Category Archives: Collections of Thoughts

The Ordinary Life of Making Your Block

The other night, wrapped in one of my dad’s oversized sweaters, I had some much-needed introvert time. I found myself sitting on the floor of my bedroom with a peppermint mocha and some Christmas-themed worship music, flipping through old journals. I came across the following words from the middle of my senior year of highschool:

“One day, I’m going to sit in eternal fellowship in Heaven and I’m afraid I won’t have any glorious stories to tell.” February 23, 2013

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The truth that there won’t be any sin, crying, identity-issues, or comparison in Heaven (Revelation 22:3-6) didn’t stop my heart from questioning it’s worth before both the Lord and other believers. What was I doing and was it enough? Was I enough? Was I living in the fullness of the extraordinary life that everyone talks about having in Jesus? Because writing papers, meeting with middle schoolers at Starbucks once a week, and trying to keep up with a blog that no one really reads didn’t feel like enough. Depending on the Lord looked like my trusting him in small things and I just wasn’t convinced that a story of his faithfulness in having grace with my siblings or building new friendships was what someone was looking for on a testimony night.

But then I came across this article.

Have you ever heard of Bert Elliot? Me neither. He’s the brother of the missionary Jim Elliot. I was surprised that I’d never heard of Bert, given my admiration for Jim and Elizabeth Elliot. Honestly, there’s a chance I wouldn’t even be at Wheaton College if it hadn’t come up while I was reading The Journals of Jim Elliot the summer before my senior year. The Lord has used their stories and books to shape me in some pretty formative ways.

You can imagine I was pretty curious about this mysterious Elliot brother. Why had I never come across him? Because he was just an average guy who loved Jesus and his family and his neighbor. Nothing spectacular. Not the kind of thing they write books about or dramatize on the Big Screen. The article summed it up this way:

“In the kingdom of God, there is a great need for streaking meteors, but most of us won’t be that . . . There is a great need for people willing to stand in the midst of the boring, convinced that there is no such thing as ordinary when you follow an extraordinary God.”

 

So, after reading this article, I spent the next few days wrestling. I looked back on the posture of my heart in 2013 and found myself digging up remnants of the same insecurity, while trying to rest in the truth of Scripture and testimonies of faithful, unknown people like Bert Elliot. And then, with the most unlikely of analogies, something clicked.

You probably didn’t know this about me, but I played powderpuff football this year for our Junior Class. I was drafted (aka they had to find a spot on the team for me) as an offensive line-woman for the 2015 powderpuff football game.

Trying to recall everything my dad had taught me about football before our coach walked over, I realized pretty quickly that I knew nothing about the line. I knew they hit people, but that was about it. I could name quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers. Maybe even a few kickers or safeties. But I was drawing a blank when it came to the line. Honestly, what did they even do?

Yet as we ran drill after drill, I began to see the importance behind the job I’d been given. When the coaches called a pass play, if I didn’t hold the defense back, the quarterback would be at best under pressure and at worst, sacked. We were responsible for giving our QB the most valuable thing in the game: time. People weren’t there to watch us. No one would remember our blocks. We weren’t making tackles, throwing winning plays, or scoring touchdowns. Memorable plays don’t have the names of the offensive line attached, but you better believe they wouldn’t have happened it we hadn’t made our blocks.

That was our job: make our block. Block the girl in front of you. Don’t let her get to the QB.

Make your block. It wasn’t an extraordinary job. But it’s what we were asked to do. We were asked to do it faithfully, play after play.

I think this is exactly what Jesus calls us to do too.

 

photo courtesy of the Wheaton Media Team
photo courtesy of the Wheaton Media Team

It reminds me of the parable of the talents in Matthew 25.

I’m reminded that the lot the Lord gives each of us looks different. Our stories will be different because the way Jesus is moving in each of our lives is different. We aren’t called to throw the football if we’ve been drafted for the line, just like Bert Elliot was not called to live the same life that his brother did. God’s faithfulness in my life may not look like thousands coming to Jesus or spectacular miracles, but that doesn’t make the stories any less about God’s faithfulness.

I don’t know where you are reading this.

Maybe you’re life looks a lot like playing quarterback or being a “Jim Elliot,” streaking meteor. Maybe God’s showing up in some pretty amazing ways and calling you to some radically transformative things. That’s amazing. We need your stories of dependance on the Lord and His provision in your life! Let the body of believers be encouraged by the stewardship of your talents.

But maybe that doesn’t describe your season, your calling, or your life. Maybe you are living a seemingly ordinary day-to-day faithfulness of dishes, homework, errands, laundry, phone calls, and deadlines. The life where taking the next step in obedience often goes unnoticed by those around you. But it doesn’t go unnoticed by the Lord. It isn’t insignificant to Him. Your life of dependance is amazing too. We need your stories. When His faithfulness looks like getting you out of bed in the morning with a smile or letting a dying car make it to the next appointment, it’s still His faithfulness. We can’t let our fear of not having “amazing stories” keep us from telling what are ultimately just the Lord’s stories.

He calls us to make the block that He’s put in front of us, that’s it. When we do, regardless of what it looks like or who saw it, the Lord smiles and whispers yet again to our hearts, “well done, good and faithful servant.”

When I Trust from the Stroller

It was the appropriately coined “solo day” on Wheaton Passage, the transition retreat for incoming Wheaton freshmen. This was our final stop after a day of fasting, prayer, and silence. Another park, this one a little less beautiful than the one before.

As I sat there on the patchy grass, trying to keep my thoughts off my rumbling stomach and lack of new thoughts to journal about, I rested my back against a less-than-comfortable tree. My wandering eyes roamed around the open Bible and journal on my lap and eventually fixed upon a woman with her son a few feet in front of me. I couldn’t help but smile as I watch the young boy chase a squirrel in circles around the tree, his mom resting her arms against the back of the stroller.

And as I sat, content to watch the young boy’s joy and delight in the simple things of life, drawing parallels for my own need for delight in life, the moment was interrupted. Just as my my heart was settling into the sweetness of the moment, the mom came behind the boy, scooped him up, and proceed to strap him into the stroller. He began to kick and scream, protesting the abrupt end to his playtime. I watched as he pulled his shoes off, his patient mother picking them up and pushing the stroller away.

Flashbacks of babysitting flooded my mind. The boy has had his fun and now it’s time to go home. It’s what’s best for him. It’s about dinner time anyways. He’s probably hungry, although he was probably too distracted to realize it. In the young boys mind, nothing could be more wonderful than chasing the squirrel in the park. But he doesn’t know what’s best for him. He doesn’t see that the constraints of the stroller are bringing him to deeper places of care and necessity. He can’t see past his own little boy vision of what he wants and what he’s not getting.

And as I reflected on this reality, I began to write. . .

“Is that really how it is, God? I wander around this world, sometimes it leads me to discover something new about your world and sometimes it leads me to be a little too far away from You. I cry when you put me back in my spiritual stroller. I pitch a fit when I don’t get what I think I want. I feel hurt. I feel frustrated. I throw a temper tantrum at the God of heaven because you let me. But deep down I know it’s for my own good. I just don’t see what you are doing. Your delight is in watching me laugh and explore the world you are showing me. You love it when I delight in You. You correct me – always seeming to me, in the moment, harsher than it actually is. I don’t appreciate how much you love me. I don’t value that all you have is your glory and my good in view. I’m sorry. Increase my view of grace. Teach me what it means to trust you, in the things that make sense and in the things that don’t. Jesus, renew a steadfast spirit in me.” Friday, August 16, 2013

And two years later, I’m as convicted by this truth as I was sitting by the tree that day.

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On Encouragement.

“He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. ” 1 Thessalonians 5:10-23

Some people are natural encouragers. For some people, it take more conscious effort.

Some people gravitate towards encouraging “outside the circle people.” Some people naturally focus on building up those “inside the circle.” We need both.

Whether it comes naturally or not, everyone needs encouraged. We all crave affirmation. Granted, there’s a fine line between needing built up in Christ and your identity actually being dangerously rooted in the approval of others. At the heart, though, Christians should be encouraging one another with the knowledge that we all need to be reminded of the truth of who we are. It’s biblical.

When I was having a bit of an identity crisis, alone on my bed, it was the letters and cards of encouragement from family, friends, and mentors that ministered to my heart. Don’t misunderstand – I’m not talking about sappy, feel-good letters, filled with the kind of comments you’d see between young BFF’s on Instagram. These letters were written by people of love and grace and wisdom. They reminded me where my true identity lies. They reminded me to return to my First Love, the only Love that will ever fully satisfy my heart. They spoke of their love for me – but not because of anything that I’d done or earned or become.

I’d be the first person to admit that I need others. I need community. I need to be encouraged because I need to be reminded of TRUTH. We weren’t meant to do this alone, remember? It’s the same thing God told Moses about Joshua:

“But commission Joshua, and encourageand strengthen him, for he will lead this people across and will cause them to inherit the land that you will see.” Deuteronomy 3:28

Encouragement isn’t easy because it is 0% about us. It is solely focused on the blessing of the Lord in someone else. It means being in tune to what the Holy Spirit is doing in someone else – what’s going on, how they’re gifted, etc. But when we are living under the weight of insecurity ourselves, we become incapable of thinking about others. We are concerned about self: how we feel and how we can improve our self-confidence. No one wants to feel like they aren’t enough or they are a failure, so we naturally focus on digging ourselves out when we fall into that hole of lies.

But the catch is that we all have insecurities because we all have weaknesses. We focus on improving our weaknesses (through Christ, of course), which is a good thing. It’s the process of sanctification. But there’s a danger. We run the risk of missing out how the Holy Spirit is moving in someone else’s life, and getting the humbling privilege of encouraging them in that. And they miss out on the blessing and community that encouragement brings.

I’m reminded of what Paul says about our weaknesses. . .it’s all too familiar:

“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

My insecurities, my weaknesses – I have to remind myself that those are the places Christ is made strong. Those are the areas where I can’t rely on myself. They are places where I am reminded that when you squeeze me in my flesh, nothing good or righteous or holy comes out. I am 100% dependent on Christ and His Spirit in me. So, the places that spur on my personal sanctification should also be promoting my encouragement of others. Because Scripture tells me that my weaknesses are never meant to point back to me; they are meant to point back to the God who has victory over all of them. The holy, holy, holy King who pours out such GRACE upon us.

Insecurity can kill encouragement. Because insecurity keeps us focused on us. But it shouldn’t be that way. Yes, we are weak in our flesh – but that only means that Christ that much stronger! So maybe we should step outside of ourselves and recognize what He’s doing in the people around us. Because everyone, even the most confident and seemingly secure people need to hear Truth.

Write a letter. Send a text. Meet someone for coffee. Pick up the phone.

It doesn’t matter how the encouragement comes. What matters is that it does, and that’s it’s rooted in Christ. Not encouraging others because you are too focused on fixing your own insecurities (or because you are “too busy”) doesn’t build up the Body of Christ. Encouraging superficial things or offering fake compliments doesn’t build up the Body of Christ. Jesus-lovers should be the most encouraging people around because we’ve been saved and encouraged in the most undeserving way. Even if encouraging others is a weakness of yours – whether in the family or outside of it – it’s not a fatal flaw; it’s just another place where Christ can show Himself stronger and more merciful than you could ever imagine.

I’m working on encouraging others. Those closest to me and the strangers in my life. If I’m being honest: the latter is harder for me. I’m working on encouraging people in the Spirit, and not just to boost their ego.

I’ve been so grateful for the encouragement of those around me during one of my hardest summers. Their encouragement has been such a blessing; it’s also convicted me to look at how I’m doing at encouraging others and recognizing where the Spirit is moving in other people’s lives. Needless to say, I need some work. But that’s awesome – because it’s just another place Christ can be glorified in my weakness!

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The Result of a Pensive Mind. . .on the Church

This summer has provided some much needed reflection and perspective, especially on things I’ve never really considered or questioned. Recently, that’s included the idea of church.

I’ve gone to church my whole life. I was never allowed to open my Easter basket before the sunrise service, and any money I made my senior year of highschool was basically spent on gas, driving to and from the church or the local Starbucks with church people. If there was ever a model church girl, I am pretty much it. I’ve been a part of churches that run the denominational spectrum. I’ve volunteered in every childcare room for every church we’ve ever been a part of. I’ve run lights and sound and slides and small groups. I went to every youth event, even ones where it was just me, my sister, and a leader. I’ve been on mission trips and service days, serving food, cleaning homes, painting walls, or playing with kids. Dinners, sleepovers, discipleship dates, and small groups. . .and the kicker is I don’t resent a single bit of it. None of my church attendance was forced. My parents never coerced me into service and I never begrudgingly followed friends to an event. I was happy to do it; all of it. I have always been a happy church girl. And I keep doing it. I’d do it all over. None of my questions ever convince me to stop, that this “church” is anything but worthy of my time and energy.

One hundred religious persons knit into a unity by careful organization do not constitute a church any more than eleven dead men make a football team. The first requisite is life, always.“ A. W. Tozer

So it’s not from a lack of love that I’ve been questioning what the church is and does; it’s actually from a place of deep care and affection. I truly love “the church,” because I love Jesus and His body with 100% of my being. I feel like there’s a lot of people talking about “the church” as the body of Christ recently, rather than the building everyone migrates to on Sunday mornings, Saturday nights, and Wednesday evenings. I’m so grateful that truth has resurfaced; we don’t go to church, we are the church.

But I wonder, do we actually get that? Does what we do really reflect that truth?

In the David Platt sermon I was listening too while driving to my grandparents house, he said something along the lines of: “We shouldn’t be inviting people to church. Stop asking people to come to church, because you are the church. The church should be going out to the world.” When I read through Acts and 1 Corinthians, I see the radical, communal, selfless, everyday life nature of the body of Christ. And when I look back at the programs and drama and punch-my-Sunday-morning-ticket or I-come-just-to-receive mentality, I wonder how we expect them to align?

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To be painfully honest, I’m struggling with it, this idea of church. And nothing is exempt from my struggle. I’m struggling in the services with the loud, emotional music and dynamic teaching. I know the people and their hearts and I don’t doubt the genuine nature of the experience, but I’m struggling with the idea that people are searching for an individualistic, emotional, satisfying experience, rather than self-denying service and relationships and the powerful (and yes, emotional) Holy Spirit that’s in everyday life. I’m also struggling with the quiet, reserved traditions and routines of church. Was a sparkling chalice and soft wafers, held by a stranger, really what Jesus had in mind when He said “eat my body, drink my blood, and do this in remembrance of me?” I love the diversity of the body and worship. I love how modern technology enables things like podcasts and Christian music and conferences. I don’t doubt the good in them because I’ve been a participant and recipient of that my whole life. I just have to wonder. . .is that really what Jesus wanted to be the head of in Colossians 1:18?

“I lack the fervency, vitality, life, in prayer which I long for. I know that many consider it fanaticism when they hear anything which does not conform to the conventional, sleep-inducing eulogies so often rising from Laodicean lips; but I know too that these same people can acquiescently tolerate sin in their lives and in the church without so much as tilting one hair of their eyebrows.” Jim Eliot

Don’t misunderstand: this isn’t a rant about the church. The last thing I want to do is discourage the good work the church is doing, especially the wonderful specific churches I’ve visited and been blessed to be a part of. I love the church because Jesus loves the church, which, as everyone is saying, is really just the body of believers. And I get it – this is the way things have been done for centuries. I can’t even write this post without using “church talk.” The physical structure of church is necessitated by the numbers and the brokenness and the need for organized systems. This isn’t 1st century Jerusalem; we don’t have to meet in communal, underground house churches anymore. So how do we “devote ourselves to the apostles teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and prayer” (Acts 2:42)? How do we “have all things in common and give to anyone who has need” (Acts 2:44)? How are we supposed to “meet together everyday. . .breaking bread in our homes and eating together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God” (Acts 2:45)? I don’t have all the answers, I don’t even have some of the answers.

I have to wonder if I’m wrong for wanting more simple Sunday’s, filled with worship and people and life. I can’t help but wonder if we’ve got it backwards. One of my favorite quotes is this one by CT Studd:

“Some wish to live within the sound of a chapel bell; I wish to run a rescue mission within a yard of hell.” CT Studd

It’s one of my all-time favorites because it’s one of the most stirring and convicting statements I’ve ever read. I want nothing more than to proclaim it boldly with my whole heart. It stirs me because I know it should be the burning desire of my heart, if my heart truly believes the truth of Scripture and the goodness of the Gospel. It convicts me because it causes me to examine how I truly live. Am I more comfortable being in church than I am actually being the church? Do I know what it means to be with and love “church” people, my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ . . . so I wonder, why does it usually center around the busy, stressed, cranky, rushed, forced, awkward, limited encounters I seem to have inside the physical church walls?

The perfect church service,would be one we were almost unaware of. Our attention would have been on God. C.S. Lewis

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I don’t know how a New Testament church is supposed to look in 21st century America. Greater than me have written much more in depth and theologically accurate books on that. I don’t know how a service like C.S. Lewis is talking about could work inside a church building. I’m not advocating for anything specific because I’m still fuzzy on the specifics of what I’m thinking and feeling. I just know that I feel like something’s off. That tears have come to my eyes in a brightly colored stained glass, organ echoing church and a dimly lit, drum pounding church. Standing next to people I don’t know, or people I do know with needs and wounds. People who find something inside these buildings but struggle in their daily life. Where are their hearts? Where is the community, the for-better-or-worse-you’re-stuck-with-us family? Where is the Father, and Jesus, and the power of the Holy Spirit?

I just don’t want us to miss the real Jesus. I don’t want us to miss each other. I don’t want to get to heaven and see how we just didn’t get what it meant to really be the church. And I may not know at 19 what it means to “get it;” I don’t know if I’ll ever fully “get it,” but I know that I can’t stop questioning just because I’m afraid of how the questions may shake the cultural notions I have of what “going to” and “being” the church means.

Just thoughts, just questions. When you let a pensive, happy church girl word vomit on her blog. . .