Tag Archives: Faith

Saying Hello

Lots of people struggle with goodbyes.  Me?  I have a hard time with hellos.

It takes lots of focus and intentionality for me to say a normal hello.  Otherwise my hellos come out sounding like a martian or Fat Albert or Mrs. Doubtfire.  I’m not sure why, but I just can’t seem to offer normal greetings at school.

The great thing about my job is that people will reply to me in a similar fashion.  I say hello in a British accent?  They’ll say hello in a British accent.  I make an ugly face at them?  They’ll make an ugly face back at me.  I sing their name as a greeting?  They’ll sing mine.   I give an awkward two-handed wave.  They’ll give a two-handed wave right back. Continue reading

Be the Kneecap

Sometimes I say weird things and people quote it back to me years later. There was that time my brother caught me saying, “I love ham” to myself when I was looking in the fridge for a snack.

Then that time in college when he and I were playing one-on-one and he pushed me to the ground, so I screamed, “I can’t feel my hands!”

In an honest complaint to a friend about daylight savings time, I whined that, “I have to turn on the light in the morning.”  She now says that every time I complain about anything.

So yeah, my quotes aren’t insightful or life-changing.  I have no words of wisdom that are ever going to make it on “Brainy Quotes.”  However, I did say a line that made it onto a cake:

“Be the kneecap.”

That was my  quotable line.

During the Zuni trip we were talking about how each team member brings something different to the team.  But the oh-so-human tendency is to look at what others bring to the team and wish we had their skills, while ignoring the value of our own.  We’ll look at the hand and wish we could be as useful as it.  Or we’ll wish we could be more like the arm.  But all the while, we are the kneecap, a very crucial body part, and we need to just, you know, be the kneecap.

Or the elbow.

Or the eyebrow.

Or the pinky toe.

Whatever it is that God made you to be, figure that out and go be it!  I don’t know why a kneecap came to mind, but it did and it stuck.

I love Paul’s analogy of the body of Christ being like an actual body and I love Eugene Peterson’s translation of Paul’s letter:

“Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body. It’s exactly the same with Christ. By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything.

Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain—his Spirit—where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves—labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free—are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive. I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. 

A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, “I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body,” would that make it so? If Ear said, “I’m not beautiful like Eye, limpid and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,” would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it.

But I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of. An enormous eye or a gigantic hand wouldn’t be a body, but a monster. What we have is one body with many parts, each its proper size and in its proper place. No part is important on its own” (1 Corinthians 12).

It’s not just kids on a mission trip who need to be reminded that we are all parts of the body, significant in different ways.  It was the Corinthians and it’s me.  And I’m guessing it’s probably you too.  Because it’s so easy to compare ourselves to others and see our role as less important.  So while it was easy for me to sit there and tell my students to “be the kneecap,” I still looked at my fellow leaders and wrestled with thoughts like:

“She’s way more organized than I am.”

“Kids respect him more than they respect me.”

“Her outfit is cuter than mine.”

“He’s more insightful.”

“She’s a better problem-solver.”

“I wish I could sing or cook or lead like so-n-so.”

But on this trip, when those pesky little comparisons crept into my mind, I told them to go away.  Instead, I thought about how the body is stronger when everyone is doing their part well and I can’t be all the parts.  So instead of focusing on the fact that others are better at singing or cooking or organizing than I am, I’ll focus on the role and gifts God has given me.  But I also won’t see my gifts as any more important than others since, as Eugene points out, a gigantic hand would be a monster, not a body.

Now that I’m back home, I still need to be reminded of this lesson almost on a daily basis.  I’m tempted to compare myself to other teachers and coaches and friends and bloggers, but instead of falling into that dirty trap once more, I’ve determined to simply be the kneecap.

***

How about you?  Do people quote something you said years ago?  I’d love to hear it.

For instance, we often still quote my dad for saying, “You don’t have to like it; you just have to eat it.”

Heidi, I’m thinking of quotes involving your wrists and problems counting.  Travis, you said a zinger when Trent punched your sandwich.  Jenny, remember what you said when we were trying to make friends at the retreat?  Lesley, I’m thinking of a line you said in the DC about our coolness.

Everyone’s got a weird line they’re remembered for and I’d love to hear yours.  Share your quotable lines in the comments.  I’ll start with another of my foolish remarks still repeated.

Zuni lessons 2013 (part 1)

I swore in front of my students while leading a mission trip.

It was the S word.

And it was quite embarrassing.

But it may have been even more embarrassing when I answered my phone in a thick British accent only to realize that it was not a kid in the other van calling, but rather the guardian of one of the students on the trip.

Let me explain.  On Friday we made the 10 hour trek home from the Indian Reservation in Zuni, New Mexico, one of my favorite places on earth.  A few hours into the drive, the van right in front of us lost a hubcap that came hurtling straight for us.  I swerved and “sugar-honey-ice-tea” slipped out.

Then while the kids slept most of the 10 hour drive, for the last 2 hours they all spoke is surprisingly accurate British accents.  It’s hard to speak American when everyone around you sounds so posh, so naturally I joined in and naturally that’s when the guardian called.  Bugger.

Besides learning to watch for hubcaps and be normal when answering unknown numbers on my phone, I learned several other lessons in Zuni. This was my fourth year going and each year God teaches me new things and reveals Himself in new ways.  Perhaps that’s part of the reason I love it here so much.

Here is part 1 of the things I learned this time around:

1. Cow tipping isn’t real.

Did you know this?  I didn’t.  My mind was blown.  Seriously blown.  Like it’s been 4 days and I am still shocked.  I mean, something I believed all my life to be true is actually just a joke among the farming community?  How did I not know this for so long?!

Apparently, cows don’t sleep standing up.  And if you try to push them when they’re awake, they’ll just move and look at you like you’re an idiot.  I sure felt like an idiot when Alex, a chipper young chap who works at the Zuni school, convinced me of this hard-to-believe truth.

2. One should steer clear of men dressed like eagles.

Each year we attend the Zuni religious dances where the men dress as the kachinas, which are their gods, asking for rain or good health or other blessings.  Each year I am struck by how this bizarre nature of worship is so similar to what is found in our own culture.

Before nightfall another leader and I scoped out the area where the dances would be and we noticed small fires being tended in front of most of the homes.  When we asked about this, the women explained that they were feeding their ancestors.  Apparently, they had been setting aside a sacrifice of their dinners from the past months and that food was burned on this night to welcome home and feed their ancestors.

This night was a special night since the ancestors would return to watch the young boys be initiated into the religious society with a whipping done with the yucca plant.  The dances happened in homes rather than the plaza, so the dancers waiting to enter the homes stood awkwardly close to those watching the dances, ie- people like us.  The dances are solemn affairs and it was not okay for us non-Zunis to be in such close proximity to the men that Zunis believe become the gods when dressed as the kachinas.  Thus, some of the men dressed as eagles spread their arms as if they were flying and cleared us out of the way so we wouldn’t be too close to the other dancers.

Sounds bizarre, right?

But I’ve been learning this year that no matter what one worships, it always looks a little weird.  Whether we are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Tom Cruise, atheist, or agnostic, as humans we all naturally worship something or someone.  We find meaning and value in something and devote our lives to it.  And whether we are worshipping God, or gods, or cars, or money, or sports teams, or celebrities, or our bodies, or clothes, or food, or our ancestors, or our living family, or ourselves, worship always looks strange to an outsider.

So yes, the Zuni rituals seem rather bizarre.  But so does this:

So who am I to judge?

3. Worship isn’t about the dances we dance or the songs we sing.  It’s about the lives we live.

We can identify what someone worships based on how they live, or in some cases, based on what they paint on their body.  Our devotion is seen by what we think about and talk about most.  Where we spend our time, money, and efforts all reveal our objects of worship.  Because as Jesus said, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be.”

The Zuni people treasure their ancestors and their gods and their traditions.  They burn fires and wear strange costumes while performing odd dances.  But they are simply doing what we all do; they’re worshipping.

There are often times when I am worshipping our God and see myself as an outsider would.  I watch myself take communion or hold hands in a circle while singing the doxology and I think, “This is so bizarre.  We look like a bunch of nuts!”

But all worship looks a little nutty.

Whether burning fires to feed spirits, eating the body and the blood, shopping at the mall, cheering for a sports team, drooling over a celebrity crush, or obsessing over appearance or relationships, worship always looks odd.

This week I relearned the importance of recognizing what I am worshipping with my life.  Because if I’m not intentional about making my day about Jesus and His kingdom, 15 other things are vying for my attention and my worship.  Usually it’s myself.  But if I start each day acknowledging that my life belongs to Him and my day should be lived for Him, it’s easier to give proper worship to my Creator.

And when I forget, when I ignore God and focus on the things other than Him that I’m tempted to worship, well, then I’m like that fool trying to tip a cow, wasting my time believing a lie.

Reasons I love to teach #5

Teenagers can be super insightful

Not all the time.  Sometimes I shake my head at how dumb they can be.  Whoever coined the phrase, “There are no stupid questions” clearly was never a high school teacher.

On the board in the teacher’s lounge last week, one teacher wrote a note that while in the library, her student had googled “cerealism.”  He was trying to research surrealism.  Another teacher responded with note about how her student had to be told to stop licking the batteries.  Today I had a student ask to use my staple remover because she had accidentally stapled her essay to her sweatshirt.

So yeah, they’re not all geniuses.

And yet, there are moments when kids blow me away with their honesty, vulnerability and insight.  These moments typically occur when I’m reading their essays.  My students will lie to my face without batting an eye when it comes to explaining why they didn’t turn in their homework.  But when asked to write about their flaws that hinder them in life, they were shockingly honest.

Case in point:

This kid is bright!  And I’m not just saying that because he used the correct spelling of “affect.”

How often do I too say things without thinking about the effect of my words?

Ummmm, all the time.

He wasn’t the only student to realize the power of his words:

As adults, we often embarrassed ourselves with our careless words.  The difference between us and this student is that he will admit it.  He gets it.

Several other kids admitted that they struggle with pride and were able to articulate this struggle with simple and profound statements:

How many of us want everyone to know who we are?

Gulp.

How many of us feel superior to others often without even realizing it?

Double gulp.

You don’t react well to people telling you that you’re wrong?

You think you’re way is always the right way?

These kids were hitting a little too close to home.

Not me.  Not at all.  Not ever.

Yeah, right.

Or listen to this kid’s take on pride:

How often do I think I’m hot stuff when I’m really not?

Way too often.

How easy is it to forget and ignore those I feel superior to?

Way too easy.

Then this kid brought up something I’d venture to say most of us struggle with:

Not wanting to look like a fool in front of others: oh how I can relate!

When I think of all the silly, “white lies” I’ve told, it’s almost always because I want to hide my foolishness and make someone think I’m cooler than I really am.

Pathetic.

At least this kid admits it.  I justify my little lies but when it comes down to it, I simply don’t want others to think less of me.

And lastly, there was this girl who voiced a similar problem:

You might not worry about your clothes, but do you worry about what others think of you?

I know I do.  And I know I’m not alone.

My professor recently told the story of how he (or a friend of his) sat next to R.C. Sproul on a plane.  For those who don’t know, Sproul is a big-wig in the Christian church- a highly respected and very well-known theologian. (Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of him; I hadn’t either).  Apparently they were on their way to some giant speaking gig and when asked how he was feeling about it, R.C. replied that he was feeling really nervous.  When asked why, he responded with the following confession:

“Every time I speak I always wonder, ‘will they like me?'”

Will they like me?

Have you ever wondered that?

I sure have.  Though I really don’t like to admit it.  But hearing that a man like R.C. Sproul struggles with wanting to be liked suddenly made me feel less foolish.  A famous theologian can admit it.  My 15 year old student can admit it.  Surely I too can stop denying the truth and fess up.  I want people to like me.

I don’t think this is a sin itself, unless I care more about the opinions of others than the opinion of my God.  But all too often that is exactly the case.

In my Spiritual Formation class we recently learned about the “Sanctification Gap.”  It’s the gap between the person I am supposed to be (the ideal version of me, the one who bears all the fruits of the Spirit all the time, who lives like Jesus did and loves like Jesus loved) and the person that I actually am today. We talked about how different people deal with the fact of life that NONE of us are perfect or living exactly as we should.

Some people just try harder to be good.

Others try to follow a specific program to fix their sin.

Still others try to lessen the gap by ignoring or justifying their sin.  Guilty as charged.

I try to fool myself and make the gap between who I am today and who I’m called to be smaller by making my sins seem inconsequential.  I am the queen of ignoring and hiding and justifying my sin.  But clearly that’s not healthy or God-honoring.

So if my freshman students can admit to their shortcomings, surely I can too.  I may be teaching them where to put commas and how to write thesis statements, but these kids are teaching me so much in return!

Christmas Surprises

Christmas as a child is full of surprises.  That’s why it’s so fun watching kids open presents.  Their reactions are never fake or forced.  If they love a present, genuine joy spreads across their face.  Like here, when Heidi opened a Barbie car:

And if a child is disappointed by a gift, an instant scowl or look of disinterest appears.

Like the year my brother Trent opened up an expired Lunchable.  He didn’t find it nearly as funny as my dad did.  Nor did he laugh the next year when he opened a box of rocks.  And the year he didn’t give my mom a list so she surprised him with karate lessons when he really wanted roller blades?  Well let’s just say that ever since then we’ve given her very detailed Christmas lists.

I always loved being surprised on Christmas morning.  It was so hard to fall asleep on Christmas Eve because just thinking about the surprise presents soon to be under the tree made me giddy with excitement.

I didn’t expect to receive the gifts on my list like I often do as an adult.  As a child, I simply hoped for things and was still shocked when I got them.  And then there were always other surprise gifts I didn’t even know I wanted.  Like the giant chalkboard I unwrapped one year after my parents had noticed how often I played pretend teacher.

The anticipation of presents and surprises woke us up before the sun rose, and we’d race down the stairs to look in wonder at all the wrapped gifts delivered late in the night.  I think it’s those surprises on Christmas morning that make the 25th so magical as a child.

We don’t get many surprises on Christmas morning any more.  Sure, we’re surprised by the type of candy in our stockings and the style of pjs we open on Christmas Eve, but we usually know exactly what we’ll open Christmas morning.  I had already tried on the running shoes my sister got for me this year. And I knew precisely what my parents got for me since I only had one thing on my list.  And though I love my new Newton running shoes and my Vitamix, I can’t help but miss the wonder of surprise that comes with Christmas as a child.

However, this Christmas season I learned about one of the greatest surprises of all time.

I learned in my seminary class that there was never a prophecy about the Messiah coming from a virgin.

I know. I was shocked too.

In fact, I raised my hand in class and said, “Dr. Way, you’re telling me that there was never ANY prophecy about the virgin birth?  It was a total surprise?”

He assured me that it was and said, “Absolutely no one expected the Messiah to come from a virgin.  It was a bonus.”

My mind raced as it tried to wrap around this idea.  I had always believed that Isaiah had foretold the virgin birth and the Jews had simply misunderstood Isaiah 7:14 just as they misunderstood what kind of Messiah Jesus would be.  So to learn that it was actually I who had misunderstood the verse was more than a little disconcerting.  However, as Dr. Way continued in his lecture, he explained how the verse should actually be read and how it actually reveals an even greater God.

Nerd alert: I’m about to throw a bunch of bible nerdiness on this post.  I find this stuff uber interesting, but realize that not everyone will.  Feel free to skim to the end of this rant if I start to bore you.  No offense taken.

Okay, so in every Evangelical bible Isaiah 7:14 reads something like this:

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign.  Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

But there are several things wrong with this English translation.  First, the verb tense is wrong.  In Hebrew it doesn’t read “shall conceive” as in the future, but rather, it indicates that the woman had already conceived but not yet given birth.  This was huge because Isaiah was referring to a woman who was already pregnant.  In fact, most OT scholars believe this was a woman in the king’s harem whom the original audience would have known.

Therefore, this prophecy that we always assume is about Jesus, was actually about a child named Immanuel who had been born long before Jesus came to earth.

Next, the “sign” that Isaiah mentions was not referring to a miraculous birth.  It was totally normal that a pregnant woman would give birth.  But the sign would be the fact that in a few months, a child would be born and God would once again be with Israel and judge the nations; hence the meaning of his name: Immanuel= God with us.

Here’s the crazy part.

Isaiah didn’t actually use the word “virgin.”  I know.  For the record, I fully believe that Mary was a virgin.  I’m not contesting the virgin birth.

Isaiah used the word “alma” which means young woman- some almas were virgins and others were not, just as some fiances are virgins and others are not.  John H. Walton wrote THIS ARTICLE in 1987 in which he convinced most OT scholars and even the Bible translating committee that “alma” should not be translated as “virgin.” However, the publishers wouldn’t change the translation to say “young woman” because they knew the controversy it would create.  Instead, they added a footnote which indicates that “virgin” can also be translated “young woman.”

If you’re a bible nerd like me, you’ll be fascinated by Walton’s article and this summary:

But even if you’re not a Bible nerd, I think you’ll appreciate the fact that Walton proves that nobody expected a virgin birth.  Not even Isaiah.

When Matthew quotes Isaiah 7:14, he wasn’t saying that  prophecy was being fulfilled through the virgin birth.  Matthew often used OT scriptures to make a point, and knowing the OT scriptures much better than us, Matthew knew that this boy named “Immanuel” had already been born.

So when he writes that, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel'” (Matt 1:22), he was using a teaching strategy the Jews accepted.  He was applying a prophecy that already been fulfilled to make a point that God was with them again- just as he was back in Isaiah’s time.

Mary named her son Jesus, not Immanuel, because the angel instructed her to and because Isaiah’s prophecy wasn’t about Jesus.  Matthew simply points out an interesting connection to the OT passage and uses it to illustrate that when Jesus was born, God was with us again.

Bible nerd rant over.

Maybe you buy this and maybe you don’t.  I realize that I’m not exactly a bible scholar.  I’m a girl who reads US Weekly and almost electrocuted herself last week.  But the Old Testament scholars I respect the most, the ultra bible dorks who study the bible for a living, all agree that NO ONE expected a virgin birth.

It was a total surprise.

And I think it says something awesome about our God.

He is a God of surprises.

A God who continually surpasses our expectations.

A God who fulfills His promises in ways far better than we can imagine.

So when He promised a Messiah, the Jews didn’t realize how great this Messiah would be.  They didn’t realize he would come from a virgin and be God himself in human flesh.

What a crazy surprise!

And when God promises to “meet all our needs” (Phil 4:19), and give you “the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4), He often surprises us in the way He does this.  I’ve certainly seen this in my own life.

Last year at this time, I thought for sure God would meet my needs and give me the desires of my heart by providing a job in Chile or Panama or Nicaragua.  And if not that, then I’d stay here and God would provide a husband.  Or even just a boyfriend.

But He didn’t.

Instead, I’m still in America, still living in the same house with my cat still sleeping on my chest, even though my uncle warned me that I could get a parasite that will make me suicidal if she sleeps near my face.

And you know what?  Life is wonderful.

My needs are met.

I’ve been given many of the desires of my heart.

And I get to live in a place of hopeful anticipation, waiting for God to surprise me again.

Because He’s proven Himself to be a good God.  A God who hears our prayers, knows our needs and desires, and chooses to surprise us with the ways He answers our prayers and meets our needs.

Instead of giving His people a mighty human king to overthrow Rome, He shocked the world and gave us His own son, born of a virgin, to overthrow death.

Instead of giving us what we think we need and desire, He continually surprises us by giving us what He knows we need and what we should desire.

So if you weren’t surprised at all this Christmas season, if like me, you got exactly what you asked for, I hope that you can rejoice in the fact that God will surprise you this year.  He won’t give us exactly what we ask for because we often ask for the wrong things.  But He will give us good gifts because He is a loving Father who loves to bless and surprise us.

Would you join with me in asking God to surprise you this year?  Let’s raise our expectations and our hopes in this God who delivers wonderful surprises.

Eye Contact with Gorillas

I went to the zoo by myself one time when I was in college.  As part of my Life Science homework I had to observe the animals and my professor had warned, “Whatever you do, do NOT make eye contact with the gorilla.” I thought this was rather odd advice, so when I sat alone in the “gorilla-viewing area” and was suddenly face to face with the beast, I decided to test it out.  We held eye contact for about three seconds before I started to smirk.  I mean, come on, I was having a staring contest with a gorilla.  This was funny stuff.

Not to the gorilla. Continue reading

Lindsay’s Visit and the Runs

My brothers used to be notorious for making bets and then wiggling out of them when they lost with lame excuses like, “I never said WHEN I’d pay you” or “I said 10 DOLL HAIRS.”  I’m going to steal one from their playbook and instead of apologizing for not posting last Friday, tell you that “I never said which Friday I would post.”  Lame, I know, but I’m doing it anyways.  And I know I said I’d finish the second half of the post about fixing our eyes on Jesus, but that’s coming later.

The fact of the matter is life has simply gotten in the way.  My dear friend Lindsay came to visit this past week, and I blame her for my unnecessary shopping sprees and for my lack of writing lately.  Lindsay visited last summer which I wrote about HERE and this summer’s visit had a number of similarities.  Again we ate tons of junk food (five burgers in seven days).  Again we went to several different beaches (Venice, Dog, Huntington, Balboa, Dana Point, San Clemente, and Newport). And again I peer pressured Lindsay into doing things that scared her.  (Because I’m just that kind of friend.)

I had never been to Venice Beach but had heard about all the freaks and wanted to see them.  They didn’t disappoint.  Between the potheads offering to make us legal and add some “greenery to our scenery”, the speedo-clad men pumping iron on Muscle Beach, and the tattoo parlors on every corner, we basically felt out of place the entire day. Continue reading

Wow Wednesdays “Sports Lowlights”

I took a volleyball class in college so I wouldn’t look like such a fool when I played at the beach.  After the first day of class, the coach looked at me and said, “Katie, I really thought you’d be better.”

Wow.

I’ve never forgotten that comment.  I laughed and wasn’t offended because I suppose it’s a natural assumption that a basketball player would have decent hand-eye coordination.  But I don’t.  Like I REALLY don’t.  And I was reminded of this fact on three separate occasions this week.

First, I decided to take up tennis this summer.  My knees have been aching so I haven’t been running and a friend suggested we play tennis.  Remembering the comment from the overly-honest coach, I decided to get a lesson from my dad before I played with my friend.  After three hours on the court, I still was struggling to throw the ball straight up in the air to serve it.  The only time I really connected with the ball was when I smacked it over the net when my dad wasn’t looking and it knocked the glasses off his face.  I was so shocked that I had actually hit the ball hard that I didn’t even give him a “heads up.”

Wow. Continue reading

Wow Wednesdays “High Fructose Forgetfulness”

I used to drink an obscene amount of soda (or “pop” if you’re a weirdo).  And when I say “obscene” I’m talking about 6-packs of Mountain Dew being downed in one day.  I’m talking about getting 8 refills of Root Beer at restaurants with free refills.  I don’t like coffee, so in college I would get my caffeine fix from liters of Cactus Cooler.

When I lived in Mozambique, I guzzled Pineapple Fanta and regular Coca-Cola like it was my job.

And I wasn’t the only one in Mozambique addicted to Fanta:

Speaking of drinking soda during a basketball game, I recently learned from my grandpa that he once drank 56 Cokes in one day.  He justifies this by explaining that he was playing multiple basketball games under the hot, Filipino sun, couldn’t drink the water, and Coke was all that was available.  But still, grandpa, 56?!? I may need to start blaming my soda addiction on my genes. Continue reading