Monday, April 30

Sunday, April 29

A School House

I had a pleasant trip up north to see Mates of State. Wish I could've encouraged the crowd at Messiah College to bounce a little more, though. (Maybe they think Jesus doesn't dance. I dunno.) Turns out the show was a benefit for Invisible Children in Uganda. That made me happy.

Since I was in Baltimore this afternoon I had the chance see my longtime friend, Kristin. It was so nice to hold her handsome newborn baby, Brendan. Kristin was a mentor and older sister to me all throughout college. It worked out fine that she was in grad school for counseling all the while I was the wreck of the Titanic and needed her to counsel me. Kris is one of the most excellent listeners on the planet. She taught me how to not be such a "strong girl," and to learn how to feel all over again. It's nice to hold her babies now that she's all grown up.

I got pretty teary tonight as I asked Jesus to bless Kristin real good. I realized all at once how much of her I've brought with me into my friendships. She left me a path of clear footprints to try to follow, particularly in the shape of learning to listen to people, and in some basic counseling skills.

Friendships are such nice school houses to sit in. The notes on the chalkboard get written all over our manners and memories, sometimes without us even noticing.

(Photo: "Following")

Thursday, April 26

Definitive Band for Spring

Some say Spring is the season of love. For me, Spring is the season of great bands on tour! Tomorrow night I'm driving up to PA to see the illustrious Mates of State, the definitive Spring band. Why, you ask? Because Mates of State combine rock and love and still make everybody dance. (Kori and Jason are married. So this is one two-piece with quite an onstage dynamic.)

I don't think there's a band I've enjoyed live more than Mates of State. (Over the Rhine is a close second, another husband/wife band.) Their tunes are spilling with fun, each ready to surprise with quirky progression changes. And the tickets are somehow still cheap. How lovely is indie. Click here to read more and download some MP3s that will make you grin.

I was happy to find out that Kori is now blogging about life as a rock-mom. Their little one, Magnolia, often comes with them on the road. I appreciate that they prove to the world that you can live your dreams, be artful, and still be good parents, all at the same time:

"It seems we can't make the rockers happy because we are happily married, and we can't make the normal family people happy because our kids might know what a soundcheck is...On this tour, we've seen parents bringing their kids to shows, kids making T-shirts for bands, and next month we're going to see a couple family bands that play for other families..."

(Photos by Presta.)

Monday, April 23

If Prayer is Like Boxing

There are moments when I see prayer as a restful thing. There are other seasons where it feels like I am struggling against things unseen, and it requires me to focus like an athlete. I've felt like that in the last week or two. I'm grateful for the rest, but I'm also grateful for the wrestling. The sweat reminds me I'm alive. Jesus sweat blood once when he prayed. Jacob busted his hip. Now that's struggle.

On Thursday I was running and praying at the gym. Among many other things, I talked to Jesus about the the husband-man I'd like to have one day. As I was staring toward the big red punching bag at the other end of the gym, I found a nice metaphor. Yes. I'd like this guy of mine to be tough in prayer like an experienced boxer. I want to learn new movements of prayer next to him: throwing punches at the evil one, wrestling, waiting on God. It will be good for me to develop spiritual muscles in areas that were once just baby fat.

But in the meantime, I am trying to learn everything I can from whomever seems to have been in the ring a bit longer than me.

I watched one guy attack the red punching bag tirelessly, like he really knew what he was doing: five right hooks, five left hooks, five one-two's, five body-punches. He looked like he was having so much fun. I tried to mentally track his routine so that I could do it, too. (And so my metaphor grows.)

Today after my workout I put on the black Everlast gloves and threw a few right and left hooks at the punching bag. The one-two's tired me out. But oh! it was more fun than I can explain.

(Photo "Jesus is Strong" by Szen Volta.)

Sunday, April 22


per·e·grine /ˈpɛrɪgrɪn, -ˌgrin, -ˌgraɪn/
1. foreign; alien; coming from abroad.
2. wandering, traveling, or migrating.
3. peregrine falcon.

I just got The Appleseed Cast's new record, Peregrine. I had to look up what peregrine means, and am now pleased to find a new adjective for my heart.

This record is keeping me awake so that I can study Romans for my NT class. Each track is brimming with these sweeping atmospheric rock melodies infused with tinges of acoustic bliss. Their stuff is just as beautiful as I remembered it from when I heard them play in a tiny bar in Baltimore, back in college. I squeezed into the room with a boy I had a massive ridiculous crush on, and the band mesmerized us on an almost-broken stage. At least the crush was a lesson in discovering good music. I'm amazed that seven years later, The Appleseed Cast is still swooping low under the radar. Guess that makes them a bit of a musical peregrine.

It's not so often I find a record to (literally) put on repeat, but this is definitely one of them. You can stream some of Peregrine from here: The Appleseed Cast.

Saturday, April 21

Growing Up A Little

I had such a nice day yesterday. There's nothing like sharing a good meal and a great band with dear friends. Especially friends who live on a different continent. I didn't sleep one singular wink Thursday night. I'm such a kid. I was so excited for it to be Friday that I couldn't sleep. Coffee + Jesus + adrenaline = Who needs sleep?

With all the changes coming in my life soon, I'm happy to just learn better how to be God's daughter. It's so much simpler. I really enjoy being a kid, but lately I feel like he's been helping me grow up in little ways. Like learning how to put money in my savings account and really actually following my get out of debt plan. He's so nice and helps me when I mess up. Great Dad, he is.

(Photo by B tal)

Thursday, April 19

Oh, Happy Friday

I am a happy girl. Tomorrow I'm driving up to seaside Annapolis for a class to learn how to start doing some zany web design. Years ago in Portugal, I started using Dreamweaver MX, but wasn't very good at updating my old site. (I hope this bloggy thing will get me back into the groove. over 101 posts = good sign.) Soon I'd like to start designing my own site again. If I'm any good at it, I'll help others do the same. My Dad paid for the course because he thinks it'll be good for my creative juices. (What a great Daddy.)

And and and! After the class I'm meeting sweet Jane and Martin in old towne Annapolis! (In case you don't know, this is a very rare occurance, because they live a world away in Prague! Jane and I lived together in Portugal as we held down the Young Life fort in Lisbon. Now she's married to Martin and they're working with Czech kiddos.) So nice.

As if that weren't enough, the three of us are going to see one of my all-time favorite bands, Over the Rhine! Happy Friday!

Tuesday, April 17

Renew Us

I think we could all use a hopeful song right about now.

My dear friend Elise just recorded her newest song, "Renew." I am amazed by it. (I'm amazed by her.) I told her that listening to it has the effect of being surprised by sudden warm winds, like the Santa Ana's in a California autumn.

See if you can listen to her song and not find yourself smiling at the end. Click here to listen. Elise Witek played the guitar and sang lead vocals, Sarah Halford sang the soprano vocals, and Allyson Arendsee played the piano.

If you are a lover of words (I am), you'll want to read these. You may even like to pray them, when you're all out of your own words:

by Elise Witek

Been walking around for years
But still unborn
Success plastered on a tree with lights adorned

Staring through the pines, see a hollow trunk inside

Will you renew? Will you renew? Will you renew joy?

Swords growing dull
Rusting in the rain
The battle's already won, but can't see the gain

Paralyzed by fear,
Paralyzed by pride,
Paralyzed by the thought that we're the god of our lives.

Will you renew? Will you renew? Will you renew us?

I've been dying ever since the day I was born
Longing to see fire where marrow has formed
I listen to a Voice that's never told a lie
So why should I deny that you will renew?

Will you renew?
Will you renew?
Will you renew us?

(Photo by: Gep)

Monday, April 16

Hands Falling

In the moment when we hear horrific news, the hands seem to fall off the clock. Everything that seemed important stops. In those moments I've often chosen to turn my eyes away with a conciliatory "oh that's awful," in order to hastily get the clock working again. As if to say, "things must keep moving." But that is not the way the Master teaches me to enter into other people's pain.

Today when I heard about the massacre at Virginia Tech, I was tempted to keep gawking at the TV News. I thought of friends I have at nearbye Virginia schools like JMU and UVA, and imagined how many friends they have at Tech. But the News is so terribly cyclical and fear-inducing. And my imagination is often fruitless.

Somehow, in a moment of grace, I walked away from the TV and let my own hands fall as my knees to pray. (This is not as normal an inclination as I wish.) There were lots of "I don't know"'s that I stammered, as I tried praying through a certain Psalm. And I asked that as people grieve and mourn and wail, that they'd do so turning towards God, rather than away from Him. I prayed that they'd realize how much He can handle our difficult questions, and that He won't turn us away. But I mostly prayed for restoration, and for the hard work of forgiveness and healing.

I remember the example of the forgiving legacy of the Amish, and so have a measure of hope for the Tech family.

(Photo: "Walk a Timeless Warning" by PrASanGaM.)

Friday, April 13

Jackie Pullinger Rocks my iPod

Today I listened to a rickety old mp3 by Jackie Pullinger. (It must've been transferred from 8-track to tape to mp3 because the recording was just horrible.) But, oh! her incredible stories from life in the streets of Hong Kong were like an intravenous dose of dripping faith into my spirit. Woooo! Jackie Pullinger is hardcore. She's also a sassy thing. I giggled aloud listening to her go.

She was illustrating the truth that God allows us to speak (pathetically) about him as he draws men and women to Himself. And that we ought to change our pitiful "bless me" prayers to "oh! let me partner with you in what you're already doing." Her message invited me to take myself less seriously, and to take prayer much more seriously. (And to really value my own private prayer in tongues, too.)

I loved the story of when Jackie was sharing the gospel at a Chinese dinner-party. One of the men fell asleep just as she started speaking. But the moment he awoke he said (ever so oddly), "I must accept Jesus now."

When questioned later, he said, "When the lady started talking, I thought, 'I don't need to listen anymore,' so I just went to sleep. I started dreaming, and Jesus came to me and said, 'It's time for you to stop resisting me, and to accept me.' And so, when I woke up, that's the first thing I knew I needed to do."

Download lots of rickety-old Jackie Pullinger messages here and get your sweet soul rocked: Sermon Index.

(iPod image HT: Foread on Flickr)

Thursday, April 12

Persecution or Poor Elocution?

(this is a) PREFACE:

Today's synchro-blog on "Persecution and Christian Suffering" was inspired by a series of awful events. One of our fellow synchro-bloggers, David Fisher, was recently removed from the leadership at his church, mostly on the basis of David's links within, and his writing in the blogosphere about the need for church-reform. I'm cheering David on, knowing that he's still taking risks to live simply and missionally, despite the pain of being misunderstood by those who are supposed to be as family.

I can remember being fifteen and feeling like a dork because I was trying to follow Jesus in a public high school. Sometimes I'd get together with my Christian cronies and talk about how we were being "persecuted for Jesus." If someone laughed at us, we could throw around the "p" word and it'd make us feel better.

A few weeks ago I got in heated discussion with a friend about gay rights. He was sure that to contend and fight that "homosexuality is a sin!" would get one "persecuted." He insisted that we shouldn't care about political correctness, and that in fact, Jesus promised we'd be persecuted! I bled out a snappy-reply, to the effect of, "that doesn't make you persecuted, that just makes you ignorant." My frustration turned to sadness when I shared through my tears about my gay friends who've been more bruised and beaten by the Church than any others. And how our pointy-fingers get in the way of introducing the real Jesus to people just as broken as we. And why don't we just as vehemently jump up and down and formulate legislation for our sick sins of greed, lust, and selfishness?

I think that we in the West have a penchant for playing the victim. And we as Christians play the victim the worst when we throw around the word, "persecution," as if it's a holy trophy. Without undermining the legitimate suffering that many have felt for the Name of Jesus in the West, I confess for all of us that all too often, our elocution concerning persecution is way off. And our poor use of language is a type of a curse towards those hundreds of thousands who are daily being tortured, beaten, and imprisoned for the Name.

I can remember being in Carpinteria for the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, and praying with Elise and Sarah for feeling to return to the Western church, that our comfortable numbness would die and that we'd really feel the pain that so many others in the Body feel. If only we were more connected somehow, we could really learn from each other about suffering.

Today when I read the story of a young Chinese woman on Prisoner Alert (Voice of the Martyrs), something was stirred in me. She has been imprisoned in China since 2001 for being the editor of an underground church magazine. A young woman following Jesus, trying to make words fit nicely in print. Thrown in jail, as a writer.

With a few clicks, a printer, and some stamps, Prisoner Alert helped me write an encouraging letter to the young woman, even translating it into the characters of her native tongue. As I wrote, "You are counted worthy to suffer for His name," some of the numbness left me, and I cried. But rather than seeing her as a victim, these were victory tears. For her and for Him. And even, for me, as I feel slightly more connected to my Body.

The young lady's mother reported that the prison warden has asked, "Do you have many relatives in America?" Because of this simple site, thousands of encouraging notes have been sent to her over the last 6 years, and countless prayers surround her. There are many others like her. Check out Prisoner Alert and take a minute to send an encouraging letter to someone imprisoned for the Name, to pray for them, and even send an email to a government official asking for their release.

And don't forget to check out the other synchrobloggers below...
(Clown Image HT: Peskymac)

Synchroblog List on Persecution

The April synchro-blog team is writing on Persecution and Christian Suffering. Check out the wide variety of perspectives and rich stories here:

David Fisher - Be the Revolution
Fishing for Trouble - Square No More
Mike Bursell - Mike's Musings
Restoring Our View of Humanity - Eternal Echoes
Persecuting the Marginalized -
The Ends Justify the Means - Calacirian
Billy Calderwood - Billy Calderwood
Seeking First Righteousness - Tim Abbott
Jamie Swann - More Than Stone
Persecution and Martyrdom - Handmaid Leah
"Don't squash the counter-revolutionary/the plank in my own eye" - Jeremiah
The Martyrs of Epinga - Notes from the Underground
Terrorism in Christianity - The Rivera Blog

Wednesday, April 11

At the Cross

Tonight in Sofia, Bulgaria, my friend Brooke is sharing about the power of the cross with a bunch of International and Euro teens. Above is a combination of five canvases that her husband Tate painted as illustrations for each of Brooke's nightly messages. She'll smoosh all the canvases together to portrait the Father reaching to the world through His Son. It's such a nice illustration.

If you are a praying-type, now would be a nice time to ask the Holy Ghost to do wonderful healing things in the hearts and minds of all those teenagers.

These days the thing I'm bringing to the cross most often is my independence. I want to learn what it means to live in healthy interdependence between myself and God, and myself and others. Most of my life I think I've tended to live in psychotic polarization: either acting as if I don't need anyone, or being emotionally addicted to my closest friends. I have so much to learn. In the meantime, I don't want to hide behind my independent-spirit, any longer.

Monday, April 9

Gospel Choir 101

I think I need more gospel choirs in my life. Today for our Easter celebration we were led in worship by a small gospel choir from folks in our congregation. It was so lovely and quite celebratory. As much as I love acoustic guitars and earth instruments in worship, there's something about clapping aloud and feeling a part of the big choir. Gospel music sort of insists that you sway and move. And sweat a little while you're singing. I like that sort of worship.

I often overlook the fact that South Potomac Church has such a blend of races worshipping within her. I am grateful to have this short season of my life back in this hometown church.

Shangri-la! This is my 101st post. Happy Day. Jesus lives.

(Choir HT: Dogseat on Flickr and the Stop-Shopping Church Choir!!)

Saturday, April 7

Stunned Saturday in Sofia

Tonight, in Sofia, Bulgaria my dear friend Brooke is reflecting on Jesus with around 250 postmodern teenagers. Brooke is the speaker for Young Life Europe's annual service project, a week-long camping experience to invite skeptics and non-skeptics into the adventure of serving the poor. Over the next week these international students from all of over Europe will help build playgrounds and work in Bulgarian orphanages. At night, all 250 will pack into a room for a Young Life club of carefully organized chaos. The pinnacle of each evening is Brooke's talk on the person of Jesus.

While I worked with Young Life in Europe I had the opportunity to take students from Portugal to 2 of these service projects, in Romania and the Czech Republic. I know that this week holds the possibility of enormous life-transformation in the lives of these students. My heart is still with Sarah, Will, and Stefanie, as they've just arrived in Bulgaria with a group of students from Portugal.

Brooke's husband, Tate, painted a bunch of canvases like the one above to use as part of her creative illustrations throughout the week. (Tate is also in Bulgaria leading his group of students from the UK.) Tonight Brooke opens with a talk from Mark 2, when Jesus heals (and forgives!) the paralytic who was lowered through the roof by his wild friends. The scene ends with everyone wondering aloud, "We've never seen anything like this." Tonight, Brooke will be challenging these postmodern minds to begin taking a fresh look at Jesus.

I'd like it if you locked arms with me in praying for Brooke and for these spiritually-starved European kids, especially as I post little reminders over this week.

I'm not sure why we don't celebrate today as a Holy Day. Maybe we could call it Stunned Saturday, and thank the Father that he always stands with us in the midst of our uncertainty. I'm sure on that sad Saturday the disciples were stunned silent and angry at God. I'm sure they found all of the Psalms that asked, "Where are you God?" and either whispered or screamed them aloud. I bet they remembered the days when Jesus stunned the crowds, like he did in Mark 2. May we all become more at home with all of our uncertainty, as we remember that He is still remarkably near us in our grief.

Friday, April 6

To Recreate Us

I often have trouble feeling particularly contemplative on the Holy Days. I think it's this rebellious strain in me that wants to find all the days holy. (And, just my rebellious pride, probably.) Today while I was running I decided that a simple song by Sufjan Stevens would be my Good Friday praise refrain. It's called Chicago. It makes me think of my black heart and how happy I am that Jesus still fights for it.

if I was crying
in the van, with my friend
it was for freedom
from myself and from the land
I made a lot of mistakes
I made a lot of mistakes
I made a lot of mistakes
I made a lot of mistakes

you came to take us
(all things go, all things go)
to recreate us
(all things grow, all things grow)
we had our mindset
(all things know, all things know)
you had to find it
(all things go, all things go)

You can listen to the song here. (Or get the whole record: Come on, Feel the Illinoise!)

Tuesday, April 3

Reflections on the 24-7 Prayer Movement

Our church just finished up doing a 40-hour prayer room in my office. Paint, prayers, and holy words are splattered all over the paper covering my walls. They are the earnest prayers of twelve year olds, twenty year olds, and retirees. They are the prayers of families, mamas, and tweens. I never want to take it down.

But that's what I always say at the end of a prayer week. The scraps of paper and the art supplies strewn around the room are like ancient relics. They are altar-like signposts that declare, in simple ways, that God's presence met us.

Ever since this sacred virus of 24-7 prayer got in me, I've found a new freedom to meet with God. Yesterday a wise mama-type in my hometown was helping me debrief on my life in Portugal, asking where it seems God is taking me next. As I talked about the 24-7 prayer movement, she asked, "So, what have you learned about prayer?"

I said, "I've learned that it's much more fun that I ever imagined."

24-7 prayer has taught me how free I can be before God, and how much He longs to meet with us.

I was twenty-three and spiritually exhausted when I found myself signing up for my first one-hour "prayer watch" in Portugal. The Borden's and Uhlers' converted Marty's office into a sacred space, and we dared to devote ourselves to a week of non-stop prayer. That first hour went by like 5 minutes, so I signed up for another. And then, another, this time for one of those insane (but wonderfully still) 3am spots. Before we knew it, the whole week was filled, and people were arm-wrestling for spots on the last day.

God gave me some tender words from Isaiah during my time in that prayer room. I'll never forget what it felt like to scribble them on the walls in blue pastel, and then to write poems in between the lines in black ink. I wept over those words. God had met me in a simple room with paper-covered walls. And here was my altar, built by messy pastels and smeared ink.

I couldn't bear to see those words thrown in the Portuguese rubbish at the end of the week, so I ripped it down, and the paper sits framed in my room today.

Since that first prayer room in Portugal, I've had the pleasure of being a small part of 24-7 prayer rooms in Milan, Naples, the Netherlands, Kansas City, Santa Barbara, and now even in little La Plata. My dream is to see this movement of prayer stirred in Italy in a mighty way.

This week, in 11 countries all around the world, at least 42 groups of people are praying, non-stop, with the dream of knowing more of Jesus, and Him sending them out to love others in His stead. In 8 years, with hardly any budget to speak of, there are 24-7 prayer rooms in 65 countries. Truly, this is a move of the Spirit of God! Especially when you consider that this movement of prayer is largely composed of young people.

A few nights ago, during our 40-hour room, I opened up the prayer-room door to 2 sweet twelve-year old girls, Annie and Alleigh, coming to pray at the midnight hour.

Now, think back to your middle school years. Can you imagine signing up for an hour of prayer with your best friend, at midnight?

Annie and Alleigh came out at 1am giggling (and in desperate need of hot-cocoa), as they had landed a fair amount of paint on their clothes during their wild expressions to the Father.

"Battle scars, that's what the paint really is," I told Annie's grinning mama.

If you're moved at all, go to the 24-7 Prayer Global site to read more and consider giving to this growing movement. And check out what Lisa is saying about 24-7 Prayer, too!