Wednesday, September 26, 2007



Lately I've had a real struggle to find alone time with God. Solitude is something I learned to adore in Russia, and not making it a priority has really taken a toll on me spiritually. I'm reading Celebration of Discipline right now and it's really reminded me of how important being alone in thought can be.

I guess the reason I haven't made it a priority is that I'm afraid of becoming a hermit again. I want to be focused on Christ, yet loving all people I see. Those should go hand in hand, but it seems to be a strenuous battle to keep both for me.

I find myself missing Russia often, or at least the healthy balance I had while there. My life slowed down so much there in that every morning I had considerable amounts of time to read, sit in silence, drink coffee, and pray. I basically had a mini-Sabbath every morning, and I miss it dearly. I miss it like I do a person. It's more difficult here since I have to wake up so early, so I'm trying to figure out how to have "Sabbath" time but also give myself to people and responsibilities.

Alone time lets me slow down... and think. Life seems to get hazy so very quickly, but being alone can remove me from that haze and allow me to look at my life clearly. I can stop and remember that life isn't about me. My problems don't seem so big anymore, and God reveals to me how I've been selfish, arrogant, and lazy.

I love reading the Bible and spiritual books during quiet time, because they give me a healthy lens to look at my life through. And I miss it. I miss being able to pour over a single verse or parable for an hour just for fun. I'm getting a lot of knowledge in God's Word, but missing it's wondrous beauty... and it breaks my heart.

Silence lets me look at life reverently, because it's so easy to become robotic in my interactions and obligations. I think I have had an irreverence for life lately, and I'm ashamed. It's so refreshing to sit and appreciate the goodness of life that God has given me. Most of the time I shove life down my throat just "pressing on" and getting through it. It takes great effort to slow down and simplistically enjoy God's many gifts and expressions of love.

God really is seen and experienced in the quiet, not just in the emotionally thrilling experiences of life. I miss solitude. I miss Jesus. I'm tired of praying "on the go" and living a fast food spiritual life. I want to live it deeply and lovingly and courageously... and I pray God gives me strength and wisdom to fight for it.

Monday, September 17, 2007

the lovely church


Sorry for not posting recently, but the California trip really threw me out of whack in getting back into things.

Everyone in AIM talks about how difficult it is coming back to the States from the mission field, and all of it's true by the way. I've dealt with a lot of personal issues coming back in Russia, but I've had the blessing of being encouraged by others going through the same struggles. I think I've been surprised of how many people have had violent reactions coming back to the States: angry or discontentment with the Church or American culture, even leaving the Church altogether.

That makes me sad.

Russia was so refreshing for me. Issues were non-existent, and people, for the most part, had no negative stigma attached to the Church. Every Christian there decided to follow Christ on their own, which in result produces a Church full of genuine and faith-filled Christians.

But many Christians in the States, I've noticed, are timid to even admit they are Christians because of the violent reaction many people have to our religion. A lot of non-Christians have been burned by people claiming Christ, and so they connect us to those bad experiences. And I share the frustrations with many Christians to so many people who have given Christ a bad name (myself included).

But I've noticed that many times the worst criticizers of the Church... are Christians. It's so discouraging to sit with a group of brothers and sisters and hear them slam the "Church", as though it were some organization.

But we are the Church. So when we complain about the "Church", we complain about ourselves. I do think that if we view the Church in America through a spiritual lens that there are many glaring sicknesses and problems within it. But those problems are within me, because I am the Church.

It's been weird coming back into what I call the coffeehouse culture. By that I mean especially my generation that loves to sit around and talk through and discuss things, mostly from a third-person point of view. But a lot of times it just turns into complaining, and I have to admit I've fallen into that many times.

I know the Church has lots of problems, because it's full of people. But there's enough people in the world that hate the Church... we don't need it coming from within. I have to admit I've been the world's worst at this unloving kind of judgmental slander.

But no matter how many problems seem to be overwhelming us I have to keep believing... the Church is good.

I believe that. Christ died for the Church, and we all came to Christ because of the glaring truth that we were dirty and worthless, and only in Christ could that change. But we all carry our baggage from our past life with us. Transformation into Christ's image doesn't happen quickly, it's a process. I pray I'm patient with the pride, hypocrisy, hatred, and selfishness that comes from the hearts of others as Christ is being patient with my own battles with those same things that take over my life so terribly often.

I love the Church, the body of Christ. We can't say we love Jesus then slam the people He died for. It's so easy to sit on the sidelines and be angry with what's going on on the field, but it's so much harder to pick up the ball and do the hard work.

I've been convicted lately that just because the Church in America is different, that doesn't mean it's not good. I pray God forgives me for my arrogance in ever questioning that. This is where I have to walk by faith that He knows what He's doing with His body. I have to constantly be reminded and comforted by the fact that He is God, and I'm not. I'm so glad that He has more patience with us than what we give each one another, and that His forgiveness is so full and deep that it can transform us from the inside out... giving us the strength to see the best and not the worst in each other.

"Bear with each other and forgive whatever complaints you have against each other, forgiving each other as Christ forgave you. And above all put on love, which is the bond of perfection." Colossians 3:13-14

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Tonight we had the second small group meeting in my home. Some I don't know very well, but I really feel like I love them all a lot. Pam just came back from France like a month ago, and Kaylin, her teammate there who is married and going to Tech, was there tonight too. Becky and Rachel just moved from Tulsa. Geoff just moved from Estonia a month ago and is going through SIBI. Then there's Gary and I who wanted to start it.

We met at 7 and had sushi and hung out for a while. Then we talked about how we were all doing spiritually and went through Mark 1 together. I really liked it, I think because it felt so much like what we did in Russia. I was used to looking at the Bible and referencing our everyday lives and ways God was teaching us to apply the things we were reading. I absolutely love that. This group has so far been a huge blessing for me, just in being able to vocalize my own journey and listen to others' journey with Christ as well. I missed that.

We have lots of ideas about the group, but I think I'll be content no matter what. I just like having people over, and if I just get to know some people a little better then I am incredibly stoked about that. It was neat for me as different people were speaking just noticing how our journeys with Christ were so very different, but yet we were all seeking the same things. I love the diversity within the body of Christ. God seems to be all about reconciling things, and I don't see how any of us would be friends outside of Christ.

Right now I'm taking Spiritual Disciplines and I've just been reminded how extremely vital everyday devotions are to remaining focused in Christ. Whether it's saying a prayer, listening to a sermon, reading a poster on a wall, or reading God's Word I think we all need to be reminded of our purpose in life daily. Of course prayer should be a lifestyle, but also I think most of us just have Spiritual A.D.D. It's just so easy to get focused on stuff and forget about Him. I want to learn to trust God in even tiny little things. Maybe that sounds impractical, but it's in the Bible. I want to make Colossians 3:17 a reality, truly doing all things under the authority and reign of Christ.

I feel excited after tonight. It's just so neat to have a family again, a group. Having a bunch of close friends is cool, but I especially love when we can all meet together and be a real family.

Isn't that what Church is anyway?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Sometimes I envy Jesus.

Reading through the gospels He just surprises me. For the longest time I've wondered how he could hang out with tax collectors and sinners and still be Jesus. There's no way they were on their best behavior around him. Tax collectors were thought of as a plague, basically. Through taxes the Roman Empire drew their funds with which to keep nations under their feet and conquer new ones. They weren't just looked down upon for taking more than they were supposed to, they were looked on as thieves and garbage. The Jews were nationalistic people, tired of being slaves. They hated tax collectors because they had to pay them so that the Romans could keep them in their empire. I can't imagine how that must have been. I think I would have hated them, too.

How did He do it? How could He hang out with gross people and still remain holy? How did He love them when their minds were so full of evil?

The other day I was sitting in Sugar Brown's and there was some guy sitting by himself. I was watching him because all he did for like two hours was flip through some comic book. I looked at him in passing mostly, and then I suddenly really took notice of him. What was he doing in a coffee shop? I wondered about his family and his upbringing. Mostly I wondered what I would say if I walked up and started talking to him. Did he even want to talk to someone? A lot of people like their privacy, especially Americans. Who knows, but it's not talking to that guy that shows my immaturity in faith I think.

It's so hard for me to be in a group of people being sarcastic and living by completely worldly lifestyles, seeing life through a dirty lens I think. How do I interact with non-Christians and not constantly say things like "Yeah, sorry man. I don't do that kind of stuff". People just think I'm self-righteous, but really I just want to live life like God made it... and I want to love. Jesus made us different, but how do we act and react around people who aren't yet? I thank God that He's started wafting into flame a love within me not just for His precepts, but for the people He has made. I'm just starting to learn what this is all about, but I know I should have talked to that guy.

Being in a foreign country it's really easy to grow into the habit of becoming accustomed to people. They're everywhere. But Jesus noticed them. And then he did something about it. As He said, it's so easy to love people who love us back. Everyone does that. But someone who is really growing in the love of Christ will meet people unlike himself and love them even if they never accept Christ. When he was at the cross, none of the people He taught, and He taught thousands, were there to help. But still He loved them and cared for them.

It's so easy to rationalize my way out of love. But I pray that God continually be working within me to teach me how to take leaps of faith in noticing people it's easy not to.

Monday, August 27, 2007

freaking out?

I survived my first Sunday as area church leader in Dimmitt yesterday. Actually, I really enjoyed it.

Right now I'm struggling with a lot of things, especially church in America. It's been really easy for me to hop on the "slam the church" bandwagon again. But God never lets me sit in that negativity for for very long. Amber lovingly told me that methods don't matter, it's people. I knew that, but I needed the reminder. It's just hard for me to be back in big churches where people don't sit next to each other and we don't look each other in the eye.

It's been this huge thing for me to be able to pay attention to sermons. I slip back into old habit of zoning out, but I'm trying to really listen. The thing is, I love sermons. I listen every morning to Matt Chandler (The Village Podcast) and it's so encouraging. I think I'm just addicted to conversational sermons, and slideshows drive me crazy. I just have to remind myself that I'm in a different culture. Even if I don't like it, it's how they do things. The things that are said are still good and encouraging, I'm just having a hard time adjusting.

Small groups with the AIMers start on Tuesday, and I'm really excited about the small group Gary and I started in my house on Wednesdays. Last week there was just 5 of us but it really felt like a family. I miss that. I miss Sergei and Ira and Alosha and others I was close to in Russia. I think God knew that, and He gave me an awesome email from Sergei this morning. Before I left Russia I wrote him a letter kind of like Paul wrote Timothy, and it made me so happy to hear he had read it many times. It really gave me the energy to press on today.

I feel like I'm kind of in a rut right now. I really need to spend some time doing some soul-searching and re-examining exactly what I'm living for. Whenever I don't do that God usually does it for me, and that usually involves a lot of pain and tears. So I'm kind of hoping I can do it myself this time.

I praise God for His wonderful love He's showed to us. It's so easy to get focused on all kinds of other things, but then I feel the soft whisper of God saying with a smile, "Life isn't about you". And then I stop... look up, and remember. Life is more important than my silly problems and saying that "God is in control" isn't some silly cliche. It's personal, and I love it. My prayer as I go to bed tonight is that we don't get so caught up in the thickness of life, and that we can constantly reflect on Christ, from whom all life flows.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Hello Hello

Alright so I haven't posted a blog since I was in Russia in April I think. Crazy. But I haven't had internet access since then either, so I guess I have an excuse. I decided to switch to blogger since it looked cooler, and I got tired of xanga.

I have a little more motivation to post now that these posts count as journal entries for my spiritual disciplines class. For those who don't know, I'm currently going through SIBI and working as an AIM assistant. It's been pretty sweet so far, though incredibly draining. I'm only taking 2 classes right now and I'm still freaking out anyway. Somehow I don't feel quite as lame if I call it "reverse culture shock", so I guess that excuse will work for now.

There's just enough guys to have 1 of them in every area church, so they've made me an area church leader at Dimmitt. I'm kind of uneasy about it right now... for some reason any amount of responsibility is making me feel really intimidated. I'm sure it will go away once I get used to things here, but it's just weird until I feel like I have a direction. I have some pretty cool AIMers, and I'm honestly looking forward to growing together with them.

I've gone through a lot over the last few months, and my journey with Christ has been hectic and awesome at the same time (as usual). During April and May I traveled with Johnathan and Amber to 13 different cities raising support and visiting family. Then I spent 2 months in Florida finishing up my AIM time where I got to meet some really cool people. I also got engaged there! That's been coming for a long while, though.

It's nice being around so many focused Christians now. It's like a double-edged sword, though. In one sense it's amazing because I have people around me who spur me on to live out the love of Christ by default of the fact that they're doing it themselves. But I also feel pretty intimidated right now being around so many mature Christians and sort of just feeling like a little kid. I've just moved here, and I'm kind of trying to figure out what I'm doing. In Russia I was somehow able to just look stupid and be ok with it, but I'm having more of a hard time with that here. I've been fighting back the desire to retreat into a shell and just stay home all the time.

I don't have a Friday class this term, which means tomorrow I get to sleep in for the first time in a while. I find myself missing what I did in Russia. I don't miss the country, but I miss the people. I guess it's just weird being in a place with so many Christians. It's easy to feel unneeded. When I feel unneeded it's really difficult to push myself to do anything. Dumb. But God's blessed me with some great friendships already, and I'm learning to be excited about the here and now... and that's amazing.