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I always seem to have a plan. And after a brief moment--when measured against the timeline of one's life--He gracefully and graciously ruins my plan of the hour, whatever it may be, in lieu of a greater one. This has occurred in my life without fail. In light of recent circumstances, a reverberation of His love, strength, and faithfulness has echoed in my spirit. As David said, "one thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving." Psalm 62:11-12

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Grapefruit of Community

In two short weeks from yesterday, my time here in Colorado with the most wonderful group of individuals will draw to an end. As I reflect on living the past three months within this community, I cannot help but defer to the wisdom of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1954) in his book "Life Together," which we read in the beginning of the semester. Bonhoeffer offers sagacious advice for those living in community, based on his underground fellowship experience while living in Nazi Germany. During my time here, there have been aspects of his wisdom we adhered to; others we did not. Nevertheless, the fellowship I have experienced is unlike any of which I have otherwise been a part.

The very first weekend, during our retreat at Horn Creek, we began to form a bond that set the tone for the entire semester. We acted as if we had known each other longer and accepted one another from the get-go. By the time the weekend was over, we had already somewhat established our roles in the group. Between the 44 of us, we knew that Whitney and Matt were among the leaders, Cody and Matthew the musicians, amidst other dynamics within our life groups. As Bonhoeffer said:

"It will be well, therefore, if every member receives a definite task to perform for the community, that he may know in hours of doubt that he, too, is not useless and unusable. Every Christian community must realize that not only do the weak need the strong, but also that the strong cannot exist without the weak."

Given our time spent with one another, in addition to learning each others' strengths and personality types via assessments, I would now say that we each play a specific role within the life of our community. For example, if you have any questions about politics, talk to Sarah. If you need an encourager, find Hannah.  And if you wish to glean insights from someone that you don't often here from, inquire of Anne Marie.

The acceptance of each other among our group has been a breath of fresh air. Moreover, never have I so well gotten along with and grown to love an entire group of 44 peers as I have this semester. And note that it is not because I have found a group of people who are nearly perfect. It is because if you and I are called to love one another, dwelling on frivolous grievances is no way to go about keeping that command. I have learned this semester that any problem I have with another person is absolutely and solely my problem. I have a responsibility to God for my attitude and my heart towards another person.  We all do. Selfishness never justifies relinquishing the greatest commandment.  

As in all community, when living daily with imperfect people, there have been moments of disconnectedness, conflict, and miscommunication. Within our apartments, to more or less extremes, we have all by now discovered the different norms we possess. Within our life groups, we have had frustration between members. And I think it is safe to say that each of us have had moments of insecurity, fear of vulnerability, or at the very least, concern with what another was thinking. Notwithstanding these realities, I have been blessed with incredible apartment mates and an awesome life group. The relational tests for me personally have been minor during this season of my life, for which I am very thankful. Even so, I have been amazed to watch the confession and forgiveness of those around me who have experienced greater difficulties. Although Satan would have loved to have used such difficulties for his schemes, the Lord has used them instead as opportunities for growth. And we are all the better for it.

"Therefore, let him who until now has had the privilege of living a common Christian life with other Christians praise God's grace from the bottom of his heart. Let him thank God on his knees and declare: It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren."

My classmates and I have truly experienced life together. All 44 of us have attended the same classes everyday this semester, we have eaten lunch and dinner at least twice a week together, and we have shared our homes daily with one another. Even amidst our 4500 pages of required reading this semester, we have made time to have fun and play together. (In fact, these times were our motivating factors to get our reading done!) These people have asked me the hard questions and they have challenged me with insights from differing walks of life. And I hope I, them. They have encouraged me and made me laugh more than I had in a long time. They have helped me and sacrificed their time when, for example, our apartment caught on fire... I could go on and on, but I will conclude by saying I am truly thankful for each person with whom I have spent this semester, and will dearly miss each and every one.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Vantage Point

So I get a call as I'm walking back to room #6 with my roommate, Katie. It's Kjersten, my RD.

"Hey...how's she doin?" she asks.
"She's doing okay, Matt and I are walking back with her now. Her burn looks pretty bad but hopefully she'll get some good drugs soon."
"Okay...well, call me when you leave and come see me tomorrow. I just want to be sure you're okay. You know, talk through anything that might be upsetting."

What was she talking about? I had no idea. Did she think something serious was going on in my life? Was I missing something?

And then it occurred to me. She was talking about the fact that our kitchen had just caught on fire and I was in the ER with my roommate who had acquired near third degree burns on her hand.
It's Tuesday, about 24 hours after the incident, and I am slowly putting the pieces together. What's great is that there were about 11 witnesses at the time of the incident, some playing more static characters than others; some catching different pieces in the timeline of events. Thus, from my vantage point, I will try to collect for you the whole event, incorporating what I've been told by others...

I had just finished sending some research to my boss from my room when the fire alarm went off. I didn't think anything about it; it happens...and I've become an expert at blocking out my roommates when I am trying to work. But when the yelling and chaos continued, I got up to check it out. As I opened my door and walked out of my room, I saw flames going up across the stove, over the microwave, and engulfing the toaster. It was like a movie scene, except in my apartment. I remember seeing Katie in the kitchen but as I stared at the flames, my senses sort of dulled. About that time, Lindsey came out of the laundry room on her phone and had the most confused look on her face. As she tried to escape out from behind the door, which opens right into the burning stovetop, she slipped on the oil that had splashed onto the floor...

Katie was doing a trial run for fried cheese balls for our Greek dinner the next night. She does not remember how or why the oil pan caught on fire; only that it did. At that point, she had to reach around behind the flames to turn the burner off. She picked up the pan to move it to the sink, and as she reached with her left hand to move the faucet out of the way, a drop of water leaked out of the faucet, causing the pan to burst into flames...and catch her hand on fire. She immediately threw the pan back onto the stove, causing the oil to spill onto the floor, the stovetop, among other surface areas.

...Both of them crawled out of the kitchen, at which point I lost track of Lindsey (and Joy, for that matter, who was frozen in shock somewhere behind me). Still staring at the flames--mind you, this is milliseconds later--I saw Katie scramble to the closet out of my peripheral. For some reason, I think the door was already open when I flew out of it, still in my heels and work clothes, to grab the fire extinguisher (I don't know why it would've been but I don't remember opening it). All I know is that I jerked on the metal lever, glass shattered into thousands of slivers in slow motion, and I grabbed the fire extinguisher. I pulled the plastic ring off as I headed back into the apartment, and Katie instinctively grabbed the fire extinguisher from me to put out the flames. I looked to my right and saw Tamara and Sarah (my neighbors) standing horrified and worried in the doorway...

Tamara was approaching the top of the hall staircase when she saw me book it to the fire extinguisher. Apparently, I was yelling all kinds of expletive as I tried to figure out what to do with the extinguisher...though I have absolutely no recollection of this part, nor pieces of the following 5 minutes.   Tamara told me later that night: "You were possessed. You were in another world, and I watched it happen. I heard the fire alarm and when I got to the top of the stairs, there you were saying, "----, s---, how the h--- do you work this thing?" (Great).

...I walked out of the apartment in a trance, just knowing that I couldn't stand to inhale any of that anymore. At that point I realized I was shaking. I stood facing the open entrance into our apartment. I could see Joy and Lindsey still standing there behind the smoke, in shock, and Katie making sure the fire was completely out as she yelled for someone to get her ice. I yelled back that that was a terrible idea. I became aware of a woman holding a dog standing beside me and a little Mexican boy from upstairs whose expression spelled terror. The woman was yelling for the girls to get out, to quit breathing in the fumes. In my mind, I thought, "yeah! Get outside!" but nothing came out. She coaxed Katie into the hallway who was holding her hand up. Again, she calmly asked someone to call her mom and began inquiring about insurance. Within these few seconds, I watched her fingers change from red to white, from swelled to bubbled to blistered. I took in a large breath and ran back into my smoke-filled room to grab my keys, wallet, and cell phone to take Katie to the emergency room...

Part 2 to follow soon.

Friday, October 29, 2010


You know the feeling you get when you wake up early to leave for vacation while it is still dark? That's the feeling I started my day off with-a mixture of tiredness, excitement, and anticipation. Wednesday morning, three of my friends and I left the apartment at 5 AM to watch the sunrise on Cheyenne Mountain. We packed the freshly-made muffins and fruit in a picnic basket and toted our creamed coffee in a cooler as we prepared for this glorious morning.

The drive up the mountain was longer than I anticipated-full of switchbacks-but as we climbed higher and higher, the landscape was breathtaking. At one point, we pulled over just to catch a glimpse of the city lights at night, thousands of feet below us. We drove as far and as fast as we could, racing against the sun to get the best view of its grand entrance. We finally found a place to pull off, and all while still dark, grabbed our coffee and breakfast, and climbed some boulders to get an even better view.

While Chris set up his camera and Katie poured the coffee, Joy and I were simply taking it all in--the crisp scent of the morning, the wind whipping in my ear, and the panoramic view of the shadowed mountains. Slowly but surely the sun began to rise. And let me tell you, there is nothing quite like it. Watching the sunrise on top of a mountain, watching the sky turn colors while casting light on the dark parts of the mountain, automatically makes for a wonderful day. 

And it's moments like these when I realize how seldom I take the time to praise my God and Creator of the universe. How incredible, how majestic is our God. We have been discussing naturalism in class as of late, and I wonder how anyone can justify the absence of an orderly and brilliant Creator. A friend reminded me of a verse a few weeks ago from Romans 1:19-20:

"For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse."

Indeed, we are without excuse. The deep, existential, unexplainable sense that envelopes us at a moment like this is proof. That there is something bigger than us. That whatever, whomever is responsible for such a masterpiece deserves to be worshipped. This is our God.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Thoughts Unceasing

I just received mail from two of my favorite people. The first was a postcard announcing Lindsay's marriage to Alex (yay!!!) with the most adorable pictures of the two of them I've ever seen. The second was a letter from Maighdlin. If you have never received a letter from her, you should wish that you had. In it she writes about paying attention to what is being revealed "about Him, others, you, your calling, and His perfect plan for your life." What an important reminder for me-for all of us, really. As I am sure you have, I have been so busy with what's become my daily regimen--learning new material, acquiring knowledge, ruminating over specific ideas with other people, among other things--that I have scarce taken time to step back and truly contemplate life's bigger questions...

I remember Dr. Ury talking during the last fall revival about how as Christians, Jesus is our Reality. I had never heard this preached before but I took a liking to the precept. It seemed profound to me, but I was too "busy" to reflect on the implications of this statement. Reality, as it relates to philosophy, is defined as existence that is absolute, self-sufficient, or objective, and not subject to human decisions or conventions. Thus, if Jesus is true reality, and if this definition really encompasses the nature of reality, then the Godhead does exist as absolute, self-sufficient, and not subject to human decisions or conventions. Does this hit anyone else like it does me? What mainly impresses on my mind is that if I really believed this to be true, there would be no place in my heart for insipid notions of self-sufficiency, subjective conclusions, or truth outside of God. The fact is that whether I believe God to be true or not, He is. 

Application: Ugly as it may be, I have always had strong tendencies to want to control all things pertaining to me, from my present circumstances to my future. This desire contradicted what I knew in my head to be true about God: He died so that I might gain life where it was lost, that I might find freedom through Him, and in Him, a perfect plan purposed for my good. (Philippians 1:21; Galatians 5:1; Jeremiah 29:11). For as long as I have had a personal relationship with God, there has been this dichotomous tension, almost as if I am wrestling God Himself for control over my life. What if Jesus became my overriding reality? What if I fully believed Him and His word to be true? I do not believe I would fight Him anymore for control because I would know in my heart that He really does have a future prepared for me, better than any I could plan myself. 

What is it about God that you do not believe to be true? And how does it affect the way you live your life?

Once I acknowledge God as Reality, it becomes easier for me to accept my position and to shed any pretense I have before Him and others. Along with being busy has come the feeling of being thrown into this semester and into circumstances. Unbeknownst to me, it would prove the best time of my life! I have been thrown into this community of 43 students and 10 staff members. And as all of us were sort of forced into this close-knit community, we've had no other choice but to treat it as such. On the subject of community, we read Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Life Together. To my surprise, it's amazing what being in real community can do for you and others! (Who knew?!) As Proverbs 27:17 says, "as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." It has been a blessing. I will share more about community in an upcoming post.

As I said, seeing Him more accurately and acting with others as His body has given me proper (though far from perfect) perspective on my role in all of this. It amazes me that at points in time, I have valued myself more than others. Note: This is foolish. All that results from this is a skewed, self-absorbed mentality. Rather, you and I need other people to help us learn more about ourselves. In fact, I find that I learn most about myself when I realize I have just judged or disliked someone's personality, disposition, etc. I mean, what kind of pride must lie someone deep inside that would surface when I meet people with whom I automatically write off for no good reason? Ashamedly, I have identified this attitude in myself a few times, living in such close community. And thank God for grace. For helping me to understand. My heart needs to change; not them. 

To address the last part of Maighdlin's letter, I am in the midst of things I've yet to sort through regarding my calling. Many questions pertaining to all of our futures have arisen through conversation and class, such as: What has He gifted you with? What are your natural abilities? What do you have a heart for? Does your career necessarily need to be your ministry? Would not the church function more properly if we as Christians took secular jobs and spent time after work doing the work of the church? Should not every area of our lives reflect our primary calling, which is to glorify God? As I said, many questions...much to sort through. But to bring it back around to the reality of Jesus:

"And why do you worry...? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?" -Matthew 6:28-30

And the fact remains that whether I believe God to be true or not, He is. 

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Feels Like Fall

A partially opened window exposes the crisp, 68 degree air. The breeze wafts the calming scent of the pumpkin spice candle burning beside me throughout the room. And I sit, admiring the mountains as I write while listening to instrumental music for piano and violin. Other than a change in scenery, it is, my friends, the feel of fall. My favorite.

This very moment is the first I have had to sit down and reflect on the past week. I did not have my practicum today, so I came straight home with every intention of taking a lengthy nap (as I only slept for three hours last night). Instead, as I walked into my midday empty apartment, it occurred to me that I could not remember the last time I had been alone! Thus, I decided to enjoy this quiet moment of solitude, however long it may last, and write.

Picking up where I left off, Tackett delivered his final lecture on the heart and the mind last Friday...made for great conversation over the weekend. Friday night, we all attended a Rockies baseball game in Denver. Thankfully, some girls and I sought out Starbucks as we barely explored the city, took plenty of pictures, and did not arrive until the 6th inning...Perfect! The rest of the weekend proved pretty low key, allowing me to get ahead (though not for long) on my reading. Monday marked the first day of Identity and Leadership Development class. My professors, Dr. Robert and Elena Thomason, maintain that "a large part of leading well stems from knowing who you are, and knowing who you are is intricately wound with how God has made you male or female." Interesting...we shall see!

Tuesday was our first day of the Marriage and Family course, which I know we are all going to love. The current reading for this class--Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas--has been profound. Even our professors, Dr. Steve and Twila Lee, agree that this book on marriage stands apart from the rest, in that it breaks down our cultural belief that marriage should be sought after as a means to comfort, happiness, and romance.  It is not that marriage does not afford these; rather, each of these ideas are much more likely to be evidenced in one's marriage over time, through a commitment to another person, with the ultimate goal being to glorify God through your relationship, and to become more like Christ. As Thomas puts it, "In a man-centered view, we will maintain our marriage as long as our earthly comfort, desires, and expectations are met.  In a God-centered view, we preserve our marriage because it brings glory to God and points a sinful world to a reconciling Creator...Thus, spiritual growth is the main theme: marriage is simply the context." I'll spare you my soapbox. This time. Only because I know there will be plenty more to grapple with in the following classes, and I wish not to burden you with an exhaustive reflection of each one. (Know however, that my heart is for figuring out how to mend broken marriages, and how to shape godly ones from the get-go. That said, I apologize in advance for when I unintentionally do so anyway).

Haha! Ciera, me, Chris, and Daniel.

The students designated Tuesday's class period as stoplight day, wearing each color according to his or her relationship status. Pretty appropriate for a class on marriage, I'd say. (Kidding guys, I know I'm at Focus on the Family, but seriously...) Anyway, it was a fun day. :) Moreover, someone snitched and thus, our professors both showed up in red!

I'll save my worldview class for another post because I have absolutely loved it, as well! However, my social life and sleeping habits have not appreciated 400 pages of reading and a paper this week...Tonight I have small group with ten girls, led by my worldview professor's wife. Until then, much reading to do...

The Colorado Adventure

View right outside my apartment.
Scott, Daniel, Hannah, me, and Katelyn
The (2000 ft) Incline: a mile long stair climb up the side of Pike's Peak

Balancing Rock

Garden of the Gods
I realize I haven't posted in a while...time seems to slip more and more out of my grasp.  Anywho, thought you might enjoy seeing some of what I experience everyday! All of these pictures are locations within 15 minutes of my apartment. :)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Tackett for President


Initially, I was not nearly as enthusiastic about my politics class as I was about the others. That is, until I met Del Tackett, author of The Truth Project, and my Family, Church, & Society professor. For the past 8 weekdays, I have had the privilege of listening to Dr. Tackett lecture for 3 hours a day. And sadly, our last day of his class is tomorrow. Not only I, but the rest of my classmates are saddened by this, as we all have acted as sponges in absorbing breadth and depth of biblical knowledge, as it relates to the world in which we live, from his teaching.  Dr. Tackett has an extraordinary comprehension of God's design and thus, an integral approach in teaching us about family, church, and society. Challenging in itself is the fact that he has taken responsibility for his faith, searching the Scriptures and applying such knowledge to daily life. One of many things I have learned through him is that the Bible is not just a tool of encouragement and daily bread for me; it is a blueprint for humanity. His word to us describes His very own nature, marked by goodness, love, humility, and jealousy (to name a few), and reveals our human nature in contrast.

I hope to dialogue with you more about this when I get home, but for now, I will try and summarize all that I've learned these past 2 weeks in a few paragraphs:

According to Dr. Tackett, the Scriptures elaborate on 6 different social spheres: Family, Church, the State, Community, Labor, and God & Man. Basically, God has designed each of these spheres in His image. Given that God operates as 3 in 1, as diversity within a completely unified relationship, so should we.  For example, the family system was designed as Husband, respectable head of the household, Wife, as his respectful beloved and equal (yet not the same...), and Child(ren), outcome of the bond between Husband and Wife. Three parts in one family structure; diversity within a covenant relationship. Sound familiar? What about the State? According to His design, He should be the foundation upon which an earthly leader governs the people. Three parts to one system. And as we began to look at the design of each of these relationships, they all bore the image and nature of God.

This was an enormous task, to then reflect on what each of these spheres look like in reality, in our society. If God is absolute Truth, then His commands are the standard. If His commands are the standard, then there is no moral relativity. If His very nature is Good, then there is nothing bad about the design for which He intended each sphere to operate.

We discussed many of the pathologies among each sphere as a result of the Fall of Man. And let me be the first to say, that by not contemplating the nature of God and the fact that I was created in His image, I have insidiously subjected myself to secular philosophies, namely individualism, feminism, humanism, and postmodernism. And if you think you've not, ask yourself if you've ever chosen yourself first over others? Have you, as a woman, stepped up when a man would not? Or have you, as a man, abdicated a responsibility because the woman did it for you? Have you ever believed that what's true and good for you is not necessarily true and good for someone else? (Okay, I guess it's just me...)

I realize the summary of what I've been learning is a bit intense, but I am so thankful to have been informed from a biblical standpoint, to have wrestled with issues I never had before, and to have realized my responsibility as a believer to take a position on political, ethical, and moral issues.

Another word on Dr. Tackett: Many of us found that we had had similar thoughts on starting a campaign for our professor. Tackett 2012. Of course, he would not stand for this, as he is probably the most humble man I have ever met. I wish you all could experience him in the classroom. He is passionate about the Lord, above anything else. He speaks lovingly of his family, gracefully of nonbelievers, and starkly of the image believers have created for ourselves. He greets each of us with a firm yet friendly shoulder squeeze during our time of greeting each other in the morning, and then captivates us with his charisma and authority as he speaks. I am not kidding when I say that I have been on the verge of tears nearly every class period, as if his passion were physically contagious. What would happen if we were subject to the leadership of a man such as him? Food for thought. Whether or not ole' Del ever decides to run for president, I count it a blessing to see the example of a man who loves God with all his heart, and so has modeled his life after Him. At the very least, we would do well to follow suit.