Monday, August 31, 2009

I'm Not That Girl

I know that sometimes I put on this totally cool girl vibe. Like, nothing ever bothers me, I’m just a California beach girl, cool, calm, mellow. Like totally. Sometimes I take pride in that – in the fact that nothing really ever gets to me and I can roll with all the punches and have a smile at the end of the day. But when something does get under my skin, boy does it ever. GET. UNDER. MY. SKIN. The things that get me fired up, the things I’m passionate about, on those issues and in those moments, you’ll see me come out dukes up, ready to take on the world. And I want, more than I think I ever give myself credit for, to make a fighting difference in the world. I think Brad Paisley put it prettiest when he said “She's a fighter when she's mad, and she's a lover when she's loving.” Oh yes I am.

So, that being said, in the last few weeks I’ve been positively steaming about a few things and have been losing my temper about them. I’ve found that God is teaching me that being that cool is something I try to do apart from Him and I’m starting to fail at it. Some of the things that have me steaming are pretty valid though, and some of them are just irritants to me. An example of something valid is the passion I have for imparting a message of overwhelming love to young women, AND THEN telling them about abstinence. Abstinence is the natural byproduct of a heart sold out to God, and living for Him. Girls these days are hearing all the time not to have sex, but for all the wrong reasons. Yeah, there’s STD’s and unwanted teenage pregnancies, and some guy’s gonna break your heart out. But the fact is, kids have sex. Lots of sex. Sex, sex, sex. And the fact is, till it starts being about their hearts, and their souls, and their eternities, it’s never going to be about their penises and vaginas. I’m sorry, that’s just what I think, and like I said, I’m passionate about it. And I’m not afraid to say those words.

But last week, there was also some issues I was frustrated with in more of an irritated sort of way. They were nowhere near as life altering or important as all that, but just enough to get under my skin and make me want to throw my hands up in the air and scream. Like the Princess and the Pea, they were small things that only I could feel, but for a few days it was enough to keep me up at night. I’ve been trying to think how to phrase the issue without sending a warped picture of what’s going on in my life, or without sounding completely full of myself - and I’m at a loss for words. But basically it boils down to having met two guys, and being asked out by both, for dinner by one and drinks by another, politely and tactfully turning them both down on the basis of strong spiritual incompatability and then receiving grossly disproportionate and rude responses by both of them. I’m talking grossly rude and disrespectful, even downright hurtful responses that detailed why I was such a bitch or had issues of my own that were keeping me from whatever, etc. Yikes!

Now here’s the thing – I’m not bragging about this (so, JJ, don’t even go there!). I never get asked out. I just don’t. I’m not that girl. You know, the cute, petite, flirty, blonde adorable type that all the guys gravitate towards and want to date because she’s just so vulnerable and apple pie sweet and little. I’m ok with that, because I love who God made me and embrace who I am as His creation – if all He made is good, then there’s gotta be something good about being quirky, strong-willed, razor-witted, independent, intelligent, German farm stock brunette me. But if I’m not “that girl” then who am I – relationally? It seems like who I am is a total freak, creep magnet. True story. I’ve had more bad date encounters than I can count on both hands. And in a fit of cosmic hilarity, every time I do meet a guy who is interested in me, he’s got some serious spiritual issues going down, and we’re not just talking your run of the mill struggles here. I’m talking hard core, freaky creeper stuff. Like the guy I met who admitted on a second date that he had been previously possessed by an evil spirit who caused him to hit his wife, and that’s why he’s divorced now, but it’s ok because after he was excorcised he went to work for the Catholic church as a “Ghost Hunter” and what do you mean you don’t want a third date??? Or the pastor that admitted a month into dating that he was married, but it’s ok because his congregation was in full support of him finding a woman who would really love him, “not like his current wife.” Or the guy who asked me out last week, who, even though I asked him to please not get into any more detail about his warped “send your prayers up to the universe” theological beliefs, proceeded to admit to me that his mom, a “really good therapist”, hypnotized him and he found out through it that he was molested as a baby by his pastor, and that’s why he used to want to molest little kids. Or how about the guy who …. Well you get the point.

Now what is it about me that draws in the weird, the creepy, the freaky, the spiritually unstable or misled? Do I send out the vibe of being uber-sympathetic? Or worse yet, is there something in me that draws out the worst in these men? Or sends the message that we actually might have something in common? More so than the responses I received after turning down the romantic advances of the spiritually dysfunctional online-dating crowd, what worries me most is the thought that maybe there is something about me that only attracts these bad guys. I’m not a bad girl, in the leather wearing, motorcycle riding, rebellious definition of that phrase. Nor am I the kind of woman who has let her heart get misled by waves of doctrine and teachings of man that are in direct contradiction to the ultimate source of truth and stability, God’s word. So what gives here?

As frustration from my interactions with these guys was just coming to a simmer in my head, something happened this weekend, and I did it again – I lost my patience and my California cool. It was in the middle of a conversation a bunch of us single girls were having, wherein a few of them were complaining about not finding the “right guy”. They were talking all hypotheticals, such as “What if I date someone, and the whole time we’re dating, I’m thinking there’s “someone better” out there?” and “What if I marry the wrong person?”. Lots and lots of “wrong person” , “wrong guy”, “someone better” talk. And I was losing my temper about it pretty quick. That’s definitely something I need to work on. But the subject matter was getting under my skin like a mite, due to the fact that I realized that none of them had even come close to meeting Mr. Wrong Guy. Trust me, I have! From what I knew of this awesome, godly group of women, none of them had been on a date with a guy only to find out he was previously possessed or a potential child molester, and really, that’s the strongest definition of “the wrong guy” I could think of. As we were sitting there, and I was trying to hold back my tongue, the Lord reminded me of the words of my old pastor - that we need to not worry so much about dating the right person as just being the right person. The same pastor, in a sermon series on dating and marriage, had also once made the conjecture that any two people, with hearts completely sold out to the Lord, following after Him and willing to put some hard work, sacrifice and compromise into a relationship, could make a go at it, and develop love and affection in a mutually respectful relationship. In this day and age of “Mr. Right” and “That Girl”, it’s a revolutionary concept that seems a little archaic and primitive, but that I truly believe might work.

So, today, as I meditate on who God has called me to be, and try to just be the right person, not for any one guy out there, but because I believe it’s part of God’s call in my life to exemplify Christ and just rock at being awesome, I realize, I’m not that girl. I’m not the girl who is going to worry about finding Mr. Right, and I’m not the girl who can avoid the creepers, but maybe I can reflect Christ to them, and I’m learning I’m definitely not the girl who’s as cool, calm and collected as she seems to think she is. I’m just me. I’m just Trinette. And no one else can be that girl.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


The combination of sleep deprivation and rainy days has me in a melancholy, romantic, artsy-fartsy mood.

I’m sitting here, behind a desk, under fluorescent crap-lights, and all I can remember is the lingering feel of my freshly washed duvet wrapped tight around my face last night, hair still wet from the shower I took just minutes before hopping into bed, washing away the long day’s tiredness and humidity. I hadn’t slept that good in a long, long time. Something about the achy tiredness of hard work, the smell of clean cotton and just washed hair and the rain pattering outside my window on the much ignored grass – what a beautiful thing.

Right now I wish I was home again, in pj pants and a hoodie, under my duvet, this song by Nickelcreek softly lulling me in the background

“When You Come Back Down”

You got to leave me now, you got to go alone
You got to chase a dream, one that's all your own
Before it slips away
When you're flyin' high, take my heart along
I'll be the harmony to every lonely song
That you learn to play

When you're soarin' through the air
I'll be your solid ground
Take every chance you dare
I'll still be there
When you come back down
When you come back down

I'll keep lookin' up, awaitin' your return
My greatest fear will be that you will crash and burn
And I won't feel your fire
I'll be the other hand that always holds the line
Connectin' in between your sweet heart and mine
I'm strung out on that wire

And I'll be on the other end,
To hear you when you call
Angel, you were born to fly,
If you get too high
I'll catch you when you fall
I'll catch you when you fall

Your memory's the sunshine every new day brings
I know the sky is calling
Angel, let me help you with your wings

When you're soarin' through the air
I'll be your solid ground
Take every chance you dare

I'll still be there
When you come back down
Take every chance you dare,
I'll still be there
When you come back down
When you come back down

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Time For A Disclaimer, Before The Mess II

Because I realize that these go in revese chronological order, here's the same message I posted earlier. Forgive the repetition.

Holy cow. It’s time for a disclaimer. The following three blog posts actually started off as one post. But because it was about seven or eight pages in Word, I figured I’d spare everyone involved the pain of reading the next great American diatribe, and split them up into the three following posts.

The first post, herein, talks about a few books I’ve read lately – well namely two of them, and of how I feel about marketed Christianity.

The next post is all about God’s amazing creation/redemption plan and a few pics/inspirational tidbits I got from my recent Colorado Trip with the awesomely hilarious FBC Youth Group.

The last one is about an upcoming Free Concert, to benefit Jarkartan street kids, with a little bit of the responsibility that comes along with a Christ-driven social gospel (for lack of a better word) thrown in for good measure.

Whew. Thank you for reading my blog. I’m sorry I talk so much. I have lot to say!

Soul Soaring In Jakarta

Wow, so if you’ve managed to read the last two posts, you’ll see that I have been doing a lot of thinking and journaling, and blogging, indeed. I have so much more to say. But I promise, this is the last of it for today. And it’s for a really good cause.

In the meantime, back to my review of Velvet Elvis. There’s been so much that I’ve got out of this book, (that I mentioned in the two posts “below” this one), such as the crying out for redemption of creation, how what makes our souls soar brings God glory and us joy, etc. And yet Bell has also managed to flesh out new and inspiring ways how the concept of living for Christ isn’t the same as being a Christian. Being a Christian isn’t an adjective. Christian is a noun. Just like Spaniard (what Russell Crowe was in Gladiator), or Princess (as in Fiona?) or Alcoholic (er? Random).

Just like shopping at Northwestern Bookstore does not make someone a Christian, being a Christian doesn’t mean someone has joy or is really living for Christ. And it definitely doesn’t mean that they have good theology or their heads on straight. This, of course, was nothing new. After years spent trying to heal the wounds of a church that left me in the dust when I needed them most, I could most reassuringly tell anyone that being a Christian, being a “good Christian”, being a pastor, or a pastor’s wife, or being in ministry means nothing if we’re not bearing each other’s burdens, loving our neighbor in tangible and selfless ways, and reflecting Jesus in more than just his holiness and righteousness but in His compassion, His mercy and His heart for the “least of these”.

Which is kind of the whole reason for this post in the first place. Yesterday, in my email inbox was an invitation to an upcoming concert called “Street Music for Street Kids”, on August 20 from 6 to 8 pm at Peavey Plaza in Downtown Minneapolis.

Twelve different, award winning bands will be playing, and modeling their show on the situation of street kids in Jakarta, who support their families by begging with music. The bands will perform acapella and unplugged. 100% of the money donated will go to support the Nurani Insani School in Jakarta, which was started to educate street children and break the cycle of poverty there.

For those of unfamiliar with the situation in Jakarta, which I was until very recently, there is a recent population influx that has made Jakarta (in Indonesia) home to nearly 9 million inhabitants. The mass flooding of this port hub has pushed the cities poor, including an unparalleled population of childen, into massive slums, living in shanties that stretch along train tracks, or polluted rivers, that often serve as both a water source, a toilet and a garbage dump.
Every night, during the rush hour commute home, tens of thousands of these street children pour into Jakarta’s congested streets to beg for money to support themselves and often times, their families. Because people are more likely to give money to a child begging rather than an adult, these street kids are often the sole breadwinners in their family.

One of the ways these kids beg for money is by performing music in the streets, with guitars, trinkets, songs and open hands. Thus, the “Street Music for Street Kids” themed concert. Fearless, these kids will run in front of cars and jump around buses to approach a stranger for money as well. The dangers of begging encompass the physical risks of playing Frogger on five lanes of highway, the psychological trauma as the children grow older and find themselves unable to bring in further income, eventually being forced to rely on their own children for money, thereby continuing the vicious cycle of poverty, the criminal penalties they face as some regions prohibit begging (because it’s a nuisance to the commuters), or of the ease into which these children can be kidnapped and sold into child trafficking rings for sex or slavery.

The Nurani Insani School was started by a graduate of the University of Jakrata as he saw the overwhelming need to change the life situation of the street kids of Jakarta. His mission of giving them a chance to escape the streets and their situations through education that empowers them to work for their living has bettered the lives of both the children trapped in this vicious cycle and the country itself. The school works to address both the educational and physical/material needs of the children, giving them uniforms, school supplies, meals and regular doctor visits. Currently 12 students even reside at the school, providing for them a home away from the polluted and disease infested street slums. In the words of one of the school staff members “The school is more than an institution for learning, it has become a sanctuary.”

One hundred percent of the money donated at the free concert Thursday night will be given to the Nurani Insani School and what’s more, Wookiefoot has agreed to match all donations up to $2,000. There is going to be a sweet afterparty at Hell’s Kitchen, on 9th Street, and donations will be accepted there as well.

The concert is organized by NEED Communications, who also publish the magazine of the same name (NEED). Their motto, as stated on their website, is “We are not out to save the world but to tell the stories of those who are”. Their mission is to tell stories of organizations and individuals who are making a difference in society. After covering a story about the Nurani Insani School, the journalists at NEED decided to hold a fundraiser to raise public awareness and funds for the school and the Jakartan street kids.

“Street Music for Street Kids” is the first in NEED’s “Your Powers for Good” event series. This is going to be an exceptional time to come out and support the “least of these” in a country many of us would never visit, and for kids most of us would never meet. And as Bell pointed out in the chapter called “Two Realms” (as in heaven on earth, or hell on earth), “For Jesus, this new kind of life in Him is not about escaping this world but about making it a better place, here and now. The goal for Jesus isn’t to get into heaven. The goal is to get heaven here.” And later “Jesus wants his followers to bring heaven, not hell, to earth….. The goal isn’t escaping this world, but making this world the kind of place God can come to. And God is remaking us into the kind of people who can do this kind of work.”

So, though NEED isn’t affiliated with any sort of Christian organization, or Christian church, or even Christianity itself, what could be more Christlike than using your musical talents to help kids have a better life? Does something need to be labeled as Christian for it to be good? Do we need something to be Jesus-stamped/Father-approved for it to have a meaningful impact on our lives or the lives of others or to be Christ like? After reading Bell’s book, I’m asking myself these question more and more often. And the answer I keep coming back to is another question “What makes my soul soar?”

Because soul soaring, I believe, is God’s way of speaking to our heart that what makes it happen, whether that’s the sun setting purple on the Rockies, or the smell of a newborn babies head, or the thump in your chest to the bass of worship when it rocks, is bringing Him glory through bringing us joy. It’s the spiritual equivalent of the electric stimulus us lab rats get when we go through the food door in our mundane little life maze.

So this Thursday I’m going to be in Downtown, listening to a bunch of bands I don’t know, hoping that the music is good and willing to participate even if it isn’t. If the music is any good, or if friends I love come out to hang out with me, or if a picture of a Jakartan street kid moves my heart, then maybe my soul will soar. And in that, all is well and worth it.

Creation Cries Out & So Do I

So, as promised before, I want to talk a bit about the book Velvet Elvis, which I completely devoured (and will now be rereading, highlighter in hand. Yes I’m a dork). The fact that I’m even reading this book is kind of a miracle in itself, as it was so highly talked up by friends who’ve read it, that I was ready to never give it a chance. And no, I’m not one bit a stubborn German! Add onto that fact that the first Rob Bell book I read “Jesus Wants To Save Christians: A Manifesto for the Church in Exile”, frankly, was a huge disappointment and you get what I mean.

Instead of being a stirring socio-political plea to the church for a new way of seeing and relating to the world around us, I thought “Jesus Wants to Save Christians” was a high-level version of the Gospel from beginning to end, complete with teary eyed altar calls. So, I was skeptical to read his other uber-popular tome for the closet-Emergent movement. I thought, if so many people are saying it’s this good, then it really must suck. Yes, always the optimist!

But being stuck in a van for 8+ hours/four days straight will iron out the most stubborn of my kinks, and by day three I was coming to the last chapter of Velvet Elvis, and surprisingly, I found I didn’t want it to end. There was so much I got out of that book! Including joy, as I mentioned before, as Bell talked about finding God’s glory in the things that bring us joy. He asked the question “What makes your soul soar?” and just hearing that question felt so freeing and liberating. To hear him acknowledge the reality that God delights in our delight made my own soul feel like someone had reaffirmed something I’d known for a long time, but could never express. It was the elation at finding someone who shares a secret with you, and in that moment I only wanted to dig in more. I am trying to describe how much that one sentence moved me, and failing miserably. Let’s just say I’ve been asking myself that, “Trinette, what makes your soul soar?” for days now.

For the first time in a long time I remembered that God is calling me to have utter and pure joy in the things that He has created and placed around me, creation included. Sunday, it hit me once again, as I worshipped at Hope and they belted out (literally) the words to “Make A Joyful Noise/I Will Not Be Silent”. How many times had I sung that song at that church? How many times had those words passed over my lips, and all I got out of it was that it was a pretty song, about God’s pretty creation? But the words Bell had spoken came back to me at that moment, as my soul soared and I sang along to the floor shaking, bass driven, amazingly loud and passionate worship. Words that were nothing new reawakened in me something I must have known deep down, but never processed or “got” before. This isn’t singing about just the beauty of “bare feet on beaches white”, but is truly singing out to the Lord acknowledging the need for the redemption of all creation. Because, as Tim put it, if we didn’t sing it out, the rocks would, and no rocks were gonna cry out on our shift. Amen and preach it brother Tim! (BTW – I couldn’t figure out what brought me more joy yesterday, visiting their worship service – listening to Danny play, or the look on Tim’s face as Danny played. I think it was a bit of both. God has indeed created us for joy and his face reflected my heart that morning.)

And this eye-opening conviction about God’s creation crying out for redemption came on the heels of one of the most amazing trips of my last few years.

Ok, before I even get to it, can I just say that I am thoroughly convinced that I have a pulsing, throbbing, aching case of Wanderlust. If I could spend my days on the road driving, windows down, breeze blowing, visiting places I’ve never been before, marveling in the beauty and awesome magnificence of the American landscape and creation around me, well, I’d pack my bags now, for a nomadic lifestyle and never come home. More than anything else the last few years have seen and heard me begging to take a road trip to Jackson Hole, WY. And if I ever get a boyfriend (I just snorted iced tea through my nose at that hilarious thought), flowers and candy and sweet affectionate words won’t mean as much as the sentence “Honey, pack your bag, we’re driving to Wyoming this weekend” on a Friday afternoon.

Anyway, the Colorado Trip gave me the undeserved opportunity to worship God amidst a part of Colorado I’d never seen before, in all it’s rugged, mountainous glory and beauty. Purple mountains majesty, above the fruited plains indeed. And while marveling in the joy that God’s pine tree dotted, A River Runs Through It nature brought me, I stumbled across this quote, as one of our guides for the week directed us in a moment of appreciation for our surroundings:

“A child kicks its legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life.
Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and
free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough... It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again," to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again," to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike: it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” – GK Chesterton

Today, as I sit stuck in this office, because legions of Vikings fans outside our building have made it impossible to get through the street that would take me to the library and lunch, I am impacted by how little most of us get to experience the joy in creation that was so lovingly and thoughtfully placed around us. For our joy, and His glory. I'm glad I had that opportunity many times in the recent months, and specifically with a group of squirrely young people lately.

My wanderlust today has not as much to do with the fact that I’m bored and frustrated in certain things, as much as my soul is crying out to soar in a setting full of silently crying out rocks and trees and rivers. Redeem it oh Lord, oh soon will You redeem it?

Why I'll Never Be A Good Christian Girl, And It's Prolly Not Why You Think.

So, if you’ve been keeping up here lately, you’ll know that I’m on this Joy kick. It all started a few weeks ago, on the Bike 2 Camp trip, when a good friend (ok, R for Roommate) was struggling with some interpersonal conflict with another person/group of people, and I was processing with him about not letting turd-like-people rob you of the chance to experience joy in your surroundings or your service. The whole “robbed of joy” cliché has been so overused in the Christian community, and yet as I said it to him, I realized I hardly had an idea of what it meant. I felt bad for even using it, at the time.

So, I started processing a lot about joy, and a few posts and weeks later there you have it.
In all this processing, one of the things that happened was that an insatiable urge to read and devour books about this Christian walk surfaced in a way that was unexpected and unprecedented for me. Usually I try to avoid a lot of the “Christian literature” out there, for the fact that I just get frustrated by all the ignorant hype, the fact that marketing to a solely Christian audience feels more like selling crappy animals in the temple, and how eager the Christian community is to pass off anything Jesus-related as a life-altering necessity, when in fact a lot of it is just repetitive, small-scope, Americanized bunko. Three books you definintely will not find on my bookshelf are The Purpose Driven Life, The Prayer of Jabez, and The Shack. Urgh.

And while I may be throwing out the baby with the bathwater, my temper boils whenever I walk into a Northwestern Bookstore and see aisles of cheesy sloganed tee shirts, clichéd fridge magnets and even Christian breathmints (because you know, they must use Holy Water in making them or something, as if Orbitz is just too risqué with their lewd and provactive commercials). To even mention the fact that most of the women in there look like they just stepped out of a circa 1974 Sears catalog & should be driving a 15 passenger van full of their Quiver-full homeschooled brood, instead of normal, respectable, moderately fashionable people, would be besides the point, and only make me look like a GAP (*gasp of shock*) snob. Does that make me, somehow, not a Good Christian Girl? Oh well.

But despite my personal opinions (and that’s all they are) about modern Christian lit and culture, and “exclusive to the saved” bookstores, I picked up a few books from the library before my recent trip, and within days had polished them both off. The first one, “Save Me From Myself: How I Found God, Quit Korn, Kicked Drugs & Lived To Tell My Story”, by Brian “Head” Welch was a pretty easy read, as ¾ of it was the author telling of the depravity of his life in the rock & roll scene, before he started following Jesus. The last ¼ of the book was filled with a sweetness that one senses in a child, starting wide eyed in wonder at a field of flowers all around him. That’s the sense I got as Head talked about the love he has for his Savior and Friend, Jesus, and the appreciation in his heart as someone who truly has been “saved”. It was not the intellectual think tank proposal of the year, but a good read nonetheless.

The next book I read was “The Myth of Christian Religion” by Greg Boyd. This was a great glimpse into the work of Boyd, who I’ve been curious about for quite a while. And while there were parts of this call to rebellion against anything incompatable with the way of following Jesus that felt more liberal than what I expected, it wasn’t anything that played out for it’s own sake. Rather, it was a completely valid argument to embrace a practical view on practicing the presence of God, which sounds more cliché than it was in the book. Anyway, more on that to come, and not because there wasn’t much to discuss in this passionate plea to the church but because the one book out of the four I’ve finished in the last fortnight that I really wanted to get into and yet was most skeptical about was Velvet Elvis, by Rob Bell.

And though I’d love to begin a review of Velvet Elvis right here and now, I found that I had so much to say about it, and went off on so many bunny trails because of all the subjects that it brought to the forefront of my mind, that I had to split my review of it into two additional blog posts. They follow ….. wait for it …. NOW!

Time For A Disclaimer, Before The Mess

Holy cow. It’s time for a disclaimer. The following three blog posts actually started off as one post. But because it was about seven or eight pages in Word, I figured I’d spare everyone involved the pain of reading the next great American diatribe, and split them up into the three following posts.

The first post, herein, talks about a few books I’ve read lately – well namely two of them, and of how I feel about marketed Christianity. The next post is all about God’s amazing creation/redemption plan and a few pics/inspirational tidbits I got from my recent Colorado Trip with the awesomely hilarious FBC Youth Group. The last one is about an upcoming Free Concert, to benefit Jarkartan street kids, with a little bit of the responsibility that comes along with a Christ-driven social gospel (for lack of a better word) thrown in for good measure.

Whew. Thank you for reading my blog. I’m sorry I talk so much. I have lot to say!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Where It's At

Right now, it's at Best Buy, in Eden Prairie, with the funnest roommates ever. We're all on varying MacBooks, blogging. I think we're just about to get kicked out of here by two squirrely pimple faced teenage techie type employees. It's pretty sweet.

We just came from Fuddruckers, where we got free burgers, and $1 beers. I had a lot of honey mustard and a few MGD's. It was pretty sweet.

We're about to leave here and move it to the EPC (Eden Prairie Center) and finally go see Harry Potter. Finally. It's gonna be so sweet.

I love my life.

His Glory & Our Joy

I know I have been starting off posts lately with the phrase “I’ve been thinking about this or that a lot lately”, and for those of you who might tease me, I’m not trying to be a heavy intellectual. Let’s just say it’s a fair assumption that I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently. I’ve not watched TV in an equal amount of time, and I wonder what kind of direct correlation could be made there. And I’ve read about 5 books in the last two weeks, all of which have my head spinning. But lately, I have been thinking a lot about joy - that is, how full of it my life is sometimes, and what’s wrong with me when it isn’t. The past few weekends have been positively joy-packed, joy-energized even. Looking at common denominators, I’ve narrowed down the reasons to being around people I love, a lot, and in the opportunities to operate within the gifts and talents I have (specifically just serving), both of which fulfill me and brighten my outlook on a basic level, and therein bring me joy.

Moreover, yesterday as I was standing at Hope, reveling in their floor shaking worship service, singing about the redemption of all living things, I was impacted with the phrase “for His glory and our joy”. BTW – in case you’re wondering, no I’m not going back to Hope, it’s just that an old friend was in town playing on the worship team yesterday, and I knew it was one Sunday I would not want to miss. This worship, this rousing, bone chilling, pour-out-your-heart-soul-and guts worship was bringing such great glory to God, both in the story and meaning behind the song, and in the fact that music that powerful cannot help but testify to God’s powerful creative ability and how we can share in it, being made in His image. The glory He was receiving out of the worship was one factor. The joy I was receiving out of the worship was another. And the fact that I received great joy in seeing God so glorified was the golden, shimmering tie that bound them both together.

So, for His glory and and our joy, then. In all my reading, reflection on worship and time spent with people I love, this phrase has been popping up like mad worms after a hard storm. I’m literally stepping in it. I can’t escape it. For His glory and our joy - It’s why I do what I do. Why I want to do more. Nothing is more important than bringing God glory, and in return, as I worship and serve our wonderful, loving, fun God, I get great joy. My mind is officially blown.
But in this whole big thought process something else has also been brewing. It started with something I saw on my niece’s facebook a few weeks ago. Her status was asking the question why she just couldn’t get happy, despite all the good stuff in her life, like guys and parties she was attending, and shopping trips. Then the “something else” resurfaced after an article I read about Identifying Your Joy Cravings, and how people need to stop making “to-do” lists, and start making “to-enjoy” lists. Then that sparked a memory of a blog post I read last week about Having A List of 101 Goals To Accomplish (Thanks H!). And pretty soon the wheel started turning again. Smoke, there you have it.

You see, though my niece had posted this status implying that she was trying to choose to be happy, I could tell from our conversations afterwards that it just wasn’t happening and nothing she was doing was going to change that. She posed the question to me of why happiness isn’t something she always has, and why it’s so fleeting. My gut reaction was to remind her that happiness was never commanded or promised to us, it’s not something God asks us to do or ever guarantees we’ll have. Joy is. And as Pastor Steve once said “you can’t ask unregenearted people to act like regenerated ones”. So as poor niecey was asking this question in my heart I knew that until she found Christ, and ultimately her joy in Him, she wouldn’t have a satisfactory answer. Or the happiness she seeks. I got absolutely no joy from trying to explain this to her, when what she wanted to hear was that her upcoming trip to Melrose shopping was going to do it.

So, all of this processing led me to remember the fundamental fact, that again our joy comes from Christ. His glory brings our joy. But then what about the fact that I get immense joy out of other things – like spending time with E just sitting on my bed watching her show me all her baby pictures. Or camping out with friends, giving them Gatorade or Donuts or Starbucks or Chocolate Milk or whatever they want. Or volunteering to cook for people or watch their kids. Or just being around people that are also full of this wonderful joy? The question is not “Where is Christ in any of this?” but really “Where isn’t He?” He’s there, in the fellowship, in serving, in just being who He divinely, intelligently created me to be, and in the times of just getting joy out of life. Mother Teresa once said “Joy is love – a joyful heart is the normal result of a heart burning with love, for she gives most who gives with joy.” So, giving is part of this equation, obviously…. But what else leads to, creates, determines or helps bring about our joy, with the blatantly obvious exclusion (not sacrilegiously, of God Himself):

Well, Judges 9:19 shows that we receive joy in other people, and they in us, as we treat them with honor and good faith

Psalm 16:11 states that the Lord has made known to us the path of life and that He fills us with joy in His presence, and with eternal pleasures at His right hand. Ok, so yes, this is one of those God Alone verses, but really, it’s so beautiful, and majestic, that I had to include it. To exclude it would be missing the point entirely. Psalm 43:4 is another great example of this.

And then there’s the totallly gratuitious I-Love-Babies verse!! Luke 1:44 tells of John the Baptist, as a baby in the womb, leaping with joy at the sound of Mary’s greeting. So maybe it’s not gas when all those babies smile!

John 15:11 is where Jesus says “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” God’s love and our place in the very heart of it are the vehicle wherein Christ’s joy pumps through our spiritual veins. In the Father’s love, Christ found His joy, in turn gave us that magnificent joy, and now in that knowledge and standing, our joy is ultimately complete.

John 16:20 reveals that we will not always have happiness, nor are we promised it. But Christ has promised us joy after our sorrows, when he says “I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.” I wish this was a truth that would plant itself in my niece’s heart and foster and grow there.

Romans 14:17-19 addresses that other subject on my heart and mind lately – the Kingdom of God. It says “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” As we seek to serve one another, putting their needs above and before our own, and leave behind a spirit of judgementalism, we demonstrate what God’s kingdom truly is, and part of that is joy found through the Holy Spirit. Joy in serving? Joy in giving? Yes, indeedey!!

2Corinthians 1:24 is where Paul tells the Corinthians that he is working with them towards spiritual goals, for their joy, proving that doing life together as spiritual brothers and sisters really does bring us joy through fellowship!

And then there’s Galatians 5:22, which is probably the most readily apparent example of joy in the bible. “Btu the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace …..” You get it.

There are so many references to joy in the Bible, that as I was writing this post, and looking them up I was completely overwhelmed and had to take a step back from it, for a few days, to just process. But after I came back to it, I realized that for each of us, finding God’s joy in our life is going to look so different. What brings me joy is not necessarily the vehicle God uses to bring you joy, or him or her, or any of us. As we are each created uniquely, and wonderfully to reflect our God and Creator, so then the things in life that fulfill us in His glory will look different. This concept alone, in it’s awesomeness and magnitude brings me joy, as I see how wonderfully and perfectly, and intelligently our incomprehensible God made all of mankind, and trust me, this was no small feat.

Nothing God does is a small feat, really. Whether it’s the purple silhouettes of mountains on a sunsetting horizon, or the rush of cold water against my skin as I leap from rocks into a river, or walking through a Farmer’s Market just enjoying fellowship with new and good friends, or how the children I know all scramble to get into my lap and want to whisper silly things in my ear. There is nothing so small that it does not reflect the beautiful design of a loving creator, and cannot direct itself to bring Him glory. To discount the little things is to miss an opportunity for joy altogether, and more importantly to miss a chance to praise the God who even made the concept of joy even possible. And really, what fun is that?

So, as I get back into old schedules and routines this week, my hope is that my eyes will be open and my heart ready to embrace all that is around me, all that can possibly bring God glory. To walk in obedience, trust and courage to the call He has placed on my life. To serve the wonderful people He has put around me, and to impart love and care into their lives, to show them how appreciated and valued they are. And really, to just keep processing, keep thinking and keep learning. Because as I do keep probing, in awe, amazement (and yes, sometimes befuddlement), I can step back and say “Wow God, that’s awesome”, at all I learn and all He does. And that my friends, bring God great glory, and me a fair amount of joy.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Just Me, My Thoughts & Barney Fife

I’ve been doing some heavy thinking lately. I know, hahaha! You can smell the smoke from way over there. I get it.

In all seriousness, I have had a lot of consuming thoughts on my mind in the past few weeks. And the topics have varied far and wide. Stuff like the subject of community, proximity, the Kingdom of God, and how all these things intertwine to bring about the kind of fellowship that glorifies God and brings us joy. Stuff like how I’m so very happy in my life, and that stems in-part from being able to pour my heart into relationships and friendships with other people, to bless them through showing God’s love, and get the blessing of their friendship and joy in return.

All these things have become increasingly more prominent themes in my day to day existence lately, both through prayer times, scripture and just life experiences. Now it seems that they are occupying my thoughts in a pretty persistant way – in that oh, so subtle way God uses when He wants to get my attention. I don’t think I can escape whatever lesson is brewing. Nor would I want to.

Oh man, speaking of things occupying my thoughts (albeit unwanted), I am trying to work through what could appear to be a pretty raging crush. And it’s left me in one of those giddy, girly moods this week. Case in point? Everything looks pretty outside, and I’m smiling all the time. I can’t seem to get the song “Two of a Kind, Workin’ On a Full House” out of my mind. URGH! I even got busted singing along to the line “We’re playin’ for fun, but we’re playin’ for keeps” this afternoon. You know, that part where he gets all deep and soul sounding?

Could it be that I’m really a hopeless romantic at heart? Yesterday, when some good friends of mine announced their recent elopement to the world, I was just beaming with pride and joy, fighting back the tears swelling at the corners of my eyes. Granted, I knew weeks ago that they would be doing this (why am I the go-to girl for all brides considering eloping, who just need to get it off their chest?), so why should the readily apparent cuteness of it all be any surprise or cause such a girly rush of emotion? I know I couldn’t be happier for them, as I consider the perfect matching of these two wonderful and unique individuals and how they were able to tie the knot in the favorite place on earth (Mt. McKinley @ 7000 feet), on the 10 year anniversary of their first date.

I’m thinking that maybe, just maybe, deep down, I really am a softy, with a great big heart of mush. Damn! Beneath this sass-talking, sarcastic, cynical, devil-may-care exterior, I cry at weddings, enjoy a good love story and have a huge warm spot in my heart for flowers, babies, puppies, sunsets and guys with good manners. To even admit it belies the tough as nails, intelligent, slightly cooler than thou exterior that I think I project. But that’s another story for another blog. And another lifetime.

In any case, this weekend, in the midst of the craziness, the non-stop woohoo chaos that was the bike trip, I reached a point on Saturday where I just needed some alone time. Just me and God and my thoughts. Some time to just be quiet, and listen. All the experience of community, as about 100 of us spent every waking hour together over the course of three days, combined with feeling the weight of a friend’s personal frustration at some ongoing interpersonal conflict on the trip, had me just a bit fried mentally. I just needed to take a walk and process what God was trying to tell me in the midst of all the noise. So once we got to La Crescent, that’s what I did.

You see, originally I had signed up for the 5:30 dinner at Corky’s pizza, which btw, was really good. But since I am a dawdler, and a daydreamer, and a napper, I was late as usual. As I meandered up to the door, I could tell already that I wasn’t going to get a spot to sit, and once I opened the door that fear was confirmed. But it wasn’t a big deal. It was the perfect opportunity to take a leisurely stroll through small town America. So, I just smiled, turned around and started zig-zagging up the streets of La Crescent on foot. Right about the time I passed the Catholic Church, having their Lasagna feed, I noticed a police car slowly strolling the streets. A few blocks later, I saw him again, just casually doing 10 mph through the streets of town. But it wasn’t until a few blocks later when I decided to peek my head into the window of a flower shop, and then cross over the street to do the same thing in another gift shop and library that I got to meet Mr. Officer himself.

No sooner had I crossed the street than he turned the corner, and pulled up to the curb in his cruiser. “Excuse me ma’am” he bellowed out from the car window. In all honesty, the first thing that struck my mind was “Ma’am”?? Really? Have I gotten that old? I love being in my thirties, but I feel more like a 25 year old, so being called “ma’am” is, yes, kind of a mild insult.

But that was neither here nor there at the moment, because he continued “You do realize you just jaywalked, right?”, to which I replied, almost laughingly, but certainly stunned “I’m so sorry Officer. I won’t do it again.” Then he said “Ok, well you have a nice night.” And drove away.

At which point, I started chuckling to myself, and took off walking up to the Pizza shop, with a new spring in my step, and smile on my face. I just got stopped for jaywalking. In Mayberry! Of course, when I got inside, and sat down at the table, I couldn’t wait to tell everyone what had happened, because I found it so oddly amusing. And as soon as everyone sat down, and was present, I did start to tell my tale. Not surprisingly, I received my fair share of Racial Profiling jokes in return, and this of course only served to amuse me, because maybe I am the darkest person La Crescent has seen all summer, but even then, I think I’m pretty All-American. I may be from North Minneapolis, but I ain’t ghetto, yo. And I’m certainly not Mexican.

In the end though, I didn’t quite get the quality time I was hoping for, nor was I able to work out the issues pulsating through my mind that I wanted to quietly process. But I did get my picture up at the local post office and Qwik-Trip. And a new reputation as the Bike Trip Bad Girl. The Faith Fugitive. The Camp Convict if you will. And of course a new and amusing story to share.
There will always be time for thoughts, and since they predominantly involve the subject of community, I’m sure that they will not be going anywhere for a while. Maybe I just need to take some time this week and go for a nice walk along the parkway. I better be careful though, I hear the North Minneapolis PoPo are kind of hard on jaywalkers.

Musings While Being Stuck In An Office

I want to be an outdoorsy girl. And I want to take a road trip.

I want to learn to fly-fish, and wade studiously in Montana waters, watching dragon flies buzz above a stream and trout glide beneath it. I want to camp out under the stars every single night, a thankful heart peacefully drifting off to sleep to the sound of crickets, toads and the rhythm of someone else’s steady breathing. I want to wake just as the sun is rising on the horizon, painting the sky the color of popsicles, the smell of coffee wafting from just feet away, all of these things serving to remind me that the Lord’s “compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” I want to sit outside my tent, face chilled from a breeze sweeping over the morning dew, wrapped warm and snug with my duvet around my shoulders, coffee gripped tightly between two hands, watching the grass sway over the hills in front of me, then turning my eyes to catch someone I love frying up bacon over a campfire as a smile spreads across his face.

I want to hike through craggy boulders, both giving and receiving a helping hand, as a long bearded mountain goats taunt me from up above and the sun warms my back and shoulders all day long. I want to push my body to climb rocks I am scared of, and force my muscles to sustain pain till they’re numb, while my mind summons courage as I recite over and over to myself “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” and my feet search for some crevice to dig into. I want to arise and stand triumphant at the top of a plateau, surveying the vast and expansive land around me with eagle’s eyes, sharing the view of miles of breathtaking scenery with someone who helped me get there, and gasping in awe and wonderment at the God who created it all and how little we really are.

But I want my cake & eat it too. Because at the end of said day, I want to drown my aches and pains in a claw foot tub in the middle of a field, water so hot that steam rises above me like fog on the land, cloudy white against a black night sky. I want Beethoven or an Italian aria playing while I sink beneath the placid waters, only my nose and my hand clutching a glass of wine rising above the water line. I want to wrap myself in a towel the size of a sheet, with pile so soft and velvety that I think I’m wrapped in the arms of a bear. I want to shop at Patagonia, and wear dresses of organic cotton and bamboo in the evening, and not have callouses at the end of the day. I want to rub the feet of a friend who is sore and have the favor returned on my own shoulders. And eventually I want the comforts of home. A dark room, silky chocolate for dessert, a fan blowing a cool breeze, and my own plump, downy pillows reminding me of how good it is to have a place to lay my head. I want to fall asleep praising God quietly in my heart, saying “Fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing. The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.” (Psalm 34:10). And in the morning, I want to get up and do it all over again.