Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Ride That Slide!

Today's story comes to you complements of my mom.

My little bro, Justin, is a wonderfully unintentional teacher at times. Last weekend, he got to visit a fun farm with Mom and some of his sibling buddies. This farm features a corn maze and a lot of other delightful attractions, including America's Longest Slide!

In case you ever happen to encounter this prestigious slide, you should know how to get the best ride out of it. First, grab your feed sack. Get situated on top of the sack, then pull your feet in and hug your knees to your chest to make yourself into a bullet. Make sure no part of your body is touching the slide....push off and let gravity do the rest!

Justin, however, has never been through Sliding 101 and has his own ideas of how to make this work.

Each time the next row of sliders gets into position, the slide monitor gives his little spiel, including the following admonition: "Do not hold onto the sides of the slide on your way down!"

Justin is not listening to the speech, nor does he care. All he's focused on is getting his feed sack and making sure his buddies are beside him and going down! And every time he went down, he tried to control his descent by grabbing onto the edges on either side of his lane. The result was that he toppled backwards, had no control over his body, and ended up spinning sideways, losing his feed sack, and once even crossed halfway into another lane before coming to a stop with about 15 feet of slide left!  He then tried to propel himself forward using his hands, in order to get to the bottom of the slide. He found out the first time that trying to stand up and walk to the bottom was not a good idea!

Please enjoy the visual demonstration below! (You can see better if you make it bigger. Justin is the one in the middle.)

Maybe you've never tried to stop yourself mid-slide on a sliding board. But have you ever approached life this way? Do you sometimes try to control the trajectory of your life...in your job, in circumstances, in finances, in relationships? Have you ever tried to confine parts of your life into a box, like a safe zone, rather than face something unknown that feels wild and scary? We may even see this as being smart, cautious, and wise. But what if the cost of caution is our freedom? What if we never experience the fullness of the life God has for us because we're focused on playing it safe? 

Take a lesson from Justin. You may end up knocked on your back, or turned sideways, or prematurely running out of momentum! 

What if, instead, we make ourselves less...get small and let God be bigger? What if we just relax and fall into Jesus and let the Holy Spirit take us like gravity? What if we let Him make us brave and take the adventure that comes to us from His hand? Sure, it's scary...but we might be amazed how much fun life can be! 

If my life and yours are God's work of art, we can trust Him to keep us on track. He has a hope and a future prepared for us beyond anything we can imagine! 

So let go of the sides....let go the fears, the doubts, the insecurities, the self-protection, the pride...we weren't made to hang onto these. They're thieves that steal joy and mar peace. They only drag us down and hold us back. The only thing we need to cling to is Jesus. 

"The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." John 10:10


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

I Am

Awhile ago, I watched this spoken word poem by David Bowden. And it inspired me. I sat with my journal and wrote what I heard God speaking to my soul. He knows exactly what we need and He speaks the language of our hearts. This is my I Am poem. If it encourages you today, thank Him.

I Am....with you - right now, right here
In the uncertainty, the emotion, the excitement, and the fear
I Am your Wisdom and your Way
The Voice that tells you go or stay
I Am your Future and your Hope
Place your expectation in Me alone
I Am your Father, I Am your Friend
I am He who loves you fully, without end
I am the One who draws you near
Counts every sigh and every tear
I Am your Beautiful Obsession
Your Freedom from every dark oppression
I Am there when you've lost your way
And when all forsake you, I will stay
I Am greater than your pain
I'm turning your losses into gain
You're never alone, never unloved
Never unwanted, unknown, or unsung

Because I Am....

With you always, loving you to eternity and back
Knowing you fully, and singing over you with joy
In Me you have no lack
I breathed you into life
Chosen before the birth of Time

Come, Beloved
Let your heart beat with Mine

Lose yourself in Me

For....I Am.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

What He Sees

Hey. I'm back. No excuses, and no apologies. I just need to write. So I want to share something precious Jesus gave me a few weeks ago.

I'm reading a book called The Forgotten Way by Ted Dekker, and working through the companion meditation/devotional book. One of the questions dealt with how you think God sees you. As I worked through the suggested exercise, this is what Jesus put on my heart.

I close my eyes and imagine Jesus standing in front of me. He knows how I'm falling again, right now. He knows all about my fightings and fears and the countless unanswered questions about the place I'm in and the way I'm supposed to go. He knows how I'm running after my old self-soothing patterns, running everywhere but to the Fountain of Life. What does He do? What does He say as He looks at me?

I see Him smile at me with a tender gaze that cuts straight through my soul, yet is only full of light, love, and pleasure. He takes both my hands in His and draws me closer. I think He even kneels down to look up into my face like a parent does with a child, or a man with his beloved. And this is what I hear:

"Look at Me, Beloved. If you only knew what you are going to be! What I am making you! If you could see what I see...a lovely garden in full bloom, fragrant with My favorite perfumes, bearing fruit that feeds the hungry, yet never runs out...fruit that delights My soul! I delight in you! I want you...My daughter, my chosen, my beloved! Don't you remember? I died so you could be with me forever...that's how much I want you. And I long for you to delight in Me. I will not force you; delight cannot be forced. I want you to delight in Me because you love Me more than anything, because you have tasted that I am good and I satisfy Your deepest hunger!

 I love you. Endlessly.

My love is not threatened by your present behavior, or by anything you will do in the future. My love for you is not measured by your level or lack of desire, surrender, passion, or faith. My love for you, daughter, is measureless and limitless. I don't see what you are now, in the skin of earth. The veil of mortality is invisible to My eyes and I see what you will be. I see My own reflection in your eyes and in your soul! Come to Me and I will satisfy you! Look to Me and I will save you! Walk with Me and I will carry you when you cannot take another step.

Don't listen to the poison whispers of the snake. I hurt for you when you listen and believe his accusations. That is not who you are. You are Mine! Not half Mine. Not sometimes Mine. Fully Mine! The evil one cannot touch you. He can only cast an illusion of darkness around you, and only if you allow him. Open your eyes, my Love! I'm right here...I'm always here with You! I am in you...closer than your heartbeat!

You are untouchable because you are Mine. You are unstoppable because you are Mine. Nothing can threaten you.


Because it's all about who I am making of you. And at the end of it all, you will still be safe in Me. With Me.

And you will be like Me, because you will finally see Me as I am. And so you will see yourself in My eyes.

It's all true. WAKE UP, Sleeping Beauty! Remember WHO I AM! I Am your Truth. I Am your Way. And I Am your Life."

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Is It Sufficient?

I realized something today.

All of my life, I have battled this fear that my relationship with God is insufficient. It has manifested in every part of my life. I believed I was never enough. Not pretty enough, not talkative enough, not like-able enough, not talented enough, not sociable enough, not funny enough, not desirable enough, not faithful enough, not good enough, not spiritual enough.....just not enough.

So I poured my energies into creating this world in my head where I could be enough. A world where I could be everything I ever wanted to be and have everything I ever imagined would make me complete; in this world, I was the heroine of my own story. All of this was a pathetic attempt to substitute for my "not enough".

It is no easy thing to crawl out of a fortress of false security. To walk away from your perfect world. To tear down your castles in the sky and come face to face with the raw truth that you don't have to be enough. You don't have to build a kingdom of "enough", because this isn't home. And it's not your kingdom anyway.

Do you feel unequal to the journey? The journey of walking by faith, of following Jesus, of obeying God, of loving Him with all your heart and loving your neighbor as yourself? Do you feel unequal to the mission of building Christ's kingdom on earth, of preaching the gospel, of making disciples, of fighting the armies of hell? I know. I've been there. I've camped out there for a long, long time. Not enough. Unequal to the task. Unprepared. Unable to rise to the challenge. Inadequate. Insignificant. Insufficient.

In recent weeks, God has pinpointed this fear in me: I'm afraid that my relationship with Him is not sufficient and never will be. I've been looking at it this way: I don't bring enough to this relationship. I have always wanted to be able to bring enough. But I can't. I bring nothing. Jesus brings all And He gives me His own life, His own beauty, His own faithfulness, His own obedience, His own love....everything that I can offer back to Him!

Today I had a revelation....I don't want a relationship with God that is sufficient. Why would I ever settle for merely sufficient? Who in their right mind is truly satisfied with a marital relationship or a friendship that is just "sufficient"?

I want a crazy, vibrant, insanely awesome intimacy with Jesus! I want a relationship that never stands still, that keeps moving forward, exploring more of His wonder and opening myself more fully to Him every day! It's the kind of relationship I didn't truly believe I could have with Him. But He's breaking down the walls.

So I'm changing my mind.

I do believe I can have this....I believe this is the life Jesus came to give me...anything less is cheating myself and the world around me that desperately needs to see what life is.

In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul expresses the truth that can set us free from the bondage to self-sufficiency:
"Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."

The walls of self-sufficiency, the towers of duty, the banners of the letter of the law that say I must be enough are crumbling to the dust. I can move forward in my relationship with Christ with full confidence, knowing that He is sufficient to bring life to the world and build His kingdom and shine His light through me!

I believe!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Extraordinary Somebodies

Hey Soul? If you've ever been haunted with doubts that God didn't know what He was doing when He made you? If you've ever wondered what in the world you were made for? If you've ever felt unwanted, unloved, inconsequential, inadequate, incomplete?

This is for you.

And for me. Because you'd better believe I've felt it. My heavenly Daddy is clearing out the haunted chambers of my heart and calling me to freedom beyond my self-protective walls. And I'm thinking you just might need to hear this too.

So listen close.

Have you ever believed you are a nobody? Then open your heart to this.



And that makes YOU a somebody...fully KNOWN and fully LOVED by your Father God, without ANY fear of rejection!

Fear is not what you were made for. God didn't give you a spirit of fear....He gave you a spirit of love and power and a sound mind! Jesus didn't die so you could remain enslaved to fear.

Jesus died to set you free.

Free from fear....fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of risk, fear of loss, fear of vulnerability....free from performance, free from pretense, free from condemnation, free from the letter of the law that kills.

Jesus died to give you life...life more abundant, joy more unrestrained, passion more dynamic than you can dream! He gives you HIS life....the very word of God became flesh to dwell in you!

You were made to be SOMEBODY.

Somebody with extraordinary gifts and a beautiful heart, custom-designed by your Maker to know Him, love Him, partner with Him, and enjoy Him in the unique way that only you can!

Your Father, Maker of the universe, looking at you right now with profound love and desire and pride and joy....more than you have ever dared to believe.  DARE NOW. DARE TO BELIEVE. Choose to believe that God created you for greatness, for His pleasure, and for impossibilities to become possible in and through your life.

Your Daddy created you for favor. You are His treasure of inestimable worth....and He is so pleased with you! He sees your heart. he sees your desire to break free of every last chain that has long bound you and to love Him unfettered. He hears your cry, "I believe! Help my unbelief!" What could possibly please Him more than to hear you say, "Father, I want to see!" He is saying to you, "Wake up, my love! Wake from this dream of flesh in which you have entangled yourself. Wake up from the one-dimensional reality in which you see and hear and feel. Awake, and run to me!"

Will you say it with me? I BELIEVE! Here I take my stand! I don't have to feel it or see it. Father, I simply choose to believe that You made me to know and enjoy You and pour out Your love unfettered on this world in ways I have never yet dreamed.  With You, I can. With You, I'm ready. So open the floodgates. I am somebody. I am Yours.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Musings from Mount Morris

How is it possible that I've been in New York a month already?  And that I've barely seen more than two inches of snow at one time this entire winter....but no doubt I speak too soon. Winter ain't over yet. She finally decided to get serious about her temperatures, if not her snowy cloak.

So, wow....where to begin?  This is actually the first truly relaxed weekend we interns have enjoyed since arriving at Lamplighter. It was a weekend for hibernating....one of my housemates literally hibernated in her room with an electric blanket almost the entire day yesterday! She's from the South and has never experienced sub-zero temperatures before, so you can hardly blame her.

I figure you might want to hear more about this place and the people I'm with. So here's a glimpse of life in our castle.

This is the century-old Victorian house that I call home. The photo was taken by my fellow intern Kayley on one of the few snowy days. You can only see a portion of the house here, One of these days I'll have to get a picture of the front. This spacious structure houses the Lamplighter offices, shipping area, and a room that has been appropriated as a bookstore on the ground floor. I live in the second floor apartment, along with three other girls. We have three bedrooms, a kitchen, dining room, and parlor (in a Victorian house, it has to be a parlor). There's also a separate guest room and small storage room upstairs. Plans are being made to build another bathroom and possibly split the second floor into two separate apartments.

Here you can see a partial view of the equally old and beautiful church building next door, which currently houses the book bindery and warehouse, which is really more like a unique library. This is where the old pipe organ was taken apart to make room for a recording studio. The bell tower is eventually going to become a prayer tower, which will be amazing. I haven't been up there yet, but I'm told you have a lovely commanding view of the village and surrounding hill country from the top!

This is a closer view of the church front on our street. It is one of several gorgeous old church buildings on the block.

This was shot along one of the walls inside the church sanctuary. See, you can't really call this a warehouse, can you? All of the extra stock of the books made here are kept on these stately bookshelves which were built last fall, just in time to host Michael Card at Lamplighter for a Christmas concert! That was an exciting time, and I'm sorry I missed it, although I've heard tales of staff and interns staying up half the night staining bookshelves and scrubbing the floors! Although no longer used as an official place of worship, the sanctuary retains the feel of a sacred space.The sun streaming through the stained glass between the shelves and falling across the old wooden pews is a thing of beauty.

Here I am inside the empty organ chamber with Peter, the bindery manager. This was one of the first nights of my internship, the day all the guts of the organ were removed, and we were all helping to clean junk off the floor so it could be swept and ready to begin the interior remodel. While we kept the lovely antique facade of the organ intact, the inside is now framed, insulated, and dry walled. It is ready to move on to the next stage....becoming a recording studio with the proper windows, soundproof design, and equipment! We will soon be consulting with an expert on the design, and we're asking God for the funds to continue the project. The goal is to have the studio completed for the Lamplighter Guild, which will be held here at the end of June.

As I mentioned before, I share an apartment with three other girls. Kayley is from Wisconsin. She and her brother Nathan are both interning here. Ann Elizabeth, the other intern, is from Mississippi. She's enjoying her first taste of a northern winter, for the most part, I think! Although it's not the most realistic taste with this weird winter. Alina is from a town in New York, a few hours from here. She came for the previous internship and felt God's call to stay on staff as the assistant bindery manager. Both Kayley and Alina were students at the 2015 Lamplighter Guild last July, so I had met them before. It's been fun getting to know them better.

So, what is a typical day like at Lamplighter Ministries? Not so typical. There is plenty of room for spontaneity and surprise....room for God to move! However, we always start the day with devotions and prayer as a group. Besides the interns, there are only a handful of staff who actually work at the headquarters. A lot of other people work for Lamplighter from remote locations. Despite the tiny team here, Lamplighter is becoming a far-reaching network across the globe! They just hired a guy to work full-time in shipping here. We are praying for an office manager who can help glue us all together....with a tiny staff and a new bunch of interns who don't really know what they are doing, things tend to be on the chaotic side! One of the overarching goals at Lamplighter is to do everything to the highest degree of excellence, and we want very much to achieve better organization in the office, but it's a great place for God to supply what we lack and show Himself strong in our weakness!

So yes, our days generally start at 8:30 A.M. with devotions and prayer, usually led by Mark Hamby, who is the founder and president of Lamplighter and the guy who does pretty much everything around here....although he acknowledges he can't do it all! He is a fantastic visionary, one of the most humble men I have met, and a passionate lover of the Word. His Bible studies are always rich and full of new meaning. That is my favorite part of the day. If I gain nothing else from my time here, I want to be ignited with ongoing, ever-deepening passion to love Jesus and drink deeply from the waters of life in His Word! After devotions, we hit the ground running! There is always so much to do. Ann Elizabeth and I have been spending the majority of our time working on various projects in the office, and sometimes going out on scouting missions with Mark to look at some property he wants to buy, or check out a lodging place we are reserving for the Guild, or sometimes to chase a sunset! We are helping a lot with preparations for the Guild. This is a huge event that usually takes an entire year of preparation, along with all the other irons Lamplighter has in the fire.....but this year, the decision to have the Guild was just made in early January! And whereas the Guild has usually been hosted at the Mohonk Mountain house in previous years, where a huge part of the responsibilities are taken care of by the Mohonk staff, this year the Guild will be hosted here in Mount Morris. So we have an impossible amount of planning and preparing and details to sort out by the end of June! There is housing to be secured, enough for one hundred students, plus staff and teachers and other guests. There are classroom locations to be sorted out, parking lots to be made, zoning regulations and other permits to obtain, remodeling to be done on some of the housing locations we already have or are potentially buying....not to mention the recording studio work that needs to progress, a rope challenge course to be built in the woods, books and books and more books to be made, and a conference season coming up in the spring!

Here I am in the office the first week, probably doing editing on the Guild website. There was a ton of stuff that had to be updated for this years' guild, being already several months behind! By the way, we've cleaned up that desk....it looks a lot better in the office now!

Sometimes we get pulled away from the office for a cleaning project, to work in the bindery, to help in shipping, or for any multitude of various and sundry other tasks. One day recently we got to help unload a skid of paper for the bindery. We built a stack taller than me with the paper on which the books will be printed! I have only spent a handful of days working in the bindery since the first week, but I've learned to use one machine confidently, which is the part of the process where you are putting the finished cover on the finished book block. It's the last step of the book, before it is inspected and sent to the shelf to await its destiny! That is my favorite job in the bindery so far, probably because it's the one I've done the most and I feel comfortable doing it.

This is getting long, but let me quickly share two major highlights of the last month. The first was a staff training/retreat that we had in Letchworth State Park last weekend. A lot of work went into pulling off this event, but we also had time to relax and get to know each other better as a staff. We hosted some guests, including Pastor Colin Smith, who is the most amazing Bible teacher I've ever heard. He brought his whole family and gave us a meaty feast on the Word during the weekend. We also participated in some training on how to function as a healthy staff, and did an exercise where we got an introduction to many of the favorite books in Mark's must-read library. It was a fun weekend, interspersed with singing, games, hiking, and a Saturday morning pancake contest! Despite Mark's boasting of his killer pancake-making skills, he was not voted the winner. Everyone did a great job though! It was a close race! Kayley creamed all of us with her amazing history knowledge in the game of Timeline. And I particularly enjoyed a ramble along this gorgeous little rushing stream cut through rock....umm, my pictures haven't made it off the card yet, but I'll post them on Facebook eventually.

The other highlight was the sort-of top secret meeting we hosted in our apartment with Mark, John Fornof, and Bob Liparulo, sharing ideas and top secret information regarding the life and history of Finnian Jones, who is featured in most of the Lamplighter Theatre audio dramas. This was a brainstorm meeting for the next ten years of Lamplighter dramas! It wasn't exactly secret because we decided to broadcast part of it on live-stream for Lamplighter friends to get in on the fun. The live-stream was successful, and all of us here enjoyed the evening immensely....especially since we get to be in the know about some stuff that no one else gets to hear!

Here's a shot from our live-stream meeting. This is in the "parlor" of our apartment. On the far left you can see writer Bob Liparulo, who I later realized wrote the Dreamhouse Kings series, which I read several years ago. That was a thrilling read, especially suited for teens and young adults! I'm sure he's written a lot more besides, and now he is also writing for Lamplighter Theatre. To Bob's right is Mark Hamby, the visionary behind it all and executive producer for the Theatre. Next to Mark is the incredible John Fornof, long-time writer for Adventures in Oddysey and now producer, director, and writer for Lamplighter Theatre. John is also an amazing guy to meet in person. Then we have Jen, a homeschool mom who has recently become involved in promotional writing for Lamplighter. Down in the right-hand corner is Angie, Peter's wife, and Peter is on the far right. He is the bindery manager. They and their three young children moved to Mount Morris over a year ago to work with Lamplighter.

Ok, I think that gives you a pretty well-rounded picture of what I've been up to this past month! It's been a wild ride, and I think it's going to get wilder! I will be here for at least two more months, Lord willing. Thanks for hanging with me....I hope you enjoyed it!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Beautiful Dust

All this earth....
Could all that is lost ever be found...
Could a garden come up from this ground at all....
You make beautiful things, You make beautiful things out of the dust....
You make beautiful things, You make beautiful things out of us.

-Beautiful Things by Gungor

These lyrics created my sound track earlier this evening as I wandered through an ancient cemetery littered with broken-down headstones and the dried-out stumps of once noble trees.

Why was I wandering through a cemetery, you may ask? For one, because I like it. I find a sacred sort of hush settling over my soul in a cemetery. Especially a really old cemetery.

Secondly, I took a side trip into the cemetery in my quest to gain higher ground from which to view the sunset. After a few hours of lingering in the woods, I was on my way home as God's brush strokes began to color the western sky. Incidentally, I have a boss who chases sunsets. I love that! He took a friend and I on a sunset chase the other week. I had never chased a sunset in a car before, but they do have a way of catching my breath and demanding my attention with a holy kind of awe. Anyway, chasing a sunset on foot is a little tough, so when I saw the cemetery on higher ground, I went for it. I believe God put the song Beautiful Things on my heart to play on my phone as I walked onto that little piece of long-forsaken ground.

You see, I'd been praying out in the woods. I had to do some dragon slaying today. In the midst of trying to figure out how best to function in the intensity of Lamplighter Ministries, how to let go to God when I'm in over my head, and trying to face the question of why God brought me here and where I fit in this picture, the enemy has been gnawing at the edges of my soul. He's been whispering suggestive memories into my mind, memories of broken cisterns left behind. Wearing away my resistance, murmuring that I need some outlet, some way to release the pressure building up....reminding me that I can still go back to a comfortable addiction....that my escape hatch is never far away.

Thank God, I am not unaware of the dragon's devices. I know exactly what He's trying to do. When he sees one of God's blood-bought children getting dangerously close to his borders, and he perceives that this one is about to become a real threat to his kingdom, the enemy will do anything to stop it. He knows the hold a particular addiction had on me, and he is trying desperately to lure me back.

I believe my Father has brought me to Lamplighter at this time to do a new work in my life. I believe I'm standing on the brink of falling deeper in love with Jesus and discovering a life of more abundance and more power and yes, more warfare than I've ever imagined. Satan wants to cut me off at the knees. He'd take me back to the point of no return if he could. But when he messes with God's children, he messes with our Daddy! And our Daddy says, "Ain't nobody gonna mess with My child!" And He gives us an arsenal of Truth and Love to throw at the dragon. I let Satan have it today! I think it always comes back to remembering who we are. I am Christ's! Satan cannot have my mind, he cannot have my potential, he cannot have my time, he cannot have my effectiveness, he cannot have my life! I am Christ's, and Christ will not give me up!

After I gave Satan what for, Father and I had a sweet time together. I was praying simply and honestly for all His children, specifically the Church in America. Over the weekend, we had a Lamplighter staff training and retreat, where we fed richly on God's Word and were challenged with a message that made us look honestly at the dire picture of Christianity in today's culture, but also sounded a trumpet blast of hope. We learned that God works in and through individual lives to change the big picture of the world. He can use as many or as few as He chooses to win mighty victories for His kingdom. If we want to be prepared for God's use, we must have a vision, both of what the world could look like, and what we want our own lives to look like as we move in pursuit of the promises of God.

This is only a condensed bit of the Scripture feast we had during our retreat. But the point that God had me focused on in my prayer today was that although this world is a dark place where Christians have largely been driven into holes in the ground, metaphorically speaking, all He is looking for is a Daniel. God is looking for one who will stand out and shine like a star in an ocean of night. He wants to use me. And He wants to use you. And even when we look at our lives and see all this wasted time, wasted opportunities, wasted potential....even when we feel like the dried-up bones of a dead army....even when we realize that we've been drinking from polluted wells and neglecting the Fountain of Life and we're dying of thirst in the desert....even if we question how God could possibly redeem the Church of America today, or how He could redeem our own lives and use us to bring His kingdom on earth....

....our Father is the God who breathes life into dry bones. The great I Am who created everything out of nothing. The God who uses a few faithful men to defeat armies of thousands. The God who has promised to make everything new. The God who never stops doing good to His children, despite our desert wanderings and our adulteries and all the times we cower in holes trying to hide from the enemy and the days when we realize we've become captives in a heathen land and we think it's really all over. Our Father is the Author of life, the Artist who creates beauty out of dust, joy out of hopelessness, life out of death, valiant overcomers out of trembling cowards.

In that light, it seems fitting to walk through a graveyard singing about all that is lost being found and beautiful things coming out of the dust. From the dust we came, and to dust we shall return. But that is not our ending. Because our Father is the Beginning and the End. He is our home. He is our destiny. His immortal breath is in our spirits. And He is endless. We stand on the brink of forever. And when this earth of dust is dissolved, our God will make all things new. The lost will be found. All the sad things will come untrue. Death will be swallowed up in victory! Mortality will give way to immortality. And the King of Kings will have His bride, pure and holy and white as a lily....perfectly one with Him into infinity!

And there will be no more straining for partially veiled glimpses of the sunset from cemeteries. We're going to walk straight into the sunrise, into God's country, where there is no night.

So from one speck of beautiful dust to another.....

Remember Whose you are. Rise up and shine. We will overcome the dragon.....by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony. Worthy is the Lamb who was slain!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Hold On Tight!

Now that I am two weeks into my internship, I shall attempt to describe Lamplighter Ministries in one word.....


Working here feels rather like hitching a ride on a runaway train. Awesome and scary! Spontaneity is a regular occurrence at Lamplighter, and there's a sense of wondering when the train is going to jump off the tracks....or am I going to get thrown?

I like that word picture because it's dramatic. I don't mean to sound like I'm literally hanging on for dear life, but let me just say this isn't a normal place. I mean that in a good way. But some days I have felt like I'm inwardly hanging on for dear life....just trying to sort out the multitude of information coming at me and get some sense of my place here. 

It's too soon to tell if I love working at Lamplighter. There are some things I love, let's put it that way. I always need an adjustment period in a new place, however, I'm not sure Lamplighter Ministries is the kind of place you can ever truly adjust to! I'm not sure how to even explain this. Lamplighter is a small organization with enormous dreams and expectations. The small group of staff and interns clustered at the headquarters is like Gideon's band of 300 men against a vast army of Midianites! To the human mind, it seems impossible to try to accomplish all that Lamplighter has in the works, and to do it to the highest degree of excellence, with such a small number of people. Yet God has moved in miraculous ways over and over again on behalf of this small band. It's exciting to be part of a group that has seen God come through in dramatic ways. When my time here is finished, I want to be able to leave with stories that strengthen my faith and dependence on God and make His glory evident to everyone I tell.

Our schedule here doesn't allow for a lot of extracurricular time, so if I don't make myself sit down and write something every so often, it's not going to happen! So rather than continue with my deep thinking which doesn't tell my readers a whole lot, let me tell you about some of the adventures of the past two weeks. 

The very day I arrived in Mount Morris, I got to ride along on an errand to Rochester and experience an epic build-your-own pizza place....I'm no longer certain that authentic Chicago deep dish is the best pizza I ever had!

My first official day of work as an intern, I saw a nineteenth-century pipe organ dismantled to make space for a recording studio on the Lamplighter campus! This gorgeous organ was built into the old church building that Lamplighter purchased and now uses as a book bindery and warehouse, among other things. The organ no longer played and would have cost a pretty penny to repair. A recording studio is high on the list of dreams for this ministry, as they have produced 18 dramatic radio theatre albums that air on 1800 radio stations in 29 countries! The team is gearing up to go to London at the end of February and record two new dramas. So you can imagine how wonderful it would be to have a studio on campus where they can continue to record these life-changing stories....and think of the excitement of having world-class actors visiting the little village of Mount Morris! In just two weeks, the transformation from organ to recording studio is almost finished; now we are awaiting funds to begin designing the acoustics and install equipment.

Over the past week in particular, I have been hard at work editing and updating the website for the 2016 Lamplighter Guild....a fun though oftentimes frustrating project. I'm learning just how much work goes into managing a website....there are so many details to keep track of and it's easy to miss little things if you are not giving your full attention. I really am enjoying the work on Guild details, since the Guild had a major impact on my life, and that is what brought me here to Lamplighter!

I've also spent a little time in the bindery, learning the process of making books by hand (with a little help from machines). Printing, cutting, cover-making, separating out the individual book blocks, gluing spines, more cutting, head-banding, cover-stamping, and gluing the finished cover on the book...it's given me a much greater appreciation for the aesthetic quality of Lamplighter books!

Everyone has been involved in a lot of clean up....as you can imagine, tearing out the guts of a huge pipe organ and building the insides of the studio room makes for a great mess! We spent hours organizing over 700 pipes of various size and shape, plus other sundry organ pieces, into storage. Plus wiping century-old dirt off wood pieces. Plus cleaning up the sawdust that floated all over everything in the former church sanctuary.

The other interns and I have gotten crash courses in various computer programs, taken jaunts around the town with Mark Hamby, our boss, for various business related purposes, learned the basics of how to find out who owns property, visited the best coffee shop in New York, took a moonlit tour through the woods, done "fake" work for a catalog photo shoot, etc, etc, etc!

Somewhere in the midst of all this I've had a few chances to ramble in the woods and hike in nearby Letchworth State Park. This coming weekend, we are having a staff training/retreat at the park, so we will hopefully get to see a lot more of this gorgeous area they call the Grand Canyon of the East. Waterfalls, here I come! You won't catch me complaining about this unusually warm winter....but it would be fun to have enough snow to go tubing in the park, just for one day!

There is so much more that has been packed into the last two and a half weeks, but I hope this will give you somewhat of a picture of what I'm doing so far. I will try to make time to write on the weekends when it is not late at night and my brain is not dead! Thanks for coming along with me on this wild ride....it is never boring here at Lamplighter!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Beyond The Wardrobe: Further In And Further Up!

"HIS divine power has granted to us ALL things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of HIM who called us to HIS OWN glory and excellence, by which HE has granted to us HIS precious and VERY GREAT promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature....."  2 Peter 1:3-4

Friends, it is my delight to share with you the new door God has opened to me as I seek to probe further into His heart and climb further up in the purposes of His kingdom!

If you have been following my posts about the Lamplighter Guild and the impact that it made on my life, then you can probably imagine how thrilled I would be at the chance to become more involved with the ministry behind it.  When I learned that Lamplighter Ministries has internship opportunities for former Guild students, a seed was planted in my mind.  I began praying about the possibility soon after Guild week.

Every student was sent a post-guild survey to fill out, allowing us to give feedback on the week....what God taught us, what we enjoyed the most, how can they make it better, etc.  It took me over a week to sit down and fill mine out, because I had so much to testify about my experience that I didn't know where to start.  Imagine my surprise when I received an email in response to my survey, saying that they saw something in my writing which caused them to ask if I'd be interested in doing some writing for Lamplighter Ministries!  I was overwhelmed with the possibilities that seemed to be suddenly blooming on my horizon...you see, I had already been approached about the opportunity in Romania.  I was praying about that and already sensed that it was a God thing.  So now I began to wonder if I could do both....go to Romania and write for Lamplighter!  I sincerely hoped the two would not oppose each other, because I thought both were open doors from God.  Working with Lamplighter was becoming my new dream, and I was intensely interested in pursuing the invitation!

Over the course of the next several days I was in contact with Lamplighter leadership and waiting to hear more details on what they had in mind, yet I knew that I needed to give my answer about Romania soon.  As I was praying one morning about the tension in my heart, God showed me that I was holding back from deciding about Romania out of fear that I would lose the Lamplighter opportunity, but that I had no valid reason not to say yes.  I believe He was telling me to give my yes to Romania in faith and surrender the results to Him.  So that day I wrote to my missionary friends and told them I was coming to Romania.  And the very next day, I was finally able to speak with someone about the opportunity with Lamplighter.  I learned that what they had in mind would require me to come to their headquarters and start within weeks....even sooner than I would have been free from my current commitment with my grandparents.  Because I had already made the decision to go to Romania, the timing would not work out.  Yet even during that conversation, I had peace that I made the right decision, and in my heart I knew that the door to Lamplighter could still be open for another time.  They encouraged me to pray about coming for an internship, which was already on my heart.

So during the next few months, as we worked to get my grandparents through their transition and I embarked on my two-month venture in Romania, I continued to pray about Lamplighter.  The dream to work with the ministry in whatever capacity I could stayed alive in my heart, and shortly before I returned from Romania, I officially applied for an internship.  By the time I got home, I was 90 percent sure that I'd be going to serve with Lamplighter Ministries.

The month and a half since has been a time of wrestling, of seeking confirmation, of discussing details with Lamplighter leadership, of fighting enemy attack....all in the midst of the holiday clamor at home and travels and family drama!  This has felt like an uphill climb!  But if it had been smooth sailing, there would be cause for concern.  Lamplighter is a God-honoring, fast expanding ministry....a bright light in the darkness....and the team there is frequently experiencing enemy attack because of the threat they pose to Satan's kingdom.  It should come as no surprise that I've been under attack in my quest to join them....in fact, I take it as confirmation that God is leading me there!

What is Lamplighter all about, you may ask?  At the close of Jesus' earthly ministry, before He returned to Heaven, He gave all of His present and future followers a command: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations....teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you...."  Matthew 28:19-20

Biblical discipleship is at the heart of Lamplighter's ministry.  Borrowing from their website, 'The mission of Lamplighter Ministries is to make ready a people prepared for the Lord, by building Christ-like character one story at a time.'  How did Jesus communicate life-changing truths?  Through story telling.  As a publisher of exemplary books and creator of compelling audio dramas, Lamplighter Ministries strives to produce stories that will do the same.  Since the printing of their first book in 1997, Lamplighter now has over 200 titles....each carefully chosen because the Word of God comes alive in these stories with the power to transform lives.  As they seek to creatively connect God's Word to the hearts of those who are perishing, the leadership at Lamplighter is also committed to inspire and motivate the next generation of Christ's disciples to live a life of excellence.
Their focus is two-fold: 'Preparing people to serve the Lord through internal character development and external career preparation.'  2 Peter 1 tells us that as followers of Christ, we are called to partner with Him in His divine nature!  As Master Creator, Jesus' nature is to create....and He invites each one of us to imitate and reflect His creative excellence in the unique gifts He has given to us, in a way that tells His redemptive story to the world.

The mission of Lamplighter's internship program is, and I quote: 'to promote the development of gifts and talents in an atmosphere where passion and faith meet purpose.  Each intern will be encouraged to grow in wisdom and an intimate knowledge of God's Word, to become a lifelong learner, and a dedicated follower and creative reflection of Jesus Christ.'  I believe God is leading me to Lamplighter as an opportunity to embark on a path of greater discovery.  My hope is to discover how I can develop and cultivate my God-given abilities into the highest level of skill and excellence.  As an intern, I will be there to serve the ministry wherever there is need.  This may or may not involve writing, which is my primary creative passion, but there will be plenty of opportunities to learn and grow.  The possibilities include work in the book bindery and bookstore, assisting with office support, customer service, promotion and marketing, landscaping and general maintenance.

This is not a platform for self-promotion, but rather a stage for God to showcase His incredible strength through my weakness.  I've been fighting a lot of fear and doubt because I know my history, I know my own failure to make the most of every opportunity, and I know I am not sufficient for the task that lies before me.....BUT MY GOD IS!  In His amazing mercy, God continues to work to strip away self so that I can fix my eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and the Finisher of my faith!  I've been told to expect my weaknesses to be exposed in my time with Lamplighter, and that the more vulnerable I'm willing to be, the greater potential there is for growth and transformation. With this in mind, my prayer is that God develops the humility of Christ in me, teaches me to glory in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me, and brings me to the full conviction of His all-sufficient nature!

This post is my attempt to create a basic picture of where I am headed for the next few months.  I hope it is coherent and interesting.  I'm leaving in two days (this Friday!), it feels a bit like jumping off a cliff, and focus is hard to hold onto in the chaos of last-minute preparations.  I will be interning at Lamplighter headquarters in Mount Morris, New York.  The internship is potentially three months long, but it will be evaluated one month at a time.  There may be possibilities of a longer, more in-depth internship after three months.  I hope to keep my readers informed about my doings, but I don't know how much time I'll have for blogging. However, keep your eyes open for a Facebook page where I will try to keep my friends updated, post prayer needs, and provide links to any related blogging.  I will also post links to Lamplighter's website, for those who are interested.

Until next time, my friends.....let us run with endurance the race set before us!  "Behold, I AM with you always, to the end of the age."  -Jesus, from Matthew28:20

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Romania: Turning The Page

Hello my dear friends and readers! My apologies for not posting more while I was abroad. Writing is my passion, but it also requires a large investment of personal time and concentration for me to capture my thoughts and impressions and pin them to the page. Sometimes I chose to invest time in the people around me rather than write....and other times I was just plain lazy. So now I find myself a month past the end of my short sojourn in Romania, but I would like to share with you a bit more of what we did while I was there.

Since Thanksgiving is an American holiday, it is not traditionally celebrated in Romania, although I believe some Romanians have adopted a Thanksgiving Day of sorts....I'm not quite clear on that, though.  The missionaries who work together in this city have a big Thanksgiving meal and celebration with friends, but this year they were waiting for Scott and Carolyn to return from the States.  So we had no special plans for the day, but I wanted to do something to celebrate, since I couldn't be with my family.  I invited our friend Edith to join us for dinner.  It wasn't turkey with all the trimmings (I confess, I bought rotisserie chicken to make it easy on myself)....but we made a yummy meal, shared it with a friend, and enjoyed a game of Sequence....followed by dessert!  We enjoyed ourselves quite well.

One chilly Saturday, the girls started pulling out Christmas decorations and craft supplies.  They love getting creative with crafts!  The four of us ended up making hours of fun with glitter, glue, and foam cutouts.

By late November, Christmas had come to the city! I can handle living in the city for short periods of time, but it is definitely not my abode of choice. However, I do love the way cities get decked out for the holidays! One Sunday evening, the girls and I enjoyed a stroll through the light-decked center of Arad.  There was a rock concert going on, and let me tell you, the place was packed!

Then on the first of December, we hopped on a train to visit the nearby city of Timisoara for the day and see the festivities in honor of Romania's national Union Day! This is the celebration of three major regions becoming the country of Romania. That happened in 1918, if I remember correctly. Of course, you can always google it if you really want to know! We met a friend who lives in that city and spent the afternoon eating and hanging out at the lavish mall. In the evening, we all walked to the town center and participated in the countdown to officially light up the night! The display in Timisoara is bigger and more beautiful than Arad's. The center was packed with people and it started raining later in the evening, but we enjoyed ourselves nonetheless.

In front of the grand orthodox cathedral in Victory Square.

Two of the girls with our friend Andrea.

The Opera House through a veil of lights!

As you can see, we made a lot of fun memories!  Everyone loves sightseeing and celebrations, but I am also grateful for the many little daily opportunities God gave me to enter into the girls' lives. Things like attending Friday night youth church with them, working together to help clean the church and set up for a garage sale that raised money for a new church building, going to watch a basketball game, walks and photo shoots in the park and with the dogs, eating together, practicing Romanian words, playing basketball, going to the movies.  Ana and I were able to read all the way through the Jesus Storybook Bible by the time I left.  This was a special bonding time for the two of us, and it was great to watch her grow in her English reading skill and to talk about the Scriptures together.

I wish I had something really profound to wrap up my two months in Romania, but I don’t.  Maybe the profundity of life is hidden in the small things.  Like day by day, moment by moment, just being faithful in the things God puts before us.  Learning to be present for the people around us.  Smiles.  Laughter.  Making paper Christmas chains with mental patients.  Cuddling and playing with a baby in the hospital.  Reading Bible stories from a kids’ book.  Fitting puzzles together with a friend.  Glue and glitter and creativity around the table.  Playing a game.  Eating together.  Hugs.  Playing worship music.  Popcorn and a movie.

Like learning a new language, life often feels like it is made up of a lot of disjointed “words”….unrelated events, random encounters….making sounds but not making much sense.  It is hard to put full sentences together, let alone have an intelligible conversation!  Living intentionally doesn’t come easy….it takes long, hard practice.  Daily practice.  If we take the time to contemplate our life and make the effort to live well, day after day, I believe we will begin to see patterns and better recognize the hand of God.  God gives moments of clarity, but they may come years down the road.  

I don't know if God will call me back to Romania.  He may take me someplace altogether different. Maybe He will plug me into a place where He wants me to fully invest my heart for the long-term. Or maybe I'll always be a wanderer.  But I believe that my Sovereign God uses every situation, circumstance, opportunity, and person in my life to shape me according to His purpose....that I may be a vessel fit for His glory and a bold proclaimer of His story to the world.