Sunday, December 31, 2006

Every December 31st I make it a point to write a journal entry. When it comes to my journal, it may be months between entries, days, or occasionally hours, but December 31st always receives an entry.

As you might have guessed, December 31st entries are reflections on the past year. A list of gains and losses. Occasionally a lesson or two learned. Typically as I reflect I discover a central theme for the year, something usually that God used the events of the year to teach me. 2006 boiled down to one theme, one word: hope.

I cannot say that before 2006 I ever really understood hope. Yes, I hoped for things, and I hoped in things. But, I do not think that I truly knew what hope is.

This year, I saw many who live without hope. Some of them I have become deeply involved in their lives. I see the emptiness that is there.

For me I came to believe that there was something more to hope for than the bondage I was so enmeshed in. I began to believe that I could lead a different life than the one I was leading. I began to see freedom, and I hoped for it.

I love to run, but running takes an effort that I am not always willing to give. Each time that I strap on my running shoes and take to the road, I remember the exhilaration and the clarity that comes to my mind with each step. An ambition of mine is to run a marathon. As I have talked with other marathoners, I hear stories of the anguish and the pain that hits especially hard in the last few miles of the race. But every time that I ask if it was worth the pain, every time that I ask whether or not they enjoyed the experience, they all say it was worth it and that they loved it.

Hope is like that. Hope does not come out of times of ease and blessing. Hope comes out of times of hardship and anguish. Although the race is worth it, the race comes with a lot of pain. But you eagerly and expentantly look for the finish line and know that it is drawing nearer with each step. That is the hope.

It would be nice if hope and its predecessor faith came out of the blissful moments of life. But somehow I do not think that hope would be hope or faith would be faith if they came out of those moments. And so in the midst of the pain and the hardship, I eagerly hope for and find the freedom given in Christ.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
It is written: "I believed; therefore I have spoken."With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:7-18

Monday, December 04, 2006

(Taken from a paper I recently wrote for Dynamics of the Spiritual Journey, my Tuesday night class.)

There was a canyon near the city I grew up in. Many wealthy people had homes in and around the canyon. A man bought property on the edge of the canyon wall. This land had one of the best views of the canyon and the lake below and was an excellent place for a dream home. The man was quite eccentric and designed a house with an entirely steel framework that resembled the head of a bird of prey. He began to build the house jutting over the side of the cliff, but he misjudged. The man quickly ran out of funds after construction began. He went bankrupt, and the bank repossessed the land and the partially built house. The steel framework, the only thing to be completed on the house, still stands at the top of the cliff—a horrifically, ugly fixture surround by beautiful landscape and some of the finest homes in the area.

Every time that I drive out to the canyon I remember the story and see the monstrous memorial to the man who did not count the cost. Jesus told a similar story in Luke 24:28-30:

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’”

This he used as an example of counting the cost of discipleship. Jesus made it perfectly plain that if you desired to be in relationship with him as a disciple that it would cost you everything—your relationships with family and friends, wealth, etc. Everything had to be worth less in your estimate than your relationship with him.

This is where I find myself in Jesus’ story. Sitting and counting the cost. Desiring to be a disciple of Jesus, becoming his follower in doctrine and in conduct of life, but not yet certain of paying the full price. I sit counting the cost of truly following Jesus, not just believing in him, but learning to live like him—having the kind of relationships he had, seeking out the kind of wisdom he had, loving God as he did, loving others as he did. It is truly dangerous and truly costly! So I sit and count, deciding whether or not to invest.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Question: Can you forgive God?

I know it's a strange question, but it is one that I am wrestling with tonight.

From all we know of God, we know that He is perfect and therefore without blame. We know that He "works for the good of all who love him" (Romans 8:28). So with that knowledge we can then say that there is no need to forgive God.

But what about from the other side? When we look at the relationships from the God to us side, there is no need to forgive God because God's never done anything that would merit forgiveness. But what about from the side of the relationship of us to God?

If I am harboring anger towards someone who I feel has wronged me, even Jesus would teach that I should forgive in order to move past the anger. All good counselors will tell you that you can never move on with your life if you are still harboring anger and that you must forgive in order to move forward. There is a healing that comes in forgiveness--even when what you forgive is not truly the other person's fault.

So what happens when you are blaming God for broken dreams, trials, hardships, things in your life that you wish wouldn't have happened or think shouldn't have happened? Maybe you don't even realize that you are blaming God. Maybe you can't reconcile a loving God with the abuse you suffered or the death of a loved one. Maybe you are angry with God and you can't move forward in your relationship because you are angry. Can you in that situation--even though you have unjustly blamed God, even though you know that God didn't truly do those things to you, even though you believe that God does have your best interest at heart like the good Father that He is--can you forgive Him? Or maybe you don't believe those things. Can you forgive Him?

I think that you can. What safer place can there be to seek that kind of healing than in God? But I seriously want to know any thoughts that any of you in "blogland" might have on the subject. So comment away.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

No one has missed the story, and if you have, you won't have to travel far to get caught up. I speak of the news story on Ted Haggard's exposure. I feel compelled to write on this topic not to continue the debate or to further rebuke the man but to write on truths that this has brought up for my life.

In his statement to New Life Church , Ted wrote the following: “The public person I was wasn’t a lie; it was just incomplete. When I stopped communicating about my problems, the darkness increased and finally dominated me. As a result, I did things that were contrary to everything I believe.” What an incredibly true statement for all of us to contemplate!

I know the dark places of my life. I know the things that I keep to myself. I know what happens when I don't expose those things to the truth of Christ. I know what happens when I don't share those things with spiritual friends and mentors. I know what happens. I know the dark, ugliness that resides in my flesh when I am not walking in the Spirit. I know where Ted has been and is.

I am no different from this man. My sins are no different from his. The ugliness in him is the same ugliness in me. This is why I am thankful for a grace giving God who loves me even in the midst of all my ugliness and a God who has forgiven all that ugliness.

As a few of us sat prayed for Ted and New Life the other night, God brought me to Psalm 33. It is a good reminder that our hope and our strength come from the Lord and not of our own powers. I hope that you will be encouraged by these verses:

"From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all humankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth—he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do. No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, LORD, even as we put our hope in you" (v13-22).

Monday, October 30, 2006

Profiles, Volume 2

Today I get to share with you about Jenny.

Jenny was one of my first friends at Springs of Life Church (SLC). She has been a great joy to me, and our friendship reminds me a lot of familiar and good friendships I've shared with certain folk over the years.

Yesterday, I got to share some sweet time with Jenny during an afternoon drive through the Rockies. It was beautiful, snow covered yet sunny. A perfect day in so many ways. But the best part of our drive was the deep conversation in which we shared about life, God, and life in God.

Jenny has a simply amazing heart. She genuinely loves the Lord and greatly desires to know Him as her "portion." Every time we are together, I am sharpened and challenged to grow deeper in my own walk with the Lord. I treasure the time we spend together and can truly say that I enjoy Jenny.

Probably my favorite thing about Jenny is her uncanny ability to create word pictures that are often comical but perfectly describe whatever she is talking about. This is a gal who can easily laugh at herself, yet she is confident in her identity found in Christ. She openly shares her struggles and the messiness of her life and has deep wisdom to share with all who are open to hear.

I am blessed to know her.

(Jenny is the one on the left.)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

In writing an email to a friend earlier today, I realized two things:
  1. My prolonged absence from my blog.
  2. That I haven't shared much about these strange new people in my life.
So in an effort to remedy these facts, I'm beginning a new "series." Let's call it "Profiles." In other words, I'm going to share with you brief glimpses of the fascinating people of Colorado Springs.

, Volume 1

(By the way, since I'm not seeking permission from these people to do a write-up on them, I may or may not be using their real names.)

My boss. Dave (which is his real name).

I can't write enough to you about my boss. I continue to be blessed with wise and intelligent men in my life. Men who can provide advice, help me to choose the best path, and encourage me in my journey. Dave is another of those men.

My favorite time of day at work usually occurs toward the end of my shift when I sit down in the chair next to Dave's desk and we chat for 10 to 15 minutes. We talk about any upcoming events that I'm planning, any big changes that are coming up for the store, any rumbling throughout our district, and rumbling throughout the store. Then, inevitably, our conversation digresses to our personal lives, God, Church, etc. This is the part I enjoy the most. I get to see a little of what makes Dave tick. I get to see what's going on behind the intensity that drives him everyday. I get wisdom and advice on where I'm headed and specific things that are going on in my life.

Dave loves books. He loves our store. He loves his job, though he hates a lot of the corporate crap. He loves his wife and his two teenage sons. He has lots of passion, strives for integrity, and is completely honest about who he is and where he is in life. Some find him incredibly intimidating due to his passion, intensity, and straight-forwardness. I find those things refreshing.

(Yep, that's him in the dog suit!)

Sunday, October 22, 2006

So there is much more to life right now than writing papers. Would I say that I am settled into life in Colorado? Well, yeah, I think I would. Would I say that I like it here? Yes, yes, I do. Here's some highlights of life in Colorado:

  • Hiking. Lots and lots of hiking in lots and lots of beautiful places.
  • Snow. It snows here. Twice in the last week. But not to the point that the roads are impossible and you feel trapped inside, which I would not enjoy.
  • Work. Yeah, I still love my job.
  • Bookfairs. One of my favorite aspects to my job. I get to help schools and literary nonprofits raise money.
  • Kids events. I get to play with kids and spend time creating crafts, coming up with games, and have fun finding cool, cheap stuff at the dollar store.
  • My online class. Love it. No doubt, there will be posts coming on what I am learning in this class. Friday night Bible Study. Lovin' the college and career crew at church. Lovin' being challenged to go deeper with this group of people.
  • The people I work with, the people I go to church with, the people I go to class with. Lots of good, good people, that God is using in my life in various ways.
  • God. Yeah, He's doing some pretty stinkin' amazing things in my life right now which I hope to share with you all soon!

So how's colorful Colorado? It's great!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

I closed my eyes. I clicked the mouse button. And there it went--my first paper submitted in graduate school. I think I need to go for a run now...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

As promised, the more to come....

The last four months (yes, it has been four months since I moved to Colorado, can you believe it?) have been, well, in a word, remarkable. I have seen the Lord move on my heart and in my spirit in amazing ways that I cannot even begin to put words to. Let's just say that I feel that due to His loving kindness, I have grown more and seen more of the heart of God in the last few months than I feel I have in the last two years. For those of you who know my journey well, you know how big of a statement that is because God has certainly done a lot in the last two years of life.

One part of this great movement has been looking for authenticity in relationships and authenticity in myself. Like most of us, I excel at hiding the true me--the me God created me to be--from others. Life's lessons have taught me that people are not trustworthy and that when you are real and vulnerable, you tend to get stomped all over. But these are life's lessons and not the lessons of God.

Since moving here, there has been a huge shift in my relationship base. Before Colorado, majority of my major friendships were with Christians--a truth from my infancy all the way up to Portland. Now, however, majority of my major friendships, work colleagues mostly, are with non-believers. A big shift that has shown me much about how I respond to and interact with others. I find that for the most part it is much easier for me to be authentic with non-believers than it is for me to be with believers. Life has taught me that the expectations and judgments of believers are much harsher than those of non-believers. Non-believers tend to be much more open about accepting you were you are in life--your screw-ups, your achievements, your short-comings, your goals, your skills--the whole big picture of your life. I am fearful of letting Christians see the real me because I am fearful of their judgment.

All this to say that on the retreat of two weekends ago, God began to work a good work in me. I am learning in small baby steps to be authentic with all people. To cast down the idol which I have made of my fears of man, and to put my trust in the Lord. I recognize that people are not perfect, that Christians are not perfect. They will fail me, they will hurt me, but living in hiding does not please the Lord. By hiding I create an idol of my fear rather than turning to the Lord for my ultimate companionship.

These are baby steps in the journey--the first being recognizing the idol I have made of my fear, the second desiring to be authentic with all people rather than a select few. I have no doubt that this will be a long journey of seeking healing from what life broke and learning to live a new, authentic life. But I am excited for the journey ahead. I rejoice in what He is doing. I rejoice in both the trial of it and the life renewed because I trust that the Lord is working a good thing in me.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Last weekend I had the glorious opportunity to spend a few days in the mountains on the Springs of Life Church women's retreat.

Now I'm sure you all have lots of questions, like "Springs of Life Church, who?" So let me fill in a few background details.

I have been going to SLC since July. Brett, one of the ministers, came into B&N to order books. I helped him, we chatted for a minute, he invited me to church. I've been going there ever since.

SLC is a small and intimate community. Sunday's average around 70 people, and it's a good blend of people. There are several in my age range, then it goes way up from there and way down. It's fun to worship with instruments again, but I do miss a capella on occasion, however. It's definitely a different experience from worshipping at PUMP, but the people are absolutely wonderful. I'm slowly getting to know everybody, and am continually inspired by men and women who have a true desire to be in relationship with the Lord and with each other.

It was good to spend a full weekend among Christian women. It has been a while since I have been in such a setting. God showed up in some pretty amazing ways--ways that I'm still processing and will later blog on. For now I will simply leave you with beautiful pictures from the weekend.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

I've been tagged.

A book that changed my life besides the Bible:
The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard

A book I'’ve read more than once:
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

A book I would take with me if I were stuck on a desert island:
The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook

A book that made me laugh:
The Devil Wears Prada, Lauren Weisberger

A book that I wish had been written:
A Human's guide to Life: Life of Amanda Peterson Edition

A book that I wish had never been written:
I work at a bookstore. There are many.

A book I'’ve been meaning to read:
Again, I work at a bookstore. There are many.

I'’m currently reading:
The Spirit of the Disciplines, Dallas Willard
7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey
The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila
Sacred Companions, David Benner

So here we go:
Amber Lehmann
Jessica Bolt
Christense Anderson
Rob Annesse
Ben Hines

Tag Your It!

Friday, September 08, 2006

I woke this morning to find my spirit grieving. My heart crying out with pain to the Lord. Today was a day when I wanted nothing more than for Jesus to come and call us out of this mire we call life, or rather the mire that we have turned this life into.

Why did my spirit grieve today? Maybe it was the "lostness" that I see in so many of my friends, my coworkers, my acquaintances. Maybe the hurt I see in the lives of many other friends and some of the same friends. Maybe it was my own heartache. Maybe poverty. Maybe depravity. Maybe starvation. Maybe the spread of AIDS. Maybe war. Maybe many things that are the result of a fallen world.

My spirit mourns today "Because we do in fact live in a world of ruins. We do not now exist in the element for which we were designed" (Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines). Rather we exist in a half-condition. A condition in which only God--the gift of life in the Son--can bring wholeness.

I am mournful for an world, for a humanity, that is only in part what it was created to be. I grieve for the loss of God's original design, and my grief makes me tired and long for the wholeness that will be found only with the coming of Christ.

Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly. We need the wholeness that you bring!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Some of you might be curious as to what a day in the life looks like for a Barnes & Noble Community Relations Manager. Some of you may be asking, "what exactly does Amanda do all day at this new job of her?" And those of you who are not asking...well you get to find out the answer anyway.

The truth is that every day is a little bit different. Here's the overview:
  • Working with teachers, librarians, government staff, and nonprofit staff to make book orders for their schools and organizations. B&N has an institutional purchasing programs that gives schools and nonprofits a 20% discount on all their book purchases. It's a really good deal.
  • Setting up bookfairs with schools and other organizations to help raise money for libraries, school programs, and literacy/arts programs. Our in-store bookfairs can raise a lot of money for organizations. They are simple to put together for the organizations we help, and fun for us too.
  • Planning author signings. Mostly local authors, but still a cool aspect of the job.
  • Planning in-store events such as American Girls Club, weekly storytimes, book release parties, etc.
  • Being a bookseller, cashiering, helping at info, recovering the store, etc.
  • And then my favorite part: loving on my fellow booksellers. Definitely the best part of my job is that I get to have interaction with pretty much every single bookseller everyday. I'm developing some good friendships with a few, and just getting to love on a whole lot.

Everyday brings new things. I can never tell for sure what projects are headed my way. I love the spontaneity of the job. I love that my job is just pure fun even on the longer, busy days. I am very, very blessed to have such a wonderful position.

(The guy in the Clifford suit is my store manager Dave. Great guy who is really passionate about what he does. So passionate that he wagered with the booksellers and lost, thus the dog suit.)

Thursday, August 31, 2006

The book world is an interesting business. Not a week goes by that I don't come across two or three books to add to my reading list. On the flip side, not a week goes by that I don't come across books that I simply have to wonder what was the point in killing trees to print them.

Today was another find to add to the second list: The 100 Minute Bible abridged by Michael Hinton and illustrated (yes, illustrated, and no, not a kid's book) by Helen Jenkins.

The question I ask: when did God's Word become a matter of ease and convenience? When did the Word become such an ineffectual teacher that it needs to be "cliff-noted"? (I checked, by the way. There is a Cliff Notes version of the Old Testament and the New Testament. I'm proud to say that Barnes & Noble's version of Cliff Notes, Sparknotes, does not publish Bible Sparknotes.)

What do you guys think? Has the Bible lost its potency in today's society?

Monday, August 28, 2006

My first seminary class is tomorrow. Yes, that's right, ladies and gentlemen, Amanda Peterson is officially a seminary student. My first class is Dynamics in the Spiritual Journey.

Course synopsis: "The foundation of this course is the Christian spiritual journey with exploration of several biblical and extra-biblical models of spiritual development. Soul care involves the ability to discern where directees, in their God-created uniqueness, are on the journey, how hostile spiritual forces oppose progress, and how advance is achieved through the Holy Spirit and the ministry of soul care givers."

In lay man's terms, it's a class on learning to care for my spirit and learning to care for the spirits of others. The class is part of a certificate in Christian Formation and Soul Care which I am thinking about pursuing along with my degree.

My second course this term will be a distance learning course which has not been nailed down yet, though, I'm leaning to a systematic theology course titled Reconciliation and the Healing of Persons. It takes an in depth look at Jesus' healing ministry and its applications for healing of the physical and the spiritual.

I'm very excited to get started and will likely be abuzz with all the fascinating things I am learning. Pray for me as I begin the journey.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Well, this is the second time that I've seen this image appear on a friend's blog in the last 24 hours, and both times I felt my heart drop into my stomach.

I want to pass along this image not to condemn those who spent the hundreds of thousands to build it, but to simply ask simply wonder when Jesus lost the power to speak for Himself, and to ask why a lady who's voice has grown almost silent after a century of crying out for the "poor and huddled masses" can cry that better than the Lord Jesus.

The image below is the newest addition to a Memphis church:

Monday, August 07, 2006

"Ogre's are like onions," Shrek told Donkey. Well, people are like onions, too.

In fact, I think we are much more complex than a simple onion. There are parts of us--hurt parts of our souls from childhood trauma, horrific events, painful memories, etc.--that are like onions, as well. We carefully wrap those hurt parts in layer after layer of anger or sadness or antipathy to the point that healing the hurt is almost impossible.

Humans are like mutated onions.

In the last week, I have been peeling off the last few layers of protection around a core hurt that has needed healing for sometime. It has been a most painful process. But tonight the inside lay exposed before both myself and God.

There was a moment of decision. Do I accept the hurt, feel the hurt, confess the hurt, and allow God to heal it? Or do I wrap it back up in a new layer?

I seriously thought about the latter. For whatever reason, it felt safer. After all, we are dealing with a cosmic God here. He can be rather intimidating, and the truth is that the healing process can be rather painful--as a dear friend who recently had foot surgery can attest.

But I went with the former choice instead. While I can honestly say I'm not exactly joyous right now, I am hopeful and expectant of the healing to come. And more than this, I believe that a cosmic God is the only safe place to turn. I have proof in the love that He showed His son Jesus and in that love that was then turned upon us through grace.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

After a small absence, I'm back in the blogging world. Life has been a wee bit busy between work, making some new friends, and a visit from my mom, sister and nephew.

I was just messing around on my My Space, updating a few things, moving a few things around, etc. For the first time in a while, I read my "headline": "Wishing for Egypt or looking for milk and honey?" I put that headline up soon after I moved to Colorado. I was longing for where I had been, but knew that this was the place God wanted me. (He has proved that over and over again.) I felt very much like the Israelites whining to Moses to let them go back to the blistering heat and back-breaking work that was better than trying to conquer the land of milk and honey. (Not comparing Portland to Egypt and slavery here, by the way.)

Since that time, I have seen God prove over and over that He has great blessings for me here and great things to teach me here. I saw it in an awesome conversation I had with a coworker over dinner the other night. I saw it in reconnecting with a friend on My Space. I see it in the people He puts in my path on a daily basis. I see it in the thrill and excitement of getting started in seminary this Fall. I see it in the changes I see being made in me. Old habits being broken and new ones being formed. I see it when I'm in those lonely places missing close friends and family so badly. I see it when I'm forced to lean heavily upon God in those moments.

I've been in Colorado for about two months, and I'm not oblivious to the fact that a great journey has already begun. I can only pray that I will be willing to follow the journeys path.

"When I Get Where I'm Going" by Brad Paisley and featuring Dolly Parton, is a song that has been very important to me in the past months. It's a good reminder for me of where I'm headed and that makes all this very worth it. Take a listen here on my My Space if you are unfamiliar with the song.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

You know those ah-ha moments when you catch on to something that you missed before and sometimes you feel slightly dumb for not catching it before? I just had one of those moments.

During my devotional tonight I brought out an old devo song from youth group days--"All in All." It's a standard that no doubt many of you know. If you haven't heard it before, I'll jot down the lyrics at the end of this post so that you can enjoy this "oldie but goody" that can be kind of cheesy if you look too closely at the forced rhyme scheme.

My ah-ha moment:

For the first time, I finally understood what the title phrase means--All in All. "You [the Lord] are my all in all." For whatever reason, I have never thought about this phrase before. I usually focus on the verses and leave out this phrase. But tonight it struck me what amazing meaning this phrase has, what powerful and awesome meaning.

For a quick reference on the definition of the word all (because honestly how many of us have ever looked up the definition of "all"), click here. Notice that every one (all) of the ten definitions denote an entirety. (Also on a side note, check out definition number 7. almost went country with that one, just pull out a few letters and add an apostrophe.)

So what that phrase is getting at is that God is our everything, our entirety, in every situation, in every thing. That is a big statement. That means that there is not one situation in our lives in which God is not everything for us.

Wow! Knock me for a loop! I really needed to be reminded of that because, you see, I'm an incredibly selfish being. I'm always wanting what I cannot have and am a malcontent in most circumstances that do not involve life going "my way". I'm wanting more when I have all. And as a reminder to my self, that "more" can be anything from human relationship to the latest tech gizmo; it's time to remember that the "mores" in life can be just about anything.

Kudos given to those of you who were struck by the meaning of this phrase long ago. For me a pair of fresh eyes, or maybe ears, has reminded me of a God who truly is my All.

All in All

Verse 1:
You are my strength when I am weak.
You are the treasure that I seek.
You are my all in all.
Seeking You as a precious jewel,
Lord, to give up I'd be a fool.
You are my all in all.

Jesus, Lamb of God, You are my all in all.
Jesus, Lamb of God, You are my all in all.

Verse 2:
Taking my sin, my cross, my pain,
Rising again, I bless Your name.
You are my all in all.
When I fall down You pick me up.
When I am weak You fill my cup.
You are my all in all.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The things I miss most about Portland:

10. The rain. Yes, I miss the rain. It rained today in the Springs like it does in Portland, and I found myself very reminiscent of cool rainy days in Portland.

9. I miss my apartment. I like my new apartment, but I miss the great neighbors that went with the old apartment. I miss my great landlord. And I miss being in such a central location to everything important in my life.

8. I miss green things. More specifically green, flowery plant life. Everything is brown here.

7. I miss the smell of Portland. Portland has a distinct smell that I can't describe to you--maybe something to do with all of the rain and the vegetation. Colorado Springs has no smell good or bad.

6. I miss hearing the goings-on of NE Portland outside my window. Not so much the fighting or the police sirens, but people greeting each other and the jazz music that my neighbor Midget would always play that wafted in my back windows.

5. I miss my life group at Shirley's. I miss her good cooking and the great conversation to follow. I miss all of Shirley's encouragement that she so freely offered me and so many others. I miss seeing her passion for the Lord.

4. I miss Sunday morning worship at PUMP. I miss the hand-clapping and the stomping. I miss Steve sweating bullets as he worshiped his heart out. I miss the smiles and the sound of so many voices in such a small space.

3. I miss the kindergarten class and the youth class that I spent so much time with, teaching them and learning from them.

2. I miss good conversation that stimulated me and caused me to grow and look at my own life and my own walk in different ways.

1. I miss the people. I miss so many smiles. I miss so many hugs. I miss so much love.

So Portland, in case you don't think I miss you. Believe me I do, and maybe I just share all these things that I miss right now because I'm a wee bit homesick. But I do miss you, and I do love you Portland. Lord, bless that city and bless all that I love there.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

I keep a small whiteboard in my apartment where I write down statements that inspire me. Sometimes they are my own thoughts. Sometimes profound thoughts of others. Wherever they come from, they are statements that I need to read frequently.

Tonight's new thought to be added to the board: "Keep it simple, Stupid." A phrase we've all heard no doubt, but under it I added three other phrases: Love God. Love People. Love Self.

So why does this thought make the board? Because I daily make life far more complicated than it was meant to be. I truly believe that God meant for life to be simple. When He first created man, He created a thing of perfect beauty that served the purpose of bringing glory to God. That simple.

But sin entered the world and made life complicated as we constantly stress over what is good and what is evil, what is worth worrying about, what isn't, and whether or not worrying is worth it.

Thus why I need the reminder. Because the thoughts of everyday life constantly force life to be complicated. I need a reminder to keep it simple. And it's as simple as this: Love.

And don't try to make it complicated by saying that love isn't simple. Love is God's essence. We are created in the image of God. Therefore, love is part of our essence.

Love. It's that simple.

Monday, June 26, 2006

I really wanted to write a "vent post" tonight, but I just can't. And if I vent anything, let me vent that it ticks me off that this will be the end of my venting due to one of those convicting moments.

Today I spent my lunch break on hold with the Oregon Department of Revenue after receiving a notification in the mail of a penalty on my 2005 tax return. Alex, the incredibly nice government lackey who had the joy of helping me today, discovered that the check that I sent in to pay my 2005 tax was applied to a bill from 2000. Interesting that I had a bill from 2000 considering I didn't even move to Oregon until 2004. I have since written a letter, to be mailed tomorrow, asking for a correction of this problem.

This I wanted to write out in sordid detail in order to somehow make me feel better about the government screw-up and my wasted lunch, but then I read a friend's recent post, then another friend's post. And then I remembered what Jesus said on the matter of government and taxes: give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's (Matthew 22:21).

I have to say that we are blessed to live in the country that we do. I don't think any of us who have seen the horrors of third world life whether directly or indirectly could deny that we are blessed. But I'm not one to stand up in American pride. I'm much more likely to be complaining about the state of the country and it's egotism. But this I am rethinking us well.

Jesus had very little to say about Rome. I believe his silence on the subject was because Jesus lived for a nation and a Kingdom that was not of this earth. Rome was not important to him. What was important was being merciful and loving people. What was important was his message that the Kingdom of God is very, very near.

So maybe if Rome wasn't important to Jesus, the US doesn't need to be so important to us. I'm not saying don't vote or pay your taxes, though the latter was looking rather appealing earlier today. I'm not saying don't enjoy the freedoms you have as an American. I'm just saying maybe it's not important enough to really worry about. What is more important is being merciful and loving people and loving God.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Two stories on Dateline NBC tonight grabbed me. Each a story of heroes. Incredibly different, but heroes none the less.

The first you have probably all heard. It is the story of Lincoln Hall, the Everest climber who miraculous lived after his climbing party had left him for dead. The hero Dan Mazur: the man who, along with two other climbers, gave up his opportunity to summit in order to save the dilusional climber. They lacked two hours reaching the summit. They gave up an ultimate opportunity to save him, even after watching other climbers pass them by to reach the goal.

The second, the story of an American couple, the Salems, who adopted twins from Russia, a baby boy and girl. Two years later, they discovered that their twins had four older siblings, a set of twin girls and a set of twin boys. The older siblings were separated from each other and living in orphanages across Russia. Without a second thought, the Salems did all they could to bring the children together in one home. They pulled off the impossible, despite extreme financial strain and an uncooperative Russian government. All six children are healthy and happy. The Salems, heroes to six Russian children who faced unbeatable odds.

I'm glad to know that there are heroes such as these in the world.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Along with a major move come a few standard questions that people feel entitled to ask to get the ball rolling in conversation:
Where did you move from? Why are you moving here? How do you like it so far?

Then come the more situational specific questions, for instance, when I run into a Christian or when I'm visiting a church:
What's your church history? or What was your last church like?
And then my favorite question: What are you looking for in a church?

This question makes me feel as though I have just stepped into conversation with a real estate agent: Well, you see I'm buying my first home, so I'd like something affordable. A place in a good neighborhood with lots of families, good schools close by. I'd like a big backyard, someplace I can really relax. It has to be at least three bedrooms and two baths. Oh, and I'd really like a white picket fence out front.

Or maybe that I'm standing in the buffet line: Yes, the fried chicken, no I don't want that. Could I have some of that please. Mash potatoes, yes. No, not white, brown gravy. Of course I'd like pie, let's see, I believe peach this time around.

When did the body coming together in worship become a smorgasbord of choice and pleasure? What I'm looking for in a church is as simple as this: a body that loves God and loves people. I don't think it needs to be any more complicated than that.

The buffet line. I can't help but wondering what out of this glorious buffet Jesus would choose. Would He seek out the best worship style, the most dynamic preacher, the friendliest greeters? The most comfortable pews? The most weekly activities? No, I don't think so. I don't think those things are really all that important to Him. We still lack the understanding of what "I desire mercy, not sacrifice" really means. Could it be that all of the choices out there are simply a distraction from what really matters: Jesus?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

I've been without internet for almost a week now. Checked in at "hot spots" here and there to make sure I wasn't missing any incredibly important emails, but I've mostly been without.

Today, the cable guy finally came and I now have broadband and wireless in my apartment. I'm a very happy person. I missed email and the internet.

I find Barnes and Noble to be a highly amusing place to work. There is a great mixture of employees and a great mixture of customers. Something I really enjoy. It keeps you on your toes and keeps the day interesting.

Today I got treated to lunch by an author who we are helping to get into the B&N system and doing a signing with next month. Olive Garden, yumm, yumm, and he insisted on buying us dessert. A rare occurrence, but a great one to take part of.

Thus far, I really enjoying working customer service. I enjoy talking to customers, helping them find the book that they are searching for, and seeing what interesting titles they come up with. It's amazing the books that are out there!

I'm almost completely unpacked. I'll put up pictures soon. If you emailed me in the past week, I'll be getting back to you soon. I've got lots of emails to catch up on, so I'll get to you as soon as possible!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

I am officially a resident of "Colorful Colorado" (the unofficial state slogan which will be displayed on the new state quarter). What does being a resident mean for me? Well, for starters, it means that I have a job and a home. I am no longer in the ranks of the homeless and unemployed.

Yesterday, Barnes and Noble at the Citadel (an area mall) offered me the community relations manager position. Woohoo! Thanks for all the prayers in this area. I move into my new apartment this weekend and start work on Monday morning with a 7am managers meeting. Lovely welcome!

Top 3 things I like about my new job:
  1. Being able to pay for grad school out of pocket
  2. Using my employee discount to buy books
  3. Full benefits package

Top 3 things I like about my new apartment:
  1. Washer and dryer hook-ups (no more lugging my laundry around)
  2. 5 minutes to work and 10 minutes to school
  3. Cozy wood-burning fireplace that will be great for the winters here (maybe I won't freeze after all!)

Sunday, May 21, 2006

I don't have a lot to do right now. I'm in Colorado Springs, without a job, without an apartment, and without friends. I do know people--three to be precise: my possible future boss, my possible future apartment manager, and a friend of a friend who I met this morning at the church service I attended.

Not complaining here. Just stating the facts.

All of this time on my hands leaves time to explore my new city, read a lot, and watch a lot of movies.

So I decided to go see the movie and see what all of the fuss is about. I'm referring to The Davinci Code, of course. I've read the book and enjoyed the thrill of the chase. Dan Brown's tale is hard to put down as it spins you forward through the story, though as a writer I personally think he leaves a bit to be desired. Beyond cleverly intertwined and fanciful theories, Brown's writing is fit for the dime-book shelf in my opinion. But as I wasn't looking for something to stimulate my intellect at the time, I found it an entertaining read.

I can't say that I felt the same about the movie. Meticulously boring. Possibly the worst performance I have ever seen from Tom Hanks (granted he didn't have much of a script to work with). I felt no connection with any of the characters. I could have cared less if they fell in love, died, or found the buried treasure at the end. I just prayed for it to be over and would have walked out if I was not in the middle of the row in a very crowded theater.

I am not a movie or book critic by profession, so please note that these are just my opinions. However, I must say that I am quite amused at all of the hullabaloo over such a horrifically bad movie. Before the movie came out, my stomach churned with disgust any time I heard it mentioned. In my opinion it is something incredibly trivial for so much of the world to be focused on.

What breaks my heart and almost seems laughable to me now is that the Church will spend so much effort on proclaiming the heresy of a movie that even the professional critics dislike, but spends so little effort on teaching people to be Jesus--to move like Him, walk like Him, talk like Him. How many pulpit sermons were wasted on defaming The Davinci Code that could have been spent teaching people to be merciful, to be good neighbors, to be servants.

I can't help but think that Jesus would not have been amongst the raving minions. I don't think He cares one way or another what becomes of The Davinci Code. But I do think He cares about the millions who will see the movie, the millions dying worldwide because of poverty, and the millions worldwide who have yet to know the things that Jesus truly cares about--loving God and loving people.

So my non-professional final criticism of the movie is this: who cares.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Thanks to all those who prayed over my interview yesterday. I think it went well. We'll see. I should hear a definitive yes or no either Monday or Tuesday. And I may possibly have one more interview with another of the regional managers.

In the meantime, I'm hanging out in the Springs. I've found a nice apartment that I plan on signing the lease if and when I get the B&N job.

So until I have more to say, enjoy this picture I took last night of the rain clouds over the Rockies.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Hmmm...I seemed to have caused a little confusion because I forgot to change the date on my last post before I posted it. I started writing it about two weeks ago and didn't finish it until Sunday.

My B&N interview is this Thursday the 18th at 1:30. I'm driving to Colorado tomorrow for it.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

On the road again...I've spent the last two weeks touring Texas from the Big Country (aka Abilene area), to the forests of East Texas, and back into the DFW area.

I'm back in Lubbock for a few days until I head to Colorado Springs on Wednesday. I have my third interview with Barnes and Noble on Thursday with the district manager. Hopefully if all goes well I will be hearing soon whether they are offering me the job.

Just a few highlights from my trip:

  • Barbarian night at Patrice's: no dinnerware of any sort, all things must be eaten with the hands, one napkin allowed, almost always serve something incredibly messy like spaghetti, invite everybody.
  • Walking in on a good friend's retirement party, and thus seeing all my old profs in one fell swoop.
  • Seeing all the strange new sites of Abilene: ACU renovations, new businesses and resturaunts, constructionless highways.
  • Catching up with lots and lots of folks.

Ore City (Small town East Texas outside of Longview):
  • Spending a few days with my college roommate Rachel.
  • Watching the goats walk by the back window every morning and catching baby goats.
  • Steak and potatoes.
  • Watching Rachel's cousin get baptized.

  • Seeing Jonah walk for the first time.
  • Waking up in the mornings to sit on the couch with Steve, Alasha, and Jonah.
  • Seeing Ryan and Amy Gibbons and meeting their new little one Lily.
  • Lots and lots of good eats.

Monday, May 01, 2006

I just finished perusing the latest issue of TIME. I'm not a big magazine person, but TIME is one of my guilty pleasures (if a news magazine can be called a "guilty pleasure").

This week: the 2006 edition of TIME's 100 most influential people, including everyone from George W. to the MySpace guys to P. Diddy.

The question I was left asking: What exactly makes a person "influential"?

TIME broke it down into five categories: leaders and revolutionaries, scientists and thinkers, heroes and pioneers, builders and titans, and artists and entertainers. I can't deny that every person they threw out (or at least the bios I read) have influence upon the world or in the least American culture. They also did not comment on whether their influence is for the good or the bad, thus why Avman al-Sawahiri (Bin Laden's No. 1) made the list.

What makes a person of influence? At first glance of TIME's list, you might say power, but then there's guys and gals on the list like Mike Brown, the guy who tried to demote Pluto. The farther I went through the list, I could not find a consistent theorem except that in one way or another, whether you heard about it or not, every person in some way made news in the last year.

I have to be honest that I don't think anyone on the list has much influence over me--at least not direct influence, there is certainly a trickle effect from the politicians, the Skype guys, etc. Persons of influence in my life? People who invest in me. People who build relationships with me. People who I invest in. My friends. My family. Ministers. Professors. People I find to be wise. People who love me. People who believe in me.

What about you? What makes a person of influence in your life?

Friday, April 28, 2006

Something that greatly irritates me about our bodies is that often times are bodies are smarter than our brains.

Yesterday I finally went to the doctor to see about my ear. The weekend I left Portland--almost three weeks ago--my inner ear started hurting. As I was in the middle of moving, I didn't take the time to go to the doctor and get it seen about then. So hoping that it was just drainage in my ear, I started taking sinus medication and hoped for the best.

Well, it worked, sort of. My ear never got any worse, but it never got any better either. Since being in Lubbock I have put off going to the doctor mostly out of laziness and not wanting to figure out who here would actually take my insurance.

But yesterday, I finally caved, mostly because I didn't want to deal with the occasional sharp pain anymore. The diagnosis? Nothing is wrong with my ear. The pain is actually coming from the hinge of my jaw. Most likely the pain is a symptom of clinching or grinding my teeth at night, which is probably a symptom of stress.

I have to be honest that I didnt think that I was under that much stress. But here comes the part were the body is smarter than the mind. My body could feel the tension even though my brain wasn't registering it.

So thank you body, and thank you God for forcing me to recognize the stress so that I can begin destressing. But did you have to do it in such a painful way?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

I heard from Barnes and Noble today...that I have another interview on Friday.

It looks like this is going to be a bit of a process. In the mean time, I'm keeping myself busy playing with my cute nephew and my sister. I'm planning to do a little traveling across Texas next week. Abilene, Dallas, and possibly Longview. If you are in any of those areas, I'd love to see ya'!

Thanks for all the prayers about the job!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

To update about the B&N interview:

The interview went very well. I got there and they asked the normal questions. Then the two mangers (store manager and the community relations manager) looked at each other and preceded to the second part of the interview.
In this second part, they told me that they would like to consider me for the community relations management position which will be opening up at the end of June. They told me all about the job and we talked a little more about details. Basically that means that I would be networking with nonprofits and schools to put on events and book fairs, building reading events for kids, bringing in authors for readings and signings, etc.

There are a few other candidates who are interviewing for the position. They are supposed to call me in 10 days in order to let me think through it and let them think of any other questions they might have.

Initially, I feel that it is a job that I would really enjoy, and am excited about the possibility. Please be praying over the decision process of both B&N and myself.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Initial Impressions of "the Springs"
Disclaimer: Please note that these are impressions based on 2 days wondering through the town and very little else.

I have been struck by the opposing forces of Colorado Springs.

Yesterday I felt the effects of culture shock. The conservative Christian values of the town can be clearly seen and heard; a great shock to the system after two years living in liberal Portland, OR. While driving around, I saw a truck with an explicit statement written on the tailgate, but I suppose out of reverence for conservative values, the owner had kindly edited his own statement with the following: "F*!#". I knew had I been in Portland the four letters of the word would be clearly displayed. Radio stations have bleeped words that I never would have thought of bleeping. During a local radio morning show, they even referred to sex as "baking" (not a Christian station).

Yet, walking around downtown this afternoon I saw many who clashed with the conservatism around them. I felt at home walking past skaters and thugs of all sorts. I felt a strong backlash against conservative Christiandom as we visited the shops of Manitou Springs--mysticism and witchcraft popping up everywhere. There is even an anti-war demonstration set-up near our hotel, reminding of similar scenes I have seen at Reed College and elsewhere in Portland.

I greatly enjoy downtown Colorado Springs. It has the feel of small town Colorado. Walking its streets, you quickly forget the sprawling urban setting you are in. Colorado Springs is a city of approximately 300,000. By 2010 it is expected to surpass Denver in population (Denver proper, not the complete metro area). But in downtown, you feel none of this.

Fuller Colorado is located in this area. This morning my father and I met with Lindy and got to see the "campus" or rather the suite of the office building it is located in. I liked it a lot and feel that I will do well in the small setting (class sizes ranging from 15-30).

On a completely other note, I ask for your prayers tomorrow morning. I have a job interview at the local Barnes and Noble. Considering when I turned my application in yesterday they told me that they weren't hiring, I was shocked to get a call from the manager today. He is even coming in on his day off to meet with me in the morning. This would be an excellent opportunity--full benefits, a job that I can leave at the job, close in proximity to the school and to where I will likely be living, a chance to work with people who won't look just like me in the aspects of school or church. Thanks for you prayers.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Today I write to you from my hotel room in Colorado Springs, CO.

Journey highlights:

Day 1:
  • Exceptionally fired up praise for my last Sunday morning at PUMP.
  • Tearful goodbyes from and to all my friends there.
  • A beautiful ride through the Columbia River Gorge as rain clouds, mist, and sun rolled through.
  • Brisket sandwiches for dinner, compliments of Karla Lowery.
  • Listening to The Magician's Nephew and the first half of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Day 2:
  • Extreme wind all the way through Wyoming.
  • Quick visit to Walmart in Rock Springs.
  • The second half of LWW and The Horse and His Boy.
  • Surprisingly "low" gas prices.
  • Arriving in Colorado Springs.

Day 3:
  • Breakfast with Ryan and Steve before they left for Arlington.
  • Unloading and getting rid of the U-haul trailer.
  • Driving around the Springs looking at apartments, etc.
  • Dinner at an old Train Depot.
More later....

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Leaving Well

I was recently asked about my long absence from the blogging world (over 20 days since my last post). Why have I been so silent? I could blame it on a lack of time to post or busyness. But that would not be quite true. I could blame it on writer's block. But that would not be quite true either.

The truth is that my thoughts have been swirling so much that I hardly know what to write!

In six days time, I will clamor into my Blazer for the last time as a Portland resident--well, at least the last time in the foreseeable future. My thoughts on this are many, and I hardly know what to write to you all.

I don't think that the move hit home to me until this last weekend as I helped friends move into their new apartment. I suddenly realized that this would be me next weekend, but instead of moving a few blocks, I'm moving half-way across the country, again. I emphasize "again" because I am not exactly new to the cross-country move. After all, I moved from Abilene, Texas to Portland, Oregon less than two years ago. Plus the drives I took to Portland during my summers at ACU.

I remember well my last days in Abilene (and a little less well my last days in Lubbock prior to the ACU years). They were fast and furious, full of sentiment and excitement for the journey ahead. I remember a desire to "leave well," and at the time that meant forgoing sleep and my own sanity in order to pour into as many people as I could before leaving. I remember many amazing conversations with various friends and mentors. I remember a final trip to Longview to spend what I didn't know then would be my last moments with my grandfather. I remember saying goodbye to friends and family. Climbing in my Blazer and heading off into the wild blue yonder.

I left Abilene well. The Amanda I was then left Abilene very well. And I pray that the Amanda I am now will leave Portland equally well. I pray to go pouring out and pouring in. I pray to leave being poured into and accepting the love of so many around me. I pray to blaze forth into the new adventures that lay ahead of me in Colorado. I pray to leave not quite so exhausted, but saying what needs to be said and leaving unsaid what does not need to be said. I pray to fully enjoy the days of traveling with my father. I pray to leave without regret and to rejoice in all that God did in me and through me here. I pray to leave knowing that God goes before, with, and behind me. I pray to leave knowing my true identity--the child of the King, fully loved and fully know. I pray to leave as an apprentice of Jesus Christ.

Thank you to all of you who have walked with me on this journey in Portland. I look forward to many more times of rejoicing with you. Thank you to those who have supported me and prayed over my journey here. I look forward to your warm hugs and smiles and to sharing story after story with you. Thank you to my family who continue to support me in my radical escapades whatever state they might be in. Thank you to mentors who have walked with me in all parts of my journey here on earth. Thank you to friends who love me so unconditionally no matter how close they get to the ugly truth of my humanity. And thanks to the Lord, without whom I am nothing and through whom I can do everything.