Friday, December 25, 2009

The Meaning of Christmas

I often have a lot of questions, and, honestly, sometimes I don't ask them because it seems like everyone else already has it figured out (and I don't want to look stupid).  One of those had to do with Christmas.  I always wondered why we celebrated Jesus' birth, because if you think about it, it's his death that actually did something.  It wasn't until I started studying Israel's history that I understood why we celebrate Christmas.

Imagine that God made you a promise, and you died before you saw it come to fruition.  In fact, your children also died before it came to be, even their children, and their children... So on and so forth until people stopped hearing from God, because the last prophet was dead.  Then, add 400 more years (a total of 1,000 years, I think) of silence from God.  By now, some people may have lost hope, and to the children, the promise may seem more like folklore. 

"For no matter how many promises God has made, they are 'Yes' in Christ." (1 Cor. 1:20)

But God is faithful to his promises, and at just the right time, we begin to see God's promises fulfilled.  This poor, tiny, olive-skinned baby, is the promised Messiah, the Anointed One.  He brings HOPE to people everywhere, PRAISE THE LORD!  Hope for peace, hope for rest, hope for completion, hope for salvation.  Our Savior, Christ the Lord, was born.  Immanuel, God With Us, gives us HOPE for a new life and relationship with the King of the Universe, the Creator, God.  Even though it's not complete yet, we can see the beginning, and so we know that the end is in sight.  God's promises to Abraham and to David, of blessings and a righteous King and a House for God, all of these and more, found in Christ.  Amen and Amen.

Shema Israel, Adonai eloheinu, Adonai echad.
Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord alone.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Intelligent Savior

God is working on using this quote to change my life.

"Can we seriously imagine that Jesus could be Lord if he were not smart? If he were divine, would he be dumb? Or uninformed? Once you stop to think about it, how could he be what we take him to be in all other respects and not be the best-informed and most intelligent person of all, the smartest person who ever lived?... 'Jesus is Lord' can mean little in practice for anyone who has to hesitate before saying, 'Jesus is smart.' He is not just nice, he is brilliant... He always has the best information on everything and certainly also on the things that matter most in human life."
The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Italian Cookies

It's a good day, friend.  I discovered a new favorite recipe--Biscotti (click for the recipe)--and it was really easy!  I split the batch in half and made one cranberry-almond and one chocolate toffee.  It turned out quite delicious (mom even liked it), and it's going to be a great treat to bring to grandma's next week since she loves coffee and Italian food!  Here's a few photos I took of my creation...

First you bake the dough in loaves, then you slice it into the traditional long shape--perfect for dunking into coffee!

You have to bake each slice to dry it out and get the crunchy cookie you're used to.
(See my camera reflected?)

Yum!  Finished cranberry almond biscotti.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Isn't it Ironic, Don'tcha Think?

It's finals week for me, which means studying, trying to relax, and more free time than I've had all semester.  I actually took one final last week in my hardest class, Thermodynamics.  The teacher had this amazing policy that if you earned a 93% on your final exam, you got an A in the class, regardless of your work the rest of the semester.  Admittedly, I studied harder for this exam than any other--hoping for the golden 93% on my final.  After taking the exam last week, I was sure that I'd gotten it, feeling like the exam was very easy.

Today, our teacher posted the scores.  Much to my surprise, I finished the semester with an 81% on my final... leaving me with a B when all was said and done.  I was tempted to be quite disappointed, quite a natural response to not getting what I had hoped for (and quite frankly, expected).  However, I couldn't help myself, because Chris Tomlin's song "Rejoice" was playing.  I couldn't help but rejoice, and though I felt Satan tempting me to do otherwise, I could only rejoice, because it is the proper response.

"Rejoice in the Lord, always.  I will say it again:  Rejoice!"  (Philippians 4:4)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Trials and Ice Skating

So what I didn't show you on my last post was the subsequent picture of me helping my nephew ice skate over Thanksgiving break.  I think sometimes life feels a little bit more like this:

Sometimes when you're trying to move forward you feel like you've got ice skates on and you're dragging a squirmy 3-year old.  Sometimes you just feel like giving up because things are really difficult and you can't see relief coming any time soon.  And that's life, because God puts us through trials.

If you're there right now, I want you to know that whatever is going on isn't pointless, useless or worthless and that God has not forgotten you in the midst of it.  He is Lord, God, King of the Universe, Sovereign Over All and He has a purpose for your suffering.  Check out 1 Peter 1:3-9 and you'll see what I mean.  Grace and Peace.

Monday, November 30, 2009


Thanksgiving break is now over and finals are quickly approaching, but I want to take a moment to REMEMBER. In the Forge, one thing we learned was that we are a very forgetful people--it's good for us to spend some time remembering what God has done.

I'm thankful for...

A wonderful couple of days with my family.
The opportunity to go to college and pursue a degree.
My wonderful family in Texas (and Mississippi!!!).
Being able to meet publicly for church.
Never wondering where my next meal will come from or where I will sleep.
Knowing the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
A great boyfriend who loves Jesus.
Wonderful roommates who also love Jesus and decorate our room for Christmas!!!
My awesome Bible study girls and opening up our favorite coffee shop every Wednesday morning.
Cups of hot tea and watching the sunrise.
Illnesses and failures, because they remind me that I'm weak and that my Savior is strong.

My Forge Family

Lovely Residents of Room 110

My Brother and I

Helping my Nephew Ice Skate this Weekend

My Boyfriend and I

Friday, November 6, 2009

Love is Love?

Today as I walked through campus I noticed several sidewalks chalked with this phrase: "Love is Love." It was being used to promote the LGBT group on campus.

The argument of the LGBT campus group is that if you love someone, that's all that matters. The fact that it is love, qualifies it as valid. I disagree. People can love things that are not good for them. I think of smoking, for example. Cigarettes have a warning from the Surgeon General that describes negative health effects of inhaling cigarette smoke. In addition, people can also love other people that do not have healthy, positive effects on their life. For example, in many abusive relationships, both parties believe they are acting out of love, however everyone agrees that abuse is unhealthy and has a negative life influence, whether or not it is "love."

I bring this up not to argue about the LGBT lifestyle, but simply to point out that this particular argument by the LGBT group is flawed. Postmodernism often says, "I think, therefore it must be so," but responsible human beings need to be able to systematically evaluate the validity of arguments, not just go with the flow.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Purity and Idol Factories

My sweet friend Lauren once described our tendency to love things other than Christ in such a poignant way. She described our hearts (biblically, the seat of our emotions, thoughts, and reason) as little idol factories--"prone to wander" as the hymnist writes.

This morning in Sunday school we talked about God's attributes of righteousness/justice and mercy. Righteousness, we learned, is bascially meeting the standard of what is right, and we know that God is the only thing that is right. He defines right by his very existence (if he didn't, then he would not be God, because the ultimate being must be the ultimate standard).

We began to discuss our righteousness as humans and it got me thinking about the human condition. Though we all wish to believe that in and of ourselves we have redeemable qualities, by observation of humanity, especially a small child, it seems to be quite clear that selfishness and ungodliness are at the core of our being. How is it then that one would hope to produce some sort of pure thing from a flawed source? Most scientists do not expect impure things to beget pure things. Would you expect a diseased mammal to give birth to a completely healthy one? Would you expect fresh water to come from a salt source? And yet we somehow expect that our little idol factories can produce something worthy of the Pure and Holy one. On our own it just isn't so.

Luckily this isn't the end of the story. God has made a way for us to become pure, by offering us the blood of the only perfect sacrificial lamb, Christ Jesus. By sprinkling us he makes us clean. (See Hebrews 9,Isaiah 1:18, 1 Peter 1:1-2)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Flowers and Fall

"For, 'All men are like grass and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.' And this is the word that was preached to you." 1 Peter 1:24-25

Last week I was walking through campus and saw the most beautiful tree. It was a vibrant yellow-orange, frosted with sanguine and overall dripping with color. I felt if I got any closer, I would be dusted with color as well. I just stared as I walked by, enraptured by its beauty.

Today, while walking through campus, I looked again for the tree. Much to my dismay it's enchanting beauty had vanished and the branches that once supported such a glowing array were now speckled with the greyish-brown remains of it's youthful glory. It was at this point that God brought to mind a verse from 1 Peter, which gave me a new perspective and comfort. It reminded me that as I go throughout life, it is not my glory that matters, but the Lord's and his everlasting word.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Soil Not Oil

Because I'm a college student, I have these sweet opportunities to go to interesting lectures from time to time. Dr. Vandana Shiva came to my campus recently to speak about her newest book "Soil Not Oil: Food Security in Times of Global Climate Change." I have to admit that the topics she addressed were ones I haven't thought much about (ecology, feminism, world politics). The take-away for me was that it is difficult to impute American culture (in all of it's facets) into Indian culture and be very successful. There is too much of a contrast, and their way of life was apparently working. I also learned that there is a monopoly on the seed market (who knew?), and so many small farmers are under the thumb of this large, American seed company. She also discussed seed patents and intellectual property. It was rather interesting overall and I'm glad that she is giving a voice to the many women in India whose livelihood depends on agriculture, but do not have a say in its politics.

For More Info:

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Thought of Today

We need Jesus today...

We needed Him yesterday...

and we will still need Him tomorrow.

We need God to love us, discipline us, test us, push us, mold us, cry with us, comfort us, rejoice with us, and most of all...

tell us who we are.

I think that's what I'm remembering today.

I need Jesus.


"The road to hell is paved with good intentions."

Well, I've had good intentions for the last month to blog about a few things, and today marks a month since my last post. Maybe instead of "hell" the above quote should say "boring blogs" or something of that nature, but you get the point.

Blue and Pink Lenses

To begin, a conversation I had with Nathan after getting some guidance on how to improve my resume:
Me: "I feel so much better about life now that my resume has been critiqued."
Nathan: "Hmm... don't you mean you feel better about being able to get a job."
Me: "No, I feel better about ALL of life."

Later I was thinking about this conversation and I think it reveals a lot about the difference between men and women. Females tend to see connections between all parts of their lives, while males are more apt to be one-track minded.

A good illustration I've heard is this: imagine a set of drawers. If this set of drawers were male, it would only have one drawer open at a time at any given moment. In contrast, if this set of drawers were female all of the drawers would be open at all times in varying degrees and the clothes would probably drape from one drawer to the next. Another helpful example is that men are like waffles, their minds are compartmentalized, while women are like spaghetti, with all things being connected and overlapping.

This explains why I felt better about ALL of life because ONE part of it was in order. If it were Nathan, he would probably not have felt the heightened stress that day anyway, and once his resume was complete, he would check it off his list and go on to the next thing. (Or something like that... I say that as if I've figured men out, but I promise I haven't!)


The other thing I wanted to write about has to do with remembrance. I was reading through my journal from the Forge and came across something that seemed so logical and freeing at the same time. I think I originally got the idea from the book, Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller.

In my humble observation of life, I've noticed that everyone seems to almost constantly compare themselves to everyone else. This is a tiring and often frustrating thing, and to further that thought is a much different conversation. The point I want to make is this. We are created in such a way that we find our identity outside of ourselves. We intuitively search for someone else to tell us that we are valuable and that we have a purpose and a reason for being on this earth and living and breathing. Our insistence upon comparison points to our innate desire to know and be known by God. This seems to be a better answer than "simply stop comparing yourself." Let your desire to compare yourself to someone else (and therefore add or subtract value) point you to the One who says you're so valuable that He sent his Son to die for you so you could have life.

Friday, September 11, 2009

I've Got to Hand it to Willard

For those of you who've read The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard may recognize the bumper sticker that I saw the other day. It reads,
"Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty."
When I first read Willard's book, I had never seen this bumper sticker and, honestly, I thought he was a little ku-ku for making such a big deal about it.

"In the shambles of fragmented assurances from the past, our longing for goodness and rightness and acceptance--and orientation--makes us cling to bumper slogans, body graffiti and gift shop nostrums that in our profound upside-down-ness somehow seem deep but in fact make no sense... [for example] 'Practice random kindnesses and senseless acts of beauty'...
"Such sayings contain a tiny element of truth. But if you try to actually plan your life using them you are immediately in deep, deep trouble. You might as well model your life on Bart Simpson or Seinfeld. But try instead... 'Practice routinely purposeful kindness and intelligent acts of beauty'... What is truly profound is thought to be stupid and trivial, or worse, boring, while what is actually stupid and trivial is thought to be profound...
"And how do you practice something that is random? Of course you can't. What is random may hit you, but whatever is purposely done is certainly not random. And no act of beauty is senseless, for the beautiful is never absurd. Nothing is more meaningful than beauty. (Willard, 16-17)"

As I move back into post-Forge life in college, it's so easy to forget why I'm here. I find myself believing the ridiculous and realizing I'm clinging to things that don't make sense. I don't join clubs to build up my resume, I join them if that is what will bring God the most glory. I don't do homework so I can be the smartest and get the highest GPA and eventually the best job, I do it because that's what God has asked me to do, knowing that He has my future in His hands. I don't need to impress anyone, because I have an audience of one.

I thank God for using Willard to remind me of my absurdity and to point me back to the only life that makes sense, discipleship to Christ.

Willard, Dallas. The Divine Conspiracy. London: Fount Paperbacks, 1998.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

An "A" for my Thoughts?

I've officially had all of my classes twice now, which means they're more than into full-swing. And I have to hurry up this post so I can go back to the one lecture hall that all my classes are in and retrieve the water bottle I neglected to bring with me. So along with watching an hour-long special on Sir Issac Newton, and reading about manufacturing systems, I was assigned to write an essay answering the question, "What do other people need to know to understand what it's like to be me?" It's for my Expository Writing 1 class, which I put off until this year, but figured I better take it now since it's a pre-requisite for my technical writing class. I thought it was pretty good, and post-worthy material, so here it is! Enjoy.

I left the house later than I wanted to this morning, but that’s usually the case, so I wasn’t too worried. There’s something about already having two years of college under your belt that makes you a little more lax about getting to class. It’s not that I’m lazy; I’m just less worried about a teacher ripping my head off or locking me out of lecture. Anyway, it turned out that I was several minutes early. I guess it takes less time than I remembered to get to Willard.

I was feeling a little self-conscious as I walked up the steps and saw the large crowd amassed in the foyer. I’m really not a big-group person, so I just smiled and tried to glide through the swarm of students. Growing up I was very shy, hardly saying anything at all. But my mom is quite persistent and she wouldn’t let me stay that way—she always encouraged me to speak up and step into the spotlight. In high school, cheerleading and theater really helped me break out of my shell, and now I don’t mind the attention once I get over the initial intimidation I feel.

As soon as I broke through the multitude, I found myself in the familiar comfort of Willard’s sanitarium-white hallways. I smiled as I thought about the art classes I’d taken there and the colorful characters I’d met—polar opposite of the guys in engineering, where I spend most of my time. In the end, I think it was a wise decision to double major in Mechanical Engineering and Art for my first two years. In addition to a GPA boost, I learned a lot about the subjects, myself and people very different from me. I realized that people are just people, and everyone needs a friend.

Walking into Willard 123, I was honestly a little surprised to see so many guys. If this was Engineering Physics or Calculus, I would have expected the ratio… but Expository Writing? I had the feeling you get when you bite into an oatmeal-raisin cookie thinking that it’s oatmeal chocolate chip. It’s not that you’re necessarily disappointed you got raisins, only that you thought it would be chocolate and it’s not. So, I decided to let go of my expectations and gladly accept what Providence had dealt.

Next, I did what any socially-adept person does when they walk into a classroom: I looked for the “safe seat”. A “safe seat” is one that’s in the front half of the classroom (but not the first row), preferably on the end, and even more preferably with a buffer seat between you and the nearest person. Seeing none, but noticing that the second row was full except for the end one closest to the door, I took that opportunity. With so many people sitting beside each other, I didn’t want to look like a loner. As much as I don’t like to be part of the crowd, I’d rather not feel like there’s no room for me if I need to be a part of it.

Sitting there, I found myself thinking it was nice to be back in Kansas again. After spending last year in Texas, it was nice to see familiar faces, to be somewhere that I knew well and to meet people from towns that I recognize. I am thankful that I had the opportunity to do a leadership internship, but it is hard to pack up and move two states away with hardly anyone or anything familiar. This small-town-Kansas girl found Dallas to be a little intimidating at times.

My thoughts were interrupted with the entrance of our teacher. As she began to get settled, I leaned over to get my pen and notebook and thanked God for such a wonderful morning…

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Wait... it's Already August?

How long has it been... I guess I forgot to look. I know it must have been a while, because today I looked at my watch and realized it's already 8 days into August. I'm not sure I remember much of June or July... you see, I've been at Pine Cove. In some ways it's like washing your hair 11 times in a row. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. You probably don't distinctly remember one wash from the other. You get done and you realize you're out of shampoo and you're wondering what happened... Well that's sort of like summer camp. I'm looking to be done with my last week of summer camp at Pine Cove. I feel a litttle nostalgic as I think back on my three summers + one year in the Forge. Tyler's definitely a second home for me... and in some ways it will always be I think.

Anyway, despite the blur of this summer I know that God has been at work! I've been blessed to see God multiply lessons that I learned in Forge in those around me. Since I'm a list person (thanks, mom!) I'll go that route:

1. There are some people you meet who are just easy to be friends with, but there are plenty of people in life who are not. At all. But if Jesus has Lordship in your life and you are his disciple, you can not only tolerate, or be friendly and kind to everyone, but you can actually love them. The love of Christ has no stipulations or preferences. A line from one of my favorite songs (by Phil Wickham) says, "Love with no conditions lives for holding nothing back." So that's just it, there's no excuse for not loving your neighbor! It is, after all, the greatest commandment.

2. You are not entitled to anything. You are a bond-servant to Christ and you must humbly take your portion from him daily. (Even if it's not what you want or think you deserve...)

3. You can choose joy. It is always your choice because the fullness of joy is available to you and it's not based upon your circumstance.

4. The battle against sin is first fought in your mind. You are not a victim of your sin. It is a choice.

5. To quote Tozer, "Sins are because sin is." The root of all sin is ungodliness... putting yourself on the throne of your heart that rightly belongs to God.

6. The gospel is for every day. It is not only for salvation, but it is also for sanctificaiton. The good news that Christ paid for all of your sin gives you the strength to continue in the battle until he comes again and the completion of your sanctification and glorification is complete. PTL!

Well, friends. I am sitting here in Cafe Tazza (for the last time, perhaps?) and getting very cold. It's time for me to shut this party down and work on prepping for school. TTFN!

Friday, May 22, 2009

That's Life, I Guess

I started my job as Woods secretary on Tuesday. The following is the progression of my state of being:
Ignorance is Bliss
Deer in Headlights
Personal Pep-Talks
Looking Like I Know What I'm Doing

It's been pretty fun so far. The secretary from last summer came and showed me the ropes... that was so helpful!

Prior to beginning my secretarial duties, I made the time-intensive drive to TX. I've been able to whittle it down to 9.5 hours (staying within the speed limit, thank you) through much experience and discipline. Because of the experience, I thought I'd share my tips for long trips!

My Tips for Long Trips:
Avoid drinking too many liquids (especially coffee and tea)
Mix your instant cappuccino with decaf (2:1 ratio) to soften the sugar-high blow
Go to the bathroom at every stop... you'll definitely regret it if you don't (mom was right!!!)
Create a very varied music mix (You'll wish you did the 17th time you listen through it)
Listen to an audio book or the Bible (check out an earlier post for a good website that offers FREE downloadable audio)
Pray out loud
Work on scripture memory
Try to identify license plates by the design before you read the state
Call your friends/family
Plan visits with friends on the way (good if you can make it during a meal time... two birds with one stone!)
Check for major cities along your route and plan your leaving time to avoid rush hour

So... I was thinking it would be funny, but it was actually pretty practical. What can you expect, I'm better at that. However, I did have one of those I-thought-this-only-happens-in-the-movies moments on the way. I had just made the first of my two fuel stops (pretty good, eh?) and was hanging up the phone to enjoy my much anticipated italian-french-caramel-mocha-nut cappuccino + decaf when it happened. I picked up my piping-hot styrofoam cup-o-goodness, inhaled the steaming, sweet aroma, and... *pop*! The lid landed in my lap along with half of my coffee!!! I'm then shreiking, trying to put down my coffee, and pull the steaming, saturated fabric of my pants away from my burning lap. Aren't those stupid cups made for sipping in your car?! Don't worry, there were no permanent burns. Luckily I had some wet wipes to clean up the mess (I always knew mom carried those for a reason!). In the end, there was plenty of coffee left to drink, and my car smelled pretty good.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

It's Been One Week...

One week, seven days, 168 hours... well it's been a little over a week since the Forge class of 2009 graduated. I spent the first week at home in Ellinwood and it was a drastice change. I went from living with fifteen people and doing everything together to living with four people with four different schedules. It was kind of lonely in the day time with everyone at work, but I got to get somethings done that I needed to get done (including make yummy granola!). I also watched my first post-forge movie which was the Disney/Pixar classic, Cars. For those who don't know, we decided that throughout the duration of the Forge to not watch movies or TV, except as assigned by Matt (which wasn't that often). Anyway, the movie was heart-warming, but I haven't watched another movie since then.

As I've been reflecting on the past eight months, a few things come to mind. First was how much I learned about my own selfishness. The first 2/3 of the Forge was really difficult for me, and I really struggled with becoming a part of the community. I was very inward-focused. Matt, the Forge director, really challenged me at the beginning of the second semester to reach out to my Forge family and see if things changed. It's hard to describe what happened once I began to try. I know that I didn't do it on my own, but I also know that I had to try in order for the change to begin. God works in funny ways, I guess. One of the mysteries of the Kingdom is that when you reach out to others and sacrifice to meet their needs, somehow yours are met as well, but if you seek only to meet yours, then they remain unmet. It's the only way that community can work. In 1 Peter 1 it says, "[now] that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart, for you have been born again." That was the command I clung to last semester and I think it really sums it up well. I am to love the people God's placed in my circle of influence because that's who I am. I have been born again, I am a child of God, a disciple of Christ, and my identity is now one who loves.

That's all I've got for now! I hope the sun's shining wherever you are.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Possibly a Bribe

Hello again! I've finished the second video just now. During our visit to Bethlehem, we were able to visit the Church of the Nativity where we had a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Our guide got us front-row seats to an Eastern Orthodox mass in room where the Christ-child was supposed to have been born. Usually the room would be closed off to visitors until after the mass, but we got in. Who knows? Anyway, check out the video!

In the front of the room, where the priests are is the supposed spot. I was closer to the back of the room, but it was a great vantage point to capture all of the beautiful paintings hanging on the walls. It's dark, so it's hard to see the tapestries also lining the walls, but part of that may have been all of the carbon build-up from candles over the years.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

OMG, Galilee!

Good Morning!

I've snazzied up some of the short video clips I took while in Israel. The first is of the sea of Galilee from the vantage point of Susita, a city of the Decapolis on the east shore of the sea.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


We're back! We got home on Thursday and have been recovering from jet lag the last few days. This trip was unlike any I have ever taken in my life. Not because of the culture, landscape, or food, but because God showed up. I've never been on a "vacation" that brought me closer to the Lord before. We have two tour guides, one American and one Israeli. The Israeli tour guide taught us a lot of Jewish history, while our American guide led us through scripture as we hiked to each site.

Out of all of our lessons, the one that stuck with me was from Romans 11. Paul is writing to the gentiles, reminding them that they are "grafted in." We have Jewish roots, and the early church would have understood this. In my life, I know I have disregarded much of my roots as a follower of the one true God. I saw that my Jewish brothers and sisters hold scripture (aka. the text) in very high regard. When they pray, they pray scripture because how could man's words be better than God's? Also, everyone reads the same passage of scripture and memorizes the same "portion" each day. How cool would it be if when we ran into another Christian at the grocery store we could talk about "the portion" (which is what the Jews call it). Personally, it reminded me to be grateful for our loving Father who graciously grafted us into his family.

"17But if(S) some of the branches were broken off, and you,(T) although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root[c] of the olive tree, 18do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. 19Then you will say, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in." 20That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you(U) stand fast through faith. So(V) do not become proud, but(W) fear. 21For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you,(X) provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise(Y) you too will be cut off. 23And(Z) even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. 24For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree." (Romans 11:17-24)

The picture of an olive tree is also cool. The life is in the roots. A branch will only bear fruit for so long, then you cut it off down to the roots and a new shoot will come back. Those are the culture olive trees and they bear a lot of fruit. Wild olive trees (more like bushes) hardly bear any fruit. However, you can graft a wild branch into a cultivated tree and it will bear fruit just like the natural branches. It's a really cool picture of what God does with us (gentiles), grafting us into his family (the Jews). We're his adopted children, but just as much children as those that came before us.

That's all I have for now. Be sure to check out the pictures I've posted on facebook. The following are links to the three albums!

"The Best of the Lands"
"A BIG Day"
"Grafted In"

Monday, March 2, 2009

"Get Krunk"...the Forge

Well the Forge is still going on, and actually coming to a close. With two months left, we're preparing to go to Israel in two weeks, working hard to complete assignments, and having a lot of fun together. Here are just a few photos of projects, speakers, dance parties and birthday gatherings. Check back at the end of March for a full report of the Holy Land!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Mission Austin

Last semester the Forge was assigned to plan and execute their own evangelistic mission trip for this February. A few weeks ago we finished the task with a trip down to Austin, TX. We started out in the St. John's Neighborhood, one of the poorest in Austin, with a 5th Quarter event at Reagan High School. RHS has recently started an FCA program, and so we helped jump-start their name on campus with this event. We played basketball, volleyball, had root Beer floats, and most importantly, heard the gospel. Stephen, one of the Forge students, shared his testimony that was similar to where a lot of the students were coming from. The FCA sponsors were amazed that he had 70 Reagan students sit still and listen to this white kid from Tyler share his story.
The next day was Saturday and we spent the day in Zilker Park walking around, talking to people, and sharing the gospel. I went with John and we talked to a Jewish guy and a girl who grew up methodist, but was no longer following the Lord. We got to have a really good apologetics discussion.
Sunday morning we went to Church Under the Bridge, hosted my Mission Possible. It's a ministry to the homeless that provides a church service, food, clothing and other supplies every Sunday. It's acutally held underneath an overpass, hence the name.
We also got to partner with Apartment Life Ministries. It's a married couple or a team of two people who live in an apartment complex, with no rent, and in exchange they plan community events and invest in the lives of the residents (almost like R.A.'s in college). In the morning we helped them pass out muffins and juice to residents hurrying off to work and in the evening we mingled with them over a baked potato dinner. I really connected with some of the residents and saw myself doing a ministry like this in the future.
Finally, we partnered with Hill Country Bible Church. They have 14 church plants in Austin, and have a vision of reaching all of Austin in the near future. We teamed up with some church planters and did survey work in communities where churches were in the preliminary stages. I really enjoy learning about how a church plant works, especially that they go out and build up the church by evangelizing the community (they don't want people just switch churches, they want more people to know Christ!).
It was a really neat trip, and I definitely learned a lot. I don't see myself being involved in most of what we did, but it was cool to see how God had brought us to Austin to give a lot of the Forge students a heart for the city. Over half of the students have been considering moving there post-Forge and becoming a missional community, possibly partnering with a new church plant. What a cool way to see the Forge community last long after the program has ended!
Until next time, grace and peace.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Audio Bibles

One of our assignments for the Forge is to have read/listened to the entire bible by our Graduation date. Since I have about a 10 hour drive from KS to TX, Matt suggested putting an audio bible on my Ipod. Well, I'm also pretty frugal and don't want to spend $40 on one. With my excellent Google skills, I found this website that publishes the New Testament for free! (As a result, I'm almost finished with the NT!) Enjoy.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Dream Job!!!

On the fateful day of December 17th, my dreams met reality.

I've always dreamed of being an engineer (well, once I realized that I couldn't be a ballerina), but as I got older I struggled with seeing how that would relate with my heart to help others with my gifts. I wanted to live missionally, and after praying for months I felt God telling me to be an engineer that uses her skills to build up ministries for little to no pay. I'd never heard of anyone doing that, and was rather timid in talking about that dream with people--it sounds sort of radical.

Anyway, back to December 17th. Two men from Missionary Tech were at Pine Cove, helping them with future planning. One was an architect, and the other... a mechanical engineer! After talking with them, I realized that the M.E. works three days a week in consulting and volunteers two days a week with Missionary Tech. They were excited to discuss future partnerships... a possible internship in the future. Who knows!?

I just want to encourage whoever's reading that God does not put dreams in our hearts that are impossible. He knew from the beginning of time that all of these things would take place. In fact, He knows what my future with this company will be also. And I'm SO EXCITED!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Forge Q and A

Was it all you expected it to be?
The Forge has exceeded my expectations and God has shown me that his plans are so much bigger my own. I expected to learn new things about myself and to gain more knowledge about scripture and leadership, but I had no idea what it meant to take eight months and go through an intense discipleship program. I expected living in community would be stretching, but I didn’t realize how stretching living with fifteen people that I didn’t choose to live with actually would be. The Forge is tough, because God uses it to refine. “These [trials] have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes event though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1 Peter 1:7

What do you do each day?
Most mornings begin with P2 (prayer and physical training). Then we have class in the mornings and some afternoons. These include Theology, Life 101, Nehemiah (Leadership Principles), Inductive Bible Study, and several others. We also have weekly speakers who give lectures. Each speaker is so different, and yet there’s always something to be learned from them—especially in our Q&A time! Most evenings we have some free time to work on assignments, visit our host families, or have Forge family dinners. However, no two days are the same. Flexibility is a big part of the program.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned?
This semester has been spent answering the question, “who are you?” In our Sanctus class, we learned the different components of identity including character and temperament, genetics and history, and foundation. We took the Myers-Briggs temperament analysis and we’re also doing a leadership styles class. I was surprised at how accurate these assessments were, and how helpful they’ve been in understanding myself and the group dynamics. A definition of maturity is “knowing oneself,” and I think that someone who does not know themselves cannot be a good leader. If you don’t know how you’re made, you certainly don’t know what you’re made for. I don’t want to be a pencil trying to paint a masterpiece. It has been eye-opening for me to see how God has uniquely made me, and I’m looking forward to next semester where we will start to answer “why are you here?”

What are your weekends like?
Six weekends each semester we work conferences or retreats at one of Pine Cove’s camps in Tyler. This helps us apply what we’ve learned during the week to our weekends; it also helps offset the cost of the program and build close relationships with Pine Cove’s awesome resident staff. I have done everything from work crew in the dining hall to leading the four and five year olds program to speaking to the high school age campers, and it required a lot of flexibility. Then, the weekends where we don’t work, we are free to do whatever we like as long as we’re back for class on Monday.

What’s been the most challenging part of the program?
One of the most challenging things for me was my Forge director week. Each student has the opportunity to be the Forge director for one week during the program. This student has all of the responsibilities of the Forge director, including taking care of our speaker (arrival and their stay with us), scheduling of classes, and planning any special events for the week. I have found that my personality is much different from most of the students in the program, so it was difficult for me to lead them. There were tasks that I knew needed to get done, but I had to find a way to make them fun and exciting for the group.

Are you finished fundraising?
I am not completely finished, but have $1,163 left for the program. I am confident that God will provide for this remaining portion of tuition costs. I also want to thank those of you who are supporting me. God has abundantly and overwhelmingly provided for me thus far!