Saturday, May 31, 2008

oh, carrboro

i officially love summer in chapel hill. maybe because i'm in this strange place of stasis between school and my internship, holding onto the past with the future right around the corner. it's like i'm hanging in the air between two sides of a gorge--my feet have pushed off the ground behind me, and though i can see the other side, i haven't yet landed. and i sure am enjoying the view while i'm somewhere in the middle.

i also love it because my roomies are awesome, class stuff is relatively chill, hanging out with little babies for pay sure beats waitressing, i have time to workout, and i love living in a house in carrboro. it's nice to finally be in a house and off campus--it does make me feel a bit more like a grown up :) but carrboro really is great--this place really is a community. this morning my 2 former roommates and my 2 current roommates and i walked over to the weekly farmer's market in the town commons. it was the perfect day with just enough breeze--and plenty of cool stuff for sale (though i personally enjoyed people watching more than shopping). then we walked a little bit further down to weaver street and sat out on the lawn, watching children play & run, talking, and just generally enjoying the day. then we walked home through a neighborhood with great houses that were NOT all cookie cutter spit-outs. simply charming & a delightful place to spend at least these 2 months.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

in the secret, in the quiet place

quiet time is a peculiar thing.

there is no doubt in my mind that personal time with the Lord in scripture & prayer (or journaling, singing, being in nature, etc) is absolutely essential to spiritual growth and a deepened relationship with God. it's simple. read your Bible and talk to God about it--you grow. don't & you wither. it really is that simple. the recent times in my life when i've avoided daily quiet times for an extended period, i can literally feel myself withering. and still somehow, that simple formula isn't enough motivation to keep it up.

okay, so i don't have enough self-discipline to effectively monitor my spiritual growth all the time, but surely the awesome fact that the God of the universe wants to hang out with me everyday would be more than enough reason for me to happily sit down with my bible and journal and talk with God regularly. when i do--He blows me away. it is amazing how God will speak to your heart (with words you were hoping to hear or with words that you were afraid to hear) if you give Him the time & listen. i've been moved to tears by a verse i've read a million times before, i've been struck dumb by His great love revealed in nature, i've shivered with "God-bumps" (the form of goosebumps you get when you can tangibly sense His presence) after reading an old journal entry. some days i wake up wanting to do nothing else but start the day in scripture, or i'll stay up late at night finishing a book of scripture that has entangled my heart.

then there are days like today. i got home from a great afternoon of babysitting (i fed--he ate! i rocked--he slept!), finished my homework, and had lots of lovely free time. in between laundry and other chores around the house, i knew i wanted to sit down with my bible and spend time with God. i was really thankful to have the unexpected time because this week is looking to be a bit hectic (and of course quiet time always seems to be the first thing to go when things get busy...another problem). and then i just kept avoiding my Bible, and finally admitted to myself that i just didn't feel like having quiet time. i had plenty of time to devote to it, but i didn't want to.

why? knowing the richness of blessing that comes from even a few genuine minutes with the Lord, why do i avoid sitting down with Him? do i have intimacy issues? as i've grown in my faith & deeper in relationship with the Lord, do i feel like i'm getting too close? or am i just lazy? do i expect Him to do all the work (well, in many ways, He already has done all the work) in our relationship, knowing that He is far more loving, faithful, and willing to put up with my junk? that He will always be there even when i choose to skip out? that i may avoid Him but it never even crossed His mind to avoid me?

this reminds me of a story i read in a book once (sorry i can't give credit where it's due). basically it was a little illustration of a man and his relationship with the Lord. once the man became a believer, he began meeting with God. Each day he came to a cozy room with two armchairs, a fireplace (insert your ideal cozy setting here) & always found Jesus there waiting for him, ready to talk about anything and everything. as time went on, the man found himself missing a few of his daily meetings with the Lord, but when he did show up, Jesus was always there. eventually, the man slowly but surely stopped meeting with Jesus at all. after months and months had gone by, he came once again to the room with the armchairs, not really expecting much. but there was Jesus, sitting by the fire like always. the man was a little shocked, and said, "i'm so sorry i haven't been here in so long. i regret the time i've lost with You." Jesus replied, "I've been here everyday even when you haven't. I look forward to this time, it is something special to me, and I wouldn't miss it for anything."

well, the book told it better than i could, but that's the gist--and it's really convicting to me. quiet time isn't just about me coming to God and taking something away--renewal, confidence, answered questions. that's only a small part of it. my meeting with God brings Him enjoyment--He delights in me. He likes talking to me, even though i usually don't know what to say. this should be obvious--a relationship isn't one-sided. it's both of us together. my only prayer is that i can continue to see the eternal blessing that comes from regular time spent with the Lord. tonight i finally switched on itunes and listened to a bit of caedmon's call & jars of clay before flipping through my journal and reading romans 15 and a couple psalms.

praise God that He is there waiting no matter how many times i stand Him up.

Monday, May 26, 2008

catching up...

who knew summer would be this busy?

i just returned from a great long weekend beach trip with my fam (great except for one day of rain and the sunburn i inevitably was left with), but i've already dived right back in to non-vacation life. in no way do i feel quite so stressed and thinly stretched as i did during the year, but babysitting jobs, papers, reading, even a test (eek!) have cropped up within this two-week period, so i have to actually time-manage (eww).

so, now that i have a minute, a few thoughts from this past week...
  • i hope you'll let me know your own thoughts on this one. my Hebrew Bible teacher made a comment in class that i have been pondering ever since he said it. he said that orthodox Christianity professes belief in a triune God--the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. (Okay, we're good so far, i thought, where is this going??) Then he took me aback when he said that he thinks today many Christians profess belief in a four-part God: the Father, the Son, the Spirit, and the book. and it's made me wonder, when did the sanctity of the bible really get its start? i know Martin Luther probably had a lot to do with it, and perhaps the folks at the council of Nicaea before that--but is that it, or is there more, something significant, in the text itself that paved the road for the belief in biblical inerrancy? i've been having a lot of thoughts along these lines over the past year--certainly a product of my courses in the reli dept--and maybe this comment from my teacher is just another one-sided remark that should be taken with a grain (or teaspoon) of salt. but it made me think.
  • i know everyone loves to laugh at those church signs you see on the side of the road with some witty saying that catches your attention. just type in 'funny church signs' in google search and plenty of them come up. my favorite from doing that: "be ye fishers of men--you catch them, He'll clean them" and "prayer is the ultimate wireless connection". but this weekend as we were driving down to the beach, i saw one that said this: "you may party in hell, but you'll be the BBQ"--how clever, memorial day-themed! i'm not going to lie, i did laugh when i read it. but then i immediately thought, how is a non-Christian going to read that? does anyone really think someone would read that and think, oh yea, that sign is right. i don't want to burn, let me go in and ask about Jesus. i mean, maybe that was the original intention of such signs--but let's get real. i imagine someone like my atheistic sister reading that and hating the christian church even more. and is that kind of response really worth the chuckle we get out of it? DEFINITELY not.
  • ok on a less theologically-charged issue: i had a very weird out-of-body/Halloween-ish, type experience last week when i was babysitting. i took my little 4-month old on a walk last Wednesday afternoon. here's the thing--i sit for him on campus. so taking him on a walk involved pushing the stroller around south campus, which is totally different than pushing a stroller around a neighborhood. i felt like EVERYONE was staring at me--almost like, aww, that poor girl, trying to do school and raise a little baby. like they were afraid to look me in the eye because i was in a pitiable situation. it was so weird to role-play for half an hour as a unmarried young mom. i really took on the role, put myself in those shoes, and it was weird. maybe next time i'll just wear a sign that says "just the babysitter"

and a thought from the paper i've been working on tonight...

as a religious studies major, do i just write papers based on what i know my teachers want to hear, even if i don't agree with what i'm saying? okay, i think i can easily answer yes to that question, so my real question is this---is that bad? does it make me two-faced? am i living a double life with one foot in academia and one in faith? i don't entirely disbelief everything that i have written on papers or tests, but a lot of that stuff certainly wouldn't align with what they teach you in sunday school. and i think that's okay--if we were a bunch of believers who only knew as much as our sunday school teachers taught us (Lord love them--heck, i've even been one of them for kids at my church) we'd probably be in trouble. but where do i draw the line between the skeptical (at best) scholarly approach of my professors and department and the faith if profess? i hate to feel like i am 'letting God down' by writing papers that unapologetically slash at my Christian beliefs, but i also fear that i'm letting my professors down if i'm writing papers that they want to hear but i don't actually support the claims i make.

gotta run--watching hairspray with the summer roomies :) too much laughing and singing to keep up the typing

Monday, May 19, 2008

spiritual spit up

i got spit up on today.

babysitting is great and all, but i'm looking forward to moving on to a job that doesn't involve such messy cleanup. On the other hand, perhaps it will just look a bit differently come july--spiritual spit up. that's what ministry should be about, right? being willing to receive others' mess and junk that comes bubbling out from somewhere deep inside a broken soul--& meeting it with my own junk, then discovering together what Jesus offers to heal us. i read in romans 12 tonight, "be devoted to one another in love. honor one another above yourselves." i think embracing the spiritual spit up of others is a great way to put that verse into action. and how awesome it is that we have the blood of Jesus to wash us completely clean.

ok, analogy over...for now. but since i am watching little ones everyday from sunday to friday this week, don't be too surprised if i make some other childcare allusion.

when i'm not spending time babysitting, i do actually have class to attend. i'm really enjoying the whole atmosphere of summer school so far--only 3 hours, less intense--plus i get to hang around unc for a few weeks longer! i do feel as if i'm in some kind of limbo though--i graduated last week, at least i went through the motions. but here i am, still on campus doing schoolwork. it's like i've gotten away with staying in the system even though i'm supposed to be gone. it will be over soon, but this is a nice transition away from school, i think, instead of just ripping off the band-aid on graduation day. as for my class itself (Hebrew Bible)--i like it so far. of course taking bible classes at unc may be a little different from many other places (since here we are the button hole in the bible belt). i realized in the last few days that i've developed rather a tough outer layer of skin as a Christian religious studies major at a liberal public school. i'm forced to walk the line between intelligence and faith--and i refuse to be close-minded on either end. i don't think being knowledgeable and being faithful are mutually exclusive, but trust me, the 2 concepts do butt heads quite often in my little world. i know the rest of this summer session will be no different since my teacher has already shot down such things as creationism, the virgin birth prophecy, and the probability of any number of Biblical events. in all fairness, though, he does a good job at making an unbiased presentation, and i have already grown to trust his expertise. but for me, God will always have the final word. i'll let you know how the class is going.

count down to the beach for memorial day--3 1/2 days!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

here i am, all of me

so i promised i would start this blog--both for myself and for all my beloveds to keep up with me--and here it is! i hope you will join me for this incredible journey i'm about to start into the real world (cue scary background music) and into the Lord's service. i know this blog will be a great way for me to process all the things i'm going to experience in the next year--and i want all of you to be there with me for that. you've helped me to discover who i really am thus far, so i want you to see who i am about to become.

in a little less than 2 months (right after the wedding of miss betsey smith) i am packing up my LIFE and moving to lexington, ky--about 6ish hours from my hometown of charlotte, nc. and no--i don't really know anyone there, but i'm excited to dive into a church community that will become my new family. i trust that what all my carolina friends and fellow IV'ers have been for me at carolina, my church family at crossroads will be for me this coming year. it's going to be a big transition, i know, but i believe competely that God led me to this experience and is getting ready to rock my world with the things He has in store for me. i'm still not sure if i'm ready to leave college behind--i love UNC sooo much. the campus, the people, the town, the sports, my friends, my church, heck, even my classes (yes i'm a religious studies dork--too bad i only figured that out for my senior year. that's another story). but if i think back to freshman year, i was terrified coming to this place, and now i don't want to leave. so i trust that even if i initially transition poorly (or more likely--awkwardly) to ky, it will feel like home in no time. and i am ready to be in that new place with new people--moving on to the next stage.

there's a couple of reasons i chose the blog title that i did. "give yourself wholly" is a snippet from a verse in 1 Timothy that the Lord has led me to meditate on as i prepare for the upcoming year in ministry:
"set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in diligent in these matters, give yourself wholly to them" (4:12, 15).
though this is only one aspect of how i am preparing myself to enter ministry, i think it is an important one, especially working with youth. i am not perfect, only Jesus is. but i need to make a commitment to living my faith by example because i will be in a position where impressionable young friends will be looking to me as a Christian sister and role model--& i want them to see that i put my money where my mouth is, so to speak. i'm not someone who spurts bible verses at them all the live-long day and then goes out back to smoke a cigarette and curse up a storm. faith in action--for me this will mean everything from being consistent with quiet times to abstaining from alcohol. it doesn't mean that i will cover up my weaknesses or try to hide the fact that i am broken. but it does mean that i need to be self-disciplined and not be a stumbling block for the very people i am supposed to be ministering to.

the blog title is also influenced by one of my favorite dcb songs: wholly yours. i love how this song plays on wholly/holy homophone--God is holy, and He calls us to be wholly His. my favorite part of the song goes like this,
"here i am, all of me, finally everything, wholly, wholly, wholly Yours"
. ok, well i really love all the lyrics to that song, but i journaled about that verse as i was still in the decision-process about kentucky. i believe it's the most i can offer to God--my whole self. whether that is my whole broken self, my whole sinful self, my whole confused and lost self, etc, it's still all of me and that's what God desires. so i'm ready to spend this next year (and my life) giving all of myself to Him and what He calls me to do.

ok, this is getting a bit long, and i really want you all to read without getting bored, so i'll save some other things i'm thinking about for next time
--other verses/books i'm thinking about to prepare for next year and generally how i've been growing spiritually this past year
--the OT class i'm taking this summer and my teacher who enjoys drop-kicking things that Christians believe about the Hebrew Bible

thanks for sticking with me---plenty more to come! love, whitney

ps--everyone should check out amanda's blog (my summer roommate!). it's called buxon.