Jun 28, 2009


i'm an english nerd. when i read through scripture i adore looking for repetitions, foreshadowings, and intriguing adjectives. i soak in the tantalizing examples of lives of faith expressed through spirit filled fearlessness, and the eloquently fashioned poetry of the entire book leaves me simultaneously satisfied and still thirsting for more. very often than i am allured into spiraling daydreams as to the purposes of each delicious, purposeful word articulated through the inspired writers of the book of truth. oh how i love to read this love letter known as the holy scriptures.

my palette was first teased, (as i shared in previous posts) by the gorgeous poetry found in the song of songs. i have never, in all my life, heard or read such romantic lyrics as those found in this 8 chapter poem. descriptions of beauty give full-bodied shape to the poem and my soul is intoxicated by stanzas like these:

"while the king was at his table,
my perfume spread its fragrance."

"do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires."

your lips drop sweetness as the honeycomb, my bride;
milk and honey are under your tongue."

"place me like a seal over your heart,
like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, 
its jealousy unyielding as the grave. 
it burns like blazing fire,
like a mighty flame.
many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away."

how can one not even be the least bit curious to read the scriptures when it is filled with words like this? perhaps it is because we are people that demand facts and statistics. but even this is an unimpressive reason. i believe it is something much deeper, i believe that we cease to indulge in scriptures because we are absolutely terrified of a little bit of mystery and because in scripture, there is no room for reasoning. 

over the last year or so of reading stories found throughout all 66 books of the bible i have been repeatedly paused over one tiny three lettered word. "b-u-t". though i will never count all of the times this pin needled utterance is used, i wonder if it isn't one of the most commonly written expressions; i bet it is. the technicality of these three letters are seemingly insignificant. however, when you dress them in the infinite purpose of scripture their significance is exponentially magnified. but demands grace. but leads to salvation. but exemplifies hope. but is the life-vest of sanctification, the lowered basket of healing, the very breath of life. but is the exception, the multi-faceted jewel of an enchantingly redeemed world.

webster defines this reading speed-bump with other expressions like these:  "exception, save, only, just". and in moments of depravity, the word offers life, hope, and sovereignty. in similar fashion to the ways in which my soul is ravished by the poetry of the song of songs, so too i am undone by the monstrosity of the ways scripture utilizes this word. if i were to highlight all of the moments when "but" magnifies the dazzling hope that is christ in the midst of darkness, it would take a lifetime to complete. so i will feed the minds of each reader of this blog by pointing out a few of the bountiful examples that this word is used. may it, by the grace of christ and the movement of the holy spirit, cause you to crave, seek, and passionately pursue a life of knowing god more fully.

"after many days had gone by, the jews conspired to kill him (saul)
BUT saul learned of their plan."

"BUT, god was with him and rescued him from all his troubles."

"therefore do not be foolish, BUT understand what the lord's will is."

"for i hear the slander of many; there is terror on every side... BUT
i trust in you, o lord."

"BUT god demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we
were still sinners, christ died for us."

"BUT, where sin increased, grace increased all the more."

Jun 21, 2009

from california to minnesota - jack kerouac style.

on monday morning diana and i shared one last walk on the beach and savored a final "naked cafe" breakfast indulgence. my heart was as heavy as august's humidity. we strolled along the beach talking about life and the such, avoiding the overbearing elephant named 'goodbye'. it was our morning together and we embraced every fleeting minute of it. over breakfast tears as bountiful as the grains of sand and as salty as the pacific streamed down our cheeks. words became difficult to form as we muttered and choked our way through the presence of our elephant friend. but we did it. we hugged one last time, cried a little more, and finally parted ways.

i've had to do a lot of that lately; parting ways i mean. just when i thought that my heart couldn't bear another goodbye, a friend, co-worker, or student would approach and i would have to start the painful process all over again. without question, this is the single most difficult thing i have ever chosen to do. but that part of this new life direction is already over. now we are a skinny 6 hours from the place where i grew up. 6 hours from commencing yet another adventure in life. 6 hours from dancing the tango with the unknown and the familiar.

the drive from california to minnesota has been a collage of emotion. i took the first leg. i wanted to take one last drive on the 5 and one more glide along the 15. every ounce of my energy was focused on holding back the tears. i could feel them so deeply, forming in the pit of my stomach and oozing towards their great escape through the bloodshot threshold of my eyes. the trip has been quiet mostly. i have desperately needed this time to process through everything. my soul hungered for communion with god and so for nearly 2,000 miles he and i have done the silent talking. papa is generally a quiet man as well, so he's taken the driver's seat after vegas. in turn, i have been able to chew the cud of reflection. the drive has also been stunningly breath-taking. the magnificent canyons of utah provide a vibrant and humbling understanding to man's finiteness. i felt simultaneously safe and vulnerable as we drove along the umbrellaed red rocks - our lives lay resting in the merciful grip of the canyons falling rocks. 

papa has had first class tickets into all of my peculiarities. i like to get up with the sun and go running. i putz my way through my morning routine, taking my sweet time; and papa would cover his impatience with a comfortable blanket of tolerance. morning coffee is an absolute must, and not just any coffee will do. so he would take extra roads just so i could have my gas station coffee; it's the best you know... and they have those tiny toxic coffee-mate creamers that i crave. along with coffee addictions is my retentive need to maintain hydration. i like water, a lot. so i'd have to stock up with a gallon of water every morning. and moreover, my ability to hold liquids stands at a strong 22 minutes. again, papa would masquerade in the bedazzlement of grace. but this is a 2-way trip. for all of my strange quirks, he also has his own. he misses turns and then makes excuses so that it seems as though he knew what he was doing all along. his hearing is failing so i'm always having to repeat myself. and i've learned 2 things about pops; 1.) he's always right. and 2.) even when he's not right, he's still right. i chuckle at these things. i don't mind them so much, he's still my papa and my hero.

once we waved goodbye to utah we entered colorado. god's glory radiates through the elevation of this beautiful state. we drove up and over the mountains. higher and higher we would climb and colder and colder the temperature would drop. lush greens would transform into mounds of white as we approached the summit. the roads were as narrow as a fitted corset and as curvy as a hairpin. the pain of holding my breath out of fear was more than worth it when we finally reached the over-look at the peak. i stood in the mystery of god's creating and laid my crown of awe at his feet. my heart is slowly beginning to trust more confidently the further east we go. the love that is god casts away the fears that taint my vision.

on a different note, everything else changes with the midwest. the scenery is horrifically boring. flat. green. corn. the people begin to take on heftier shapes and the hats take on the face of buckets. instead of the organic goodness of california cafes, all that stands are beefy portions of lard and potatoes. so too, the aromas morph into nose-wrinkling smells. the sweetness of star jasmine is replaced by rotten alfalfa. cow manure and newly tilled soil robs the spotlight from salty banana sweetness of the pacific and sunscreen. ah, life in the midwest; you just have to love it.

flying down the 80 i spend some time with barnabas and paul. my mind is overwhelmed by their faith and boldness as they themselves venture out into the great unknown. they go forth only in the power of the holy spirit. i slow my reading and take in the undressing revelations that comes from lectio divina. with this, i am comforted. the spirit speaks to me and once again i am left in the glory of awe. 5 and a half hours now is all that remains of this journey. it is my epic voyage of maturity and transformation and only now am i ready to love and warrior my way into the place god is leading me.

Jun 18, 2009

money shot...

as my dad and i make our way east we have made a few stops to soak in the sights. it's experiences like these that i am forever grateful i chose to study photography. there is nothing more relaxing - intoxicating really, than photographing sites that still me. one of our purposed 'en route hiccups was garden of the gods. there was one specific shot i attempted to capture for at least half an hour, maybe more. it was challenging because the frame held a multitude of different exposures and i could not figure out how to balance them all. 

this is the most challenging part for me as a photographer, but i'm determined to learn how to better operate my well loved nikon. here is my personal 'money' shot of the garden of the gods i finally received. 

Jun 16, 2009

a few enlightenments along the way

Yesterday at 12:30 pm I began my heavyhearted journey back to Minnesota. There are emotions and fears and hopes entangling themselves as tightly as the strands of my hair after being tied back in a knotted ponytail for a couple days without a brush to straighten the mess out. My dad flew to San Diego so that he can keep me company and show me sights that he delights to share. It has been a lousy 29 hours since I left California and the web of emotions has yet to unravel itself.

It has been significantly valuable to have this week of transitioning between California and Minnesota dedicated to stopping in National Parks, the Mountains, and checking out miscellaneous Museums. It provides highly craved time to process and winnow through the things in my soul that are of truth, and the things that are of darkness.

From the moment these fears surfaced themselves, I have sought the comfort and wisdom of my friends and my (now former) roommate Diana; all the while praying for wisdom and revelation so that I may understand the root of these fears. What I am beginning to realize through the power of the Spirit moving within me, is that what is really going on in the midst of the havoc of my internal wrestlings is a battle between truth and deception. Why shouldn't’t I have expected such a bloody warfare to take place? I am a slow learner I guess. It is clear as crystal that this is where God is leading me – I have been seeking His face and asking that He may reveal to me how and where His spirit is moving. And from that prayer I ask to be partnered with Him there. God is moving in mysteriously colossal ways.

God is honoring these aforementioned prayers and I am eager to follow after Him, to open my life up so that I may be the unhindered willing partner he desires. Is there anything of a greater threat to the powers of darkness than a follower of Christ who is fierce about obeying the movement of the Spirit? Of course not! There are monstrous fears looming around the throne room of my heart, gnashing their teeth with deceitful desires to break in and ruin hope, obedience, joy, Love; all of the things that are of Christ. What do I have to fear in this monumental life directional shift? It is of the LORD. Perfect love casts out all fears. There is nowhere else that I would rather be than in the center of God’s will – and I believe I am standing tall, front and center.

Jun 9, 2009

disclosed fears

in 5 very short days i will somehow attempt to squeeze myself, and my papa into my tightly packed mazda and begin the long journey to minnesota. i've spent the last 2 years of my life living, growing, maturing, and embracing the lifestyle of the west coast and there wasn't single passing day that i didn't love every moment of it. as i prepare to take off, my mind races through a myriad of reflections and my soul is overwhelmed with emotions that i can't even begin to understand, much less articulate. how did time pass by so quickly? 

today i met the new senior high intern. she is radiant. her spirit is tender and her heart for youth fills my own with confidence and sweet anticipation to pass on to her this ministry, these incredible students that i have grown to love so dearly. her name is rachel and she is going to do great things within our high school community.

yesterday i began the packing process. i actually thought that i didn't have that much stuff to pack up. that was until i opened up closet number 1, then i realized i'm in way over my head and maizey (that's the name i chose for my beloved protege) will never have enough space to haul all of my belongings. as i started the process of organizing my vagabond way of life, ever so slowly hidden emotions began to reveal themselves that i didn't even know existed.

the truth of this entire transition is that i am terrified. sure i am confident that this is very truly what god is calling me to. of that i am absolutely certain. i know that the pursuit of english/theology and eventually spiritual formation is the fire that sets light to my path - but with this new voyage also comes the great abyss of the unknown. questions and fears swirl about my mind and i am awkwardly tumbling over each of them. where am i going to live? will i find a church community to belong to? do i have what i takes to study theology? how can i leave the friends that i love so deeply? these challenges are like those sort of dreams where you are trying desperately to run away from something but you are so confined by fear that your legs refuse to carry you. 

not only am i afraid of the unknowns, but i am also petrified to go back to something that "once was". there is a part of me that believes this colossal shift in life direction would be far easier if i were moving to someplace brand new. it's comfortable for me to enter into a place that i know nothing about and adapt a fresh life. instead i am heading back to the place where i grew up. how does one go back "home", when they left it a completely different person than they are returning? how will i live in confidence as the woman god has so graciously transformed me to be? will i be able to speak up for myself to my family? as dearly as my love is for them, there is a co-existing identity constraint that chokes out my true self when i am in their presence. and the friends that i left 2 years ago have stayed. their lives didn't stop when i wandered 1800 miles west, is it possible to re-enter the facade of "the way things used to be"? then again, not one part of me wants for things to complacently hold fast to "the way they used to be". 

i suppose the overarching internal wrestling is; will i be able to stand as the woman i am today and cease the temptation to revert back into the woman i was 2 years ago? can i confidently proclaim who i am as a woman of god and with complete abandonedment continue in the direction god is leading me? in the core of my soul i do believe that i can, and i believe that this too is a part of the adventure god is laid before me. 

Jun 3, 2009

marathon reflections.

i have been processing through the marathon i ran on sunday and longing to articulate it in a justifying manner to those that ask. the reality however, is that the experience was (and is) so much bigger than words can even begin to describe. how do i communicate the tangible ways in which i received the graces of god - and received in an immeasurable capacity for an entire 26.2 miles? i suppose i will start at the beginning...

18 weeks ago my friend courtney and i began training for the san diego rock and roll marathon. we signed up to run this race out of a desire and intentionality to spend more time together, especially since we are both moving away in less than 2 weeks to completely different cities. the first handful of weeks our hearts and minds were void of any selfish ambitions. the motivations that caused us to wake up with the rising sun and pound out anywhere from 12 to 20 miles were pure and beautiful. the time we had together during our runs was priceless and the conversations we entered into are the sort that bring about transformation. as the weeks progressed, my intentions began to take on a tainted hue. and from here on out, i am only able to speak for myself.

running has been a passion of mine since i was a child. just a few weeks ago my grandma reminded me of how i used to run around the house over and over again simply for the fun of it. 'round and 'round i'd go until my legs couldn't carry me anymore, and i'd rest for a while and start all over again. i've been running for as long as i can remember. now as an adult i continue to embrace this passion and it has grown into a form of rest and meditation. but when i am not careful it can twist and manifest itself into something hideously prideful. the latter half of our training became an idol. there was something very sick inside me that received a toxic satisfaction in telling people that i was running a marathon. it's rather comical now when i think about that. running became my identity. the sad part is, this ill-placed identity has existed on more than one occasion. it's a temptation for me to draw a sense of value from the fact that i run.
when the initial motivation dimmed and my selfish pride stepped up, my body began to endure some debilitating injuries. it started with an excruciating case of shin splints (but i've had those for over 10 years now), which led to achilles tendonitis, which carried into a very painful case of runner's knee. and through each of these injuries my frustrations grew exponentially. i would direct my anger towards god and spew ignorant and arrogant questions. i would argue with him over how he could give me a desire to run, and then take it away with injuries.

2 weeks before race day courtney had to pull out because of a horrendous IT band injury. so there i was, all alone and still crippled by poorly operating knees. i questioned whether or not i should even run the race at all, so i did the only thing i know to do. i prayed. in lieu of the brokenness of the world, praying over whether or not i should run a marathon sounds ghastly trivial, but to me it was real and i believed it mattered to god. what began taking place was a stripping of my false identity. in my weaknesses god entered in. because i couldn't run, he began to teach me who i am and more importantly, he revealed who he is. days before the race god had softened my heart in such a way that the race didn't even really matter. running it i knew, would not offer any more value to who i am as a woman of god nor did it make me more beautiful to others. through it all what i discovered is the initial motivation for running the marathon. i wanted to run for the sheer enjoyment of it.

through prayer an idea was formed. this race was going to be a dedication to prayer. i was filled with a longing to pray for different individuals at each mile and it was an all consuming joy to think of the possibility of spending 26.2 miles interceding for others. i wanted to run so that i could combine my desire for a life of prayer with my desire for running. and what happened was something much bigger than myself.

at 6:20 sunday morning the race announcer called all runners to their assigned corral. when courtney and i registered for the race we signed up with the anticipation of finishing with a rather over confident time. i knew that with all of my recent injuries there was no way i could complete the race in the time we were aiming for. i climbed down the ladder of pace time and found a comfortable spot somewhere in the middle. as i stood there waiting for the gun to go off i began praying. with psalm 27:4 as the theme verse for the race i said to god, "lord i am here to pray. it is only by your grace that i can run. i would like to pray for all 26 people. but this is your race."

and for one powerful moment i stepped outside of myself and reflected on the significance of where i stood. i never thought i'd be running a marathon in san diego. i never thought i'd be living in san diego. i couldn't believe that i only had 2 weeks left in san diego. and then i thought of how courtney is not running the race with me. all of these thoughts sent a surge of overwhelming emotion that released itself through the pockets of my eyes and streamed down my cheeks. before i could collect myself the gun went off and 15,00+ runners went barreling through the streets of san diego.

the prayers began and every ounce of my attention was focused on things above. it is nearly impossible to formulate into words the joy that i had - it was far greater and bigger than myself that it can only be attributed to god's good graces. i felt as though i was literally gliding over each mile and as the mile markers passed my line of vision, i would glance at my prayer wristband and pray for the person(s) dedicated to that mile to. there were specific prayers i spoke over people, there were miles where i didn't have enough energy to think about the diffinitives and so i asked god to pray for them, and there were certain miles where god spoke through my great feebleness; like mile 24. i was fully exhausted and there was a very large and true part of me that wanted to quit all together. yes, 2 lousy miles away from finishing the race and it sounded deliciously alluring to quit. i was in desperate need of the perseverance that comes only from the strength of christ. and it was this personal need of mine that god entered in and reveled to me that perseverance is what i ought to be praying for on behalf of the friend to whom i dedicated mile 24.

i remember thinking to myself during the entirety of the race, "i can't already be at mile 6... there is no way i'm at mile 10... how did i make it to the half way point so quickly... only 3 miles left, no way...". there was so much joy, that is truly all i can say - joy, joy, joy! my closest friends were at miles 12, 18, and the finish line. it was their love and support that exploded the motivation needed to complete all 26.2 miles.

in all honesty i did not think i would finish. there were far too many injuries that caused such set backs during my training that i anticipated the completion of 9, maybe 10 miles. but god wanted to show me something huge. god wanted to show me that is it only by his provision that i can run. god wanted to humble me. and god blessed 26.2 miles in order that i may pray for 26 beautiful people.