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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

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.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

We are biopsychosocialspiritual beings.

Dr. Seitz was the first to familiarize me with this term, and I thought it a most appropriate title to encompass all things learned thus far at the Focus Leadership Institute. Please bear with me as I try to articulate each prefix, (and note that physio- would be a more appropriate prefix for the first section) as related to my current experience. It might be a long one.

This past weekend at our retreat, I attempted to hike 8 miles up and down a 3,500 ft. mountain in 4.5 hours. Given the shape I am in, that attempt proved unsuccessful. We were instructed to turn around, wherever we were, at 4 o'clock, at which point I was only roughly 2,625 feet up the mountain. Had we more time, the rest of our group could have made it I'm sure, but we were not quite as acclimated with the elevation (mind you we began our hike already 9,000 ft. above sea level) or mountains in general, as were the others. (Apparently, our group is the second, out of all the years they've attempted this hike, to make it to the top of the mountain the first weekend). It was a great time though! After I got past the leg-burning, I want to die stage, I loved the challenge and goal we were working toward! And, although I was told by one of the camp workers that he didn't expect me to make it that far for my first time, I was still pissed that I didn't get to the top! The guys have incredible pictures in front of the mountain-surrounded lake at the top, with the sun beaming off the water! Agh, but I'm not jealous or anything...
So, in preparation for future hiking, Alyssa, my neighbor from Arizona, and I are going to do inclines and stair-stepping like our lives depended on it. :-) Seriously. I am waiting on her now to go the gym at our apartment complex.

Class begins tomorrow. The past two days have each been a 7 hour intensive on leadership. Dr. Leland has been lecturing, and I cannot wait to have him in our worldview class! He is sharp and quick-minded, intelligent, passionate about Scripture and teaching, and an eloquent speaker. Needless to say, the past two days have not been that bad. His motto has been, "we are so glad you're here, but we cannot wait for you to leave," as the purpose of the institute is to equip FLI students to go confidently into the world as effective and competent Christians in a secular world. Conservative? You might say. Cliche? Perhaps. But that is the last thing being here feels like. For the first time, I am surrounded by peer leaders who all want the same thing, to be effective and competent in our generation. Not that I do not have that atmosphere at Asbury; I am surrounded by only 43 other students who chose to spend such an intense semester here in Colorado. And we have the opportunity to study under and be mentored by godly, competent leaders who are working to accomplish the same things in their areas of expertise. And I am so excited!

For the sake of your time, I will defer the social aspect until my next post. Spiritually, I have never been so enriched by a community. While I have been asking others to pray for time to digest everything and spend time with the Lord, it seems as though His word and teaching are incorporated into nearly every aspect of my day, whether in class or reading for class (okay, so those two things consume most of my day so far). In a real way though, not in a Christian bubble way. But back to understanding why I am here...I did not really know what to expect as I headed out west. Everyone here seems to have a story of how God brought him or her out here at the last minute or through crazy circumstances...and as I was talking with a girl named Joy on our way back from retreat, I told her that I had ended up here by my own choice. That I had worked this semester into my schedule at Asbury so that I could still graduate on time. Only I did not realize until a few days after being here that God humored me by allowing me to think that this was in my plan. And by His grace, I know I am here for divine reasoning which I do not yet understand.

I have so much more to share, it's ridiculous. But, Alyssa just texted me...and I'm off to get in the best shape ever! :-)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Orientation Week

I arrived Tuesday around 11:15 AM. As we pulled into the apartment parking lot, it finally hit me that this is where I am living for the next 3 and a half months! You guys, it is beautiful out here. As you drive through town, all you can see are incredible mountains surrounding the city. Like, massive. A few of you immediately received texts saying, "Holy crap. I am never coming home." I'm only half kidding. On top of being smack-dab in the middle of this awesome backdrop, my apartment complex is AMAZING, as is the city. Starbucks, Whole Foods, and Panera are all within 1 minute of me. Do you know how incredibly happy this makes me?

I, along with 42 peers, have had orientation for the past three days, beginning with a welcome dinner Tuesday night, right across from Alpha and Omega classrooms (naturally), where I will spend the majority of my class time. I do not have enough time to go into great detail, which I am sure you are thankful for...I already had to sit through 14 hours of orientation...no need to regurgitate it. I will highlight however, that I really like all of my professors so far. They briefed us on the structure and content of their classes and there's not one that I'm not excited about. I will also mention that as you walk down the hallway past their offices, each of them have their Myers-Briggs personality types posted outside their door, just so you know whose office you're entering, what kind of personality with which you are about to sit down and talk. Being the psych major that I am...LOVE IT!

Otherwise, I've been super busy between shopping for hiking boots (yes, I said it), cold gear for hiking, a bathing suit (because I didn't bring one...oh but wait, guess I'll be needing that for our hot tub :-), groceries, apartment stuff, etc. etc. Last night, we had a worship team meeting that lasted 1.5 hours, during which we accomplished very little. But, what's new of musicians? I am organizing the rotation schedule and am kind of the liaison between our student led worship team and our Resident Director, Kjersten. Oddly enough, I am pretty excited about that!

I know I'm probably boring you, so more to come when classes start and I get to explore beautiful Colorado. I just wanted to give you an update (so I got up at 6:30 this morning to do so, as I had to finish reading an article for retreat this weekend and have had no other time)! I am heading out about 8:30 this morning for a camping trip a few hours away and won't be back until Sunday afternoon...at which point, I will have about 60 pages of reading to do before class starts Monday...

Hope everyone has a great weekend. :-)

Go Eagles!!!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Midpoint: Tulsa, OK

Mom, Dad, and I have been driving through Kansas all day with 3 hours still to go until I reach my apartment in Colorado Springs!!! Last night, we stopped midway in Tulsa, OK to spend the night with my aunt (my dad's sister) and uncle, whom I have never visited. I have seen them at least once a year for the past two decades, but had never made it to their neck of the woods until yesterday.

We were greeted by their two dogs, which I loved.

Okay, dropping the I hate animals pretense for one second, they had a mutt named Ody. He was very cute. The end.

My aunt Sue and uncle Mike own a toy store, called Kiddlestix. They sell specialty toys to special customers, namely Mrs. Taylor Hanson, who was there just a few weeks ago. Seriously though, it's adorable-they took me to see it last night. And I had to blog about it, if for no other reason than to name-drop the wife of my childhood, and current, crush. At dinner, Sue and Mike were telling us about the Silly Band craze that swept their store in March. Mike insisted that they buy a thousand to sell at $5 a package! Against her prognostication that the fad would fade with the end of school, Sue consented.

On the Silly Band stand right in front of the check-out counter, a sign now reads: "Buy one, get one free. No returns." I got a kick out of this. As well as $40 worth of Silly Bands for free, that I will be mailing as gifts to you soon. In case you were wondering.

Around 8 AM this morning, the police showed up outside Sue and Mike's house. See, what happened was: Uncle Mike took Maggie and Ody for a walk in the park this morning, just down the street from their house. (To preface, let me mention that they had just been telling us about a number of recent home invasions in their area)... Anyhow, he noticed a fifty-some year old woman walking from house to house, who seemed innocuous enough. Until he realized that she was taking panoramic video of each one.

"Excuse me, ma'am. Why are you videotaping my neighborhood?" he asked as he approached her. She did not respond at first. But uncle Mike did not let up. I had not previously known this about his personality.

"Silly question...crazy talk," she answered him with an Eastern European accent.

He persisted, "well no, actually. Taking video of people's houses makes them nervous. And I would like an answer as to why you just videotaped mine?"

"Are you security?" she inquired.

"Nooo...do we need security?"

Apparently, Mike arrived at that conclusion on his own. He was on his way out the door to tell the officer she was probably long gone, when who but Lithuania comes trekking up the hill with her video camera. The officer interrogated her while Mike stood by, unconvinced by her claim to the policeman that she lived up the street somewhere and was documenting trees...and apparently just the trunks, as her footage evidenced nothing above the rooftops....

How did the story end? Well, pretty uneventfully. The policeman told her to make her way back home, (wherever that may be). And that while videotaping people's homes is not against the law, it is concerning to the residents. Obviously.

All that to say that while I have been victim to prairies, windmills, and wheat fields for the past two days, our travels have been nothing short of entertaining. Thank you Sue and Mike. That's all for tonight...like I said, 3 more hours to go, and a Starbucks across the street, calling my name come 8 AM.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Past Few Days...

...have been pretty weird. Classes started two weeks ago at Asbury and I have been at home. Well, back and forth a lot. I have loved traveling to Asbury every few days. I love the drive and always...(except for one time)...feel refreshed when I come back home. Like I just needed a good dose of my best friends and people I've not seen all summer. But it's strange, finally leaving. I'd become so spoiled seeing my friends for the past month. And today I left (most of) them for good--for the semester--and realized I am leaving, to move to Colorado for three and a half months tomorrow!

I have been super anxious to leave. But I only realized this through my somatic symptoms. Trouble sleeping, which I never have. And by trouble sleeping, I mean going to bed at 1 AM and waking up at 5 AM, unable to go back to sleep. Irritability, which surfaced a week ago tomorrow (Ashlyn, Lahni, Zeus...I apologize). And now that it's here, I came to this realization which plagued the following 45 minutes of my final drive home from Asbury today: I am a senior, moving to Colorado Springs, during the time when I should be most familiar with the college routine. I am up and leaving when I would normally be preparing for the unknown of the upcoming year. Taking the GRE, applying to grad schools, preparing in advance the best I can. But instead, I am leaving everything I know to venture off into something I know nothing about. And don't get me wrong--I know I am going to eat it up. I can't wait!!! But thinking about preparing for my future when my current experience is also completely new!? Needless to say, if there were ever an hour for me to draw from a vast array of coping mechanisms, the time is now...

I shared this reality check, as my mom put it, with her and my youngest sister last night as they sat in my room while I packed. To which Lahni responded, "Well yeah girl! Of course you're freaking out! I mean, I'm only a sophomore...and I realize I only have two years left of high school! What am I going to do? And you! You're a senior in college! You're practically a mother!"

Thank you, Lahni.

In an attempt to downplay her previous statement she said, "what I mean is, you're almost an adult. Well, you are an adult, but a real adult. Like, a pay-your-own-bills adult."

Again, thank you.

I know the Lord is good. I know He will take care of me. My faith in His ability to do so will be tested, but I will trust Him over my own ability to accomplish anything. In all honesty, there will be times where I will stupidly fight with Him for control, but I know that at the end of the day, I will surrender. I know some of you reading this are praying for me, so know that I plan to share as much as I can with you. :-)

Anywho, I say my last, and therefore hardest goodbyes tonight. Two of my best friends are coming to spend my last night at home with me, along with other wonderful friends and family. And soon enough, you will be reading of my adventures in Colorado! This being my first post in regards to Colorado though, I wanted you to experience the full range of emotions with me, from pre-FLI to post. I hope you enjoy!