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 from performance, free from pretense, free from condemnation, free from the letter of the law that kills.

Jesus died to give you 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 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 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 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 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's given me a much greater appreciation for the aesthetic quality of Lamplighter books!

Everyone has been involved in a lot of clean 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 is never boring here at Lamplighter!