Monday, September 20, 2010


“Good morning, gorgeous lady!” I hear as footsteps roll quickly down the stairs. Boss, a nicknamed Iranian member at the health club, greets me in his booming voice before 6 a.m. I’m startled awake as I read dreamily in another non-fiction theologically charged book. You know all too well that I’m no romance reader. A good thinking book gets me going in the “wee small hours of the morning.” C.S. Lewis, A.W. Tozer and John Bevere have been known to sit at this front desk, but this particular book is noteworthy for other reasons.

“When Jesus Came to Harvard,” discusses a non-theological class on Jesus’ teachings. Harvard implemented a department of moral reasoning after many alumni were caught in unethical scandals. To wash some of the dirt of is face, Harvard covered its booty. One of their professors of theology, Harvey Cox, began the course in the 80s with a small group of students in the back of a dilapidated armory. After years of teaching, the class became so wildly popular that it was moved to the campus’s main auditorium that typically hosted rock concerts. I give it rave reviews when club members ask about what I’m reading. My hope isn’t that they will ask me questions about it. Instead, I want them to pick this one up.

Back to Boss. I find myself happy, yet overwhelmed, whenever he swipe in. Boss has a way of greeting me with flattery and charm that seems kind. He leaves to the dressing room and returns minutes later to lavish more gushiness on me. “You are a beautiful lady,” he says, looking to the other members in the foyer waiting for the elevators. “You are the most beautiful girl,” he continues on until it becomes sickening. I make an unspoken prayer that the elevator arrives more quickly. Then he does something downright embarrassing. He looks to a regular and ropes him into the compliment-fest. “Isn’t she beautiful?” The member is shy, and seems off put by a required response. However, he kindly obliges and answers Boss’s pestering. “Yes, very.” He offered too much. Now, I’m blushing, even more than the makeup I put on at 3:45 a.m.

The moment the doors close I exhale. At that same time, I examine the interaction. Mind you, this isn’t sexual harassment. Boss is just a middle aged man who likes to make me blush. He’s never soliciting or asking for any personal information. He’s only giving out free ego-boosters, one line at a time. There is no detriment in taking them, is there?

Just as I thought this, a few phrases filled my mind. “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “Show me you love me”? Under this adage, Boss’s words are harmless and meaningless. I could even go as far to say worthless. Sure, he’s paying a compliment, but why do I need an inflated ego? Especially if it’s guaranteed that I won’t be like this forever. If beauty is fleeting, I need to take a good look in the mirror. Let’s face it. someday my hair will turn a soft white mixed with a paler red color much like what’s left of my father’s hair, I anticipate. My skin will sag, my body will ache. My thin frame will make room between my bones and my skin for more weight. And my toenails will inevitably turn yellow, like my grandmother’s. I will get old, and so will you.

My body will fail me, but my anxieties about dying are squelched as the proverb is finished with a promise. “A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” No reassurance for you boys, but I’m sure it can be used for you as well. Lucky for me, I’m working this whole faith thing out with fear and trembling already. I will continue to fear the Lord, adding an speechless beauty to my life. As I continue to grow deeper, I must take Boss’s charm with a grain of salt. Otherwise, I may look in the mirror one day and say, “Getting old wasn’t supposed to happen to me.” I smile at him again as he leaves a trail of thick expensive cologne, chirping, “Goodbye gorgeous girl, have a great day.” I will Boss. See you tomorrow.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Laying down at Subway

My skin is crawling right now. It could be the cup of coffee I just downed, or the experience I had while eating fresh.

I never buy the $5 foot-longs. Can't afford them, frankly. Instead, I stick to the $3 6-inch sub of the day. That's a safe play. $3.31 for a full stomach with no leftover to lug around? I'm cool with that.

Today, however, I did order a foot-long. Ask me why.

I asked God this same question as the cashier swiped my card. $5.56. I spent at least 20 minutes earlier today rearranging my budget. I don't really have enough money to forget my lunch in the morning. Today the decision was be on time and be hungry or be late and full later. I was lazy and on time.

I anticipated a quiet lunch. After 2pm, people have typically eaten lunch and are making their way through the depression called the last half of the work day. For me, work began earlier, but this last half of the day has been full of distraction. I still need to write one story on a woman who started a library in South Africa.

As I was saying. I anticipated a quiet afternoon of prayer at Subway. Ready to eat, a family came in. Three adult women and four small children. I'm pleased to see children in the city. What could've been a nice experience of watching kids be kids, became a time of frustration. My mood immediately changed. The mother of these beautiful kids seemed to be so bent out of shape. She was harsh every time she addressed them. They couldn't seem to do anything right. I watched them as they darted around the restaurant. Besides a man in the corner, there wasn't anyone else there. Instead of hearing footsteps, I heard threats and hisses from this woman.

I tried to ignore it and focus on the task at hand. After the three women sat down with foot-long subs, I noticed that the children weren't being fed. I became angry.

Not only were they required to sit still while their mom ate an entire meal, but they were hungry.

I thought for a few minutes while my eyes filled with fire. "Really? God gives you children, and you neglect them? You treat them like an inconvenience and berate them in public." Assumptions were racing in my brain. I was looking at these women with disgust, anger and hatred. I felt like I wanted to give one woman a verbal lashing on how her poor choices had brought her to be an awful mother and woman. I thought, "I would go hungry for weeks if I had to if my child needed food. I would go naked to clothe them, and thirsty to water their souls. What are they doing!?!" I knew I couldn't think this or say these things. God doesn't want us to hate. He tells us to love. So I loved in the only way I thought to.

I looked at the kids sitting in a booth off to the side. In my mind, the leftover six inches of my sandwich could be split into four filling pieces for little children. But how was I going to do this without looking like I was trying to show them up?

I walked up to the table of kids. I asked, "Are you hungry? Have you had lunch?" Then I looked at the mother, "Is it ok if I give them the rest of my sandwich?" She sputtered, "Sure, but they've already eaten. They've already eaten." I can't say that she was lying. But she still let me give my food to them.

I cut up the six-inches of leftover and thought about Jesus, the loaves and fish.

My demeanor changed. Instead of being angry, I knew this lesson was mine: lay it down. Everything. Give away your food and in doing so you lose your pridefulness and ill mindset.

I've been waiting weeks to be able to give back. I've been feeling like a useless Christian, sitting around thinking and wondering about people's needs. Discussing what actual Christians do, rather than going and doing.

Today, I realized, God was bringing me to a place of humility.

Dwell on this: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13.

It might be life, it might be pride, it might be anger or frustration, but whatever the case, we're called to lay it down for our friend.

I'm laying down pride.

What will you lay down?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Look Different

Last week I asked the question at the women’s Bible study I lead, “Who is pouring into you?”

To this, one of the ladies replied, “That’s a little Christian-ese, isn’t it? Pouring into?”

I smiled. I suppose sometimes I speak a little differently…no wait. I talk the same at all times. I can’t help but question that if we are in fact Christians, our lives, speech and actions are going to be different. And sometimes we’ll look different.

I went to a Joyce Meyer conference a few weeks ago. She spoke on emotional healing. I was impressed. It brought back memories to hear her voice. My mother would fold clothes in her room every morning when I was a child. I could hear this deep voice blaring out of the television. For many days, I thought my mom was obsessed with Ross Perot. It was during an election, what was I supposed to think? But as I stepped into the room and peered at the TV, I realized a woman preacher was impacting my mother’s life while she folded one of the 13 loads of laundry she’d do that week.

Post Joyce Meyer, we visited Café Latte on Grand Ave. We giggled for hours and closed the place down. I walked with my friend Marilyn to her car. Upon leaving her, I reflected on the time spent and what I needed to do to move on from any hurts. But just before I sank into a reflective car ride where I wouldn’t quite remember how I got home at the end of it all, a gentleman ran out in front of my car.

Hands up, signaling that he wanted me to stop, I obeyed the man.

Short and gaunt, the fifty-something black gentleman looked tired, so tired. The wrinkles in his face cut deep, and though it was nearly midnight and dark, I could see his face in full spotlight.

Though frightened, I stopped, rolled my window to a crack and asked the man how I could help him. For a second I thought, “This is how news stories begin. ‘Young girl stops to help gentleman in ally, found dead in her car.’” But as he approached, a sense of peace fell over me.

He began to speak, “You’re going to think I’m crazy, but I’ve been wandering around for hours and I saw you and…you’re going to think I’m crazy. I listen to God, and he told me to talk to you.” He explained that he could see a light around me.

I could tell that he was exhausted. He began to say that he’s been battling demons all day and all night. He began to cry huge tears. Part of me was skeptical, but I sensed this undercurrent of peace. It was if something inside of me was saying, “Help him in any way you can.” So I listened as he talked about how his life was in shambles as he served God. His wife died a few years earlier, he was living with some other woman, Jeanetta, who he said was covered in demons. He was hungry and tired and felt hopeless. I asked if I could pray for him. He listened for a while, but then he cut me off and tried to make excuses why it was so hard for him to live. He was crying harder. The tears flowed through the deep wrinkles in his emaciated cheeks. I could see is that he was lonely, tired and in need of love.

After about 45 minutes of listening, I knew the night had to end. I asked him, “Peter, what is it that I can help you with?” He explained that he was thirsty. He wanted to sleep at the shelter up the street, but he didn’t have any money.

I thought about this for a few moments. Though usually I would hold on tightly to money, I knew that I couldn’t do that. This was an opportunity to serve God. To give something I don’t really have, sacrificially, is part of this whole Jesus thing. A friend had gifted me money that was to go toward fresh fruit and vegetables. At this point I was struggling to pay bills, but Peter, he didn’t have anything. He didn’t know how I was doing but I thought through my life. I have a place to sleep, a community surrounding me, and love. Oh so much love from God and friends. This man had nothing, except God.

I drove up the street to Super America to get him a soda and break my money. He needed money more than I did. I came out of the gas station with money in one hand and a Mountain Dew in the other. Peter sat on the curb, looking so frail. A pair of boys in a VW Golf watched as I gave him what I had. I sensed that they were concerned with this interaction.

Peter looked up at me and said, “You remind me of Jeanetta…Why are you doing this?” I stumbled over my words and finally said, “You need it. God bless you, Peter. I’ll be praying for you.” He looked at the ground, tired.

I left with a swirl of thoughts going through my mind. But some things have popped up as I contemplate this experience.

1. Though he might have been a little crazy, he could see that I looked different. I couldn’t see it, but he could. God had opened Peter’s spiritual eyes. I only hope that when people see me, they see a light like Peter did.

2. I couldn’t pass this man up and throw up a prayer hoping he would be fed or taken care of. God presented a need. I had to meet it.

3. I have no clue what Peter used the money for, but as for me, I was able to pay my bills with the income I had. If anything this experience was able to sharpen my faith.

I want to look different. Not just in the way I live, but the physical appearance of light, God’s light.

“You are the light of the world…let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14a, 16

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Prayer. Period.

If you’re a consistent reader, you’ve probably noticed that I haven’t blogged in a few weeks. I’m not sure why. I have plenty to talk about. Plenty I’m learning. But some of the issues I’m most passionately thinking about daily seem too personal. Me thinking something is too personal to share? Me, who is vulnerable to the point of tears sometimes while she writes this? Yes, I want to make sure that everyone I know has confidence in me that I wont write something to telling of their soul. After all, it’s not mine to share. It is theirs.

So I’ll stick to what I’ve been thinking about for the past two weeks.


“You will keep in perfect peace
him whose mind is steadfast,
because he trusts in you.”
Isaiah 26:3

I’ve experienced so much peace lately. However, the past few nights I’ve been awakened at 2:45 a.m., and all I hear to do is pray. I pray over the next day’s events, over my heart, over the people I will see, over the will that God has for me and others. And I send up prayers for healing, prayers for the fullness of real, authentic love for my friends. I weep as I say them because I know my God, who is rich in mercy and abounding in love, my God who tell the stars to shine and sends lightening form his throne, my God who makes the blind to see and sets us, as captives, free, he is listening to me. He is hearing me as I ask him to do everything because I can do nothing. He remembers me in my low estate, Psalm 136:23, and still loves me forever.

I’m weeping even now as I write this because I want you to know this. This God that I love, he can be your God, too. He is your God. He loves you and wants to hear your prayers. He wants to love you uncontrollably. He’s doing everything he can to chase you, pursue you, find you. And you do so much to hide from him. Oh, that you would take away your barriers and let the God of all love pour over you his goodness and love.

Everything I read these days is knowledge. I tend to pray through it. Every time I pray, it becomes experience. I don’t want any more head knowledge. I just want to access more and more of God’s love through prayer.

Toady, I’m taking that time. I’ve holed myself up in my room, not to see anyone, which is probably better for them. My tearstained cheeks and red eyes aren’t a sight to see. However, the heart behind it is. I only want that God hears my prayers and so amazingly answers them that no one can say anything except, “The Lord—He is God!”

Now prayer isn’t something too many people get excited about. I find in the church, anything related to food and fellowship receives great attendance. Prayer meetings are for the mystical, hyper-spiritual or super charismatic. But fellowship isn’t powerful. What does it say in James? “The prayers of a righteous man are powerful and effective.” (5:16b) I’m not saying to stop going to fellowship opportunities. But tell me, what makes your peace increase? Is it talking with a stranger, or talking with an almighty God that says, “Cast your cares upon me and I will give you rest”? I like good barbeque, but I just want more than food that does not satisfy. I just want to be with the Lord, corporately. I want others to fan into flame a passion to talk with God together. I want people to be excited about what our God can do. I want to see that passion and hunger increase, not for myself, but because prayer is effective. Prayer is amazing. And if we are willing to wait on an almighty God for answers, just imagine what is possible. We who can do nothing can have everything change through our God.

For the next two weeks, I’m going to take prayer very seriously. For two dedicated hours each day, I will be going to my God, my king and petitioning him for help, praising him for who he is, and asking for direction, clarity and peace.

“Never weary in prayer. When one day man sees how marvelously his prayer has been answered, then he will deeply, so deeply, regret he prayed so little.” God Calling, May 16

Be blessed as you are in the presence of our Lord through prayer in Jesus’s name.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Jackie Chan Meets Pink Linens

Surrounded on four walls by athletes including Kobe Bryant and Jackie Chan, I find my pink bedding a stranger to this boyland. My new place is fantastic. I have my own space and ample storage. But the best part: three new brothers.

I recently moved to Forest Lake after feeling that I needed to move from my sister’s 750 sq. ft. apartment. For the six months I was there, I bunked up with my two-year-old niece. At the beginning of our room sharing experience, she would often shut me out of the room saying, “Kenna’s room. Get out, Doy.” However, by the end of it all, I found that I love her more than really any other kid.

I remember one night when Mel and Stefan went to the airport at 4 a.m. Just after leaving, McKenna woke up and began searching for them. I was in a deep slumber. McKenna reasoned that going outside on this chilly night in November, without shoes mind you, would be a great way to remedy her problem of missing parents. Wandering around the neighborhood, wailing, my neighbor awoke. Praise God she brought her home. I’m sure the neighbors thought I was a delinquent aunt, but at 4 a.m., what would you expect? After she was returned I watched her with eyes wide open until Melody returned.

I don’t anticipate that my new brothers will be doing anything like this. However, stories will be told.
Here they are, eldest to youngest,
Ryan, who is 17 years old, lives in the basement. He’s tall and thin with beautiful blue eyes and a small gap in his teeth. But he’s become very shy. For years his identity was vested in sports. Ryan wasn’t a boy; he was an athlete, complete with detachable glove and shooting arm. After being cut from the basketball team last November, he has burrowed himself deep into a cave of depression. He remains reclusive in a dank and chilly basement.

Nate, the middle child, is amazingly gifted with music. He is trendy with a thin figure. When we were younger, he joked with me about all sorts of silliness. I often stole one-liners from him. He coined the phrase, “That’s the way it should be.” But now, he closes himself off with an iPod. He attends a charter school where he says there isn’t much diversity. Watching the kids disperse after I picked him up from school yesterday, I find this to be true. There are two black kids. The third was expelled after selling her Adderall to classmates, he says. I’m not sure if this is the diversity he speaks of, but if so, he’s dead on. I ask him about friends, he says all the kids at school use drugs. I say, “Good boy. Stay away from that stuff.” Tough he remains solo at school, I find him great company.

The youngest, Dylan, has become a bookworm in his short 10 years. His silliness has taken the space where once Nathan’s was able to use his quick wit. Though he was chubby for much of his childhood, a newfound excitement in baseball is becoming his haven for weight loss and friend making. Slimming out, he’s becoming less of a little kid and more of a boy. He always has something new to talk about and much of the time will tell you new and interesting facts about children’s fiction. I adore his precociousness and buzzed haircut.

I don’t live with them because of the free rent. I feel that God has brought me to just this place for one reason: love.

They’re all going through things, even the parents. I won’t get into detail, but I will say, the only reason I’m living in this place is because God made it happen. I prayed for a family to take me in. The next day Julie asks me to live there for the summer. I knew I needed to take time for the boys, so what happens? God works out my schedule so my jobs consume fewer hours. All the while, the income remains the same, if not more. My God is good.

Though, I’m finding myself caught between patterns of the past, which are not desired anymore, and the near future. The choices are clear. I can lazily take my days as they come, or be intentional, setting aside hours of the day for the boys and making the days off meaningful. I can procrastinate writing assignments or I can work them out quickly so to have more time to do other things. I can fill every hour with lunch dates or coffee dates with people at church, or I can slow down and limit myself a bit. I want to make wise decisions. With God’s help, I will.

If you think of it, pray for this family. I’ve been interceding for them. Every time I think something should be happening, and I get frustrated, God reminds me, “It’s just a matter of time.”

I’m still waiting on a few promises, but that doesn’t mean my God isn’t faithful. It means that he’s giving me time to take in the goodness that he shells out to me everyday. If he fulfilled everything now, I’d have a heart attack. It’s how Peter explains it in 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

As my faith increases, God puts more on my plate. I find this all a blessing. Though, sometimes its difficult and I feel like a screw up, I know he’s got a plan. And because I’m weak, he’s stronger. We are weak warriors. And will we be overcome? “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 8:37

Friday, May 28, 2010

Equal Rights but they're still hungry

My office closed early today leaving me with a few hours on my hands before I could catch the bus home. I found the streets of Minneapolis so welcoming. Its definitely my home city. Nearly a year ago, I walked the streets at night alone, searching for some sort of belonging. Now, alone, I feel as though I belong to myself and God. There is no other longing or desire to belong to a building, group or even a person at the tables lining Nicollet. Only the want to give.

I see people supporting causes everyday on the corners with clipboards and brightly colored shirts. The other day some guy from the ASPCA wanted me to donate $30 to the fair treatment of animals. While I do believe this is a worthy cause, I felt that giving to some program isn't what I want to do.

Today, however, some folks from the equal rights campaign, you know the one with the yellow = sign, were getting some petition signed. As I walked past, I became very angry. It wasn't the cause that made me angry. It was the total lack of awareness for real needs.

Before I came across the pair canvasing the mall area, I sat with a 21-year-old homeless girl named Tasha. Her mom kicked her out for a boyfriend. Though I don't know her whole story, I don't need to. She was hungry so I gave her my yogurt. I expect that this is what Jesus did. He didn't walk up to people and say, "Give me some reasons why you need my grace." Or, "Tell me why you deserve money, food, clothing." Or ask, "Will you change your ways if I give this to you?" I bet he did what I did. Just sat and asked some questions, prayed with Tasha and gave something, anything that would meet the immediate and long term need. Because it's not the food that she needs. It's love. I left her with my card and told her that she could call if she needed anything. Hopefully she'll call.

I prayed for her as I left. It wasn't a huge moment. I didn't feel God's overwhelming presence. In fact, I just felt right. Like he was saying, "This is what you're supposed to do. You don't need any recognition." And while I sat with Tasha, two other people gave her a few bucks. One lady even passed by and came back. "Huh, its amazing what people will do when they realize these people aren't lepers," I thought.

So back to the pair. I see them asking people to give money for gay rights or sign a petition for equal rights, and I think, "How about you give those hungry people that money? How about you give people who really don't have any rights some rights, huh?" The truth is, the equality movement isn't about rights. Its about love. People want others to sign petitions for more support instead of asking for the one thing they really want: Real Love.

It's not about the campaign. I love these people. It's not about making them heterosexual. I encourage a few of my gay friends to get more involved in the churches they already attend. Its about getting them in a place where real love affirms them instead of the lusty culture of the Hotel or the Eagle downtown. Places where you're only seen as a pretty orifice. And that isn't what they are. That isn't what anybody is. But somehow, people can't see past that. We're too blinded by lust to see people as people.

Instead of yelling at the couple promting their cause, I walked up to another homeless lady. Her name was Victoria. I asked her what she would want to eat if she could have something right then and there. She said, "Subway. A ham sub with mayo." I said for her to stay there for a bit. I raced into a building. Purchased a 5-dollar-foot-long and raced back. She had shifted her seat, so I thought she left.

I sat and talked with her for 20 minutes. She told me about her struggle. Part of me thought, "Is this woman lying?" But more of me pushed that down and listened with full focus. This woman wasn't defunct. She had visited all the shelters around and talked with Mary Jo (from Mary's Place) down the street. She said it was hard to get her family into a shelter. She panhandles all day to get a hotel room at night. Today wasn't looking as good.

Her husband had passed away in 2007 and she was still heartbroken. I asked her more about that. She told me truthfully that she still can't get over that he's not there in her bed with her at night. She longed for him to be alive again in her arms. She wanted so badly to be with him. She said the pain is not like any other loss she had felt. I watched her as tears fell down her face. I felt so helpless. But then I felt something inside me rise up.

"Victoria, can I pray for you?" She was a believer. I asked God to fill her broken heart with love and to heal it up. I also prayed that she would get what she needs and that she would go to him for comfort. After I ended the prayer, I knew that I had done what I could. God will do the rest.

While I don't know what is to happen next with these people, and many of them will continue to feel alone, I do know one thing: my job is to serve the Lord. My job is to love and give to these people, and if you call yourself a Christian, its your job, too.

I'm petitioning Christ's love. Just sign up and act.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Serious Joy

I’ve taken very seriously the working out my salvation with fear and trembling. The idea of approaching the throne grace is not something to be done flippantly. However, in the past week, I’ve come across passage after passage on the joy and peace that God brings from the hope that Christ left us.

One that particularly struck me came from my quiet time on Wednesday. As I meditated on this, it really penetrated me. Read it and think for a moment.

“May the God of HOPE fill you with all JOY and PEACE as you trust him, so that you may overflow with HOPE by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

My God, the God that made everything and does everything in his power, wants that I receive JOY and PEACE as I trust in Him. Wow.

This blew my mind. Though I have been experiencing deep peace, a peace that passes understanding, I’ve been in a very contemplative state. Off putting to some. My sister had mentioned that my “countenance” was one of sadness. I thought about this, seriously, for few days. Though, I feel that her statement was cutting, I also saw some truth in it in some situations. So I prayed through it, asking God to bring me joy and allow it exude life from me. And yesterday, it came.

I was talking with a coworker and she said that we aren’t supposed to bring gloom with us everywhere we go. “Who wants to change because of that?” She said. As examples of Christ, we are to live lives that show him. Lives that bring people to want to know why we are so excited about God, why we are so glad to be alive, why we serve the God we serve.

We aren’t supposed to go through the days with a sober mind, contemplating the sadness that was that day that he died, though this is good. It’s not about the legalism of sackcloth and ash, as it had been for so many months in my life. Yes, God is serious. I take him very seriously. But, God wants us to look to the hope of heaven, his bridegroom returning for us, and live joyfully.

In a world where Lady Gaga will not be leaving anytime soon, though she should’ve expired months ago, we must find the joy in everyday things. Some choose music, entertainment, fitness or friends. For me, it’s the weather. No matter what fills the sky, God has made a wonderful day. I always thank him for the weather. I thank him for my meals. Every opportunity to visit with another soul, I thank him with great joy knowing we grew in him as we grew with each other. I thank him joyfully for all the little blessings, like chocolate from a friend’s candy dish or free pastries at lunchtime, when I forget my lunch. (If you could work that out for today, God, I would really appreciate it. I ended a fast yesterday, and totally forgot that today I’d need a lunch.)

Once we get to that place of joy and contentment in God presence in the world, we find that God is in everything. We find joy in the time we spend with our families. We are able to naturally talk about Jesus with people of no or little faith. We can see our lives as exceedingly blessed by God instead of so-so.

I’m reminded of a song by Desperation band. Just listen to the words.

You dance over me
While I am unaware
You sing all around
But I never hear a sound

Lord, I’m amazed by you
Lord, I’m amazed by you
How you love me

It’s the amazement of unknown joy and little delights can be the most exciting. He’s dancing over us while we aren’t even doing anything devoted to him. He’s there. Doesn’t that just give you serious joy?

So today, think of God’s blessing in your life. Continue to seek him out with fear and trembling, but do it joyfully. After all, we are transformed by his glory. That's serious joy.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

God Minded

How do I engage in His presence at each moment, with all that I am, with all these task piling up on my desk?

I’ve learned from Brother Lawrence not to fret. He constantly worked with nimble hands as a clumsy cook in a monetary kitchen thinking mostly of our Almighty Father. Written of him by his close friend, Joseph de Beaufort, “Brother Lawrence’s heartfelt goal was to think of nothing but God. If he did allow some time to pass without thinking of Him, he did not grow upset about it. Once he confessed his weakness to God, he returned to him with all the more confidence and joy because he had found himself so unhappy apart from God’s presence.”

You see, to my normal office mate, I'm working on an e-mail, a fact checking form or scheduling an important appointment in my calendar. But really, my mind is swirling about God. It's churning these ideas about this grace I receive so freely, this excitement and joy, yet deep grief for those on the outside. As my peace and contentment grows, so too does this fire within me that causes me to tear up. I find my tasks are completely secondary. In one window I have Entorage, in another I'm reading a Psalm. One ear is empty, the other budded with music that represents the desire of my heart to only have more time with my God.

But sometimes this juxtaposition vexes me. How do I find contentment while my mind is running itself into a tangle of thoughts?

The closer I am to the Lord, the more my mind runs with ideas of him only. The world doesn't understand me. And my counterparts have found a place that is comfortable within the confines of the world. I am alone in my thoughts. Not many of those around me really understand what I'm thinking. The more I rattle on about these daily journeys with the Lord, they ask, "Are you sure God is asking you to listen to Him at all times? Don't you just want to check out?" At times, I have become discouraged to speak. So, I shut up. I wait for the right moment. I keep these thoughts of eternity, grace, freedom, love...longing, yearning, aching love, to myself. Still burning for them to know the freedom that I’ve found. And ever thinking of God.

Even that which I am walking through right now isn't a struggle with external sin. I'm done with that. I no longer seek these unfulfilling things like drunkenness or lust. I found those once before and I hated myself. I was restless. But now, I want so badly to be pure. I want to dwell with the Almighty at all times. But I'm blessed to do these tasks, however menial they are. Because it’s not about the tasks. Its about these people. To sit beside the blind and offer vision, that’s my mission. To feed the hungry with the wisdom that I seek and have found, that’s my ministry. To clothe the naked from their shame, that’s what I offer.

But some of you are skeptical because entering to a place of constant “God thought” is not easy. It requires sacrifice and work. I came to this place as I read scripture after scripture on keeping our minds pure and thinking on the right things. Until recently, I didn’t know how that looked or if anyone else was doing it. But the more I read, the more my mind wandered to how much God loved me. How much I want to hear from him everyday. How I want to be that pure person. However, I still want confirmation that someone out there is doing this same thing. Not just attending a church service. Not just putting on their Christian hat on Sunday, but actually seeking Him constantly.

In my search for another God thinker, I feel that I have finally consulted an expert. Joyce Meyer. Now, mind you, I have been averse to female Christian authors for the past 6 months, distracted by the pink book covers and the "you go girl" attitude. I wanted stripped down, manuscript styled design as not to distract from the task at hand: learning more about God’s word. So when I got the e-mail from Hennepin County Library saying my book, Battlefield of the Mind, had been delivered to the GV location, I scheduled a tentative book pickup.

I managed to make my way to the shelf with my hold number sticking out. “167….something, something, something.” And you know what I found? The cover was blue with the most neutral graphic: chess pieces.

Now that I’ve passed the stereotypes, and have read nearly half of the “two-million copies sold” best seller, I can honestly say, I am not alone in seeking the Lord each moment. Joyce Meyer wrote a book on it. Two million people have a copy of it. Some should be allowing her breakdown of scripture penetrate them.

But my question this time around is: what are you thinking about?

Paul writes in Romans, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then, you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

The world is going to tell you to think about all the worries of life. It's going to distract you from the true things that make you full of joy and peace. But the pattern of the world isn't fulfilling in any aspect of life. So why not try to think on good things? Higher things?

You want direction? Transform your mind and think of him as Paul instructs. Take some time for this today.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Unfocused today. I put on some music and let the words penetrate me. I come across this one, a throwback from years ago. It goes, “I need you more. More than yesterday. I need you more. More than words can say. I need you more than ever before. I need you more. I need you more.”

So I think, what does more of Jesus look like?

Everyday is different. For me, some days, more is emotional and raw. It means crying out to God for understanding with snot out my face and mascara running down my cheeks. Some days it’s peace and calm, it’s the “Be Still” moments in God’s presence. Some days it’s a longing. An ache inside my heart just to touch a little more of this unending and enveloping love. And it all starts with a simple prayer, “God, won’t you invade my day? Won’t you just show me a little more of yourself?”

As I assess what I want out of life, I find myself eliminating things that I used to consume without question. I’ve put down the remote control and taken some time to read. I’ve tucked away my Gap Card and said, “No more,” to frivolous spending on t-shirts I’ll wear once. I’ve removed excess makeup and avoided expensive hair products. I gave up my weekly bottle of wine. I stopped looking at men as they passed me by in the skyway, wondering who I could get attention from next. I stopped judging people and just giving to the homeless.

I guess you could say this is an overhaul. But the reality is this, for the first time in my life, I’d be willing to give anything, and I mean EVERYTHING, for just a little bit more of Jesus in my life.

I lived so long without an understanding of what he did for me. I did what I thought I wanted to do. But everything left me hollow. Even the good things were never satisfying. And Sundays would roll around and it would be another learning service, instead of affirmation of a life I was living. What he gave me that I don’t deserve and never will, but he gives it anyway.

I think of all the excuses why I didn’t want more of Jesus before. I came up with the typical ones. Here are a few. “It’s not fun to pray.” I’ve never ended a prayer session saying, “That was a waste of time.” There are plenty of other things that I’ve done ending with that phrase but never spending my undivided focus on my king. Another one, “Nobody else is doing it.” Yes you’re right nobodies aren’t doing it. Anyone influential in my life spends time in the Word everyday and prays without ceasing. Or this one, it’s my favorite, “I don’t feel like it.” Think about exercising. I guarantee if you had a slamming body, you wouldn’t ever say I don’t feel like exercising. You’d just put it into practice and everyone would notice and the attention would make you feel like it. Am I right?

So, you have to ask yourself, what excuses are keeping you from more, or any of Jesus?

Because if your worried that your going to miss out on something, you will be. Something from God. If you’re worried about what friends you will lose, think about this:

Is losing Jesus worth it?

Take some quiet time to pray today. Be ready for more.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Best Day of Your Life

I woke up this morning in a completely neutral state. But my mind quickly ran to the idea of the excitement of this day. Not just this day, but everyday.

I hear people say, “I just have to make it through this day.”

And I think, “Why? So you can get through today to get to another day you can’t wait to get through? Then you get through day after day after day and in the end you die, and you say, ‘I waited my whole life for something to happen to me and all I did was die.’”

If you don’t like your today, you’re never going to like tomorrow. If today isn’t the best day of your life, then tomorrow sure wont be either.

What are you waiting for?

I wake every morning like I did this morning, with this knowledge that today will be the best day of my life with God. I won’t be waiting for something to happen to me. Instead, I will do what I am called to do, what we’re all called to do and it’s this: to obey God and serve him only. To seek him first and see life come to you and fill you.

I know on the calendar today I’ll be at MSP writing a few stories, then head off to Lifetime Fitness with hopes of making it to 10 p.m. without falling asleep. I might purchase a cup of coffee for myself as I do most days, and go to my office to sit behind a computer with my headphones in. But that’s just on the calendar. From the outside, it’s a regular day. It’s not my wedding day, or the day I graduate from seminary. It’s not the day I have my first child or win a Nobel Prize (this last one may or may not happen).

However, here’s what I’m excited for today.

The opportunity to hear and share the testimony of Christ, to love otherwise unloved people, to give money and time to things that aren’t for me, to abandon my wants and desires to be filled with God’s love and grace, peace and glory. To see the kingdom of heaven right here. RIGHT HERE!

What isn’t on my calendar but happened so far: Talking about Jesus with a woman on the bus, seeing a homeless man, giving him my Raisin Bran, buying him a cup of coffee, saying a prayer for him, and thinking I need to give more than my breakfast.

I’m thinking now, “God, please use me with these people to say your words, encourage and take on their burdens.”

I know later, I’ll go to Lifetime Fitness instead of canceling for free tickets to a Saint’s game, and I’ll pray while I wipe down mirrors, “Father, let me see the needs that you see. Let me be your hands and feet to Rodney, Duresa, Marissa, Conrad, PJ and anyone else I encounter. Let me love as you do.” And I’m excited to see God working.

My question to you, then, is: what are you waiting to get to that isn’t this moment? What are you doing that makes you feel like tomorrow will be better than right now?

Because if it isn’t being with a God who lavishes loves on you each moment, if it isn’t giving love to those around you, if it isn’t thinking higher than what’s going on today on a calendar, than you will never want to live for today. You will never be content. You will always be waiting for tomorrows.

I share this because I lived like that for too many years. And now I spend my days in perpetual want of more of what God has for me, which requires obedience and service to the utmost. It doesn’t seem like much when I feel so content with Him.

I want to encourage you to pray about this today. Pray about the situation that makes you say, “I can’t wait until…” Ask God to show you your true purpose. I guarantee your focus will turn off of your struggle and it will turn to God and others.

Selflessness. Service. Obedience. Peace. You’re going to make it through today.

Remember: It’s the best day of your life.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Horpy Hunkaroon

Cada día, pienso en ti pero no debería. No es el Cinco de Mayo. Es tú día. Hoy, te levanto en la oración. Creces en la armadura de Dios. Dios de bendigas.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Life Application

12:15pm. Strawberry seeds are filling the cracks in my teeth as I bite through each one’s perfect ripeness. I threw down two pieces of BBQ chicken pizza leftover from Axel’s Bonfire. Delicious. Add some crunchy grapes from Cub (woot woot budgets!) and my Wednesday desk lunch is complete.

Besides gastronomy, other things are on my mind. All the craziness that I’ve gone through this past few months is busting wide open, bringing me to the end point of preparing and the beginning point of waiting for other things.

Within the next week I will have done a lot of list crossing off. However, the things on the list either propel me into new careers or change my direction completely.

Here’s the rundown:

Saturday: I ran my first of many races to come, I expect. The 5k went swimmingly after I checked the official time Tuesday morning. The goal was 3.1 miles completed in under 35 minutes. Official time: 34:40. Who’s the rock star? I don’t know…I wasn’t talking about me. Life goal: Run a race. Check. Not done yet. More to come.

Sunday: I did billing for my parent’s business. I have become a manager. Ah, I can add that to my Proverbs 31 woman resume. The business-woman in me has finally become a reality. (In addition to bills, I did an incredible amount of laundry. Another redeeming quality, and my whites are brighter. Fab.)

Monday: Lead an amazing Bible study. I asked the girls this question, “When you look in the mirror, who do you see?” We discussed scripture about how God made us exactly as he wanted us to be (Gen. 1:26-27). There’s no substitution for his creation. Either you look at yourself and say, “Wow, I’ve been made amazingly.” Or you selfishly focus on your exterior, unable to be used for God’s kingdom festering in insecurity and self-doubt.

Then, I threw out this question, posed by Francis Chan. I’ve been mulling it over for the past week. “What do you want right now?” Think about this for a second.

His answer to this question is intense, “If it’s not, ‘I just want more of Jesus,’ then we’re totally missing it.” I get this. I see this as true. I’m choosing to live this. If I’m not living for more time with Jesus, either now or in eternity, then what’s the point?

Challenge for the week for women: Look in the mirror and say, “I have been fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s image. I’m owning that! Now let’s work on the inside, God. I want to be used.”

Tuesday: Went to dinner with some great family friends, Shirley and Julie. They’re great support.

Instead of being pulled into the ever-popular television show Glee, which really creeps me out, I was responsible and composed my things to go to Starbucks for some much needed essay writing time. I’ve decided to go to seminary. That takes applying. Applying takes writing. Application due: Friday. What does a writer do with the special ailment of writer’s block? Go to Starbucks.

Busting in the front door with my “could-fit-a-small-child-in-it” purse, filled with papers, books and my trusted MacBook, I notice the woman by the door is listening to a Beth Moore book on CD. I order my drink and find a place in one of the four sofa-style chairs by the window. The elderly couple in the center two chairs welcome me. I think to talk to them, but feel more drawn to talk to the woman relaxing with Beth Moore. She’s definitely ended her study. My essays can wait.

Walking right up to her I ask her about the study. She says it’s phenomenal. She’s done three in the past year. We talk more about how good God is. She says God is rocking her. I ask her how. This comes out.

“My husband walked away from the Lord two years ago. I have 4 kids. We’re separated and have been for a while. I’m on my knees for him.”

This woman is amazing. She’s supporting her family on one income and taking time to search the Lord for answers. Her faith is an extreme testimony to me that God is bigger than our circumstances.

I ask her if I can pray for her. We do, right then and there at Starbucks in Golden Valley.

We exchange info.

It’s not enough to know that people are Christians. We must support and encourage, even if we have other things to do, even if we must be vulnerable. I was blessed. She was blessed. God is with us. Onward we march.

Wednesday: I don’t finish my essays Tuesday. I take them to work. I get two pieced together for Noelle Buss to edit. I’m getting no actual work done. I hate it when I’m not a steward of this job. But some days are like this for everyone, right? We get work done one day and the next we do background work, or gchat? Can I get a witness?

What’s on my mind today is the lunch, yeah, but also the photos I’m dropping off for modeling at 2pm. I’ve decided I’m not nervous. I’m just waiting for this to be part of God’s plan. He opened too many doors for this not to happen. Now I must walk in it.

Modeling is not a way to promote myself. That’s the least of my desires. I’d rather clean toilets at Lifetime than be a famous person. But I do see this as an opportunity to reach women for God who are only seen as exteriors. Hangers for clothing, if you will. But at the heart of it, we all know that’s not what matters. You can be Kate Moss and still be hideous if all you care about are shoes and handbags and nothing of the soul. I want women to know that they’re more than pretty little things. They have been fearfully and wonderfully made by a God that LOVES them.

So seminary essays, photos to drop off, and oh yeah, following God’s plan. That’s what’s on my mind.

He made everything. He’s in everything. He is everything.

Here I go.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Bus-timonies, Part I

Every weekday morning I go to work. Every weekday morning I take the bus. Every morning I pray to be used by God to be encouraging. And some special mornings, he uses me or blesses me. Usually both. Here are the chronicles of the people on the bus.

These segment will be interspersed with my other posts as a way to recount the amazing things God has done on the 675 to and downtown Minneapolis.

It's a Friday afternoon and I'm on the bus home. Patty, the receptionist at MSP, counts down the days of the week. She says on Monday, "Five more days to go."

And I respond, "To what?"

"To the weekend, Joy."

Lately, serving the Lord has made me feel like everyday is the best day of my life. Each opportunity is a ministry opportunity. Each person I meet is yet another soul that longs to be loved, longs to be truly alive, longs to know what I already know but am working out.

So I say to Patty, "But today is still young, and its a beautiful day."

I get in the elevator make my way down the 3 floors to 2 and exit. I walk with a bounce in my step toward the bus stop in Nicollet. After waiting in the chilly air for a few minutes the 675 pulls up. I get on the bus and typically file to the back, not to near the door because the winter air seeps through the cracks and causes me to shiver for the 20 minute ride. This day, however, I sit up front.

I pull out my book, "Man: The Dwelling Place of God." It's a really heavy title, but it's a really great book compiled of articles by AW Tozer. He's not famous to many people, except in Christian circles.

I read the book with the cover facing my legs. A title that proclaims such things can be intrusive to some, and at this point on a Friday, I don't know if anyone wants to mess with this. I on the other hand, revel in the pages that follow. I end the chapter shy of the inner city limits. The bus makes a final stop and a few people board.

I sense that one will sit with me. A 30-something man with blue eyes and balding blond hair. He looks tired, but seems happy. He sits down decidedly on the seat next to me. I hold my book facing up for a while and notice he is eying it. I either start another chapter or I ask for God to lead me in a conversation. I flip it over nervously. It's not that I don't want him to know that I'm reading a book about God, it's that I don't know how to feel.

Its like last week when I was listening to worship music on my computer. Not KTIS worship music. It was more like the deep saturated with glory, fill your spirit with joy and your eyes with tears, "let me feel you, Lord, in my presence," kind of worship music. Not the, "Kumbaya, let's be friends and have some peace," but the, "Jesus is the only way. I'm serving him with everything. And Satan is under my feet," kind of worship. And deep in a set, what happens? My headphones are ripped out of the jack. The whole area is filled with glory, and my face is filled with red. Not that I'm an undercover Christian or anything. It's just a bit intense for MSP. I shut it off to my co-worker's confused look on his face. As if I'm doing a seance or something. He probably thinks I'm nuts, but I really don't care.

Anyhow, back to the bus. Finally, I feel I need to say something. And out comes, "You made it to Friday, congratulations."

He responds, "Thanks."

I ask him about his plans for the weekend. He talks about his brother-in-law needing some help after his home flooded in Plymouth. I respond that that's a very kind thing to do for family.

Then he turns to me and says, "So I see you're reading Tozer."

I'm shocked. This is really underground reading. I mean, he's a published author, but he isn't a Rick Warren or John Piper. He's old school and I can't get enough of him.

Anyhow, I respond with great stifled excitement, "Yes, yes I am."

He says, "I read 'The Knowledge of the Holy' when I was in discipleship training in Kansas City years ago."

He goes on to tell me about how he was discipled by Mike Bickel's crew years ago before it turned into iHop. He said he really learned a lot about who God is through that book in particular.

I'm thinking, "Praise God for this. I thought it was a regular Friday. Today is anointed."

And we continue to talk about the great work of God throughout the Twin Cities. After a while he says, "I've just picked up a book. Maybe you've heard of it. It's called 'The Cost of Discipleship' by, what's that guy's name..."

Anyone who knows me, knows this has been my pet book for the past few months. It's steeped with knowledge of what discipleship requires. I'm floored.

I finish his searching, "Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It's possibly my favorite book right now." He's impressed that I've even heard of it.

Our interaction ends with me blessing him and his family. I shake his hand. His name is Grant.

Now, months later as I process this, I know it was a divine appointment. I was elated to meet someone seeking the Lord in the West Metro. He seemed like he was trying to get back to that place again, that place where God is really near all the time. A wife and two kids had gotten in the way. Add a mortgage and a few cars and even more added up. But one thing remained, this guy longed for God and was willing to talk to a complete stranger to know more about this Jesus we serve.

Maybe I blessed him. Maybe he blessed me. I don't know. But what I do know is this, God is working whether we acknowledge it or not. I trust that he is working in Grant. I know he is working in me. And he is sweeping over the people of the Twin Cities.

Praise God for the 675.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Old New Experiences

Dialing a Rhode Island number is something I have never done before. Until today.

My adventure in Intern Land brought me right to these 401 numbers. I dial them up. The first person is a Sons of Norway member that gets people involved in their heritage organization. Super exciting. Pull out your bunad and cod fish, we're doing things Norway style! The second is a 91-year-old member whose great uncle began the fraternal organization over a hundred years ago. I get the answering machine with him. The message ends as follows. “Leave your message for Ed and Ruth after the tone.” In an aside he says, “Ruth was that ok?” BEEP! He gets back to me later.

The final call is put in to a man named Ashley. He’s an Episcopal reverend who attends to the sailors that come into port in Cranston. I catch him during lunchtime. He’s sweet, with an excitement for Norwegian heritage, though he is more Danish than Norwegian. He asks me to forgive him of that being that we are a Norwegian publication. I have the same problem. I’m more Danish than Norwegian as well. Forgiveness granted.

What he talks about isn’t extremely interesting until he discusses a trip this younger member took biking across Norway this past year. I listen attentively, though none of this will be included in the story (I am only a fact checker after all). Here’s where my attention is piqued. He says, “Some people come back from a trip to Norway and they are just so excited about the new experience, even though they may have invested in their Norwegian heritage before.” He goes on to say that they want to share all about it at meetings.

And it hit me: this is how I feel about God right now.

I have known him for a long time. I have traveled his ways and wandered away here and there. But when I actually approached his throne in January, for the first time in a long time, it was brand new. Its like everyday, I feel his intense love for me, as if for the first time. I feel him with me, guiding me to obey and trust in his plans. I’m so excited I just want to share it with everyone.

I assume that when Paul writes in Ephesians about God’s love that he’s explaining the pure and innocent first love we have when we acknowledge God in our lives. “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17-19

I think part of this whole God's love thing has made me feel more innocent. All the crap I have done or gone through just doesn’t matter. It was all forgiven and now as I walk in obedience, I am being restored to this pure and innocent childlike Joy. Like the one who remembers God’s love the first time I felt it. The first time I saw his face and felt his presence.

This has manifested itself in other ways. My co-workers at Lifetime Fitness have been pretty forward lately in saying how old I look. Tom, a man in his seventies who diligently folds towels for us on Wednesdays, was astounded to hear that I was 23 years old. “I thought you were 17.” Another girl said, “Honey, you look younger than 23.” I guess it’s not really an age thing. It’s more a God thing. When I go through these new experiences, he purifies me from the age I am and brings me to that place of childlike innocence. It’s that place that I truly want to be.

As asked in Matthew by his disciples, “Who will inherit the kingdom of heaven?” To this Jesus replies, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3-4

I always thought being innocent was being naive. But that isn't the case. We are to be "wise about what is good and innocent about what is evil," as Romans 16:19 instructs. In the world not of it.

So I guess my question to you is: when was the first time that you felt God’s presence? Yesterday? Three years ago? Never?

If you have, what did it feel like? If not, do you want to be there?

All the time, the world tries to hold us back. It holds us back from the fullness of joy, from peace, from real love and real hope. But with what Christ did, we can get away from it all and experience all that God has for us.

I encourage you, wherever you're at, stop and take a minute. Say to God, “Hey God, I’m acknowledging you in my life. I want to feel that love, that supernatural love in my heart from you. I want to live a life that reflects that love and innocence. And I want to love you, as well. Will you come and be with me now? Will you transform me and humble me to be more like a little child? Will you just show me your love right now.”

I’m sure that if you call he answers. Jeremiah 29:12-14, “You will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.”

Feel that first love that you felt from God. Be innocent as a child. Be blessed this week as you seek his love for you.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Awaiting Ch-ch-changes

Kicking around my Google Calendar, I've found that I have three time slots in life.

Tuesday nights, which I dedicate either to relationship building with fellow women of Substance or some God and Joy time. (I used to wait for my cell phone to chime, or dial every number in it when I felt lonely. Now, I just call on the right One. I haven't felt lonely in months. In fact, I wish I could be alone more often.)

Friday nights are my workout or spend time with friends nights. I either go swimming, rock climbing, or meet up with a friend for coffee, tea or burgers. Last week I climbed at Vertical Endeavors with Caroline and we went to the Blue Door Pub thereafter.

Last but not least, Saturday mornings. I typically spend these doing all the things I didn't during the week. Send out mail, laundry, meet with a friend, etc.

On the evenings already occupied by scheduled events, I do the following things:
-Lead a women's Bible study
-Work at Lifetime
-Go Deeper

Currently I work 60 hours between two jobs. One at Lifetime Fitness in Maple Grove and the other an internship with a magazine. Both are huge blessings.

Books in my purse include: Confessions by Augustine and The Cost of Discipleship. Oh and always, my Bible.

Podcasts I'm listening to:, Coffee with Christine Cole, Show Time Spanish. That's right, picking up the ol' Español.

Here's the real news. I am about to undergo some changes in the housing and job department.

I spent a great deal praying about the following changes. I am at peace with whatever doors open.

Housing: This summer I'll move to Forest Lake to live with great and beloved family friends the Corcorans. I feel a great peace about moving 30 miles from the city because I know God is going to do some great things in me by living with a great family. I love the Corcorans, especially the boys. Ryan, Nate and Dylan are my little bro's. I am excited to spend more time with them, if even for just a few months. So move out date from my sister's apartment in the lovely, and ever-so-charming Golden Valley is May 29.

Job: Because the hike from Maple Grove to Forest Lake could be both money and gas consuming, I'll likely transfer Lifetimes. I have considered the following: Fridley, Roseville and Minneapolis. Pray for me.

The best bet is the gym in Minneapolis. I could potentially get a raise and better hours. The internship will be over, which is sad but good. I'm going to pick up stories again as a freelancer with the Star Tribune and maybe do some freelance modeling. We'll see how the latter goes.

The one thing I've learned to do in life is change. We will forever change, this I know is true. So asking the Lord to take us through it all is exactly what we are to do.

So, if you think of it, pray for me to keep some peace as I transition into some new territory. Having 3 little brothers and new job venue can be a difficult change but will be refreshing.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Wanna Wrestle?

I spent a few years during college as a nanny of three little boys. Precocious and salty, I knew they would be a great fit. Sometimes referred to as the Hole in the Wall Boys or a Motley Crew, I found that their long blond hair and glassy blue eyes were enough for the mischief we were to get into.

Now the eldest boy, Earl, was very serious and aloof. We called him Ferdinand the Bull because sometimes he would just stop to look at flowers, or wait to watch a bug. His father once asked him what he was up to when he was at the beach watching the waves with his arms outstretched. He said, “I’m using the force, dad.”

Though peaceful, this little boy had energy to burn. Many days I would run him from school to tennis, then back home. Upon entering the residence, Earl would ask one very important question: “Wanna wrestle?”

Now, asking this at my office to my co-worker could get me fired, but at this job, the question is extremely valid. To Earl, this was the crux of my existence. Mom didn’t wrestle; she was too tired. Dad didn’t wrestle; he had things to do. Joy, she wrestled. She had time. She never tired. She was good at it.

Almost every time we would wrestle and I would tickle his feet or push him off the couch to pin on the floor. He would try to act like he was done. But giggling, he'd pounce back on me for more fun and games.

Some days, I didn’t want to wrestle. I wasn’t feeling like having my space invaded or my peace disturbed. These days, Earl would be so disappointed. I hated seeing him like that, so I engaged with great enthusiasm.

Now, I realize that just as I was always asked to wrestle with Earl, I’m in another wrestle, only this time with my will.

I’ve been reading copious amounts of literature on faith, God, spiritual disciplines and lifestyle, combing each passage with great care to learn something valuable. Lately, Augustine’s Confessions have hit me right in this spot.

He writes of his conversion to Christ after years of professing a philosophy that left him full of knowledge, yet unfulfilled. And just before his spirit fully accepts God, he goes through this great struggle within. He talks of how his will to change whispers in his ears that what he's going miss out on will be much greater than what he will receive in return from God. (We know this is a lie because sex, money and alcohol cannot fill as God can.) He struggles and almost fully submits to God saying, “Behold, let it be done now, let it be done now.”

I find that I have said this many times in the past months.

It reminds me of the struggle Paul talks about in Romans 7:21-24, “So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.”

We have these things within us: these desires, these thoughts and temptations. They will always be there. BUT they are not sins. Wanting things is human. The struggle then is giving them over to God. He wants us to bring them to him and say, “I am a wretched man, but you can deliver me. I have wants and desires, but please make them pure and right.”

This wrestle will never be over. It is with me as I wake. It goes with me through the day. As I bring these wants and desires to the Lord, he makes them right in accordance to his will “his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)

For a while I was ashamed that I struggled saying, “God I’m ashamed for wanting what I want, knowing it is pure, but not knowing what to do. I’ve submitted them to you fully, so I trust in that.” He says to me, “You are being faithful in obedience. Just wait. Wait for me and I will bring these desires to you.”

I do not vex over these things I want anymore. He directs; I obey. Things always work out how they should be when we obey.

"God, help me to obey more so that I can see your will and walk it out. I want to serve you. Help my wants and desires to serve you as well. I love you, for you are who you are and you love me. Amen."

Monday, April 5, 2010

Searching Easter

On Easter morning, my niece was old enough to get into the Easter hype and wander about our small apartment in search of goodies hidden in a basket. My sister prepped her while my brother-in-law found the perfect spot.

"McKenna, count to ten and close your eyes. Then, you can look for your basket."

Stefan took two long strides across our living room and placed the basket on the bottom shelf of the bookcase, in good view of where a two-and-a-half-year-old can easily see.

"...seben, eight, nine, ten. Yay, candy. Oh boy." McKenna opened her eyes, left her seat and went in search of the hidden treasure. Now McKenna, being young and quite small for her size, didn't really understand the fun in the search. So immediately she began to worry. As tears welled up in her eyes, her arms went emphatically up then thrown down to her side and she began to say, "Ohhhh noooo. I can't find it." As she whimpered some more she became more worried. I can't imagine what she was thinking. I suppose she thought that she wouldn't find it, or that it really was lost.

Eventually, my sister calmed her biggest two-year-old fears. "McKenna, I'll help you." Melody pointed to each open space on the book shelf. "Is it here?" "No."

"Is it here?" "No."

"Is it here?"..."Yess!!" McKenna giggled with glee. She was so jubilant, I thought for sure she was going to fall over from the excitement.

She found her basket and was able to consume quite a few peanut butter filled eggs, which she shared with me.

But as I thought about it more, I realize that this parallels with another Easter story. In John 20, after Jesus has been dead for a few days, Mary searches for Jesus in the tomb and finds that he is missing. She begins to worry so much so about where he is that she can't even recognize his voice when he speaks to her outside the tomb.

"'Woman,' he said, 'why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?' Thinking he was the gardener, she said, 'Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.'" John 20:15.

But after a few more questions, she recognizes his voice and is startled to see him alive. Afterward, she runs to find the disciples and cries out, "I have seen the Lord."

We sometimes look for God in the places we are familiar with thinking, "I thought that I put him right here. Where is he? Where could he have gone?" But we don't realize that we left him on the bookshelf. When he calls to us, we cannot recognize his voice because we can't remember where we hid the treasure, that is his Word, in our hearts. We search and search, and worry and worry. But after he calls us for a while longer, pursuing us and calming our fears, we hear him and are amazed to see him in our situation, working in our lives. We rejoice in him.

He is here, working in your situation. He is not far or away. He is with you no matter the situation. It says in Deuteronomy 31:6, "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."

I encourage you to access this gift he has for you. If you feel close to him or far away, just ask him to come in a fill you with his peace and presence. Just pray, "Dear Jesus, I know you are here with me. I have searched for you in the wrong places, but I want you to show up and be in my life. I'm taking you off the shelf and inviting you in. Please be with me. Let me feel your presence."

Continue in the Word and search for God in the right place. I can guarantee you will start seeing God in everyday.

Friday, April 2, 2010


Thudddd. Thud. Thudd. Thud.

"Something is wrong with my car," I say as my front end sinks toward the pavement. I re-park my car to assess the situation. Just as I suspect. My left front tire is completely flat. I look at my cell phone. It's 7:35. I typically catch my bus at the transit station at 7:39. That's not going to happen.

Before I get into a tizzy as I would have in the past, I am reminded of this. "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." James 1:2-3.

I say a prayer, "God, for the first time, I'm going to trust you with this situation. You're going to work everything out, so I will not worry. No matter the cost, whether time or money, I will look to you for provision and grace."

I walk back inside. The warm air reminds me of summer and I begin to smile. I get inside and approach the side of my sister's bed.

"Melody, can you bring me to work?" I whisper.

"What's wrong? What happened? Did you miss your bus?" She answers with a start. She has always been concerned about the needs of others. This is why I admire her so much.

I explain calmly, "Well, my tire is flat. I'm not exactly sure what to do, but I do need to get to work. I'll call Triple A from my office."

Melody pulls on a jacket and grabs her keys. We survey the damage as we walk by. Melody comes up with a solution, "Stefan and I will take care of putting your spare on. Can you bring it to the shop today?"

I open the Google Calendar in my brain. I work my second job in the afternoon, but I think it will work out if I go on my break. I say, "I'll manage. It's just a blessing to have your help. Sorry about all this."

At about 10:30am Melody gives me an update. "Your tire looks like it's been slashed, but its probably just from ware."

I sigh. Thank God I wasn't on the highway when this happened. I could've died.

"Thanks Mel. You have no idea how blessed I am that you are doing this for me."

At the Louisiana Transit Center I'm re-united with my car. I look at it with great joy. "You look great with that spare on.” I’ve found that the more dents, rust and dirt I see on the outside of my car, the more I am unaware of my place in life because it doesn’t matter. I take care of this car, but I could care less if I drive a Geo Metro or a Jaguar. If my only mode of transportation was walking, I’d do it gladly. I am completely and undeservedly over blessed.

I get to Lifetime and my co-worker Steve helps me set up an appointment with Tires Plus. Now, when I first met Steve, I thought he was a bro. He was clean cut, wore vibrant shirts with excellent silk ties and seemed to be more fit than most. I completely misjudged him. As I get to know Steve, I realize how kind and sincere he is. His father was dying of kidney disease, so he donated one of his kidneys for his father to survive. He sometimes has pain from the operation, but he doesn’t complain. He’s in a relationship with a girl whose previous boyfriend died of kidney failure. He works hard, talks about having a family someday, being a great dad, giving time to good causes. Steve is an everyday superhero. He even took the time to make me an appointment with Tires Plus. God bless him.

I get to Tires Plus and I wait a long time before I see anyone with a Tires Plus nametag. I remain at peace. Other people have things going on that are more important than my tire. And I have another 20 minutes on this break. I look at the tires on the wall. The smell makes me giggle. My garage never smelled like this.

A young guy named Taylor pops through the door. “How can I help you?”

I explain the situation. He goes to my car, removes the tire and sends me on my way.

The following day, Taylor calls and says the tire was repaired. He can put it on during my break. It’s going to cost me like $20. “Yessssss,” I think.

I leave my cubicle to go to the gym. I get another call. “Joy, this is Taylor from Tires Plus. Say, about that tire we fixed. It actually had a huge gash in it that we didn’t catch earlier. I’m afraid we’re going to have to put a new one on.” He says it all quickly as if he was ripping off a band-aid waiting for the shouts. It’s going to cost more. This typically doesn’t make people very happy.

I answer, “Well, thanks for catching that. It could’ve been a bad situation if I drove off with the gash in the tire. I really appreciate you finding that.”

I get to the shop later that evening. The overcast sky keeps the April first air at a balmy 80 degrees. I’m completely content. I leave my keys with Taylor and walk across the street to Starbucks for an iced tea on the patio.

I walk back 20 minutes later to a fixed auto. Taylor prints off the work slip. He winces at the price. “It’s going to be…92 bucks.”

“It costs what it costs,” I say. “Thanks again for all your hard work.”

I get back to work within my break time.

Now, I think about how the whole situation went down. I got paid the day my tire blew out and I still was able to tithe and put 20 percent in my savings. The whole time I could’ve been worrying, but I was able to be kind to the people helping me. It feels like the Lord’s righteousness is becoming natural without any forethought. Instead of worrying about not sinning, I’m more concerned with working out my righteousness. It’s such a blessing to me. I even paid for the person behind me at McDonalds when I was in the drive through. (Don’t worry guys. I didn’t get a burger. I got a milkshake and I still weigh 155 lbs.) They waved. I was blessed.

I realize how great my life is. My God is great. I have awesome family, two great jobs and excellent friends. I am constantly reminded of what direction I am moving in, yet I am content with today, here and now.

For you, keep in the Word. Talk to God each moment of the day, even when it’s hard. Give to others and love them. His righteousness will take you by surprise. I guarantee you will be blessed.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Inside the Margin

I pulled on my pants yesterday morning. "Hmm...these are awfully loose," I thought.

I decided to add my belt. Accessorize it, yeah that will help. Since the beginning of March, my belt has been one hole tighter. But yesterday morning, it is went one more. My belt is in its tightest hole!

Now, you're asking questions. "Are you eating? Are you working out? Are you OK?"

My answer: "Margin."

Margin is the space you put in your life for what is necessary for you to live responsibly. It's the boundary that I never had and never wanted because I thought it would be boring. After hearing innumerable sermons about margin, I knew what the ministers were all getting at: discipline.

I decided in January to start living under these guidelines they were talking about, just try them out. I would tithe consistently, give my day the God, eat healthier, work out, spend less money on myself and more on others and save. If it didn't affect my life, I would go back to my old way of doing things, which caused me to stress and worry nearly everyday. If they were right, I’d find a life I always wanted.

So after two months, what do I have to show for it?

Before January:
Bible reading: Rarely, maybe once a week. I couldn't tell you that there were any promises in my life. I was worried, sad, tired and unsatisfied.
Tithing: When I remembered, and not always 10 percent.
Exercise: Never
I weighed 183 lbs. when I began working at Lifetime Fitness January 6, 2010.
Eating healthy: If you count lettuce and tomato on a California Burger: yes. But in reality: no.
Saving money: None
I had $75 in savings as of February 1, 2010 and just as much in my checking.
Entertainment: Twice a week, expensive, typically unsatisfying.

As of March 28:
Bible reading: Everyday, twice a day if possible. If I can have more time, I take it. I have peace and calm. And when things are stressful and causing me anxiety, I have a place to turn. Now I put my faith and hope in the Lord and not in the situations.
Tithing: Every check I get paid, the tithe is in the bucket at church. Do I miss the money? NO! I am way to blessed.
Exercise: Two to three times a week.
I weigh 155 lbs. Clothes do not fit, which is beautiful. Though, I'm not spending money on new ones...hmm...a new problem. Praying for divine alterations. I’m also starting to train in June for a 10K in September, something I never thought in a million years I would even want to do. I’ll talk about this more in future posts.
Eating healthy: I hit two areas of margin: finances and health. I spend $30 a week on fresh foods that I eat throughout the week. I have really planned meals of food I actually like and eat. I get the things I like, I leave the grazing alone, and the results are in. I have lost more than 15 pounds and have saved DOLLAZ by not buying lunch each day at work. I still eat out once in a while, but I don’t feel the need to eat out all the time as I did in the past. It’s a treat, not an expectation and I don’t feel ripped off.
Saving money: I have $440 in savings. Tomorrow I’ll get paid and add more. In two months I have more than tripled my savings. Who would’ve known?
Entertainment: It includes things I already enjoy. Spending time with girlfriends, staying in, making food, socializing with friends at the gym. I mean, if anything really is entertaining, it has to be from the inside out. You wouldn’t be satisfied even at the best party if you weren’t with the people you care about.

So my advice to you is this: You want to lose weight? Make a plan now and DO IT. You want to tithe? Take out your check book now and WRITE THE CHECK. You want to have peace and clarity about the future? Read the Word. Don’t make excuses. What have you got to lose? I guarantee that the moment you put margin or discipline into your life, you will see changes.

It’s just as Paul instructs in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

Run the race. Train correctly. Be rewarded.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Shower Songs

"Pick the drain of any hair," Leah said to me the first day of shower cleaning training at Lifetime Fitness. "Then, spray with water and wash away more hair. After that, spray with cleaner and scrub with a brush. Rinse. That's it."

She looked at me with a look that asked, "You got it? It's not rocket science."

I had it. Easy peasy.

At first, I saw the showers as a chore, which is my whole job I suppose as a cleaning lady. Scrubbing and spraying, spraying and scrubbing some more. But after a few weeks, I found it quite pleasing to work in the quiet and warm stalls. It was a place to think, a place to be alone, well almost alone. Typically one or two patrons of the gym would shower while I cleaned the open stalls.

In January, I found myself praying quietly each time I cleaned the showers. "God, please be with me. I know you're here." I'd bring my cares and concerns to him each time and he made it obvious that he was hearing me. Sometimes I'd pray with such intensity that I tear up and take a time out in the stalls so that patrons don't have to see the weepy-eyed shower cleaning lady. This hasn't really changed.

However, a few weeks ago, I decided I'd sing songs to God while I cleaned. I figured if someone was uncomfortable with me singing in the showers, the only place my voice is appropriate, then they would say something.

One particular night, I was singing bits of worship songs that I could remember. Typically transitioning quickly from one song to the next because I can only remember a verse or two of most songs sung at church. I began to feel this deep sense of loneliness, which was something I didn't really feel anymore on a daily basis whether I had been solitary for moments or hours. So I prayed, "God, you've been with me all day. Maybe it's me. Maybe my gaze is off of you. I don't want that. So please reveal to me that you are here with me."

(I have begun to realize that God is not far from us. We put walls between ourselves and him on our own. It's up to us to say, "I don't want to be far from you. I want to be close," and he comes.)

I felt in my heart God was saying, "Sing 'It is Well.'"

One of the only hymns that I can remember at least a few verses of is "It is Well."

If you're unfamiliar, it goes like this.

"When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
when sorrows like sea billows roll;
whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

It is well with my soul,
it is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
let this blest assurance control,
that Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
and hath shed his own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
the clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
the trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
even so, it is well with my soul."

So I sang the first verse and the verse about Jesus taking our sin, thinking all the while, "Is anyone else praising you, O God? I feel so alone on this road with you." I continued singing, but my voice began to falter. I was getting too choked up. I stopped after finishing the first verse once more. I listened in the silence. But a moment later a woman in the first stall picked up right where I left off singing, "It is well, with my soul. It is well, with my soul."

I began to cry.

God knew I needed that. He knew I needed someone else to confirm that I'm not alone in praising him while I'm at a health club.

Sometimes it's going to feel like you're alone as you press in closer to God; its how many of the saints and Jesus felt. I've been feeling this way lately, like I can't relate, so I stay quiet and listen to those around me, which is good and better. But I feel strange because I'm not concerned about little things I used to care about.

While I was reading yesterday, I felt great encouragement from a passage in one of the books. As AW Tozer wrote in an article in the Alliance Witness, compiled in the book Man: the Dwelling Place of God,

"...the lonely man of whom we speak is not a haughty man, nor is he a holier-than-thou, austere saint so bitterly satirized in popular literature. He is likely to feel that he is the least of all men and is sure to blame himself for his very loneliness. He wants to share his feelings with others and to open his heart to some like-minded soul who will understand him, but the spiritual climate around him does not encourage it, so he remains silent and tells his grief to God alone...[though he] is not the withdrawn man who hardens himself against human suffering and spends his days contemplating the heavens. Just the opposite is true. His loneliness makes him sympathetic to the approach of the brokenhearted and the fallen and the sin-bruised. Because he is detached from the world, he is all the more able to help it."

This is right where I'm at, disconnecting myself from this world and finding solace in it, while joyfully hoisting other's burdens over my shoulder to take it to the foot of the cross where they can feel peace.

So if you feel this way, or want to feel a joyful estrangement, I encourage you to seek the Lord. Just do it. The more you seek, the more you find. The more alone and different you become, the closer you will be to the creator, and that's the best place to be to be used.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Actively Patient: a Rewarding Struggle

Things are popping up for me. Instead of being a journalist in the conventional sense, God is calling me to something different. I am still very much a writer. But, he's telling me what he's been saying all along. I pushed it away saying, "God can't use me." The truth is, he's already using me for his good purposes. Here's the deal, I never thought I would work with women. But the more I wait for God's timing, the more he is teaching me to reach out to them.

As I waited for the Lord, he brought me to a place of complete submission. In that state, he's said, "Joy, go to seminary." You may think I'm crazy. Some days I think I am. I began filling out my application to Bethel Seminary a few weeks ago. I thought of all the things I needed to do; people I needed to network with; who needed to get reference forms to; What I need to do currently to be prepared for ministry, etc. All the details began to cloud my mind. Instead of fretting and whining, wondering what was next and not allowing God to make me feel content right here, I gave it over, which was very difficult. It took quite a few nights of weeping in my car, wrestling with God until I finally gave up. "God, I am nothing and can do nothing without you. Please take these things I feel I want to hold on to. Just use me." And I waited. No voices screamed in my head on this issue, but a calm presence saying, "Right here, just like this. This is what I ask of you. You get it."

Here's where it gets interesting. A week after I began filling out my application to Bethel Seminary, my pastor announced that our church was getting a deal with the school. Anyone who has been an attender for the past year can qualify for a 30 percent discount on tuition. 30 PERCENT! Now, if that isn't one sign of confirmation, I don't know what is. Then I was unsure about the letters of recommendation. Within the past week I was able to meet with the pastor's wife, not an easy meeting to get, she's a busy gal. She was excited to fill it out for me. I was also able to pass my church Elder form off to the only Elder I know pretty well. Now, all I have to do is get my last professional reference to my editor at the Star Tribune. Things fall into place when God allows them to.

And he's opening doors for other things, including modeling, something I'll write more on later if it pans out. For now, actively waiting.

So now it's a waiting game for seminary. I have been asked to be actively patient. I am called to wait on God while being content, but also knowing something exciting is coming up gets me revved up the next thing. Its a huge paradox. How do I let things just fall into place while serving and seeking and wait without looking too far ahead?

I'm a firm believer that today is all of the future that I am guaranteed. I could go to sleep tonight forever. I could be hit by a bus downtown. Sheesh, I could die right here at my computer. But tomorrow is something I have to plan for in the world. I can't sit back on my laurels when things begin falling into place. I have to seize the opportunities as God brings them. So that active patience is something I'm developing.

And as I process this, sometimes I get nervous. I feel myself beginning to worry. Prime example, at 10:15 am, I feel some anxiety inside. I know it's not coffee, I gave that away to a homeless guy this morning. So I took my break. Still feeling restless, I opened up my Bible and there it was, just staring at me.

2 Peter 3:8-9, "But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."

I'm not waiting on Him, well I am. But he's waiting patiently for me to come to Him, as it says in vs. 9, and admit that I can't do this and that He is in control.

So, now, as far as you know, I am contented though so much is in the works. I will continue to actively wait, knowing that this isn't a time to sit back, but to prepare. And if things don't work out the way I think they should, then that's exactly what's supposed to happen. I'll know things will work out how God wants them to be. And knowing that things aren't up to me takes a lot of pressure off me. Thanks God.