Sunday, August 30, 2009

Now we wait

The hardest part of progress in work or life is staying in place. When we’ve agreed to move forward, it can be excruciating to wait for the next step. We might be part of a group that has been tasked to change or expand, but we are parked in neutral. Sometimes we sense an open door ahead, but it is not yet in view. There seems nothing we can do to hasten an advance. So we sit.

We fidget.

We wait.

We pray.

Finally we stop contending or striving and become resigned. We rest.

Eventually the suffering of waiting is over. The group finds the catalyst that propels it forward. The task takes a direction we did not anticipate. The door creaks open (or a companion flings it wide) and we walk through.

The new vista may look nothing like what we had expected. Then the preparation of waiting and suffering makes sense. We have been prepared for a new assignment or quest by abandoning our own ideas and plans. Like Moses after 40 years of herding sheep in the desert, we have become willing to go to or do what we would have refused.

Ask: could this suffering be preparation for a wonderful future of unexpected opportunity?

Read more:
*May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God. Finally, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen. Galatians 6:14-18 NIV

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Words of life

Writing keeps writers alive. During pressured seasons, when event planning, studies, and personal obligations collide, words help me survive. I hear my internal voice composing sentences and paragraphs constantly, the words spilling and editing from incoherent thought to potential pages. It's not like I have time to write most of it down. In fact, once focused and designed, many of the articles and lists disappear, peacefully fading unwritten into "already discussed" archives of my mind.

Some of the best word combinations provide writers with great personal pleasure, easing the stress of jumbled ideas and creativity that have no other outlet. Articulating what is wrong with the arrangement of spaces, how tasks could better be accomplished, or how processes could be streamlined may not make a different externally. But working out potential improvements and exploring possibilities brings great satisfaction, even when circumstances cannot be changed.

Once in a while, words catch fire as catalysts that move the world. Occasionally an influencer catches a written idea and transform the thinking of others. Sometimes the writer will not see the fruit of his or her words, because it is so far ahead of the thinking of the time that it takes a generation or two to grasp the possibilities.

When we write, we are not always thinking of outcomes. Desperation as the alphabet piles up in great word heaps and scrambling phrases causes us to unload them on any listener, even if the only listener is our internal conversation with self. Spilling words onto paper, into speeches, and bouncing them around in our heads, we release tension, create potential, and dream the future into being. Thank God for words.

Read more:
*The LORD’s words are absolutely reliable. They are as untainted as silver purified in a furnace on the ground, where it is thoroughly refined. Psa. 12:6 NET

*Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. Psa. 19:14 KJV

*Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my mouth. Psa. 54:2 KJV

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Blind faith

God puts his stamp on each of us from birth. Even as babies, we have ideas, talents, and a unique personality. God sets us in families and surroundings that train us and lets us choose how we will be shaped by challenges and opportunities.

God's requirement of us and our privilege are to say "Yes!" to him, over and over. Often we just get enough vision to keep us moving ahead. We may not understand how preparations we are making fit with where we are in the present. We may have no idea where obedience is taking us. And others may find our direction incomprehensible.

There have been times when I've felt like a blind person in a brightly lit room. Everyone else seems to know where they're going. As I'm staggering, clutching God's guiding arm in faith, I have to keep trusting he will keep me from falling into catastrophe.

Not everyone willingly makes space for the dreams God puts in our hearts. People question how what we are doing benefits them and their own dreams. If they don't "buy in" to God's pathway for us, they may put obstructions, hindrances, and obstacles in our way. Following the Voice, we carefully pick our way around roadblocks and pray our way through the swamps of diversions.

As I wade through the process of doctoral studies, there seems to be too little time or energy to invest in what I have been called to do in this season of life and work: research, write, learn. The space I try to create encounters resistance as I am hemmed in by obligations. And like an undergrad student, I don't know where these studies will take me in the future.

But I know the Voice who is calling me to this task. The Creator of time and space will make a way and a place to complete what he has asked of me. No matter what the constraints, the outside demands, or other people's expectations, my job is to please God with steady work, best efforts, and a consecrated heart.

What is the call of God on us? What is he asking of us today? Does it seem utterly impossible? That means his strength must be our sufficiency and our source of strength and help. We will look back with joyful surprise and say, "Thus far our God has helped us."

Read more:
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24 NIV

*Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:30-31 NIV

Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?"

You see, we are not like the many hucksters who preach for personal profit. We preach the word of God with sincerity and with Christ's authority, knowing that God is watching us. 2 Corinthians 2:15-17 NLT

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:4-7 NIV

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Wayward Wagner

Monday, the Rhine maidens lost their gold to a nasty dwarf, setting off a whole string of fantasy in song. Four nights and seventeen hours of music later (plus intermissions), we've come to the end of another season of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelung.

Watching the immorality of every Wagner creature - mortal and immortal, I was relived that our God who made the universe is not capricious or changeable. His nature is constant and Good. The Creator can be trusted and does not follow into temptation to satisfy the inclinations of an evil nature like Wagner's gods.

Opera is a medium where the basest desires can be paraded in full view. A composer can put all the flaws of human nature into song, exposing the depravity of the human heart. Detaching self from the characters of the story allows poetry and music to flow together in an orgy of events that in real life would be condemned by all but the foulest hearts.

I enjoyed the music. I delighted in the costumes and staging. But my heart was saddened at our acceptance of the fallen nature, not only of humans, but of the gods we invent. What beauty and wholesomeness could have been written though Wagner's gift, had the man been moral, upright, and interested in building up rather than tearing apart the fabric of society. Maybe someone pure-hearted and sincere is writing that kind of lovely music this year.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Happy Birthday, Kirsten!

Today's our daughter's birthday. As far as we remember, it's her first one spent away from home. How we miss her across the miles! Kirsten is a lovely, hard-working gal with a lot of friends... many who are celebrating with her.

Some random thoughts on parenting, now that our kids are grown:
*When kids are little, they depend on their parents for food, clothes, and shelter. Their worldviews are shaped by Dad and Mom's responses to life. Even more basically, we depend on God for everything, and gratefully acknowledge our dependence and his care.

*A love of learning by parents produces children who are life-long learners. Curiosity is bred by reading widely and randomly to children, exposing them to languages, cultures, and ideas, and talking as a family about the world.

*A home should be the safest place to bounce ideas and attitudes around, while learning respect for authority and rules. Sharing prayers and scripture gives us confidence in God our Father. Hospitality teaches us that the world is bigger than our little circle: others have great thoughts and worthwhile work - whether or not we agree with them or understand them.

*Mannerisms transfer by association. Breaches of trust by parents or siblings can breed a suspicion of people. Offhand remarks may steer a child away from small things like vegetables or big things like people of other ethnicities.

*Children tend to thrive under consistent, Christian parenting that demonstrates how to handle conflict, challenges, and relationships. Knowing our folks love us and expect the best of us encourages high standards and achievement. Watching them follow Jesus helps us set priorities and obey his voice.

*Some parents go overboard, telling their kids they are special, wonderful, and extraordinary... for very ordinary things. Rather than expecting excellence, every little achievement is celebrated as a milestone. (Kindergarten graduation. Gold star for finishing a workbook. Certificate of "special recognition" for being a junior high student. A limousine and chauffeur to take a kid to the high school prom. Getting a new car for his/ her 16th birthday...) As these self-absorbed, spoiled kids grow up, others may not affirm them as gravity's center - and that can lead to all kinds of insecurities and rebellions. Marriage and work becomes hell when such competing egos collide without the skills to compromise or submit.

*We hope our children will be able to look back on lives well-lived in service to God and others. Friends of ours are attending their 50th high school reunion this summer. They'll see the outcomes of lifetimes of choices -- to live for self or under God's guidance. We all face challenges, but how we respond to them helps determine the direction of our lives.

So... today we wish our daughter well. We thank God for bringing this child into our home, for watching over her, and leading every step of the way. We pray a covering over her past, a shelter for her present, and great joy for her future. We'll always love you, babe.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Recruiting for college

Every AG college had a young recruitment booth at General Council last week. Most looked like they were designed by middle-aged promotional staff. The magnet for young and old was an internet cafe set up by a young team, complete with internet hookup and computers. Students are used to virtual spaces, where art and marketing imitates life. That got me thinking.

Target market? High schoolers looking for colleges. And their parents, who want them in a safe but stimulating environment where they will want to learn, explore career options, and have a well-rounded social life.

I remember arriving at college, meeting my roommate, and inspecting my dorm room. It was exciting to put up posters, decorate the space, and set up my dresser and desk. My roommie and I moved stuff around to make it "ours." So... what would a recruiter's booth look like if it gave students the feeling of living in a great dorm room on campus, instead of cramming a booth with industrial promotional displays?


  • Tall IKEA loft bed with linens in college colors
  • Slide a desk under, topped by a lamp with a custom shade, computer monitor showing college website or slides, and a few textbooks. Prop a few PATRIK chairs close by for visitors and recruiters to hang out
  • Use an open wardrobe to hang T-shirts with the names of all the degree majors and minors available at the school (Medicine: nursing, pre-med; Communications: debate, media; Science: environmental, physics, chemistry...) Put the college website on each shirt. Draw from pre-applications for T-Shirt giveaways on the last day of the convention. That way you'd see prospective students at least twice!
  • Put texts on a BILLY bookcase labeled by school: Arts & Sciences, College of Ministry, Graduate Psychology, or Nursing/Pre-Med
  • Add seating with a comfy BEDDINGE sofa/sofabed or two, slipcovered in college colors
  • Hang posters of college sports teams, music bands, and college kids having fun together
  • Scatter college memorabilia, sports paraphernalia, and a stuffed mascot (like our NU eagle). Lean a saxophone in the corner to advertise the jazz band.
  • Skip the ugly convention carpet for 2' round non-skid rugs in bright college colors.
  • Accessorize with funky trays to hold literature and a laundry hamper to confine giveaways or sports gear
Promote your college's social concern: arrange in advance to donate the furniture to a women's shelter or teen center like Teen Challenge instead of disassembling and packing it home. Let the organization's volunteers come by to pick it up!

Cost: probably a lot cheaper than renting convention center furniture and equipment! (typical rental: rug $250 plus installation, sofa or chairs $100-800 each, plus media gear, etc.)

Botttom line: target your market by introducing kids to YOUR college as their ideal home for the next four years, doing good for others (a shelter) while standing out in the crowd of other eager recruiters... without spending a fortune.

Just another idea off the top of my head.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Dreaming dreams

One of the promises of Pentecost was that those full of the Spirit would dream dreams. Dreaming is part of the spiritual activity and creativity of the human mind and soul. While religious philosophers and fortune tellers attempt to work out methods for interpreting dreams, those who follow Christ are privileged to dream beyond human angst.

Some dreams are fulfilled easily. God gives a vision for what can be, and a match between gifting and circumstances brings the dream to vibrant life.

Other dreams slowly emerge. They are birthed in silence, in waiting, in watching what God is doing. When first dreamed, they may be confusing or obscure, a disconnect with reality, or an impossibility in human terms. They unfold slowly and secretly as God brings them alive.

Sometimes we are sidelined by God's wishes. While I worked on my piano performance degree, I sat out a year in the last row of a Sunday School department. My husband and I co-taught Grade 5 boys, more "where needed" than the best fit. Each Sunday during opening session, as the pianist hacked about in confusion on the simplest children's choruses, my whole being was begging, "Hit a G chord! Oh, please find it!" But God had put me aside that year - we were strangers to the area, and I did not play in public even once. I remember dreaming melodies and chords, my feet waking me as they conducted beat patterns during the night. Music pulsed through my whole body day and night without a ministry outlet. The internal compositions and music structures built that year were crucial when I played challenging venues years later.

Sometimes dreams are not welcomed or invited. We may be sitting in a dark place, waiting to be asked to participate with what we know God can do... while watching others muddle about on something that is a natural and easy fit for us. And they may never ask for help or input, so the dream goes away as the mediocre is accepted as the status quo.

People with limited imagination or control issues may block our dreams, constrict us in their boxes, and limit our capacity to carry out a larger vision. When that happens repeatedly, we may shrink into their smallness temporarily to survive the season. The opportunities we envision and the dreams we dream may be out of reach in that setting. Then our duty is to wait patiently for God's open door into the freedom of the Spirit in full capacity. That may mean going elsewhere.

Sometimes constriction opens us to the new thing we would never have considered in comfort. It forces us into something still to come. The dream does not die. It merely rests until opportunity and time come together.

And some spiritual dreams may never be fulfilled. The combination of who and what and where never arrives: the vision of what could have been fades into nothing or into someone else's future. David dreamed a temple for God, and was told his son would build it. Paul wanted to go to parts of Asia and was diverted to Europe by the Spirit and a new dream.

We take comfort and nurture patience when we remember that dreams birthed by the Spirit belong to God. Dreams are spiritual tasks and worship, part of the flow of the Holy Spirit opening us to his activity in the world. We turn toward God in our dreams, affirming obedience to his work among us, leaving the fulfillment, transience, or mortality of our dreams in his hands.

Read more:

*Praise the LORD. Praise the name of the LORD; praise him, you servants of the LORD, you who minister in the house of the LORD, in the courts of the house of our God. Praise the LORD for the LORD is good; sing praise to his name for that is pleasant.

I know that the LORD is great, that our Lord is greater than all gods. The LORD does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths. He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth; he sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses. Psalm 135:1-3, 5-7 NIV

*Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12 NEV

*I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Now to our God and father be glory forever and ever. Amen. Philippians 4:13, 19-20 NIV

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Book giveaway - need girlfriends?

The Friends We Keep The Friends We Keep - book giveaway for a woman who needs to make and keep friends:

During a particularly painful time in her life, Sarah Zacharias Davis learned how delightful–and wounding–women can be in friendship. She saw how some friendships end badly, others die slow deaths, and how a chance acquaintance can become that enduring friend you need.

The Friends We Keep is Sarah’s thoughtful account of her own story and the stories of other women about navigating friendship. Her revealing discoveries tackle the questions every woman asks:

• Why do we long so for women friends?
• Do we need friends like we need air or food or water?
• What causes cattiness, competition, and co-dependency in too many friendships?
• Why do some friendships last forever and others only a season?
• How do I foster friendship?
• When is it time to let a friend go, and how do I do so?

With heartfelt, intelligent writing, Sarah explores these questions and more with personal stories, cultural references and history, faith, and grace. In the process, she delivers wisdom for navigating the challenges, mysteries, and delights of friendship: why we need friendships with other women, what it means to be safe in relationship, and how to embrace what a friend has to offer, whether meager or generous.

Author Bio:

Sarah Zacharias Davis is a senior advancement officer at Pepperdine University, having joined the university after working as vice president of marketing and development for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and in strategic marketing for CNN. The daughter of best-selling writer Ravi Zacharias, Davis is the author of the critically-acclaimed Confessions from an Honest Wife and Transparent: Getting Honest About Who We are and Who We Want to Be. She graduated from Covenant College with a degree in education and lives in Los Angeles, California.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Enroute to Bithynia

Acts 16 tells an interesting story. Paul's had good success as a church-planter, and he's anxious to preach where people haven't heard Good News about Jesus. He makes the attempt to go to Bithynia, but is constrained "by the Spirit of Jesus." Something didn't feel right about going ahead, either in circumstances or internally.

Did people need the gospel in that place? Of course. Was Paul doing what God had called him to do on his missionary journey? Apparently so. Did he have a working strategy for reaching new regions? Sure. He had a good track record. Were there others willing to go along and support ministry in Bithynia? Sounds like it.

But Paul turned aside to go elsewhere. Macedonia wasn't his chosen destination, even though it turned out to be a great place to plant churches. His own ideas fell by the wayside. His career / ministry goals were swept aside because God had other things in mind.

We don't read that Paul stewed over the change of plans. There was no hanging around and pining for what could have been. We don't even read that other people did the work he had hoped to do. Bithynia was "over" before it began. Instead, Paul and coworkers immediately set their feet on deck of a ship, sailed in a new direction, and evangelized southern Europe.

If you're wondering why your planning is coming to nothing and you can't get a handle on the future, consider Acts 16. Maybe your ship is about to dock at the harbor - and Macedonia is a stormy ride over an open sea, just where God wants you!

Great story of his own journey to Macedonia by our friend Earl Creps: Defenseless

Read more:
The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he. Deuteronomy 32:4 NLT

*I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. O Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins. Psalm 130:5-8 NIV

*[Paul] also came to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple named Timothy was there, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but whose father was a Greek. The brothers in Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was Greek.

As they went through the towns, they passed on the decrees that had been decided on by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the Gentile believers to obey. So the churches were being strengthened in the faith and were increasing in number every day.

They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been prevented by the Holy Spirit from speaking the message in the province of Asia. When they came to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to do this, so they passed through Mysia and went down to Troas.

A vision appeared to Paul during the night: A Macedonian man was standing there urging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” After Paul saw the vision, we attempted immediately to go over to Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them. Acts 16:1-10 NET

Monday, August 10, 2009


Word of the Day: expatiate \ek-SPAY-shee-ayt\ verb
1 : to move about freely or at will : wander
*2 : to speak or write at length or in detail
Example Sentence: The middle schoolers grew restless as Mr. Donald expatiated on Pluto's classification as a dwarf planet.

It’s easy to get weary when living without a clear goal in sight or when listening to someone who can’t get to the point. In other cultures, it’s quite normal to chat for the better part of an hour before slipping in the actual reason for a visit. In our Western world, we prefer to make a beeline for the heart of the matter.

Sometimes I wonder if God is on an Eastern track with me. His direction is so gentle and subtle at times that I seem to wander about, whether discussing faith with friends or taking a long time to find the path he has laid out for me. In retrospect it is easy to see his guiding hand, but in the meantime, my journey occasionally seems aimless and circuitous.

This month we were part of a church service that resonated with everything I’m passionate about. The congregation is missional and an integral part of an urban community. The musicians worshipped (great band!) and led us into God’s presence. Afterwards, we were greeted by a couple in an alternative lifestyle who have come to faith in Jesus. Recently baptized, they are still figuring out the details of what following Jesus means. I expect their home life to alter significantly, but the openness of the church was heartwarming to them. Meanwhile, they are taking Good News to their friends in an unreached community. While church leadership does not affirm or agree with their life choices, they preach good news of a God who accepts us as we are and brings us under his banner of high standards as we follow him. The church recognizes that all of us are sinners – not one of us is accepted into God’s kingdom because we have reached a state of perfection or holiness.

As I looked around the congregation of young and old, believers and explorers, I felt at home. They, like me and our family, are learning to understand God’s ways. Some have been on the journey of faith a long time. Some of us are just learning to recognize God’s loving-kindness. As we expatiate instead of unswervingly locking into the Christian way of life, we occasionally look like we have lost our way or don’t know how to follow Jesus.

But his patience and kindness brings us close to him and teaches us to focus our attention on his ways. He instructs us, gives us the joy of serving even when veering here and there, and with his unfailing love forgives and teaches us the life that pleases God.

Read more:
*I take joy in doing your will, my God, for your instructions are written on my heart. I have told all your people about your justice. I have not been afraid to speak out, as you, O LORD, well know. I have not kept the good news of your justice hidden in my heart; I have talked about your faithfulness and saving power. I have told everyone in the great assembly of your unfailing love and faithfulness. Psalm 40:8–10

*Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

*Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 1 Peter 3:8-9

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Sweet space

One of the wonderful things about the West Coast is its spaces. While we have dull skies and overcast days, we also have wonderful interiors. Like it or not, we respond to our surroundings.

The new, light and airy look of the Northwest is very appealing - we have a great building on campus that reflects a trend: loft-style. It's commercial, not fussy. Spare but not empty. The workings are exposed (pipes, ducts) without clutter. It doesn't have to be cold. It's edgy, but not dark. I LOVE it.

Our place used to be full of furniture, rugs, and things on the wall. People would come in and say, "Wow, this looks European!" (Think castle-ette.) Recently we sold our Victorian couch, gave away a bit of this and that, rolled up the oriental rugs, and put down a cowhide to anchor updated, bright straight-edged sofas. I took 49 pictures, decorative plates, and photos off the living-dining Room walls in a clean sweep last year. I admit, there there are still 5 or 10 hanging objects, one of them an original acrylic by a well-known Canadian artist. That painting brings me joy every time I look at it. There are a few family photos on the entry wall and lining the hall. And the two pianos still use up a good chunk of floor space.

What's changing in your space?