Monday, November 9, 2015

MRIs, Piercings, and Initiative (because Sarah can't alliterate like Josh)

"You told me to go back to the I have." - Inigo Montoya

The actual beginning of this story was close to 5 months ago. I was playing basketball against a bunch of campers every week while I spent a month working at Lost Canyon. The last week I played, I'm pretty sure I injured myself. In fact, I self-diagnosed with the help of my B.A. in English Literature, and I believe I knocked my pelvis out of whack and now it's pinching a nerve. I know, very technical and acute. Anyway, I've dubbed this "Jacob Hip Syndrome" (please refer to Genesis 32 if you don't understand this joke - it's hilarious, believe me).

So for basically 5 months, I've been like Kronk from The Emperor's New Groove with a little angel on my shoulder saying, "Go to the doctor. Their job is to help you," and a little devil saying, "Don't go. They're scary and want your blood." Also, I didn't want to be an adult and make my own appointments because that is hard and a lot of responsibility. But my mom, Bryn, Jamie, my dad, and everyone who was exposed to me complaining for MONTHS was like, "Go to the doctor because they can help you and you're being annoying." Just kidding. None of them said the last part because they are the best humans but I think they were thinking it. Or maybe I was just thinking it.


Four weeks ago, I finally made the appointment. Last Monday, I finally went. It was actually fine - the lady who takes all the notes on the little computer notebook has a friend from college who works for Young Life (smallest world ever) and the lady who was my doctor was nice even though she still made me wear paper clothes. Haha. So I told her about my hip, and she was slightly concerned that I had experienced numbness for 2-3 months (PAUSE: right now, you might be saying, "Sarah, what about the 5 months you said at the beginning of this post," and I'm saying, "Is lying to a doctor about myself a federal crime???") and so she ordered an MRI.

Last Friday I had my MRI. Now, there are two important things to know about this: 1) I have an ear piercing I can't get out on my own and 2) I am a stomach breather. So I had to go to a piercing place and get my earring out and then later I got yelled at in the MRI because I was "moving my stomach too much" - to which I wanted to respond, "Look, I can either breathe normally or thrash around all panicky because I am STUFFED INTO A TINY TUBE," but I remained calm and exited the MRI with dignity.

Friday afternoon I went back to the piercing place to get my earring put back in my ear and for them to help me put my nose piercing back in because I am bad at it. This guy Noah takes me back to one of the sterile rooms, and we started talking while he put my earring back in. He asked me what I did so I told him about Young Life. He told me he wasn't a Christian, but he was cool with me being one. Then he told me he thought the Pope was a neat guy and quoted Gandhi: "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." Then he proceeded to have to basically repierce my nose with a blunt object which put a bit of a damper on my new friendship with Noah, BUT Friday ended with my MRI complete, my piercings back where they belong, and a lot of thoughts swirling around in my head.

First, this whole deal with my hip has been a long process because of me. I've taken my sweet time getting it looked at it, and it's just gotten more painful the longer I wait. While we were at College Weekend at Lost Canyon a couple of weeks ago, the speaker - Tank - said this: "Good relationships require someone to take the initiative. Healthy relationships require response." I have been so slow to take initiative in taking care of my own body. I've told myself over and over that it will be fine, I'll get better on my own or I'll just deal with the uncomfortableness because I'd rather other people didn't get involved. Basically, I've been operating under this mindset that I'll take care of it on my own and/or just suffer. Haha. I am the worst. But it got me to thinking: I am so so so grateful Jesus didn't have the same mindset with us. Praise God He took the initiative with our sin condition and saved us. It's like He made the appointment, drove me to the doctor's office, and filled out all of the medical history paperwork for me. Now, all I have to do is answer when my name is called: "Sarah? We're ready for you."

What stops me from responding so often in my life? Jesus has paved the way for me. And it's not like that road is unicorns and daisies from here on out - there are still MRIs, physical therapy appointments, etc. But He got the ball rolling. He took the initiative and made the opportunity to be with Him a possibility for us.

Second, why do I complain about things I am not willing to fix in my life? For real. I whined about my hip for months before I actually scheduled an appointment. I wasn't willing to do anything to fix something that hurt. I didn't want to be a part of the solution. I didn't want to put forth any effort. How dumb is that? And now that I've actually taken a step forward with this situation, I'm starting to realize there are a lot of places in my life that I've been asking God to take some action and change me, but I haven't been willing to join with Him in it. I've been treating Him like a genie while I've been totally unwilling to let go of my own will and allow Him to transform me. In the wise words of Elsa, it's time for me to...Let. It. Go.

And finally, that quote by Gandhi fills me with this weird, deep sorrow. I feel like, "Dangit. What have we done? What have I done?" I am so drawn to Jesus, and I want everyone to see Him and know Him for who He truly is, but a lot of the time I'm not very good at being like Christ. But how incredible is it that a random piercing guy who really isn't that hot to trot on Christians realizes that Jesus rocks. How cool must a guy be to continually stand out to people even though the people who claim to know Him misrepresent Him often? I'm disappointed that time after time I get in the way of people truly experiencing Jesus. I cloud the most vibrant personality I've ever known.

But I also don't think being an effective follower of Christ is impossible because this is where the fruits of the Spirit come in, I think. If I let go of my own agenda, if I respond to Jesus' initiative in my life, if I stop trying to force myself to be "a better Christian" and instead embrace Christ for all that He is, allowing His Spirit to fill me up, I think maybe I won't get in the way of His work so often. In fact, I think people might start to see Christ in me. They might see love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control spilling out of my life and understand who Jesus is better than they did before they knew me. Like John the Baptist said, "He must increase, but I must decrease." Fill me up, Jesus. Empty me of myself so that when people look at me and interact with me, they might experience You fully.

There's a song by the JJ Weeks Band and the chorus goes: "Let them see You in me, let them hear You when I speak, let them feel You when I sing, let them see You, just let them see You in me." This is my prayer. And how cool is it that God is teaching me all of these things in the midst of MRIs and ear piercings? He's so creative. Lord, help me never lose my wonder!


Monday, October 26, 2015

Tijuana, Trust, and Tandem Skydiving

I'm not sure how it happened, but I'm not sure how most things happen in my life. One moment the roommates and I are driving home talking about adventure and doing crazy things and then I blink. Now Noah and I are receiving confirmation numbers for skydiving Tijuana.

We were going out of town for a month and we knew we would be in San Diego for the fourth of July. We are proud Americans, we bleed stripes and cry stars, and we really wanted to do something that embodies everything this great Nation stands for. What is America? Freedom. What is the animal that represents America? The great bald eagle. What do bald eagles do? Fly. Better yet, they soar. So we are going to become bald eagles and fly out of the land of the brave and home of the free and soar back into freedom. We're not dramatic. We're realistic. And we take over the top dramatic ideas and turn them into reality. We at least try to.

I'll be honest, it wasn't quite skydiving Tijuana. But did we stay at a hotel where we could see Tijuana? Most definitely. Did Noah go for a run and almost go into Mexico without his passport? Absolutely. We were going to tip toe on that fine line, blur it if we have to and soar into American freedom. It was exciting and we felt as if this would be the greatest tribute we could do for our homeland and do something worthy of citizenship. We grew anxious as we approached our jump off time. We were scheduled for 8am on Saturday morning, July 4th, 2015. We would be the first jumpers of the day. Perfect.

The night before, I decided it would be the best time to do some research on the place. I googled Pacific Coast Skydiving reviews to see what I could find. Yelp came up so I clicked, read, scrolled - the whole nine yards. It turns out, John is the man. He's the go to guy in the skydiving world. His last name is also Doe. If you don't know, John (Jane) Doe are the names used for people whose identity can't be placed or if their name can't be released due to law constraints.

All these five star reviews started feeling a little phony with Mr. Doe peppered throughout the page. If you google search "Pacific coast skydiving" and click images, scroll to the fifth row you will see an ambulance surrounded by smiling, soon-to-be victims. I have been skydiving before so I couldn't show my fear to Noah because it was his first time and I was an expert. I held my skepticism in. I figured if this place was a fraud, we would show up to an abandoned airfield and lose out on some money that we would get back through harassment via phone calls or by finding a second job for Noah, a first job for me.

Abandoned airfield is not far off from the truth.

We roll up to this gated airfield and with this old keypad on the left. The morning ocean fog was heavy so it added to the eerie-ness of the place. We punched in this code and the gate squealed open. We drive by a few hangers and rolled upon this:

A thousand year old sign.

We soon are greeted by a John (Doe) and I'm relieved there is a John and this place is open for business. We fill out some paper work, sign our death certificates, and get suited up to soar. The morning fog delayed us a few hours as it was deemed unsafe to soar in. While we waited we watched grown men try to fit themselves in those 5 gallon plastic storage bins they pulled the parachutes from. One guy was probably 6'6" and 220. They did this for about an hour and these were the professionals who were going to take us up. Fast forward to jump time, that 6'6" man is a pilot and would be flying us up. We asked him if he became a pilot because women love pilots and beards (he had a righteous one) and he said no. He became a pilot because he couldn't pass college.

These guys were actually really cool and were in fact, professionals. They just really enjoyed themselves and didn't take things too seriously. Noah and I fit right in. John Doe ended up being the guy I would be attached to and Noah would jump with the owner of Pacific Coast Skydiving. The 6'6" college drop out was one of their best pilots. We were jumping with the A-team, the varsity squad of the air.

While we were still in the plane, John would push me up to the window or lean me out of the wide open side door to show me this or that. I felt like I was at the zoo with my dad when I was little - at an age that is old enough to want to look at the animals on my own cause I was a big kid, embarrassed that my dad had to help me but young enough to be okay with it cause I wouldn't be able to see the animals on my own. They flew us right over the boarder of Mexico, exactly what we wanted. Then after about ten minutes, I hear John say "Oh *bad word*! Put your goggles on!" So I did and Noah recalls it looking like we leaned too far to the left and fell out of the airplane. We did some back flips and then leveled out, belly flopping onto the world. He pulled my arms back, put them against my side and we flew head first straight down to earth. I felt like I was apart of Matthew McConaughey's squad from Reign of Fire, soaring with dragons and saving the world from these beasts. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you should need to watch this movie. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life (skydiving not watching Reign of Fire). We did flips, turns, and lawn darted at terminal velocity.

I think being a Christian is a lot like going tandem sky diving with Jesus.

The reason my experience went so well was because I trusted the guy. Yeah sure, at first I didn't 100% but as I hung out with him waiting for our jump time, I grew to trust him. I realized he is a professional and wouldn't be doing something that would put him in danger and in a position to not be able to provide for his family. John Doe said sometimes, people panic and flail mid flight. This can be very dangerous. They could buck and head butt John knocking him unconscious. This is worst case scenario but it can happen. John said if you want the best sky diving experience, I had to relax and trust him. I listened to every word he said from start to finish. Glasses on, fall out, arms back, legs stretched straight - everything. I listened and responded. My obedience to his instruction made my soaring into freedom the best and I didn't have to do anything but listen. John Doe did all the hard work. He went through the hours of training necessary to tandem skydive and jumped over 13,000 times out of an airplane so he could take me once.

Jesus went through a whole lot so He could give me life and life to the full. He suffered, laughed, wept, hurt, ate, and slept. He became a man and dwelt among us so we could have the best experience on this earth. He did this so one day I could soar into true freedom. I have to trust Him though. I have a really hard time with that. I flail, kick, and head butt Jesus when it comes to certain parts of my life. I'm always trying to figure out what I should do for work and don't trust Jesus when He says God takes care of the birds of the sky so why wouldn't He take care of me? When it comes to relationships, I always try to take control and it usually doesn't go the way I want it to. This is really difficult for me as I'm 24 and everyone around me is getting married and having kids. I have plans and they aren't going my way and I begin to panic. Then I blame God and I don't hear from Him.  Probably because I knocked Him unconscious when I freaked out earlier about what I should do with my life.

I don't trust God all of the time but if I listened to Him, my life would be that abundant life He promises us. I seek for peace in different parts of my life but peace comes from trust, not from doing. I found peace once I fully trusted John and I will find peace once I fully trust Jesus. I may not trust Him 100% right now but the more I spend time with Him, I'm sure I'll learn to do so.

in His grip,


Monday, October 12, 2015

Of the Spirit

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22.

Of. The. Spirit.

I feel as if this little prepositional phrase is slightly important. Or, actually, I think it's the key to this whole verse.

Let's consider first what this statement does NOT say. 

It does not say "of myself." It does not say "of my own doing." It does not - in any way - include anything about ME. Or YOU, in fact. It says "of the Spirit." 

This is radical. Let's consider what this does mean.

It means that this fruit - this list of qualities - comes from the Spirit, God Himself. The Lord does not expect me to conjure up these fruits on my own. He doesn't expect kindness, patience, self-control, etc. to pop up in my life like a Jack-in-the-Box. Indeed, it seems to me here that God is setting out a paradigm of partnership: the Spirit's work + the offering of our life (take a look at Galatians 5:24!)  = F R U I T.

As I'm writing this, I'm starting to understand what my issue with the fruits has always been:

They're not about me.


I am selfish.


I like to be the one who gets the glory of success. Case in point: I've never liked group projects because I had to put someone else's name next to mine to receive credit for what I consider to be MY excellent work. 

*insert weeping emojis here*

These are not fun truths to confront in my life. Perhaps, however, these truths shed some light on my problem with the fruits of the Spirit and give me a bit of insight into how to actually go about incorporating them into my life...

Have you ever noticed that when you spend a lot of time with a person, you start to assume some of his or her characteristics? For example, my old roommate, Rachel, used to wear her purse around the house for like 30 minutes after she came home from running errands. She'd put away groceries, do some dishes, put together a snack...all with her purse slung across her body. In August of last year, I was making fun of her for it. By May, I was doing the same thing! She rubbed off on me. I spent enough time with her and watching her and laughing about her wearing her purse for a ridiculously long time that gradually I assumed her habit. I, too, ended up wearing my purse all around the house!

Now, this is a silly example, but I think it applies to the fruits of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are all characteristic of the Holy Spirit. Just like the purse-wearing is characteristic of Rachel. And Paul lists out these fruits right before stating, "If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit" (Galatians 5:25). Living by the Spirit, walking with the Spirit...those statements would assume that we're spending time with the Spirit, right? And what happens when we spend time with someone?

Habits, characteristics, etc. rub off on us.

So maybe instead of trying to force the fruits into my life, I should spend time in the Spirit, with Jesus, getting to know my Lord and Savior. Maybe instead of trying to pop these suckers out of thin air and make them a part of my life, I should embrace "of the Spirit" and believe that when Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us, He actually really did want to be with us. With you. With me.

This is the method I'm going to try from here on out, folks. Trying to make these fruits show up in my life on my own is hard and it's lonely and it's not working. I would much rather be with Jesus while I'm trying to learn. I hear He's a pretty great teacher. And He's wicked awesome company.

You know what, I still wear my purse around the house after I buy groceries. And I hope that as I spend more time learning about the fruits of the Spirit straight from the source, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control will be lasting habits, too.


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Shades and Shadows

Joy is the second fruit mentioned in Galatians 5:22 right after love, and maybe it's because they are the most important, but maybe it's because they are universally understood. You don't have to speak the same language or grow up in the same culture to understand an act of love or if someone is joyful. Joyful people smile and you don't need Rosetta Stone to translate a grin. For example, my grandpa either couldn't speak English or didn't care for it. Either way, he didn't communicate in anything but Spanish. I never understood anything he was saying except for "feo." He called us grand kids this so often that I had to ask. It means "ugly." Apparently it's a synonym for "good-looking" in Mexican culture. 

There are things in life that I think will make me joyful but don't. I also think I confuse happiness and joy. Joyful people are happy but not all happy people are joyful. I've been told joy is a state of being rather than a fleeting emotion and it was hard for me to understand this but once I saw it, I could experience it.

I remember riding a train into Paris, France having a conversation with Noah and noticing there was a lot of graffiti. The best part of traveling is realizing how naive you are. I thought Paris was this perfect city filled with beautiful sights, fame, and lots of tourists. And it is but it's also filled with the same stuff you can find right here in Albuquerque. Every city is someone's home and in every city, life happens. Graffiti happens. People like to litter, whether you're the home of the Isotopes or the Mona Lisa, it won't change the way people flick cigarette butts or gum wrappers.

Ever since that trip to Europe, I try to look at each city remembering that no matter what, people do people things in it. One of those "people doing people things" moments was when I was in Chicago. We were at Buckingham Fountain surrounded by this magnificent city. There was a man with two long poles and a bucket surrounded by children. He was dipping these poles into the bucket and letting the wind make these giant bubbles. The children were going crazy over them. They were by a $750,000 water show but they paid no attention to it and couldn't stop smiling at these bubbles that probably cost no more than $10. My mind wanders and I wonder what brought these kids here. Did their parents bring them here? Do they have both their mom and dad? And what about the man making bubbles? What is it in his life that motivates him to take time out of his life to make bubbles for kids for free? Where's his family? Does he do this for his grand kids? Does he have grand kids to make bubbles for? Based on my imperfect life, I'm imagining the kids' and this man's life aren't perfect either. That the bubble man has had plenty of bad days in his time and the kids will have their fair share soon enough. But in that moment, on that day, they chose to be happy. And I think that's joy. There's freedom in choosing to be happy, and that freedom leads to joy. Despite everything that could be bad in their lives, they chose to be happy and content playing with bubbles.

I don't think the world is as black and white as I'm led to believe. That I can't be happy in times of distress, that I can be sad or happy but not both. Anne Lamott puts it beautifully in her book, Bird by Bird.

"For instance, I used to think that paired opposites were a given, that love was the opposite of hate, right the opposite of wrong. But now I think we sometimes buy into these concepts because it is so much easier to embrace absolutes than suffer reality. I don't think anything is the opposite of love. Reality is unforgiving complex."

Life isn't black and white. It's every shade in between black and white. I don't think anything is the opposite of love either and I think you can be happy and sad at the same time but still be able to choose joy in the midst of it all. There's so much life to be lived in the gray areas of life because shades and shadows give life dimension, it makes things come to life.

My non-English speaking grandpa always seemed happy, no matter what. I remember hearing the story how he lost half his finger. He was working on a lawn mower while it was still on and lost most of his index finger and split his middle one. He drove himself to the hospital and afterwards stopped to get lotto tickets on the way home. He didn't let a few stitches change his daily life or the chances of him winning the jackpot. He never struck it rich but that didn't affect him either.   Black says when you lose a digit you should be upset or maybe pissed off. White says you don't need that finger, you have nine more. But the grey says life would be easier with ten fingers but you can choose to make the best of what you have. It's looking at life honestly and choosing to be happy.

Life would have been easier if my grandpa and I spoke the same language but we enjoyed each other's company anyways. It's almost better this way. Like Paris having graffiti. I think it makes this city more beautiful, it makes it real. There is no perfect and I can't always be happy just like the cities I want to visit won't be perfect. I shouldn't be surprised when places like Venice and Paris have vandalism or trash in their streets because they aren't immune to the impact humans have. I shouldn't be surprised when bad things happen in my life and that I'm not happy all the time. 

I guess what I'm saying is joy is a choice. We have the choice to let Jesus into our lives. We have the choice to walk in the Spirit and we have the choice to be joyful.

in His grip,


Tuesday, September 8, 2015


This weekend, I took a vacation. I went to see my dear friend Nicole and her husband in Southern California. Before I left, I told myself, "Sarah, you must take a break." So I only allowed myself to take two books to read for work/school. Haha.

But I did it! I rested, hiked, went to a baseball game, laid by the pool, walked on the beach, and enjoyed time with people I love. I came back to Albuquerque feeling refreshed and excited. Usually when I return from "vacations," I am grouchy and tired and annoyed. I asked myself this morning what the difference was between this trip and so many before it. The answer I've come to: it was actually a vacation.

Now "vacation" can mean several different things, but this is my favorite official definition of it: the action of leaving something one previously occupied. So in this instance, I physically left Albuquerque in order to occupy Fontana, California for several days. But maybe vacation is about much more than simply where my body is located. Maybe it's also about leaving the occupations of one's mind as well. I left the numerous tasks I could do over the weekend at home in order to be fully present with my friends. When I arrived home on Sunday, the tasks were still here, waiting for me, unspoiled, and my life was not in ruins because they hadn't been done yet. Imagine that! The world doesn't revolve around my productivity!

As I was reading the definitions of vacation to my roommate Bryn, she said something profound when I got to the definition above: "Wow! According to that I could go on vacation every day!" I never would've thought of it that way, but she's right. We can leave things for tomorrow. We can take a break even in our own homes and our own routines. Of course, I'm not championing shirking responsibility or a lack of follow-through, but I also think in our culture - and even (if not especially) in Christian culture - we celebrate the work-a-holic pace as successful and valuable. Efficiency and productivity is great...but at what cost?

Galatians 5:25 states, "If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit." This statement directly follows the list of the fruits - so through love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, we may keep in step with the Spirit. I have found the faster the pace of my life, the busier I am, and the less in step I am with the Spirit. Now maybe this only holds true for me which is fine. But let me tell you what I mean and what it has to do with the fruits of the Spirit. The more I try to cram into my life - under the guise of increased output and productivity - the less patience I have, the less joy, the less peace, the less kindness, etc. I get snappy and grouchy and annoyed and tired. Ask my roommates.


When I take a step back and complete the tasks that God sets before me while saying "no" (*gasp*) to a couple of well-intentioned projects that I really only would've completed to make myself look good...well, I find myself living more - even if only a bit more - in step with the Spirit. I've stepped out of a place I previously occupied in favor of a vacation, however brief, however small.

The fruits are all about balance - balancing out our selves in favor of the Spirit. And there's not just one fruit - there are nine. So what if our cultivation of these fruits, our walking in step with the Spirit, taught us about balance not only in character but also in lifestyle? What if we allowed ourselves to refresh and relax every so often, taking a break with the Lord to rebalance and ultimately allowing Him to direct the labor of our lives? My sneaking suspicion is that we would be more efficient and more productive. Why? Because one time Jesus took 5 loaves and 2 fish and fed a multitude, and if that's not efficient (and miraculous!), I don't know what is.

So I'm going to try it. You can try it with me if you'd like. Or just tune in to see how it goes - we'll be here!

Happy Tuesday, friends!

Monday, August 24, 2015

48 Hours of Honesty

 I spent the month of July serving at a camp in Ramona, California with a group of people from all over. On one of our days off we all went to Belmont Park in San Diego. It reminded me of the state fair where the rides look like they could be put together faster than some Lego sets but we ride them anyways. We were in line for this wooden roller coaster and a good friend of mine asked if she could ride with me. She was calm but scared; the honest kind of scared, which in my opinion comes from the most intimidating fears.  I remember telling her some of the greatest moments in life are the ones right after we do something terrifying. The smile on her face after the ride was almost as bright as the smile on her face the second time she rode it.

What I appreciate about my friend is she isn't ashamed to be real with the people around her. She was terrified of riding this roller coaster but stood in line with fear on her face and she wasn't trying to hide it. She wasn't pretending, she isn't afraid to be honest. While I may not be afraid of roller coasters, being honest and real to the people around me is a real struggle. If I was afraid of roller coasters, I would have avoided it all together and argued that I just really love laser tag and that's why I spent all my time shooting dads and their ten year old children.

A couple months ago my roommate, Noah, and I had a conversation about honesty. We ended up with the conclusion that a life of integrity is the best life to live. In that moment, I thought I was living a life of integrity, as I saw myself as an honest person.

"What would life look like if people were honest, 100% of the time?" asked Noah.

Different. Life would look different but I wasn't exactly sure how. We hypothesized some ideas of what the world would look like but we soon grew tired of imagining and wanted to see it in reality.
That's when Noah challenged us both to being honest for 48 hours. Completely honest in every response, statement, comment. Everything.

Challenge accepted.

 Most of the time my actions that follow those two words end up with me doing something ridiculous. And to be honest, the ridiculous challenges are the ones that draw me in because of how I think I'll be perceived by others. I tried to impress people because I believed impressions win validation. It's like I have this life resume with all the "cool" stuff I've accomplished. I hand it out to people I want to be friends with hoping to win them over with my experiences as if gauging my ears with a hammer and nail is what people seek for in a friend. All home ear gauging has ever gotten me was an infection (my ear swelled up to the size of a half dollar) and free piercing at Claire's because my already-my-friend friend wanted me to keep my ears attached to my head.

It was a terrifying 48 hours but it was also a revealing two days. I knew I would find out where I lied often in my daily life but I didn't think the person I lied to the most would be myself. Being completely honest meant I had to be honest with myself and I learned a great deal about who I am.

I'm insecure.
I'm afraid of what people think of me.
I'm terrified of commitment.

I pretend I'm confident in who I am and that people's opinions of me don't matter. I tell myself and others that I like the noncommittal lifestyle I live so I don't have to tell them the idea of commitment is horrifying. But I realized being honest about where I fall short helps me find comfort where God doesn't. Without this honesty, I'm blinded to the truths God tells us.

He's confident in how He made us.
He seeks people despite what people think of Him.
He's committed to us even when we're not committed to Him.

These are promises I can't call upon unless I'm honest with myself. If I continue on ignoring my flaws, my insecurities, then I will never experience the love and grace God has to offer when it comes to me falling short.

I'll ride roller coasters and hammer nails into my lobes without thinking twice but when it comes to being completely honest, I'm terrified. But sometimes the greatest moments in life are right after we do something terrifying. After an honest day of living, I like to imagine I feel how my friend's smile looked after riding those rides at Belmont Park. 

I want to encourage you to try it and see what you discover. Find a friend and do it together. I'm sure it'll be a challenge but I'm also positive you'll learn something new. I would love to hear your 48 hours of honesty stories if you would like to share them. I've created an email just for these stories

in His grip,



Honestly (pun intended), it takes a lot of bravery to be honest for 48 hours. Heck, if we're including being honest with oneself in this, it's hard for me to be honest for a whole 10 minutes. That's why, as Josh told me about this challenge and then his idea to expand this idea of 48 Hours of Honesty, I sat there and didn't say a whole lot in the hopes that he wouldn't ask me to do it right away. Ha! And he didn't because Josh is a nice guy and doesn't want me to get kicked out of grad school upon completing this challenge...

But the more we talked about honesty, the more I realized it seamlessly fits in with our theme for this semester at Young Life College - the fruit of the Spirit. Now honesty isn't one of the nine "fruits," but if you rewind a bit in Galatians 5, Paul urges the church in Galatia to "walk by the Spirit" and proceeds to list what desires of the flesh look like in contrast to the desires (or fruits) of the Spirit. 

I believe that honesty is intimately intertwined in any attempt to walk by the Spirit because just as Josh said, God constantly throws truth our way, allowing us to wrestle with it so that when we decide to believe truth, we might also more fully understand it. 

[Honesty and truth are weirdly connected. I feel like I use them as synonyms sometimes, but I think it's more of a "one thing leads to another" relationships. I think honesty leads to truth. And I think God is always honest with us.]

So even if you don't attempt 48 Hours of Honesty, will you join us in at least taking an honest look this semester at what a life walking in the Spirit might look like? Let's look at the truth of what freedom in Christ means for our lives - lives marked by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.


Let's goooooooo!


Monday, April 20, 2015

Dining with God

"writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." - A quote from Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, quoting E.L. Doctorow.

I've always wondered how one would quote an excerpt from a book that involves a quote but until now, I never needed to do it. The above quote took me 10 minutes to write out and I'm still unsure if it is the proper way to quote a quote with a quote (I do not know if there actually is a proper way to do so) but by the tenth minute, I came to the realization of - I don't think it matters how I write it, I'm sure people will get the point.

I've always been afraid of critics when the real oppressor is perfectionism. I spend so much of my time trying to make my writings perfect, my art perfect, anything I do perfect in worry that people won't like it but in reality, I'm thinking more about me than others. In the world of art, there will always be people who like what you create and people who don't. I have freedom in choosing what I prefer so I shouldn't expect everyone else not to have the same freedom.

There will be people who like what you do in life because they like what you do. And there will be people who like what you do in life because they like you. People will like what I create because they like me, support me, care about me, and all that other mushy jazz. If I choose to be a writer, than they will want to see me write and not necessarily write perfection. I'm sure my friends and family would prefer that I actually do something and be "unsuccessful" than be stuck in trying-to-do-something-but-never-completing-anything-because-I'm-trying-to-make-it-perfect limbo and not have the opportunity to be "unsuccessful" or "successful".

I think this is what Anne Lamott was getting at. When it comes to writing, we just have to do. We know we are writing *insert project here* and we may not be able to see what the 500th page will say but focus on the couple of sheets before you. One by one.

Well what if this applies to life too.

I'm always trying to perfect my life. I always feel like I shouldn't do anything unless God "calls" me to do it. God is perfect and I want a perfect life so yes, I would like for God to make my life perfect. I want God to tell me what to do before I do it because I'm afraid of making the "wrong" decision. I know I'm on a journey and at the end of the road is what God wants me to do but I feel like I'm driving at night only seeing a few feet ahead.

What does God want me to do?
What career does God want me to choose?
What church should I go to?
Who should I date?
Where should I live?
What college should I go to?
What degree should I get?
Where should I do ministry?

Questions we all think about and we see them as big decisions and we only want to make a choice if God is behind them all. I'm not sure if people will agree with this but hear me out.

What if God doesn't care?

Not in the "Do whatever you want because I honestly do not care" kind of way but in the "I'm with you no matter what you choose" kind of way. I believe God cares about me as a person, as His adopted son, more than what I do for a paycheck. What if God is saying "I just want to be with you. I just want to get to know you."

Every year for our birthdays, my parents would take my siblings and I to dinner at any restaurant we wanted. I went to Red Lobster almost every year. Every now and then I would change it up. I remember the first year we moved to Albuquerque, I chose Sonic because in California, they didn't have them where I lived. I thought Sonic was the greatest thing ever. Present Josh knows past Josh is a fool but in that moment, it was the best birthday food. My parents were surprised but they didn't mind, they took me there and paid for our meals and enjoyed my birthday dinner. They didn't care where we ate cause that wasn't the point. The point was to make the birthday child special and spend time with them.

I understand that there are callings in life. There are times where we feel, "Yes. This is what God wants me to do." There are also times where we don't hear anything. What if those are the times God is saying, "Hey. I want to go to dinner with you, wherever you want." And the point isn't the restaurant but who you are eating with and who you're spending time with. Maybe you go and pick God up in your 2001 silver Hyundai Elantra and still don't know where you will end up but He's with you. Maybe God isn't so concerned with going to the perfect restaurant to eat the perfect type of food but concerned about who you are as a person. 

In His grip,


Monday, April 13, 2015

Be You

"You do you, Boo Boo." - Kevin Hart

"You're amazing just the way you are." - Bruno Mars

"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." - Dr. Seuss

"Be YOU." - Everyone (basically)

I am sure you have heard one or more (or all) of these phrases in some variation or another at some point in your life.  You'd have to be living under a rock to be unaware of the plethora of messages in movies, books, music, politics, self-help seminars, etc. on how to embrace yourself and your unique gifts/talents/skills.  Today, we are all about being totally and unabashedly YOU...or so we say.  I could get on my soap box and talk about the way we've changed the meaning of tolerance, but that's not want I want to focus on here.

Let's operate off the premise that, as a general rule, the majority of our society encourages each of us to pursue our unique interests and be just the way we are.

But I want to talk about one person who always seems to get the short end of the stick. A guy who is consistently placed in a mold of our own creation. A man who rarely hears the words, "You're amazing just the way You are."

He hears a lot of:

"Well, actually, I think You should probably go about that situation in my this way."

"So I get that You ask me to trust You, but I think I've actually got this under control so I'll just take care of it because I don't really like the direction You're going."

"I mean I get where You're coming from, but my idea makes a lot more sense."

Or maybe that's just a lot of what He hears from me.

"He" is Jesus, by the way.  And sadly, the above statements really are relatively accurate accounts of the conversations I have with Jesus on a regular basis.

I don't know about you, but it's easy for me to accept all of this "be you" talk floating around.  I think it's great - I love being me! I love embracing my nerdy obsession for Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter.  I love talking about literature and education.  I love wearing Young Life shirts every day of my life. I love eating cookies, and I'm not sorry that I eat way too much ice cream.  When I listen to Bruno Mars sing "You're amazing just the way you are," I think, "You know, Bruno, you're right, I am!"

I'm relatively quick to extend this same courtesy to the people around me, but I very rarely allow Jesus a place in the "be you" movement.  He is the guy that I constantly think, "Ugh, the way You are is not always amazing because You ask hard things of me.  You say hard things in the Bible.  You don't give me easy ways out."

Sunday at church, my pastor talked about how in Jesus' time, His people's prayers were far too often about "Rome"...what he meant is that Jesus' people were far too wrapped up in situation, in circumstance, in trial.  Instead of focusing on the Messiah literally walking amongst them and the amazing work He was doing, they focused on what they wanted their Messiah to do and be: a Rome-concquering, Russell Crowe-esque hero (I'm elaborating slightly...haha).  Jesus was not encouraged to be Himself when He walked in Palestine.  Jesus - in my opinion, the most attractive personality to ever exist, possessor of the most incredible gifts to ever exist - was NOT encouraged to be who He was and say what He felt.

So here we are, thousands of years later, and I know I - at least - am guilty of precisely the same thing.  I want Jesus to be who I want Him to be - not who He actually is.  I want Him to follow the plan I have for my life rather than work through the tough - but beneficial - issues that following His plan so often includes.

Here's the most ironic part of it all, though.  I think getting to know the genuine nature of a person - the nature that often doesn't reveal itself at first blush - is one of the greatest pleasures of life.  I love knowing my friends' eccentricities. I love guessing the way they will react to certain situations. I love their real and vulnerable opinions about life.

I guess my point here is actually a question for myself - and for you too, if you'd like to join me:  what if I let Jesus be Jesus in my life?  What if I actually took Him at His word?  What if I allowed Him to be all of the things He's said He is in my life?






So here I am: just a girl, standing in front of her Lord, asking Jesus to be Jesus - He's amazing just the way He is.  I don't know about you, but my life looks totally different if I strive to know Jesus for who He has said He is and who He has proven Himself to be.  The box I too often force Him into confines His true nature - an abundantly good, just, creative, and beautiful nature.

Please be YOU in my life, Jesus, today and always.



Monday, April 6, 2015

Stealing the Headline

There are usually a quite a few more people that go to church on Christmas and Easter. I respect these people because I am the exact opposite; I do not like going to church on Easter and Christmas. There's tons of traffic and if you know me, you'll know I really don't like driving so driving when there are thousands of people going to the same place is not for me. The people that choose to go to church on the busiest days of the year, my hat's off to you.

It's not that I don't like the service, in fact, I love to hear about these two days very much. It's the beginning and the (not really but some people thought so) ending to the greatest love story ever told and if you know me, you'll know I really don't like driving and that I'm sucker for love stories.

I joined my brother and sister-in-law for Easter this year, and the pastor said something that hit me.

"As Christians, we like to say it was my sin that sent Jesus to the cross and He had to die for me. We like to steal the spot light from God and put our own name as the headline. Jesus died on the cross because God loves us, that's the headline."

He probably said it a lot more poetic and epic than I just did but the heart of his message is the same, I think.

I do say that. I do say because of MY sin, Jesus had to die for ME. I enter a religious mindset about what Jesus did without even realizing it. I think there are rules, I think that I tried really heard to be "good" enough, but I'm a sinner and my sin sent Jesus to the cross. God isn't about religion, He's about relationship. God's unending love and desire to be in a relationship with Him is what sent Jesus to the cross, not us.

In high school, my parents set curfews and wanted me to spend time with them, and I thought it was annoying, but I tried pleasing them for a while. Up until my junior year of high school, I was doing pretty good but I soon became exhausted from always feeling like I wasn't good enough no matter how hard I tried to obey them. I rebelled and things got crazy for a bit. I went to college and the rules and curfews were uplifted and I was free! I started finding myself not wanting to stay out late every night and would come home at a reasonable hour. I started spending more time with my family and not because I really wanted to but because I knew they wanted to. When it was about rules, I failed my parents. When it was about relationship, I pleased them.

I like to make my life about me.

I wanted to please my parents according to my standards. When I didn't reach them, I gave up. I didn't want to be controlled so I broke curfew.

I felt.
I want.
I say.
I do.

I never once thought it was because my parents wanted to spend time with me, to have a relationship. I never once thought they wanted the best for me.
I never once thought that they provided for me, and I had the most outrageous childhood because my dad wanted to give us everything we wanted.

In the same way, I made what Jesus did for me about me. I thought I was being about God by admitting my sin and saying Jesus died for me. Like a modern day Pharisee, standing on street corners preaching the word of God so people can think I'm holy. The intentions of the Pharisee were probably good, but soon enough they made it about them and not about God. They were about religion, not about relationship.

God's love for us sent Jesus to the cross, not my sin. He wanted to be in a relationship with us so bad, He sent His son to die for us. I've been reading John 17 a lot lately. John 17 is Jesus praying right before He was betrayed and sent to the cross. In the face of the most excruciating death, this is some of what He prayed:

 "Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. "

“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world."

God wants to know you. God loves you. Jesus wasn't sent because of my sin but because God wants to be with us, to know us. 

in His grip, 


Monday, March 23, 2015

March Madness

It's one of my favorite times of the year.

NCAA March Madness.

Ever since I was a little kid, my family has eagerly awaited the tip-off of 3 weeks of almost 24/7 college basketball.  There's something about the "one and done" atmosphere, the Cinderella stories, the inspiration, the extreme athleticism, the "One Shining Moment" video when the championship is all over.  I am basically guaranteed to cry at least once and to yell at the TV screen a lot more times than that throughout the tournament.

I don't know if you follow basketball like I do, but one of the coolest moments from the tournament so far (in my opinion) has been Georgia State's upset of Baylor in the first round.  As sad as I was that the Bears lost (Abby's alma mater), Georgia State has a really cool coach, and, come on, who doesn't love the underdog to some extent?

Ron Hunter, the coach, actually tore his Achilles' Tendon celebrating the week before in his team's conference championship...which they won. His son R.J. is one of Georgia State's best players and made the shot that propelled the Panthers to upset Baylor. Coach a.k.a. Dad fell off his stool when the shot went in! This is not a coach lacking in enthusiasm. I've been reading Emerson lately (#thingsEnglishgradstudentssay), and I love this quote from "Circles": "Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. The way of life is wonderful; it is by abandonment."

It was awesome to watch this coach in victory, but I think he really stands out in the way he treats his team, himself, and the entire March Madness experience in defeat.  Georgia State lost their second round game to Xavier, but check out this little bit from his post-game interview: "I told them not to be sad, what a great week, what an unbelievable week, there's nothing to be sad about...As a coach, best time of my life, and as a father...I love this kid, man."


I played basketball in high school. I definitely never felt this way after losing, especially immediately after a season-ending loss. But Coach Hunter made me consider something that extends far beyond a basketball court: how do I act in defeat?

I'm talking about defeat in life, when it feels like everything is going wrong, like nothing and no one is on your side.  That's tough.  And that's real life, it's not a game. Sometimes "winning" might not even be one of the options.  How do you act in these situations?

Honesty hour: I've felt pretty defeated this semester. I've felt like I bit off way more than I could chew. I've felt like everything I'm doing is less than my best. I've felt inadequate at school and in ministry. I've felt like a bad teacher, friend, and follower of Jesus. And I've acted like it. My enthusiasm and energy for things I love has plummeted. And I've tried to go it alone. I've tried to figure it out by myself. I haven't always been pleasant to be around - ask my roommates, bless their souls!

Enter Jesus.

Saturday, I read Psalm 63, seemingly on a whim.  This is what it says:
"O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.  So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you...My soul clings to you..."
David, in this Psalm, is the picture of the way I want to be in defeat. I want to seek God, I want to thirst for His Spirit, I want to look up and praise Him in the desert land instead of moping around like Eeyore or snapping like Oscar the Grouch.  In the midst of defeat, I want to be learning and growing and moving forward.  I don't want to be a sore loser.

Winning, so often, is a team effort. I think I "bench" Jesus an awful lot of the time. And because He's a gentleman, He doesn't check Himself in. But He is always ready, and He's the best player I've got - WAY better than me. He's also a great teammate - you know, the one that sticks by you in defeat and celebrates with you in victory.  Because Jesus knows that we feel defeat most poignantly when we're lonely.

Let's look back at Coach Hunter's statement - look how he finishes that comment.  He talks about loving his son.  March Madness was "unbelievable" for him because he loves his team, and he loves his son. Maybe I can take a lesson from that, too.  Even when I'm struggling, I can set love before me.  Even when I'm struggling, I can set joy before me.

And as my soul clings to Jesus, I can learn to be gracious, loving, and enthusiastic.

Even in defeat.

Peace and blessings, y'all!

Monday, March 16, 2015

wash away the mud

Recently, my sister-in-law recommended I read a book by Erwin Raphael McManus called The Artisan Soul. She said in this book, Erwin argues that everyone is created to create and thought I would really enjoy it since I believe the same thing. I haven't read it yet, but I watched two sermons by Erwin and they gave me a lot to think about. This will be my attempt to share my thoughts on what Erwin talked about.

I've been spending a lot of time reading the gospel of John, trying to learn more about the character of Jesus. I try to always be reading a gospel alongside another book in the Bible at all times. If I want to know more about Jesus and be like Jesus, I should always be studying His life always. In the two sermons I watched, Erwin used John chapter 9 in what he had to say about what it means to be created in the image of a creator.

First, this chapter is close to my heart. It's a story about healing, giving a blind man his sight back and for a while I was blind and desperately needed Jesus to help me see again. When I was 15 years old, I started developing back pain which soon became chronic body pain, over the years growing worse. When I was 20 years old, a close friend of mine called me and told me he was frustrated for me. That he couldn't understand why this was happening to me. But then he read John chapter 9:

      As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
  “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.
Now, I wasn't born with this pain, and no one really knows why the pain occurs. My close friend said he believes that this has happened to me so that the works of God may (if I respond, if I'm obedient) be displayed in me. 

Erwin broke down this passage from another perspective and I loved it. The way Jesus heals shows His creativity. Jesus, being God and God being a creator, must be a creative person. The way Jesus healed this man was interesting because, since I believe Jesus is God, he could have just healed Him by thought or saying so. He did this sometimes for other people but not for this man. Instead, Jesus spit in the dirt to make mud. He rubbed the mud into the blind man's eyes and instructed him to walk over to the Pool of Siloam and wash himself.

Here is Jesus, who can choose how to heal a man any way He wants, and He chooses spit and dirt. Erwin suggested the man standing there blind, listening to Jesus spit over and over into the dirt to make mud to smear into his eyes, may have felt embarrassed. He may have even felt humiliated. Jesus put mud on his eyes and instructed him to wash himself. If someone put mud in my eyes now, it would be nice for that person to help me out by walking me over to water at least. But Jesus said Go. Wash yourself. He took something that may be thought as ugly, like mud, and did something beautiful with it. He created sight from something that obstructs, something you can't see through. I can't help but wonder why He didn't just give the man his sight back with a simple thought. And I can't help but agree with Erwin that Jesus chose this because creativity is in the essence of who Jesus is. 

 I remember going to Jesus for healing with my pain and nothing happened. I was frustrated for years wondering why Jesus would heal so many people but not me. Why not me? I was losing hope in getting better, I was losing hope in Jesus. I was so angry with Him. Later on I thought, maybe Jesus put mud on my eyes when I came to Him for healing. Maybe I became blind to how He was going to heal me because when He said go, I felt humiliated by Jesus. Maybe Jesus put mud on my eyes and told me to go wash myself because He wanted me to respond to Him, to be obedient.

Some people came to Jesus and were healed instantly. This blind man had to walk over to the pool and wash himself to be healed. Some may be like Paul, and cry out three times to only get the response "My grace is sufficient for you." Paul wasn't physically healed but God gave him the strength to endure his sufferings - for when I am weak, He is strong. Maybe we receive all three and it's just we don't recognize how He's healed us because we're walking around with mud on our eyes because we aren't listening to Him when He says to wash. Jesus has restored my hope in Him. He corrected how I saw my pain - I realized I am not my ailment.

My obedience to Jesus will lead to healing, just like the blind man in John chapter 9. I believe your obedience can lead to healing as well. Whether it's physically healing, giving you sight where you are blind, or the realization that His grace is sufficient.

in His grip,


Monday, March 2, 2015

One Piece of Advice

Last weekend, we had a region-wide leader gathering for Young Life here in Albuquerque.  Leaders from El Paso, Los Alamos, Las Cruces, Crown Point, Farmington, and Albuquerque came together for a weekend of encouragement, community, and raucous laughter...of course!

We had the incredible opportunity to hear from Bob and Claudia Mitchell during this time.  A little background on these two incredible people.  Bob is a former president of Young Life and one of the first Young Life kids EVER. As in this dude and his family hosted some of the first Young Life clubs at their house, and his leader was Jim Rayburn, the founder of Young Life. Anyway, enough of the celeb status laundry list.  In my mind, this man - "Mitch" as he's known - is a pillar of faith beyond the Young Life community.  Last weekend he told us about how he fought from within the mission during the '60s and '70s to make a place for women and African-Americans in leadership.  He told us about moments of frustration and triumph as he has walked faithfully with the Lord for close to 80 years.

I was fortunate enough to hear from Bob and Claudia during New Staff Training in Florida, as well.  It was equally as cool to be exposed to their experiences there, but it was awesome to actually get to meet them, talk with them, and laugh with them on such a personal level here in Albuquerque.

I'm gonna call this as it is for a minute. I don't know about you, but when I meet "big wigs" as my mom would call them, I am often times disappointed.  Usually these people are not as terrific as they're made out to be.  Less personable, less eloquent, etc.

Not so with Mitch.  Meeting him, shaking his hand, being close to him, I saw such genuine kindness in his face, I heard authentic love in his voice.  Like who is this guy?? He rocks.  He's hilarious. He loves Claudia in such a precious way.

This personal interaction made me listen in a totally different manner this time around.  And this is what I heard and keep hearing a week later.

We had a question and answer time with Bob and Claudia.  One of the leaders asked what advice Mitch would give to a Young Life leader now. He sat and thought in his characteristic way for just a moment before continuing with no preface:  "Cultivate your own relationship with Christ before anything else.  That's the greatest thing you can do."


If anyone could give Young Life leading tips, it's Bob Mitchell.  But instead of advising us on how to run a good program and get kids to camp or enlightening us on the most effective contact work strategies, Mitch said one thing: Know. Jesus.

I was reminded of the time Jesus clarified something to us in Matthew 22:37-40 about the Law and the commandments.  He says (without introductory material, either), "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets."

So here we are - here I am.  We get caught up in program, logistics, doing.  We forget that Jesus gave us the CliffNotes version of the Old Testament.  And I'm not saying don't read the OT - as an English teacher, I will ALWAYS encourage the actual reading of primary material.  But here it is, the bare bones of what we as Christians are called to do:

Love God. Be with Him. That's the greatest thing we can do.
Love people. Be with them.

I think one of the reasons I am so struck by Mitch's advice is because I've heard him tell of the way he lived this out.  One story in particular stood out to me.  At New Staff Training, Mitch told of his first night in the San Francisco Bay area.  He had just moved to this city, no friends, an empty home, a new part of the country.  He drove to the top of a hill overlooking the city, the sea of lights stretching out before him and absolutely overwhelming him with where to even begin in reaching out to the kids of San Fran.  Mitch teared up as he told us of his cry to God in that moment, the raw "where do I even begin" honesty he poured out on that hill.

What's striking to me about this is that before Mitch settled in, met the neighbors, found a church, went to a school, he first retreated to be with the Lord.  To surrender his upcoming months and years in the bay area to the Lord.  To love the Lord before he commenced doing.  Mitch realized that without Jesus at the center, he would never find his way in that city.  Mitch realized that cultivating his relationship with Christ was then and would always be the most effective ministry strategy in Young Life, the church...heck, anywhere. This piece of advice was not just a repetition of a hugely important piece of the Bible.  It was a tested and lived out truth of Mitch's life.

And so that's why his words - really Jesus' words -  keep ringing in my ears: Love God with all you have.  Give Him the first fruits of your life.

This is - and always will be - the great commandment.

Peace and Blessings, y'all!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Timeless People

I want to be somebody.
I want to have purpose.

My mom told me that when I was little I wished my name was Mike Piazza, best known for being the New York Mets catcher. I wanted his name because I thought you had to have a cool name like Mike Piazza in order to become a professional baseball player. Mike Piazza was somebody, he had purpose. He made an impact on the Major League Baseball world; my catcher's mitt has his named imprinted on the palm. I wanted what he had, even his name apparently.

Michael Jackson
John Lennon
Rosa Parks
Steve Jobs
Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhar
Amelia Earhar

There's a group of people that seem to live outside of time. This list of people could go on and on and despite their deaths, they seem to still exist. They have made such an impact on this world that what they did has lasted generations and probably will continue to thrive into the future. My kids' kids will probably be wearings Beatles T-shirts listening to their iPod's containing music from Jackson because he is the "King of Pop". Everyone knows their names, they were all somebodies.

Albert Einstein
Leonardo da Vinci
Harriet Tubman
Issac Newton
Whitney Houston

Millions of people file through the Louvre Museum to see a painting claimed to be one of the most famous paintings in the world and the creator has been dead for almost 500 years. The Sistine Chapel draws in a similar crowd and these Renaissance artists have more than just fine arts to carry on their name. Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman decided to create four crime fighting turtles and name them after four 15th and 16th century artists, including da Vinci and Michelangelo. I bet they had no idea they would one day be teen-aged, crime-fighting mutant-ninja turtles. They probably were doing what they loved and never thought half a millennium later, people would know be making films and writing books about them.

From time to time, I wonder what my future holds. If I will ever be someone who is spoken about hundreds of years from now. I want to know if my life will have purpose. I remember my time at UNM and trying to figure out what I want to do with my life, thinking I had to choose "right" when it came to my career. I didn't want to go through life thinking no one would remember me and I would choose the "wrong" career path. And because of my decision, I wouldn't have an impact on this earth.

I tend to stray away, like a lost sheep, from Jesus. I forget about the promises He has made and when He makes promises, He upholds them. I sometimes forget to see myself the way He sees me.

I am gifted.
I am chosen.
I am the salt of the earth.

I forget that I am already somebody, that my life already has purpose. We all are somebody and we all have purpose. I won't go through this life forgotten because He knows me. I don't have to build an empire of music, iPods, or solve some algorithm to be remembered by Him. I am the salt of the earth, like Russ was saying on Tuesday. Salt makes food taste better, with the right amount, and salt preserves. I really enjoyed the story Russ told, the story of the lady giving him salt while running his marathon but he didn't know he was supposed to eat it to stop the cramping. My purpose is to share the salt, to be the salt for others to help the cramping of the world. And what I do on earth, sharing Jesus with others, lasts longer than a life time. If God uses me to impact some one's life and help them know Jesus, it lasts an eternity. Jesus really is a timeless person, and He gives us the opportunity to be timeless too.

in His grip,


Monday, February 9, 2015


I love hashtags.

This confession might be career suicide seeing as how I am getting my Masters in English Lit, and I am a writing instructor at UNM. I am supposed to be the slayer of all fragments, the bane of improper capitalization.  But I can't help it. I think hashtags are fun, catchy, and a unique form of communication that we have recently embraced.

Also, Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon do a hashtag skit, and it's one of my favorite things ever. Funny how Jimmy seems to be at the root of many of my favorite things...

Anyways, Russ and Jamie share my passion for this mode of communication so for the past two years, we've introduced a new hashtag each semester to our students. We started with #allthingsnew and moved into #identity, #courageous, and now #waytobe, each of them directly correlating to our topic for that particular semester. We ask students to tag Instagrams, Facebook posts, and Tweets with these hashtags so that we can create an online community connection as we pursue the Lord together.

This semester - #waytobe - has me thinking:  what is the "way to be"?  We've been talking about the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount for the past several Tuesdays.  Jamie talked about how when Jesus delivered these words to His followers, He flipped the normal way of being on its head. His message was radical.  His message was hard.

Not a whole lot has changed about Jesus' message over the past 2000 or so years. It's still radical. It's still hard.  I think about other "way" passages in the Bible, and I'm reminded of Jesus' words in John 14:6..."I am the way, and the truth, and the life."  These statements of Jesus are deceptively simple.  I find myself so often repeating these words with an attitude of: "Of course, You're the way. Of course, You're the truth.  Of course, You're the life."  But I rarely stop and actually think about these characteristics of Jesus.

This weekend, I had the awesome opportunity to spend time at Lone Tree Ranch with my friend Morgan. We rappelled, we ate, we watched men in tights and capes ride fixed gear bikes, we napped, we sang, we listened, we learned how many gallons of water are contained in a toilet as we watched it pour onto the floor of our cabin, and we hiked. Eventful to say the least, yet also relaxing and fun.

One of the songs we sang several times at the Ranch is by United Pursuit Band.  It's called "Nothing I Hold On To" - you can listen to it here.  One of the lines says, "I give it all to you God, trusting that You'll make something beautiful out of me."  We sang it over and over. Honestly, I was getting tired of it. Until I realized God was trying to get me to actually listen to what was coming out of my mouth.  That in giving all (that means EVERYTHING) to Him and trusting that He's doing something in me, I am confessing that I am not the way, that I am not the truth, and that I am not the life. I have given those things up to Jesus when I gave up all.

But this brings me back to Jesus' radical words. Am I willing to let Jesus turn my life upside down? Am I ready to let my way of being reflect that I have made Jesus the way of my life, that I have made Jesus the truth of my life, that I have made Jesus the life of my life? My answer to these questions currently is "yes, sometimes."  This semester, I'm hoping to inch closer and closer to "yes, always."

So what's my #waytobe?  My way to be is like Jesus.  How do I do that? I don't know exactly, but I think it starts somewhere around "yes, always."

Peace and blessings, y'all!

Monday, February 2, 2015


I love reading.

Reading is one of my favorite things to do. I love getting lost in a well-told story, letting my mind make up what the characters look like and imagining what their lives are like.  A book I recently read that I thoroughly enjoyed was  Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. It’s not your classic mind boggling piece of literature, but the reason I enjoy this particular book so much is because the characters feel real. It’s a darker book following the lives of a few high school students in Pittsburgh, PA and doesn’t necessarily have the happiest of endings. Nonetheless, the characters are real and their stories are captivating.

I never get tired of captivating stories.

Young Life was where I started my relationship with Jesus and was the first ministry where I wanted to get involved. I thought Young Life was the best ministry and I loved hearing the stories of those involved with Young Life.  I started realizing I didn’t have to go to books to find captivating stories, all I had to do was live life and meet others. The stories I heard were ones that you couldn’t script and bind within a cover with some hipster title like “The Silence Between the Rain” (The title of a story I’m currently writing ha).  These stories were real and I loved getting to hear them.

In 2013, I stepped back from Young Life and I thought the captivating stories were going to end and that I would have to turn to fabricated ones in books once again (Don’t get me wrong, I still LOVE a great book with a great story). You could say that this thinking captivating stories will end because Young Life was removed from my life was the result of naiveness or ignorance. I thought no other ministry was as good as Young Life.

A person once told me “Ministry is people”. This was eye opening. I realized people were everywhere I went, no matter what organization I was involved in. Young Life was just a tool for me to meet people with amazing stories. Every one has a story and every one’s story is captivating because it’s theirs. Your story is one I can’t go to the local bookstore and read about. I was reminded of the quote “Ministry is people” because of Young Life College. Young Life College teamed up with the Mission, a ministry that reaches out to people. Both organizations are involved in Laundry Love, another ministry that reaches out to people. This past Tuesday Night, there was an announcement about a ministry called Joni and Friends and yes, they reach out to people as well. I look at Jesus' life and He reached out to people too. And it wasn't certain people who belonged to certain groups or organizations, but to all people. 

Lately I have been reminding myself to focus less on the name of a ministry and focus more on the name of Him who did ministry best. When I do this, I truly care about people and not because of the ministry I am a part of but because of who they are to Him. I want to hear their one of a kind story and perhaps have the opportunity to share Jesus’ story with them.

In His grip,