Still I will Praise You

Sometimes I sing it boldly, loudly.

Sometimes I sing it in a shaky voice, full of fear and trembling.

But I never sing it carelessly.

I only learned the song recently. The first time I heard it, I got goosebumps.

It feels a bit foolish to sing it, really.

I mean, if you stop and think about it, the last guy who said that lost everything he had, including his health and his children.

And yet here I am, singing the same words today.

Foolish.

Or not.

Because it doesn’t really matter, does it.

I’m not being cynical or anything. At least I don’t mean to be.

That doesn’t mean I’m not deeply involved with the people around me. It doesn’t mean I don’t love them fiercely.

But…

If I lost it all. Everthing. If I had nothing left. Nothing at all.

It wouldn’t change this fact.

I would still trust Him.

Why? Because if I lost everything else, I would need Jesus even more.

Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.

/Though you take from me / I will bless your name/Though you ruin me/Still I will worship/Sing a song to the one who’s all I need./

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Healer of my Heart

I wish it was possible to literally drive into the sunset.

Call me irreverent if you must but that’s something I plan to do in heaven.

Along with flying through a sky filled with white puffy clouds, as the breeze blows through my hair and the sunshine touches my face.

I’m with Anne of green gables on this one. I think heaven will be a lot more like earth than most of us imagine

Tonight most of my family attended a service where a dear child of God was laid to rest.

He had battled for life so long.

Lived with pain that we can only imagine.

He was longing to go home.

“You know,” he said once, “I never cared much for riches. I don’t think I’d feel much at home in a mansion. I wonder if God could just give me a cabin in a corner somewhere.”

I don’t profess to know how God answers the prayers of His children. There’s a lot about God that I don’t understand.

But I believe Eddie is at home.

And I don’t believe he was disappointed.

I didn’t go to the funeral. Instead I stayed home with Larry’s children.

And I walked through the orchard and as I passed by I picked a handful of blackberries off of the bushes growing there. They were huge and sweet and juicy.

But I prefer the wild ones.

The ones in the orchard are sadly tasteless in comparison. Lacking the bitter edge, you somehow miss the beauty of the sweetness.

I think that’s like life.

Sometimes it’s tempting to think it would be easier to just go numb. To stop feeling at all.

It hurts too much.

But refusing to feel the pain means we also miss the joy.

We are the most alive, the closest to God, and the most like Jesus when we live on the raw edge of life.

“I feel like I’m reliving everything I went through when my friend died all in one little capsule” my sister said, and she left to put some flowers on her grave.

I took a walk down a country road, picking wildflowers along the way and stopping to talk to the neighbor man (who stopped to make sure I was ok) about the funeral.

Life goes on, whether we wish it to or not.

We can embrace the pain and let God use it to shape us.

Or we can waste the pain by refusing to let God work through it.

It’s up to you.

Loved by Jesus

She appeared to be in her lower 20’s. A beautiful young lady of middle eastern descent. She stood on the street corner with a group of friends.

I had just gotten there and I assumed someone had already talked to them but there was a slow moment and I decided to strike up a conversation.

“Are you from around here?” I asked.

“Yeah we live just around the corner”.

I liked her. She was extremely sweet and friendly just not at all interested in a cd .

“So do you practice any religion?” I asked.

She told me about how she grew up in a very religious home and is thankful for the things she learned but she doesn’t really know what she believes now.

“I believe in a higher power,” she continued, but I don’t really believe you can know what he’s like.”

I jumped for the chance.

“Can I tell you about what Jesus means to me?”

She listened with interest as I told her about my own journey with Jesus.

“That’s beautiful,” she said, “and I respect what you believe, I just don’t think it’s for me”

Her friend broke in “hey, we’re leaving”.

“You’re sure you don’t want a cd?”

“No, thank you, but thanks for talking!”

And as she left I felt profoundly sad. “I can’t imagine life without Jesus” I had told her.

And I can’t.

Truly I don’t understand why you would keep living if you’re not a Christian. What would be the point? Why would you not just die?

The suicide rate in our nation makes perfect sense to me.

I wouldn’t want to live without Jesus either.

Or without His people.

Seeing the masses of people can make you feel small and alone.

Living surrounded by that many people, none of whom care about you would be excruciatingly lonely.

I’ll think about the young girl a lot in the days ahead. And when I breathe a prayer for her I’ll add a prayer of thankfulness.

Thankful that Jesus loves me.

Just a Moment

I looked into her eyes for just a moment. For one second our eyes met and she smiled.

She stopped to watch as we sang. Just for a tiny bit she heard in our songs the message of Jesus, and hopefully, on our faces, caught a glimpse of the joy of the Lord.

She was one of thousands.

Millions maybe.

Sometimes when we stopped for a break or even in the seconds between songs I would watch the crowds of people surge past and often I would have a moment of inner panic.

This was their chance.

When would they ever have another?

It was an illogical panic. Of course we can’t be singing all the time. Of course we can’t give everyone a cd.

But what if.

What if the person who hurried by was crying inside.

What if the person who smiled and waved was remembering a time she met Jesus.

What if the person who shook his head and kept walking was someone who had never heard of Jesus.

What of the burly young man who said “pray for me tonight” was in some huge trouble.

A cd doesn’t seem like much. A prayer seems a small thing to offer.

And even those we can only offer to a few.

The truth is, however much we have to give, it would never be enough.

Because it’s not about us, is it?

It’s about Jesus.

And Jesus can meet them anywhere, anytime.

Jesus in Chicago

I was starting to wonder why I had even come to chicago in the first place.

This trip has brought all of my insecurities up on front of me and hit me in the face.

Here I am on the streets of Chicago. It’s the Taste of Chicago festival and I’m here with a group of 60+ anabaptist young people from across America. We’re here to talk about Jesus.

And instead I’m facing my fears.

The fear of having to talk to strangers. I don’t know how to have polite conversations for hours about nothing. My INTP tendencies make me an awkward conversationalist all around.

My fear of being around people. Coupled with the previous fear this can make any social situation a nightmare. I am an extreme introvert. If I would be able to spend some downtime by myself or with people I know I’d be ok but instead I’m in a room with three girls who are complete strangers.

My fear of being annoying. I always assume I’m the person who annoyongly doesn’t fit in but insists on hanging out with the group anyhow. This means I refuse to hang out with the same girls very much because what if they’re tired of me? This prevents me from making any friends and so I for sure don’t have anyone to hang out with. This fear is compounded by the fact that two of my siblings who are with me are dating which means that hanging out with them does make me the annoying person or at least it makes me feel that way. Thankfully Matt is here too however hanging out with your brother full time instead od making friends is decidedly frowned on.

And then there are my music insecurities. I have this deep inner fear that I have an awful singing voice. That it’s bad enough that when we leave here I’ll be known as the girl who can’t sing. That I’m getting on the nerves of all the musically talented people around me. This fear is bad enough that I’ve been known to lip sync instead of actually sing on certain occasions. The main thing we do here is sing. And sing. And sing. This is not in my comfort zone.

My fear of making some huge (mennonite) fasion mistake. I blame my complete ignorance of fashion on being an intp as well. Normally i simply don’t worry about it and am just unfashionable but then I get myself into these situations and i wish i wouldn’t have missed the fashion memo. This is compounded by the fact that I have to wear a cap style covering for this trip. This has renewed my respect and awe for girls who wear these things all their lives but it does nothing to ease my fashion insecurity.

So yeah, with that myrid of random fears confronting me I wished badly i would have stayed home. I don’t know why I insist on doing things i hate doing. I had made a very bad mistake. I would forever remember this weekend as a horrible one.

But this afternoon I stood on a street corner handing out CDs and chatting with people.And then I remembered why I had come.

Because it’s not about me.

This trip isn’t about me.

Life isn’t about me.

It’s about Jesus.

Jesus and the people He loves.

The young girl who said she has no idea what she believes but thinks there probably is a higher power.

The tall young man who simply said “pray for me tonight” as he hurried by .

The older lady who asked me to pray for her and said she’s keeping the cd so she can call the number on the back.

The middle-aged man who sincerely thanked me and said “I’m listening to this as soon as I get home.

And the beautiful little girl who smiled shyly at me when I gave her a bible story book and said “thank you” in heavily accented english.

It’s about the man who spent his afternoon listening to our songs.

About the tall lady who stopped for several minutes to listen, smiled at me and then walked away.

I’ll never see them again.

I know literally nothing about them.

And yet God, in his infinite plan and wisdom somehow worked a hundred little miracles and for just a moment our lives interconnected.

Did I love them as Jesus does?

Will they remember that I loved Jesus?

They are unanswered questions of the cosmos.

I’ll probably never know.

There’s a song we sang in choir for awhile that nearly always made me cry.

…For well I know thy patient love perceives/ not what I did, but what I strove to do/ and though the full ripe ears be sadly few/ thou wilt accept my sheaves.

I will be well satisfied if Jesus would say of me as he did of the lady who anointed his feet, “she hath done what she could”

But have I?

These are Magic Moments

I’ve written before of my love for Blackberry season. I cannot help it. I cradle a handful of blackberries in my hand and my mind explodes with the wonder of it.

I climb one side of the hill while the sun drops softly down the other. The sky is a sea of color, the bushes are laden with berries and my mountains are tall and proud in the background. My burst of song frightens Peter cottontail and he dashes from one dear old briar patch to another. I pass the weathered story-laden barn and stop for a minute to watch a colony of bees as they climb in and out of a thousand little holes in the bank of dirt.

The bees are happy.

I am happy.

I hold out my handful of berries.

“Blackberry grace!” I say happily.

“Where does the grace come in?” my brother asks.

“Sometimes,” I answer vaguely, “grace comes in the form of blackberries.”

He said “oh”.

Grace comes in the beautifully perfect moments of our imperfect lives. Maybe there is stack of dirty dishes on my counter and maybe the weeds do need to be pulled around my lilies, and maybe my hair is a mess and my and my dress is dirty…

But.

Just for this moment I stand here with wild hair and bare feet and my handful of berries.

And this moment is perfect.

I feel like some sort of wild-child.

I feel like freedom.

I feel grace.

Only as Much as we Dream

We’re pretty hard on the dreamers among us. We’re pretty hard on the dreamer inside of us.

People who live life unrealistically.

Time wastes imagining life as it could be.

What are dreams anyhow?

A vapor.

Mist.

They float away.

Useless.

But are they really?

Everything that is great and good and useful began as a dream.

Surely Thomas Edison dreamed of a light bulb long before he invented one.

And so did Henry Ford with his automobile.

Gladys Aylward worked and dreamed for years before finally making it to China?

And what about people like Socrates, and Galileo and Newton?

Or Amy Carmicheal or Jim Elliot or Conrad Grebel?

Or Martin Luther King jr. who said “I have a dream…”

Men and women who accomplished huge things in their lifetime.

But it all started with a dream.

Be kind to the absent minded little boys and the starry eyed little girls.

Don’t make fun of their dreams.

Where there is no vision the people perish, the bible tells us.

Dream big little ones. The world needs you more today than ever.

We sang a song in school that went like this Only as far as we seek can we go, only as much as we dream….

Only as much as we dream.

Dream on!

Squareness

Normally I fall asleep the minute I step into a plane. There’s something about the droning noise and the air pressure and the uncomfortable seats that just lulls me to sleep.

But today I’m feeling wide awake for some reason. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the amount of coffee I drank this morning. It also probably has nothing to do with the fact that my little sister grabs my arm in terror every time the plane shakes even the slightest bit.

We’re flying to South Dakota, my two sisters and I. Currently flying across Iowa.

And they like squares in Iowa, apparently. Their roads go in squares. Their fields are square. The farms are square. Everything is square

Except.

Nature.

Nature doesn’t cooperate I noticed.

The forests aren’t square.

The creeks don’t follow straight rows.

I’m not sure if this should be a profound observation or not. I’m sure I could find a lesson in it somewhere but that’s not really the point.

It’s just something I noticed.

And I think it’s interesting.

How to Accidentally Catch a Fish.

I’m not much of a fisherman or fisherwoman or whatever. When I was just a little kid we lived on a farm with a pond and I would follow my big brothers around doing whatever they did so I assume I probably did some fishing. I actually remember “going fishing” but I can’t seem to recall doing any actual fishing. I certainly don’t remember ever catching any fish.

Once when we were teenagers Leon took sharon and I fishing because we were complaining that we never have gone. We spent a lovely morning on the lake and we caught bushes and each other and probably some other things but no fish.

Now we’re at grandpa’s. Matt asked me before we came if he can take his fishing pole. I said of course not. We are going to help grandpas not to go fishing and who has time to go fishing anyhow?

Surprisingly Matt followed my advice and didn’t bring his fishing pole. Even more surprisingly we finished grandpa’s to-do list early. There WAS time to go fishing.

The boys headed toward the pond with borrowed poles. We girls hung out otherwise for awhile and then headed down too. Uncle Marvins have a beautiful pond with a nice dock. Matt was sitting on the dock so I thought I would join him.

The water was nice and cool on my feet and the sun shone beautifully down on us. Matt and I sat in companionable silence for a while and then he explained that there aren’t actually fish in this part of the pond. However it is the nicest place to sit so he chose this spot anyhow.

“I wonder if I could cast a fishing pole” I said.

“Try it” Matt answered.

So I did. I cast a feeble little cast out from the dock and yelled triumphantly “Hey, I can!”

I began to reel it in when I felt the fish bite.

“Matt!” I said “I think I caught a fish. I don’t even know how to catch a fish.”

“Just reel it in” he said.

So I did.

And that’s the story of how I accidentally caught a fish. I gave the pole and the fish back to Matt. One fish is probably enough for one day.

Holy Ground

I don’t have the pictures yet, but I do have the story. The story of how 60 girls and their 10 counselors and 15 staff met God face to face.

Six of the girls were mine. At least it felt like they were mine. We spent four days laughing together and crying together. We ate and slept together. We prayed together. We worked and sweated together. We even got all muddy together.

And together, we saw Jesus.

You know, it’s strange, but I kept thinking of communion.

Several times throughout the week, it came over me like a rush.

This is what fellowship means. This is communion. This is Holy Ground

It’s possible to meet God in a muddy field or in the middle of a swamp.

It’s also possible to meet him in a crowd of 60 girls, all on their pj’s.

We washed each other’s feet. Quite literally.

We had spent the day in hard labour. We were hot, sweaty, and dirty. We hurried through showers and met in the large tent. And we did face scrubs and back rubs and foot soaks and it was fun and relaxing and still somehow holy.

We hadn’t known each other before. We came from all over. We came from every kind of family and background. The only thing we had to tie us all together was Jesus.

And He was enough.

/poverty loses its grip/race can no longer divide/wherever your spirit is/every darkness dies/

When the only way to accomplish something is by having the whole team come together and work in perfect harmony, we learn quickly that any differences we have are unimportant and inconsequential. It simply doesn’t matter. I need you. You need me. Neither one of us will be victorious without the other.

It’s when we realize this, deep in our hearts, that we have true communion.

We have soul-connections.

It’s a strange relationship. I feel like I know their heart cry, their hurts, their pain, and their struggles.

And I barely know their last names.

Because really, that wasn’t important.

Sometime I’ll write about what I learned about redemption. But for now, let me simply stand on Holy Ground.

[This was at Obsess. A four day intense camping experience for teenage girls. Find out more about it here]