Monday, January 30, 2006
Sunday, January 29, 2006
This is one of the new photos from the Hubble site. I love this image. It reminds me of 1 Peter 3:12, "For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer."
Studying this picture prompted me to stop and spend some intense time with God. It was as if God was saying, "we need to talk about some things."
Wow. We had an amazing time together. I asked Him all those questions that have been burdening me. And He responded by giving me very clear answers and an overwhelming sense of peace. There was also a little bit of a rebuke, which I needed.
I realized that I have been listening too much to "learned men" rather than to God. And it has brought me so much bondage, where before I found incredible freedom in Christ.
I'll leave you with this.
Lift up your eyes on high And see who has created these stars, The One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, Not one of them is missing.
Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, "My way is hidden from the LORD, And the justice due me escapes the notice of my God"?
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth Does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable.
He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power.
Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly,
Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.
Saturday, January 28, 2006
Does anyone else ever feel like they are going through a long "winter" season of their life? Not a significant period of trial or suffering. Just a general tone of gray.
Maybe this is my "mid-life crisis." But for about the past three months, I have struggled to find a real sense of identity and security in ministry.
That perplexes me. God continues to do really cool things on our campus. I see evidence of His hand almost every day.
But I can't seem to find my usual passion and excitement in what I do. I feel very lost and ineffective and ungrounded, like I'm floating through this vast universe without finding a place to land.
Perhaps it's because we haven't really found a church home. Or maybe it's the current problems in our convention, which have shaken my security to the core.
Maybe it's just that I've come through an intense period of healing after dealing with baggage from the past. I do feel emotionally exhausted.
Or perhaps it's because we work on such a dark campus, and pour so much of ourselves into the ministry. Yet we so seldom see anyone come to Christ. We empty ourselves out constantly, but have few places to refill.
Whatever it is, I know that one of these days the sun is going to break through the clouds, and Spring will have arrived.
But for the time being, I can only keep straining my eyes towards the Light, and believe that He is still there beyond the clouds. I will wait in anticipation for the day the clouds break apart and the warmth and sun shine through again.
My daughter, Anna, even "invented" a new cake for my birthday. It involved apple cinnamon muffin mix, grated fresh apples, and was really delicious. She also bought me a sweater with her own money.
My boys ordered pizza and movies for me. Joshua's love language is quality time. So we spent a couple of hours watching "Robots" and "March of the Penguins" while being curled up on the couch as a family.
And to all of you who sent creative little gifts (thanks, Jason, for the Boomer Sooner sound wave!!!) I really appreciate you all. Joe blew me away, though, sending three books that have been on my "hopefully purchase someday" list. Thanks so much, Joe!!!! I can't wait to read them.
I got emails from as far away as Oman, and phone calls from my parents, all of our staff and a couple of students. I had been planning to not make a big deal of my birthday this year, but you guys would have none of that!!!!
Thank you for all that you did to make it a special day. : )
Friday, January 27, 2006
Fridays are Black and Gold day here in the Steeler nation. Our kids even sing "Here We Go" at school.
This post is for long-distance fans like Tim Sweatman in Kentucky, who can't be here in the 'burgh to celebrate with us. Wanted you to be able to join in the fun. Click on this link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1EG9g0PpWWw and sing along at the top of your lungs!!!!
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Last night we had the privilege of having author Don Richardson stay in our home. Many of you know him for his book "Peace Child", which tells about his time serving as a missionary in Irian Jaya. But he has written many other books, and served in several countries of the world. He came to speak to our "Perspectives on Global Missions" class last night.
When he got here I could tell that he was exhausted and ready to get some sleep. But he is such a gracious man that he stayed up and visited with us for a few minutes.
I was in awe!!! He has such a presence about him. Doug described it as "feeling like the Master Yoda of Christianity" was staying in our house. He really did have a "wise sage" demeanor, and his stories from the mission field are just incredible!!!
But we finally let him head on to bed, and had all just settled in for the night. Suddenly, about 1 am, we heard this loud "BAM!"
Doug went scrambling downstairs to see if he was alright. Apparently, the bed had been shimmed on one corner and had fallen off the block. We were mortified.
But Don took it all in stride. He calmly stated, "Don't worry. I'm fine. But I think something happened under your bed."
Then he calmly picked up his bedding, walked to the twin bed on the other side of the basement, and went back to sleep.
Now I don't know if that kind of composure comes from surviving life in a mud hut with a cannibal tribe, or death threats from militant Muslims. But that man has an incredible peace and confidence about him.
I was thinking about that experience this morning, and Doug and I were discussing both our embarrasment and our deep respect for Don. But one thing we said was that we aspire to be like that. When unexpected things happen and disrupt our comfort, we want to be able to just pick up and move on without skipping a beat.
Lord, may we not be rattled by anything that comes our way, but have such a deep reliance on you that we can rest in your arms in spite of our circumstances.
This week we have been participating in the "40 Days of Prayer" emphasis. Colleges across the nation have adopted 24-hour periods of time to pray earnestly for revival on our campuses.
Today was our day of prayer at CMU. It was so cool to walk into the prayer room and see students on their knees interceding for our campus. There was a poster board with names of many of our lost friends, and prayers written on pads of paper. All of our Christian groups had come together as one to pray. It was an incredible sight.
Author and speaker Becky Tirabassi has been instrumental in starting this movement, and she came to Pittsburgh this week. She is visiting every one of the 40 campuses, and praying with us in our rooms.
It was great to visit with her. Becky is passionate and spunky!!!! And she also looks way too young to have a 27-year old son. We decided that she has more energy than all of us combined.
She is also passionate about prayer, and about seeing God honored and glorified. I was also able to really talk to her on a heart level about being a woman in ministry, and about the pressures of being expected to have all the answers theologically. She was able to reassure me that the main thing is to just keep seeking God. The rest will fall in place.
Today she left to go to Roberts Wesleyan in Rochester, NY. But when I walked into our prayer room, I noticed a book with a note to me on it. She had given me the devotional book "Renew my heart" by John Wesley. It really touched me, and spoke exactly to where I am right now in my walk. I need refreshment, renewal and encouragement to not grow weary.
I opened to the reading for today, and the verse spoke volumes to me. It was, "The Kingdom of God is......righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit."--Rom. 14:17.
Thank you, Father, for sending people to speak to our hearts when we need it the most.
My friend Kelly Reed, who is a great guy in spite of the fact that he went to the University of Texas, sent me the following. I thought it was so insightful that it needed to be posted.
Kiki, in order to re-engage your male readers after their loss with the hair care comments, I thought I would take a shot along similar lines—hair care, just facial hair. It’s tongue in cheek silliness but doesn’t have quite your humor or originality. Thought I’d let you see it before ruining your excellent parable.
1. Every morning I wake up and there it is. Stubble. It’s bristly and coarse and doesn’t look very good. It is like my old nature that keeps growing up in my life despite my best efforts. Left to itself and not dealt with, it will cover over and mask the clean and smooth face that is most presentable in public.
2. I don’t have the means in and of myself to get rid of this problem. No sharp claws, no teeth or tongue that can reach or remove it. I need something outside myself.
3. Christ comes along and cleans me up—a close shave that removes the stubble of sin. In order to accomplish it, He has to use something to reveal or lift the sin as high as possible for easier removal. The Bible is like the shaving cream that bubbles under the sin and lifts it up, then makes it easier to slice it off.
4. Sin must be dealt with in serious terms, it cannot be toyed with otherwise it will still be there causing it’s trouble. Nobody shaves with a spoon—they use a sharp razor that cuts off the hair of sin as close to the fresh skin (the new man) as possible.
5. It is not always a pleasant process—most guys don’t like shaving every day (I don’t) but I cannot ignore the problem or sin will grow and take over. We must confess our sin and see that it is dealt with—shaved off. However, it comes at a cost. Sometimes, the process cuts too deep and leaves a scar—but every day, layers of skin are taken off with the process—leaving new skin to rise to the surface, but that will have to deal with the problem tomorrow morning.
6. I could go natural, but my life would look very differently if I don’t let the Written Word, and the Living Word do it’s work every day. My wife and family would be alienated from me if I let sin take over.
7. Thankfully, the Word is also a mirror (James 1:23) is also a mirror that allows me to see myself for who I really am—and see every morning the presence of sin in my life. Hmmm, is that a 5:00 shadow I see???
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Sunday, January 22, 2006
Okay, so this is a weird post. But the truth is, I'm a geek. And I somehow seem to find analogies in very strange places.
Doug got me a straightening iron this week for my 37th birthday. I'm still fascinated that there is a tool that can actually tame these insane curls!
But what struck me, as I tried it out, is how the process works. It reminded me of the spiritual process God has been putting me through lately.
Let me explain. My curls are the natural me, and remind me of my human nature. They are my "default" mode--much like my sinful nature that comes out when I am not actively striving against it.
But God uses His spiritual "straightening process" on me to change my old nature into a new, more Christlike nature. (This is where it gets really cheesy, but bear with me.) There are three tools I use on my hair, which equate to three spiritual tools God uses on me.
1. Straightening iron- This is like the Word of God. There are two flat ceramic plates on either side of the iron. They are fixed and do not move, and press the hair between them to straighten it out. In the same way, the Word of God is solid and immovable. It is the absolute truth that hems me in on either side.
2. Straightening balm- This is the stuff I smooth on my hair before ironing it. The balm prepares the hair to straighten more effectively, and keeps any loose ends from frizzing. This is like the Holy Spirit. He interprets the Word for me, and guides me into Truth when I become errant in my thinking.
3. Heat- It is the heat that straightens the curls out, and the cooling process that allows the hair to maintain its shape. In the same way, God allows trials and tribulations in our life to refine us. The heat actually molds us and makes us stronger. One thing to note is that the heat is plugged into a source. In the same way, God is the source behind many of the struggles we face. He allows them to come into our lives in order to strengthen us spiritually. But he doesn't ever let it get so hot that we are destroyed. He promises that He will not give us more than we can bear. Just like the cooling process allows the hair to maintain its shape, God allows times of refreshment in our life so we can regroup and refocus.
Okay, I know I lost most of you guys about two words into this post. But the fact is, I CAN be a girly girl sometimes. Much as I hate to admit it. : )
And it just goes to show you that God can use almost anything to teach us about Himself.
Saturday, January 21, 2006
Joshua has been studying about Abraham. In his last lesson he was looking at cross-references in Acts 7 and Isaiah 51. We began talking about the fact that Abram stepped out in faith and left Ur BEFORE God had promised to bless him and multiply him.
So we began discussing "what ifs" and Anna joined in the conversation. She brought up the fact that if Christians obeyed like Abram did, then people would be going all over the world sharing the gospel, and not worrying about salary, comfort, safety, etc. "Like if someone just went to Africa when God told them to," she said, "people in Africa would get saved. Then they would obey and go somewhere else and those people would get saved. And then the whole world would be reached." She makes it sound so simple. But I think she has a good point.
Then we began talk about "what if Abram had NOT obeyed?" Joshua's first response was, "then our family would probably not be Christians". But then he backed up and said, "but maybe God would have made Abram obey because Christ had to come through his line." Anna added that God could always have chosen to use a different person to accomplish His will. And I just sat there in amazement.
My 8 and 11 year olds had just summed up the whole mystery of election in about 5 minutes. The questions they were asking are the same ones I have struggled with for years. I have studied the Calvinism/Arminianism arguments, but in the end always come back to the conclusion that God is just too big for me to fully understand.
Do I believe in election? Absolutely!!!! But do I believe there is also evidence of choice on our part and examples where man's obedience/disobedience affected history? YES! Are there times when it seems that God is swayed by man's prayers and petitions? Again, Yes! But then there are passages like Psalm 139 that tell me "all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."
I will never fully understand God. He is a wonderfully divine mystery. And I'm okay with that. He is God. Which means he is not limited to our natural laws or logic. He is not bound by a time line. He is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent.
I like the conclusion my kids came to. "Oh, well," said Anna, "He's God. He can do whatever He wants." And Joshua said, "Yeah, He can make anything He wants to happen, because He makes the rules." Oh, the wisdom of childlike faith. I like that answer. Works for me.
The results have been phenomenal. It has been a real lesson for me in not underestimating my kids. They have been so diligent in doing their work, and are loving the studies.
Anna told me, "I think sometimes you guys underestimate us. When you assume we are not interested in something, it may just be that we want more of a challenge."
From now on I am setting the bar high, and trusting God to develop in my kids a love for His Word. One of the verses that I often pray for them is Isaiah 66:2. Oh Lord, may Anna and Joshua be humble and contrite in spirit, and tremble at your word. May they grow to be a man and woman "of the Book" who walk according to your precepts.
Friday, January 20, 2006
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
OKAY!!! Finally have a minute to tell you about Passion. It was pretty amazing to see 18,000 college students all worshiping God.
The messages were really powerful, too. John Piper preached about the blessing of sharing in Christ's sufferings (yes--the theme continues!!!) and I cried through most of the sermon. But God spoke really powerfully to me through Beth Moore as well. She talked about how it is a PROMISE in God's Word that the seed we sow will bear fruit. Her encouragement to not grow weary was something Doug and I both needed to hear. We look forward to the day that the harvest is reaped, whether we are around to see it happen or not.
Finally, Louie Giglio presented one of the most amazingly creative messages I have ever heard. He used pictures from the Hubble website of our galaxy. His visual illustration of how infinitely tiny we are in comparison to the known universe was humbling. But then the realization that the Creator of that universe not only knows me by name, but died for me is even more astounding. It was one of those moments that just leaves you speechless.
God really spoke to our students, as well. One new believer came to the realization that he needs to follow through and be baptized. On the way back from Nashville, he got so excited that he exclaimed, "can't we just pull off at one of these exits and baptize me in a pool somewhere?!!!" He didn't want to have to wait another minute.
God spoke to me on an intensely personal level as well. This has been a tough year, and I went to Nashville asking Him for some refreshment and encouragement. In our breakout sessions we divided up into groups of 8.
Would you believe--in my group of 8 were two people from my past who I have not seen in years, yet who had a huge impact on my life. One was my best friend from our high school youth group (and her husband), and the other was my own college minister at church back when I was in school. Those prayer/sharing times with them were the highlights of the week for me. There is NO WAY that their presence at Passion '06 was an accident.
Our students also bonded on a deeper level than ever before. I saw God answer specific prayers for individuals, as they began to open up and share with one another. There is some healing from childhood hurts taking place, and they have the most amazing fellowship of any group of people I have ever seen. I love this group of students. They are really special.
God is so good.
Friday, January 13, 2006
We are dedicating today to prayer and fasting for the Southern Baptist Convention. Marty Duren has a great list of things to pray for on his site www.sbcoutpost.blogspot.com.
God is doing some cool things through our denomination right now. The stories coming from the mission field, of how hundreds are coming to Christ, are so exciting.
But Satan is fighting hard to keep those things from happening, and attempting to undermine what God is doing. We need to pray now, more than ever, for our churches.
My main three prayers are:
1) That we would be broken and humble before God
2) That He will be glorified, and His will be done
3) That there will be unity
Sunday, January 01, 2006
19 of our students are going with us. Our new intern, Anna Aaron, is also going to meet us there. She will then follow us back to Pittsburgh and begin working with us at CMU next week. We are so excited about having her on our team. When she gets here, I'll share the story of how God sent her to us. It's pretty cool.
We are also going to get to meet one of my online buddies, Joe Kennedy from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Joe is someone I have enjoyed getting to know in the "blogging netherworld", and he keeps us all entertained. But he also throws some profound thoughts in there from time to time that just leave your head spinning. I think he does that just to make sure we're all paying attention. : )
Back to Passion--we will have the opportunity to worship with 18,000 college students at the Gaylord center. The event was sold out by December 28th. We will be led by amazing worship leaders like Chris Tomlin, David Crowder Band, and Matt Redman. Some of the speakers will be John Piper, Louie Giglio, and Beth Moore.
I remember the first Passion event that I ever attended. It was One Day '03 in Sherman, TX. We were camped out in the middle of the country, and the first night a huge storm came in. It blew down one of our tents, and all of the girls got soaked. Two people were even struck by lightning in one of the campsites (but they ended up being okay.) It was an awesome exhibition of the power of God.
I remember AJ and I trembling in the tent, while giggling hysterically as water dumped on our heads. But one of the most moving things of the whole weekend was the reading of God's Word from the "Word Tower." Even in the midst of the storm, and throughout the night, you could hear scripture being read over the loudspeaker. There were several times through the night that each of us experienced God waking us up and speaking to us through a specific passage of scripture.
But the next day was the most beautiful, sunny, mild day. It spoke so clearly of God's peace. That night at the preparation service, we were sitting out in a grassy field, praying and worshipping. Shane & Shane began to sing "Be Near O God" and instructed us to just prepare our hearts before Him. It was right at dusk, and twinkling stars were coming out in the dark blue sky. A gentle breeze was blowing.
All of a sudden, three white birds came and began to circle the assembled group. They were stark against the night sky. They circled around and around until the time of reflection/meditation/prayer ended. Then they circled one last time and flew away. It was incredible.
The following day was the "One Day" celebration. We fasted, prayed, heard amazing teaching, and worshipped together all day long. It was an incredible experience. The final day, which was Sunday, was the "Sending" ceremony, where students were sent out to fulfill the Great Commission globally.
That was a really special day for me. I was able to witness one of our students, who I was extremely close to, kneel before the huge banner of the world. She poured her water out before it as a symbol of giving her life as an offering. Then we both bawled like babies.
Today she is fulfilling that commitment, serving in an unnamed location in Asia.
I am looking forward to the coming week, and anticipate that God will not only speak to me personally, but to Doug and our students as well. I can't wait to get there.