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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Bigstuf What? Bigstuf Yeah!

I just got back from Bigstuf in Daytona Beach Florida with 127 AMAZING students, leaders, and people desiring to uninhibitedly worship Christ! Inspired by my friend Ryan, I've been thinking and processing through a top ten list from the week :

DANCING TO DAVID CROWDER : One of my favorite parts of the week was worshipping with my friend, Meredith. No judgement, no shoes, no questions : be free! DCB's 'I Saw the Light' provided some spontaneous dancing that I never knew I possessed : thankful for friends like Meredith and Mark who joined me for the ride!

UNINHIBITED WORSHIP : I think God is so pleased when we throw our hands in the air and dance and praise as if no one is watching. I experienced a whole new level of worship (let's see if I can arrange my thoughts) : our worship is to honor and glorify and praise our Creator. And when I closed my eyes in the arena, I found my mind wandering to the throne room of God and Him hearing our efforts to praise Him. It changed the way I worshipped. We don't sing to see how good we sound or so other people can see us : we praise to make His name great. It's a rare experience to worship with 3,500 other people.. but when you do, it gives you a greater sense of what it means and it fuels you for more. I connect so well through worshipping with music : I love screaming so loud in remembrance of what He's done for me!

ROOM 721 : My Bigstuf room was way better than yours!! I got the chance to spend the week with three FANTASTIC AMAZING girls. These girls laughed, questioned, prayed, listened, worshipped, soaked up what Jesus was telling them, and came away with a greater sense of how much He loves them. They BLEW ME AWAY with their DESIRE and willingness and commitment to probe and question and seek Him. I am so honored to play a small part in their walk towards Christ. Amber, Lundon, Emily : you bless me!

TWITTER WAR : Em, you totally had me beat. #mybigstufroomisbetterthanyours

MORNINGS : Spending the morning on the beach in prayer with corner. In Charlotte, I either spend my quiet times staring at my four walls or at the Starbucks patio at Piper Glen. But to wake up each morning and spend time with our Creator while looking at His creation : nothing short of amazing.

SAY LESS : This was huge for me this week. If you know me, you know I like to talk. I like to encourage, I like to ask questions, I like to get words flowing. And I don't think any of that is a bad thing.. but as I've been navigating through and growing more into a better version of myself rooted in Christ, I'm learning that GOD IS MIGHTY EVEN WHEN THERE ARE NO WORDS TO SAY. He is mighty in silence. That sometimes walking beside someone doesn't necessarily mean giving them words of advice. It's sitting with them and letting them know they aren't alone. I've been chewing that around in my head for a while and it feels refreshing. It feels free to let God work and to just let my presence be His presence. It's developing the skill of crafting words. It's a daily discipline and reminder, but it feels like a reminder that I don't have to do all the work. It's peace.

THURSDAY NIGHT : Students got the chance to sit on the beach and be silent with God and leaders got the chance to speak words of life into them. So amazing to get the chance to sit down and tell the students I love so dearly that 'God loves you. I love you. You are so loved! You have purpose! He died for you!!' When the noise dies down and the activity goes away and you are silent in His presence, His truths ring clear. It was a powerful experience to be an instrument of His love and to tell my girls truths that can change their lives. Humbled.

CLAP ATTACK : This game introduced by our friend Amber was contagious, addictive, and just the right antidote for mealtimes (holla to James for the best game face!!).

ALL OF THE LIGHTS : I'm always blown away by the power of community. It always get my hearts racing when I find out other people go through the same things I do. On the last night, we each got little finger lights and were told to raise them in the air if the answer to certain questions were yes. Have you ever questioned God : every light went up. Have you ever doubted yourself : every light up. Have you ever wanted to disconnect from someone : every light up. Have you ever felt lonely : every light up. I looked around, SOAKED IT IN, breathed a sigh of relief. Moments like that should always remind us that we're all in rooms full of thousands of Christians and we've all got finger lights and we've all got them in the air. Be refreshed : you're never alone! Soak up that community!! SERIOUSLY. Community pumps me up.

ALWAYS : I lift my eyes up, my help comes from the Lord. Oh my God, He will not delay : my refuge and strength always. I will not fear, His promise is true. My God will come through always, always. This song was my anthem for this year. I've seen these words come true.

This shouldn't be a top ten.. it should be a top 127. I felt so greatly loved and connected with every student, leader, and hamster on the trip. You all are amazing and through your words, actions, and desires, have drawn me closer to our Savior. I am so grateful for you! All. of. you.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Thinking Same Kind of Different as Me

First thought : Same Kind of Different as Me? What kind of title is that?

My thoughts now:

I think it'll take a few days for my brain to wrap its way around this story. It's one of LOVE, compassion, living as Christ called us, remembering the ones that society forgets, the power of Jesus Christ. My heart feels like someone gave it an Indian sunburn : this book is so moving.

It's amazing to me what can come from one person's faithfulness. One person's obedience. One person's passion. Debbie Hall had a vision, a call to care for the homeless in Dallas.. and this book is the fruit of what her faithfulness produced. The friendship between her husband Ron, a successful multimillionaire who buys and sells art to wealthy clients, and Denver, a homeless man who grew up in slavery and has lived on the streets for thirty plus years, is the fruit of what her faithfulness produced.

One of the best parts of Debbie, Ron, and Denver's story is that it reads exactly like that : a story being told. A journal being read. Lives being lived. When you finish and you step back and look at it as a whole and put all the pieces in place, your mouth hangs open and you marvel at what you've read. And it's all true!!

It's transformation, a love for the unloved, a belief that we're all the same.

One of my favorite parts was actually in the 'Where are They Now?' section at the end (so read that too!). Denver is asked about ministry opportunities that have come since the release of the book. And he answers, "I never dreamed I'd be on TV, radio, and visit many cities like New York City, Washington DC, and Chicago and speak to thousands of people on behalf of my brothers and sisters that are still on the streets. And I never dreamed I'd be able to give money back to those who took care of me for so many years. I just couldn't think that big!"



Think about the biggest thought you've ever had. Has it ever included saving a city? Has it ever included being a voice of love and compassion to those who have never heard it? Has it ever included doing something you laugh at now? If you're anything like me, your thoughts are riddled with worries and questions and movie quotes.

Oh but God : God thinks BIG. He thinks bigger than we could ever dare to think. We think the impossible.. and He thinks 'all things are possible.' We think there's no way.. and He thinks death on a cross. We think 'I could never do that'.. and He thinks 'but I've never left you.' We think we're not strong enough.. and He thinks 'well let Me do it.'

We can't think that big. Or minds and humanity aren't capable of it. We can't think of what we could do, where we could go, the difference we could make. But we have a God that can.

As I'm typing that, I think that's scary. Letting God think for me? How big can He think? What if He takes me somewhere I don't want to go? It can knock you back. But what I'm learning and what I think this writing teaches is that we can rest in His arms. That there is no safer place than to follow where He leads. That there are things that stretch us and challenge us, but ultimately those things should bring us to our knees. That there will be pain and loss and hurt and heartache, but that God has carried us through and our reward is so much greater. That in the end, we can see the bigger picture that He thought up the whole time.

I think about the things and events and situations in my life that I never could have foreseen the outcome. It makes me think about how God is good. He has delivered. He has carried me further than I imagined or ever thought possible. And when I think about the things that have only just tentatively begun and I can't tell and don't know where they're going, I can remember the character of God and where God has taken me before. I know He's thought this through. We don't know where we're going or what will be the end of what we start.. but oh we're called to be faithful.

After a life spent worrying about how different he was from people with homes, Denver finally realizes that we're all different. We're all different : you're the same kind of different as me. You and me and the people we see everyday (strangers and friends) are all different people with different stories, dreams, hopes, jobs, families. But the beauty of being different is the truth of how much that makes us the same. We're the same : children who are loved by our Creator. People who need each other as we walk the road God has laid out for us. Those are different roads, but they pass and connect and intersect and run parallel to each other. We see each other from our roads and wave hello and stop to chat and sometimes share a piece of road for a leg of the journey. We can help each other get to where our roads are going : to where God is leading : if only we know our roads start in the same place : on the cross Christ died on and the tomb He rose again from.

I'm praying that I cement that truth in my head whenever I encounter people. The people I love, the people that annoy me, the people I pass by without a second glance. I'm praying for the trust TO LET GOD THINK FOR ME.

Last thought : Same Kind of Different as me. Now that's a good title.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Campfires in Heaven

I want to do things that make a good story.

Why does that sentence make me so mad?

It drives me nuts. I hear people say over and over again how they want to tell a good story, how they are going on missions trips and going to church and being nice and they're making good choices and thinking positively.. and now their story is worth telling!! I'm guilty of it too and it's driving me crazy. Do we even know what makes a good story??

What happens when you do something bad or not so great or you make some mistakes? Does that not make your story good? What is a good story? Raising a family? Going to seminary? Helping the poor? Volunteering at church? It seems like we go down the line and point and say, "you.. what have you done? you volunteer at a hospital! that's a good story! what about you? you want to go to seminary? great story! you what?? you slept with your boyfriend before you were married!? that is NOT a good story! no one wants to tell your story."

I think we make the mistake of putting the emphasis on us. What have we done to make our stories good? We put ourselves in control of editing our lives. We stumble and fall and crash and burn in this life : life is hard. And then we get this feeling that we've got to do something good to make up for the parts where we fail. I feel it all the time. What makes my story good!?

My frustration started when I read Donald Miller's 'A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.' I know a lot of you loved it, but it just drove me crazy. Filmmakers come to his house to make a movie about his life and as they start to edit his life, he realizes he hasn't been living a good story. So he spends the rest of the book telling us about story while he gets the courage to talk to girls, bike across America, and start a nonprofit. And I see his point.. and it's a good one. He's saying we're wasting our lives and we need to start seeing them as stories. We need to get off our couches and start doing things that matter and that make our lives purposeful.

Right on!

But he stops there. I think there's so much more.

God has been pounding and pounding on my heart about story and I don't know what He's trying to tell me. Every time I think I've got something, I can't ever come to any peace. But I think we/I are missing something when we talk about our lives as stories. I think we should be all about living better stories, but not through the things we do. But through what's been done for us.

At the end of 'A Million Miles,' Miller imagines getting to heaven and telling God his story. He asks God if he remembers all the things he did and the people he met and all the different parts of his story. And then God reminds Miller of the parts he forgot, the parts that were his, God's, favorites. And then he puts his arms around Donald and says that he liked his story. And then they walk into heaven together.

And every time I read this, I wonder what were God's favorite parts? Will God like my story if I don't do all those things? What makes God like a story? How do I get him to like mine?

I imagine God's favorite parts are the ones where we humbly fall on our knees and ask for His forgiveness. I imagine they're the ones where we throw our hands in the air and dance and sing and praise and worship the loving Father that He is. I imagine His favorite parts are the times when we resemble His Son: when we love, care, serve, teach the people around us. I imagine they're the times when we turn our faces heavenward and make the choice to trust. When we soak in his majesty and sovereignty and power and compassion and love. When we heed His voice. When we are meek.

I think if we're being honest and if we've lived a life embracing the Gospel, our stories shouldn't make us look good. They should be stories full of Titus 3:3-7, how we were foolish and disobedient and led astray until the loving kindness of God appeared and He saved us. We were sinners and now we've been redeemed and we live stories now praising, honoring, and glorifying Him. Maybe we don't star in our own stories. If you're letting Christ have His way, then you're living a good story.

So now when we go down the line and reach the person who slept with their boyfriend or the person who was abused or the person who worked too much or the person who loved to swear, maybe we can ask 'have you let Christ redeem it? Now that's a good story!!'

My friend told me something once that really resonated with me. We're in heaven and we're all gathered around a campfire telling our stories. And when it gets to my turn, no one jeers at the bad parts or asks me to skip over them. Because God didn't scratch my story out and start over. He redeemed it. He rescued it. So the parts that we think are the worst and that make an awful story.. are actually the parts where God has shone. The parts where He has taken control. Your story is His story of how He rescues and redeems.
Don't take those parts out! Those are the best parts!

I'm not saying for you to go out and sin a little bit to make a good story. Not at all. But I am saying that the accomplishments we do, the recognition we get, and the achievements we receive don't necessarily make good stories. Adopting a child, going on a missions trip, and volunteering at your church are all GREAT stories. They really are. But maybe they don't define your story. Maybe they're all a part of what your bigger story is. Live a good story because Christ drives your story.

I believe that if filmmakers came to my house tomorrow and wanted to make a movie about my life, they would be bored to tears. I know they would complain about not having enough material to work with. But the mistakes I've made, the trials I've gone through, the redemption I've experienced, the transformation I've seen have all been so meaningful to me. I don't live a perfect story and sure there's plenty of shame in there.. but Christ has done my editing and I feel more and more like a new creation every day. Can you make a movie about that?

I don't know if the pounding on my heart will stop. But as I continue seeking, I want to stop saying 'I want to do things that make a good story.'

And start believing that Jesus wants to do things in my life that make a good story.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

More Like Christ

I love questions. Questions get me going, get me moving, get me thinking, growing, and learning. I was born with an inquisitive nature (and all my friends are nodding and saying 'wasn't she ever').

I'm not an off the cuff kind of person. When I want to figure something out in my mind, it usually takes me a few days to get to the bottom of what questions I need to know. Or when someone asks me something, I usually say the first thing that comes to my mind.. which is usually wrong and not thought through.

So I practice.

Sometimes when I have some time to think (long Huntersville car rides home), I practice asking myself questions (does anyone else do this? Just me?). In my fantasy question asking daydreams, I ask myself which celebrity I would be friends with (there's something about Jonathan Papelbon), what's my favorite food (still don't know), and who would play me in a movie about my life (Lucy from 7th Heaven). But on the serious side, it gives me time to process the moments, experiences, and relationships in my life and allows me to be disciplined to think before I respond.

This week's question: What is it that I appreciate about my friends the most? (In my head, someone has just said 'Lindsay, you sure do love the community you have. WHY??')

And I don't want to say just anything, do I?? So this week, I tossed the question around in my head a lot. I thought back to my community, times when I really needed them, what I admire most about them. I thought back to trials in my life, the push I needed that they always gave me.. and then it hit me instantly.


Redeeming Love is one of the best books I've ever read. Because it's about a man who never gave up on the woman he loved. There were times I wanted to jump in the pages, slap Michael Hosea, and say 'boy snap out of it! She doesn't love you!' But what I read, what Francine Rivers wrote, was a love like Christ. A love that went to a cross for us. When we pushed and rejected and pulled away, He kept on loving because He is love. His love is sacrifice.

His love is constant. Without ceasing. Faithful.

I think back to the times when I was Redeeming Love's Angel : a broken, lost, hateful, hurt child. I know the times when I was ugly, disobedient, selfish, unloving, impatient, unwilling. I think back to the times when my tongue did not reflect the glory of God and my heart was bitter. I was angry. I wasn't listening. I ran away. I wanted what I wanted.

And then I remember my Michael Hoseas : the people who kept showing up, arms outstretched, ears open. The people who embraced me and whispered 'us too, us too, us too.' The people who didn't laugh when I stumbled, didn't get impatient when I was stuck, and didn't complain when I took steps back. Over and over again, they did the same things, they said the same things, they loved the same way.

They kept chasing me.
They showed me Christ.
They were Christ.

I wish I could give examples and tell stories, but that would be too long and that's not the point. The point is that when I expected 'enough is enough! Get it through your hard head,' I instead got,
'I've been through that too.. here's what I clung to.'
'But you're redeemed, forgiven, it's forgotten!'

The point is.. I have an answer to my question and that answer is because my friends have been Christ. Our friends should refresh us, fill us with hope, help us exercise our faith, remind us of God's promises, remind us of what was done for us on that cross, and make us into humble, obedient, grateful followers of Christ. Every time we are with the people in our lives that matter, we should leave more filled up on Christ : more kind, more loving, more selfless. We should leave remembering that we're resurrected from death to life. We should leave more like Christ.

At the end of Redeeming Love, Angel/Sara realizes that she has seen this mysterious, loving, all powerful Father through the way Michael has loved her.

Who are your people?
Do they do that for you?
Do you do that for them?

Challenge : answer that question.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A Sixth Sense Wish

Dr. Malcolm Crowe looks at Cole Sear, who is just a little boy, and asks him to think about something he wants. Cole replies, "instead of something I want, can it be something I don't want?" Dr. Crowe agrees. And Cole immediately answers,

"I don't want to be scared anymore."

In the beginning of 'The Sixth Sense,' you know something isn't right with Cole. He's quiet and frail, almost like you could snap him in two. He talks about a secret he has and doesn't think anyone can help him. But as you keep watching and Cole's secret is revealed, he stops becoming this weird little kid and you start seeing him as someone living PARALYZED IN FEAR.

And the one thing he wants is to stop living in that fear. Dr. Crowe realizes that the only way to stop being afraid is to stop running away. To turn around and help them. To make the choice to not be afraid. To be set free.

Cole lives in the fantasy world of M. Night Shyamalan, dead people, and Bruce Willis. But I think his wish to not be scared anymore is something I resonate with. Who wants to live in fear?

We live with what seems to be so much uncertainty. We've got things that we're afraid of : can I afford school, will my house sell, will I ever find a husband who will embrace my weirdness, will I continue to live in good health, am I doing what God's called me to do, am I where God's called me to be? Fears and doubts and uncertainties can swirl and twirl around us that it's hard to see through the fog. Fear is such an impulsive reaction.

Sometimes I want to stand on a chair in the middle of a crowded room and scream Cole's wish : I DON'T WANT TO BE SCARED ANYMORE!! I don't want to run when I feel something scary, I don't want to cry when I think about facing something, I don't want to live paralyzed in fear!! And I imagine after screaming that with my hands in the air, the crowded room turns and looks at me.. and slowly start climbing on their chairs and yelling 'me too! me too!' And we're all joined together by the common thread that we're all not afraid anymore. Wouldn't that be amazing?

(I don't need a crowded room.. I've got this blog).

In reading through the Psalms, Chapter 32 verse 7 says, "You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance." I CLING to a God who is just that : a hiding place, a preserver, someone who envelops me in deliverance. Someone who sets me free. A God who says, "Lindsay, stop running. Loosen up! I saved you : I got you: I love you : Don't you remember?"

And from my view on top of my chair, I remember.

"Everything is safe which we commit to the Lord, and nothing is really safe that is not so committed." - AW Tozer