a better way to do something. Half the difficulty in teaching is not transferring new information- I can dream up creative ways to do that. Rather, it's about first awakening the knowledge that there is a need to know more, to be different than one is, to venture away.

So in order to truly encourage you,
would you go out and be changed
would you be molded and shaped
would you leave your place of comfort
may you be forever different upon returning


Why write at all?

I have been passionate about writing for as long as I can remember. Most often in the form of journaling, and most recently in the urgency to write thoughts down, even if it means pulling over to the side of the road to get my thoughts onto paper. I realize that this summer, ideally, I would love to have 8 hours every day to write you each a personal handwritten note- to hear about the adventure you're finding yourself in, what is going on wherever you are in the world, and to share some of what I'm a part of- but realistically, even individual emails are difficult on a regular basis. So this is my attempt to keep up with you all throughout the course of the summer, to both share what the Lord is teaching me and hear what is on your heart as well.

I want to share what I sense He has woken me up with every morning over the past few weeks:

"Now we should live when the pulse of life is strong...
Life is a tenuous thing...
Don't wait for tomorrow.
Be here now!
Be here now!
Be here now!"

Wherever you are, whatever chapter you are currently in, my prayer is that we would find the strength to finish well. That we would never partially close off one story and begin another book without giving it all we have.

I hate unfinished projects. The traces of loose ends all over my desk even now- emails not yet responded to, gifts not adequately thanked for, relationships in limbo, unkept promises, and conversations left open-ended-

It is more than simply completing a to do list, but rather seeking excellence in all we do. I despise having stopped short on a run when I mentally determined to last a certain distance. On the flip side, one of the most refreshing feelings I know is going to bed at night, utterly exhausted, yet spent knowing that I poured out all I had to give.

Just a little encouragement, friends. I am certainly no expert on this and am convicted daily of this foreign call to live life to the fullest and pursue excellence in all I do-