Saturday, September 23, 2006
i'm thinking about that chrysler commercial that has generated a lot of conversation about making the CEO of the company the marketing face of an advertising campaign. it's so funny when a news agency really nails something interesting and relevant, and cheers to NPR who did it first, closely followed by the major networks. anyway, there has been confusion about the white haired guy with what really sounds like a fake german accent-- is he really the CEO of daimler-chrysler, or an actor? if he's an actor, or even if he's the real thing-- wuh? they have, apparently, yanked the commercials as of mid September, according to NPR. apparently that CEO is a really awesome guy-- has done great things for the company, is a really gregarious character, well loved and respected by his peers. but he wasn't doing anything for Mercedes numbers and was confusing the populace.
they cited only Wendys' "Dave" and Lee Iacoca's campaigns as successful, with Dave what's his name being in the lead for promoting a humble, hardworking American that most consumers would like to think they could relate to.
but hold on...what about the product?
now, i recognize that among my friends i have at LEAST five who are marketing/advertising people, and they will have a very, very unique insight into this. but here is where i shift into another thing i am thinking about: the body of Christ.
are we guilty of doing the same thing?
certainly, there is psychology out there which can explain why we almost always feel the need to create some sort of icon-- some would say that this is what we have done with all religions: man need god. man create god and insist on capitalizing name. now man have God.
we didn't do that-- He's real-- but we do it to people all the time.
NPR talked about the danger of making one person represent an entire company or product-- the company takes the risk of making their CEO seem silly, or while some connected with the product, the connection with the new spokesperson can dampen their affection for said product. they actually risk losing clients if the clients do not like the spokesperson. even if the product is as respected and symbolic of "the good life" as mercedes. studies showed that respect for the mercedes product took a spill as a direct result of the commercials.
in the church, we seem to be tempted to create idols of certain ones of us. a sharply charismatic writer/speaker/singer. a popular, outgoing youth minister. a head pastor with insight and wisdom and natural speaking abilities from the pulpit. a dynamic, gifted worship leader.
so, we're going to do this. people do it. it's human nature to make a find and camp out on it. but whose responsibility is it? i don't know the answer, honestly, but as a leader, i want to know. i know that there were some awesome high schoolers who, when don and i were dating, i was aware of every time i was tempted to break the standards i had been teaching them all those years. i knew they were counting on me to be true to my word. a close worship-leader friend of mine is aware of the fact that he might sometimes be seen as a rock star on stage, so for a long time, he kept in his guitar case a letter written to all the worship leaders in the vineyard church from a very well-known worship leader who had fallen, confessing his sin and crying out for forgiveness.
Jesus would not let the people crown Him king.
now I know that's a different story-- He WAS king but the timing was all off, and it was up to GOD to crown Him, but the thing i see in that is this: Jesus was ABLE to not allow them to crown Him king.
my prayer for us today, as followers of Jesus Christ who are all leaders in some capacity, is that we would be profoundly, closely invested in not allowing others to make rock stars out of us, and most specifically, those of us in worship and youth ministries. it is so important that we resist the temptation to be the most popular kid in the room.
"not to us, O Lord, not to us,/but to Your name be the glory, because of Your love and faithfulness" Psalm 115
when we allow glory to fall at our feet, when we allow ourselves to be "made much of", our usefulness as a stumbling block grows exponentially. and the consequences here are enough to sober our "we wish we were still the captain of the football team" tendencies when we see this: "Jesus said to his disciples, 'It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. So watch yourselves" Luke 17: 2,3
Watch ourselves. Only Jesus is the proper representation of our community. Not Billy Graham, not Bishop Earl Paulk, not the Pope, not Beth Moore, not TD Jakes, not Pat Robertson. See how there are mixtures here? Because for some, Earl Paulk is the very mouthpiece of God, and he did little to keep his congregation from supporting that. In fact, he encouraged it. Hubris led to sexual sin that stuns the imagination and yet I sat under his teaching as a child and grew in the Lord. Billy Graham is a man of God, but was heard on tape in conversation with Richard Nixon making what appeared to be anti-Semitic statements. Beth Moore is one of the most gifted Bible teachers today, and yet many disagree with her end-times theology (to which I would ask, who the heck cares? apparently the Calvinists do). and who hasn't shrunk in horror at some of the most recent statements made by an aging Pat Robertson who must be getting some bad counsel somewhere? and who hasn't at least heard of a beloved pastor who seemed to have his poop in a scoop, and next thing you knew... kaboom. adultery, molestation, you name it. They aren't discovered as Satan worshippers, but rather, worshippers of self-gratification. The flesh.
so lets stop feeding it. The glory for our success in ministry? To Him. The glory for our beautiful voices and skills at songwriting? To Him. The glory for our natural abilities in storytelling and public speaking? To Him. But not simply in our heads or on our lips, but let us NOT ALLOW it.
i have no idea how that is done-- i think that if someone had figured it out by now, every one of us in some leadership capacity would have bought the book or be wearing the perfume or taking the pill. no, we must depend upon the wisdom of the Lord. but a marker? to me, i think that the minute we find ourselves so dependent upon the flow of admiration we are receiving (that is, when we feel that empty place because it hasn't been stoked in a couple of days), or when we resent another person receiving it, or when we are so in need of it that we are willing to cross boundaries that are unethical or at least questionable, or when we feel that inner creep of pride that barks at the door like a stray dog who smells supper on the table inside, we must run like mad to the One who deserves all glory, all praise, all honor. and we cannot, must not, shall not revel in our popularity. when we do, we are done.
surely there are about 75 greek tragedies which support this theme... weren't mortals making the gods angry with this sort of thing all the time?
"not to us, O Lord, not to us/ but to Your name be the glory, because of Your love and faithfulness" psalm 115
Tuesday, September 5, 2006
Thank you so much for your servant hearts-- the lock-in was a great success, the kids seemed to feel encouraged and exhausted and had fun, and as for the "regulars", everyone was encouraged to see Special Forces in the form of the Availables and other friends walk through the doors., but I was especially gratified... You guys are such good friends, such special people to me, and my heart melts when I see you walk in the room. I feel like a mother when I see you... I have such dreams for each of you, and such a desire to guard and protect your hearts from anything that would hurt you--- and like an older sister, I have to constantly resist the desire to give you a hard time about the cute, funny things you do that beg chiding. But that can wait til you're in your late 20's/30's and far enough from that stuff that it would actually be funny to give you a hard time :)
You guys ministered this weekend. When I saw this article in a YWAM alumni newlsetter this morning, I thought of all of us, and of the way you served the Lord and ministered to the kids and their parents this weekend. Thank you for giving selflessly of yourselves, for loving the Lord and being willing to serve in any way.
I love y'all--Sam
(PS-- if you see Mulekicker on Myspace, know that Don caved and let me create an account for him-- friend him!)
Matters that Matter - Sacred or Secular?
A lot of us believers seem to think that spiritual gifts are designed for ministry in the 'church' only (mainly by recognized leaders and 'gifted ones' - the ministers). It is part of the whole misunderstanding of what is sacred and what is secular - in our lives.
I believe that everything a true Christian does is sacred (or should be). What happens is the continuation of the theory that the 'lay' person and the'ministerial' person are in different categories. This has created a dividing wall between followers of Jesus that has stood tall for centuries and is so ingrained into our thinking that we have come to take it for granted. One of my favorite trick questions when I meet a person is to ask,"What is your ministry?" Just about everybody answers with, "Oh, I teach Sunday School" or "I'm on the worship team" or an embarrassed, "I don't have one." We ALL have a ministry.
So we, as followers of Jesus generally believe that Christian ministry is essentially a Sunday-kind-of-thing based around a building; and what we do with our lives from Monday to Saturday is secular and worldly (unless we happen to attend a church-type meeting during those days).Paul, in Eph. 4:12, clearly states that spiritual ministry gifts are for the"equipping and building up of the whole body"; these gifts are not just for leaders to own so they can tell us what we should do. We're all in this together.
I believe that a person's ministry is simply 'what we do with what we've got.'As you can see I am very simple in my thinking; to me, to be an evangelist or a prophet or a teacher, etc, is to bring your ministry gift into whatever you do, be it butcher, baker or candlestick-maker. It's your ministry and you're using your gifting.Was tent-making any the less of a 'ministry' for Paul? Is a businessman any the less 'spiritual' than an ordained clergyman, simply because he 'works in the world' by managing a company and making money? Is being a mother less spiritual than having a title and a position in a church or other Christian organization?...
from Peter Jordan, inTouch Ministries, Youth With A Mission
Saturday, September 2, 2006
see you guys tonight--Sam
Intimate Confessions Pour Out on Church's Web Site
(from The New York Times, September 1, 2006)
(Sept. 1) -- On a Web site called mysecret.tv, there is the writer who was molested years ago by her baby sitter and who still cannot forgive herself for failing to protect her younger siblings from the same abuse.
There is the happy father, businessman and churchgoer who is having a sexual relationship with another man in his church. There is the young woman who shot an abusive boyfriend when she was high on methamphetamine.
Then there is this entry: “Years ago I asked my father, ‘How does a daddy justify selling his little girl?’ He replied, ‘I needed to pay the rent, put food on the table and I liked having a few coins to jangle in my pocket.’ ”
About a month ago, LifeChurch, an evangelical network with nine locations and based in Edmond, Okla., set up mysecret.tv as a forum for people to confess anonymously on the Internet.
The LifeChurch founder, the Rev. Craig Groeschel, said that after 16 years in the ministry he knew that the smiles and eager handshakes that greeted him each week often masked a lot of pain. But the accounts of anguish and guilt that have poured into mysecret.tv have stunned him, Mr. Groeschel said, and affirmed his belief in the need for confession.
“We confess to God for forgiveness but to each other for healing,” Mr. Groeschel said. “Secrets isolate you, and keep you away from God, from those people closest to you.”
LifeChurch, which is 10 years old, tries to draw back those who may have left the faith, Mr. Groeschel said. The church hews to a conservative theology on homosexuality and abortion.
Its nine sites, in Arizona, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas, draw a total of 18,000 people to weekend services. LifeChurch also has a “virtual campus” online, and it relies on technology to bind together its “campuses” through endeavors like broadcast sermons.
Still, mysecret.tv represents the first time the church has had an interactive Web site tied to its sermons, in this case a series that Mr. Groeschel began last month on the need for confession.
One of the best-known sites is postsecret.blogspot.com, an extension of an art project in which people write their secrets on postcards and mail them to an address in Germantown, Md.Mysecret.tv may be singular because it gives people at LifeChurch an easy opportunity to act on the sermons, said Scott L. Thumma, professor of the sociology of religion at the Hartford Institute for Religion Research.
“It’s not what you typically expect when a pastor delivers his weekly sermon, and you hit the back door and forget what he said,” Professor Thumma said. “Here it takes on a life of its own, and the folks that are here are not just those who go to LifeChurch.”
Since its inception, mysecret.tv has received more than 150,000 hits and more than 1,500 confessions, Mr. Groeschel said. Absolution is not part of the bargain, just the beginning of release.
“There’s no magic in confessing on a Web site,” Mr. Groeschel said. “My biggest fear is that someone would think that and would go on with life. This is just Step 1.”
The confessions are often just a paragraph or two. Some are eloquent, almost literary. Others are long, rushed and without punctuation, as if the writer needed to get it all out in one breath.
The starkness of the tersest confessions is jolting: “I have verbally and physically abused my wife.”
Another, referring to a spouse, said: “I tell you I love you everyday. Truth is I do love you, but I’m not in love with you, and I never have been. I just don’t want to hurt you and feel worthless.” Many women speak of their regrets over having had abortions.
Other writers say they cannot shake the recurring nightmare of being sexually abused as children. Most were abused by relatives, neighbors and friends. Some went on to abuse younger children in their families. They state simply how their parents often did nothing to help. A few wonder where God is in all this.“When I was 7, I was sexually abused by a guy,” a girl wrote. “Then, when I was 13, my mum did the same thing to me. Now I am 16 and scared. My doctor put me in a mental home. Sometimes, I think where is Jesus and why’s he not helping me.”
Because the site is anonymous, the staff at LifeChurch cannot reach out to those who are in danger of harming themselves or others, Mr. Groeschel said.
Professor Thumma pointed out that the resources section of the site could be improved. It now lists mostly religious books rather than mental health services.
Perhaps the most important activity the Web site has is letting people know that they are not alone in their suffering, Professor Thumma said. It harkens to the now rare practice of “testimony time” at evangelical churches, he said, when “you could hear stories about people overcoming problems, stories of hope, so that you felt you weren’t the only one struggling.”
Among those changed by the confessions is Mr. Groeschel himself.
“Knowing that so many people I see every week on the outside look so normal, and yet inside there is so much pain, that has been surprising,” he said. “When you hear about it in their own words, it’s hard to bear.”
Monday, August 7, 2006
a friend of mine posted the link to this on her blog. I thought it was important enough for us to read, I went ahead and posted the full text here. I even posted her title in the title box--- she is not a believer, and I thought that it was telling. She's a thinker, and the title grabbed me. The source is cited at the bottom.
love you guys---Sam
Americans try to connect in a country where isolation is common
Sunday, August 6, 2006; Posted: 6:38 p.m. EDT (22:38 GMT)
NEW YORK (AP) -- In bleak nursing homes and vibrant college dorms, in crowded cities and spread-out suburbs, Americans confront an ailment with no single cause or cure.
Some call it social isolation or disconnectedness. Often, it's just plain loneliness.
An age-old ailment, to be sure, and yet by various measures -- census figures on one-person households, a new study documenting Americans' shrinking circle of intimate friends -- it is worsening.
It seems ironic, even to those who are affected. The nation has never been more populous, soon to reach the 300 million mark. And it has never been more connected -- by phone, e-mail, instant message, text message, and on and on.Yet so many are alone in the crowd.
Intimacy takes time
"People are increasingly busy," said Margaret Gibbs, a psychologist at Fairleigh Dickinson University. "We've become a society where we expect things instantly, and don't spend the time it takes to have real intimacy with another person."
Some Americans are making a new commitment, getting reconnected in groups or one-on-one and combating a phenomenon that can take a heavy toll on communities and individuals.
In its most pronounced forms, loneliness is considered a serious, even life-threatening condition, heightening the risks of heart disease and depression. A sense of isolation can strike at almost any age, in any demographic sector -- parents struggling to adjust to empty-nest status, divorcees unable to rebuild a social life, even seemingly self-confident college students.
John Powell, a psychologist at the University of Illinois counseling center, says it's common for incoming freshmen to stay in their rooms, chatting by computer with high school friends rather than venturing out to get-acquainted activities on campus. "The frequency of contact and volume of contact does not necessarily translate into the quality of contact," Powell said.
The trend toward isolation surfaced in the last U.S. census figures, which show that one-fourth of the nation's households -- 27.2 million of them -- consisted of just one person, compared with 10 percent in 1950.
In June, an authoritative study in the American Sociological Review found that the average American had only two close friends in whom they would confide on important matters, down from an average of three in 1985. The number of people who said they had no such confidant soared from 10 percent in 1985 to nearly 25 percent in 2004; an additional 19 percent said they had only one confidant -- often their spouse.
"That may be the most worrisome thing," said Lynn Smith-Lovin, a Duke University sociologist who was a co-author of the study. "If you lose that one person, because the relationship declines or the person dies, you have no one to support you. If we're all becoming more dependent on our spouse or partner for that kind of complete knowing of each other, we're all vulnerable to losing that."The study suggested an array of possible causes -- including an increase in working/commuting hours and expanding use of the Internet to stay in touch with other people, lessening the need for face-to-face contacts. "We e-mail each other rather than calling or meeting, so there can be a sense of connection but also a loss of actual time spent with friends and families," Gibbs said.
Some Americans shrug off the trend, content with their ever-evolving social circles. Others, though, are unsettled at what they see and feel, and search for remedies.
Karina Penaranda was at Mass in 2002 when it dawned on her that her peers at her Roman Catholic church in Phoenix, Arizona, -- single adults 35 to 60 -- had no fixed place in the diocese's social orbit. "There were groups for elderly people, marriage encounters for couples -- and youth groups are everywhere," said Penaranda, who is in her 40s. "Once single people reach this age they don't have a community. They don't really have a place to go where they can share their hopes and dreams.
"With a few other parishioners, Penaranda founded a group called Catholic Singles Ministry. It now draws scores of people from across the Phoenix area and beyond to twice-yearly retreats and to events ranging from prayer breakfasts to bowling nights to food-bank volunteer work. "We have people who've been divorced, been widowed, never been married," she said. "At our retreats we talk about loneliness, relationships. ... You know that you're not alone in going through this journey."
Penaranda, a project manager for a bank, has never been married. She savors socializing, but it takes conscious effort. "The busyness in people's lives is one of things that prevents it," she said. "That happens to me -- I get immersed in work, and have to step back and say, 'Time out."'
One of Penaranda's colleagues in the ministry, Monica Smith, said community service is a key element. "We're reaching out to others in our singleness, our aloneness," she said. "It gives us, without family, without children, a greater sense of belonging."
Singles ministries have proliferated nationwide, notably at megachurches. At Parkcrest Christian Church in Long Beach, California, about 150 of the 2,500-member congregation participate in a group for singles aged 35 to 65.
"They're looking to connect with other people in a society that's geared to married people, to people with families," said the Rev. Jim Vlahos, Parkcrest's singles minister.
Many of the group's members are divorced, said Vlahos, himself a never-married 41-year-old. "Once someone gets divorced, they tend to lose their married friends," he observed. "It's not a stigma thing; it's an awkward thing -- 'Oh, you're single now, and we do married things."'
Having a spouse and children doesn't insulate adults from bouts of loneliness; one particularly vulnerable subset are parents confronting the empty-nest syndrome as their children reach young adulthood and leave home.
"Some take it really really hard," said Jeanine Herrin of Inglis, Florida, who launched an Internet chat room called Empty Nest Moms. "That's all they did -- they lived and breathed kids, and all of the sudden the kids are gone."
She noted that many such parents had a network of adults they knew through their children's activities -- a network that can shrink or vanish when the children leave. "Some moms are almost basket cases when they come into our group," Herrin said. "But with most of them, you can feel that sense of relief, that they're not really going crazy, that there are so many others feeling the same way." Some husbands share the emotional rollercoaster, while others "just don't understand at all," Herrin said. "Some are thrilled to death the kids are gone."
Many of the hundreds of women who have posted messages on the Web site candidly acknowledge their bouts of crying and self-pity. One mother described in detail her devastation over the departure of her youngest child, and then the elation of filling the emptiness by becoming a foster parent.
Ellen Ritter, who has a doctorate in psychology, works as a "family transitions coach" in Hudson, Ohio, and often counsels empty-nest mothers. "It's really hard to make new friends," she said, "and that's why so many women are reaching out to the Internet."
If some empty-nest parents feel a void in their lives, so do some of their absent children. "A lot of students go through periods of loneliness," said Zanny Altschuler, 20, of Menlo Park, California, who is completing her freshman year this summer at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. "The social life on campus can be crazy," she said. "Rather than sticking with close friendships that can be hard to maintain, people forge a broader circle of acquaintances."
Altschuler cited the phenomenon of Facebook.com, the social-networking Web site on which students can enumerate their "friends." "You go on some profiles and they say they have 1,000 friends, and they probably don't even know half of them," she said.
John Powell, from his vantage point at the Illinois counseling center, says students increasingly have difficulty "making really satisfying connections" even though the university offers many activities to bring students together.
"All the students I work with have incredibly many pseudo-intimate relationships online -- but without the kind of risk and vulnerability that goes with sitting across a cafe booth from another person," Powell said.
Sean Seepersad, who now teaches at California State University, Fresno, earned his doctorate at Illinois last year by designing an intervention program for lonely students. Seepersad said some of the students were predictably shy and withdrawn, others on the surface seemed extroverted and socially skilled. He encouraged them to share their feelings, analyze why they felt lonely and work on their social skills. "Lonely people may not be aware of things they're doing that perpetuate the problem," he said. "It's something that can be helped."
Old and alone
She laughs gently at her blunt self-analysis, but Helen Granath doesn't mince words. "It's a very lonely existence -- most of the time the loneliness can be excruciating and painful," says the 84-year-old widow from San Francisco, California. "I have very few friends. They're either ill or they've passed away or moved somewhere else." Her husband died 30 years ago; she says her son "is very busy in the computer business. I don't see him very often."
No data set enumerates how many elderly Americans feel such pangs of loneliness, but undoubtedly there are millions who could empathize with Granath. She ventures out of her apartment for errands and movies, but is slowed by leukemia and arthritis and -- after the latest in a series of hip replacements -- sought help and companionship from a volunteer group called Little Brothers-Friends of the Elderly. For the past several years, the group has sent volunteers to visit her -- bringing flowers on holidays and gifts on her birthday.
Jim Doyle, 48, who does promotional work in San Francisco for a movie theater chain, started volunteering for Little Brothers this year, and has become the sole loyal friend of a 67-year-old developmentally disabled man named Frank."He lives by himself and does custodial work, but other than that he didn't have a whole lot to do," said Doyle. "He'd stay home and watch a lot of TV. Now we got out to the movies, for walks -- he calls me all the time. He appreciates it, and it's been great for me."
Bob Moody, a retired Chicago businessman, has been volunteering for Little Brothers since 1981 -- he had been visiting his cancer-stricken mother in a nursing home and noticed that many patients didn't have visitors.
Since then, he's devoted each Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter to visits with isolated seniors, as well as making visits periodically throughout the year.
"Let's face it," Moody said. "Old people can be grouchy sometimes. With some, there's a little mistrust early on because they don't really know you. But as time goes on, they gradually open up."
One refrain he hears: "My kids don't live that far away, but they don't come to visit me." His current Little Brothers friend is Rocky Lepore, an 85-year-old blind man who savors the visits. "He always wants to give me something," Moody said, "a box of candy, some little mints."
If anyone was pleased by the June report on shrinking circles of close friends, it was Harvard professor Robert Putnam, who viewed it as vindication of his best-selling book "Bowling Alone." Some academics had challenged his thesis in 2000 that civic engagement and neighborliness were on the decline, but many Americans took the message to heart.
Close to Putnam's home base at Harvard, for example, David Crowley has founded an organization called Social Capital Inc. that is striving to connect neighbors and build civic spirit in the Boston-area communities of Woburn, Dorchester and Lynn, Massachusetts.
"People are less connected to their neighbors today, and they miss that," Crowley said. His projects seek to use the Internet as a connecting tool.
Last winter, for example, SCI members in Woburn received an e-mail notice that one elderly, low-income resident was worried how he would get his driveway cleared of snow. Within a day, Crowley said, a neighbor volunteered to use his snowblower to the keep the driveway clear all winter.
Putnam, in an interview, said vibrant social networks have benefits for individuals in terms of health and happiness, and for communities as well.
"The crime rates are lower, the schools work better, the economy works better," he said.
The challenges to connectedness are many. Strolls through the neighborhood and visits on front porches have been replaced in many cases by retreats indoors to be entertained by TVs, computers and video games.
Spouses are more likely to be both working and less likely to have one or two other couples with whom they forge close, long-lasting ties. Instead, they may have a broader circle of couples they know only casually through their children's schools or sports leagues.
"We've brought more women into the workplace, but we have not addressed the consequences for families and communities," Putnam said. "We need to invent new ways of connecting."
Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Tuesday, August 1, 2006
we all go through phases in life, right? i've struggled through so many phases, if you could see the insides of my heart you would...recognize the inside of my car as a natural outworking of that inward reality sometimes :). anyway, many friends who've known me for a long time will remember the samantha who would argue with a wall if it looked at her wrong. or there's the samantha who was absolutely convinced that every believer should do a dts (discipleship training school with ywam)(um, no longer convinced, by the way-- it's good, but not for everyone).oh, and then there's the samantha who would smoke anything she could light, drink anything she was dared to drink, and chase all that with an hours-long discussion of the existence of God. i have spent many, many days confused.
but in my later years, i've come to see some things--primarily from running headlong into walls, but those lessons are no less valuable that are accompanied with permanent scar tissue. my dad told me that there was this verse in 2 peter that told us to avoid "foolish controversies" because it doesn't build anyone up and only ruins those who listen.my goodness, how much time do we spend arguing foolish controversies?
during my first go-round with college, back in '89, one of my friends asked me (one night when i was waxing eloquent on God and church and who knows what-all), "So... I don't mean anything mean, but how can you say you believe all those things and still...still... you know. Party." Jeanne wasn't a believer, and neither were her parents. she was also one of the nicest people i ever met-- before or since. she was in earnest. she wanted to know. i didn't have an answer except deep inside, i wondered if maybe i didn't really believe the things i was saying... i dropped out of college and spent the next two years baked, but spent countless nights alone at Waffle House on 138 after parties, drinking pot after pot of coffee, smoking endless reds, reading the bible and writing in my journal and wondering about things. the waitresses and i didn't just know each other-- we became friends, and their stories added a healthy dose of reality to my life. when i got my act together and moved to colorado, a couple of them wrote to me for a while. they loved me. they respected me. they had no reason to-- they saw me drunk, tripping on acid, and reading the bible (all at different times, usually) but those women knew that i was walking through something.
a couple of days ago i had a conversation with someone (a new friend whom i love already) who said some really nice things to me, and while she was talking, i knew that my only response to the "how" of all the joy in my life was this: mercy. God showed me mercy. those waffle house ladies showed me mercy. many, many friends and my parents (and the parents of friends...) showed me mercy. if i have been shown so much mercy, in God's economy, i am bound by love to decide to be merciful at every opportunity, to as many people as i can find. In fact, i really need to go right now and find some people JUST TO BE MERCIFUL to them if I am EVER going to make a dent on just the earthly mercy i have received... am i always successful? are you?
i think that the person who walks in mercy-- who wants to-- has a good view of humility. what i mean is, if we walk in the constant awareness of our need for mercy, i think that humility is in sight. not false humility. but that kind of awareness that is always present-- that thing in us that we know about ourselves, that we deserve death, that we deserve to get pulled over by the police, that we are so in need of the forgiveness of Jesus, that we are so dependent upon the kindness of our God, that we have received oceans of mercy... maybe that's where "walking humbly with our God" becomes practical reality... like the monk who wanted to learn to pray constantly, perhaps this is constant prayer? gratefulness? an awareness that it's not my job to decide who goes to heaven and who doesn't, but to love. love. love.
Jesus set the example down for us. in His perfect humility, His understanding of the mercy of God, He was authentic-- He didn't have to be anything He wasn't, b/c He was walking in fulness.... if we are walking around with Him in us, then are we walking in fulness, too?
i want to be real. and i want people to be glad to be with me, to be glad that they know i love them. i want to be loving all the time. i want to be humble, remembering always that i am a creature destined for destruction without the grace of a God who is better than anyone could ever dream up. i want us as a body to be irresistable, and that we'd love and let the Lord work out the things in people's hearts that need to be worked out, and that the Holy Spirit would do all this through us because we simply can't on our own. I wish that that we'd resign from the self-appointed committee of "who gets in and who doesn't." who benefits from that? we don't even benefit from it ourselves!
sigh. that's all. just thinking. just hoping He'll make me authentic, that i'll listen to Him and do the things that will make me that way. that the church will, so that when the hurting cry out for help, they'll know that there's at least one place on earth they can come to for help: Jesus Christ.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Just wanted to let you guys know a couple of things:*Derek and Amy are OUTTA HERE, leaving early early Sunday morning. If you feel like helping out, they may need it on Saturday, loading up the moving trucks between fits of weeping (on my part). Let us know if you need directions!
*I'm having a "Shin Dig in the Yard" a mi casa next weekend, me thinks. We're going to try this one more time: movie. yard. you. me. a billion mosquitos (actually, they haven't been bad this year!). we need to make this happen before all you UNDERGRADUATES go back off to your respective colleges and universities!
*some of you met my friend emmeline at the last shin dig (her boyfriend is Bobby, who had the brilliant idea to put the tv on the porch-- yahoo bobby!), but whether you did or not, check out her blog: treesthattransform.blogspot.com .If I knew how to post links here, i would. anybody know how?
How's everybody doing? I'm going to set up an availables group on myspace, so if you're on myspace and we aren't "friends", let's mend that!!! if you just type in Samantha Swaney you'll find me-- let's hook up!
love you guys--
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
(from elisabeth elliott): "How far shall we go with Him who calls us to fellowship with Himself? Shall we stop dead in our tracks if the water is bitter? Shall we turn tail and run if we glimpse a cross? 'Whoever cares for his own safety is lost' (Mt. 16:25 NEB). Think of missing the miracle of the water. Think of missing the resurrection..."
I prayed, over and over, the prayer at the end of the devotional: "Savior Christ, I want to go the whole way. Keep me from faltering today. Show the tree that transforms bitter water, and help me live in its shade." He showed me the tree that transformed this journey - himself! The gift of his love and friendship and understanding - His faithfulness in providing support not in the time that I thought he should, but in his perfect time. I needed to get to the end of myself. The end of my expectations, my desires. When I did, I found fellowship with him that was sweeter than anything else.
emmeline's reference is taken from Exodus 15...her summary of that story: The Lord has just delivered the Israelites from the Egyptians at the Red Sea, and Moses leads them into the desert for three days where they could not find any water. Finally God leads them to Marah, but the water there was bitter and undrinkable. So they start complaining, muttering amongst themselves about wanting something to drink.
Verse 25 says: Then Moses cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.
how many times have we cried out to the Lord that the water is bitter? how many times have we cried out that the burden is too heavy, that the darkness is too dark, that the depression is too heavy... ? and He would tell us, as He spoke to emmeline in the embrace of their friendship and intimacy, that He threw Himself into the waters for us.....
emmeline wrote: God leads us (even Christ) to pools of bitter water, so that he can glorify himself by making it sweet for us.
Thursday, July 6, 2006
i guess the thing i'm thinking about is the whole "who do we welcome?" thing in the church. i've been thinking about it a lot for the last few years, but especially in the last few months, and especially in the last few weeks. i have all these people in my life whom i love and respect, but for whom the inside of a church holds NO beauty or safety or longing. is it because the buildings aren't attractive enough? is it because our lawns aren't green enough? the azaleas aren't white or pink or red enough?
or is it because this "hierarchy" of sins we keep saying doesn't exist actually does exist? there's no hierarchy in the Bible-- the word clearly states that murderers and people who disobey their parents are equally guilty. i think the thing is, we are all equally guilty. and equally forgiven.
don't get me wrong-- i acknowledge that there is sin, and i agree with the lists of what they are. it doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out that it's wrong to kill, lie, steal, cheat, etc. there are some sins, however, that i find the church to consider especially repulsive. so what do we do?
well, we reject, of course. la la la la la, merrily skipping down the road of doing exactly what the world has accused us of--- kevin used the term "country club" yesterday in our discussion. it's true and how heartbreaking. and it's not you and you and you-- it's WE, us...if one of us is doing this to anyone, then we're all doing it to everyone. We are the Body-- one Body-- of Christ.
and if we consider some sins more especially hideous to our delicate sensibilities, why would we not rush to the scene of the crime, armed with grace and mercy in the hour of need? HERO units for our fellow man. instead, we make signs to remind them of how much God hates them and we bask in our smug sense of confidence that at least we don't struggle with that sin....
my heart cries out for something to be mended. not that this person would change and that this denomination would get a freaking clue or that this pastor would preach on such and such and blah blah blah-- but rather, that we would, as a people, become so utterly convinced of the beauty and faithfulness of the God we want to ram down everyone's throats--- sometimes i think that so much of our intolerance to the reality of neighbors on the planet who do not share our concerns, habits, political affiliations, belief systems is evidence of a darker unbelief that we are so desperate to mask. it's OKAY-- he's real, all this is true, but He is full of so much more power and grace than we know.
do i have a handle on it? no, but i'm becoming more and more convinced that the more i acknowledge what i don't know, the closer i am to finding the truth. Jesus simply does not make sense. love the unlovable ( you and I will differ on who is unlovable and who isn't)(and that's okay). love your neighbors. talk to samaritans, for goodness sake.
which doesn't mean "talk to bad people". it means that there's no place for prejudice in the body of Christ-- that Jesus saw a HEART and spoke to the longings sheltered there.
it's a little early to be thinking such things...perhaps i was inspired by my brush with death on my ride to decatur with Evil Kenevil (hm...i don't know that i've ever tried to spell that name). either way, it's always on my mind, and i'm wondering when we as a body of believers will wake up and realize that Jesus said that He would that ALL would come.
what part of ALL do we not understand?
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
i've spent my entire adult life traveling and living places for 3, 6 or 9 months to 2-4 years at a time. i've said goodbye to so many people whose faces i dream of on occasion, whose voices i miss like crazy, whose names i sometimes can't even remember, but all of them make up this cool tapestry of my past and even my present...my professor said something about that today...hm. i may have to post part of this poem later...
anyway, it's so funny to be a youth worker. we fall in love with the kids, if we're lucky. we get our hearts all tied up in their lives-- late nights crying on the couch with them, listening to friend problems, boy problems, teacher problems, what-am-i-going-to-do-with-my-life problems, laughing and eating onion sandwiches in the middle of the night in central america with them (you know who you are) discussing things you never even knew they thought about. i keep saying "we"--- i do it. i fall in love. i look forward to drinking coffee with them and knowing what's happening in their lives and seeking the Lord for wisdom in how to counsel them...
And then they get big and go away.
i'm going to miss her, and so, so many girls from our class honestly. i'm on campus in grad school now, and i am walking across the campus where i used to yell for miguelita, and i see them missing. on sundays in conyers, there are empty seats. at agnes scott, there are empty studio spaces and honor court meetings. in my heart, i ache like i always have, and they don't see it the same way those of us who stay do... not yet anyway. I wonder about my high school teachers, professors, parents...
but you know, something amazing is going to happen and has already begun-- my heart, and the hearts of mentors and youth workers across the world, is going to expand all over again to receive a new crop of kids whose names will be written on our lives like graffiti. it's amazing how elastic our hearts are, how they can just love and love. it's supernatural.
Saturday, June 17, 2006
Some days I find myself
putting my foot in
the same stream twice;
leading a horse to water
and making him drink.
I have a clue.I can see the forest
for the trees.
All around me people
are making silk purses
out of sows' ears,
getting blood from turnips,
building Rome in a day.
There's a business
like show business.
There's something new
under the sun.
Some days misery
no longer loves company;
it puts itself out of its.
There's rest for the weary.
There's turning back.
There are guarantees.
I can be serious.
I can mean that.
You can quite
put your finger on it.
Poem: "Blessings" by Ronald Wallace from Long for This World: New and Selected Poems. © University of Pittsburgh Press.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
but really, there are two things i have recently learned that just floored me. in studying for the GRE (which i did for a week and a half)(only a week and a half)(i don't want to talk about it), i discovered that i have been using the word "prosaic" incorrectly for a long, long time.
yesterday, i realized that i have never, ever understood what it meant to deconstruct anything. i swear my professor is reading myspace.
if so, you rock, dr. radel! :)
Sunday, May 21, 2006
so everyone who lives in this area knows how awesome the weather has been. i mean, dang. like early spring when it should be like living in a steam bath. so we had The Availables over last night to watch a movie (i always want Steel Magnolias, but can never get an amen from the men-- what is that?) in the yard and strung up lights on the front porch and the tons of food (caroline, all your stuff is clean and i'm bringing it over this week) and hung out there all night. don pulled out the bb gun with bryan and josh and seth, and then bobby and casey and kevin joined them and they played some soccer all across our huge front yard, and the end of the night found a group of us sitting on the front porch telling stories. the storm that was predicted never came, but we saw lighting in the east and the breeze was perfect and i love the south.
what is it about porches? you know, all these little houses are being thrown up around here, each exactly like its neighbor (cute enough, sure), but all without front porches. now, my porch is not big at all. but it's there, and i think about the historic area in our town and the possibilities for community that come with porches. i remember my grandparents' big front porch with my cousins and aunts and uncles and talking to people as they took walks in front of their house while the kids played some demented form of tag in the front yard (seriously, one of our games was called "kill the man with the ball"), and in later years, my precious brother and i would bring the guitars out and we'd sing hymns and a thousand other songs ("me and bobby mcgee"-- oh yeah), wiping sweat off our foreheads and drinking sweet tea and swatting mosquitos (fortunately, the cigarette smoke kept most of them away-- porches really make me miss smoking sometimes...).
there's something intentional about front porches. you are all choosing to sit there for a reason. we experience it at salem campground in the summers, sitting for no practical reason on porch after porch, just wandering from cabin to cabin, talking for a minute, eating popsicles, holding babies and catching up. porches, to me, are invitations to come sit down for a little while, swing or rock and be quiet together or sing and talk.
sigh. i loved last night. i loved the way the grass was so green in our yard and the grass in the field across the way was dark, the field so huge. i loved the darkness of a soon-to-be-stormy summer sky in the early evening looked, threatening (emptily) to pour down on us. i loved the clusters of people, standing and sitting, talking and laughing, eating grapes and playing tag and just being together with no agenda. these are the sort of pointless, dreamy nights that memories are made of -- the things that define "being southern" to me.
we're doing it again real soon. if you're in town, you should come over :)
Monday, May 15, 2006
So sherdonna began to sing, and I began to sing with her, and suddenly we really weren't there on the porch. Sherd and i used to worship on tuesday nights at her apartment downtown, when we were both single and she was struggling with migranes which were a result of a tumor on her pituitary gland. I would sleep at her apartment the night before my wednesday morning drawing classes at Atlanta College of Art, and the two of us, broke and full of hope for the things the Lord was doing in our lives, would drink tea and talk about Jesus, and eventually, sherd would pull out the guitar. it was always like that hymn I love : "heaven came down and glory filled my soul"
sherd can sing harmony. melody. whatever. she's a concert clarinetist, plays every instrument, composes, etc. So we'd start to sing, and somehow she would make her voice fit with mine, going high if I couldn't get there, going low if I couldn't do that-- and something crazy happened with our voices when they met: this spectacular blending of our voices...we would both open our eyes and laugh and say "Did you hear that?"
I know what happened.
God inhabits the praises of His people. His word says that He literally comes and makes His home in our worship. Can you imagine heaven? When we will not close our mouths during worship, where we will never interupt our worship of Him in order to complain or criticize, where we will not compete but blend blend blend to worship Jesus and paint for Him the most lovely sound He could ever hear....
I have missed that kind of worship. I have missed letting my heart go there in worship. It's easy to forget about the sweetness of intimacy that fires true worship in the midst of the busyness of school, work, worship practice, whatever. Here is one of my goals, now that I am done with my undergraduate work: To recapture that intimacy, to bow my heart again at the feet of my Savior and intentionally reinvest my heart in the worship of His holiness and beauty again. It starts with studying His word, private time spent singing to Him, and just thinking of inviting Him into wherever I am, with no agenda. I remember that's where I last saw Him like that...
Tuesday, May 2, 2006
He's beautiful. These days before graduation, I am meditating on the power of God to restore those things we thought were lost forever. If you had asked me 15 years ago how the Lord was going to pull the garbage I had made of my life out of the fire, I would never, never have been able to tell you. I wouldn't believe that He could have. It's like this today, right? We don't have to be dramatically off our rockers to not be able to figure out how in the world God is going to guide us through things-- why do we keep trying to figure out how miracles work when mystery is integral to their very nature? He surprises me with His committment to me all the time and His own committment to saving me every day.
One close friend of mine finished up her PhD this time last year, two of my professors are my age (one has more than one Ivy League masters, to go with her Ivy League PhD) and many of my friends already have at least one baby.... Am I behind? Am I on time? Would Don and I have met if we had had our collective butts in gear years ago? Did I damage possibilities years ago that are no longer destined to be part of my life now?
I don't know, but it does not matter (do you hear Meatballs? "it just doesn't matter! it just doesn't matter! it just doesn't matter!"). It just doesn't. This is right. The precious, amazing, beautiful girls I have gotten to share the last four years with are perfect. I wouldn't trade one moment with them to have been "on time" in 1993. In my heart, I see these little sisters and can't imagine my life without them. And the professors? These were the perfect ones. And the husband God gave me, to send me and support me and not leave me when I changed into a demon woman? Sigh.
What is this blog thing? I have a perfectly good journal back in the back, and I should be taking a shower, drinking tea and writing in my journal before sleeping for 18 hours and then starting the final push in the morning-- four major papers and a project nearly done, in 9 days...oy. But here, I think maybe someone else might struggle with why now?, and why like this?, and I would say, from right here, no worries. I would say, from a life that has been stinking fun and good but hard, and not nearly half way over, that it's so okay not to know which end is up sometimes. Go lay in the grass in the park and look at the clouds. Make cookies for firemen. Have a good cry. But remember that all of these things are making up who we are-- these things are the stuff of our future famous memoirs. It's okay, it's good, it's alright. There is a finer purpose to all of this.
As for me, I'm so happy-- and I'm so exhausted I could cry-- but I am so happy. I've been longing for this for so long, and now I graduate-- but not just for the sake of graduation itself: This diploma means that I am just that much closer to the vision I have had for so many years. It's happening.
God is a God of restoration.
Saturday, April 8, 2006
So, I have His hands in the middle of the tree-like space, and the green is branching off to the edges. I'm filling in blues and wondering about the other colors I will pick, and thinking about the great flood of love from those hands to our hearts...how amazing would it be if the Body of Christ loved the way He did, does? How much more healing would we see happening in the world if we allowed our own many fractures and fears to be healed, if we allowed the touch of the Lord on broken friendships and baseless prejudices? There was a flood of supernatural healing released at the cross-- forever healing, theology-defying, death defeating, and we walk around hogging it all, I think. There's so much more grace that the Lord would pour out on His creation, and we (the body of Christ) hold onto it in the walls of our churches, in our cliques, families, to the attractive or the smart, but where are the odd birds? My dad says that the Kingdom of God should be full of the whackos, weirdos and outcasts of the world-- I agree. It's easier said than done. I'm in, though, so there's at least one.
This is where my thoughts go when I'm making stuff. Especially when those things have to do with His hands. My favorite hands. So real, so good, so misrepresented to the lost who have been only pushed out by our hands. I want my hands to be like His. But I can't forget the piercings.
Monday, March 20, 2006
I couldn't figure out why my cell phone was dead. I plugged it into its cord as soon as I walked in from school-- I have this little ritual: I walk in, put my bag on the kitchen table, take off my shoes, put my phone on the shelf, plugged in, and take my class ring (the precious) off and leave it beside the phone. I used to be afraid of forgetting to put it on-- now, my hand just doesn't feel right without its four pound onyx beautifulness. OH, I love my school.
Anyway. So my phone... That's when I discovered that the cord was not plugged into the electrical outlet. Don, while ironing before school one morning, had unplugged my phone to use the outlet for the iron, and his jacket was hanging over that spot. He hadn't replaced the cell phone cord (and he didn't put up the ironing board, but that's a different story :)), and it didn't matter how many hours my phone stayed connected to that cord, there was no power running through it. See where I'm going?
Sometimes I think of my life as a believer this way. I see the phone sitting beside the [now plugged in] cord and think, it doesn't matter how close it sits, unless it is plugged in, there is no juice re-energizing that thing. i could actually lay the cell phone ON TOP of the phone jack, but unless it is plugged into the power source, unless it is plugged into the jack, there is no life there.
Sometimes we as believers are sitting NEAR the word, carrying it around with us, carrying the knowledge of what it says with us, and sometimes even reading it, but we aren't plugged in to it. We aren't connected with the Lord in the place of prayer, getting encouraged and energized by the closeness of His spirit. We have access to it, it's available to us all day long, but it's our responsibility to plug into Him.
The analogy, as they always do, tends to fall apart around there. Our "power source" is more than just a source-- He's a Person with a capital P (one of my leaders in YWAM used to say that-- I love it). And He pursues us because he loves us-- He's always calling out to us. Are you weary? Do you feel burdened down with choices, decisions, things that are due right now, and last week if possible? Are there hopes and desires in your heart, longings only He knows the names of? Have you been wounded? Are you struggling with your flesh? Do you feel like you've been running on a battery-- depending on where you were with the Lord this time last year, or just any other season than this one, and you are just trying to recapture that strength and enthusiasm and clarity you used to feel?
Plug back in. We can't give up. There's a worship song that goes like this:
All who are thirsty
All who are weak
Come to the fountain
Dip your heart in the stream of life
Let the pain and the sorrow
Be washed away
In the waves of His mercy
As deep cries unto deep
And we cry Come Lord Jesus, come...
Come Lord Jesus, come
Come Lord Jesus, come
As deep calls unto deep...
And Isaiah 55:1-11 (see for full text): "Come here, all you who are thirsty, come to the water! All who have no money, come! Yes, without money and at no cost, buy and drink wine and milk"
Lets plug in, drink deeply of His presence, and live in His goodness. We're all tired-- press in, ask Him for help, and He will help us gain the finish line (also known, for this season, as May 13th, GRADUATION!!).
I love you guys (and I'll teach you this song next time we're all together!)
PS-- coming SOON-- my house, ice cream and diet coke and whatever else your heart desires, and perhaps we will watch a movie? perhaps we will sing some? perhaps we shall play games? Let me know what you want to do!!
Wednesday, March 8, 2006
CAVEAT: one girl at my school, I am ashamed to say, thought this was serious. Be advised, it is not.
Instructions: Read each question carefully. Answer all questions. Time Limit: 4 hours. Begin immediately.
1) H I S T O R Y
Describe the history of the papacy from its origins to the present day, concentrating especially, but not exclusively, on its social, political, economic, religious, and philosophical impact on Europe, Asia, America, and Africa. Be brief, concise, and specific.
2) M E D I C I N E
You have been provided with a razor blade, a piece of gauze, and a bottle of Scotch. Remove your appendix. Do not suture until your work has been inspected. You have 15 minutes.
3) P U B L I C S P E A K I N G
Twenty-five hundred riot-crazed aborigines are storming the classroom. Calm them. You may use any ancient language except Latin or Greek.
4) B I O L O G Y
Create life. Estimate the differences in subsequent human culture if this form of life had developed 500 million years earlier, with special attention to its probable effect on the English parliamentary system. Prove your thesis.
5) M U S I C
Write a piano concerto. Orchestrate and perform it with flute and drum. You will find a piano under your seat.
6) P S Y C H O L O G Y
Based on your degree of knowledge of their works, evaluate the emotional stability, degree of adjustment, and repressed frustrations of each of the following: Alexander of Aphrodisias, Rameses II, Gregory of Nicea, Hammurabi. Support your evaluations with quotations from each man's work, making appropriate references. It is not necessary to translate.
7) S O C I O L O G Y
Estimate the sociological problems which might accompany the end of the world. Construct an experiment to test your theory.
8) M A N A G E M E N T S C I E N C E
Define management. Define science. How do they relate? Why? Create a generalized algorithm to optimize all managerial decisions. Assuming an 1130 CPU supporting 50 terminals, each terminal to activate your algorithm; design the communications interface and all necessary control programs.
9) E N G I N E E R I N G
The disassembled parts of a high-powered rifle have been placed in a box on your desk. You will also find an instruction manual, printed in Swahili. In ten minutes a hungry Bengal tiger will be admitted to the room. Take whatever action you feel is appropriate. Be prepared to justify your decision.
10) E C O N O M I C S
Develop a realistic plan for refinancing the national debt. Trace the possible effects of your plan in the following areas: Cubism, the Donatist controversy, the wave theory of light. Outline a method for preventing these effects. Criticize this method from all possible points of view. Point out the deficiencies in your point of view, as demonstrated in your answer to the last question.
11) P O L I T I C A L S C I E N C E
There is a red telephone on the desk beside you. Start World War III. Report at length on its socio-political effects, if any.
12) E P I S T E M O L O G Y
Take a position for or against truth. Prove the validity of your position.
13) P H Y S I C S
Explain the nature of matter. Include in your answer an evaluation of the impact of the development of mathematics on science.
14) P H I L O S O P H Y
Sketch the development of human thought; estimate its significance. Compare with the development of any other kind of thought.
15) G E N E R A L K N O W L E D G E
Describe in detail. Be objective and specific.
* * E X T R A C R E D I T * *
Define the universe; give three examples.
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
So it occurred to me: why is it not occurring to me to lay something down in honor of Christ's suffering in the desert and on the cross? It has been on my mind all day, and I have to say that it's hard. I've fasted before-- total fasting, water only-- but to lay down something for 40 days...
It's a personal thing-- my friend was just telling me her story, what she's choosing to do, but I felt something stir in my spirit, so I will be participating in Lent for the first time ever. I think of Paul, who said, "I want to KNOW CHRIST and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead" (Phil. 3:10). Whatever we can do to draw closer to Him, and to keep the profound mystery of His beauty and His most precious sacrifice at the front of our minds-- these are the things we should attain to, in whatever form they find themselves in our lives.
I'm posting a couple of interesting links, in case you're interested.Much love to you all--Samantha
Sunday, February 19, 2006
Awesome Sunday school class today. You have to love a class where people say things like, " I have literally never thought of this before," and then they proceed to blow everyone's mind with some cool new revelation. This, my friends, is one of my favorite things about this sunday school class: a willingness and desire for discourse. This class, this group of people, is, for me, as intellectually challenging and engaging as it is spiritually, and can rival any of the best groups of conversationalists I have found at school. It is 100% dependent on the Lord, and requires the participation of the group members, too-- and here's the thing: He would do it EVERYWHERE, like Amy K. was saying this morning. He desires to show up and blow our minds and change and reform our belief systems and understandings, but we MUST be engaged. I believe that the maker of the universe is always near, always wanting to reveal Himself to THOSE WHO WOULD SEEK HIM.
That's why (one of the reasons) I like our name. I mean, we were being funny when we (was it Kevin?) came up with it, and we recognized that there were multiple meanings there, but that deeper thing: a group of men and women who desire to be totally available to the Lord so He can radically change us and bless the lives of the people around us with His love. That we would all be like Joshua, who wasn't happy to go home after going into the Tent of Meeting, but had to hang out in the presence of the Lord, had to sleep there, had to make the Most High his very dwelling place, being available to His greatness and whatever crazy new thing He would call him to do.
Study PEACE this week (from Eph 1:2) and what the word peace actually means (look it up in the Greek if you get a minute) (it's Strongs #1515). What does it mean in John 14 when Jesus said that He came to bring peace (1515) to the world? If He's not a liar, then He did it, so what does it look like? How should it be manifested in your life and mine? And what would happen if we began to walk, truly walk, in the Peace (the "erine," spelled phonetically here) of the Lord?
I love you guys--
Thursday, February 16, 2006
Leading the 'Metrospiritual' Life
By Denise MannWebMD Feature
Reviewed By Brunilda Nazario, MD
Are you a Whole Foods groupie?
A Jamba Juice junkie?
Are you hooked on Starbucks' chai tea or the green tea frappachino?
Is your next vacation to the tony Ashram in the Santa Monica Mountains?
Does your dog practice doga (a.k.a. dog yoga)?
If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you may be a metrospiritual. But don't panic, it's not necessarily a bad thing. And you'll have company with other Americans who are embracing spirituality and seeking inner peace and harmony through yoga, organic foods, supplements, and other products and services rooted in ancient traditions such as Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism -- and any other "ism" that stems from the Far East.
In a nutshell, metrospirituality is about being hip and holistic. It's about seeking inner peace and looking great while you do it. From Jamba Juice, Starbucks and Whole Fields to Origins and Aveda, this nouveau form of spirituality comes in easily digestible and buyable forms.
But buyer beware, says Robert Schneider, MD, director of the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention at Maharishi University of Management in Vedic City, Iowa. Vedic City is an entire city built on principles of the ancient Vedic religion.
"Metrospirituality is all that glitters, but it doesn't glow," he says. "The media and advertising world are jumping into the spiritual world because they see the possibility of profit, but I would advise the consumer to discern all that glitters isn't going to give them the inner glow they seek," says Schneider.
Straying From Tradition?
Many of these new approaches to yoga, aromatherapy, meditation, and other spiritual practices are a long way from the ancient, authentic versions. "That's bad because people are messing around with something that has been time tested and that interferes with effectiveness," he tells WebMD. "People who mess with herbs and take out certain ingredients and put in others mess with ancient recipes and package them in a way that is more nouveau, and that is suspect."
For example, "we don't know what everyone is offering under the name yoga," he says. "They could be ripping off the name, so make sure to look into the lineage of the teacher," he advises.
That's not to say the trend doesn't have some positive aspects, he says. "Organic whole foods are great, and I am glad to see that they are more popular," he tells WebMD."
It's like the dot-com boom," he says. In the 1990s, "everything with dot-com was glittering and now that has filtered out to those with real quality, and I think the spirituality business may be going though the same cycle now," he says.
Spirituality is not for sale and people who think it is are a long way from achieving inner bliss, says Mitchell Gaynor, MD, an oncologist and clinical assistant professor of medicine at Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York City."
Spirituality is all about giving," says Gaynor, the author of Nurture Nature, Nurture Health: Your Health and the Environment."The spirituality that is rooted in giving will bring peace and joy, but everything else will bring transient happiness," he says. " Happiness is getting something you want like a vacation, but it's very, very temporary; joy is about giving from your heart," he says.
Seeking Lasting Joy
For Gaynor, spirituality came when he saw a young girl from India receive surgery for a deformed ear lobe. "In India, an ear deformity means girls can't get married," he says."
For me when I see someone like this young girl given a chance, I feel joy."
Spending money on herbal concoctions and yoga classes is OK "if you are realistic and realize that anything that you are getting won't bring lasting joy or peace," he says. "The only thing that will do that is to learn what a precious gift this life is."
"All the aromatherapy, yoga classes, and massage are a transient escape from feeling of burden," Gaynor says.
The Giving Tree
"A tree gives fruit to thousands of people, birds, and animals, while an earthworm aerates the soil and supports all the crops grown in the world," he explains. "Insects are involved with the cross- pollination responsible for plants, and birds move fish eggs affecting thousands or millions. But humans have the greatest potential and are only concerned with their spouse and children," he says.
"Our attitude is typically to hold on to everything because our kids may not have enough or to save for retirement," he says. "We never feel we have enough so we don't give back and are constantly tense and worried," he says.
But "when you are able to surrender and have a real sense of trust and in the fact that things will always be provided be to, you will be more in a giving, sharing, and compassionate state of mind," he says.
Spirituality for Sale
"Most people would pay a lot of money for inner peace," says Nancy Lonsdorf, MD, natural medicine specialist in Vedic City, Iowa. "Products and services that promise spirituality are just taking advantage of the desire Americans seem to have for developing their spirituality."
That said, "there is an authentic and a good movement to find inner peace and re-evaluate the meaning of life and prioritize," she says.
In general, "more balance is coming into lives, and we are craving it because we have gotten exhausted and stressed out and are eating bad foods because [they are] convenient, so in a sense [metrospirituality] is what our society needs."
"I like to see chai tea on menus if not for peace of mind or enlightenment then just to confirm that spirituality is becoming more accepted and valued in today's society," she tells WebMD.
Published Jan. 23, 2006.
SOURCES: Robert Schneider, MD, director, Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention, Maharishi University of Management, Vedic City, Iowa. Mitchell Gaynor, MD, oncologist; clinical assistant professor of medicine, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York City. Nancy Lonsdorf, MD, natural medicine specialist, Vedic City, Iowa
Sunday, February 12, 2006
Well, what a cool night we had last night-- Amy made phenomenal brunswick stew and we all discovered that the Kirbow's living room is PERFECT for a movie/conversation night. Plus, there was banana pudding.
So, I've been thinking about the movie and the things we talked about afterward, and I think it got us to talking about some interesting, important things. I am very interested in the scientific discussion of quantum physics (Stephen Hawking and CS Lewis address, with different vocabulary and world views, the possibilities and ramifications of other dimensions, just to name two of many), and I think that to me, this was where some of the most valuable topics seemed to attach themselves. What about the possible (probable, I say) existence of other dimensions which do not register to the naked eye, all around us? What about the possibility of many things happening in many dimensions around us at the same time???
This is a conversation we could have kept up last night, but it was late (way after midnight) when people had to drive back to Decatur and babies had to go to bed and we were sleepy but all still wanting to talk, so I'm proposing a Part Deux-- what do you think it should look like?
I wanted to add that I did a little research on the movie today and most of the contributors (chiropractors and all) were members of the Ramtha School of Enlightenment with JZ Knight. Finding that info shed some light on why I was feeling there was something manipulative going on, but i couldn't put my finger on it (the fact that they are all members of the same "faith"). Basically, I'm with Ashley on some major points, and one of them is this: I'll take the science if you'll make it smart and worth researching, and let's pull that apart for further study. But as for the stuff that began to feel religious...hm. So, some questions I'm interested in hearing your thoughts on, and maybe we can kick around over coffee: Do you feel like there was any sort of New Age proselytizing for this Ramtha "prophet" (the source of the "observer" idea)? Or do you think it matters? If not, why not-- if so, why? What makes it relevant to us as believers? Is it relevant? Or, if it's not relevant, is it still important? Do you think this is a reflection of the current religious/spiritual world-view (western)? Will knowledge of this world view help to inform our discussions with those who are seeking answers to live and living and all that? Do you think this is current with seekers today?
I'll post a couple of the sites for you guys to check out, one of which is the official movie website. I look forward to hearing back.
love love love!
Saturday, February 4, 2006
I'm sure you guys have heard about it: mega church in Dekalb (off Wesley Chapel), been around a long time-- those of us in our 30's might remember the Alpha stickers that high schoolers plastered everywhere...for me, as a little kid, I was so fortunate to have, as the people I wanted to be like, kids who were in high school and totally sold out to the Lord. MAN, I wanted to be like Candace, who was a homecoming queen at Heritage and played softball and had a cool room in the basement of her house, and she drove me to covenant community meetings (our cell groups) and took me to lock-ins and really showed me that THAT was the kind of high schooler I wanted to be. Their big plans were getting as many people crammed into cars on the weekend to go to Alpha, where the music was great, the leader was charismatic, there were skits and tons of other teenagers.... I only went a few times without my folks, who were young believers, too-- I was in elementary school-- but the impression it made on me...cool people were Christians. It was cool to be crazy about Jesus. Today, the opposite seems to battle for the affections of our youth-- you guys have been up against it, the kids in the youth group, the colleges we go to...
But last night, I looked around at the first of what could be some really fun times to make a habit out of. House church. My heart keeps coming back to it-- don't get me wrong: I love our church. It's important that these relationships are strong and the accountability and agelessness of regular churches stay fresh (or get fresh, depending on where you're "at"), but house church...little kids singing, modeling worship-- Cameron feeling the freedom to dance with her little horse in the middle of the room while Matt and Justin taught us some really great songs...Then Keith Keller breaking out the FLUGLE (WHY did I not get a picture of that????)....community. That's what my young heart loved about going to Chapel Hill. Our family found it other places later, and God is good, but my heart is heavy today over the fact that sin such as that could run so rampant, so freely, among leaders who professed to understand the fear of the Lord.
If you don't know what I'm talking about, it's basically this: the main pastor and his brother (and likely other members of the staff) had ongoing sexual relationships with other younger members in leadership (notably, the girls were often in performance ministry, or some other subservient position administratively...hm...we could break that down, couldn't we?) and manipulated them by telling them that they were serving the Lord. I don't feel like going much further into it-- you can look it up in AJC from this past week if you want, but know that it's not as simplistic as I just made it sound. Because that part's not my point.
If we as believers are not actively pursuing Christ for ourselves and critically analyzing the scriptures and seeking Him for Himself, we cannot hold each other accountable to the extent that we must. Back in the Dark Ages, people were manipulated by church leaders because they could not read the text for themselves--- if the vicar says it's this way, then it must be. Such power. Today, we have the ability, the right and the responsibility to read it for ourselves. You cannot support sex outside of marriage, you cannot support adultery, you cannot support any kind of manipulation with scripture. But combine a charismatic, attractive leader who is not in right relationship with the Lord (and how can you know for sure without discernment?) with a believer with little knowledge of the word looking for a mentor and you have a recipe for trouble. Any day of the week.
So we will study TO SHOW OURSELVES APPROVED. These kinds of things are contributing not only to the excuses of nonbelievers to steer clear of the church, but chasing current believers away. That is not the tragedy-- the tragedy is the fact that there are millions who do not know that Jesus is GOOD and pure and holy and that these things have no place in Him.
Our faith will be shaken by personal difficulties (a sickness, a particularly ugly break-up, problems within significant relationships, a leader who sins, etc.), but we will not be overcome if we are grounded in His very word. Because it should be IN HIM that we live and move and have our being. He will never fail or be exposed as a con. Even if every man on earth should be false, He will always be proven true. So bring your swords tomorrow, prepared to dive head first into Ephesians. I've been studying and am excited!!
PS--- chili cook off (Don is a major contender, but the Elliotts are strong competetors) and wings cook off tomorrow afternoon. Joey and the boys have dragged the couches down to the fellowship hall for the last couple of years, so that might be happening again. It's going to be FUN!!! Hope to see you guys there--Love,Sam
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
I can remember dancing in the den at my house as a little girl, listening to those albums over and over again-- in the early 70's, there was this amazing thing happening in Christian music and all these ex-hippies were getting radically saved and putting out albums with hard hitting lyrics, and doing the rounds at churches in fellowship halls and house church meetings. It was a rich culture for new believers because it seemed like everyone was new and starving for the MORE of Jesus. Instead of regular pot lucks and vacation bible school (which are awesome, too), I grew up around crazy, just-off-drugs new Christians who didn't know it wasn't cool to cuss in church. I love that my parents found the Lord during that time, my most formative years. I grew up believing what my faith culture taught me: we should live our lives always looking for new stuff about the Lord and His Kingdom, and you should feel stuff in worship. I have so many memories of being bored out of my mind waiting around while my parents sat and drank coffee and talked about Jesus with their friends after church. What a rich heritage. Many of your parents discovered the Lord during that season, too, though many of you weren't alive yet :)
So here are the lyrics (which you will recognize from the Bible) that struck to my heart:
And they shall answer Him, yes, they shall answer Him,
And they'll say, Lord, when?
When were you hungry Lord, and we gave you something to eat?
Lord, when were you thirsty? I can't remember. And we gave you drink?
Huh, when were you naked Lord, and we clothed you?
And Lord, when were you a stranger and we invited you in?
I mean, we invited lots of people in Lord. I could never forget that face.
And Lord, when were you sick and we visited you?
Or in prison, and we came to you? Lord, tell us?
In as much as you did it to the least of my brethren, you've done it unto me.
And here is how I was convicted--- I want to love Jesus. I want Him to know that I love Him. I want Him to FEEL love coming from my life toward Him. And it happens not just in word, but in deed. This past Sunday, we talked about unbelief and we decided that we would, instead of reading a book as a class, take a book of the bible and begin line-by-line study of the Bible itself instead of discussing whether or not it's true or trustworthy or anything like that.
As we do it, we will discover new and amazing ways to "do it to the least of [His] brethren." Not simply because we feel for folks like our Robert (who I've been missing so much), but because we want to love Jesus, and He tells us that THIS IS HOW WE DO IT. It's not about earning His love--- we HAVE that--- this is radical----> it's about SHOWING HIM OUR LOVE FOR HIM. And you and I both know that as we show another how we love them, our love for them seems to grow...
I'm going to post some links here, too. This was a long entry, but it's so heavy on my heart. I'll let you know later what I did about it (I was convicted to do something specific), but for now, I believe that it is a screaming tragedy that you guys don't know who Keith Green was, and you don't have access to the other guys who ministered with him. One interesting tidbit: He didn't charge for his albums. I remember that there were times my dad would order one of Green's albums and he would put extra money in there for someone else who couldn't afford one. His order forms simply said, for the cost, "Whatever you can give."
This is how I want to live my life. Totally "banannas for Jesus."
Sigh. I love you guys. Let's be crazy.
Monday, January 2, 2006
I'm writing because this morning I realized that it's bad to live in constant fear (picture: light. angels singing. I am now crowned with wisdom). Fear of all kinds of things. So if this is the time to make resolutions, mine shall be Fear Not. Good thing here-- this is the salutation that heralds the appearance of the angel of the Lord, and He is just the One I am needing right now. What things are we afraid of? For me, it's failure in any form (no pressure, O Perfect One, aka Deluded One). And if it's not failure, it's cancer, usually.
So what is it about fear? The enemy would steal our joy, friends. We were created for one thing: to know God and to be enjoyed by Him forever (I ripped this off from some Presbyterian catechism-- Westminster maybe?-- Kevin, do you recognize it?) This is one of the most beautiful things I have ever heard. So why fear? If we were created to know the most perfect, loving, merciful, creative, beautiful One in the universe, and if He loves us with a love that knows no limits or boundaries, what should we fear? If He has conquered death, so we need never fear hell or dying, what should we fear? If He has promised that He will never leave us or forsake us, and that He will be our One Great Love and Magnificent Obsession, what should we fear? My God invented coffee. What is there to fear?
And yet we do. So today I told Him, I am afraid of not graduating on time. I am afraid that I will never completely walk in the vision I feel He set in my heart. I am afraid of disappointing everyone I know in countless ways. Of failing Don, my parents, friends.... and it's all about who's in control.
But here's a tidy message: "We are like windows, stained with the colors of the rainbow, set in a darkened room til the Bridegroom comes to shine through" (rough wording, Keith Green).
----> so here's an interesting thing: I lost the last half of what I had written here. and I can't remember what awe inspiring, illuminating thing I said (it is, as I mentioned, late) to conclude. So how's this: my hope, my goal, is to allow the light of the Lord to shine through me (how trite, it may sound, but what if the Church actually did it?) and light me up. I say YES to Him, and He shines through me, and I trust Him to take care of the rest-- help me to be a great student, help me to walk in the ministry He's called me to, help me to trust Him for the things I am still waiting for--- and the same for all of us. Regardless of age, our little family here have a lot of things-- hopes, desires, stresses-- in common. So let's decide together to trust Him that He is:
abounding in grace
and on and on.
So my thing for this year? FEAR NOT.No more. Conquer fear where it seems to live-- in my mind, all day long, and battle it with the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of the Lord. Spend time with Him, bathing my fearful brain and heart with things that are true: Jesus Christ is God and there is none beside Him.
what about you guys?
**update: I made a B+ in that Spanish class...