Fasting from Facebook

This year for lent, I have decided to take 40 days off from Facebook.

I came to my decision about what to do with this wonderful time before the Easter season by realizing that 1.) I wake up, check my email and Facebook every day before I get out of bed (of which I am also fasting from…no technology in bed during these 40 days!), 2.) during study breaks, my default was always Facebook, and 3.) I get so nosy. Granted, people put information and pictures on Facebook (myself included!) to be seen by others, but seriously, I want to practice minding my own business for a bit! (1 Thes 4:11).

So…what will I do with the time I would normally spend stalking (just call it what it is, people) friends, making comments on pictures, and updating my status (I am becoming more and more convinced that I become more and more narcissistic the more I use Facebook–do people really care what I have for dinner??? 🙂 )

Well, since Lent is purposed to bring believers closer to God, I would like to use that time for some self-examination and some God-examination.

1. In the morning, I will take the few minutes I normally took to check my email and FB to read a daily Scripture. That sounds like a good start to any day to me!

2. Study breaks – whatever happened to just sitting back, closing my eyes, and appreciating silence? Listening to podcasts, writing a hand-written note, SLEEP…those are some ideas. Do you  have any???

3. Those times when I am waiting for someone and my hand automatically reaches for my phone and presses the beckoning blue icon — well, I am thinking I should stop and smell the roses, or just do some good old fashioned people watching. Maybe making a list of what I am thankful for. What do you do when you have a few minutes of waiting time?

So, here’s to my little “unplugging” experiment. I welcome ideas, as well as ideas on what you are doing for Lent!

Prince Edward Island

The day after Dave and I got back from our Ouray trip, we took a 6:45 am flight to Boston, the first leg of our trip to Canada’s Prince Edward Island (PEI). Getting to this beautiful island is either really long, or really expensive. We chose the really long option. After arriving in Boston, my travel buddy and I rented a car and drove to Dover-Foxcroft, Maine. Here, we spent the night at Dave’s good friend’s house, Phil Eyster. Phil and his family were actually waiting for us at their house in PEI. Dave and Phil have been great friend and ministry partners for over 15 years. They both work with EPI, Eagle Projects International, of which Phil is president and Dave is a board member. EPI is an incredibly unique ministry organization and I encourage you to check out their website.

After a great, restful night in Maine’s countryside, Dave and I got up and drove for about 7 more  hours to PEI. After all of the traveling (18 hours), Dave calculated that we could have flown to London and back in less time. At least it was a pretty drive…

Phil’s house is on the North Shore of PEI, very close to Green Gables. Ring a bell? Yes, this is the birthplace of the beloved children’s book series (I feel completely comfortable telling people that I enjoy them as a 26 year old), Anne of Green Gables.

This is the green gables house Lucy Maud Montgomery modeled Anne's house after.

Phil's charming house, London Haven. Dave and I are reading on the porch on the right hand side.

After arriving at Phil’s house, we took a little trip to the shore at sunset.

The French River. The most photographed spot on the island!

The North Shore. The island's red sand/dirt made me feel somewhat close to home -- I have family in East Texas where red dirt is the norm (and bane of existence for cars and clothes...)

A very old lighthouse at Cape Tryon.

Then we made it to the red sand beaches. For being just north of Nova Scotia, the water isn't that cold!

The next day we went to the island’s capital, Charlottetown. This is no “island town” — it has its own university! Our destination was the theatre, to see Canada’s longest running play: Anne of Green Gables. Of course!

BUT — first we HAD to get some ice cream. The brand is Cows. It is local to Canada with 11 stores all around the country. All of the ice cream is made on the island!

I got to be Anne for 5 seconds.

The next day Dave and I went to church with the Eysters. I was so impressed with how many churches are on the island — so encouraging. After that, Dave and I took the afternoon to drive through the national parks and then eat a VERY nice dinner at Dalvey — host hotel of the royal tour! Apparently William landed his helicopter on the hotel’s lake…

We took a walk take on one of the park's beaches. We got one of many French tourists to take our picture. She told us it was a "framer."

Though dead, we got excited about this find: a very rare blue lobster.

Dalvey by the Sea -- beautiful hotel and restaurant.

William and Kate were still there! Well, not quite.

After one of the best meals of my life, and Dave's very rare filet, we almost fell asleep in front of this beautiful fireplace.

Our amazing day ended in returning the Eyster house and watching a Canadian mystery TV show. Actually very entertaining!!!

The next day was somewhat rainy. So, after canceling horseback riding and kayaking, Dave and I went to the next-best thing: The Cows Ice Cream Factory! Not only are they known for their ice cream, but maybe more so for their T-shirts. They take cultural icons, phrases, and names and use a cow theme to transform them.

"Justin Beefer" I got a T-shirt that says "Moo Moo Lemon" (For those of you who aren't yoga freaks like me, it is a play on "Lu Lu Lemon" -- an athletic apparel store).

On the Cows Factory tour. It's a good look for us...

Later that night we did one of my favorite things about the trip. PEI has a high islander influence (Scottish, Irish, etc.). They even have a College of Piping (bagpiping). So, we went to a great show the student put on all summer. The show included not only bag pipes, but strings (violin, guitar, harp), piano, lots of percussion, and DANCING. If you are a fan of Stomp, Drumline, or Riverdance, you would have loved this.

A student bagpiper welcomed us into the show.

A bit of drama was added to the show. Competing tap dancers and instruments.

The next day Dave and I drove around the Green Gables area to see more of the Anne-fetish. It truly has amazing history! Later we went to dinner with Phil and his lovely wife, Marcia. They imparted some great relationship and ministry wisdom to us. I will not forget what I learned and have taken it to heart. Later that night, we went to a local theatre show that had me laughing off my seat. (If you haven’t guessed by now, PEI is a very art-focused island.)

The next day was a travel day. We only needed a total of 7 hours to make it to Phil’s house in Maine. So, Dave and I took the opportunity to engage in more art — pottery. We took a 3-hour pottery class and made some pretty great pieces. We don’t have them yet because they had to be fired and glazed. Hopefully only a couple more weeks and then I will post some pics, since we are so artsy and all…

My perfectionist side came out, and Dave’s patience resulted. So thankful that he was encouraging me even when I probably drove him crazy with how “uneven” my platter was becoming.

At Off the Batt Pottery

Dave rolling out his clay

Doing some design work on his platter

Me using some lace to create a pretty border on my platter.

Finished raw product: peacock (not a turkey!), flowers, and border. It will have a glazed white finish and will hopefully look antique-ish

Dave and I made it back to Phil’s in time to get some pizza and watch Fletch. A good finish to a great trip.

We arrived home safely to Denver, but I do miss wearing my fleece in the middle of the day! Oh well, I’ll give it a few more weeks here and I am sure I will be tired of wearing it!

A small update going foward: I start school today! Normally I would start seeing clients at 5 pm, but I don’t have any lined up yet since it’s the beginning of the semester. But, I do have a class at 8 pm!

So, hopefully that DOESN’T mean I will stop blogging frequently. But, know that my blogs will be much less pretty. 🙂

The Spirit’s Role in Creating and Redeeming

I keep telling some of you about how great my professors are. The one mentioned most, Dr. Hess, is my OT professor. I sound like a broken record when I say he is one of the most brilliant Bible scholars I have ever encountered. He talks for 3 hours without notes (except the Bible), never hesitates with students’ questions, and could tell you more about the Dead Sea Scrolls than you thought possible.

Our class two weeks ago blew me away. After talking about ancient manuscripts for an hour, Dr. Hess switched gears and discussed the Bible with us. We talked about Genesis 1:1-2 for two hours. Two verses in two hours. That was not enough time to discuss God’s first words about His Redemptive story.

Art by Christopher Koelle, as found in "The History of Redemption." See http://www.historyofredemption.org/

The most exciting thing about the lecture was the discussion about the role of the Holy Spirit in Creation, and His continual involvement in the Old Testament narrative with a purpose of CREATION and REDEMPTION.

Creation

Setting the Stage: The author of Genesis 1 poetically describes God’s masterful creation of the universe. In verse 2 he says “Now the earth was formless and empty.” In Hebrew: tohu wa bohu. This is basically a poetic way of saying that there was no support for life. Next, he records “darkness was over the surface of the deep.”  Now, what exactly does “the deep” mean? The Hebrew, tehom, describes subterranean waters. It describes a “potentially powerful” force; something unstoppable.

Genesis 1:2 continues, “…the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”  Hebrew for the use of “Spirit of God” in Genesis 1, is ruach. The word actually means “a mighty wind.”  (No, not something imagined by Christopher Guest.) And “hovering” connotes a bird flying back & forth, waiting. Waiting. There is a powerful potential, a tehom, underneath this ruach and He is waiting for something to happen. So, the Holy Spirit, this mighty wind, is connected to powerful subterranean waters.

The Red Sea

Fast forward to another connection of the Holy Spirit with water in Exodus.

In Exodus 14, The Egyptians army, the most powerful in the world, is pursuing the fleeing Israelites and have cornered them against the Red Sea. Moses states: “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Ex 14:13)

“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.”

Then the LORD said to Moses, “ ‘Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.’ Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the LORD swept them into the sea. The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived.”

The “strong east wind” is the Holy Spirit, ruach. And the use of the word “waters” is the same Hebrew word, tehom that describes the “potentially powerful waters” at the beginning of creations. Except this time, the waters realized their potential.

After this miraculous event, we see a people created Israel. “And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant…In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed.” (Ex 14:31, 15:13).

Return From Babylon

Another important event in Israel’s past, the exile from Babylon, also includes a reference (though more vague) to the Holy Spirit being a part of creating and, especially, redeeming the remnant of God’s people.

Some scripture sregarding God’s leading Israel back to their home are found in Isaiah).

First, God describes how the OLD Israel is going to suffer. Isaiah 5:5-6

5 Now I will tell you
what I am going to do to my vineyard:
I will take away its hedge,
and it will be destroyed;
I will break down its wall,
and it will be trampled.
6 I will make it a wasteland,
neither pruned nor cultivated,
and briers and thorns will grow there.
I will command the clouds
not to rain on it.

Second, Isaiah: 40: 23-24. Here,  God has destroyed Babylonian authorities. Notice the words (bolded) that are similar to our past references to the Holy Spirit as being a mighty wind. There are different Hebrew words here than in Genesis, but the meaning is the same.

23 He brings princes to naught
and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.
24 No sooner are they planted,
no sooner are they sown,
no sooner do they take root in the ground,
than he blows on them and they wither,
and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff

Third, Isaiah 55:12-13  God is talking to the Israelites about how He will lead them away from Babylon.

12 You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the LORD’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
that will endure forever.

“Led forth” here is another description of the Spirit’s work; the word literally means leading a triumphant army from exile. From the WBC (Isaiah) this term connotes that  “heavenly messengers recognize the significance of the announcement. God’s plan is being put into effect. Glorious results will follow.” God will recreate His people as they are lead back to their home.  They will become a New Israel through a New Covenant.

If this is WAY over your head; don’t worry. It’s way over mine as well, still. But,  hopefully you can get the gist that God is amazing and will stop at nothing to keep freeing His people, redeeming them, recreating them. And how amazing is His Word! He is so crafty.

************

Dr. Hess is also one of the kindest people I know. He prays before each class; last week he prayed that people without a home would find shelter and clothing to protect them in this weather, and that God’s hand would be over the situation and the Christians in Egypt. Our hearts were turned off of ourselves for a few seconds and onto others. So refreshing.

Colorado Week 1: Newness

This post is long overdue and I won’t be able to sum up everything in a readable post. So, if you have questions, just ask. 🙂

This past week has been quite a whirlwind. But a good whirlwind. Everyone who has moved to a brand new place knows how much work goes into “nesting”.  I have taken more trips to Target and BBB in the past 5 days than probably a year in Austin. Mom, you are the expert nester and I seriously could not have done any of this without you! This new apartment has been a symbol of the newness that is all around me. I have new kitchen utensils. I have new roads to get lost on and eventually master. I have a new view from my porch (7 am is not so bad with a sunrise and snow capped mountains). I have new neighbors: professors, classmates, and a random old guy who rides an orange Moped and lives upstairs. Remy has about three new yards.  I have new inspiration to know God in a deeper, more intimate way. Lots of new things. Exciting, a bit scary, but definitely good.

Lists

A few things I am loving so far:

  • The view from anywhere
  • 300 days of sunny weather
  • My apartment
  • Littleton (I have everything 15 minutes away from me, including a cute downtown area).

A few things I am not so hot about:

  • Perpetually dry hands,
  • Rush-hour traffic comparable to Mopac/I-35
  • Expensive gas

Things I think I will love:

  • The light-rail from my street all the way to downtown Denver
  • The South Platte River that runs from my street to Denver Seminary (from here on out referred to as: DenSem) AND has a bike path the whole way.
  • Ski trips too often to be fair
  • Watching Remy play in the snow — we haven’t has a significant amount to give her a new playground

On that note: Remy has had a little snowy experience; one morning after a night of snowfall, we walked out into about a 1.5″ of new wet, cold fluffy stuff. She went to the bathroom, then tried to sniff around a bit. She didn’t get far because her feet started to get cold. She picked up one foot to thaw out for about 5 seconds, then would switch to another. Apparently dogs actually have to acclimate to the cold. In the meantime, I bought her some “PawTectors.”

Orientation

I was oriented on Friday along with about 80 other newbies. I visited the campus back in June, so I already had a feel for the place. Before I went into the meeting, I paid a visit to the admin building to change my address. As I filled out the form, the receptionist was talking on the phone about how much God blessed her last month. When she said the word “God” I jerked my head up as if I had heard someone say “bomb” on an airplane. I have never been in an educational environment where a relationship with God, and thus talking about Him, is the norm. Next I walked next door to the education building (classrooms and the chapel); a snack bag and a name tag were waiting for me. Hungry, I dove into my paper sack and found among other treats, a bag of Goldfish. As I snacked, I thought of one thing: Kidstuff. Oh, Kidstuff how I miss you!!!  I sat down with some kind-looking elderly fellows and started chatting. The student council president got our attention and started to pray over our time; I was blown away. Prayer in an academic setting and over an orientation meeting! ?! Again, I am not used to “God-talk” in large settings other than at church functions. This is amazing!

That morning, fellow students and I heard from various professors and DenSem’s president–love him already: he’s been to 30 different countries, has a great sense of humor, AND he has spent considerable time in Texas.

Next, I made my way to a classroom with the rest of the counseling students. A professor, Fred, gave us a presentation about the program for about 1.25 hours. It would have been too overwhelming except they fed us Chipotle WITH guacamole. Thank you, Jesus. At the end, all of us either had glazed-over eyes or a freaked-out face. Fred pulled up one last slide (see picture) and told us to breathe. I felt better knowing that someone recognized we were all stressed.

By Myself

Mom left the next morning. I made it back from the airport in one piece and remembered to let Remy out. Then I made myself breakfast. After this point I slowed down and realized I had made it about and hour by myself in a brand new city. My mother is a huge stone (there is only One Rock, but she stands out pretty darn well) in my life and losing her company as well as her wisdom was something to accept. But, as things go, I moved on in thankfulness and decided to attack a few more moving boxes.

The new silence has been a little uncomfortable, but a blessing: I find myself talking to God more. My mind is a little more quiet. The only noises available are the dishwasher, the washing machine, iTunes and movies. I chose not to get cable; financially, yes, but moreso to challenge myself. I have never been without it and I want to see what it’s like. I’ll keep you updated on the experiment.

Not All By Myself

8 years ago I served for a month at a Young Life Camp in Canada. I met a bunch of amazing people. One of them was a girl named Cori. A few weeks ago, she saw my Facebook updates regarding my move to Denver and contacted me.  (Though I am a bit cynical regarding Facebook relationships, I am thankful to God for Mark Zuckerberg). Cori took me to her church this morning; it was so good to be in a body of believers after a week of chaos. After service we met up with her husband and baby girl for an amazingly scrumptious lunch. Good food, good conversation, a good God. And did I mention that Cori literally lives across the street?

God keeps providing fellowship for me: I am hoping to meet up with a friend of a friend tomorrow for dinner and later this week I will be borrowing books from a friend of Mrs. Jamie Ivey. I am sure I will not be without brothers and sisters during my time. Though it really hasn’t set in that I will be here for a while, I know I will be taken care of.

…And that’s all she wrote. I am going to go enjoy my evening with a home-cooked meal, a glass of Cab, and some Alias. Hope you all are well.

First Day in Colorado

Here starts the beginning of a few more “up-to-date” blog entries. Thus far I have not recounted events in my life very much; only things that have inspired me have made it onto the site. But, since I already feel so far removed from my life and family in Austin, I am excited to share some more daily-type entries.

Today:

Mom and I drove across the New Mexico and Colorado state lines today. I saw my first snow covered mountain of the trip:

Pikes Peak (one of Colorado’s 54 ‘fourteeners’). As we drove into the towns surrounding Denver, I was disappointed that there wasn’t more snow on the ground — Remy will have to wait a little while before her first experience with the cold, white-n-fluffy. But, it also made for easier traveling. Mom and I got through about 7 hours of “The Count of Monte Christo” on audiobook. It’s getting intense. Since I am already in Littleton, my new home, it will take me a while to get through the rest…especially since I won’t be making any long road trips soon and the fact that I will have plenty of other reading to occupy my time.I got a chance to tour my apartment and it seems I am pretty well set up. I have a 1st floor apartment, which Remy likes because she can stand on her hind legs on the patio ledge and look out at the parking lot. Mom and I drove around a little bit this afternoon and found some essentials: a grocery store, tons of yummy restaurants, and car-repair shop. Tomorrow we will head to BBB (bed bath and beyond) and gather some necessities for the apartment.

I found out that Colorado-ians (?) do not like to put light fixtures up in the rooms. My apartment and two different hotel rooms lack such lighting. I am assuming it has something to do with energy – conservation. I am seriously in a green environment.

I attend orientation on Friday…so I will give an update after a day’s worth of listening and socializing afterwards.

Maniac to Minister

There is an account in the Bible (Matthew 8, Mark 5, Luke 8)about a man who is possessed by not only 1 demon, but 6,000 demons (a “legion”). His home is a cave, normally used to bury the dead and shelter the most destitute. He lives in a place called Gerasa among a large herd of pigs, and therefore in Gentile territory (read, pork ≠ kosher). His neighbors have bound him with chains and shackles numerous times, but the power of evil in him is so strong that he breaks them every time. Adding to his humiliation, he, uncontrollably and constantly screams at the top of his lungs and gashes himself with stones. His mouth is used by the demons to speak to Jesus in a most irreverent tone. Pathetic, disheveled, deranged and dangerous, the man no longer seems human. This demon, named Legion, has done everything in its power to destroy the divine likeness of this man.

But Jesus shows up. And everyone knows that when Jesus shows up, all sorts of crazy can happen. Even the demon knows trouble has shown up (“I implore you by God, do not torment me!”). Long story short, by Jesus’ hand Legion comes out of the man, inhabits a herd of pigs, and the new man is “sitting down, clothed and in his right mind.” The townspeople show up and cannot believe their eyes.

I am reminded of the film Pretty Woman when Vivian is scantily clad and visits an upscale boutique on Rodeo drive. The saleswomen giver her a one-over and tell her to leave. She shows up a few days later, dressed like a classy lady. The saleswomen do not recognize her and attempt to wait on her. She gives them a piece of her mind and leaves.

Unlike the film, Jesus does not instruct the crazy, now sane, man to walk away. He tells him to “Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for your, and how He had mercy on you.” (Mark 5:19) This man gets to testify about Jesus. I believe he is the first evangelist. The once dirty, scary, insane man, who was hopeless and without purpose (except to be the live scarecrow), now has the greatest purpose this side of heaven. This should give all of us hope. God can use anyone to spread His kingdom. He would rather use the sinners and crazies than the righteous and upright. So, take a minute to remember what you once were and realize what you are now.

The Perfect Storm

This Bible account might be in my top ten. Of course, as He does so many times, God revealed something new in the story I have never thought about before.

First, read this short account from Mark:

35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

The disciples are freaked out. And Jesus is in the stern (back of the boat). Sleeping.

They approach Him, “Jesus, what the heck. First of all, how are You SLEEPING? And second, HELP US!”

They expect Jesus to get on up and get His hands-on-deck. Belay some sails, tighten the bowline, or control the shrouds so the ship doesn’t tip on its side. Anything.

You see, Jesus is God. He sent the storm. He was fully aware that it was coming and that He would be napping. Fully cognizant of the situation, Jesus gives His friends a chance to be baffled, lost, scared.

Then, He helps them in a way they never would have expected: instead of adding to the boat’s man-power, He took care of the problem itself, the storm.

Their marvel at Him was very great because they felt the doom of death upon them, were completely stripped of all control, and were drowning in fear. If they had felt competent, had charge of the ship, and if Jesus added His (man) strength, and THEN Jesus told the storm to chill out, their awe would not be very great.

It is in our brokenness that we get to experience the true greatness of God’s strength. And when the storm passes (whether in this life, or possibly only in the next) and we are hoarse from praising Him, we have only our smiles and hands to worship Him all the more because we see His sovereignty in our suffering.

Elihu, Job’s friend, helps him see God’s mercy in Job 37:10-17

“By the breath of God ice is given, and the broad waters are frozen fast. He loads the thick cloud with moisture; the clouds scatter lighting. They turn around and around by his guidance, to accomplish all that he commands them on the face of the habitable world. Whether for correction or for his land or for love, he causes it to happen. Hear this, O Job; stop and consider the wondrous works of God.”

God is perfect. And His storms are real and hard. But they are perfect too.