Monday, October 27, 2008

contradictory God

this weekend as I was driving up the road to the ineffable Chapel Hill, I realized something more important than football games and Franklin St--I realized something about God, and how He speaks to my heart.

God is paradoxical. He is contradictory. He works in opposites.

Opposites that create incomprehensible harmony and perfection. Sense out of absolute mystery.

this realization hit me when i was listening to a cd in the car. the line of the song (called "Glory" by ROF) reflects nothing deeply theological or doctrinal, but rather a personal encounter with God that reflects the duality of His nature: "You are the thunder in the sky/You are the shelter through the night"

how can one Being be both the power and the protection? i think it's just that: no one but God Himself can encompass such definite opposites, such paradoxical attributes.

there are countless other instances of our contradictory God. this weekend at Bible Church, Pastor Mark made an interesting statement: only God can save you from God. only His salvation can save you from His justice. check out a verse like Joshua 24:20 before heading over to Romans 8:1 to catch my drift.

what is man that You are mindful of Him? (Psalm 8:4) the God who crafted the universe with His hands (Ps. 24:1-2, Ps. 33:9) still cares enough to know our every thought (Psalm 139:13, 16). wretched undeservedness meets undeserved affection.

Jesus makes known this aspect of the divine nature in His teachings--for example, the commonly quoted, "the first will be last and the last will be first" (Luke 13:30, Matt. 19:30, Mark 10:31). even simpler: His love for the ones everyone else expected Him to disdain. prostitues and thieves at the feet of the greatest King the world would ever know. and one of my favorite Bible verses of all encapsulates the character and unique mission of Christ in a beautiful riddle of paradoxes: "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich" (2 Cor. 8:9)

And therein lies the greatest contradiction of them all: grace isn't fair--but it's WE who get the benefit of the doubt. Grace isn't fair in our favor. The greatest paradox in the story of our salvation is that a sinless Savior died for the wildly sinful souls of humankind.

open the Bible and look for yourself. what are some other contradictory aspects of our God that make you cry "holy" ? i'd love to know how He touches your heart.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


this year was the first birthday i've experienced without that "i need attention" pressure. it was the first birthday where i was actually called "a baby" (by co-workers, instead of classmates who've always been younger than me). i ate orange cupcakes with bat sprinkles with my preschoolers, and my co-teacher brought me a balloon. the guy at the chick-fil-a window saw my balloon and wished me a happy birthday. when i scanned my card at the Y, my birthdate must have popped up and the staff said happy birthday. then i worked it out at zumba. i talked to two of my best friends on the phone, people who i really needed to hear from and catch up with. my mom made one of my favorite dinners, complete with funfetti cake, and we watched dancing with the stars. low-key yet satisfying.

(and with the promise of chapel hill this weekend, what could be better?)

it's exciting to think that i might finally be past that point where i need extravagant gifts and gobs of attention and a blowout party complete with a pony and a moonbounce and a three-layer cake to feel good on my birthday. don't get me wrong, i don't think i'll ever grow out of the need for people to acknowledge my birthday. but when they do even that, with a simple card or even just a smile, it is more than enough.

birthdays seem to be the easiest days to get down on yourself, to think about how another year has gone by, to remember the things that you haven't yet done or the pieces that haven't quite fallen into place. and when i was groggily rubbing my eyes in the shower at 7:15 that morning, some of those thoughts passed through my mind. only for a second. i chose instead to worship God for the twenty-three years of blessings He's given me and for the the promise of the remaining years He's ordained. it's fun to imagine where the next twenty-three will take me...

...that's to be continued

Sunday, October 19, 2008

concert-going and mind-scanning

hello fall!

it's been a lovely, chilly weekend despite my lingering sniffles and coughies. i've decided that i have to make airbourne a part of my daily regimen, because being constantly sick, at varying levels, for the past 3 weeks is not okay. i love my kids, but they really are like walking snot rags, Lord love them. thankfully i was able to take a sudafed last night, which effectively dried out my nose (and turned my mouth into a wad of cotton) in time for for my birthday concert. for the second year in a row, my favorite band, Rush of Fools, came to town on my birthday weekend. since my dearest K-wood (friend, ex-roomie, and fellow ROF fan and concert-goer) was detained in Chicago with her inner-city ministry and general changing the world goings-on, my mom offered to take me. we had such a blast! since we got lost down the backroads of Indian Trail, NC, we arrived a little late and managed to find a seat in the last pew of the balcony, which ended up being a nice view. the opening act, jason gray, was witty and talented --a combo which led me to buy his cd at intermission. check him out!

then out came Rush of Fools. these guys are such fun and they are genuinely leading worship during their concerts. their songs are scriptural and relevant and sound like the band has spent a lot of time on their faces before God--a place where we all need to be a little more. i loved it, and felt, like last year, that they didn't play long enough :) fortunately we got to meet them (and Big Daddy Weave, the other headlining band) afterward. we came to the autograph table right behind this girl of about 16 or 17. she was gushing on and on to the band and giving them artwork and recording messages for her absentee-friend. i watched on with amusement and couldn't help but see a bit of my middle-school self in her. in fact, if I had ever had the chance to meet Hanson, she would probably look tame compared to me ;) i mention this only because I am thankful that young Christian girls have an amazing group to admire and obsess over, if they must. this band, and others like them, are never going to put out bad lyrics or say offensive things. they're never going to take advantage of their fans. they selflessly wait for the seemingly endless line of fans to file by, with a smile and an autograph and a picture for everyone. that's really a ministry in itself. besides, we looked significantly un-crazy by following the energetic girl through the line, bless her heart. and i think there's something special about being able to personally thank artists whom God has led to touch your own heart and your own walk with Him through their music.

friday was somewhat eventful as well. i finally got my stitches out, thank goodness. all's well there. then i had my second life coaching session. hmmm. i've never done any professional counseling--all my mentoring and discipleship experiences have been, obviously, very personal and relationship-driven. there's been a softness and deep understanding and genuine connection in those relationships. in this coaching setting, i've felt somewhat berated, quite honestly, despite the general pleasantness of the conversation. i'm frustrated because i've only met with this woman a couple times, and i have a hard time with her urging me towards decisive actions when she doesn't understand my personality or motivations or general modus operandi. it's all too in-your-face (quite literally) and superficial. i'm sure this experience will do me some good and help straighten out, to a degree, my directionally-challenged life, but i don't much like it. i'd rather have my girls...kristen, bets, rach--are you free this wednesday???

she did introduce me this week to an interesting personality assessment called mindscan. it's a test that gives you two series of statements, and asks you to rank them from best to worst. the statements, the first set being more general, the second being more "work" focused, range from the obviously good and bad, to items which were a little more vague or more easily variable among people. the way you choose to rank each set produces a "thinking overview" for the world and for the self.

the majority of my results were right on target. i'm highly empathetic and aware of others' feelings. i'm skeptical about absolutes and defining things as black and white. i'm experiencing role frustration (difficulty deciding what i want to do). i have a very strong sense of and dedication to my responsibilities, values, and commitments, and these things are my principal source of internal motivation.

i was happy to hear one result in particular: i tend to put myself below others and disregard my own feelings in comparison to what should be done. my immediate reaction was, 'wow, maybe i am getting a little bit of this Christian lifestyle-thing right!' putting others above myself sounds right-on with many of Christ's teachings, though i'm hardly claiming to do this all the time! but my coach thought this was the one area I need to "work on." i understand that failing to find time for yourself and ignoring your "unique personhood" isn't an all-the-time good thing. and i have had more than enough "me" time in these last few months. but i have never been one to over-appreciate myself. i have a hard time mentioning or even acknowledging all of my accomplishments thus far, some of which are pretty impressive. i hate talking about myself like that. i'm proud of what i've done, but it's not about me. it never has been and never will be. Christ not only calls us to be humble, but He calls us to die to ourselves. whatever good or great things i've achieved, it is a stepping stone on the path of serving Him for His glory. i'm a reflection of God--i don't want to spend the time talking about myself or praising myself, but talking about Him and praising Him.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others. Phil. 2:3-4.

i'm trying.

Monday, October 13, 2008

free flyin'

yesterday afternoon, after a disappointing couple of hours spent watching the Panthers lose, i decided it was time to dust off (quite literally) my sister's old bike that has been sitting in our garage. i've been eying it for a while, and finally decided yesterday was too much of a perfect day to wait any longer. and though it took quite a bit of work to get it up and running, i was eventually able to coast down the greenway near my house. not long after i pedaled off, i experienced one of those moments of inexpressible joy, which i haven't felt much of lately. it's that kind of joy that wells up in your chest to the point where you have to give a little giggle or shout to let it back out into the world. it was such a beautiful day with the perfect weather, the wind blowing in my hair, tree leaves beginning to change, families strolling up and down the sidewalk, jars of clay playing in my ipod. simply lovely.

and that free feeling came at the perfect time, after a not-so-successful church visit left me sad & angry about having my college life & friends snatched out from under me. but as long as i don't have to work next weekend, as i requested, i will be coming to visit many of you in CH!! so save me an hour or two in your weekend...and maybe a spot on your couch :D

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

seeking: church

i hate the phrase "church shopping," and other ways in which people equate their church experience with levels of customer satisfaction--needing to find a church that fits one's specific needs, wants, comfort level, etc to the point where you could just as easily be searching for a new car or a pair of nice jeans.

i also think i'm afraid of church shopping. like virtually every church, mine has been through it's share of lows. i've watched seemingly committed families uproot their children when things get tough. i've noticed the gradual disappearance of people who used to attend regularly. i've been angry that people would cop out over a pastor or worship leader leaving, or over a budget issue, or something else non-essential. God doesn't check out when the pastor makes a mistake (no matter how big or small), so neither should we.

because of these experiences, and the fact that i feel such an affinity towards my current church, i have been locked into the plan of continuing to attend this church throughout my stopover year back home in Charlotte. it will probably be only for a year, i say to myself, so why go through the trouble of finding somewhere new when this is where i've always gone with my mom, this is where my faith first started to blossom, this is where i have the committment and the joy of serving within the children's ministry.

but i've been scared to admit that this church is no longer the right place for me. i've been scared to say that aloud, even to myself, because it feels like a betrayal. it feels like i'd be cheating on my home church in search of "something better," in search of a church that "meets my needs".

and as much as those phrases still make me cringe, i've come to the realization that when your faith is in a point of stagnation, God will probably be the chief encourager of seeking a new church. a new place to worship. i feel like i haven't worshiped God corporately, in earnest, in quite some time. now this is where i hit another block, because how much of that is due to the restrictions i'm placing on myself, and how much of that is due to the worship environment and community? i know the answer to that question--but i'm still ready to seek a new place where i can escape myself and my surroundings and fully come before God in worship.

i finally made the decision to take this step when last night on the radio i heard, of all things, a stephen curtis chapman song. here's the chorus:

I want to make much of You, Jesus
I want to make much of Your love
I want to live today to give You the praise
That You alone are so worthy of
I want to make much of Your mercy
I want to make much of Your cross
I give You my life
Take it and let it be used
To make much of You

those are the desires i feel so deeply in my heart. right now, i am not living them out. so i am ready. i am ready to again make my life one of praise, to take seriously the Gospell of Christ and His call on my life. i miss Jesus. right now, He and I are like friends who have fallen out of touch. we haven't been in a fight, i'm not angry at Him or doubting His affections. i'm just on a self-imposed hiatus that I never meant to begin. and i'm ready for it to be over so I can make much of all He is.

i also am sick to my stomach for lack of fellowship. you could count the number of young adults at my current church on one hand. i thought i would be okay with that. but i'm not. i would give anything for a small group of people my age, a Sunday school class where I can talk about Scripture with people who see things from a similar generational perspective, a group of people to hang out with, to be a fraction of the community network I had at Carolina in IV.

i think the thing that pushed this decision forward was talking, albeit briefly, with my mom about the fact that our church is not functioning at a capacity to serve a community of people my age. and there's nothing wrong with that--we're a small community that simply doesn't have a young adult population. so i'm off in search of one. i hope to find a place where i can worship on Saturday or Sunday night, so that I won't abandon my volunteer opportunities or just completely detatch myself from this community in which I've become so ingrained. a couple of years ago I attended Sunday night services at this great church called Mosaic that met in a bar, had really loud, soul-consuming worship, and a pastor who was raised a Muslim in the Middle East, which I thought was just really awesome. i might check that out again, at least this weekend while i'm still in the early stages of searching, but it's a bit of a drive.

so if anyone out there is in the charlotte area and knows of a great church that would welcome me in, i'd love to hear about it! i'm also hoping to check out charlotte one when i'm done with choir rehearsals in december, if anyone would like to join!

Saturday, October 4, 2008


apologies for the lack of posts this week. i haven't been terribly busy--just lazy & mildly uninteresting. several things of note did happen this week, however:

  • I signed up for the GRE! This feels like a big step. I'm strongly considering this grad school in VA I mentioned, so here's step one in the process. I'm thankful to have the time to prepare & hope to do well. And the five-year score window will help me keep my options open.
  • I met with a life coach this week! God granted me this opportunity to work through some of my thoughts about my life & the future with a woman still in school for this profession. In exchange for being her "guinea pig," I get to experience this for free!
  • I had my skin cancer spot cut out yesterday. The procedure itself wasn't too bad, but now I'm feeling like someone karate-chopped my shoulder. Boo. But I am proud of myself for having my first set of stitches :) It was funny yesterday how the doctor warned me several times how this procedure was going to leave a scar on my shoulder--funny both because he was telling me despite the fact he was going to do it anyway, and funny because I genuinely don't care to the slightest degree about having a new mark on my back. It really doesn't bother me--I even think it will add character, more bragging rights in a game of scar stories. But then I started thinking if he found me odd, since I have spent years of my life coming to see him concerning the appearance on my face. Weird that I care so very much about the one instance and not about the other. Food for thought I suppose.
Okay, enough for now. I'd like to write about some thoughts I've been having about the church, and my church experience in general. Hopefully I'll get that up on Monday because I am out of school with my kiddies!