Lent Blog #12 (Hockey)

February 28, 2010

So I am sitting here, watching the USA vs Canada hockey game and rather enjoying it. Both teams are playing a fantastic game and I am excited to see how it is going to turn out. Obviously, being an American, I am rooting for USA to win but I have no invested hatred in Canada and, honestly, I would be just fine if they won. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I love how the Olympics have a tendency to unite countries. Once every two years, whole countries are rooting for the same team. And I love that. But, in thinking about it, I can’t remember who had the highest medal count at the last winter Olympics. I can assume that it was America, because it has been for the last several Olympics, but I can’t recall how many medals they had or even who brought in those medals. And yet, right now, the US hockey team and all of America, myself included, are hoping and praying to bring a gold medal out of this game.

I think, in life, we have a tendency to focus on things that we don’t have rather than what we do have. Most of what we do in life is to gain things. The US and Canadian hockey teams are playing their hearts out to gain a gold medal. I am in college to gain a college degree. And one day I will get a job to gain money. Everything is for gain. But I, for one, don’t focus on what I have enough. I don’t focus on the incredible education that I have already received or the multiple blessings that I have already been given. Instead, I focus on what else I can do, what else I can gain.

Which is why I love salvation. I can’t gain that. I can’t earn that. I can’t get more salvation than one person or another. I can receive it. Or I can not. I have chosen to receive it. I have been given the best thing that I could have ever asked for, on this earth and beyond, but I still look for more. I still look for other things to gain. But, I have it all. And I need to focus on that far more often.

Lord, you have given me more than I could ever gain. Thanks for that.

And an update: Canada won. Good for them. They played with heart and they deserved it. And, in my lifetime, I will forget who Sidney Crosby is. Second best in a sport out of close to 200 countries in the world is not too shabby in my book. So, God bless the USA and God bless Canada.

Lent Blog #11 (Stars)

February 27, 2010

So tonight I went out to a bonfire with a few friends. We usually drive out to a spot on Lake Fort Phantom, right up close to the water. There is something about the sound of the water, the sight of millions of stars in a sky far bigger than I could ever imagine and the smell of a bonfire that I love. It is partly because of the fact that you have nothing to do at bonfires except for talk to the people around you and enjoy each others company and I am a firm believer that it doesn’t matter what you are doing as long as you are doing it with people you care about. It is partly because of the retreat of it all. I mean, we drive about 30 minutes away from Abilene. There is really no one else to be seen other than the group that goes out there and there is something peaceful about just being in nature for once. But the main reason why I love it so much is because of how small I feel out there. There are not a whole lot of trees around and no lights either so the night sky stretches for forever and every inch of it is covered in stars.

Gods creation astounds me daily. I mean all of it. But there is something about the sky that takes my breath away every time. It is millions and millions of times bigger than me. And there is more out there that God has created than I could ever fathom. In his book, i am not but i know I AM, Louie Giglio sums it up perfectly.

By way of a quick review: We have no idea just how big the universe really is, but it’s so big we have to use a ruler that’s 5.88 trillion miles long to measure stuff. The ruler is called the light year. The farthest thing we have measured so far with the help of a mighty telescope (actually two telescopes, one in Hawaii and one in space, combining together and aided by the natural magnification provided by a massive cluster of galaxies) is 13 billion light years away. Somewhere in the midst of it all is a spiral galaxy called the Milky Way, which is made up of hundreds of billions of stars. One of those stars is our sun, rotating around the center of the Milky Way every 250 million years. One of the planets circling our sun is Planet Earth. And two of the more than six billion people on this planet are you and me.

A shrinking feeling is coming over me and I am starting to clue in on the fact that I have no idea how small I really am. OR HOW BIG GOD TRULY IS.

My Daddy created all of that. Every single bit of it. And that amazes me. The God who knows everything about me and want to have an intimate and personal relationship with me is the same God who threw more stars in the sky than I can fathom. And He loves us? Every single one of the more than six billion. Dang. That blows me away.

Father, make me look up more often. Remind me daily of how big You. And how small I am. And how You love me anyway.

Lent Blog #10 (Prayer)

February 26, 2010

So I was just about to head to bed tonight when I realized that I hadn’t written my blog for the day. And, while it is rather late, these muses of mine have been nice to write out for the past couple of days. So, even though it is rather late, I am writing.

As I lie in bed, just before I fall asleep each night, the last thing I do is talk to God. I usually reflect on my day and thank him for giving me not only mercy but grace as well. I pray for those around me or specific situations and then I drift to sleep. And, as I was about to fall asleep tonight and I was talking to God I started to notice a trend in my prayers. They don’t stretch beyond a few hundred miles. Maybe a thousand, at most. Sure I pray for my family and friends and when the earthquake first happened in Haiti, I prayed for that. But, the world needs prayer. Every part of it. When I was in Africa, I prayed for the people in the slums every night. I saw people suffering in ways that I couldn’t have imagined but I can maybe count on one hand the amount of times I have prayed for the people of Kibera since being home. There is still so much work to be done in Haiti. So much that needs praying for down there. There are still people all over the world that are being persecuted for their faith and others that don’t even have a faith. We have a beautiful world, but there is also so much hurt in it and so many things that are not as God intended them to be that prayer is essential. We need it.

Prayer is powerful. And God answers it. Not always how we want and not always immediately but He does answer. I want my prayers to reach outside of Abilene. Outside of Texas. Outside of the United States. I want my prayers to affect people in Asia and Australia and South America. God is working through people in those places and they most certainly need praying for.

God, give me a prayer life that exceeds where I have been or what I have experienced. May my prayer affect people of all nations. And, ultimately, may your will be done.

Tonight we had a chapel forum for Invisible Children. Basically, people from the organization came and showed a video and then talked to us a bit about the different things that they are doing in Northern Uganda. I have always been a fan of Invisible Children. I discovered their work in high school and quickly wanted to help out. So, at that time, I helped out the only way that I knew how to, I bought a t-shirt and a bracelet and considered my part done. Obviously, as I have gotten older, I have become more passionate and compassionate for people. I have a desire to do more than just throw money at a problem. Money will help, don’t get me wrong, but it is not the only thing needed.

Anyway, as I was watching the video I couldn’t help but think of Kenya. I couldn’t help but think of the pure joy that I saw there. Even in places where the people had nothing, like in Kibera. I miss Kenya. I miss the simplicity of it. After I got back to my room tonight, I started going back through my travel journal from Kenya. So many of the things that I read brought a smile to my face. The way that the children raced up to our bus as we pulled into Kibera. The way that the people loved having their picture taken because it was unlike anything they were used to.

As Americans typically do, our group went into the slums with everything planned out. We didn’t know exactly what to expect but we had set up time frames for games, and stories, and crafts. But my favorite day in Kibera involved none of that at all. My favorite day was simple. I remember sitting on the grass surrounded by some of the sweetest children. We weren’t doing anything in particular. Just sitting. And talking. The kids were trying to teach me Kiswahili words that I kept butchering and several of the girls loved playing with my hair because it was so unlike their own. At one point the missionary who was helping my team walked up to me and said, “You are learning to live like a true Kenyan now. Simply.”

So many times I forget that lesson that I learned there. Live simply and rely soley on God. These people did because they have to. I talked to a woman in the slums who said she was sorry for me. I was confused at first, thinking that I should be the one that was sorry for her. When I asked her why her response was, “You have so many things to take your focus off of God. I do not.” And she was absolutely correct. I have so many things in my life to steal my attention. But I want to live simply. I want to live like the Kenyans.

There is a song in Kiswahili that we learned while in Kenya:

Mambo sawa sawa.
Mambo sawa sawa.
Yesu akiwa enzani.
Mambo sawa sawa.

It basically translates to: “Things are already better when the Lord is on the throne.”

Beautifully simple and it is a song that almost every Kenyan knows. Literally. I had it stuck in my head when we were at the local grocery store and was humming it and ended up singing the whole thing with the cash register.

Jesus, teach me to live simply. Remind me that You are on the throne and that is all that matters.

I love conversing with people. I can stay in one place for a good two hours if I have a good conversation keeping me there. I particularly enjoy conversations with my friend, Jason. We talk about the most random things. I mean, things that you would never think would come up in casual conversation. Tonight, as I was sitting eating dinner with Jason in The Bean (our dining hall), we got on the topic of Seattle which brought us to rain which lead Jason to tell me about the thought that he had the other day about a society that embraces rain.  A society that, instead of going to hide from rain, just went about life as normal. That instead of sheltering everything, just let it be. When he first mentioned it, I kind of stared at him for a minute, letting that idea soak in. And the more I thought about it, the more I loved it. We, as a society, run from rain. And with good cause. I mean, no one wants to get soaking wet. But, the thing is, God invented the rain, too. It is just as beautiful as the sun not because of the effects but because of the creator. What if we embraced the rain? What if we stopped worrying about what a little water will do and instead of sprinting as fast as we can to our next destination, we walk and enjoy a different side of God’s creation?

Naturally, we do this in life, too. When the ugly days come we barrel down and run until we can find some shelter. We tend to be so wrapped up in getting through it that we don’t stop to see the beauty in it. And there IS beauty in it. In 2 Corinthians, the Lord says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” His power is made perfect in the rainy times. In the times that we do anything to stay out of. God works in those times. I think I forget that too much. I forget to see the beauty because it is not there on the surface.

I once heard a comparison of our lives to a stained glass window. Close up, stained glass windows are not pretty. They are jagged pieces of glass that are rough to the touch. That is how we see our lives most of the time. Up close. In the moment. And a lot of times we see it as rough. But the further back you get from a stained glass window, the more beautiful it becomes. And that is how God sees our lives. He sees the whole, big picture. He sees them as a masterpiece. As something beautiful. The more we can see our lives from that perspective, the prettier those rough times will be.

Lord, let me embrace the rain. Let me see the entire stained glass window.

Lent Blog #7 (Deathbed)

February 23, 2010

I am an emotional person. I have come to terms with that. Not that I get really upset easily or anything but simple things can bring tears to my eyes. Snow, for instance. (It snowed again today!) But, there are only a few songs that can bring tears to my eyes. And very few that I would take the time to write about. I found one such song today though. The song is “Deathbed” by Relient K. It is a bit long but it is well worth the listen. And it has a killer guest vocals by Jon Foreman. I also posted the lyrics below. Give them a read.

When I stumbled upon this song today I was not expecting for it to hit me as hard as it did. It is basically a song from the point of view of a man who is on his deathbed with lung cancer. He tells the story of his life and how jacked up he was throughout it. And then he gets to the end of his life and as he is about to die he remembers the prayer that he prayed so long ago: “Jesus, please forgive me of my crimes. Sanctify this withered heart of mine.
Stay with me until my life is through. And on that day please take me home with you.” And Christ comes and takes him to where he belongs. And while this was song was not a true story, I know it has happened. I know that people have lived sinful lives and finally realized what mattered a little later than most and I know that God saved them. And that is what struck me so hard about this song today. THAT is the God I serve. A God that is relentless in his pursuit of his children even to the deathbed. Such great love. After a while, any human would give up on a person. But not our God. And that is what amazes me. That is what I am meditating on tonight. How I can spend my whole life running and God is still one step behind waiting for me to turn around.

Thanks for never giving up on me, Dad.

Deathbed by Relient K

I can smell the death on the sheets
Covering me
I can’t believe this is the end

But this is my deathbed
I lie here alone
If I close my eyes tonight
I know I’ll be home

The year was nineteen forty one
I was eight years old and
Far far too young
To know that the stories
Of battles and glory
Was a tale a kind mother
Made up for her son
You see
Dad was a traveling preacher
Teaching the words of the Teacher
But mother had sworn
Went off to the war
And died there with honor
Somewhere on a beach there
But he left once to never return
Which taught me that I should unlearn
Whatever I thought a father should be
I abandoned that thought
Like he abandoned me

By forty seven I was fourteen
I’d acquired a taste for liquor and nicotine
I smoked until I threw up
Yet I still lit ’em up for thirty more years
Like a machine

So right there you have it
That one filthy habit
Is what got me where I am today

I can smell the death on the sheets
Covering me
I can’t believe this is the end
I can hear those sad memories
Still haunting me
So many things
I’d do again

But this is my deathbed
I lie here alone
If I close my eyes tonight
I know I’ll be home

I got married on my twenty first
Eight months before my wife would give birth
It’s easier to be sure you love someone
When her father inquires with the barrel of a gun
The union was far from harmonious
No two people could have been more alone than us
The years would go by and she’d love someone else
And I realized I hadn’t been loved yet myself

From there it’s your typical spiel
Yeah if life was a highway
I was drunk at the wheel
I was helping the loose ends
All fall apart
Yeah I swear I was destined to fail
And fail from the start

I bowled about six times a week

The bottle of Beam kept the memories from me
Our marriage had taken a seven-ten split
Along with my pride the ex-wife took the kids

I can smell the death on the sheets
Covering me
I can’t believe this is the end
I can hear those sad memories
Still haunting me
So many things
I’d do again

But this is my deathbed
I lie here alone
If I close my eyes tonight
I know I’ll be home

I was so scared of Jesus
But He sought me out
Like the cancer in my lungs
That’s killing me now
And I’ve given up hope
On the days I have left
But I cling to the hope
Of my life in the next
Then Jesus showed up
Said “Before we go”
“I thought that we might reminisce”
“See one night in your life”
“When you turned out the light”
“You asked for and prayed for my forgiveness”

You cried wolf
The tears they soaked your fur
The blood dripped from your fangs
You said, “What have I done?”
You loved that lamb
With every sinful bone
And there you wept alone
Your heart was so contrite

You said, “Jesus, please forgive me of my crimes
Sanctify this withered heart of mine
Stay with me until my life is through
And on that day please take me home with you”

I can smell the death on the sheets
Covering me
I can’t believe this is the end
I can hear You whisper to me,
“It’s time to leave
You’ll never be lonely again”

But this was my deathbed
I died there alone
When I closed my eyes tonight
You carried me home

I am the Way
Follow Me
And take My hand
And I am the Truth
Embrace Me and you’ll understand
And I am the Light
And for Me you’ll live again
For I am Love
I am Love
I, I am Love

Lent Blog #6 (Adultery)

February 22, 2010

I am adulterous. We are adulterous. Let me explain.

I had a friend in high school who constantly went back to this guy who was all wrong for her. I mean, they were on and off again so much. She knew there was something missing in her life and so she sought it from this guy. And time and time again he hurt her, and time and time again I comforted her as she cried. I didn’t mind comforting her. I love being there for people and I often used those times as a way to tell her that she could only be satisfied through God and that He loved her more than anyone else could. After a while though, after listening to her countless times, I did have one question: why did she keep going back to this guy? Yes there were good times with him but inevitably she would always end up hurt in the end. So what made her continue to go back?

I got to thinking about her last night and I started to wonder how many times God asks that question: “Allison, why are you going back to that? That will never make you happy.” And eventually I realize that and I go to the Lord and He comforts me and reminds me of His love and then I run right back to it all. In our world, we are taught to look for temporary highs. They are EVERYWHERE. Fame, money, sex, drugs. You name it. We are told that those things will make us happy, and they do for a time, but they are not lasting.

This is a short video about Tom Brady where he talks about just that. He has everything he could ever want. He has his hands on every temporary high the world has to offer, and he knows that there has got to be something more.

I know what that something else is and yet, I still find myself looking for something to fulfill me.

There is song by Derek Webb called “Wedding Dress.” If you have never heard it you should give it a listen. It is a song about the adulterous church. It is about how satisfied we are by other lovers when our God, our groom, is more than enough. In thinking about this, I tried to think of my marriage. How would my future husband feel if I was with another man? I would never do that. I know that I am going to be so in love with him that I will stay faithful. But how many times do I leave God for other things? Things that I am told will make me happy.

I am sorry, my love. I am sorry that I have been unfaithful. You satisfy me, Lord.

Amen.

Lent Blog #5 (People)

February 21, 2010

So not too long ago I was applying to a summer camp and on the application I needed to tell them the links of my facebook and/or myspace if I had them. Now, I knew I had a facebook. I mean, I spend enough time on it. But, I had no idea whether or not I still had a myspace. I recalled having one at one time. So, I decided to look my self up on myspace and I was not surprised to find my old profile from years ago. Just for curiosities sake, I decided to look around. I love seeing how much I have changed and an old social networking site was a terrific medium in which to do that. I then started to go through my comments that people had left on my page.

Hundreds of comments later, I found myself in tears. Half of the comments that I had read were ones from old friends. Friends that I don’t know anymore. Some people that were once such a huge part of my life that knew nothing about who I was anymore. And that was sad to me. I mean, I love the people that I have in my life currently. But I have always valued relationships with people over any other thing in this world and to think that the bond that I created with people once upon a time found a way to break, kills me. I thought about the people in my life that were sooo crucial to the woman that I am today and they don’t even know it. The people that I once confided in for everything and now, I have no clue what they are doing with their life and vise versa.

At the same time though, I am not sure how many deep, meaningful relationships it is possible to have. I love those kind of relationships. Conversations with people until 5 in the morning are my favorite. But, I think there is a reason why those relationships are so meaningful. Because they are rare. They are between you and that person. They involved vulnerability. If I was able to maintain a deep relationship with every person in my life that I have eve considered close to me at one point or another, the relationship would no longer be a special thing. It gives me a desire to make the most out of the relationships that I have now and be completely intentional will people in all that I do.

I heard a quote once that said, “Some people are meant to stay in your life. While others are just meant to make an appearance.” I think that might be true. I think that God puts people in your life when they are supposed to be there and takes them out when they aren’t. After graduation, it was so crazy to think that I will never  again see some of the people that I knew and went to school with my whole life.

I guess that is one of the many things that makes Heaven such a beautiful place. I may never meet some people again in this lifetime. But my life is not limited to this Earth. Also, in a world where changing relationships are bound to happen, it is comforting to have one with the Creator that is constant.

Change is inevitable. People will come and go. YOU are consistent.

Lent Blog #4 (Life)

February 20, 2010

I love people. My relationships with people are, behind God, the most important thing in my life. I can have all of the money or success or fame in the world but if I have no one to share it with, what good is it? I also love cultures. I think it is so cool to look at how people vary from culture to culture and yet still stay so much the same. My life is completely different from a 19 year old living in Africa or South America but our ultimate goals are guaranteed to be somewhere along the same lines. And I love that. I love that there are certain human characteristics that bind us. Which is why this video captured my attention at 4 in the morning this morning.

It is rather lengthy but I enjoyed it. Basically it is a video where 50 people were asked one question. The whole point of the video is to explore human connections through people and place. The people that were interviewed came from all walks of life. They could not be more different in some ways. And in others, they were exactly the same.

Anyway, as I fell asleep last night I thought about this video. I thought about the fact that I want to be the one asking those 50 people that question. I want to travel to those different cultures and see the similarities and differences between them and my own. I love my life, don’t get me wrong, but my world concept is so limited and I want to expand that. I think that is a huge part of living: seeing the beauty of the people that God created.

For a while now I have had a bucket list. Basically a list of things that I want to accomplish in life. The list is constantly growing but one of the major things on that list is to visit every continent at least once. I was thinking about this desire as I was watching the video. I have such a desire to travel. I think it is so crucial to life. But, it comes back to the whole desire I have to plan things. If I make it a goal to make it to as many nations as I can, those traveling adventures become a to-do list. Those people become a to-do list. And people should never be a to-do list. Letting life happen makes those experiences so much more meaningful. As the saying goes. “Que sera sera.” Or, “What will be, will be.” I am not in control of that. God is.

Lord. Introduce me to Your loved ones. Let me love Your kids like You love them, whether they are in Kenya or Abilene, Texas.

You have already given me life and life to the fullest.

Lent Blog #3 (Planning)

February 19, 2010

I have always been a planner. I have gotten a lot better about it as I have matured but I try to plan EVERYTHING. Since I was in the 8th grade, I have been so sure of what my plans were going to be the summer after my freshman year of college. I know, I was only five years in advance.

And God smashed them all (in a GREAT way).

Growing up, I went to a camp called Pine Cove. It was an incredible place and it is where I came to know the Lord. All through my time going there, I knew that I wanted to work there and I was affirmed time and time again that it would be the perfect place for me. So every year I waited until, finally, I was old enough to apply. I was so sure I was going to get the job. I mean, I went to Pine Cove. I knew Pine Cove. This is what God wanted for me, right? I interviewed and anxiously awaited as one by one my friends heard that they would be working there. And finally I heard. I didn’t get the job. And I was strangely at peace about the whole thing. I mean, I dreaded having to tell people and then have them feel sorry for me, but I was really okay with the whole thing. I have a friend who constantly tells me that “there is no such thing as rejection, just re-direction.” And I truly felt that.

After that, I started to search through the other Pine Coves that I have in my life. I mean, how many other things have I planned out so meticulously that I leave no room for God to work? And He will and is.

I get to go to Brazil this summer. And I am working at an awesome place called Camp Ozark. And God is going to work. Neither of these things could I have done if I was working at Pine Cove this summer. Pine Cove is a great place. And I will probably reapply next year. I know that God is going to do huge things through the summer staff that will be there this year. And He is going to do equally huge things through me in Brazil and a in small town in Arkansas.

So, I am giving up all of my Pine Coves. I am going to stop planning things and allow for God to be God.

You are in control, Lord. Send me where You want me to go.