The Bible Tells Me So

Hebrews calls God’s Word living and active.

More than a book, it’s a Way of life.

It calls us to look inward and see the need for our hearts to be changed.

It beckons us to turn toward the Word made flesh and be transformed by the One who takes brokenness and makes it new.

It commands us to be kind and compassionate to one another.

To love our neighbors.

To be about justice, mercy, and humility.

To see one another through the eyes of Christ: dearly loved, fearfully and wonderfully made.

Grace abounds. Victory is won. Hope anchors.

May we open its pages and heed the call.

Easter on Good Friday

IMG_2722Today, we filmed Easter worship, so I got up and put on my new Easter dress. I bought it a few weekends ago in a moment of online retail therapy.  It’s not Easter though. It’s Good Friday, and I feel the weight of this broken world and my broken self.

The makeup I put on conceals the circles under my eyes. Yesterday in our Zoom teachers meeting, we realized we were all feeling exhausted. The stress of these days has withered us like the once fresh palm branches we waved on Sunday.

I pulled my car into our empty parking lot and walked into the sanctuary picturing how it might be if it was the Easter of years past—the smell of lilies in the air, a colorful hat in the front row, communion setup, and joyful greetings of “He is risen!”

The red light went on, and I recorded my children’s message. I found joy for the moment, but after I felt sad. For weeks now, I’ve spoken to the camera. Yet, I yearn to share Jesus with children sitting at my feet.

And so, I sat looking over empty chairs and listened to Pastor preach his Easter sermon on Good Friday morning.

IMG_2725“Hope is when you’re so torn apart and something stirs deeps inside you. You realize you’re not going to give up despite it all. Easter doesn’t disappoint.”

Earlier this week, I wrote in chalk on the church driveway, “Cling to hope.” That’s what I’ll continue to do throughout this Good Friday and the days ahead that don’t seem quite right.

Christ comes to make us right and fill what’s wrong with victory. My new dress is nothing in comparison to the new life both Good Friday and Easter bring. We can’t have one without the other. Today isn’t good without the hope filled celebration of Easter.

an evening thought

I’ve started the year journeying through Scripture with Bible Recap. These first days have been spent in Genesis and Job, and tonight as I took my laundry from the dryer this little reflection came to mind:

Mercy and grace.

This breath, this existence.

All that fills the most mundane of days.

Love lavished.

Undeserved.

For nothing is deserved.

It is all a gift.

Books of 2019

In 2019, my goal was to read 24 books. I did it! Here are the titles in order of read:

  1. Girl Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis
  2. It’s Just a Phase So Don’t Miss It by Reggie Joiner and Kristen Ivy
  3. Everybody Always by Bob Goff
  4. The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas
  5. Educated by Tara Westover
  6. A Man Turned in on Himself by Heather Choate Davis
  7. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
  8. The Wartime Sisters by Lynda Cohen Loigman
  9. Befriend by Scott Sauls
  10. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
  11. 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste by Kathryn Kellogg
  12. I’m All Over the Place by Tanner Olson
  13. Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  14. The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy Reichert
  15. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  16. The Simplicity of Cider by Amy Reichert
  17. Don’t Give Up by Kyle Idleman
  18. Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren
  19. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  20. Loaded Words by Heather Choate Davis and Leann Luchinger
  21. My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella
  22. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
  23. Letters to the Church by Francis Chan
  24. The Bridge by Karen Kingsbury
  25. When Christmas Comes Debbie Macomber

60 Years of DCE Ministry

2019 marks 60 years of Director of Christian Education ministry in the LCMS. I shared the reflection below in the Summer 2019 Issue of NADCE Quarterly.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1 NIV

The clink of dishes and murmur of laughter and conversation fill the air on a warm St. Louis night. I sit amongst my church worker parents’ guests, many who serve as DCEs, soaking in discussions about life, ministry, and Christian education. 

The murmur of high school students is heard in the hand-print painted youth room as we are led in discussion during a Sunday evening at TAG (Teens About God). Together with my peers, I lounge on a navy blue couch, processing, sharing, and listening to the words of our DCE Jeremy. 

Joyful shouts make their way across the “triangle” of Concordia University Chicago as a frisbee soars. I walk past, unpacking our most recent DCE class with fellow classmates and friends. 

The campfire cracks and my voice joins in a chorus of praise. Huddled on a cool California night in October, I reflect on the ups and downs of my first year of ministry with fellow DCEs in the California Nevada Hawaii District. 

The U.S. Bank Stadium fills with shouts, “Real! Present! God!” Surrounded by 22,000 fellow believers, my heart overflows with joy and love for the One who brings us together. In one giant space, I think of all the DCEs from each of these chapters standing and shouting witness to God’s strength and refuge. 

This year, we celebrate 60 years of DCE ministry. We can all name individuals who have witnessed to us and impactful moments along the race of life. Praise God for the opportunity to share in a legacy, for those who have gone before us and those who will lead us into the future as they too follow Jesus. 

Lenten Reflection

The season started with tears. Easter felt far away as I faced a too familiar pattern of goodbyes I didn’t want to say and mourned hellos I’ve long been waiting for not coming to fruition once again. A culmination of many events crashing into one, left me weary and speaking of the wilderness.

Ever since those first days following Ash Wednesday, that word—wilderness—stuck with me and kept coming up as if I was supposed to learn something from it.

I sat in church on the first Sunday of Lent, struck by the heart and poignancy of our collect:

“O Lord God, You led your people through the wilderness and brought them to a land of promise. So guide us through our wildernesses, keep our feet steady on the path home to heaven and guide us by Your Word and Spirit-never letting us out of Your sight. This we pray in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You, Father, and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. AMEN.”

Being in the wilderness requires trust—trust that He is answering our prayers and won’t cease to be our guide. In my wilderness moment, trust that yes, new people and specifically a principal would walk through our church doors. In these 40 days of Lent, no pillar of cloud or fire has appeared to follow on the streets of Aiea, but His Word declares promise: “Look, I am about to so something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19).

And, He does by rekindling purpose, sending provision, and ordaining rest. Respite found in reunion with friends and a newly baptized baby sleeping in my arms. Provision found at the top of a lighthouse and conversation with family around tables in Atlanta and St. Louis. Purpose found in high school students’ laughter and a trunk full of Easter baskets.

He sustains not only our bodies but also our souls with a holy meal. Simple bread and wine, yet miraculous sustenance found in His body and blood. We’re not on the path alone for when we partake we discover “grace and a sense of belonging” in the midst of uncomfortable scenery as Pastor preached on Maundy Thursday night.

He knows more and sees more. Up the hill to Calvary, He leads the way. “It is finished,” He cries. And with this declaration, we find our land of promise lies in the cross and empty tomb, all tears wiped away.

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February Reflection

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Blink. February comes to a close and enters the past. While time speeds by, I sit flipping through a month of journal entries as the air conditioner, dishwasher, and highway traffic buzz in harmony.

Sometimes the words come easily, other times, like today, it’s not so easy. I ask Isaac, “What should I write?”

“What you’re thankful for,” he says.  I turn the pages again and reason after reason to give thanks is there written in simple, black ink.

  1. The thump of drums and dragons dancing filling the streets of Chinatown on a rainy Friday night
  2. Chasing rainbows along misty mountainsides and crashing ocean waves
  3. A congregation in jerseys from all across the country, each a celebration of being on God’s team
  4. The ring of Google Hangouts connecting me with friends thousands of miles away.
  5. Walking along the beach admiring the patterns left in the sand by gentle tide and children playing
  6. Plane tickets for the National Youth Gathering purchased under budget after weeks of stress inducing sums after the dollar sign
  7. Laughter and conversation around a dinner table
  8. Middle school students filled with excitement and covered in glow sticks running around campus after dark
  9. Weather cool enough for cords and long sleeves
  10. Kid-made confetti poppers filling the Sunday School Room with a paper shower of celebration
  11. A fresh haircut
  12. Contagious laughter
  13. God’s people coming together to seek His will and call
  14. A generous husband, red roses, steak dinner, and peanut butter pie
  15. Plans falling through and better plans coming together
  16. A new neighbor
  17. Therapy found with a canvas and paintbrush
  18. The spirit of aloha filling 8 miles as thousands run, walk, and sprint.
  19. The debt of sin paid in full
  20. Popcorn popping in a room full of children and the joy of Jesus overflowing
  21. The smiles and greetings of students lifting up the weighed down spirit
  22. Wandering through aisles of expensive furniture dreaming of the future
  23. Sudsy buckets, dirty cars, and the generosity of strangers
  24. Clear blue sky framing mountains on the horizon
  25. Kindness at the DMV
  26. The Lord’s Prayer spoken with 9 year-olds and a 90 year-old
  27. Mom
  28. Confirmation students served around candlelit tables

Ann Voskamp writes in One Thousand Gifts, “Count blessings and discover Who can be counted on.” In the counting, stress and anxieties of the future unknown are lifted, and I pray the words of Psalm 25.

In you, Lord my God,
    I put my trust.

I trust in you;
    do not let me be put to shame,
    nor let my enemies triumph over me.
No one who hopes in you
    will ever be put to shame,
but shame will come on those
    who are treacherous without cause.

Show me your ways, Lord,
    teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
    for you are God my Savior,
    and my hope is in you all day long.

January Reflection

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Tradition in my family calls for day after Christmas shopping. So in the spirit, I hopped into my car on December 26th and headed to Target to see what fabulous deals I could find. At 50% off, an amaryllis kit made its way into my cart.

Now, on the last day of January of the new year, the unpromising bulb has transformed into three beautiful flowers bursting with new life. As I observe their delicate, vibrant, red petals, I’m reminded of our need to rest in the new mercies of each day (Lamentations 3:23).

Too often, we get caught up in wanting what’s new, when what we need is to be renewed.

A new year. A new routine. A new car. A new apartment.  The list goes on.

Our wanting for the things of this world wears us down. I feel it in the tension in my neck I have worked out with a massage each month. This month as I turned to leave my appointment, I noticed three little words printed on a little glass jar essential oils, “let it go.”

I let it go as I sing.

“I will rest in your promises. My confidence is your faithfulness…All your promises are yes and amen.”

There we find renewal. He takes the dry, brown bulb and makes it beautiful. He takes our burdens upon himself and gifts us with grace.

“Behold, I am making all things new, ” he speaks (Rev 21:5). In our futile efforts to possess all that is new and better, let us not forget to dwell in the presence of the One who renews our souls, whose promises bring life.

 

 

You Never Let Go

a piece I wrote for our church’s newsletter

“You are the God who holds my future, all my dreams, so I am holding on. You never let go of me.” The sound of children’s voices loudly singing these lyrics echoes through the sanctuary at Vacation Bible eXperience. While the words may be written for children, they speak a bold declaration of faith in God’s unending promises.

I am reminded of the apostle Paul’s words to the church in Corinth:

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

2 Corinthians 1:20-22 CSB

Three years ago, when I walked through Our Savior’s doors for the first time, I couldn’t of imagined the future God held for me on this island called Oahu. As each day of VBX begins, I stand atop a waterfall scaffold leading actions in awe of His faithfulness. I look out and see a sea of faces: children who on Monday had never entered a church, youth and adult volunteers eagerly sharing the Gospel, my sister and future brothers and sister-in-law newly arrived for wedding festivities. He holds us all we joyfully sing.

Energy explodes, filling the room: “You are my God. I’m holding onto you. You are my God. I know you’ll see me through. Hey!” May we have the boldness of children and loudly declare God’s promise keeping power. Through loneliness, worry, struggle, wrongdoing, and weakness, Jesus rescues offering grace, mercy, peace, and life eternal. He never lets go.

A Broken Mending

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I make the familiar turn, and there he is walking down the street with those hallow eyes and meth pocked skin. It was last Holy Week when he came to our doors crying out coming off a high with fresh cigarette burns on his young suntanned skin.

Broken.

I pick up my phone and flip screens to see the latest news updates. A president and a porn star battling it out. Refugees with no welcome. Innocents murdered by bullets and bombs.

Broken.

I think about the stories of those whose lives cross with my own. Cancers attacking. Marriages threatened by divorce. Mental illness crippling and stigma isolating. Deployments with no end in sight. Uncertainty looming.

Broken.

I examine my own heart. Things done. Things left undone.

Broken.

Psalm 51 is my cry: “Have mercy…Create in me a pure heart…My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise” (NIV). 

Then, I’m drawn to the simple scene on a holy day. A loaf of bread. A glass of wine. A group of friends. The one they follow holds up the unleavened. It cracks. “This is my body given for you.”

Broken.

Whips slash. Spit flies. Thorns dig  into flesh. Blood spills. “Eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani,” he wails between painful breaths. The one who left divine glory and entered brokenness to be broken hangs from a cross.

A battle of eternal proportions wages on for the souls of the broken masses. All seems lost as a mother cries and rooster crows. The sky goes dark. A curtain tears. The words of the ancient prophets come true in a broken mending. “By His wounds we are healed” as love “raises up the broken to life.”