Lessons Learned from the Girls of Ablor

D-group girls | 2016

The lie of good enough. Am I good enough? Did I do enough? Could I have done more? Am I sufficient to meet this need, accomplish this task, be this friend, the list goes on. This lie continues to follow me in everything I do.

As I reflect on this season of graduation, endings and beginnings, hope and a little fear, I am quickly filled with my own doubts and aware of my own inadequacies. I over-analyze farewell speeches, words left unsaid or said in haste, patience lost, frustrations aired, and grace not given.

In these moments, my hope is (once again) in my performance. Was I good enough for my girls? The answer is a resounding NO. However, my job, my hope, and my purpose is to point them to the One who is good enough; infinitely so. My confidence is in God’s provision for them – not their own and certainly not mine.

Looking back, I realize I’ve grown just as much as my girls. I am not the same person I was when we were all just young babes trying to figure out life and high school. A few things I’ve learned:

  1. Patience. Hard work and progress are slow. Be faithful in the small things and one day you will see they’ve become the big things. Success and growth don’t come overnight, but don’t lose hope. Keep fighting. God is faithful to the end.
  2. Leadership is not about me. My purpose in leading these girls is not for my fame, ego, appreciation, or anything else. I was most frustrated when I felt disappointed because the girls weren’t performing the way I wanted instead of remembering we are all a work in progress – me especially! I’ve learned to trust in God who is bigger than all of us and realize that growth is slow, messy, and sometimes painful – for me and them. My patience is greatest when I remember I’m not their savior.
  3. Laugh. Y’all these girls are Pranksters with a capital “P”. They have pulled off a long list of ever increasing skillful and well-thought out pranks. They’ve kept me on my toes and taught me to never underestimate the craftiness of high school girls. They are funny, goofy, and creative. Laughter and the mutual bond of pranking your leaders is a great base for friendship and vulnerability. Also, revenge is a dish best served publicly 🙂
  4. Give grace then give it again. To my girls, to my self, friends, family, and strangers. It’s easy to think the worst of people, but most of the time we are all just trying our best. Be patient, forgiving, kind, and give grace. I have never looked back and thought, Man, I was too gracious to that person. I should have been harder on them.
  5. Pray. Prayer softens my heart and does more than any of my words or actions could do. When I pray I remind myself I am not their savior. I am not in control. My heart is softened and hopeful after prayer, but I still don’t do it often enough.

It has been such a privilege to lead a group of high-school girls for four years. Some of my favorite memories include time with them. We laugh, joke, and talk about hard realities. These girls have challenged me to think more deeply, laugh more often, and not be afraid to take risks. I am so excited to see how far we have all come and I can’t wait to see what lies ahead.

To the girls of Ablor, thank you!

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Wreckless and On Fleek.

ForgeRetreat2014

Photo Courtesy @gracechurchsc Instagram

I spent this past weekend at The Woodlands, a camp in Georgia, with 400 high school students. I was there with my d-group girls to spend time together, eat cheeseballs, study God’s Word, eat cheeseballs, shoot foam rockets, play mofia, and eat cheeseballs.

One truth became abundantly clear this weekend –  I have definitively passed from cool, young leader to old, not-so-cool leader and I’m guessing the change happened about the time I turned 25. For the first time, I was asking students  to explain their slang. Words like “on fleek,” “salty,” and “ratchet” were all new. Here’s to getting old, y’all.

Our retreat theme this year was “Prodigal”, based off the parable in Luke 15 of the Prodigal Sons. The story is set so it’s easy to see the wrecklessness of the younger brother, but more subtle is the equally selfish wrecklessness of the older brother.

The scandal that good works don’t lead to a relationship with God is a difficult concept for many within and outside the church. As my girls rightly identified, our culture is set up at every level to award achievement and grade accomplishments. Still crazier is God’s wreckless love for both sons – despite their actions and heart. In both cases we see the Father abandon cultural norms to pursue his sons where they are. Perhaps this is why this parable, in particular, remains a favorite for so many people like me. Despite my wreckless license or wreckless good works, the Father pursues with wreckless love. This is great news for a me, a diagnosed achiever.

I’m thankful for the many staff, leaders, and volunteers who gave their time to remind me and my girls the truth of God’s wreckless love and pursuit.

It’s a Jungle Out There

Do you remember high school? Of course you do. It was either the best time of your life or the worst (I’m guessing probably the latter). Maybe it’s just girls (as a recovering feminist I still grit my teeth when I say type that), but everything in high school is a big deal. Wake up with a zit? Big deal. Don’t have a date for prom 9 months in advance? Your social status is donezo. Get in a fight with your best friend and not talk for a year? (I may or may not be speaking from personal experience) That’s about as accurate apocalyptic predictor as you’re going to get. So what makes high school so difficult? From what I can tell, though it does get easier, we also get better about covering up our emotions – and sins.

Let’s think about it. Tell me you don’t get a little nervous walking in to a party where you don’t know anyone – remind you of high school? Me too. I actually walked into a high school cafeteria (coincidentally where I saw my first fight and arrest) when I was in college and I still felt some of that tension. 700 kids who didn’t know me and probably didn’t notice me still had power to make my stomach turn a little. Why is this? Why, if we are created to be in relationship, do we struggle to be in relationships?

Or my personal favorite: the backhanded compliment, southern Christian style. This one is easy to recognize, it always begins or ends with “Bless her heaaaart” For example, “Her collarbone is showing in that frocked blouse; she must have been raised by Satan-worshipping parents. Bless her heaaaart.” See, easy as that! Take any snide, cruel remark + “Bless her heaaaart” (or “no offense” and “just saying” for younger generations) and voila! You now speak Christianese. Is this really any different than caddy teenage girls or the anxiety, shame, and anger felt by any one over the age of 7 who has been hurt by a cruel comment?

Unfortunately, we get better at hiding our emotions, not letting anyone get to know us, and twisting our jacked-up-ness into positives. Feel free to use phrases such as “guarding my heart,” “being honest,” and “don’t want to be a burden.” Trust me, I’m the master at all of these. By not letting people get to know me emotionally I also prevent people from speaking into my life and calling out sin. (there’s a good Christian phrase – when was the last time you heard a Wiccan say: “I really need someone to speak into my life“?) Do I trust people enough to change, even if I disagree? Is there someone whom I trust more than myself?

I have to thank a special group of girls for revealing this to me. Amidst all of the “It’s not personal’s,” the “I’m only trying to help’s” and my own self-righteous rants I realized that it is personal. We are all walking wounded, trying to survive the jungle that we knew formerly as the school cafeteria.

Good Intentions, Pie, and The Hunger Games

I love me some info graphics and educational videos. Some of these will eventually wind up as their own post if they haven’t already. Until then, enjoy!

How a Pastor Fuels Global Missions from Desiring God on Vimeo.


From Poverty Cure: On Global Aid today


From Nasha Lending: Lisa’s story about Marvelous Pies


From The Resurgence – You can read my opinion of The Hunger Games here

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=27096230&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=1&color=00adef&fullscreen=1&autoplay=0&loop=0

The Chalmers Center from The Chalmers Center on Vimeo.

As Common as the Sun Rising in the East

The Sun rising in the East is to humanity as suffering and persecution is to Christianity. Do you believe this statement?

I recently attended Secret Church: The Cross and Suffering at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama. I cannot even begin to unpack all that I learned and that I am continuing to learn from my time there. Suffice it to say, David Platt could be a professional auctioneer and we covered 220-something pages and 75 key texts in 1 night. Now, we all know that I am a Nerd (yes, that’s “nerd” with a capital “N”), but whoa Nelly! my mind was so moving so fast that night that I think a little bit of it is still spinning trying to comprehend everything that I learned. Perhaps that is why I took no less than 4 trips to the main office building today at work in 20 minutes because I kept forgetting something. Yes, that sounds like a good excuse.

Now, my last post was about my love of old hymns, more specifically I reposted a montage of old hymns and their lyrics as they display the Gospel message. The reason I love old hymns and the reason I love Secret Church are one in the same. They both speak concentrated truth that penetrates my mind and soul. There is something unique about the eloquence and unabashed lyrics in old hymns just as there is something unique about uniting with 50,000 people in 70 countries to learn together, pray for the persecuted Church, and worship God by devoting ourselves to His Word.

One of the highlights of Secret Church is the opportunity for believers around the world to learn about a specific region or country where believers face persecution. This time Nik Ripken enlightened us on the Horn of Africa and his 20+ year experience working there. I highly recommend reading some of Nik’s written work like here and here.

Previously, I would pray that persecuted believers would stop being persecuted. Dumb. They are persecuted because they are proclaiming Jesus’ name. Jesus never promises that we won’t be persecuted, he actually promises that the best we can hope for is to die on the cross like Him (John 15:20). The only way to prevent persecution and suffering is to stop talking about Jesus. I know this is already a long post, but please read this story below as I cannot tell it any better:

[…]After hearing story after gripping story, he was compelled to ask this group of pastors and lay leaders, “Why have you cheated us in the West? Why haven’t you written these stories down? Where are the books that chronicle your faith and persecution? These stories are worthy of a movie. These are Bible stories come to life! Why have you not shared these lessons learned?”

As Common as the Sun Rising in the East
His outburst was greeted with confused silence. The pastors and lay leaders were dumbfounded. Most of the people simply ignored the embarrassing questions and the harshness of the challenge. Finally, one brother stood up, took the interviewer by the arm, and drew him to the end of the large room by the eastern window of the dwelling. Looking out at the horizon, the man spoke calmly to the interviewer: “Sir, when your sons were growing up, how many mornings did you take them to the window of your house and say to them, ‘Look, boys, the sun is coming up in the east this morning?’”

The interviewer found the question silly. “Well, I never once did that,” he answered. “Had I done that, my sons would have thought I had lost my mind, because the sun always comes up in the east!” Gently, the wise brother made his point: “Sir, that is why we talk little of our persecution and suffering. That is why we have not written our stories down. And that is why we have not made a movie. Our persecution is always with us. It simply comes as we walk with Jesus. It is like the sun coming up in the east.

“Besides,” he continued, “when did you Christians in the West stop reading the Bible? Our stories have already been told. God has already told all of us what we need to know about persecution and suffering.”

To say the interviewer was deeply humbled belabors the obvious. But the truth found a way into his heart and he was changed that day.

What kind of person sees persecution as biblical, expected, and hardly worth mentioning? Clearly, a person steeped in the story of scripture and well-acquainted with God. We would be wise to listen and learn the lessons. Source/Full Article

Wow. Needless to say, my view and my approach of prayer with the persecuted church has been changed. My understanding of missions work in unreached and unengaged people groups has grown, but with that comes a weight to support them in their work in ways that I do not yet understand fully – How do I pray for someone to lead another person to Christ knowing full well that it means their death?

The simple, yet oh so very complicated answer is because He is worth it all.

What is Secret Church?

Pray for the Horn

My Summer(s) as a Kairos Intern

Do you ever have the urge to do something, but you don’t know why? You are compelled to act, but it doesn’t make sense; not necessarily because what you are doing is wrong, but just makes no sense.

Fall 2010 I was studying abroad in Spain and applied for an internship at a local church. *sidenote* I NEVER wanted to work at a church. In fact, I specifically did not want to work at a church. So, why I applied for an internship at a church I attended, but wasn’t too familiar with is beyond me.

To make a long story short, it was one of the best decisions of my life. I met one of my best friends, my mental conception of God was challenged – probably for the first time in my life, and I became part of a community that has been invaluable to me over the past few years.

Why am I reminiscing about this now, you ask? Well, 20+ interns are about to descend on Grace again this summer and it brings me back to my first summer as an awkward intern (see the above video), naively fumbling through life. I am really excited for each of them, but especially the 4 with whom I will be working most closely. I hope they are challenged and find community like I did. I would not trade my summers at Grace (or my job now, for that matter) for any amount of money in the world.

Hey Mom and Dad, aren’t you glad I didn’t listen to you and get a “real job” that first summer? 🙂

What does it look like to live missionally?

I mentioned previously that there is something special that happens when leaders get together. Recently, I spent 6 days suffering in the Bahamas with a group of leaders. OK, so maybe we weren’t suffering, but I can assure you that we worked hard (though not nearly as hard as the Fastzskie Family that lives there as full-time missionaries).

The purpose of this trip was to equip leaders to live missionally. We tried to answer the question: What does it look like to live on mission for God on a daily basis? So often, we think of missions as something we do, not how we live, but if we are redeemed by God then His mission becomes our mission.

What does it mean to enter into covenant with someone? What do the symbols associated with covenants mean? One symbol we see in the covenant between Jonathan and David (1 Samuel 18) is the putting on of another’s robe. My cultural bias quickly skips over this act because I think: “OK, so Jonathan and David are like thousands of teenage girls who switch clothes. Big deal.” Wrong. To put on another’s robe is to assume their identity, to swear protection for them, their problems are now your problems, their possessions are your possessions and vice versa. Romans 13:14 tells us to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (ESV) and so enter into covenant with Him; His mission is now our mission. What does this mean for us as 21st century Americans?

As I have said, it is easy for me to imagine going to serve God in a faraway land, but what does missions look like staying? Initially, missions starts with changing my mind and attitude. My life is NOT about me, what I want, how I feel or what is in my best interest. There are opportunities every day for me to serve people; my roommate, my co-workers, my family, the employees at Panera – am I looking for ways to serve them? In addition, if I claim to support missionaries (in the typical sense of the word) am I supporting them financially, prayerfully and emotionally? Am I giving my time and talents to the local church?

Although in some ways, missions is part of my job, I am still convicted of my lack of intentional missional living. I have not arranged my life so that missions is who I am, not just what I do.

What does missional living look like for you on a daily basis?

On Young Life, local church, and Facebook

I don’t really get the point of Young Life. It seems kinda stupid. These were my thoughts on Young Life in high school. Needless to say, I was not impressed. I still wonder what made me go to my first College Life meeting at Furman. Was it the cool leaders I met in my first few weeks? Why did I keep going back when I didn’t like it the first few times? I don’t have logical answers to these questions, but I what I do know is that I am so glad that I did.

Young Life became one of my favorite activities at Furman. If you’re not familiar with Young Life, it is a para-church ministry to high school students. Leaders, usually college students, build relationships with high schoolers with the intent to share the Gospel with them. Everything associated with Young Life is to be done with excellence so as to point to Christ. If you have never been to a Young Life camp, I highly recommend it.

As much as I love Young Life (YL) though, it is not the local church; a distinction I did not realize until my last year as a leader. So often, para-church ministries, like YL, begin with the best of intentions, but over time lose sight of their purpose; that is to draw students into the larger body of Christ. As a leader, I often focused more on the kids who came to club and did not focus on connecting the kids at club to a local church.

Local church is of paramount importance for believers. It is through local church that relationships and growth happen. So often our relationships with other people are shallow and unrealistic – ie: facebook. Young Life tries to bridge the gap between the local church and high-school students and I believe has a place to do so, but we must not forget that the bridge must lead to a local church, not a college leader. Leaders will come and go, but the local church has survived 2,000 years and will continue to do so. My goal of this article is not to bash YL. I am so thankful for my time serving in YL. My faith was challenged in ways that would not have been possible outside of that ministry, but I wish I had focused more on the local church and not made my success as a YL leader about me and “my girls.” They are not “my girls.” They are daughters of God, created in His image and designed to bring glory to Him, to be connected to the larger body of Christ.

The fact is, we want to love real people and we want to be loved by real people. Facebook is fiction. Local church is fact—the most real community we can experience this side of eternity.” – From Tim Challies

To the Cross I Cling

Today, as is customary of every first Sunday of the month, my church celebrated Communion together. It is always a special time to remember Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for the redemption of our souls and bodies.

Several years ago, I connected the significance and implications of the Passover celebration with the Lord’s Supper (Communion), which forever changed the way I viewed Communion. However, today another shift occurred.

One of my favorite songs is To The Cross I Cling, which we sang this morning. This song echoes my heart’s cry:

All things in me call for my rejection                                                                All things in You plead my acceptance                                                               I am guilty, but pardoned                                                                                By grace I’ve been set free                                                                              I am ransomed through the blood You shed for me                                           I was dead in my transgressions,                                                                 But life You brought to me                                                                               I am reconciled through mercy                                                                         To the cross I cling

This song has always moved me and pierced right through my thoughts, emotions and soul in a way that few other songs can and coupled with the celebration of Communion, it is almost too much to bear. Today, one of our pastors spoke on the solemnity, but also the celebration that exists when we share in Communion. One line that has always bothered me in the song is All things in You plead my acceptance. You see, to me that just doesn’t seem right. I know that I am forgiven, that I have been imputed with Christ’s righteousness, but in the back of my mind and in my heart, I don’t believe that all things in Christ PLEAD for my acceptance. I don’t get it. I imagine reluctance, a moment of hesitation, a fleeting doubt, but not this. Not down on His knees, begging for my acceptance. Not legions of angels celebrating, not rejoicing. No, it is too much for me to handle.

How is it possible that a man so perfect, God, would subject Himself to the frailty of humanity, the shell of a life, to live in anonymity for most of His life only to then suffer in humiliation, a cursed death, all because everything in Him pleads for my acceptance? As I sit here to write, I am uncomfortable, overwhelmed and a little angry because, get this; selfishly, I don’t want to change my life to reflect this reality. If this is true, which I believe it is, then my life must be reordered. My priorities cannot lie in what I want, how I feel or what my culture tells me I need. If this is true, then I have an obligation to worship, serve and glorify this God who ransomed my life through His blood. It is not good enough for me to feel a little “emotional” singing a song, to allow the tiniest portion of my heart to be pricked by shame from my own deliberate sin. No, I am overwhelmed by my sin, but drowning in God’s grace and mercy which are renewed for me everyday, not because of what I have done or who I am, but because of who He is: YHWH.