My Roots are Showing…

**** After much thought and prayer,  the following is my response to  the issues that have thrust my beloved University into the spotlight.  I hope it is read and considered with the same sense of love with which it was written.  My heart is broken, not just for the situation at hand but the implications that this one issue may have for the future.  If you would like more information on the in’s and out’s of what is going on… you can look here:  http://support-tom-oord.wikia.com/wiki/Tom_Oord_Dismissal**********

I have wondered what to say.  I have wondered when to say it.  I am one of those who even with a multi-generational connection to both the Nazarene Church and University System ended up leaving the denomination of my youth.  I LOVED my time at NNU.  Good or bad… those memories are ones I will treasure for the rest of my life.  I will be the first to admit that I often did not agree with the theological stance of various professors in various departments.  However, it was our differences that taught me to go to God’s Word.  They taught me to seek out Truth and decide for myself.  I am eternally (literally) thankful that I was never told WHAT to think, but rather HOW to go ABOUT thinking.  As a teacher, I strive daily to instill that in my own students.  I have given them nothing if I have not given them a love for learning and thinking.  Early in my career I was known to teach 5th grade history lessons from the perspective of Hitler etc.  I often had parents in my room questioning what I was teaching, but when it came down to it, the value of the thinking process was applauded.  Now as I teach  a younger population in a private school setting, I love nothing more than when kids ask the hard questions about the Bible.  They want to understand things. (“Where are the dinosaurs in the Bible? Do people go right to Heaven when they die? Why do bad things happen?”)  Our nation is lost if we do not have critical thinkers and those who love questioning and learning.

One of the great benefits of a Liberal Arts education, is that there is room for discourse and inter-curricular connections.  However, if we fail to have diversity of thought we suddenly have created a space where there is no room for discussion and development of personal thought and belief.  Unfortunately, with a denominationally backed institution people can tend to get really hung up on being “right.” With that, the question must be asked,  is there then room for non-Nazarenes in a Nazarene backed University?  I don’t know if there is a right or wrong answer to this.  Instead it needs to be an overall philosophical discussion by our denomination as a whole.  Consider this; If I was to attend BYU, I would not be surprised to be taught from the Book of Mormon.  I think the disconnect is this.  For many years Nazarene institutions have been a place for people from many different backgrounds to converge and learn from one another.  At the same time there was a balance that those from differing backgrounds understood that they had indeed come to a Nazarene institution and they knew that was the background from which they were taught.  Personally, I consider this a very healthy balance.

Let’s face it… The disciples were very different people.  Thus, it stands to reason that we won’t all fit into the same denomination or even non-denominational church.  This is healthy.  As a Christian, my job is not to help with grow the Church, but rather the church.  I think the major disconnect comes from those within the Nazarene Church that cannot decide what is more important.  There is often a cry for “relevance” to the current and upcoming generations, but when we try to get to that place of connectivity, there are equal cries of heresy.  By no means am I saying that one approach is right or wrong… I’m just saying that this is where I see the philosophical crux of the matter.

The church as a whole is at a crossroads.  Even in the kindergarten classroom, I see kids with a hunger for authenticity.  There is a sweet “demand” for understanding and a need to know where they fit in the big picture.

So how does a good leader respond in these changing times?  Well, I think we have to look at what a good leader really looks like.  A good leader will strive for unity among parties.  They will strive for mending of division.  They will speak with love even to those they consider a Pharisee or Sadducee… (And by love I mean the “believe the very best” kind of love.)  When Jesus turned the tables over in the temple it wasn’t an act of division, rather it was an act of uniting.  He wanted to get people’s attention.  To point them toward Truth.

The dismissal of a professor to me is just a product/symptom of the response to change on the horizon. I believe this is not even a question of ethics. (while there are some financial and ethical questions that DO indeed need to be answered.) Instead this is a question of philosophy.  I think we need to be asking Why was the Nazarene Church founded?  Why was the University system established? Does the Nazarene Church/school need to stay the same, or should it change?  How much change is good change? How much change is healthy change?  Who does the church really trust to lead? (On all levels… pastoral, presidential etc.?)  And whose voice is indeed more relevant; the voice of the past or the voice of the future?  When we can answer these questions, we will again arrive at a vision and purpose that can drive us to the future.  If we do not answer these questions, or if we decide to get caught in an “I’m more right than you are” debate, I am afraid that the church and school may have more to worry about than this dismissal of one professor.

The only solution I see for the situation at hand is an open dialogue.  Even if Dr. Oord is not reinstated more harm is done in silence.  I also see need for a leader to step up and find a place of restoration of relationship among systems and people.  The chasms that exist right now will surly only lead to new fractures and greater division if something is not done.

On the Edge of a Cliff…

I had let my blog die. I knew it and I was ok with it. After all, life is busy and I have other projects I am working on now…. right….?! And yet, as I sit here on this beautiful Sunday morning, I am compelled to write. I don’t why but I must.

It was just a few weeks ago, I went with my husband and his family to pick blackberries about an hour away from us. I love blackberries. One of the sweetest, juiciest treasures of summer. However, picking them comes with a price. They grow on large thorny vines that seem to sometimes want to reach out and grab you. You cant pick these little purple jewels without getting scratched and poked. Also, they grow where there are scary little creatures like rattle snakes and spiders and scary big creatures like bears. Finally, they like to grow near water in what is otherwise a fairly dry area. So as you can imagine you often have to get into some interesting places to gather them.

It was in one of these interesting places that I found myself. I was teetering on the edge of a bank above a creek, my right hand in a leather glove grasping one of the long and pokey vines and my left hand snatching up any blackberry that was in reach. It was in that moment I was struck with my own bravery. As a child/teenager/even young adult, I would have NEVER found myself in this place. IF and I mean IF I had even had the bravery to go anywhere near this set of circumstances, I would have stayed as far back from the edge as I could have and only picked the easy to reach berries. So what has changed? How was I suddenly able to do something that I had never been able to do in the past? The answer is really nothing. I didn’t sit and work myself into being able to do something that had once scared me… I didn’t even stop to pray… All I did was go. HERE IS THE KEY… For once I didn’t lead with my own fear. In fact, I didn’t even let fear enter the picture. As I hung precariously from that sandy bank, my bucket full of berries, I realized that I had jumped some kind of personal hurdle.

I don’t mean to say that I now have no fear. It is truly one of my biggest struggles. Fear. Fear of people. Fear of circumstance. Fear of situations. Fear. BUT when I realized that a moment without fear was actually freeing I began to change. I still have so far to go… but I need to change. I have often in my life overcome a fear and found myself in interesting situations. (other stories for other days) However, I now realize that I don’t just want to have to work beyond my fear, I just want to be rid of it all together. I want to find myself with people and in places and discover that I didn’t have to convince myself of anything and instead I just didn’t lead with fear at all.

Throughout the Old Testament, we read about the Army of God being brave warriors. Over and over again that is how they are referred to. They were just brave. They didn’t lead with fear rather they approached terrible situations with courage. They knew that God was guiding their path and that is all they needed to know. It kept them moving in the right direction. 1 Chronicles 19 discusses one of these very times.

So why is this important? We often use fear as a descriptor of personality. “Oh, it’s ok she is just shy.” “So and so is very timid.” “That’s just how introverts are.” However, God has not called us to be fearful. Instead He says, “Be strong and courageous.” If we are supposed to pattern ourselves after God’s Son, I fail to find a time where Jesus was fearful. Fear is an emotion, but fear CAN become sin. When fear keeps us from relationships, keeps us from moving, keeps us from going after the things God has from us… fear is sin. If God says… “Hey, here is where I need you. This is what I have for you.” And you say… “Uh, I can’t do that. I might get hurt, I might be rejected and I don’t know what happens next and that’s not within who I am.” We are in direct opposition to God.

Recently, I spoke to our youth group about how often we try to justify our own sin to make it so that it doesn’t really “look like sin.” We looked at David and Bathsheba. When David (the “man after God’s own heart”) knew he messed up, rather than seeking God’s forgiveness, he looked for ways to make it seem like he hadn’t sinned at all. He tried to justify his own sin. To justify just means to to make something right. But once sin has entered the picture the only way we can truly make it right it through the blood of Christ. Otherwise, we continue to allow that same sin to stand between us and God. For David this meant that he had to hit rock bottom to the point of murdering another before he realized that God was truly the only one who could justify what he had done. And God was faithful.

And so God can be faithful to me. And to you… What is it that you often try to justify on your own, but in the end it just stands between you and God’s best for you? Truly, I cannot be brave without God’s equipping and His love and grace for me.

God, make me brave so that I can be the person you have called me to be. I want your exceedingly abundantly for my life. I want the fullness of all of the things you have for me. I want to thrive… not just survive. Amen

Bonus: This song is the beat of my heart right now… maybe it needs to be yours too. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Hi-VMxT6fc

do you see what I see…

Much time has passed since I last posted to my blog.  Sometimes I think a healthy break is a good thing.  By no means have I ceased with my thoughts on the still moments of life, but I have missed the input from my readers.  It is because you read that I write.

I often pause during the day and consider the steps I am taking in life.  Not necessarily the physical steps, but the mental and spiritual steps.  It is easy to fall into the drone of everyday life and without realizing it days, weeks, and months have passed by.  All the while I have missed great opportunities for growth.  One thing I know is that I don’t want to stunt myself in the growing process.   This week I had one of those moments where a single question by another person led me on a journey of growth.

“What is your favorite hymn?”  A question posted by my cousin from across the country.  Having grown up in a church that had hymnals in every pew, I still have a great love for these songs of old.  While many of our newer songs are songs of worship, these older songs are songs of testimony and prayer.  They speak of the lives of people and the faithfulness of God.  So what is my favorite hymn?  I have a few, but the one that is my prayer AND my testimony is “Be Thou My Vision.”   In fact this hymn is so the song of my heart that I used it during a portion of my wedding.  “Be thou my vision, oh Lord of my heart, naught be all else to me, save that Thou art…” 

A reminder:  God, if you are my vision that is all I need.  If I know who YOU are and what YOU have done, and I can keep my eyes on that.

A testimony: Putting God first in my life, even when the decisions I made didn’t make sense to those watching, has always turned out to glorify HIM.  It is His vision and voice that I want to hear… Nothing else. He has never forgotten me or left my side.  He has only gently guided me through my journey.

A prayer:  “God, please always be the source of my vision.  Let me see life through Your lens alone. I want to love the way You love, and live my life the way You have designed it.”

And so I refocus… and on I grow.

(Note: To listen to my favorite version of this song, copy and paste the following link into your browser. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_4FFZ2KEB24  )

creation’s testimony…

As the Christmas holiday passes, and we enter the long winter months ahead, I am reminded of the significance of the winter season in my own life. While many around me dread the snow, I look forward to it. Every time the snow falls it is as if there is a freshness and a newness that comes along with it.

This morning I found myself remembering a December several years ago. The trees were laden with the white of winter and it was as if everything around us had been transformed. It was not at all unusual for my family to be found out on snowmobiles when the snow was like this. The trails were smooth and the scenery was breathtaking. On a cold evening of this perfect winter we set out for a late trip into a backcountry hot springs. We had packed our sleds with the things we would need for dinner and a late night swim. The trip could not have been more perfect.

However it wasn’t the time spent in the more than century old log cabin eating dinner by the fire, nor was it the hours we spent soaking in the pure spring water that made an imprint on my soul. Instead, it was the return trip that would, in a sense, change me. In order to get home we had to cross over the top of two summits. The first was well traveled and known by many. The second was a bit off the beaten path, and that night, there was not another soul to be found on that part of the mountain. As we came to a clearing near the highest point of the trail, we stopped our snowmobiles and sat in the quiet. The sky was completely clear and black. In it there were more stars than the eye could comprehend, and as the full moon shone, the snow reflected the twinkling of the stars as a million tiny diamonds scattered in front of us. Perfection.

I have often tried to dissect that experience. Even though much time has gone by, I am left in awe of the Presence of God I experienced on that late night.

The Bible often talks about God’s creation and how it interacts with its creator. In Psalms the writer talks about the fields being jubilant and the trees of the forest singing for joy (Ch. 96) In Luke Jesus’ disciples are caught up in their praise of God as Jesus enters the city. In fact the Pharisees ask Jesus to rebuke the disciples for their overt display, but Jesus responds, “I tell you if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:40) The disciples had seen God move in such miraculous ways that they couldn’t help but give Him the Glory. However, had they chosen to keep quiet… God’s own creation would have cried out proclaiming the greatness of God.

If then all of God’s creation is aware of His greatness, how much more should we, who are created in the very image of God, be ready to sing and dance and praise Him for the great things He is doing in our lives? We can choose to keep quiet, or we can choose to let people know that our lives are what they are because of who God is.

That cold winter night, it was as if God’s own creation was pouring back everything that it was to bring glory to its Creator. And that is what I want. I want those who look at me, and the work that God is doing in my life to be aware of who receives the Glory for the great things they see. I want a testimony of God’s greatness to seep from my very being and back into the heart of my Creator.

reflection…

This week has been a week of reflection for me.  I don’t know if it is because I have celebrated the birthday that marks the last year of my twenties, or if it is because the holidays are approaching.  Whatever the case may be, it seems that ever corner I have turned has caused my past moments to come tumbling back.

If I sit for a moment, close my eyes, and take a deep breath in, I can still smell the hallways of my high school.  A damp mustiness mixed with the aroma of whatever happened to be cooking in the cafeteria.  I can see the library with shelves and shelves of old books that were begging for someone to care enough to turn their pages.  I can hear the sounds of the choir resonate off of the walls of the room behind the gym and next to the shop.  This place was my prison. A place I could only hope to conquer.

This was the time in my life where it seemed that I was struggling to survive my every day.  It was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other and my only focus was that of my future.  I was a teenager mind you, and of course everything is much more dramatic when you are a teenage girl, but there were days that even breathing seemed too large of a task.  I felt suffocated by my surroundings.  I felt stifled by the life I was being forced to live.  I lived in fear that I would never become who I envisioned myself to be. I knew that if I could just be in control of my moments, I could do it better.

A few days ago I had the wonderful opportunity to talk to an old friend I hadn’t spoken to in many years.  In the course of our conversation, he shared with me some of the struggles of his newly found faith.  I couldn’t help but be humbled by the words he spoke. His desire to do God’s will is great, and he is earnestly seeking to hear God’s voice.  What a richness! What a hope!

Today, well today I find myself in a place where I could so easily fall back into the struggle of my youth.  It wouldn’t at all be hard to feel suffocated and stifled by the life I am living.  In many ways I feel that I am at the cusp of something new.  I can feel change in the wind.  But to live only for the new, the different, the not now, could again imprison me and trap me.

I want to live my life desperately listening for the voice of my Heavenly Father. I want God’s love to be enough in my life.  I want everything else to wash away.  He has promised to work out the details by His grace.  I want His love to be enough.  No matter my coming or going, no matter the course of my life; I want  His love to be enough.

Psalm 51:12 “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.”

inside out…

My life to this point has been a strange journey of intersecting paths.  In some ways I have loved every moment.  Learning. Growing.  However,  there have also been moments that I would have rather run over, skipped over, jumped over.

I have been back in my beautiful hometown for the weekend.  I am quite sure that my mountains have missed me. One thing I know is that I have missed the loveliness that I am surrounded by while I am here.  McCall’s crowning glory is its lake around which the town is centered.  If you were to drive into town from the south, you would come up over a little knoll and suddenly the lake would be in your view.  Each time I experience this picturesque panorama my breath catches and I am immediately transfixed by the sight.

This weekend we arrived just as the summer is taking her final bow and the autumn is making its arrival.  Most things are still green and crisp, but every now and then a tree who has already put on its red or yellow colors peeks out.  It many ways it is as if these little trees have been hiding a secret behind their green foliage and they cannot wait another second to share their beauty.

Time is a funny thing.  It can give us fresh perspective on old situations.  I will be the first to admit that high school was not my favorite time in life.  I can remember just wanting to get out.  To run away as fast and as far as I could.  And so I did.  For a long time, I didn’t understand the need I had to run.  However, as the years have passed I now feel like I have a firm grasp on my adolescent feelings.

For the most part, in high school, people generally knew who I was at my core, that my faith was a huge part of who I was, and I even believe that I was well liked because of who I was.  But, I felt much like the green leaves on a fall tree; like I needed to- had to, express the beauty that I held within, and I knew that at that time in my life, my small town of 2000 wasn’t the place I could do that. Thus, my move allowed me to grow and to change and to experience for myself  my insides on the outside.  How liberating and life changing this was for me.  Now, instead of containing who I am within myself, I love to share with others; that I am who I am because I am “fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14) I cannot wait to express the things that make my heart beat to those who will listen. I think for this very reason, now when I come “home” I am alive.  Gone is the girl who was suppressed and hidden by the place that she lived.  Instead, there is perspective, vision, and hope for the future revealed by the very place that once held me back.

In 1 Corinthians 4:2, Paul says, “Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”

Paul is encouraging the people in the church at Corinth to not hide the Truth that is God’s Word.  Rather to share it plainly.  He wanted them to be bold in expressing who they were as a people of faith, holding nothing back, letting there be no question.

So, today, I encourage you today to look at your life.  Who are you?  Are you excited to share those things that make you “you” with others, or do you feel the need to hide it?  Do you walk boldly forward in who you are? Are you letting your insides out?

(NOTE: I have recorded a companion video for this blog. You can find it here —> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ChXH5Zmp44 )

harvey the elk…

I grew up with a father who hunted.  In fact, I am sure that some years, we only ate well because he hunted.  The fall season for my family was built around the times that he would be gone with his uncles and friends.  My mom and I (and eventually my sister too) would sit at home and wonder where exactly Daddy was, what he was doing, and if he was safe.

While I am sure the men enjoyed the time they spent on the mountain the most, I waited with great anticipation for the day they would arrive home.  The family would gather, the spoils of the hunt would be hung in the garage, and we would spend hours working together to butcher and package the meat. The smell that collected in the air was an intermingling of odors from hunters and the hunted. As we worked, each of the men would recall their moment of glory from the adventure.  We would hear about time spent around the campfire, long hikes up a ravine, and the eventual story of “the kill.”

The purpose of the hunt was always the same; to gather the food we all needed for the coming year.  The only thing that changed much was that as I got older, I was given more responsibility during the butchering, and even my own knife to help with the trimming.  However, one year, my dad had his eye on a larger prize than just feeding his family.  He had been scouting a majestic elk in the forest for several months.  While Daddy had never been a trophy hunter, this was going to be the year he got “the big one.”

As the fall arrived, the men packed up for their annual 10 day trek in the wilderness.   At home, things were as they had been every other year.  Mom and I ate poached eggs on toast for dinner, (something we only got to eat when Daddy wasn’t home) and the time passed SO slowly.  Each day I would kneel on the couch and look out the window straining to see if they were coming yet.  Each day I would watch as my warm breath made foggy shapes on the cold windows.  Each day I would wonder if they would ever return.

Finally, the moment arrived, the men pulled into the driveway, this time accompanied by the carcass  and antlers from the largest animal I had ever seen in my 6 short years of life.  This animal was so enormous and so tough that my mom would later tell us that she couldn’t even pressure cook the meat.  Eventually it all had to all be ground and used for burger, but my dad had captured the animal that he set out to find.

Most great hunting trophies meet the same fate.  The hides are tanned and they are made into some form of  wall art.  My dad’s massive elk was no exception.  This animal that was once the king of his forest soon became “Harvey” a beloved member of our family that hung on the wall of our home for many years.  When Harvey first joined us, we happened to have a place for him directly above the fireplace.  However, when we moved to another part of town, not only did Harvey follow us, but this time, the wall above the fireplace was constructed specifically for him.  There was even a reinforcing bracket on the opposite side of the wall to ensure his security in his place of honor.

Harvey looked on as many memorable occasions took place in our living room.  Parties, graduations, weddings, funerals, and each year… CHRISTMAS.  I do believe that Christmas was Harvey’s favorite event in our home.  (If it wasn’t, he never mentioned otherwise.) In fact, some years Harvey even dressed up for the occasion.  Decked out in ornaments, garland, and a red nose, he became a part of the overall effect of the seasonal ambiance.

And there he remained day in and day out.  Year after year. Clinging to his spot. Never changing while the world around him moved on at a frenzied pace.  About a year ago, my parents moved.  Harvey had to give up his place on the wall and be packed into a moving truck.  Now he sits in a corner of the garage collecting dust.  Yet, the lives around him continue to move on.  My sister, only two when Harvey first joined our family, has a two year old of her own.  My parents married 14 years that autumn, today celebrate their 36th wedding anniversary.  And I… well I, continue to seek out the adventure that might be coming down the street.  I wait with my face pressed to the glass of life, wondering what might happen next.

The writer of the Psalms had had gone through some great trials.  He was king, but he had taken the wife of another man, fathered a child with her, and then had the husband killed.  While forgiveness was an option, the writer was often filled with great remorse for what had occurred.  He worried that God would change,  and that He might not continue to work on him and through him  There are many times in Psalms where the writer cries to God for mercy and compassion.  In Psalms 138: 8 we see a statement that mixes faith and hesitation.  “The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O LORD, endures forever- do not abandon the works of your hands.”

While Harvey could have lived a few more years in the forest, the life he gave provided much for many.  Many nights he was the food on our plates.  Many years he brought us great joy.  His purpose continued on beyond what could have even been expected.

I am often challenged to continuously lay down my own purposes for my life.  I want more than anything to surrender my will to the will of my maker.  I want God to do HIS work in me and not my own.  He sees the bigger picture of my life and He knows how the pieces will fit together and where my place of honor is and will be.  I know he will fulfill His purpose for me, and yet I continually pick things up for myself and go along my merry way.  How much more full could my life be if I would just let God do what He needs to do?  And so I say, “Oh Lord, do not abandon me, the works of your hands.”