Friday, March 24, 2017

In the wilderness

Therefore, I am going to persuade her, lead her to the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. Hosea 2.14 

God brings us to the wilderness to get the wilderness out of us. I am currently in the wilderness of Lent, and it pervades everything I do. I am daily, hourly, confronting toxic habits of idolatry and ungratefulness, and I truly lament for how my sin has pulled me away from Jesus.

But the reality of the gospel supersedes it; "But God" has become a two-word intention for my life. But God is rich in mercy. But God has seen me. But God is my strength. But God will redeem. But God gives life. 

The wilderness of Lent is where I let go of who I was to become who God has created me to be. And it might be  painful, as idols are ripped from my heart, but when I look up and see only Jesus, speaking tenderly to me from the foot of the cross, I can't imagine going back. 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Real Love Warrior

Last night, autho Glennon Doyle Melton posted a picture of her and her girlfriend with the caption "Abby and I have decided to hold hands forever". I actually enjoyed her first book; I disagreed with several elements, but I found it helpful in many ways.

Her second book, Love Warrior, unsettled me in many ways. She disclosed a lot of private details about her marriage, including her husband's many infidelities and ponography use. The book, however, ends with them married and recommitted and could have been a strong encouragement to fight for one's marriage.

If that's where the story had ended

Right around the book's release, she announced a divorce from husband Craig.

And that she was then dating a woman.

And now, marrying her.

And at this point, the whole love warrior/fight for love/love wins is a load of crap. All she's fighting for is herself. That's not love, that's idolatry.

Marriage was designed by God, for the glory of God. Men and women commit themselves to each other for their lives - to serve each other, to lay down their lives for the joy of the other. Ephesians 5 calls on husbands to love their wives the way Christ loved the church.

Pause and think about that for a moment. How did Jesus love the church?

Jesus gave up perfectly heavenly fellowship to live a life on earth. He healed the sick, touched the lonely and he saw and he knew the broken-hearted. He came not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many. He did not count equality with God as a thing to be grasped but considered others more significant than himself. He was tempted in every way and never sinned. He was despised, mocked and rejected and responded with nothing but the offer of forgiveness. And ultimately He did to rescue, sanctify and redeem His precious bride, the very ones who rejected his kindness and mercy.

That is what marriage is supposed to reflect. If Christ had left me when I was unfaithful or difficult to love, I would have been left behind a long time ago.

One of my favorite Hebrew words in the Bible is hesed, often translated as steadfast love. It is a love of loyalty, a love that gives and serves without considering the worth of the its recipient, a love that does t give up. That is the love to which we are called.

I think that attitudes like Melton's slap marriage and the gospel in the face. I think there are biblical reasons for divorce, but I also think they are few and far between. I just don't think you get to "fight for your marriage", commit, and then divorce years after the fact.

I am much more impressed with people who actually fight for their marriage, who have every reason to leave and still stay. I thank God for them. And above all, I am thankful Jesus, and his never stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever love. He is the true Love Warrior in my eyes.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Be Your Own Worship Leader

There was a beautiful season in my life a few years ago where I regularly led myself in worship. I read and enjoyed the Bible, and I would put together setlists of 3-8 songs that expressed my response to the glory of God as expressed in His word.

During this season, it also happened that I didn't have Internet at home. It's amazing what you can do when you aren't distracted (I also got quite good at newspaper crossword puzzles).

This week, I decided to be intentional about worship again. I definitely leave room for freedom and I don't feel like I have to follow the set exactly, but being purposeful and thoughtful about putting it together has done so much to draw my heart towards Jesus.

After a whirlwind two years of intense Bible reading (every book, 20 times in a row), I've been taking things very very slowly. I'm currently meandering my way through the Psalms and it certainly is tuning my heart to sing God's praise.

Every morning, I set aside time between my 6am yoga class (or Bible study if it's Thursday), and the start of my work day to read a chapter or two of the Bible. I consider what it says about who I am and what it says about who God is and I let that inspire my songs of praise.

I like to physically set out the songs in an order - even if I have them memorized, I put the names down on post it notes or write it out on a page. I almost always start with a typical call to worship song: Come Thou Fount, Enter His Gates, Be Thou My Vision or O Lord, You're Beautiful. From there, it depends on the day. I gravitate towards hymns, but I've also been rediscovering some Beloit InterVarsity classics. In any event, even if I only have 10 minutes to grab my guitar, it makes all the difference in my ability to practice the presence of God throughout my day.

Friday, December 30, 2016

16 in 2016

It's time again for me to highlight some of my favorite books from the year. I love going back and remember all my quality reads. I've also decided that once it hits 2020, I'm going to keep it at a top 20. If I can maintain the reading of 20 excellent books a year for the rest of my life, I will be happy with that.

This year, I worked extra hard not to play favorites with the books I read most recently. I combed through my journals from throughout the year and carefully considered each book

In no particular order  -

1. The Gospel of John. Last year it was Luke, now it's John. This gospel took my breath away a hundred times this year. I even memorized the first fourteen verses and enjoy meditating on each one.  In the beginning was the Word...

2. The End of the Perfect 10 by Dvora Meyers. This is a book for gymnastics fans, coaches, athletes, and history buffs. It is an amazing commentary on the evolution of the greatest sport of all time. But I'm not biased at all, of course.

3. Ruined by Ruth Everhart. This book has a huge trigger warning on it for sexual assault. It is the true story of Everhart and her roommates, whose home was broken into and robbed at gunpoint while the two perpetrators took turns raping each young woman. It is also her journey towards her healing and her overcoming. A powerful read.

4. How to Survive a Shipwreck by Jonathan Martin. This book is about what happens when you crash. I actually wrote and entire post about it when I first read it in July. It's an encouraging book for those who feel pressured to be the same after tragedy happens to them. You will not be the same. But you will survive.

5. When We Were on Fire by Addie Zierman. Zierman is my author of the year. This is her first memoir, an authentic telling of the fiery faith of her youth, and its evangelical subculture, and her growing out of it and longing for something more. I thought of Christina immediately and she sent Addie the most incredible email about her story and asking if she wanted to be friends. Addie replied and was kind and personable and of course she said yes. If you are tired of he Christian cliches, this is for you.

6. Night Driving by Addie Zierman (I told you). This is her second memoir, and tells her story as a mom of two still trying to find her way.  This book is about a beautiful, simple, ordinary, holy faith. It's not always about eliminating your darkness, it's learning how to see in it. Glory.

7. The Cake Therapist by Judith Martin. I swear I try to read novels. This was a good one. I love books about people using their intuition and gifts to help other people in profound ways. In this book, the protagonist has a cake shop and uses a keen sense of smell and perception to create the perfect,healing, celebratory cakes for her clients. Delightful read from start to finish.

8. Finding God in the Ruins by Matt Bays. This one was recommended by Zierman. Go figure. In any event , like Shipwrecked and Night Driving, it is a beautiful book about the way God is always with us.

9. You are What You Love by James Smith. It seems a book about idolatry often creeps its way into my yearly list. It is so necessary for me to constantly check in and see where my affections are going. O Lord, tune my heart to sing Thy grace.

10. Unashamed by Lecrae. The most anticipated book of my year, I was not disappointed. It tells the artist's life story, but what I most appreciated was his social commentary and his approach to engaging popular culture. Really stellar read for all Christians who create (aka all of you!).

11. Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord by Michael Morales. This is the thickest theology book on the list this year, and it's all about Leviticus. I feel so encouraged by the fact that I've always spent time in a church that preached the gospel throughout the entire Bible, but this book lends even more depth to a connection I already knew was rich. Please do not be intimidated by this deeply valuable commentar
12. God is on the Cross by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I love church history and the celebrations of seasons. This is an excellent book to take up during the season of Lent, and was a new addition to my usual Lenten readings that I will be adding to my traditions.

13. Steadfast Love by Lauren Chandler. I first became transfixed with the word steadfast after I read a praying life by Paul Miller. The Hebrew word is hesed, which lends the connotation of a loyal, faithful, complete love. This is, of course, the love that God has for us. He is so faithful to hear us and is doing everything in our lives to draw us closer to Him. Chandler's book clearly deponstraes her own intimacy with the Lord and draws readers into it as well.

14. A Year With CS Lewis by CS Lewis (duh). A year of daily readings from Lewis' works. I usually have a hard time with daily books like this, and it was hard not to read them all at once, but I did it! I enjoyed visiting these classics every day.

15. He Speaks in Silence by Diane Comer. This is Comer's story of losing her hearing and finding her full identity in Christ. It is a truly intimate and vulnerable story for everyone.

16. Harry Potter by JK Rowling (All 7 books). This is totally cheating but I don't care. I binge read these books in just over a week and it was really fun. I hadn't read them in a long time and doing them all together like this allowed me to appreciate how gifted and clever Rowling really is. Except the afterward to book seven was totally unnecessary and should have simply ended with Harry in the Gryffindor common room, wondering if Kreacher will make him a sandwich. It was the perfect ending. Sigh. Also, don't talk to me about the Cursed Child. I'm pretending it didn't happen.

Clearly, I love memoirs/biographies.

Honorable mentions: Messy Grace, Carry On Warrior (I have complicated feelings about this book, which I actually liked most of but had strong objections to some parts, but I have a strong conflict about the author's second book and some of her personal revelations surrounding the book's release), The Gospel According to Ezekiel, The Memory of Lemon (sequel to The Cake Therapist), and The Candidate in the Rye (read for a good laugh).

Monday, November 28, 2016

Black Pants Review

As of the winter session, my company is requiring solid black bottoms for all coaches. In an effort to scope out the best, I have reviewed my favorites, and have the ones worth mentioning here.

My criteria include:

Price. I will rate with $ for 20 or less, $$ for  $21-$50 and $$$ for $51 plus. This will reflect full retail price, and not any sales, discounts or deals you might find, but these will be noted.

Fit. For reference, I am just a hair under 5'6" and a size 0-4 depending on my mood and the clothes, and wear a waist size 25 in pants that use this highly superior sizing system (cough, gap, cough).  The rating will include what size I have and how it works.

Feel. Over all comfort.

Foam pit. I work with kids. I spend time around foam almost every day, and I don't need to take it home with me.

Sweat. How do they do in hot yoga? I often go from studio to gym to studio to gym and I want pants that can make a quick transition.

I've also divided things into categories:

High Waist (which I think are pretty much superior to just about anything else)
Regular Legging
Sweat Pants

(I have a couple pairs of shorts, but 1. it's not a priority right now and 2. I'm not super particular about them, so I'm not going to be reviewing them right now)

I will * my top pick in each category

High Waist

*Girlfriend Collective
  • Price: $$$, however, they are currently running a deal where you are only paying for shipping from their factory, and it's $20. I highly recommend this before the opportunity runs out! 
  • Fit: I ordered an XS and they fit perfectly. 
  • Feel: These are so soft! Definitely high quality feel. 
  • Foam Pit: No foam pit at home for me! 
  • Sweat: They stay nice and dry, no matter how hot or humid the room. I can run to the store or whatever right after and not feel gross 
Overall: It's no secret, I love this legging. They're a local (to me) company using recycled water bottles to make excellent leggings. For $20, they are so worth it! I also intend to make another purchase when the company officially launches next year.

90 Degrees by Reflex
  • Price: $, and prime shipping from amazon
  • Fit: XS, fits great, nice and long to tuck under my heel
  • Feel: Nothing special 
  • Foam Pit: No pit here! 
  • Sweat: They rate surprisingly well here. I didn't expect much, but they hold up quite well in that hot room. 
Overall: These aren't anything special, but they are pretty cheap, so if you're not picky, they could be a solid bet for you.

Old Navy Active Go Dry 
  • Price: $ 
  • Fit: XS, great, extra long 
  • Feel: nothing special, like the 90 Degrees 
  • Foam Pit: plays nice 
  • Sweat: Again, better than expected
Overall: You'll be hearing more later, but I was disappointed in these. They are solid, and I wear them enough, but they are not a favorite.

Alo High Waisted Airbrush
Note: I technically only have these in navy, but you'll here why I wouldn't order the black 
  • Price: $$$
  • Fit: XS, a little gapey in the back sometimes 
  • Feel: A little thicker than other leggings 
  • Foam Pit: Attack of the pit pieces! It is my biggest problem with Alo. 
  • Sweat: Good but not great 
Overall: I love these leggings. I do. I think they look great and I especially love them when I'm going to non heated classes, or for contortion or other things, but they are not the ideal hot yoga or preschool gymnastics coach pants

Regular Legging 

*Old Navy Active
  • Price: $
  • Fit: XS, great 
  • Feel: So freaking soft 
  • Foam pit: No issues 
  • Sweat: Awesome
Overall: Once upon a time, a coworker was selling some clothes she didn't want anymore. I bought these leggings from her for $7 and they have remained a favorite to this day. I have scoured Old Navy looking for this legging to come back, or for something similar and have been unsuccessful. It is very annoying. 

Fabletics Salar Capri 
  • Price: $$ 
  • Fit: XXS, good. In general I don't like capris, but these came free with something else so why not. 
  • Feel: Pretty average 
  • Foam Pit: Nothing 
  • Sweat: Good. They can feel a little thick or heavy, but they do stay dry. 
 Overall:  These are ok, but they mostly sit near the bottom of the drawer unless my shorts are dirty and pants seem too hot. They get more action during the summer than other times of year. 

Alo Coast Legging 
  • Price: $$$
  • Fit: S. I got them from a coworker who couldn't return them. They fit fine, but an XS would probably be better 
  • Feel: These have mesh detail and stirrups and are pretty soft to boot! 
  • Foam Pit: the pit hates these pants 
  • Sweat: Pretty good. This is one of the lighter feeling alo leggings to me and a favorite of mine in the hot room 
Overall: These are super cute. I get a lot of compliments on them, and the stirrups are so fun! I wish they did better with that foam pit though. 

Lululemon Reversible Wunder Under
  • Price: $$$
  • Fit: A 4 works great here 
  • Feel: Soft, but nothing special  
  • Foam Pit: nothing too crazy, a mild attraction 
  • Sweat: they can feel a little warm, but mostly keep it dry 
Overall:  What's great about these in my situation in particular is that I can have a solid black legging on one side and a solid magenta one on the other. But beyond that, they're nothing extraordinary. 

*Onzie Women's Long Legging
  • Price: $$ 
  • Fit: XS. It says long, but I think they're pretty normal. 
  • Feel: My favorite part - they're so light they feel like you're not wearing pants! 
  • Foam Pit: no attraction 
  • Sweat: Super quick drying 
Overall: These are a great legging. They look nice, feel good, and will take you anywhere. 

Gap Active Mesh Detail 
note: totally not what they are called, but I don't know so I'm just being descriptive
  • Price: $$$
  • Fit: S, a little weird around the ankles 
  • Feel: So soft. The mesh is so minimal that it's not weird or scratchy or anything
  • Foam pit: pretty good 
  • Sweat: A little thick, pretty dry 
Overall: These leggings are another really cute looking pair, and they're functional enough. Good luck finding them again. Gap's active wear is so hit or miss for me and I haven't found any more of their pants to be worth trying in a long time. 

Sweat Pants
Note: in general, I dislike sweatpants. However, there are times when it comes in handy to have a pair you like. I tried two pairs. 

Alo Revive Pant 
  • Price: $$$
  • Fit: S, roomy and comfy 
  • Feel: crazy soft 
  • Foam pit: much better than expected 
  • Sweat: n/a  
Overall: These are so cozy and great for lounging around the house or sleeping in. However, they don't look super professional and aren't my favorite for at work. I still do it though, especially if I'm coming right from a shower at a studio.

*Champion Jogger
  • Price: $$
  • Fit: S, Elizabeth told me they were too big 
  • Feel: Not crazy soft, but cozy enough 
  • Foam pit: no issues 
  • Sweat: n/a 
 Overall: I like these, and they've become my go to when I'm wearing shorts underneath anyway. Maybe an XS would have been better. I also love the pockets. 

To recap: If you're still reading this, get your butt over to Girlfriend Collective and order yourself the best $20 leggings you'll find. Beyond that, may the odds be ever in your favor.



Sunday, November 13, 2016

Why I'm Not At Your Church

My church recently closed, and although I wasn't looking forward to finding a new home, I didn't think it would be too difficult.

I have been on 4 first dates with churches in the city, and let me tell you, it is hard (to be fair, I didn't hate one of them but it only meets at night and that's harder for me).  I fell in love with Jesus and His Word first, the local church some time later, and the city I call home some years after that. Finding their intersection has proven to be quite the task.

Although I try to be open minded everywhere I go, I had to walk out of a service today. I walked in and wanted to leave. It was loud, and felt like every Christian millennial stereotype had come to life. The music was unfamiliar and not only bad art, it was about people and our feelings. I was there for 40 minutes and never heard the name of Jesus, never any iteration of his gospel. I had never felt so alone in a room full of people. I was growing more and more uncomfortable every minute I was there, and when there was a message without a single word of Scripture, I had to leave.

While I was still there, I took a moment to reflect on the church cultures and communities I've engaged in lately and wrote this list of why I'm not at your church

You preach based on emotion and feelings and never open a Bible. 

You will quote a sociology book before the Word of God. 

You will preach a biblical topic but use only maybe one verse or two stripped from its context to support your point. 

You sing lame "worship"  music about people and our feelings instead of Jesus. 

You go through half the service (or more) before saying the name of Jesus or reading His Word. 

You elevate marriage to the end all be all and leave no place for the content single. 

Your idea of community is confined to once a week dinners and don't know what to do with those who work evenings. 

I love my Jesus and the church He died to save. I love my city and the people who are desperate for light and hope and abundant life. I am a 25 year old happily single Bible nerd, lover of church history and cherisher of old hymns. I value belonging to and serving a local church. I'm not giving up on my search for a Bible-loving, preaching, believing and living church in this city, but it's Sunday afternoon. I'm a little worn, a little sad, and just in case you are too, I wanted you to know I'm here.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Bible in 66 Haiku

On December 31st, 2014, I started a Bible reading plan of epic proportions: read every book of the Bible, 20 times in a row. I added the challenge of turning each book into a 17-syllable haiku, and today, I wrote the last one. I alternated between the Old and New Testament and am aso thankful for the deep time spent in each book. The first few times I read a book, I was really just trying to understand what was happening. After awhile, you start finding these nuances and repetitions and how these small things play a big role in an even bigger story. Reading each book so many times in a row let me get past the average Bible study or sermon outline, and see things I'd never seen before.

Although every book was a tremendous and rich experience, a few stood out to me*: Deuteronomy, Exodus, Ecclesiastes, Philemon, Hebrews, James and most of all Luke. Luke was the perfect book to have such a strong experience to, as it came so early on and really set me up for the following year and a half I'd be spending on this project. I think more than anything else, reading Luke helped me remember what it's like to be hungry for God's word. When you're a Christian in America, the Bible is not in short supply. There are Bible teachers available online, even on your phone, not to mention your own local church. You can go to Bible studies and meet freely, you can have the Bible in any translation on your phone, your tablet, your kindle, your computer. You can go to Target, Barnes and Noble or a hundred other places and find entire shelves of options. Diving into Luke encouraged me to take advantage of this! I would read a chapter or two on my phone waiting in lines, or pull out my kindle waiting for an appointment or killing some time. I wanted to enjoy the riches of His grace.

In these last 20 months or so, I've read the Bible the equivalent of at least 20 times all the through, not including the reading I did outside of "the plan" (which I did quite a bit of), for Bible study, for Sunday School teaching, and for church itself. Just this morning, the last thread of binding gave out, and the five pieces my Bible was in turned into six. It's a beautiful and emotional, tender thing for me to see, this Bible, well-loved, because I know the time spent there and how God met me in those pages. It turns me soft just looking at it. I had decided awhile ago not to replace it until I finished all the haiku so I could write them all in and have them in one place. But I am also really excited about the new Bible because it will be nice not to have to worry about losing pages.

And as much as I loved the reading, I really loved writing the haiku. It was a creative balance to the intellectual and theological challenge of doing the intense reading. And now, I have the entire Bible in 1, 122 syllables.

It was as God said
We disbelieved His goodness
He did as promised

God is who He is
He gives the slaves their freedom
Back then, and today

Yahweh has rescued
He gives His laws to make us
Happy, holy, His

Following the Lord
Is what's best for His people
Trust Him. He is good

Remember your God
His ways will be life to you
By His word, you live.

Be strong, and let God
Fight all your battles for you
He's never failed you

Follow the leaders
Given to you from the Lord
They point straight to Him

To love is to put
The interests of another
Ahead of your own

1 Samuel
They wanted a king
And said God wasn't enough
Look what that got them

2 Samuel
David had his faults
But God used him to shepherd
His flock. Go and do.

1 Kings
Sol had wisdom, but
It wasn't enough to keep
From falling apart

2 Kings
God's people left Him
But even in their exile
He remained faithful

1 Chronicles
Don't ignore the past
It will help you understand
The kingdom of God

2 Chronicles
Church has always been
Broken people God loves and
Leads despite themselves

God's covenant is
The prevailing force throughout
Human history

Devotion to God
Is best displayed in public
Fear no one but Him

God rules over all
Kings, times and people, even
Such a time as this

We do not have to
Understand the mind of God
In order to worship

This is who God is
He is worthy of our praise
Now and forever

Are you in a place
To receive wisdom from God?
Get there - run, don't walk!

If life is a breath
Consider the One who breathed
Your life into you

Song of Solomon
Husbands and wives were
Designed for intimacy
And we are Christ's Bride

Your rescue will come
Undeserved, unexpected
You will see the King

I know your failure
But I am coming for you
You will be made new

When all hope seems lost
Remember the Life-Giver
His mercy comes new

God brings renewal
To the driest of dead bones
He loves to give life

At the end of days
There will be one kingdom
Messiah will stand

God's pursuit of us
Does not depend on our faith,
But on His great love

Repent, Christ will come
All rebellion will be judged
Every promise kept

Judgment does not mean
God forgot His covenant
It means He's kept it

God rules the nations
Out of the depths, His people
Find resurrection

If you know the Lord
But you don't know who you are
You've missed the good news

Nations will be judged
The royal ruler will bring
Peace for God's people

God is still sovereign
His enemies will perish
His people will thrive

In the best of times
In the worst of times, God is
Still doing great things

The day of the Lord
Will come; how will you be found?
Seek Him, and rejoice

Rebuild the temple
All things are for My glory
I will be with you!

Remember what was
Repent, and look forward to
The One who will come

God loves the faithless
He's coming to the rescue
Watch, and be amazed

The prophets told us
Messiah would come - He did
Christ died and He lives

Jesus is God's Son
When we gain this knowledge, we
Respond in worship

Jesus knows our hearts
He wanted them so much that
He died to heal them

Jesus is the light
By which we see everything
This light is our life

The name of Jesus
Is our saving foundation
Let us build on that

We who died to sin
Have life in Christ to be shared
With one another

1 Corinthians
Dear Church, I love you
Get over your sin and live
United in Christ

2 Corinthians
Oh! Hello again!
Your life is all grace - live it
Spread knowledge of Christ

There is only one
Gospel that leads to life
Love it and live it

You are now in Christ
You have been saved by His grace
To be His body

Christ brought Himself low
That we would count all as loss
And have peace in Him

Live as people who
Were created for God's glory
You are with Jesus

1 Thessalonians
The gospel means we
Have the truth with which we can
Encourage the church

2 Thessalonians
God will be faithful
To the body that stands firm
And clings to Jesus

1 Timothy
Jesus came to save
Now, this is how a redeemed
People should respond

2 Timothy
Remember Jesus
You won't regret anything
You do in His name

We have seen God's grace
He's redeemed us from our past
So, we do good works

Slaves become brothers
The bound are called beloved
By the work of Christ

You know the high priest?
The atoning sacrifice?
His name is Jesus

Works cannot save you
But when you have faith in Christ
You won't do nothing

1 Peter
Your reality
Will always be the gospel
You are safe in Christ

2 Peter
Don't be tempted by
The false promises of sin
God is truth. Live it

1 John
To the beloved
Christ Jesus is your whole life,
The eternal life

2 John
Brothers and sisters,
Love one another; obey God
Abide in the truth

3 John
Beloved, love truth
Abide in it, work for it
For God is the truth

You who have received
The truth of God's salvation
Don't be led astray

We look forward to
The fullness of victory
We have in Jesus

*Now that I've gone back and read all the haiku, I am totally enamored with every book all over again, and I'm pretty sure they're all my favorite.