Thursday, December 31, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Here is a link to my Alma Mater, Augustana College. Here my old choir director and pastor give you a little glimpse of how I feel about the Messiah. (my favorite part is that on the second performance ever the crowds were asked to not bring swords or wear hoop skirts because the place was so packed it needed more space!)
MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!!
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Finally content with a past I regret
I've found you find strength in your moments of weakness
For once I'm at peace with myself
I've been burdened with blame, trapped in the past for too long
I'm movin' on
I've lived in this place and I know all the faces
Each one is different but they're always the same
They mean me no harm but it's time that I face it
They'll never allow me to change
But I never dreamed home would end up where I don't belong
I'm movin' on
I'm movin' on
At last I can see life has been patiently waiting for me
And I know there's no guarantees, but I'm not alone
There comes a time in everyone's life
When all you can see are the years passing by
And I have made up my mind that those days are gone
I sold what I could and packed what I couldn't
Stopped to fill up on my way out of town
I've loved like I should but lived like I shouldn't
I had to lose everything to find out
Maybe forgiveness will find me somewhere down this road
I'm movin' on
I'm movin' on
I'm movin' on
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
This radical Christian's ministry for the poor, The Simple Way, has gotten him in some trouble with his fellow Evangelicals. We asked him to address those who don't believe.
By Shane Claiborne (As posted in Esquire...I've highlighted the parts that struck me the most)
To all my nonbelieving, sort-of-believing, and used-to-be-believing friends: I feel like I should begin with a confession. I am sorry that so often the biggest obstacle to God has been Christians. Christians who have had so much to say with our mouths and so little to show with our lives. I am sorry that so often we have forgotten the Christ of our Christianity.
Forgive us. Forgive us for the embarrassing things we have done in the name of God.
The other night I headed into downtown Philly for a stroll with some friends from out of town. We walked down to Penn's Landing along the river, where there are street performers, artists, musicians. We passed a great magician who did some pretty sweet tricks like pour change out of his iPhone, and then there was a preacher. He wasn't quite as captivating as the magician. He stood on a box, yelling into a microphone, and beside him was a coffin with a fake dead body inside. He talked about how we are all going to die and go to hell if we don't know Jesus.
Some folks snickered. Some told him to shut the hell up. A couple of teenagers tried to steal the dead body in the coffin. All I could do was think to myself, I want to jump up on a box beside him and yell at the top of my lungs, "God is not a monster." Maybe next time I will.
The more I have read the Bible and studied the life of Jesus, the more I have become convinced that Christianity spreads best not through force but through fascination. But over the past few decades our Christianity, at least here in the United States, has become less and less fascinating. We have given the atheists less and less to disbelieve. And the sort of Christianity many of us have seen on TV and heard on the radio looks less and less like Jesus.
At one point Gandhi was asked if he was a Christian, and he said, essentially, "I sure love Jesus, but the Christians seem so unlike their Christ." A recent study showed that the top three perceptions of Christians in the U. S. among young non-Christians are that Christians are 1) antigay, 2) judgmental, and 3) hypocritical. So what we have here is a bit of an image crisis, and much of that reputation is well deserved. That's the ugly stuff. And that's why I begin by saying that I'm sorry.
Now for the good news.
I want to invite you to consider that maybe the televangelists and street preachers are wrong — and that God really is love. Maybe the fruits of the Spirit really are beautiful things like peace, patience, kindness, joy, love, goodness, and not the ugly things that have come to characterize religion, or politics, for that matter. (If there is anything I have learned from liberals and conservatives, it's that you can have great answers and still be mean... and that just as important as being right is being nice.)
The Bible that I read says that God did not send Jesus to condemn the world but to save it... it was because "God so loved the world." That is the God I know, and I long for others to know. I did not choose to devote my life to Jesus because I was scared to death of hell or because I wanted crowns in heaven... but because he is good. For those of you who are on a sincere spiritual journey, I hope that you do not reject Christ because of Christians. We have always been a messed-up bunch, and somehow God has survived the embarrassing things we do in His name. At the core of our "Gospel" is the message that Jesus came "not [for] the healthy... but the sick." And if you choose Jesus, may it not be simply because of a fear of hell or hope for mansions in heaven.
Don't get me wrong, I still believe in the afterlife, but too often all the church has done is promise the world that there is life after death and use it as a ticket to ignore the hells around us. I am convinced that the Christian Gospel has as much to do with this life as the next, and that the message of that Gospel is not just about going up when we die but about bringing God's Kingdom down. It was Jesus who taught us to pray that God's will be done "on earth as it is in heaven." On earth.
One of Jesus' most scandalous stories is the story of the Good Samaritan. As sentimental as we may have made it, the original story was about a man who gets beat up and left on the side of the road. A priest passes by. A Levite, the quintessential religious guy, also passes by on the other side (perhaps late for a meeting at church). And then comes the Samaritan... you can almost imagine a snicker in the Jewish crowd. Jews did not talk to Samaritans, or even walk through Samaria. But the Samaritan stops and takes care of the guy in the ditch and is lifted up as the hero of the story. I'm sure some of the listeners were ticked. According to the religious elite, Samaritans did not keep the right rules, and they did not have sound doctrine... but Jesus shows that true faith has to work itself out in a way that is Good News to the most bruised and broken person lying in the ditch.
It is so simple, but the pious forget this lesson constantly. God may indeed be evident in a priest, but God is just as likely to be at work through a Samaritan or a prostitute. In fact the Scripture is brimful of God using folks like a lying prostitute named Rahab, an adulterous king named David... at one point God even speaks to a guy named Balaam through his donkey. Some say God spoke to Balaam through his ass and has been speaking through asses ever since. So if God should choose to use us, then we should be grateful but not think too highly of ourselves. And if upon meeting someone we think God could never use, we should think again.
After all, Jesus says to the religious elite who looked down on everybody else: "The tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom ahead of you." And we wonder what got him killed?
I have a friend in the UK who talks about "dirty theology" — that we have a God who is always using dirt to bring life and healing and redemption, a God who shows up in the most unlikely and scandalous ways. After all, the whole story begins with God reaching down from heaven, picking up some dirt, and breathing life into it. At one point, Jesus takes some mud, spits in it, and wipes it on a blind man's eyes to heal him. (The priests and producers of anointing oil were not happy that day.)
In fact, the entire story of Jesus is about a God who did not just want to stay "out there" but who moves into the neighborhood, a neighborhood where folks said, "Nothing good could come." It is this Jesus who was accused of being a glutton and drunkard and rabble-rouser for hanging out with all of society's rejects, and who died on the imperial cross of Rome reserved for bandits and failed messiahs. This is why the triumph over the cross was a triumph over everything ugly we do to ourselves and to others. It is the final promise that love wins.
It is this Jesus who was born in a stank manger in the middle of a genocide. That is the God that we are just as likely to find in the streets as in the sanctuary, who can redeem revolutionaries and tax collectors, the oppressed and the oppressors... a God who is saving some of us from the ghettos of poverty, and some of us from the ghettos of wealth.
In closing, to those who have closed the door on religion — I was recently asked by a non-Christian friend if I thought he was going to hell. I said, "I hope not. It will be hard to enjoy heaven without you." If those of us who believe in God do not believe God's grace is big enough to save the whole world... well, we should at least pray that it is.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Live By List
The Greatest Problem to Overcome: FEAR
The Most Beautiful Attire: A SMILE
The Most Crippling Disease: EXCUSES
The Most Dangerous Pariah: GOSSIP!
The Two Most Powerful Words: I CAN
The Most Worthless Emotion: SELF PITY
The Greatest Shot in the Arm: ENCOURAGEMENT
The Most Effective Sleeping Pill: PEACE OF MIND
The Most Prized Possession: INTEGRITY
The Most Satisfying Hard Work: HELPING OTHERS
The Greatest Attitude: GRATITUDE
The Most Powerful Force in Life: FAITH and LOVE
The Most Powerful Force in Life: FAITH and LOVE
Friday, November 13, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Current mood: hopeful
In my mind, communications class should be about the obvious things... writing a good outline, learning how to overcome public speaking fears, adopting positive speaking characteristics, blah blah blah. BUT, there's also this element that I think is equally (if not MORE) important, that is rarely properly addressed in any other class. That element is the whole idea BEHIND communication... connecting with people, knowing yourself, and learning how to relate with others on a less superficial and more PERSONAL basis (which is something kids... or adults for that matter... do less and less these days). In short, I like to run my class with the idea that I'm creating better people, a more community-based school, and whole young people that may use their brains to think outside of their comfort zones and truly LISTEN and EMPATHIZE with other people. There is no laughing in my class (at things that aren't intended to be funny). Anyone that even seems slightly disrespectful to one of their fellow students will face swift and severe punishment (more so than if they actually got up from their seat, verbally assaulted ME, and walked out of the room muttering obscenities and flipping off the general public). I create an environment... ENFORCE an environment at first, that allows students to open up, share, and become better people. Unwaveringly, students recognize the power and liberation that comes with this, and I never have to correct any behaviors after the first speech. They listen to each other because they care. They listen because they want to hear what others have to say, and they listen because they know that when they talk they will be heard. Not just heard, but LISTENED TO.
So that's my classroom. But the perils of this environment started by the third formal speech of my first semester in the district. Students start talking about REAL things. They stop trying to write speeches to be stupid and class-clownish. They share actual life-changing moments and real heroes that inspire them and actual stories that they've likely never shared with another soul in the room. The second semester, this metamorphosis happened sooner. My second year, several people shared tear-filled, heart-felt speeches on the very first INTRODUCTORY speech. This year I think it's gotten around that this class is like free therapy, and the kids are immediately pouring themselves into every interaction in my room. WHICH IS GREAT. But with all this emotion, every unburdening, that weight gets shifted. Unfortunately, I feel so much of it landing on me. Today I held back tears as a student shared a story about how losing his brother in a car accident (my first year in the district... my first week, actually) changed his life. It was his first speech. Through the throat-clearing and blinking, that child maintained eye contact with the room and nearly got through his entire outline before melting onto the podium. He'd told his brother that he hated him before he left the house and was in that fatal accident... he thinks it's his fault. The class quietly cried for him, with him, and a murmur of "it's not your fault" and several shaking heads tried to console him that it is NOT, in fact his fault. It was obvious that he'd never said aloud that he thought it was his fault. But in the moment immediately following that statement, I could feel the weight start to lift off of his shoulders. To say it. Out loud. To have people who would put you back together after you let yourself burst apart... it was like an instant relief for him. And everyone in that room is stronger for that interaction. They were PEOPLE today. When he returned to his seat, weathered, but composed, the student behind him (who lost her brother last year in another auto accident) touched him on his back and he instantly disintegrated into tears. Everyone sat quiet in the realization that life is not high school. Life is not who you're going to homecoming with, and life is not all the petty crap we make it. HE is life. Her EMPATHETIC TOUCH is life. And we're all connected.
I don't know how many speeches will be that raw, but judging from the outlines I saw, I'd say at least a quarter of my (first set of) speeches will be similarly heart-wrenching and deep. In previous semesters, I've heard about bitter divorces and custody battles, parent abandonment, deaths, accidents, expulsions... and even more, horrible, painful events. And every time the class reaction and student reaction is the same. It's this intense community-growing, bonding, weight-lifting experience. And I know I gave them the outlet, safety, and support to do that. But with every story, every horrifically painful view of watching a student PUT THEMSELVES THROUGH THIS to move on, it's like another tiny weight settles on my soul. It kills me how much these kids have hurt in their lives. No one should have to cry through a speech about how their parents didn't want them any more. But they do. And it's criminal that so much has happened in their short little lives that they need to work through it all with 24 other people that they are likely not friends with... and even worse, that they've never had the true connections with people and friends BEFORE this to help them on their way to healing.
I'd never change the way I run my class. But sometimes I wonder how much hurt I can take from other people before my heart will explode. So far, my level of hurt is infinite, as long as it's balanced with the idea that by taking on the hardship will in some way better the person I'm shifting the burden from. From a short-term prospective, the students adore my class. In their reviews, they talk about how much they grow and learn about themselves. At least 90% of them write that they would have never talked to the people in their class before the class, but now they talk to them often. They might not hang out, but they share a sense of something, and I'm egotistical enough to say that it's a direct effect of purging their souls together for 18 weeks in my class. I obviously don't require they share this way. In fact, I don't even suggest it. They just know they can and choose to do it. In the long term, I'd like to see what kind of PEOPLE these are turning out to be. If they're closer with their loved ones. If they're less afraid of things that aren't exactly what they are. If they have empathy for other people (which, horrifically, is a hard thing to find in the walls of high schools). Those things I'll probably never know. But I have hope. :) Hope and a heartache for tonight, but hope nonetheless.
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Thursday, April 19, 2007
I often think that those that struggle with a strong relationship with the Lord and Jesus do so because of the element of control. Many cannot give up control to another, they want to hold onto it, not relinquish it, so that they hold the power and make the decisions. A large (and perhaps the largest) component of being a Christian is giving up control of your life and what happens to and in the lives around you to God., believing that He has a plan and that we can never understand it. It is difficult. As children we always wanted to know "why?", gaining our bearing on the world around us, and as children of God we grapple with the same thing. We want to be in the know. But this is the essence of faith itself, believing in the unknown, trusting in a power outside of ourselves. It is scary, it is hard, it is challenging, but if you truly believe it, it just feels right, you know it is truth. But to most in our society this is crazy talk. It is illogical. It also goes completely against all of our societal norms of Secularism, Humanism, Materialism, etc. Live for today! You're worth it! Carpe Diem! Most hardly ever if not NEVER look into an eternal implication of these lifestyles. We believe in a heaven when it is convenient. We only consider Hell when we want to condemn another to it. We weigh one sin to be much worse than another when God views all sin as sin equally. We are also always so quick to judge, and the audacity of people in this world thinking they have the right to choose/decide/comment on the eternal fate of another astounds me. That they think they know what God would choose. Most that do this are completely ignorant of God's grace. One cannot understand true forgiveness and grace without being able to forgive all others who have trespassed against us ourselves. This is what brings us true inner peace.
Faced with the nationwide tragedy at Virginia Tech it is especially difficult to trust that there is a plan for this world in place. It feels like such a senseless tragedy and what God would wish such pain on the world? In times like these though I am often stunned by the outpouring of love and support us members of the human race can offer one another. Perhaps God uses a tragedy like this to reinforce such points like life is precious, love your neighbor, do unto others what you would want done to you. If we ALL lived by these standards such senseless tragedies would never occur and the Devil would not be allowed to work his evil in our hearts, harden our souls, and take 32 innocent lives along with us. I pray that the entire world will come to understand God's grace and the amazing saving forgiveness that comes with it, before it is too late.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Lucile, my sister, got mugged today in the Target parking lot on White Bridge Rd. She is thankfully ok. It happened at 11:36 am. A car pulled up quickly as she was opening the door of her car. I got to see the surveillance video and I’ve attached a picture of what the car looked like (the color might have been a darker brown/gold). There were two men and two women in vehicle, all in their mid to late twenties, all black. The guy who jumped out and jumped Lucile was tall and had corn rows. Lucile kicked and screamed and laid on the horn as the guy was wrestling to get her purse. The SOB smiled at her as he got back in the car. They used her credit card at the new Harris Teeter at 11:50. Two women shoplifters were chased out of Green Hills mall into a car of the same description, driven by two men, at around 12:10 pm. The car had a temporary tag on the rear driver’s side window…of course.
As brazen as these folks are, I assume they will be caught. However, it is important to be aware of during the next couple of days. Feel free to forward on to friends and family in the area.
Friday, July 17, 2009
International Justice Day is a day of awareness. It is an opportunity for us to take stock in what we have, thank God for our blessings, and SHARE them with others that are not lucky like you and I are. It is a time for others to stand up for those less fortunate. Please join me in respecting this day. View this amazing video at www.mochaclub.org.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
"A woman's heart should be so close to God that a man should have to chase Him to find her" - C.S. Lewis
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Act 1: Eternal Love
Act 2: The Entrance of Evil
Act 3: The Battle of the Heart
Act 4: The Kingdom Restored
Act 5: The Road Before Us
There are a few sections of this book I would like to discuss. The parts that stood out to me the most. I may only get to my first point today though, so check back for more in the near future.
One of the points he made was this:
"It came as a great surprise to me as a counselor when I first discovered that children would much rather know that their parents loved each other than that they loved them. But, of course, we need to know that love is real, that it endures, that a world of love is planned for us and waits for us, and that we can count on it."
This struck quite a cord with me. I wholeheartedly agree and I think this is one of the major reasons our society is so plagued by divorce. That many children, like myself, of divorced families find it hard to believe in lasting life-long love and commitment. We have a view that it will all end at some point because, in our experience, it always has.
Although many people have faith in marriage because their parents were able to give them that incredible example, a large majority of us have lost that, have even lost placing value on such a thing. The only reason I have faith in marriage is because I have faith in God. This is why I believe a faithless marriage is destined to fail, or at the very least is not going to be as beautiful a picture as God intended. For me that faith is rooted in God and, although I think this is the best course, others find seeming success in rooting the faith of their relationship lasting in love, in goodness, in trust, in truth. These marriages may last the test of time, but to me God encompasses all these things, making Him the focus of not only my future (hopefully) marriage, but of my life.
Monday, June 15, 2009
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Ellie Ambrose is an inspiring young woman. At the age of 10 she decided to do something about poverty in Africa. She created this run and here it is, five years in the running (no pun intended), stronger than ever and helping put more clothes on children's' backs, food in their mouths, and education in their lives. If I am going to run I can't think of a cause I would be more passionate about. That's what's going to get me through this little 5K. Maybe someday it will be what gets me through a marathon. We all know Ellie and the children of Africa have been through one.
If you would like to support my run please visit http://www.elliesrun.org/hero/libby-marshall
Saturday, June 6, 2009
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
The biggest reason I am doing this is to give me a space to get back to my writing. I haven't had a strong focus on writing in my life for the last two years and I think not having the outlet had started to get to me. Recently I took a course with my Women's Group through the book The Artist's Way. It really opened my eyes to how much of an artist I really am and how much I had been denying myself art filled outlets over the last few years. I am my own worst enemy, as most of us are. So here is my space, to share my thoughts, feelings, ramblings, reviews, opinions, etc. I may paste in old posts from time to time. Any and all comments are welcome, although I have a feeling no one will be reading this but little old me. If that's the case so be it, it's still a great outlet.