Thursday, November 10


I find it interesting, looking back at my blog and my last few posts, that I never wrote about my summer interning with CIY. I find this interesting for two reasons: first, I definitely intended to at the beginning of the summer, and second, it was such a momentous summer for me, you would think I would need to say at least a few words about it.  I met wonderful people and learned incredible things about myself and my faith. Don't get me wrong, I wanted to write about all the things I was seeing and feeling. I really did. But there is something about sitting down and putting your emotions into words that is a daunting task, especially in the midst of such a formational experience. My life was changing, and still is in a big way and something about trying to put that into words seemed sacrilegious.

Until today. At the end of the summer, Chase had us write a letter to ourselves to be mailed in three months. I got mine two days ago and couldn't let myself open it until today. I had a whole day off work and I wanted time to read, to think, to reminisce and absorb what I wrote to myself.

I wrote about so much I could share, but one thing really stood out to me. I talked about the feeling of homelessness that pervaded the summer. I was done at Belmont and gone were the days when my friends were, at most, right across campus. My apartment now belonged to someone else and I would be a visitor in Nashville, instead of a resident. Joplin was not my home and neither was Johnson City, TN, Knoxville, TN, or Roach, MO (thank God).  I lived out of my suitcase pretty much all summer and slept in dorm rooms and hotel rooms. Most of my meals were eaten at various restaurants around town or in college cafeterias. I talked about how I was, in a sense, "finding" my adult self. The end of my academic career meant that I needed to choose a path. What did I want to do? I was no longer identified by my major, now all anyone cared about was whether or not I had a college degree and if I could do the job required. Real life was no longer past the threshold of graduation; it was right at my doorstep.

Now, three months after my CIY experience ended, I still have similar feelings. I am living at home again, working and trying to plan a wedding that is coming up quickly. Even though I am 'home,' I still feel a bit homeless. Much of my stuff is in storage and I no longer have a room to myself. I am trying to be patient and wait until Dustin and I know what city and state the next chapter of our lives will take us. I know for a fact that in two or three months, my stuff will yet again get packed up and moved across the country to a new home. I still don't know what I feel called to do career-wise, or even what will be available in the city to which we move. It is hard to feel settled in such a situation.

Even though many of the familiar feelings of homelessness and restlessness are still there, but I am not worried. I think deep down I know that God has big plans for both Dustin and me. I just have to trust that they will work out and I need to keep working hard and take life one step at a time. My three-month-ago self is so full of wisdom: I end my letter with "speak Lord, for your servant is listening, seeking, speaking, and trusting." I also remind myself, something that I need reminded of every day, to "keep sight of the fact that you are created beautifully and perfectly in God's image and have your place in God's kingdom. I can't wait to see where life takes you!" I am still waiting to see where life takes me, but I cannot miss what my life has for me right now. God has a place for me and my job now is to be patient and trust that it will come at the right time.

Monday, October 24

Wedding planning and work have kept me busy these last few weeks, but at the very least, here is a wonderful quote from one of the most interesting and brilliant men to ever have walked the earth.

"Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way into the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace." 
                                                                                   -Frederick Buechner

Monday, September 19

Late Summer Love

Sometimes pictures speak louder than words... so here are some pictures from the last month of summer.

Monday, August 22

Forgotten Letters

Sometimes life hits you right between the eyes with incredibly beautiful moments: moments you didn't foresee and couldn't have predicted even if you tried.  Today I had one of those moments.  I was going through the piles of stuff in my room, trying to get some semblance of order, when I came across a bag of letters from my Chrysalis flight.  For those of you who din't know, when I was still in high school, I went on a little weekend retreat called Chrysalis.  They have all kinds of activities for you to experience, (spoiler alert for those who haven't done one!) one of which is getting letters and cards from people that care about you and know what you are experiencing over the course of the weekend.  I decided to go through the bag and throw away the cards from people I didn't know or didn't remember.  I started in.  I read letters from high school friends, some of which I still see and talk to occasionally, and some that I regrettably haven't heard from in a while.  I found a letter from a high school teacher I had that wasn't my favorite in the classroom, but she wrote me a beautiful letter that changed my opinion of her.  I reread the cards from my siblings and from people I didn't even know.  Then I came to it.  The letter I wasn't expecting, not even in the slightest.  The letter from my mom's mother; my Grandma Betty.  It was marked as written in 2005... a year or so before she died.  I carefully opened it, not in the slightest prepared for what I would read.  It was the most beautiful, heartfelt letter I think I have ever received, and I had forgotten it even existed.  She told me how much she loved me and how proud she was of me, and I instantly broke down.  It was one of those moments that just jumps out at you, and all you can do is lift your empty hands and let it happen.

I was incredibly touched today to find a rare gem of love and encouragement on the brink of an unsure season of my life.  I felt so deeply loved, even though the gap of death and time, from someone that meant a lot to me.  Chrysalis wasn't a defining weekend in my life and it isn't one of my fondest memories, but I know God worked on me then and is working on me now, even though an old letter that I had forgotten about.

I want to encourage you to tell the people you love that you love them, and often.  If you can't say it outright, then write them a letter.  It can mean so much more than what you ever intended.

Monday, July 11

Love this!

For those of you who don't know who Andrew Peterson is, let me just say that he is one of my favorite musicians ever.  He has an incredible mastery over thoughts and words that I think is very rare and beautiful.  He blogged recently about his thoughts on Harry Potter and Christianity, and it's a post I think everyone, fan or not, should read.

Harry Potter, Jesus, and Me


Today, as I'm sitting in the Christ in Youth offices, one thought has struck me.  Five weeks.  Five weeks left here in Joplin.  Five weeks to spend time with my event staff team and family, and five more weeks until I finally get to embrace Dustin.  Five more weeks until I go back to live at home for a few months.  Five more weeks until concrete wedding details have to start emerging.  Five more weeks until I need to find a way to make money.

The thought is a bit overwhelming.

The thing is, time goes so fast here.  When you are busy going from event to event, sometimes working eighteen hours a day, a summer flies by.  It eventually becomes just a blip on the timeline of your life; a series of fond memories that are the distant past.

I'm not ready for the next few weeks to become a checklist or a finish line.  I desperately want to see Dustin and my family, yes, but I don't want to miss what God has for me in this moment.  Barbara Brown Taylor, Episcopal priest, professor, and theologian, wrote one of my favorite books ever entitled An Altar in the World.  In this book, she describes the manner in which Biblical heroes encountered moments in which the Living God reached out to them.  Many times, they encountered the sacred in the everyday: a dream, a whisper, a bush.

The problem is the everyday is simple: we are used to it.  After we notice the gently swaying willow tree outside our window, we forget it exists.  We create routines and start to mechanically plow through our day.  I wonder how many times God is waiting in the gentle rain, only to have me brush right past?

I want to be present in the moment...I want to encounter the living and active God in the everyday and see the sacred in the mundane.  This is my prayer for the rest of the summer, and really, for this whole season of life.

Tuesday, May 31

On Goodbyes at the Belltower

(Preface: Half of this post was written pre-graduation and half was written post-graduation...  just fyi so you aren't confused)

Well, that's it.  I just submitted the last paper of my college career.  I thought that I would be excited to move into the few days before graduation where I have no responsibilities and can enjoy every last moment of my Belmont experience, but I admit that I am sad.  Most every class I have taken since switching into the school of religion has challenged me more than I expected, but I have learned such an incredible amount.  At this point, at the end of my assignments and required books and reflections and research, I no longer have my professors to guide me.  If I want to learn and continue to push myself, then I am solely responsible.  

I also admit that I was hesitant to start a blog post about graduation.  I mean, how do you sum up your college experience?  How do I put my deep and complex feelings into words?  How do I describe the life-changing relationships I have formed?  How do I reflect on how I have changed as a person at the hands of my professors and peers?  I am feeling the profound failure of my words to portray what I feel.  As John Ames says in the novel Gilead, "I felt the poverty of my remarks."  I will do my best.

In these past four years, I feel that I have grown into my skin in a lot of different ways.  I have grown up.  I am on the road to a beautiful and exciting marriage to my high school sweetheart, Dustin, that was largely a big, looming question mark when we both left for college.  Although separated by distance, we have grown together through the last four years and now will be embarking on a new journey into married life.

I have learned where my greatest interests lie.  First I thought it was music, then worship leading.  Then, I took the step into the new land of theological studies and found exactly what I was looking for.  It was like my passion was there all along, waiting for me to discover it so it could blossom into just what I needed.  In studying religion, I have found a deep desire to learn more about theology and churches, about women in ministry, about popular culture and the arts and their bridges back and forth to faith.  I have discovered a passion for literature and sorting out difficult and subtle themes that interweave themselves into my life as the story unfolds.

I have learned, standing at the edge of a new road, how much Belmont has meant to me these last four years.  I have met professors that have left a permanent and deep mark on my life and my thoughts.  Through them, I have been challenged to physically and intellectually go places I never thought I would.  I consider their example and impact to be of the highest quality, and as I consider what my future will look like, the thing I mourn most is the loss of their daily presence in my life.  The School of Religion at Belmont truly is remarkable and I will miss my little academic family.  Likewise, my fellow graduates in the School of Religion are inspirations to me in their creativity, uniqueness, and intelligence.  Everyone I have had the privilege to walk through this journey with was so kind and so smart, I felt myself being stretched and challenged just by being around them.  I am excited to see where they will all end up because I know the world is waiting in deep need of their gifts.

This may seem silly, but I will also miss the vibrancy and creativity that is inherent at Belmont, and even Nashville as a whole.  I don't even know how this happens, but each and every person is the next greatest artist out there.  I will miss the incredible music that has been made and is yet to be made here, whether it is in the Curb Event Center, Massey, Harton, or out on the quad.  I will miss the visual art that I don't always understand, but that still always engrosses me.  I will miss the clothes, music, and attitude of hipsters hanging around campus and Bongo Java.  I will miss walking to class and spotting so many friends or stopping at Bongo to grab a coffee and read a book or converse with a friend.  I will miss hearing the bell tower signal that I am late for class again and I will miss lying in the grass between classes, soaking up the Nashville weather.  All of this is what makes Belmont feel like home for me and right now I can't stand that I am leaving it behind.

Last of all, and definitely not least of all, I will miss all of my incredible friends that I have gathered in my past four years.  I have been so blessed to know each and every one of them... from my friends in my honors group freshman year, to fellow music or religion majors, to random people I kept bumping into.  They largely made my experience what it is, and I plan to see them as often as possible in the 'real world,' but even if some of us never cross paths again, they have made a lasting impression on me.

I will never forget the few days before graduation, where we were scrambling to see as many friends as possible and to do as many of our favorite things around Nashville as we could.  I was so grateful my fiance and best friend was able to share these memories with me.  I will forever cherish the memory of walking around the Belltower with some of my closest friends, holding a candle, placing my hand on that beloved monument and praying for my future and for the futures of the students that will someday come to my school.  I remember the cool brick under my fingers as I stood and thanked God for my experience and prayed that I would have courage and strength to carry into my post-Belmont life.  My time at Belmont is incredibly special to me and I pray for every single man and woman that steps up to Wright or Patton halls in the fall, suitcase in hand, to start a new chapter in his or her life.  My time is up, but theirs is just beginning, and it will be an incredible journey for both of us.

Tuesday, May 3

Paul and the Difficulties of Scripture

One of the more recent things I have been wrestling with is my view of the Bible.  I grew up believing that the Bible is the Word of God.  We do what it says and we read it to find what God is saying to us, end of story.

But the more I get into reading and studying Scripture, the more questions I have.  What do I do with the fact that the Bible has discrepancies?  I can't take two conflicting things side by side and accept both of them as truth.  I just can't.

And while I'm at it, what do I take as truth in the Bible?  Am I expected to believe that stories containing horrendous tragedies like rape and incest and murder were divinely directed by God?  Did God ordain those events?  If he didn't, then what purpose do they serve?

Talking more specifically, I have been wrestling with gender in regards to theology and church practice.  Paul talks some about gender roles in the New Testament and most churches that place restrictions on what women can or can't do take their reasons from his letters in 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Timothy 2.  His words seem pretty cut-and-dry that women should remain silent in the church.

Now, I could bore you for hours with research others have done about these verses.  There are shelves of books I could show you on the meaning of those words in Greek or about why Paul said that to some women and not to others.  I could say that there are a few strong examples of women teaching theology to men in the New Testament or that we don't take Paul's words about head coverings or being saved through childbirth as commands.  I could show you verses only chapters earlier in the same letters that talk about women prophesying in the church.

But none of that would change the fact that some people take these words as God's words to the church. And won't be swayed.

I think the whole conversation ends up coming down to one point: what kind of church do we want to be?  Are we a Christian church or are we a Pauline church?  Is our theology based on THE Word of God: Jesus Christ, who was with God in the beginning, or do we base our ideas on Paul's theology, a great teacher and icon of Christianity, but nonetheless, a fallible man?  Are Paul's words God speaking directly to us now or should we regard them as in a certain place in history?  Do Paul's words change the way we see Jesus interacting with women, or Jesus the basis on which we should frame gender discussions in the church?

Honestly, I am still wrestling with what I think, but the half-baked conclusion I have come to is that the premises behind Paul's words are more important than his words themselves.  So when Paul was talking to the Corinthian church, a church very much removed from our time and culture, what was he getting at about church order?  About education for teachers?  About reverence and obedience to God?  Maybe his emphasis wasn't on right places for genders, but on other issues plaguing the church. We have to remember that if it is true that Paul's letters were written before the Gospels were written down, then Paul likely had very limited access to these documents.  He was doing the best with what he knew and we should tread lightly when we make his words commands from God.

I know this changes the way I view Scripture.  I know that I am treading into somewhat dangerous territory when I start to put the Bible into compartments.  But, I don't know any other way to reconcile some of the issues that I read.  What do you think?

Wednesday, April 13


Today I thought I'd share a reflection I wrote yesterday for my Religion and Arts Symposium class.  We are putting on an event with the theme "Feasting in Dangerous Places" as the capstone event of our college career, and each of us were given a part of the theme to write on.  This will be part of the theological framework to help connect the different pieces of art being presented.  My part of the theme was danger, but I wanted to focus this idea on more than the connotation we typically think of, which is physical danger.  I wanted to focus more on the Biblical idea of danger.  So, without further ado, here is my reflection.


It makes us think of the movies, of war zones, exploding bombs, and machine guns relentlessly banging, aiming at anything in sight.  We think of innocent civilians, ducking, covering their heads from the cracking ceiling that could cave at any moment.  We think of broken glass and used needles littering the streets or small children, shrinking day-by-day with the deep, relentless hunger that pains them.  We think of poverty, of disease, of despair.  The bleak.  The hopeless. The broken.

We sit back in on our cushy, decorative couches, watching these events roll by on our new flat-screen TV that we received for Christmas.  We feel a sadness and burden for these people, one that probably will go no further than donating a few dollars to the Red Cross.  We turn off the television and go on with our lives: our very own busy, consumer-driven, American dream.  Our minds are consumed with getting ahead and staying ahead and we can only thank God that we live in this nation that makes us feel safe and full.

What is our danger?  We have it all figured out.  After all, we have mended bodies and cured disease.

Our danger is found in the comfortable, the happy and content.  It is dangerous when we go buy the latest model of iphone and walk right past the homeless man who desperately needs a meal.  We find danger when we make big meaty dinners, only to throw away a third of what we made.  We find it when we go out and buy new clothes when our closet is stuffed to the brim.  We are in danger when we entertain a selfish dream and risk losing our souls in the process.

Consider Jesus’ words to us:
Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.  What will it profit you if you gain the whole world but forfeit your life?

Tuesday, March 29

Telling Stories

The other day, I was looking at the viewer stats on my blog and I became a little disheartened.  The most views I had on one day amounted to somewhere around fourteen.  Don't get me wrong: I haven't really advertised at all.  Yeah, I guess I put the link on both my facebook and twitter pages, but I think a little part of me is scared that people will- get this- actually start to read it.

There is a burden that comes with your voice in the public sphere, even if it is only on a blog.  And so I thought to myself, well, why am I doing this?  Why don't I just write in a private journal and keep those thoughts to myself?  I'm sure my readership wouldn't be too lost without me.

Then, I was rereading sections of Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist, and ran across this section.  I read,

"This is what I want you to do: tell your story.  Don't allow the story of God, the sacred, transforming story of what God does in a human heart to become flat and lifeless.  If we choose silence, if we allow the gospel to be told only on Sundays, only in sanctuaries, only by approved and educated professionals, that life-changing story will lose its ability to change lives."

I'm not pretending that I am not a religion major about to graduate with my degree.  I won't pretend that I haven't considered going to seminary and love doing some "light" theological and academic reading.  But at the same time, I refuse to pretend that I am an expert on anything.  The only thing I know is my experience, my life, and how I see that fitting into what I understand to be God's story.  At the end of the day, I have a responsibility to tell my story and how God works in the dark, dusty corners of my life.  I am the only one that can do that, so whether I have three people listening to me or three thousand, I will continue to speak to a world that desperately needs to hear.

Thursday, March 24

On Flannery O'Connor and the Gruesomeness of Humanity

In one of my classes, we are currently reading selected essays and short stories by Flannery O'Connor and looking into her stories for theological implications.  Let me start off by saying that I like Flannery's stories.  I find her engaging and well-spoken and unpredictable.  But at the first read-through, I find myself going...


Maybe this will give you an idea: In Good Men are Hard to Find, (SPOILER ALERT!) the Misfit and his gang shoot and kill an entire family they find stranded on the side of the road after a car accident.  That's it.  End of story.  The grandmother and villain have some snippets of conversation throughout, but the basic plot is that all the good guys die.

Regardless of whether or not you know that Flannery was a very orthodox Catholic, this is not a good ending for a story.  There is no satisfying resolution, no triumph of good over evil.  There really doesn't even seem to be an ending in the sense that we often expect.

If I were writing the story, the Misfit and his gang would ride off triumphantly (obviously in their black-and-white striped criminal shirts), only to be caught down the road by a wandering police officer.  The criminals would be caught and some semblance of justice would be brought to the story.

The only problem is, that isn't how the story goes.  And that isn't how Flannery intended it.

The ending is messy.  It's unsatisfying.  The story is gruesome and distasteful and horrible.  That's how life is.  Flannery writes this awful story and chops off the marginally happy ending, only to ask us, can you believe in the face of THIS?  Can you look at life in this way, in all the horrible, awful details, and still believe?  Even if there isn't a happy ending?  Even if something goes wrong and life just keeps spinning, oblivious and cold?  Even if God does not intervene?

In Christianity, we have a hope that God is going to tie up all of the frayed, loose ends.  As Andrew Peterson sings in his song, we know that "all shall be well."  Flannery, in a sense, asks us to hold off on that hope for the moment and look at what we've got.  She wants to say, yes, we have hope, but we also have pain.  Does my faith stand strong in the face of unspeakable horror?

So now the question is: what do you think of Flannery?  What does she challenge you to think about?

Monday, February 28

Rob Bell, Universalist?

There are so many different opinions being thrown around about the Rob Bell twitter-controversy, and seeing that they are mostly negative, I thought I might as well throw my two cents in.  So, for those of you who don't know, Rob Bell's new book, Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived drops at the end of March.  From reading excerpts and watching the promotion video, many different people- a la John Piper- are calling Rob a universalist. I won't go into it too much, but if you want to read the blog post Piper tweeted (it was written by Justin Taylor), you can see it here.

Here are my thoughts on the whole controversy:

1.  Give Rob a bit of a break.  None of us have read the book yet, and after we have, we can judge his comments, but all of this heretic talk is a bit too early.  Let's practice some Christian love and give the man the benefit of the doubt until we read it for ourselves.  Innocent until proven guilty.

2.  From watching the video, I think Rob may be trying to stir the pot a little.  He doesn't really come out and make any specific claims, just hints that he is going to challenge us to re-think some of our theology, specifically what we think about hell and salvation.  I personally don't expect him to come out and say that he is a universalist, but that he will show us a broader view of salvation than what many Christians are used to.  Maybe it's just a marketing ploy.  Maybe he is a universalist.  Who knows.

3.  Speaking of broader views of hell and salvation, a few of the things Rob hints at in the video are actually things I have some concerns with anyway, one of which is the traditional view of hell as a specific place.  I think of it as more of a state of non-being.  Hell is one of those vague Biblical concepts that is talked about, but not in detail.  The more traditional idea that it is a literal place comes more from the idea in Revelation about a lake of fire for Satan.  The Greek word, Gehenna is the only one of three words translated as hell that has any allusion to fire and brimstone (as I understand it... I am not a Greek scholar).  It actually refers to a real historical place, which is a  burning pit outside of Jerusalem.  So the word in the Bible could just be referring to this with no further allusion to a place of unending torture.  For me, it makes more sense to think of the gift of God as eternal life (which is repeated often in the Bible) and the rejection of that gift as not eternal life, or non-being.

4.  The idea of salvation that Rob alludes to is actually one that is a bit too narrow.  As Christians, it is easy to think that God is this god of justice and holiness and wrath that needs to punish humans for their sin.  However, superhero Jesus swoopes in and takes the punishment instead, thereby saving humanity and allowing us to connect with God again.  And that has some truth to it.  God is holy and humans do deserve death.  Jesus dies on a cross to repair the relationship between God and humans that is broken by sin.  This view is a bit too narrow, however.  If you believe in the trinitarian theology of orthodox Christianity, then God and Jesus are separate YET they are one.  So, God is Jesus and Jesus is God, while still being separate entities.  (btw I feel bad for the Holy Spirit right now, but what I'm going to say doesn't really apply to him at the moment.  Sorry Holy Spirit).  So, when we say that Jesus died on a cross, we are also saying that God sacrificed HIMSELF for humankind on a cross.  This is a bit different than looking at God as some giant, scary judge in the sky.

5.  Rob also talks a little about salvation being God saving humans from death.  Yes, as a Christian, if I believe I am saved, then I also believe that I am an heir to eternal life with God.  But, this is not the specific reason we were saved by Jesus 2,000 years ago.  From the garden of Eden, God recognized that the whole world was tainted by sin and was in desperate need of repair.  This includes everything: nature, weather, culture, music, art, business, relationships, humans, on and on and on.  God stepped into a broken world in order to renew and remake that world the way it was intended to be.  Jesus dies on a cross and overcomes death by coming back to life, but we have not yet seen the whole effects of this salvation.  The world is still groaning in anticipation, as the Bible puts it.  This, too, is just a broadening of the traditional view of God-saved-me-and-now-I'm-going-to-heaven.

I know I didn't flesh any of these out completely and if you'd like to talk about any of them, I'd be glad to grab coffee, but this is just a general idea of my immediate thoughts.  Theology is a sticky matter.  It is so easy to think that OUR interpretation of Scripture is complete and absolute, when the God we worship is so much bigger than that.

Again, I could be completely wrong about what Rob believes and discusses in his book, but I can't wait to get my hands on it and see for myself!  Here are links to a few blogs I found worth reading:

Gungor's Blog

What do you think?

Wednesday, January 19


Distance. We imagine it as far as the east is from the west. We imagine heaven so far above the earth that we can only faintly see, if we look hard enough, the softest glimmers of the golden-paved streets. We imagine God’s blessing, in its most pure and spotless form, far, far from our filth-stained hands and minds. We imagine God’s power and grace to be just far enough out of our reach that we can try with all of our might to grab the soft edges of His robe, but it is always too far away. Perhaps we imagine this because it is easier to be too filthy, too unlovable, too unworthy. To hold love and to hold grace and the awesome power of God is to have an awe-ful responsibility. Perhaps it is easier to pretend the distance is great, when it is really just within our grasp.