Missing these faces

Really missing my Gathering Georgetown students today, so I thought I’d share some of my favorite moments from this past school year!

I love you guys!

Dear Gathering Georgetown

Dear Gathering Georgetown,

All weekend freshmen have been moving in on the Hilltop. They’ve arrived with all of the exuberance, dreams, and ambitions that they’ve been storing throughout their high school years. Their parents’ cars and their luggage has probably clogged the roadways and the hallways alike. They’re likely really excited and quite loud. They, with almost certainty, have no idea where the Esplanade or Bulldog Alley are located. I’m sure you’ve seen them and perhaps been annoyed by them. Please befriend them! Please come alongside them and love them. Please remember your freshman year struggles and your desire for community. They need upperclassmen to befriend them, show them the ropes, patiently answer their questions, and mentor them.

This morning the Protestant community came together for their annual Protestant Worship Service, and I heard via @jonathandrice that it was packed!

You have no idea what that news did to my heart. It reminded me that there are freshmen on campus now who I won’t get to sit down with over coffee this year. It reminded me that I’m missing my first Welcome Week on a college campus in five years. And it reminded me that The Gathering Georgetown kick off service is happening in just THREE days on the Leavey Esplanade and I won’t be there. I have to admit that I’m a little heartbroken over all of these facts, but I am thrilled that YOU are there and that your impact there will lead to more followers of Christ on Georgetown’s campus! Continue reading

What Do You Treasure? On Deception, the Heart, and Ministry

Before I entered full-time ministry, it truly was not a struggle to spend time with the Lord daily. That sounds crazy, I know, but it’s true. Even when I was working crazy hours on Capitol Hill and volunteering part-time with The Gathering, I still reached for my Bible and gave it my full attention at least once a day. I rarely missed a day. But this season has been different. Full-time vocational ministry is full of daily struggles and victories and is more spiritually challenging than anything I have experienced before. This dichotomy pushes me to spend time in the Word every day and to be more like Christ, so that I can be a more effective minister of the Gospel.

However, I often struggle to balance investing in others while also investing in myself and my own spiritual life. I also struggle to delegate and equip others rather than just doing everything myself and in my own power. Now, all too often, I am distracted by yet another need or task and have to remind myself frequently that I need to put my time with the Lord before everything else. He must be my first priority! My two years in vocational ministry have taught me that ministry absolutely must be driven by the overflow of Christ in my heart. If ministry is driven by my will, rather than by my love for Him, it is meaningless. Likewise, I have also learned that my passion for ministry must be exceeded by my passion for Christ Himself. Jesus is not only my motivation; He is my treasure.

Just as the man who found the treasure hidden in a field in Matthew 13 and sold everything he had to buy the field, I want to live my life in passionate pursuit of Christ, regardless of the cost.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”
(Matthew 13:44-46 ESV)

While these verses reference the kingdom of God, the Lord has used them recently to show me much about my own heart. It is so easy to think that just because I’m pouring out my life in ministry, that Christ Himself is my treasure. When you sacrifice much for ministry, it’s easy to point to your clear prioritization of people as prioritization of the Lord Himself. Unfortunately, I’ve found that in the midst of rushing around to accomplish things and do ministry, it is simple to begin to treasure the ministry above Christ.

It’s a slow transformation.  One day you wake up and realize that your identity is completely wrapped up in your ministry – how successful you are, the ministry’s growth, and even how your leaders are doing spiritually themselves. Jeremiah 17:9 says “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

I’m thankful for the discipline of the Lord. I’m so grateful that He is willing to pursue and recapture my heart and redirect my attention back to Himself. I’m thankful that He is a jealous God and that He will not allow my heart to be satisfied outside of Himself. Don’t allow ministry, even great ministry, to replace Christ’s position in your heart. He, and He alone, is your treasure. Cherish your people. Treasure your God. Don’t allow the lines to be blurred. 

Together for the Gospel 2012

I highly recommend that you head over to www.t4g.org to listen to all of the main sessions from #T4G2012. The theme was The Underestimated Gospel and the messages were AMAZING! I’m still working my way through all of them, but based on what I’ve seen from Twitter and heard from Josh, you will not be disappointed.

Let me know what you think! I’ll be posting more of my thoughts as I am able to get through each sermon, so check back soon!

Jim Newheiser – “Why (and How) I Get Up on Monday Mornings”

It’s always good to start your Monday morning with a good, gospel-centered article on why and how you should face another potentially grueling week of ministry. This article was really encouraging to me this morning and I hope it will encourage you as well!

Here’s an excerpt of what Jim had to say:

“So, when Monday morning rolls around, I may initially groan about my physical and even my spiritual weakness, but I will get out of bed anticipating what God will do for His own glory through His Word in the lives of our counselees and trainees. Time and time again, I have been amazed to see Him use my “weakest” state and seemingly ‘foolish’ choice of days to confound me and my counselees with the glories of powerful gospel change.”

If you are interested in reading further on counseling or need counseling resources, I highly recommend that you check out The Biblical Counseling Coalition’s blog. Another great counseling resource is Biblical Counseling for Women.

Join the Conversation

When you’re exhausted, what motivates and empowers you for ministry?

How do you begin your week?

Leave a comment – I’d love to hear from you!

Dear World Georgetown

The photo project Dear World comes to Georgetown every year and here is the link to the photo album they’ve created:

Dear World Georgetown 2012

If you are not familiar with this project, essentially it promotes freedom of speech and allows students to be photographed with whatever they want written on their arms, legs, hands, faces, etc.

Here’s what they say about their work: “Robert X. Fogarty founded Dear World, a photo project that unites people through pictures in his distinct message-on-skin style. It began as Dear New Orleans, a photographic love note to the city. Before launching Dear World, Fogarty noticed that the simple portraits could be a vehicle for shared communication regardless of race, religion or language.”

As I looked through this album this week while I was stuck at home because I was sick, I was moved to pray. Most students’ messages are humanistic (“I can, through my own strength”), while others focus on love (“love conquers all, love one another”). My heart for them is that they will come to know their all-powerful Creator, and live through His strength and love.

I just wanted to share this with you all do that you can pray with me – that the Gospel will illuminate the hearts of Georgetown’s students and that Christ will be exalted on the Hilltop.

A Desire to be Comfortable and the Call to Suffering

This past week has been one of the best weeks I’ve had with the Lord in a long while. You know how sometimes you are so stuck in yourself and your situation that you can’t see clearly where the Lord is taking you? All too often that is the state of my heart. I allow my heart to get caught up in all of the “what ifs” and “I can’ts.” Maybe it’s just me that’s this hardhearted, forgetful, and stubborn, but I’m so thankful that the Lord is willing to continue to speak to my heart and reinforce His message everywhere I turn. After going through a season of confusion and doubt, I can often see proof that the Lord’s been working on my heart for a long while but I haven’t had ears to hear or eyes to see what the Lord has been working to reveal.

I often identify with Jesus’ apostle Peter. This is the guy who Jesus referred to as “a rock” in Matthew 16:18, but who though he was willing to get out of a boat and walk on water to Jesus, eventually faltered as he took his eyes off of Jesus to look at the situation surrounding him. The cool part of these stories to me is that Jesus didn’t call Peter a rock and say He would use him to build His Church BEFORE He saw all of Peter’s weaknesses in Matthew 14. No, Jesus’ statement about Peter came in Matthew 16, even after he faltered on the water. Jesus knows our weaknesses. He knows my heart’s tendency to wander. He knows my tendency to take my eyes off of Him. He knows of my desire to stay safe and dry in the boat. And He still wants to use me.

I had a startling revelation on Monday. I was watching C.J. Mahaney’s T4G2012 talk “The Sustaining Power of The Gospel,” and the Lord made so many different things click into place in my heart. I realized that all of the confusion I’ve been feeling lately is a direct result of unbelief that has taken up residence in my heart. Like the Israelites of old, I’ve made myself comfortable with where I am and I’ve become unwilling to venture out, even in response to God’s call. I’ve forgotten the perfection of God’s provision. I’ve convinced myself that suffering isn’t inevitable and that security lies exactly where I am right now. I’ve let fear of the future and the failures of the past convince me that God isn’t faithful. Me, the girl whose favorite attribute of God is His faithfulness. I took my eyes off of Him and didn’t even want to venture out. I desired comfort more than I desired Christ.

Mahaney’s talk was phenomenal. If you are in ministry, you MUST listen to it. If you’re close to giving up, you MUST listen to it. If you need to remember His faithfulness, you MUST listen to it. If you need an eternal perspective, you MUST listen to it. The entire sermon was phenomenal but his second point was the one that penetrated my heart – the Apostle Paul understood that the context and condition of Christian ministry is suffering. His text was 2 Corinthians 4:1-18, and he referenced verses 7-12 as he stated that “the proclamation of the gospel, by definition, involves persecution, suffering, trials, afflictions, bewilderment, being struck down, etc.”

And this sentence is the one that changed everything: “You need to have this theology of suffering in place, before you experience these things, or you will be blindsided.”

It’s not supposed to be easy. Life isn’t easy, just as marriage isn’t easy (see Marriage is Nothing Like a Hallmark Card). We’re not called to the American dream. And God made it this way on purpose. Despite my desire to be safe, secure, and comfortable, God is calling me to suffer. And what makes it all worthwhile is that “these realities have a divine design. They are purposeful. Each of these times of hardship is an opportunity to show His power… when [others] watch you in suffering, they want to see if the Gospel makes a difference.” He is developing our character, building our witness, and bringing Himself glory.

It is the grace of God that enables us to follow His call. His Spirit can penetrate even the hardest of hearts, strengthen the weakest of knees, and illuminate the darkest of paths. This week I’ve been encouraged by Paul’s theology of suffering, his expectations of ministry, and by his eternal perspective that is captured for us in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18: “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

Take heart today! Be willing to step out in faith to follow God’s calling on your life. Our current (or future) suffering, when compared with future glory, is completely worth whatever hardships may come our way. The Apostle Paul even goes so far as to say that there is no comparison with the eternal glory that will come as our reward!

Lectures to My Students, by Charles Spurgeon

I haven’t had the chance to read Spurgeon’s Lectures to My Students, but it comes highly recommended by many pastors and seminarians that I know!

And it’s FREE online! You can download four PDFs here!

If you get the chance, download them to your Kindle, your iPhone, or just read them online! And let me know what you think!

Initial Thoughts on Marriage

I know that I haven’t been married all that long and that I probably don’t have the right to starting writing about marriage until after I’ve been married for more than a month. So take everything I say with a grain of salt and if you prefer, you can wait for my 20 year anniversary in 2031 to begin believing me. All of that aside, I think it’s important to capture some initial thoughts in these first few weeks.

Marriage is, in just one word, incredible. It’s not at all about butterflies and rainbows, or even the “oneness” experience that many people described it to us as, nor is it the extremely difficult transition that the other half of couples described. So far it’s quite ordinary and normal in the sense that we already know each other so well that there have been only nominal disagreements and surprises. That’s not to say that eventually disagreements and surprises won’t come, but there’s definitely the sense that because we have been such good friends for such a long time, we already know one another’s pet peeves, likes, dislikes, and preferences.

That’s not to say that loving him is without difficulty. He tends to not hear me when he’s reading Twitter or watching Sports Center and he also annoyingly tends to leave dishes in the sink instead of putting them straight into the dishwasher. But I step on the shower mat soaking wet instead of dripping off in the shower, so I guess I probably annoy him too.

I think what we discovered during our honeymoon was that the oneness described by all of our counselors and friends isn’t something that wedding vows or living together automatically create; instead, those things merely lay the foundation and create the atmosphere in which oneness can grow. We’ve decided that oneness is likely the result of 20 years of marriage, several kids, and years of struggles, ministry, commingled finances, and lots of prayer.

All of that said, it’s great! We love it. It’s really awesome to wake up next to your best friend every morning and go to sleep with them at night. But it also takes work. I’m learning that to be successful in marriage one must be extremely intentional. Without intentionality, a couple could go through life and merely live together.

Before I was married, I never realized how easy it would be to just cohabitate  or to serve my husband merely just to get things done, without ensuring that the love and glory of Christ is the catalyst of such service.

It would be so easy to do a poor job of reflecting the relationship between Christ and the Church, merely because I lack love. I’ve realized how important it is that the love and glory of Christ be my motivation in every area of life, and especially in my marriage.

Love is such an interesting word. I’m realizing that I’ve only ever scratched the surface. It’s a word that, like the word “oneness,” is likely going to take me a lifestyle shift and an entire lifetime to figure out in its entirety. And if I’m going to live my life by Scripture, this season of life requires me to turn again to Scripture to ask “what is love?” I know in my head and in my heart that it is defined as God and the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, but practically, how am I going to live that out? How do I lay down my life for Josh?

I’m reminded of 1 Corinthians 13’s description of love – “love is patient and kind; love does not enjoy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (vs. 4-7).” And also, like forgiving someone 70 x 7, “love never ends” (vs. 8), which means that I need a limitless reservoir of love for Josh.

But not just love for Josh or because of Josh. Not because he’s amazing or I love him, but because of God – because all I do and all we are is meant to project the love of Christ’s love for the Church to the world. All I do is worthless without love. I could be the best wife, but if I’m not operating out of an overflow of love for Christ, it is all worthless. I’ve been extended limitless grace and I can only extend it in return. Furthermore, every single thing I do, whether its organizing the pantry, making dinner, or unloading the dishwasher – if I do it with any hesitation or without love, I negate it and I do not do it as unto the Lord.

It seems silly to me that this is so revolutionary to my heart today, but it was an amazing revelation and it makes Josh even easier to love well and live with. God is so good and so faithful to sanctify me in this time and use marriage to do so.

Character Transformation… Always In Progress

It’s been more than two months since I last posted an entry.

Two. Months. That’s a long time, even for me. I meant to write, I really did. I’ve learned so much…. SO. MUCH.

In my post entitled “Character Transformation,” I talked about how I’d been handed my dream job and all about the leaps of faith and trust that the Lord was leading me to make as I chose to leave my career on Capitol Hill to pursue full-time ministry. I said that when a story climaxes in our lives, “something is won or lost and sometimes a battle still rages, but the growth, maturity, and transformation gained make every moment of the journey worthwhile.”

I had no idea how much more true that statement could become.

I thought I had changed through the process of dreaming and aspiring to ministry. And then I jumped into ministry and realized that relative to where my heart needed to be, I hadn’t changed much at all.

Again – here’s Donald Miller’s thoughts on change:

“If the point of life is the same as the point of a story, the point of life is character transformation. If I got any comfort as I set out on my first story, it was that in nearly every story, the protagonist is transformed. He’s a jerk at the beginning and nice at the end, or a coward at the beginning and brave at the end. If the character doesn’t change, the story hasn’t happened yet. And if story is derived from real life, if story is just condensed version of life then life itself may be designed to change us so that we evolve from one kind of person to another.”

I’ve realized that Miller is really, truly, and absolutely correct. Each phase, each part of the road, so to speak, involves some changing, some growing, and some adjusting. But sometimes there are major changes, seismic shifts, if you will, that God desires to create in the very depths of who we are, and those kinds of changes are the ones that turn us inside out, let us see who we really are, and then gracefully push and mold us into the people that God created us to be.

Now that I’m in ministry, I see in a new way how very much I need the Gospel.

I’ve seen in one short month just how much of a jerk and a coward (to use Miller’s language) that I am. It’s true. I’m praying the words of John 3:30 “He must increase, but I must decrease,” more than I ever have in my life!

Everyone who has ever told me that ministry is hard told the truth. There are competing visions, clashing cultures, and multiple ways of getting a job done. Being in ministry has made me feel more inadequate than any job in government ever could have. I see all of my flaws under a microscope now – I’m  impatient, prideful, easily frustrated, and stubborn. I have to cling to the Gospel, trusting that the Lord knows what He’s doing, why He’s chosen to use me to do it, and how He’s going to break me to the point that I’m usable.

I had no idea the growth, maturity, and transformation that the last month would bring, but I was right… these things, while difficult while the battle rages, are what makes every moment of the journey worthwhile.

The point of this post, this story, this life… is transformation. The Gospel message transforms people’s lives. And I’m learning that that change – that sanctification – is both difficult and beautiful. Thankfully, God is faithful, and when He’s done with this season in my life, I know I will have evolved “from one kind of person to another.”