light

There was once a girl named Sass.

Life was good and the only evil she found came from her mouth.

Her family took great vacations, and she continued to grow older.

A brother came and rocked her world, but more was better than alone.

She had no worldly cause for discontent.

But…she sensed…there must be more.

There were parties and friends.

Coming and going, life at a frantic pace.

Songs and prose, all pouring out.

Yet still no worldly cause for discontent.

But…she sensed…there must be more.

Feelings pushed aside. Nudges explained away.

Awards and honors won.

Convincing everyone she had a plan…but of a false future.

Decisions made.

Still no worldly cause for discontent.

And yet…she sensed…there must be more.

Sass talked a good game.

Sass hid behind walls, she could not trust.

Sass fought the wrong fights.

Sass knew nothing of love.

Sass grew weary.

Sass could see no real reason to be discontent.

But Sass knew there must be more…

Then came a day when light tore through the cracks,  stretched and wove.

Light chased away the dark, and gave way to new life.

Mar 26 - lightLight flooded Sass’ life with brilliant colors all sparkling like diamonds in sunlight.

Light crumbled all the walls…save a few for protection.

Light attacked her heart with love.

Light wore down a fighter.

Light gifted perseverance.

Light broke her world open with new colors, new gifts, new hope and new purpose.

Light brought her life beauty and calling.

Light bought her freedom on a cross.

Light gave more.

Light changed a life and the old Sass was no more.

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water

Today is March 13…trivial to most of the world and life-changing for me. This day still makes water leak out of my eyes, as I discovered earlier today.

There are times in my life that I hate having a good memory. It’s more scarring that anything, because in an instant my memory can bring perfect crisp 3D color to very painful moments. Joyful moments, too, but today…very raw, painful ones.

Fourteen years ago today is one of those days that I wish my memory had conveniently lost. I was in my dorm room in Des Moines and got a phone call from Kansas City that a close high school friend had been in a car wreck. After the news came that he hadn’t made it, I found myself in a vortex of disbelief as reality sunk in that a vibrant, supportive and loyal personality was no longer walking in this world. I was desperately grasping at straws to survive the emotional turmoil.

I was in a horrendous place for over a year. Drowning in significant depression, and eventually told by my dad, ‘Everyone has people that die in their life. You just move on and get over it. There is no use in dwelling in it. That’s what you need to do – get over it!’ He had no way of knowing that I was at the point that could not physically or mentally do that on my own, but with his words I then felt I couldn’t show him what was really happening to me on the inside.

I would hold it all together…because it was what was expected…then I would have panic attacks and fall apart. It was scary. It was painful, and only a few people knew it was happening.

The only way for me to come through it was to completely submit myself to Christ. It was weird, because before college, the only thing I knew about Jesus was he had two holidays…and I wasn’t even really sure why he had them. It’s hard to believe in a guy who has holidays just for himself…until you realize what that guy said when he walked this earth and the Spirit that came for all the believers on the heels of his departure.

When I say I know I cannot live without the Holy Spirit sustaining me…it comes from personal experience. It comes from a place of relief. It comes from a place of extreme gratitude. It comes from feeling the sweet freedom of real life. It comes from a place where my past, present & future collide into a beautiful symphony of God’s provision and calling.

SAMSUNGToday. (Deep breath.) Today, I went to the gravesite for the first time in over a decade. I left some crazy daisies for a friend who was completely crazy, and walked through some crappy stuff with me in high school. Who believed in me and supported me in ways I never fully appreciated until I began to see the world as God see it… communities of people living life together. The full clarity came when I found myself in communities who did supported each other in radical ways. First in college with friends who never left my side, and now in a fantastic community of friends, who laugh with me, cry with me and are my enthusiasm when I have none.

Today, I reflect on that day. I grasp on to Christ as my memory slides me back into those desperate moments. And I remember who I was, who I am…and ready for who God is still creating me to be.

Now when water leaks from my eyes on March 13…I’m still not sure what percent is selfish sadness over the world losing a teenager, and what percent is profound thanks for the choices I made because of that loss. Either way…the water flows freely.

find

Find. Not found. Find.

That is important because found implies something that has already been located or been established.

Find implies seeking something…an action on your part.

Scary?

It shouldn’t be. It should be invigorating. It should be enticing.

Seeking brings new experiences. Seeking brings new friendships. Seeking means adventures. Seeking means discovering something new. Seeking brings a change to the mundane in your life!

I love photography. I love seeing things through the lens. I find the whole balance of a composition fascinating. Even when I am not looking through the lens, I find myself looking at landscapes, sunsets, architecture as though I was looking through that lens…even when my camera isn’t with me. It’s a gift and a curse.

One of my favorite things is the ONE shot out of 200 that is fantastic. I like the challenge of getting that ONE shot. I really believe what Ansel Adams once said, ‘Sometimes I do get to places just when God’s ready to have somebody click the shutter.’

The thing about that moment is that I have to seek it out. Mountains don’t move to me. Ocean does not come to the Midwest no matter how much we want it to be here. When I am on mission trips to orphanages, the best photos of kids don’t entail me sitting still in a chair hoping the kids get close enough for a great shot. And without regard to what I want…trees don’t realign when the composition is a bit off for me. Frustrating, I know!

If I want that fantastic sunrise shot, I have to get my ass out of bed way before the sun hits the horizon line, which is, sadly, really hard for me. And I always have to apologize the night before to anyone with me for my crankiness the coming morning. Thankfully, the adventure of a photo hunt and coffee normally win out by the time we find our spot.

Here’s the thing, if I didn’t make the effort to get up, run through Starbucks to give me an extra kick and make it to the ‘perfect’ sunrise spot…I don’t get the photo. I lose out on the amazing gift of getting to a place in time for God to let me be the one to click the shutter.

But when I do seek it, when I set myself aside…and I do ultimately find the perfect photo. It’s the greatest reward and honor to capture that image.

Mar 8 - find

hear

My eyes are closed and my soul is in conflict. So many things tackling my senses at once and my mind has trouble processing what my eyes have just seen.

When I open my eyes…it’s still there so far below me. The trash. The dump. The ants scurrying over it…wait, no…those are people. There are makeshift tents down there.

I shift closer to the edge of the cliff. I’m not going to fall, but I feel like I have to be seeing something wrong and a closer inspection will solve the confusion. My eyes try to make sense of the layers of color and shapes.

But my eyes are not deceiving me…the Guatemala City dump has families that live there, sorting through the trash to find food and items to sell for a meager amount. Grandparents, parents…children. Living in horrid conditions…how can the world exists like this?

My heart plummets as I am called by the rest of the team to go. Why is no one doing anything?

Assaulting my ears as I turn away is a musical sound that doesn’t fit the view I have been soaking in. My brain struggles to place the sound in this place where it shouldn’t logically survive. It is like the atmosphere was tickled with a sound so feathery light that allowed it to travels for miles unhindered.

IMG_9197

I hear the laughter of a child.

In a dump.

Sadness, anger and an intrepid sense of injustice washes over me as I turn to walk away from a moment that has marked me.

It’s been years since I first stood on that cliff, but ever since, my soul cannot escape the memory of that sound.

I could have very easily not heard the laughter. I could have ignored it. I could have decided to wall up that moment and never think of it again.

But God uses our senses to remind us that this world is not right and this is not what he intended. He uses those moments to ignite us to his mission…

God gave you ears to hear…but the next time he wants you to hear, will you listen?  How will you respond?

lift

Arguments, confrontation and walls so thick that a wrecking ball wouldn’t be able to break it down…it drives me crazy when believers fight.

I get that family members have fights, especially when we are passionate people. But what does that show non-believers if we can’t get along? Would you want to be a part of a movement that shows hate toward each other?

That does not draw people to the heart of God…that propels them away with lightening speed, never to look back again. And we wonder why so many Americans have an ugly view of the church.

My heart breaks the most when fights are over petty things. If it is not a salvation issue, let it go. Seriously….so many times faith gets turned into religion, the church looks ugly and the message we are supposed to be delivering is completely invalidated.

God meant it to be beautiful, and then we get in the way. Silly humans. So much for being in His image.

Many times we get caught up in ourselves, and struggle to identify what are really areas of selfishness that we refuse to deal with. Our refusal of honestly revealing those areas are causing God’s message to suffer.

IMG_3840We are meant to deliver the message of God. We are meant to be a physical extension of his truth, love and compassion…yet we verbally beat each other up just to be ‘right.’ It’s not about you. It’s always about Him. His mission. His Kingdom. His holiness.

I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing. [1 Timothy 2:8]

Yah…me, too, Paul…here’s to all believers lifting holy hands, and laying down the verbal machetes. Please, for the good of God’s mission…confront yourself, and lay down the machete.

vision

Everyone has dreams. Even those that are told they are not allowed to dream…secretly, they have dreams for themselves.

What I love about a dream is the amount of passion that is behind it. Whether you are driven by love, soul or God…the passion that can ignite a dream to fulfillment is beautiful and sometimes intoxicating…even magnetic.

For most, that dream turns into a vision for the future…a preferred future. For others, it is a calling by God to be something or someone for Him.

In that vision, what is your heart most longing for?

If you hang around me long enough you’ll hear a couple different things…at least I hope you do, because it feels like I have myself on an auto loop repeating everything over and over. *Yes, I know I get annoying.*

Maybe there should be a test for my conversations. The first question will be ‘Please circle the words that you heard the most in our conversation: God’s Kingdom, mission, Kingdom work, iced tea, Isaiah 58, Acts 1:8, coffee, Duke basketball…’ The list could go on, but the point is what are you talking about and what do others hear? How is your vision for you or your surroundings being articulated to those around you?

My calling is to live sent. Be the church. Be a missionary in a lot of different contexts. For me specifically that means discerning God’s will, going where he leads and pulling others along for the ride. This also means…all of my vision folds into living sent and guiding others through those steps.

That creates problems when you run across people who don’t speak your same language or understand how a calling looks and feels. For them…that vision is ugly, uncomfortable, scary and confusing.

Whereas, what you see is beautiful…enticing…fulfilling…adventurous…

Once you capture vision, you get the opportunity to make choices based on that end game. At times those choices will be hard, but because it feeds the vision, you have reasoning to point to while deciding. Could make life decisions easier…

Because when your life falls under a vision everything points back to that one dream with crystal clarity. But if you lack vision…what direction are you really going in? What are you drawing others to? Where is your passion? How do others see your heart?

Frosty Vision

And it’s not always the vision for your life…sometimes it is a vision for those around you. I truly hope that the things I am a part of, the people I meet and those who actually listen to what comes out of my mouth, understand that I believe that all of us are called to live a life of sentness. That they will see mission isn’t a scary thing…or something else to add on to everything else. That mission is about community and being in relationships with others. That mission is a shift in the way you see the world…your family…your church. That they have a mission impulse that was embedded in them from creation.


This morning when I got in my car to come to church…there was frost on the window. Normally, an annoying thing, but this morning I found it as a thing of beauty. There were several ways to look at it…of course, annoying. But there were four different layers. The frost on the window, the dirty window, the tree behind the frosty window and the sun shining through it all.

Vision is a lot like that window. You can focus on what is right in front of you…or you can focus on the dirty aspects of your life. You can focus on what comes next. Or you can ultimately focus on what is shining through it all.

Here’s to being able to point back to radically living for God and finding vision, even when the frost is annoying.

live

Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe…

Breath is life for our bodies. Without it…we are nothing.

Life giving oxygen, but as much as our bodies might be living…the world is a dull grey with foggy outlines without the love of God filling our souls turning our world into vivid colors and sharpening our vision into fantastic shapes.

Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life.  He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. [2 Corinthians 5:14-15]

IMG_0717Living before belief should be drastically different than living after belief in Jesus. Things change. Vision shifts. Love becomes recklessly breathless.

I was hanging out with some Junior High students last Wednesday, and the question came up…how do you really live your life? LIVE it…not just taking in breath.

When I asked them, ‘How do you really LIVE your life?’ I was met with silence.

That’s a hard question for adults, and paralyzing for most teenagers who cannot see beyond the weekend. Yet a justifiable question everyone should ask themselves.

Maybe the more forward way to ask it is, how are you wasting the time you’ve been given to live, not simply exist…but to live?

Paul lived with no regrets…constantly urging his readers to live the same. But his version of ‘living’ didn’t include a bucket list or making a lot of money, and it certainly didn’t include the comfort we claim as necessity.

Paul lived an adventure. Paul lived freely the life God transformed him to live. He lived by the Spirit. More to the point…compelled by the Spirit.

 “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. [Acts 20:22-24]

I fully recognize Paul lived for something unique, and for something that most consider ‘of the Bible’ not of our ‘time.’ But does that mean we completely dismiss his way of living?

Ultimately dismissing his way of living for his Savior?

I choose to live for my Savior, and while that means a lot of things…it does mean living spontaneously, sometimes even completely by the seat of my pants Holy Spirit spontaneity. It means living by radically loving others. It means people looking in confusion at choices I make. It means living with laughter that is too loud. It means living in community with others living sent lives.

Breathe in God’s life giving peace, joy, love, compassion, kindness…hope…

Breathe out God’s Kingdom breath.