Thursday, June 30, 2011

Knocked Down: Transparency

This is part 4 of series about being spiritually knocked on my ass, and what a journey it has been thus far! A large part of what the Lord is showing me is that I am too closed, too judgemental, too self-protective. (is that even a word?) Some of the things that have been simultaneously the most challenging and the most rewarding have been the interactions from others based on what I have posted thus far. I guess that I knew it might start a dialogue- isn't that part of the point of a blog? But, what I did not expect was to still feel so exposed and vulnerable when this part of my journey is brought up in person.

Its funny that I did not see that coming- it makes sense that I would still feel the emotions about what I wrote when someone brings it up in person. Of course, I knew when I put all this on the internet that is was, well, on the internet, and that anyone could read it.(and all of my previous rants about facebook being public come back to haunt me) But I did not know what that meant, not really.  I am surprised that it is vulnerable for me to be present about my brokeness with the person in front of me. This is something that until now I have only done with a few people- people that have worked the hardest to understand me, people that I was certain would accept my mess.

Many of you have commented on my courage in posting about this particular spiritual journey, and I am very thankful for the feedback and encouragement. I think that I expected that only those whom I have previously shared this type of honesty would respond. Instead, I am walking through interactions and responses that feel risky to me. I am not certain how people are responding to what I have shared, or if my mess is safe with them, but there we are, having the conversation anyway. I am learning that I can trust more people than I thought. I am learning to trust that I am welcome with the Lord, and that He will take care of me. I think that this opening to a wider range of people is exactly what the Lord was after. I am enjoying the new conversations, new connections, and getting to hear, in turn, about the journey of others. I am enjoying this wider, fuller view of Church.  Please bear with me as I continue to toddle through this new thing the Lord is teaching me.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Why "Rowdy" Worship Is Apporpriate

Several years ago, I was at the wedding of one of my dearest friends and I was so happy that all I could do was grin from ear to ear and dance. I was so joyful that the only truly appropriate and satisfying outlet was dancing.

I am actually in both of these, can you find me?

Dani and Jon danced. Don't they just look so happy?

Frank and Betsy Broke it down, and they weren't the only ones.

In contrast, I stand at the back of youth group and wonder about the dancing and the fast-paced songs. What is the jumping really all about? Teenagers tend to do things in groups, so is it just because it is what everyone is doing? Are we really honoring God with jumping and yelling and clapping and laughing?  That voice is answered by another, I wish that I had the freedom to jump- somehow it seems right. I feel like dancing, but I can't seem to get my body to move that way. I really know and respect that young woman's spiritual life and there she is, jumping up and down and waiving her hands in the air- why should that be strange to me?

Why is it that I can dance at a wedding, but not at church? Yesterday I got a glimer of an answer to that question. I was listening to this song on the way to church, and it was such a great call to worship. Seriously, listen to it, I know that it is another 3 minutes of your time, but I promise it is worth it. The rythyms are intertwined with lyrics about Christ marrying the church, redeeming us as lovers (love- ED lovers, who respond to a perfect love, not those who love first) and then tied in again with the second coming, salvation, evangelism, and communion. I could not help but go into church ready to lift my voice, broken and sinful because I do have hope. How could I not have hope when there is such love in the world? How could I not dance? How could I not take the up and the bread and wine? How could I not participate, honor, and celebrate with other worshipers when this call rings with my Spirit? It has been a long time since I have felt the call to dance and celebrate in worship in such clear theological terms.

"So lift your voice just one more time
If there’s any hope may it be a sign
That everything was made to shine
Despite what you can see"

My skeptical, self-protective heart does not easily engage in worship in song, let alone dance. And here is a clear, compelling truth saying "lift your voice, Sarah, if there is any hope that may be a sign that everything was made to shine despite what we can see." Here is an acknowledgement that Love in its smallest form births hope, that even in the hardest of hearts, and in the smallest amounts, it is a reason to sing and dance. Such a God is well-met by drums, shouts, yawps, and intruments. Such a God is well-met by teenagers jumping, yelling, and dancing because they see something about God that I have missed.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Knocked Down: A Response, Galations 3, And A Few Glimers of Redemption

This post is part 3 of a series about having the wind knocked out of me by the Lord.  Biggest. Understatement. Ever. For the beginning of the story click here, and for part 2, click here.

I am haunted by J.R.’s statement that most of the time it is best to lean into what God is doing in our lives right now and the opportunities that He has brought and trust that out of that He will bring what He will. God has a very ambitious and crazy goal- to save humanity and the path to that goal was self-sacrifice and, ultimately, death and that somehow that brought life. If our God walked such a path, how can we expect to walk a different one?

I need to lay down my pride, but that is the heart of the matter, is it not? The catch 22 in this situation is that I can’t lay down my pride and I can’t really wrestle with this truth because it is counter to my ambitious nature and my pride.

But I am not questioning my call, in the midst of all that, there is one thing that remains pure, and I am so encouraged by that. I am encouraged by the very clear call of the Spirit on my life to work with youth and academics. I am so encouraged by the core of the things that You have given me and that don’t change, even with my sin. And there is sin here. I think that is part of why I am so uncomfortable: I am uneasy having my sin exposed and my motives laid bare. I am uneasy knowing that I have sinned and that it is not in the least hidden- not from You eyes and not from the eyes of others. I am laid bare in my pride. My pride at doing what You have called my to do- Oh foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched me, indeed?

When did this sin creep in? And where did my heart grab onto it? And why does it hurt? But it does. It hurts to know that I have left the keeper of my heart and soul and walked somewhere that He has not intended me to, that I have taken His good gifts and used them for my own gain, and used them to get fame for myself and not the Famous One. Here is my sin, and here is my angst, and here is my failing. I have failed in this.

How do I lean into what You have given me when I have marred it? But there is Your grace again, burning bridges and welcoming me with every start, pulling out a chair and saying “sit and eat my meat.” I do have mixed motives, I want glory and fame, but here You are, with your Spirit, pointing out my motives and gently, firmly asking me to lay it down and walk that path in front of me with humility. Feed my lambs, Sarah. Do you love me? Then feed my lambs.

Here is your grace, purifying me. It sucks, and I am grateful.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Knocked Down: Ambition

In my last post I mentioned dinner with the Rozkos and Annie. During this dinner, J.R. asked a very Spirit-inspired question: Am I able to discern the difference between holy ambition and ambition for personal gain. No. I am not. I am not able to do that at all. I am not even sure that I intellectually know the difference. It is easier to see the difference when I am in a situation, but still fuzzy most of the time. 

The thing that I find the most challenging in this is that my motives are mixed all of the time. I would like to be in a situation, know that it is all holy ambition or ambition for personal gain and then be able to reject the unhealthy ambition, pull myself out of the situation, submit it to the Lord, or in some other way take appropriate action. But it is not that simple.I have so much pride in me. Even now as I type this, I am writing for you, my audience. I want to know what you will think. Do you find me witty? Entertaining? smart? helpful? an expert in my subject? And I can see that this is exactly what the Spirit was after in that comment, but I can’t let it go. I want this. I want it badly. I want it so badly that at times I feel blinded to all other things. It is a good and noble and worthwhile goal – to serve those in youth ministry and to help impact the way that people do youth ministry. But even that sounds prideful. That is prideful.

Each situation is so muddled. I want to do something both because it is my calling, because it is serving the Lord, because it glorifies Him to use my gifts, AND because it comes with the spotlight, because I have a goal that I want to pursue, and because it feeds the people-pleasing, fame-seeking part of me. I cannot just throw my motives out of the window or withdraw from the task at hand.

Instead I am left to sift through the internal mess. What is the difference between these ambitions? I do think there is such a thing as godly ambition. All kinds of things that come from God are gutsy- when was the last time God balked at say, reaching people from every tribe and nation, or saving the souls of humans, or at defeating Satan, or at creating a universe? How many men and women have been lead into incredibly ambitious tasks? It seems in line with asking us to cultivate our talents and spiritual gifts, and with participating in God's actions in the world. I think that I have godly ambitions, they are just intertwined with ungodly ones so that any given task or opportunity comes from both places in me. I have no idea how God is going to redeem this in me, but I know that He will. Oh, will He! About this, I have no doubts. This sin and mixing of motives was brought to the surface for one reason- to take care of it. It's the process that is a bear.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Knocked Down

Two things have knocked me on my ass this week: a personal psalm by my friend Sam and dinner with the Rozkos. Sam is a long-time friend of mine who shared a modern psalm on Sunday. It was incredibly moving to watch him read what he had written and bring it before the Lord and our church. The psalm was vulnerable, honest, gritty, moving, and very much a suprise to me. I did not expect to be so moved by his story, his cry to the Lord. But I am, and I am having a hard time facing that internally. His vulerability before our church and before the Lord are quite a challenge- that is church, and he did it well. I feel unequal to the task. Sharing like he did means that I have to let people into my crap and there is a very real possibility that I will be rejected, and, it feels,  rightfully so. It means that I have to fully bring myself before others and risk their suprise at my inner world. That means also that I have to let go of my dreams of being a famous youth minsitry thinker.

That is where dinner with the Rozkos comes in. In order to better start out on the road to becomming a famous youth ministry thinker, I met with two people from Life on the Vine that are mutual friends with Annie. I am terrible at seeing the first few steps to any very long journey, especially if they are at all practical. I wanted help thinking through changes I can make in my life now that will set me up for success later. That was the conversation I expected to have over dinner. I came out with a very different set of steps to take: almost all of which were internal and corrective. Corrective is putting it midly. The Spirit was there at Noodles and Company, cutting into the crap that lives in my soul, exposing it in great detail. I am ambitious, and not in a way that honors the Lord or serves others. I am insecure. I am egotistical. The Rozkos did not say these things, Annie did not, and I did not, but the Spirit laid them bare in me.

I hate them. They drive me crazy because they are ugly and do not honor the Lord or love others. I would like to tell you that I am submitting to the Lord in this and letting Him work it out in me, but that is not the case. I am holding onto these ugly things in me with all my might. I feel entitled to my ambition. I feel capable of affecting the change I want to see. I feel stubborn. And I can see that feeling these things is not really okay and not really what I want in the long run. I can see that I am facing off with God, and that I am going to loose. And yet, here I am, at the line anyway. I wish that I could say I am happy about it, and I wish that I could say that I am learning and growing and how glorious that is. But I can't at the moment, I am just on my ass. I feel like this guy.

Don't Forget The Lime

I enjoy cooking. Lately I have stumbled across several recipes that work well, and one that was an epic fail. So, I thought that I would share them with you. Aren't you glad? Try them and let me know which one is your favorite.

Gwennth Paltrow's Healthy Fried Rice and Kale

1 lb kale, stems discarded
1 ½ tbsp vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and very finely chopped
3 large spring onions, cut into 3mm diagonal slices
175g brown rice, cooked
1 ½ tbsp soy sauce

1. Cut the kale leaves in half lengthways, and then cut crossways into very thin ribbons (chiffonade). Steam the kale for seven minutes.
2. Meanwhile, heat the vegetable oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for two minutes, being careful not to brown the garlic. Raise the heat to medium and add the steamed kale and spring onions. Cook for two minutes and then add the rice and cook for another two minutes, stirring.
3. Add the soy sauce and cook for 30 seconds more.

My delightful roommate loves all things Gwennth and recently bought her cookbook. It is very good and really easy to make. Did you know there are two types of Kale? I didn't. But I learned on this helpful you tube video about both types and about how to steam them. Handy. I made this with curly kale, but I hazard a guess Gwennth meant flat kale. If you use the curly kale, it needs to steam for more like 15 minutes. Try this, you will not be disappointed, it is super easy and really good for you. I ate it as a meal or 3, but she lists it as a side.

Fish Tacos

4-6 Fish fillets. I used tilapia, which is my go-to these days.
1 bell pepper
1 can corn
1 can black beans
1 jar mango salsa. I used Frontera Mango and Key Lime- I highly recommend it. I got it at Jewel.
1-2 limes

1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt 

1. Chop bell pepper and mix with salsa, corn, and black beans. set aside.
2. Coat the fish with the above seasoning. The recipe I found called for butter, but I think olive oil works just fine as well. I also found that I ran out of seasoning about 3/4 of the way through and had to make more.
3. In a very hot skillet saute coated fish 3-4 minutes on first side and 2-3 minutes on second side until fish flakes apart with a fork.
4. Remove fish from heat set aside to cool. 8 minutes (ish)
5. Assemble and enjoy. Seriously, don't forget the lime. That is the best part. Just squeeze it over everything before you eat. I also added a little shredded cheese, because this is one of my favorite foods.

Enjoy and happy eating!

The epic fail was chicken coated in corn flakes. It looked so crunchy and good, but, alas, it was awful. It does not stay crunchy, the corn flakes don't stick to the chicken after the first 20 minutes, and the marinade (buttermilk, garlic and thyme) was super overpowering. Just trust me, don't do it, my friends. Don't coat your chicken in corn flakes no matter how crunchy and satisfying it might look. You will be left with chicken that you don't want to eat, but can't waste. And THEN what are you going to do? Sigh. I am still not sure. Any ideas?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Feeding My Inner Nerd

Today I caught myself walking across campus with a huge grin on my face, nose burried in a book. I have become one of those people who were so befuddling to me in undergrad - openly grinning from ear to ear while reading what might appear to be a dry, purely academic work. This particular book is academic, but that does not make it dry. Academics that are well-done do affect daily life. Yes, I love this book and I have not even started reading it yet. A Faith of Their Own, like Almost Christian, came out of the research done by a National Study for Youth and Religion. So, I know it is reliable, based on careful research, and that it will dig deeply into some of the newest insights on the religious lives of teenagers. I am excited to read it!

I have been trying for the last few months to get through several youth ministry books: The Godbearing Life and Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry. I am learning that even though I am no longer in school, that I need to keep up a steady diet of intellectual stimulation. Andrew Root's book was very challenging- he pushed my understanding of incarnational youth ministry to the breaking point. He uses diagrams (always a way to my heart) and draws on the works of Dietrich Bonhoeffer as a theological foundation for relational youth ministry. The books itself is very dense. But even that was not enough. I find myself wanting to take on a project.

The National Study of Youth and Religion's recent research has proved fruitful for many, and is causing people in colleges and universities across the country to reexamine their thoughts on the best ways to practice youth minsitry in light of what we are learning about the religious lives of adolescents in America. I think that I am assigning myself a large-scale research project: sort through this research and attempt to condense it into something user-friendly for youth workers. I love a good homework assignment- break out the white board!