Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Thinking of what Moses said

I realize it's been a while since I have been on here and yes, I have a lot to report etc. but really this post is one of those that wants to leap from my brain onto this space and it has nothing to do with the day to day of my life. So, hopefully there will be later posts about my time in the states so far, the Passion Conference, life in general but for now it's a little something from Deuts (that is my little pet name for Deuteronomy)

I started reading back through the Old Testament again a few months ago and sometimes I get really bogged down in it. But as I started Deuts (yes I really call it that in my mind) I was thinking..."ok, so Moses is pretty much on the way out here. he's talked to God a bunch, his people are about to get their land of milk and honey, what will Moses talk to them about as he prepares to leave them for good?" And I am actually only into Chapter 10 of Deuts so i have a ways to go but so far I have noticed Moses just hammering home this one point over and over and over again...I mean it's crazy obvious...he's really wanting to make a point...this is serious...he's knocking on deaths door and can basically say what he thinks is most important.... Well he says essentially the same thing in a few different ways but as i read it I think, "oh my gosh, this is really important! Good call Moses! High Five!" (ok, maybe I wouldn't high five Moses).

Over and over and over again Moses essentially says "people! don't forget to remember and be careful!" Through chapters 4-10 Moses is kind of repetative...
Deuts 4:15-20 "Therefor watch yourselves very carefully, so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an not be enticed...
Deuts 4:23 "Be careful not to forget the covenant of the Lord your God that he made with you...
Deuts 5:32 "So be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left."
Deuts 6:6-9 "These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie doen and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates."
Deuts 6:12 "be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery"
Deuts 8:10-14 "When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord yor God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that i am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God"

DONT FORGET!!! Don't forget what the Lord did for you! Don't forget that he is more powerful than you can imagine. Don't forget that he brought you out of slavery! Don't forget that he really really is there and does rescue! Don't forget that all the good stuff you have is from HIM! Don't forget who he is and what he has done!

BE CAREFUL!!! Be careful about remembering all God has done. Make a point to remind yourself, your children, anyone that meets you! Be careful to listen to God and follow him! Be careful not to turn away even just a little bit

Why was Moses so emphatic? Why did he suggest crazy things like tying stuff to your forehead to remind you of something? It's because forgetting about the Lord, and turning away from him, and pride, and apathy are ABSOLUTE CERTAINTIES if we don't. It's not, "hey, maybe it'd be a good idea to write this stuff down b/c sometimes stupid people (of course not you but you know who i mean) will forget and get the God thing all wrong and wander off" but in fact it is a sure thing that WE (you and me) WILL FORGET. We will forget, we WILL be enticed, we WILL move the wrong way, we WILL become proud. It's just a fact. If you aren't careful, if you don't remember not to forget, you will forget, you will turn to the left or the's how humans are.

I sort of coast through life sometimes thinking "for goodness sakes, how could i forget? I am not an idiot. sure sure, God is super great, forgives sins, delivers me from slavery yeah yeah...I got it" And then i turn to the left or the right and suddenly I don't got it. And I wonder why! It's because that is what happens when you aren't careful, when you don't remind yourself who God is and who he has been in your life and where he has brought you from and where he has promised to bring you to. And again I find myself no different than these Israelites...forgetting to remember, and being "uncareful" with my relationship with God. It happened to people who followed God around as a pillar of fire...what makes me think it wouldn't happen to me as well.

That is why we are told over and over again to look at Jesus. To fix our eyes on Him as the author and perfecter of our faith. look at Christ, at the Lord and to walk that line moving forward, not left or right but directly towards the Truth of who he is, what he has done and what he has promised!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Just an update

I have realized that I put very little info on here about what is actually happening in my life. Partially it's because I saw an advertisement for a book about how to blog well and it was called "No one cares what you had for lunch" or something like that and i didn't want to be one of "those" people. but in honesty if you are reading this, you probably do have some interest in my personal life so i thought i'd just give an update

Things here are fine. I thought about leaving this post with just that comment...thought it might be kind of funny. but I digress. Life is carrying on as normal here. I am working on planning for the future (long term and short term) of our camps ministry. We are sort of at a crossroads with that and it's been a interesting path coming to that crossroad. We have been having so many organizational and philosophical meetings with our staff but it's been good to try and nail some of those things down.

We still have pretty warm weather...considering it's December and I am really thankful it hasn't been as cold as last year so far. I am just now starting to break out the hats and scarfs and heavy coats. Christmas season is here and there are lights and trees and little booths selling Christmas stuff all over the city. It's really beautiful but it seems strange to not have snow. but I am certainly not complaning about that!

One exciting thing is that I am coming to the states for a visit this winter! I will be home December 14th and am looking forward to Christmas with my parents, some good meals, driving a car (no, I still can't drive a stick), seeing good friends, and doing some shopping. I will also be at the Passion 07 conference so if you are there you should look for me! I will have some of my sweet Slovak girls that I love with me and I would love for you all to meet face to face with some of the reasons why I love Slovakia.

I have been working a lot to get ready to be in the states and to start thinking about this summer with camps and youth groups, and interns. It's so crazy to think so far ahead but there are so many details that I have to start thinking about next summer as soon as the current one ends. This weekend I will get to spend some time with some of my old students from Eastern Slovakia and I am looking forward to being with them and hearing about what is going on in their lives.

Not a very exciting update but just wanted to let you know that things are moving along, I am excited to be home for a while, and that I am still wanting to be on the path God has laid out. I am realizing that it's not about him necessarily showing us the final destination but about trusting him to show us one next step at a time. I spent some time this weekend really praying and one thing that God showed me was that it's not up to me. I can get mad at myself for being angry, or selfish, or jealous, or undisciplined, and then i decide I will just try harder to be those things. Which of course doesn't really work. God showed me that it's about him giving me those things...and not in a BAM NOW YOU ARE PATIENT! kind of way, but by giving me what I need in each moment. That it's about saying to God, "ok, I have no ability to be kind in this moment Lord. It's not in me. But you can and so I ask you to give me the patience I need right now". Maybe be a pretty obvious thing but I saw it in a really new way this weekend that was cool to see.

hope all is well for you out there. sorry I haven't been available much on email or here on this blog...sometimes it's just life!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

So that

Whenever I am reading my bible and I see little phrases like "so that" I sort of sit up and pay attention to what is coming next. I really like to know the "why" behind things. In fact I will actually argue against things I actually believe if the I don't agree with the "why" that is behind it. In an effort to prove the invalidity of the arguement/logic as opposed to disproving the concept. I am sure it's a pretty annoying character trait. But in actuality the "so that" behind a lot of things can totally change your perception on the topic.

When i first moved to Slovakia I didn't have any furniture so I went to IKEA and bought a whole bunch of stuff. Couch, bed, chair, coffee table etc. Well if you know IKEA you know that everything comes in a box and they give you all these cute little tools to use in order to put stuff together and the instructions have great drawings so you know not to shove this piece into that section because it simply doesn't go there. Well. I don't like to read instructions. I learn by DOING (that means I am a tactile learner). I think I get this from my dad. So the first few pieces I look at and think, "aw, this doesn't look so bad. this guy goes here and these little guys go over there. little glue here, few of those tiny nails there. piece of cake" and I hop to it thinking that IKEA should hire me to work for them since I have such a natural intuition for the assembly of modular furniture. BUT then I find myself halfway through things realizing "oh! I should have done that part 1st because now I can't reach the place where these little metal guys need to be" (there may be some swear words in the original version of that thought). So I have to go back and start over. No fun. Then I start to notice that the instructions TOLD me what to do first...SO THAT i wouldn't have these problems. Those clever Swedes at IKEA knew that this step had to come before this step. SO THAT the rest of it would go toegther right. Ah ha. Yes, I see. It's not arbitrary or random or just the way it was written because it was written my some man or something. There is a SO THAT. And by the way when the IKEA instructions tell you that something is a 2 man job, it's SO THAT the huge heavy closet you are putting together doesn't fall on you and crush you under it's weight.

Well, in the bible there are a lot of SO THATs. And sometimes I read the part before the SO THAT and I think, "wait a minute. that isn't fair, or that doesn't make sense, or what's the point of that?" and then I get to the SO THAT and I say "ohhh, now i get it, it's so that" In Exodus God allowed Moses to do some crazy stuff (like turning his staff into a snake) but it was SO THAT the people would believe God had appeared to Moses and gave him power. In Exodus Moses continues to ask Pharoah to release the Israelites from captivity and he gave Pharaoh a "so that". But Pharoah only heard the part about letting good help wander off. He refused to recognize that the point of letting them go was so that they could worship the Lord. And Pharoah paid for that mistake later. In 2 Chronicles God says that the his people will be held captive (ugh, what? that is so not fair!) but it's SO THAT they would learn what it meant to serve God versus serving other kings (oh, well, in that case it makes sense). In Daniel 11:35 it says that the wise will stumble but it's SO THAT they may be refined, and purified. These are the kinds of verses that remind me that sometimes things happen that feel not great at all. Hard things happen, sad things, unfair things, horrible things. But there is ALWAYS a "so that"...we don't always get told the "so that" but it's there.

There are other sections of "so thats" that tell us why we are here. And we are told over and over again that we are here for God. Exodus 9:16 says we are raised up so that the name of God would be proclaimed over the whole earth. Isaiah 49 says God will restore Israel so that His salvation would go to the ends of the earth. We are told we are here to bring God's light to the whole earth. Matthew 5:16 says we should let our light shine before men not so we look good but SO THAT God is glorified. Isaiah 61:3 says we are "oaks of righteousness" planted to display the Lord's splendor. 1 Peter encourages us to live good lives not for the sake of being good or so we will earn points with God but so that people around us will see how radical our lives are and give glory to God because of it. That ultimately everything we do is something done SO THAT it brings glory to God.

And this all brings me to the thoughts I was having this morning. Sometimes I want to be a "better person". I want to pray more or be with God more, or understand him more, connect with the deep sides of my relationship with God. But very often I want that SO THAT I will look better. or so that people will think I am some super Christian. Or so that I will be recognized by people I respect. or so that I will feel better about myself. But then I think about the blessings and the abilities and even the challenges that God gives us and I realize that the SO THATs have a lot more to do with the people around me than with myself. That it's about wanting the holy spirit and the life of Christ to be radical in me SO THAT it shows who God is to the people around me. In the same way that the moon is bright only because it is reflecting the sun, I want to shine because of the relection of the Son. Wanting to live a life marked by the signature of Jesus not because it impresses the Christians around me but SO THAT people realize that this kind of life is only possible with the power of Christ in me. Wanting to live for Christ not simply so I go to heaven when I die. But so that I am a part of doing His will on earth as in heaven.

My desire this morning is to be in a place where I want to shine. Where I want to be a city on a hill, a lamp on a lampstand, a voice in the wilderness...SO THAT my Father in Heaven is glorified. SO THAT I become less and He becomes more. SO THAT every tribe, tongue and nation can see that only He is worthy of all the glory and honor and praise.

My kitchen floor uncrashed my ipod

Just a thank you to my friend Niall who lives in Croatia who suggested I drop my ipod on the floor in an effort to fix it. I figured, the thing is broken anyway so what can it hurt to try a very unorthodox repair technique. I removed the pod from the protective case it's been in since I got it and dropped it right onto the wood floor in my kitchen. Picked it up...turned it on...and viola! worked like a charm.

I wonder if dropping it on the floor was the repair method apple was going to charge me $250 for...seems a little pricey.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A few things I read

my creative side has been a bit dry lately and I am at a bit of an emotional stalemate these days. But there are a few things I have read in the last few weeks that I wanted to share because I thought they were breautiful or brillant. Or both. I have one really special friend over here named Maruska. She is brillant and talented and one of the most amazing people I have ever met. She is actually a poet and wrote a book of poetry (She is Slovak so the book is too but she speaks English amazingly well). And she let me help her clean the English version of the poems up a little. And I was was reading them I just thought they were so great. I am not really good with poetry...being a very linear thinker poetry generally flies right over my head. I guess if you can't put it into a spreadsheet or outline it with bullet points i tend to miss the point. Anyway I read one of these poems this week and wanted to share it with you.

We were talking till late night.
Then you whished me sweet dreams
and sent angels to my room.
And You started writing a song
For the little birds under my window
and painting dew on the fragile leaves of the forget-me-nots
and baking bread for me.

And when I woke up in the morning
I realized
how great it is
to be friends
with God.

There is a writer who I really love named Brennan Manning. i have one book by him that I read over and over because I think it's amazing (The Signature of Jesus for any of you who are looking for something to rock your planet) and I was reading another one of his books (The Ragamuffin Gospel) and came across this quote which I thought was great.

"when i get honest, i admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and I get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer.

To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God's grace means. As Thomas Merton put it, "A saint is not someone who is good but who experiences the goodness of God.""

So I just thought I would share a few of the thoughts that have been crashing around my i head these days!

Training School

Hey out there! One of the big projects we work on here is a year long school for youth leaders. Leaders from different churches around Slovakia come to our training center every month for a full weekend of training, equipping and learning about different things happening in the country. Well this past weekend the training school for 2006 began and it was a great reminder to me of why I am here and why I believe so strongly in what we do. We spent 2 full days together learning about Systematic Theology, Bible Study methods, and talking about different issues with youth ministry in Slovakia. We were also able to meet together in smaller groups and talk about what was happening specifically in our lives. I really loved being around people who love students in Slovakia and want to see their church make a difference in their lives. It was a huge encouragement for me to spend some time with a few girls I knew when I lived in a different part of Slovakia and I will be spending more time with them in a mentoring role as well. Being a part of living life with the future of the churches in this country is an enormous honor and I felt so blessed to be a part of that weekend.

Other than that I have been spending a lot of time in my office working and trying to organize my camps project for 2007. It seems like that it's pretty far away but I still feel like I have a ton of planning and preparation and thoughts about process. I am still not feeling 100% like I really know how to do my job which is kind of frustrating at times. It's starting to get colder here but it's been really pretty. One of the greatest things about being here is how distinct all the seasons are. I feel like you get a REAL fall and a REAL spring (and unfortunately a real winter too!) but it's so nice right now. The leaves are changing and it smells like fall and the sky has been a bright beautiful blue. It's so nice. But yeah, I am dreading the snow which should be here in less than a month.

So that's pretty much my life right now...dressing in layers and hanging out in my office. I am looking forward to spending some time doing some more relational things back out in the city I used to live in. It's funny that I moved all the way over here just to travel out there but it makes sense organizationally and I so miss my girls there. I had some friendships that were really special to me and it will be nice for them to be more intentionally on my radar.

Sorry for the lack of posting lately...I will try and make up for it by posting a whole bunch today :)

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Jesus crashed my ipod

I have been pretty solidly connected to my ipod since my parents gave it to me for Christmas in 2005. And when I say connected what I really mean is obsessed. I dropped all my music (even the total garbage from 8th grade) onto my pod and have been happily downloading music ever since. I don't go anywhere without that's like my little white plastic friend.

But i have noticed something about my little white plastic friend. He helps me block out EVERYTHING around me...and in reality sometimes it's pretty blissful to block it all out. When I am afraid that someone at the bus stop will ask me a question I won't understand...there is the pod. When I can't turn off the 16 channels in my head...there is the pod. When I am frustrated with an issue or question or problem I can't solve...there is the pod. And over the last year I have been vaguely aware in the back of my head that often times I use my ipod as a defense mechanism which is admittedly not super healthy.

So a few days ago I was reading something about "practicing the presence of God". Which is a crazy thing if you start to think about it. Just deliberately, specifically thinking about and reminding yourself that God is HERE. Now. In this place. That all the internal thoughts and problems and tiny details are swirling around me and Him as we sit at my kitchen table. That His presence is ALWAYS present. And I started to pray, "ok God, I like that...I think I want more of that. I think I want your presense to be real to me, and something I think about and something I am aware of and something I cultivate in my life. So Lord, show me what that looks like. How in the heck do I practice just being with you" And then I left my little quiet time spot to brush my teeth and head to work.

Loaded up my backpack, got all my junk together and POPPED MY HEADPHONES INTO MY STUBBORN EARS. Admittedly I thought..."you know having all this noise injected into your brain 24/7 probably isn't really putting you on the road to experiencing God's presense." Then some super great song came on and the world was blocked out as was the voice of God and the voice of my heart and I headed off to work.

About 6 steps out of my flat the pod froze. The pod got reset. The pod displayed a sad face icon that told me to seek medical attention for it. I sought medical attention for it. I was told that the cost to repair my out of warranty white plastic friend would be nearly more than it would cost to buy a brand new one. Then my ipod and I both were displaying a sad face icon.

BUT here is the thing. I feel like this is an opportunity to practise the presense of God more often. An opportunity to stop blocking things out as a defense mechanism. I am not saying music is bad, or that I don't want a new ipod...but i am saying that that blocking out of all things had become something unhealthy in my life and I am thankful that I am being challenged to rethink my need for defense. So did Jesus really crash my ipod...maybe he did...or maybe he just gave me the grace to see the problem as a gift from him rather than just a wrench in my life.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


I am sitting at my kitchen table this morning in my 45 minutes before language lessons start trying to communicate with God. Since i am blogging you can see how well that is going. Often times in the morning i will think "oh cool, I will pray while I am getting ready" an attempt to "practice the presence of God" in all I do. But it last for about 6 seconds and then my brain is off on a rabbit trail and 30 minutes later i think "what the heck am i thinking about?"

This morning I was looking out the window and trying to figure out what I am thinking, how I am feeling, how to express that, what to bring to the Lord this morning and I am just blank. It feels to me a little like I have about 17 TV channels on in my head at the same time. One channel is the quiet time channel...soft music...nice's the main one I want to tune into right now. But then there are 16 others and most of them are WAY louder than the quiet time channel. There is the financial worry channel which is actually the one at full volume today. It's practically screaming "do you have any idea how little money you have!!!!?? How the heck are you gonna get more? What are you going to do when it runs out? How are you going to get people to contribute to all these things you need money for? YAAAAA!!!" and so on. Then there is the you're turning 30 this year channel and that one has been on for a while and most often I can ignore it but I get snatches of things like "bet you never thought this is what your life would look like at 30!" Then there is the organizational and structural chaos channel which has been on a lot lately and it says things like "what are you going to do about this? what are you going to do about that? how are you going to fix this problem? what are you going to say to your boss about that one?" that channel tends to play a lot of re-runs. then there is the condemnation channel which says things like "you suck at your job. you are letting your family down. why can't you get a "real" job. people only like you for what you do for them. you are alone"

there are more...believe me. but i won't write about them. I just know that I have about 17 TV channels on in my head right now and I really just want to have ONE. And intellectually I know that worry is unecessary and that God is in control and that i can't "fix" or manipulate anything and that I just need to trust Him. but the fact remains that I feel like i can't turn these other channels off these days. And some days I think "if one more channel comes on I am going to scream". and they keep turning on and keep getting louder and the nicer channels just get talked over by all the horrible ones.

more than likely I need to get some serious time alone and away from all the distractions that are around me and sincerely ask God to turn off all the channels but one. but there is a part of me that is scared to do that becaue I might not like what is on the quiet time channel. it might be hard to deal with, or it might bring up things about myself that I don't like or it might ask me to forgive or ask forgiveness from someone I don't want to deal with. so as much as i hate the noise i am scared of the silence. so for now I stare out the window and drink my coffee and listen to 17 channels in my head.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


I am going to date myself a bit with this...but some of you remember nintendo right? not all this crazy PS2, X-Box, 97 buttons on one controller stuff but the original nintendo...a button, b button, up, down, left right, the end. Ok. Remember when your nintendo would freak out and you couldn't get it to play the games? what did you do first? that is took out the game and blew into it. as if your saliva has some sort ability to solve electrical problems. then you blew into the nintendo itself and put the game back in to try again. and just as you starting to think everything was solved it did it again and you had to hit the RESET button (sometimes in the middle of a game which was a major bummer). I feel like sometimes God hits my reset button. There are times when something inside has gotten a little jumbled so God says, "hang on...let's just restart some things".

In the last few days a couple of things have tapped that reset button for me. I am not saying that everything is 100% in my heart or my head and the things that have been reset are sort of ongoing processes but it is nice to STOP and say, "oh yeah...I can't believe I wasn't thinking about that".

I have been reading the story of Abraham. The Father of the nation of Israel, he trusted God nearly unwaveringly, he was willing to give up what was most precious to him simply because God asked (an amazing illustration of trust). God makes some pretty crazy promises to Abraham...the craziest being that he will be the father of a nation with descendents too numerous to count. It was crazy because Abraham and his wife couldn't have kids, oh yeah and they were about 100 years old. I am sure Abraham was thinking "hmmm, I am not sure how this is going to work. maybe i misunderstood Him. maybe it was only a figure of speach. I mean we are OLD, how the heck are we going to have kids?!" But he chose to trust God's promise...even if it seemed far-fetched

Here is what happened in Genesis 18:10-14:
Then the LORD said, "I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son." Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, "After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?"

Then the LORD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh and say, 'Will I really have a child, now that I am old?' Is anything too hard for the LORD ? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son."

The thing that hit me in this passage was verse 14...IS ANYTHING TOO HARD FOR THE LORD?. I suppose I'd laugh too if this were my situation, so it's understandable that Sarah was a bit cynical about it. But I love this interchange between God and Abraham because God could have said, "gosh, I know this sounds really wild and sort of impossible but here is how it's going to work, so just hang in there and don't flip out or anything" but instead God says really simply the most obvious thing in the world and acts as if this HUGE impossibility is no more difficult than taking a anything too hard for the LORD? Huh...yeah...good call God. A 90 year old lady getting pregnant is a pretty crazy thing but for God it's a very simple thing. God isn't looking at my life saying, "oh man, I didn't know things would end up like that. how in the world are you going to solve that issue, how are you going to learn this lesson? Gosh, yeah you should start to panic." Nothing is too hard for the LORD. Wow. So when I am sitting around stewing over the difficult things here in Zilina, or in my personal life, or the relational stresses that can occupy my brain I have to ask myself...Is anything too hard for the LORD? Definitively NO.

This thought doesn't exactly "fix" my problems. I still have problems with work, or ministry, or my personal life. But it's a great comfort to know that none of those things are too hard for the LORD. They can be too hard for me. They can be too hard for my friends. They can be too hard for my leaders. But they aren't too hard for the LORD. So when I need help solving, understanding, or simply persevering it's amazing to know that there is nothing that is too hard for the LORD and that sometimes the answer is just to trust that and watch God do something that looks totally impossible.