practice

Thirst for culture and language is a large part of who I am. During my time in China, my favorite class was language class and learning the characters of Mandarin. Over the years I have spent some time trying to make sense of Russian. I will never forget the trip to Kurlovo in Russia when I’d picked up enough phrases to make it sound like I spoke fluent Russian. Little Dima got in my face and just kept jabbering. I think I understood every 10th word. When I said in Russian, “I don’t speak Russian!” He told me “Yes, you DO!” And thought I’d created a new game to play. Ha!

And now I find myself having spent enough time learning and submerged in Creole that I can translate small conversations between visiting Americans and the kids in the villages. Emphasis on SMALL conversations. However, definitely at the point the kids think I speak more than I actually speak and tell me all sorts of things I have not a clue what they are really saying. Contractions in Haitian slang will be the death of me!

But the key to all of this is practice. I spent almost seven years learning French in school and university, but could not have kept a conversation going even if someone held a gun to my head!

Really great practice for me is when a lot of the kids like to test me. Lovesonnes is on a color phase, and yesterday he kept at me with saying a color in English and I would tell him the Creole word. Easy. I know my colors well! Then we switched to animals. Not so good there!

One of the things I cherish most at the villages is knowing the kids. One of my friends has been sick for a couple of weeks. Tacura has slowly been healing, and yesterday was the first day in a while that he was completely back to his highly energetic, goofy, lovable self. He was on my back and would shimmy up to where he could rest his head on my shoulder and put his cheek next to mine with our ears pressed together so it sounded like I was in a tunnel when I talked. Then he was acting like he was driving a car and squealing like a horn…in my ear. Good thing we have a good friendship and I know how sick he’s been, or that screaming *might* have been annoying.

At one point he asked to go to the cafeteria and we sat in a quiet corner where he started asking me questions in Creole. He knows my language limits and phrases things so I understand him. It was precious time spent with my friend, but also excellent practice for my language skills.

Before we left last night, a new American friend was holding Onelson…who was almost asleep. Everyone else is getting on the bus and she looked at me with the question of “Do I just put him down?” We took him to his room where he decided he wasn’t that sleepy, as toddlers do, and kept saying, “No!”

Tacura thought this was hilarious, but they live in the same room, so this was not new to him. Soon, Onelson was out and dead weight. Tacura immediately, started pulling the American’s arm while tip toeing making hilarious contortions with his face down the room length, simultaneously holding his finger to his lips…the international sign of please shut up. I hadn’t seen that animation in his face and eyes in weeks, as I stood in the doorway I couldn’t help but smile at this sweet scene that transcended language barriers.

Language barriers have never bothered me, and I fully acknowledge I am unique in that trait. I find myself so thankful for practice with my American friends, and translators who get that I am at the point where I am just going to go for it and say the sentence in Creole that they will need to correct.

But even more so, I love the quiet, memorable moments of when I practice language with the small friends in my life that speak Russian and Creole…all because it leads to a deepening of trust and being known within the relationships God is nurturing.

warmth

They forgive you for just about anything.

They acknowledge you hate talking on the phone, so choose other ways to communicate.

They don’t judge or explode in anger when you…ok, me…when I am late.

They ask the questions that no one else would dare to ask me. Questions that challenge me. Questions that dig into my junk. Questions that make me take a hard look at myself, then discern and pray more faithfully.

They remember things about me that I sometimes wish they would forget.

They walk with me when the road is smooth, and stick with me as gargantuan boulders get tossed in my path.

They change their plans when they know they are needed.

They pass the tissues when my eyes start leaking…however rare that might be.

They see my dorky side and like me anyway.

They know I value time spent above any other way to grow relationships.

They tease me about my obsessions, and gracefully ignore my social media through Duke basketball season.

They remind me I am called, I am held accountable to God alone and the Holy Spirit is alive and active.

They see God alive in me, and hold me accountable to living a life that points back to him.

They don’t encourage me to fight on my own, they fight besides me and even in front of me…as God gives us strength, passion and purpose to fight injustice.

I will never be able to accurately and completely put into words how much warmth it puts into my soul for the community God has placed around me. From college friends to future friends…I am greatly blessed.

Community is life. Community is loyal. Community doesn’t disband when disinterest rears its’ ugly head, or the road gets rough. God did not intend for any of us to be alone. God gives you people that just ‘get’ you…truly see you for who God has created and grown you to be. And more often than not, God uses that community to speak into his Kingdom. To be a visual reminder of how the world is supposed to be…restored, healed and whole.

Community is a beautiful reflection of God’s heart for us.

But the reflection doesn’t count unless we commit to taking his message out into the world. It doesn’t count if we just hole up as a club of people who like to hang out. Jesus didn’t tell the disciples to take his message to each other. That makes God’s reflection in us look awful.

When we humbly and honestly live sent for God, he ignites his mission in not only our lives but within our community. Our lives completely surrendered to him with everything else…family, work, recreation and all the communities we exist in…pointing back to Jesus.

So to my community here’s to the adventures we’ve had, for those we will ignite in others and the ones to come…your loyalty, love, encouragement, time and honesty puts an indescribable warmth in my soul and fuel my passion to reflect God’s heart in this world.

tears

Jesus wept.

Tears. Just to double check I looked it up in the Hebrew dictionary…yep, actual tears. *Geek alert – maybe I should have led with that.*

Also, shortest verse in the Bible. Mind blown? Good.

And ironically (or not) it is found in the Gospel of John, which is the Gospel that has the most sent language woven throughout.

Whoa, halt the presses. Sent language? Yes, folks…not only did God SEND Jesus to earth. Jesus SENT disciples. Jesus SENT his followers. Then to empower them all…Father SENT the Holy Spirit. Thus the beautiful sent language of the Bible that sheds light on our souls that we are ALL indeed missionaries. We are ALL sent.

TRAINSTATIONGIRLSAll found in that lovely Gospel of John, with some tears in the middle.

One of the most tearful times in my life was ripping myself away from the Chinese students we had spent 4 weeks loving and caring about…pouring every part of ourselves into. It is not physically, humanly possible to love someone that much in 4 weeks…that is something more than just who we are as sent people, it is something that comes alive with God moving through us in our relationships with those around us. For the first time, during that summer while leaving the students we’d grown to love, I understood why the Ephesians elders were so torn up about Paul leaving them. [Acts 20:36-38]

Jesus was about relationships. How could he not be? Then within those relationships people came to expect things from him. Why? Because he was the miracle man. The one with all the confusing answers…and the one who was healing people left and right.

If you are Jesus’ friend in those times, would you expect him to be there to make everything right when YOU needed it to be right?

I would. Not because it’s about me, but because of the faith I would have been growing while being around such miracles.

In John 11, Jesus gets word that Lazarus is sick, but instead of the normal human reaction of running to a bedside…Jesus uses this opportunity to show his power, yet again, to those around him.

By the time he gets there, Mary and Martha are…let’s just say more than your usual angry…Mary doesn’t even come out to meet him and Martha actually says to him, ‘if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’

Do you blame them? They had watched Lazarus go through the pain of dying, then Lazarus had already been in the tomb for 4 days AND they’d been grieving that whole time.

So then, Jesus asks for Mary…stay with me…we are almost there.

Mary goes to him, and what does she lead with but, ‘Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ See a trend here?

“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. ‘Where have you laid him?’ he asked.” [John 11:33]

Then?

Jesus wept.

There are so many ways I’ve heard people take this, but honestly, I’ve always viewed this as Jesus, the human. Out of all the things John could have written…John chooses to reveal that Jesus wept. I’ve always wondered if John sat there with his scroll and ink, pondering – ‘Should I show this side of him? Will anyone think him weak?’ Normally in a Scottish accent, not sure why…just Scottish.

But there is beauty in the realness of that friendship and love. There is beauty that in the midst of a Gospel full of movement and people being sent…there is emotion and time for Jesus to pause in his own community while the Pharisees are literally breathing down his neck.

But there is more…because even in the story of Lazarus, even in the midst of this pause where we see Jesus with those he loved deeply we hear this:

‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you SENT me.’ [John 11:41]

Then Lazarus was raised from the dead and everyone moved on in their sentness.

Just kidding…then the Pharisees kicked it into gear and it all progressed to the cross where we should find ourselves falling and refueling for this crazy sent ride we are on with God.

Apologies, my brain is scattered because we leave on the Junior High mission trip tomorrow, but my point is this…even in the acknowledgment and acceptance of the simple reality that we truly are a sent people, emotions are a part of it. The anger, passion, kindness and compassion…the tears…when you live as an active participant in God’s Kingdom work, when you are actively loving and caring about the relationships around you…there is no way to avoid the emotion. Embrace it, because even though the last thing I ever want to do is admit anything ever leaks from my eyes…Jesus is the example we follow and even he wept for his friends.

This post is a part of a series that my blogging buds and I are doing as a part of extending our Lent experience. To read more about that go here. We blog the same word on the 15th of each month, though I am pretty sure I am the first to post this month and it is the 16th…so give ’em some grace, because this will be the first & last time I get one up before them. If you want to check out what they had to say about ‘tears’ go here:

Heather Kostelnick

Lindsay Evans

Shawn Franssens

Brian Swanson

known

I value friendship. A lot. I value trust. A lot. I value being known. A lot. I value grace. A lot. And all of these things fold together for me when it comes to my best friends.

However…I am a complete asshole when it comes to maintaining long distance friendships. I hate talking on the phone. No, really…with a passion, I hate talking on the phone.

I don’t have a ton of extra rubles to spend on getting to the places they live. And it’s not that I don’t consider it a priority, it’s that time gets away from me. Completely dissipates.

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Before landing in Chicago on Wednesday, it had been two and a half years since I’d seen my college roommate in person. That’s just wrong. I am a complete asshole!

It’s horrible, because I value our friendship more than my actions show. But if the actions are lacking, and your voice isn’t communicating…how do they know we actually put value in their friendship?

We’ve come to a place in this world when Facebook trolling for information equals a ‘friendship.’ That’s not friendship! Friendship is messy. Friendship is knowing how I take my coffee…or other liquids of choice. Friendship is knowing what my response will most likely be about things I am passionate about. Friendship is conversation, actual dialogue about real life things. Its hard. It entails trust, and putting yourself out there. Sometimes it goes sideways and you have to work through crap together. But honestly the friendships that endure are the ones that last. And thankfully I have several!

But that’s also where the grace comes in…and no matter how much time has passed the jokes are still present. The ease of hanging out is still comfortable, and we are still known by someone who counts. Someone who can appreciate the path God has taken you on just as much as you can. Someone who knows the stupid shit you did, completely sober!

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The Bible talks about being known by God in Psalm 139…it’s a beautiful Psalm, and it came to my attention through one of my best friends in one of the biggest struggles my life. As intimately as God knows each one of us, its that bond that runs through the truest friendships we have. And once that bond is engaged…there’s not much you can do to cut it. Because through that bond runs God’s mercy…grace…love.. compassion and community.

Sometimes that bond has to help carry a friend when they feel beaten up by life. The don’t know what to believe. When faith has become exhausting. I’ve always loved the story when Jesus is teaching to a very crowded room, and a paralyzed man is lowered through a roof by his friends. In that moment, Jesus doesn’t say why are you breaking someone’s home. No, Jesus says HIS faith has saved him. The Bible says Jesus saw THEIR (his friends) faith…forgives the man. If you can’t lean on your friends, who can you lean on!?!?

I cherish being known, and my best friends are the ones that know my good, bad and ugly…and love me anyway! And I do my best for that to be a two-way road…but we all epically fail sometimes and grace jumps in to say, ‘It’s OK!’

Today I am so incredibly grateful for time spent with friends, long and short distances, this Spring. Go tell AND show a friend you care! And just to recap…Facebook does NOT count!

help

So this blogging every day thing for the 40 days of lent was actually 46 days long, who knew. And today I could go with the whole, ‘I am really bad at asking for help…’ blog post, but no. You are getting something else!

This blogging idea emerged when we saw a photo that Rethink Church put out for a photo-a-day during lent to connect Methodists on Instagram. Rethink Church is a part of the United Methodist Church and is a message that challenges not only seekers, but the thinking of the church as a whole. Their goal is ‘to encourage a global spiritual dialogue both within and outside the church.’ And if you’ve been reading our blog posts using the word from each photo-a-day, we’ve definitely been writing on topics that feed those goals.

There are 5 of us that decided to add something to Lent, while some still fasting from other things as well. What any of us will tell you is that this Lent has been one of the most vulnerable, discerning, powerful and completely full of the Holy Spirit. I think we’ve learned more about each other in the process as well, and that is always a good step in the right direction among your community.

One of the most intriguing things that have happened is how many different perspectives we’ve had on the EXACT SAME WORD. Even when we are technically writing on the same perspective, we say it completely different. I’ve had a hard time forcing myself not to read someone else’s before I wrote mine so we preserve our own views.

Shawn Franssens makes me laugh all the time with his witty writing. I love that he is willing to be honest and insightful, yet drawing us to something bigger to challenge us all…as all Pastors should. Some days I even go running, literally running to his office, in excitement about what I saw.

I am enamored with Lindsay Evans and her poetry. She is such a talented writer and sees things in very unique ways. I love her honesty, and of course the hilarious stories about her kids seep through, too. The bottom line is she loves Jesus, but she’s not going to push and judge you if you aren’t quite there yet.

Sometimes, I admit, Brian Swanson’s writing style drives me batty (I don’t think he’s reading anyone else’s blog anymore, so he probably won’t see this)…but there have definitely been days that I love how God is working through his views on scripture. And, you easily see what he is passionate about through his views on the words we’ve blogged on.

Last, but most certainly not least, there is Heather Kostelnick who has grow so much in her sent theology in the last year that every single thing she writes down is a Spirit-filled testament of how God is working in her life. She has a beautiful perspective on what it looks like to integrate mission into your everyday life. You hear her struggles, and you hear her victories as she puts Jesus at the dead center of not only her life, but her family as well. And her enthusiasm is contagious!

For me, it’s been good to the point of giddiness and it’s been bad to the point of I wanted to throw the entire blog out the window. I’ve been in some interesting mental and emotional places while I’ve been blogging for 43 days. Many of the words have forced me into self-examination I didn’t necessarily want, but I am not in the habit of telling God, ‘No!’ The most amazing part is how much I’ve dug into the Bible again. This time for me, not for work, which is a very uncommon act in the last 5 years. I have gotten on a prophet kick that I’m not sure yet where God is going with it, and I have a renewed excitement about what the Bible is saying. A great thing to come out of Lent, right?

Mar. 27 - helpAll this to say, help us! Pomogite! As Shawn reads that one he will definitely raise his fist in the air and say it in the Russian.

Help us to continue to grow. Help us to continue to be challenged. Help us to continue to seek our Savior in different ways.

With the end of Lent, we’ve run out of words and there are so many more that would provide a fantastic opportunity to grow, be challenged and seek Jesus.

Please comment on this post, or reply on one of our Facebook links to help us to set up a word for each month that we will all write again on the same word…but with five different perspectives.

Friends, if you are with me to keep blogging a word together, share this on your Facebook page or reblog it on your blog.

This Lenten journey has been amazing, and honestly, I don’t want it to end. I just need a break.

Help us!

home

Home.

I struggle with this.

Home is technically just a place I sleep if you prefer the ‘normal’ definition of the place you live.

But home is also halfway across the world every time I step into an orphanage in Kirov region.

Home is at a friends house every Thursday night when my little buddy meets me at the door.

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Home is also in Park City this week while I hang out with college friends who share the same passion for March Madness, Jesus and being outside.

Most think about home in terms of where they always come back to and spend the most time…where they put down roots.

But my roots look different.

Home for me is mobile. I don’t have roots set down in one place…my roots are more spiritual and relational than stuff and place.

I keep parts of myself in so many places. I feel my heart is fractured and I’m indecisive at times as to where I want to be, but when it comes down to it…what I need most is the relationships around me more than the stuff.

Granted…I’ve got plenty of stuff that I need to go through. And I have a healthy addiction to art. My mom actually calls it my ‘dowry.’ But all the art is how I appreciate the beauty in the world around me, and I don’t ‘need’ any of the stuff. I do, however, need the relationships God has put around me.

My relationship with God has a huge impact on my views of where my true home is. I’ve told this story here before, but it always serves as a good reminder.

In Haiti last summer, I was very moved by our translator, Joseph, and his view of where Haitians find their real hope. They have no hope for a good future, no hope for their kids to rise above poverty or their country to become self-sustainable…he said. So Haitians have no choice but to put their hope in the life after this one…to put all their trust and faith in God making heaven come to earth. No poverty. No pain. No injustice. Just God restoring his creation and setting everything right.

Perhaps I struggle to put down roots because I came to a place where I know this world will not last. That there is something so much more beautiful and stunning than this one to come…

Or maybe it just doesn’t make sense for where I am at in my life.

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In other news…I’m moving to Park City, Utah. Its fun and beautiful, and one of my best friends is having her baby here.

Just kidding. Well, kinda kidding, lately I’m just waiting for God to help me know where he needs me next. And I know that I will be at home wherever that might be.

bless

You are frustrated. You are snapping at everyone. You cannot hold back the mean sarcasm. People back away as a snarl escapes your lips. Nothing is going right. The world is out to get you. And to top it all off…God must be absent, because if he wasn’t why would all this be happening?

No.

Not absent. Still there.

And who has he put around me to help me figure that out?

My friends.

Every single time I am having a bad day…one of my amazing friends shows up and blesses my spirit to the point of soaring.

In one of my finest 'dork' moments.

In one of my finest ‘dork’ moments.

They get my weirdness. They know I am a dork. They like my Kingdom of God-isms, or act like they do. They walk alongside me when I am struggling…even when I tell them to go away. They make me feel like I’m funny, even though my jokes are stupid. They love me despite my failures…sometimes to the point of all out denial, which is nice in an unrealistic unicorns snorting glitter kind of way.

Their kids even bless me. Today I ran down to the day care part of our church to tell my 4 year old buddy happy birthday. He was in the gym, and when he saw me in the doorway he ran the whole way across the gym with a huge smile on his face. He absolutely blessed me yesterday, when I was just trying to bless him.

But isn’t that part of it, too? We bless each other.

The even more beautiful part about experiencing blessing from others is that when the Bible talks about ‘bless’ it is referring to the literal touch of God on a moment or person. I think that makes us look at the word differently, because when you look at it in the context of scripture it makes sense. Take a look at Old Testament scripture see what you think.

So…to my friends that are reading this…in the moments you encourage me, geek out with me or draw me from the depths of despair…I feel the literal touch of God through you. My life would not be the same without you. I would not be able to survive this world without your friendship. Thanks for blessing me.