Tuesday, May 27

A Piece of Gum

Maybe the absence of something proves its existence.
Maybe the hunger and the thirst proves the promise of a satisfaction.
Maybe lack proves that there is a fulfillment.

I am seeing hunger in a whole new way. There must be a fulfillment. There must be an existence of that thing which I desire. There must be some sort of life giving satisfaction to quench the hunger and the thirst.

I think we are hungry sometimes and we don't even pay attention. It comes through in our thoughts and in our actions. It comes to us in the midst of a song, in the midst of a movie when the character shows us who we are, in the midst of watching a child be exactly who they were meant to be. And then when that hunger points its finger upon the very reason for its existence...that's when we begin to pay attention. But do we silence the hunger? Or do we cling to it? Do we give the hunger a name? Do we simply exist and let it become our crutch? Do we run to fill that hunger as best we can? Do we let others come and fill the hunger? What do we do when we are hungry?

I have come to the place where I don't know how to fill the void any longer. And it's hard...because I thought I had the ingredients. I thought I knew my way around the kitchen. I thought I knew the way to the store. And maybe I don't. Maybe I don't know anything at all. It's about time I go home for some good home cookin'. It's about time I let Him set a table before me.

All this to say, it is 1:30 am....and I just wanted to remind myself...that even though I am going to bed hungry tonight...I am going to bed knowing that one day...maybe even tomorrow, that hunger could be filled. I do not serve a God that is far away. I serve a God who loves me...who has good plans for my life. I serve a God who knows the desires of my heart even before I ask.

I drove to church yesterday thinking how much I would like a piece of gum. I thought to myself, "I'll ask Nan or Kevin when I get there." (They always have gum.) Well neither one was there. I walked in about 15 minutes late and slipped into a chair towards the back. Across the aisle to my left was one of the kids from youth group. I have probably only said hello to him once or twice...and literally hello has been the extent of our conversation. I looked at him across the aisle, smiled, and watched him as he reached into his pocket and mouthed the words, "Do you want a piece?" as he held up a pack of gum. The whole church was in mid-worship...and here was God...listening to my thoughts about a piece of gum.

And so, if He listens to my thoughts about fresh breath...how much more will He listen about the cries of my heart? I have to believe that tonight.

Tuesday, May 20

True Friends

There's nothing like a real and true friend. And if you have one, you understand the significance of this statement. There's a country song that sings,

"You find out who your friends are
Somebody's gonna drop everything
Run out and crank up their car
Hit the gas, get there fast
Never stop to think 'what's in it for me?' or 'it's way too far'
They just show on up with their big old heart
You find out who your friends are"

I kind of thought it was cheesy...until it reminded me of some people I knew...until I realized who my friends were.

I have friends who faithfully come to every show I play...even when I play the same songs over and over. I have friends who bring me food and company when I am sick. I have friends who pay for my meals...just because. I have friends who would take a week off of work to move me across the country. I have friends who pray for me. I have friends who run after me when I'm lost in the middle of the city. Friends who text the most encouraging messages right out of the blue. Friends who forgive me and love me despite my shortcomings. Friends who stay friends no matter how many years or seasons come between us.

I have friends. And I'd just like to say thank you. There are people who say one thing and do another, but then there are those who don't even have to say a word...they're just there. You all are God's gift to my life...His way of showing just how much He cares. I don't even know where to start when it comes to paying back the kindness and acceptance. And truly, I don't think I can. Y'all put me in my place...you make me want to reach out and do just the same.

Monday, May 19

It's Time

We live in a society that lends itself to isolation. Ironically, it is also the age of effortless communication. Ipods, computers, internet, video games, movies, television, cell phones...you name it. Walk through an airport and try to find someone who is not occupied with some kind of communicative device. However, walk into the home of any American citizen and see how much authentic, real-time communication is actually taking place. Slowly, and yet not so slowly, we are trading face to face relationship for bits and pieces of the real thing. And it is not fulfilling.

I look around and I see tired people...working, working, working...and for what? To come home and not enjoy what life was really meant to be. I know many nights I come home late from work, pop in a healthy choice meal, sit in front of the computer checking emails and blogs and that is only interaction I will have with anyone at all. Once in awhile, I enjoy such an evening...okay at least once a week I enjoy such an evening...but night after night, it begins to wear on me. And I know it wears on others. Where is the life we were meant to live????

Were we meant to earn a paycheck and then let the rest of life pass us by? What is the point of that paycheck? What is the point of work? Are we not also meant to make a mark on this world? Are we not also meant to find friendship and love and purpose?

There are two sides to every story...yes, there are successful people my age, running after their dreams soaking up life for all it is worth. But what about those who are lost in the cycle of practicality? I have grown up leaning on the practical answers....I need to live well, therefore, I need an education, I need a stable job, I need a house, 2.5 children, 1.2 pets, etc., etc. So we build our lives based on expectation. We are expected to perform and therefore we do. Forget the dreams way deep down in our hearts. Forget the passion that rises when we see the things in front of us that we most long for. Forget relationships in the face of paperwork and deadlines. And the more we push aside what matters deep down in the heart of us, the more we forget what was important in the first place. The matters of our hearts become buried deep. And we begin to survive on the surface...just get by, just get to the next place, just make it through the day, just reach for that small moment of relief of rest. And before we know it...we are sleeping through the best days of our lives.

We make empty promises at best and then fail time and time again to get to "that place" we long to be. What are we really working to obtain?

I took an online stress test today. It told me that I could have severe problems within the next 2 years if I didn't find a proper way to deal with the stress. Well, I don't believe that I will have problems. I do believe the stress levels will decrease. However, I know that I don't experience half of what others go through. Imagine, this generation, working, working, working....straining, striving, and for what? What are we working so hard for? What is it we really want? Where do we really want to be? Who do we really want to be with?

Can we start asking the real questions here? Who do we love? How we can we love them better? Let's start there. And because we love, how will we live? What changes do we long to see in the world? How can we help bring about those changes? These are the real questions.
These are the reasons that we are alive. It has nothing to do with the accumulation of money and possessions. It has nothing to do with saving face in lieu of society's expectations.

In 20 years will you look back and find that most of your memories are connected to digital equipment? Will you look back and see the lost opportunities for looking into another person's eyes and having a real conversation? Will you look back and find that you took the time for friends and family when it mattered most...and even when it mattered just a little? And what about time for strangers? They cross our paths for a reason...who knows what reason that may be?

It's time to wake up. It's time to come out of this cloud that hovers over our busy lives. It's time to see what we are really meant to be. It's time to change. It's time to do something different, something out of the ordinary. It's time to break the mold. It's time to take a walk in the middle of the day, breath in the fresh air, and ask, "what's next?" It's time to step out of the isolation, look into someone else's eyes, reach out for a hand to hold, run ahead of the things that would hold us behind...and press on towards that which calls us heavenward.

It's time.

Sunday, May 18

In His Hands

...how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings... ~matthew 23:36-38

I have become a mother to three little chicks this past week. To make a long story short...they should not have survived due to the temperatures they faced while still inside the egg. But my students seem to be connected to the power of prayer this year. They prayed these chickies through daily...and now there are 3.

They each have a personality of their own. They have become the highlight of our classroom experience for the past month.

I took them home this weekend. They did not like the car experience. I sat the brooder box in the passenger seat. They cried and chirped and slid all over. So I stuck my hand in the box to try and calm them down. Within minutes all three were pushing and prodding and wiggling their way into the palm of my hand to see who could get the closest. And when they finally had found a comfortable fit they stayed right there, cuddled in for the rest of the 20 minute car ride.

I took them to mom and dad's house today. They did the same thing. And as I road home tonight...one hand on the wheel, one hand holding three baby chicks...I imagined myself in the hand of God. Unable to hold on for myself...thrown about by the twists and turns of the road...unable to see the road or have understanding of where I am actually going...having only to trust and rest in the hand that reaches out to hold me close...to comfort me.

It made this verse seem so perfect tonight.

Saturday, May 17

All of a Sudden

This school year seemed so long. In fact, the last few years have seemed long. And all of a sudden, it is time to quietly pack up my things and begin again. It hit me today. I have three weeks left. Three weeks to make a difference in the lives of my students. Three weeks to spread life and hope to an inner city community.

I read them stories of Narnia. I talked to them about forgiveness. I hugged them. I told them I loved them. I prayed for them and alongside them. I gave out second chances. I held them accountable. I argued with them and pushed them. I waited for them...did my best not to leave them behind. I failed them. I supposed I inspired some. I disappointed them...made some angry. I grew up with them. I learned from them. I listened. I stood up for them. I gave them my time, my money, my resources. I got up early. I stayed late. I did all I thought I could do and then some. But was it enough?

Oh, God, has it been enough? Is it a work that will last? Is it a work that will continue for years down the road? I will carry them with me...their faces, their words, their laughter, their tears, their stories. I have not walked in their shoes. But I have tied up their laces. I have reminded them to keep the shoes on their feet. And from what I have seen, in so many ways, their young shoes are more worn than my own. I feel the weight of it tonight. I was called to walk with them for 3 years. And I don't want to leave them. I want to hug them and encourage them and push them to be better than they hoped to ever be. I want to see them step out of the despondency, hatred, and offense of their experiences. I want to see them embrace a life of wonder and learning...to take on problem solving as their own. I want to see them own the world...not become victims to it.

They have taught me how to fight...how to stand up again. They have taught me to push for something better. They have taught me that love is the most resilient of qualities. They have taught me how to sing a better song. They have taught me about beauty and joy and the power of prayer. They have taught me about saying I'm sorry. They have taught me how to give better...how to be more thankful. The list goes on and on.

Really and truly, God knew exactly where to put me in order to bring me to this place. I don't know if I will continue to teach. I don't really know. But I do know that I would not be who I am without having walked through the doors of this elementary school 3 years ago. With three weeks left to go....I am challenged to make the most of it.

Tuesday, May 13

What If?

Last year we had an outside organization come in to teach our class about embryology. They set us up with the whole project. In the midst of the first lesson the teacher told the children that he did not accept "what if" questions. He thought them a waste of time. In his eyes, too much time and energy was spent on imagination, rather than learning the bare bones and facts about chicks and how they hatch. And at the time I thought, "how clever", he found a way to take all the rabbit trails out of the lesson.

Well, about two weeks ago an author came to the school and broke this theory into a million little pieces. I asked her where she found her inspiration to write. I asked because so many of my own students get writer's block. I wanted them to hear how to come up with ideas. Right away, she shared that she plays the "what if" game. She put value on that statement...saying that it was the most powerful question we could ask. If we could ask "what if", anything was and is possible.

Well, there is a scripture that God is able to do exceedingly and abundantly above and beyond all that we could ask, think, imagine.

So, I have discarded the first lesson in "what if" and I have graduated to a new level. "What if" has become my new favorite question.

Which leads me to the next point...it's time to start asking the "what if" questions.

What if ....

What if there was a reason to smile again?

What if there was a reason to hope for more?

What if there really is more to the story?

What if God really loves you?

What if you could be healed of cancer?

What if AIDS was curable?

What if someone could be raised from the dead?

What if you could be free from your addiction?

What if you didn't have to face the torment in your mind any longer?

What if the organ you needed showed up in your body without an operation?

What if your debts were forgiven?

What if you could find peace?

What if your family came back together?

What if you found a purpose?

What if you found a reason for living?

What if your prayers were answered?

Even just in this past month, these things are happening. And the list is longer than just this. A boy was dead for 15 minutes after an accident, was prayed over and came back to life without any brain damage. Another person was dead in a morgue, was prayed over by their family, and came back to life. It's happening around the world. It's happening in our country. Cancer is disappearing. Addictions are leaving. Mental distress is lifting. Families are coming together. Hope is being restored. Hearts are turning to God.

We've had enough of religion. We've had enough of empty promises. We've had enough of being peddled for money. We've had enough of the haughty eyes of those who look down on the less fortunate souls who have not darkened the doorwarys of a church building. Enough.

But there is another church rising up. A hungry church, a desperate church. A church who is crying out for a God of power. A God who reaches out and touches His people. A God who answers prayer. A God who embraces. A God who paid the price so that His children did not have to.

What if you are hungry?

What if you are desparate?

What if what you have reached for was not quite satisfying enough?

What if there is more?

What if God touched your life?

What if you asked Him to?

And what if He does?

Something new is in the air. Something we may have only heard about in stories in other countries, times, and peoples. It's about to become real in our own lives. It's about to visit our homes and our families. He is coming. God is ready to visit us again. And not just to give us whatever we desire...not just to make our lives less complicated...but just to tell us that He loves us...just to win over our hearts...to draw us close and tell us that He is not angry, or distant, or disinterested.

If we would only turn to Him...pour out our hearts to Him...tell Him that we need Him. If only we would ask Him to come. If only we would run in His direction. He would run to us. He would wrap us in His arms. He would move mountains and change our lives.

It's happening...it may not look the way you think it would...but it is....check out these articles and websites and see for yourself...people from all over the world are flocking to Florida...and this is only the beginning:


Revival Article

Watch Live @ 10am and 7pm...or watch clips anytime

Friday, May 9

Press Through

There is nothing like coming to the end of a long day or long week for that matter and knowing the joy of pressing through. This phrase just keeps running through my head, "press through". I don't feel any kind of permission to back down at this point or run away or shrink back as if I didn't know any better. I have to love anyways. I have to try anyways. I have to find a way. I have to keep going. I have to wake up in the morning, put one foot in front of the other and get to the other side of the day.

In comparison, my week is nothing compared to that of some of my own children. I wish I could just write out all the stories I hear throughout the day. But the inner struggle is the same in a lot of ways. How do go further when you feel like you've done all you can do? How do you move on when you just want to cling to what you see? How do you find hope when all you've known are disappointments? How do you find life in the face of death? How do you pull ideas and visions from a place where there was nothing to begin with? All questions I have been asking.

And this is what I am learning:

I am not entitled to be treated well by anyone, but I am called to love despite what another's choice may be. Just because I love someone, does not mean they will love me in return. And I am not just speaking romantically. I am speaking on behalf of treating others around with kindness, respect and dignity.

Seasons change. What I see now may not be what I see later. But the truth is that God has a plan...a perfect plan...one that brings me a hope and a future. And I have to trust that simple truth. I have to trust despite the fact that my circumstances speak otherwise, despite the fact that my emotions want to dictate where I place my heart.

Just because I don't know the answer does not mean that I am not accountable to finding it. There are gifts and dreams inside of us that we will never realize...unless we take the risk...unless we push ourselves towards more...and hold ourselves accountable to staying there and seeing it through, even when the work is challenging and takes extra research and effort. Even when we have to start at square one. Even when we have to go a new way...all by ourselves.

God has ideas we never even dreamed of. What would happen if we just let go and trusted Him to bring it to pass? What would happen if we just enjoyed our seasons and did what He put in our hands to do...without complaining, without becoming offended, without being afraid?

I have known these things that I write about tonight, but I can tell the lessons are going even deeper. They are almost unspoken lessons...lessons you have to learn by heart, by going through...lessons that speak hope in the midst of adverse circumstances...lessons that show me the faithfulness of God.

Just when we think we'll never make it through, just when we think we need to step back and retreat, the promise is waiting...press through...press through. This is where the song springs forth...this is where the breakthrough takes place...this is where we learn to truly live.

Tuesday, May 6

Somewhere Out There

He's always been out there (as Fievel so eloquently puts it). Untangible and yet so real. At the end of a breakup...in the midst of a disappointments, and politics and world events...in the words of a friend...in the faces of strangers at airports and foreign countries...in dreams for the future...right in the depths of my heart as I walk through life.

And I just want to see his face. I just want to know that he really is real. I just want to know that in his eyes I am worthy of all the love in the world.

I have heard so many promises about him. I have heard plenty of advice. There have been quite a few times when I have put my dream of him behind another man's face...only to find it an illusion and utter disappointment.

Please don't write to me and tell me the grass is greener on the other side. Please don't tell me that it's just not the right time yet. Please don't tell me that God has the perfect man in mind for me. Please forget about the fact tonight that a man will not fulfill all my needs. I KNOW.

I just want him to come. I just him to wrap me up in a hug and tell me he's waited all his life to look into my eyes. And that's it.

Because I am tired of hoping and not seeing that hope fulfilled. I am tired of not being good enough, or worthy enough...or just the right size and shape. I am tired of being overlooked and never knowing the reason. I am quite done with all of it.

There are moments when I just want to be loved without anything asked in return. There comes a time when it seems so out of place to put up boundaries and walls and pretend that it's fun to be independent. There comes a time when you just want someone to notice, to listen, to go out of their way....to break through the walls and the windows and the doors and just simply say, "I love you."

I walked through St. Pete last weekend reading words chalked on the sidewalk, "Be the change you wish to see in the world." Those are the words that run through my mind now. I don't know how to love someone I can't see. I don't know how to love those I do see when they don't see me. I don't know a lot of things. This is the most honest post I have written in awhile. I know it's honest when there are tears between the words.

I know I am loved and that I am important to a lot of people. I feel the same way about many others. I know I am not alone. There just comes a time when you want to walk with someone tangibly....reach out and know someone is reaching back.

I have only held pieces of great love. I have heard about it and seen it in others. But the dream of it is so alive in my heart. And wherever he is...I hope he has eyes to see...I am tired of jumping up and down, running back and forth. Like I said yesterday, I am ready to let go...whether that means singleness the rest of my life or not. I have held out in this game of tag, only to find that it one-sided, with no one to come and unfreeze me from this position.

For the past two days my heart has burned at the words of a friend. And I cannot say a word in my defense. I wish I could...I wish I could just let it all out. But I realize that to ask someone to love you, to run after you could not be taken in the end as great and true love. If they do not love you in the first place, how can you plead with them to change their mind? If I did this very thing, I would wonder all my life if there was not something greater to be had all along. I have chosen silence over solace...in hopes that what I wait for really and truly will come to pass...it's the waiting that feeds the hope...because without waiting, how could one hope?...and without hope, how could one wait?

Monday, May 5

Ain't No Fool

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.
~Jim Elliot

Waiting is the hardest part. Waiting without saying a word. Without telling someone else exactly what you are waiting for. But hoping nonetheless that your request has been heard, that the answer is not far from showing its face.

Tonight, I am waiting. Tonight, I am quiet and holding out hope that the answers will become clearer...if I just trust, if I just let it go, if I just allow God to fashion my heart to be able to receive such a gift.

It will not happen in my own strength. I have already seen the measure of my own effort and it does not amount to very much. I end up strangling hope as I cling to a fear that what I have worked so hard for, thought so long about, made plans for, dreamed a thousand times over could all just disappear, leaving me alone and back at square one.

No, it will have to be Him. It will have to be His way. Yes, I will take the steps. But I have to hear His voice. I have to know His heart. I have to see it His way. Otherwise, I will be utterly disappointed. Otherwise, I will completely misunderstand. Because whether it comes to pass or not, dwelling in His love should be and is enough.

I want to dwell in the land of "because He is...I am, I have, I will". Without Him, I might as well be content to live in the places of "I wish" or "if only"...striving for things that are just out of reach, as if I could never have them in the first place. But I know better. I know there is more with Him, than without Him. His burden is easy. His yoke it light. There is no other way.

Tonight, I am letting go.

Faith is being ready to give up all your own desires for God. And it is in giving them up, that you will truly have your desires fulfilled. God is not a spoilsport. He doesn't want you to give up your dream, and have it replaced by something lousy. God wants you to give up your puny little dream, and look up, and see his dream for your life. His dream for your life is the most exciting, most fulfilling, most exciting thing you will ever do. That's because God's dream for your life perfectly matches exactly who you are. God wants your best. He wants the best from you, and He wants to give the best to you.
Faith is being ready to give up all your own desires for God.
And without faith it is impossible to please God.
~Graeme Codrington "He Is No Fool"