A Letter to My Daughter, and Students of Umpqua Community College

KorJoe

I’ve had a lot of thoughts and feelings since Thursday, October 1- the day a madman opened fire in our Community College, killing 9 students, injuring many others, and forever changing the lives of so many students and families.

“My 17 year old should NOT have to deal with this. My girl should not be notified that she will no longer meet in Snyder 15 because it has been writhed with bullets; because it was turned into a murder scene; because God’s people were martyred for their faith right there, where she sat learning how to write business memos.”

These are just some of the emotions I’ve felt.

“Why should my child have to sit in math class feeling the pain and sorrow of that empty seat- the one 59 yr old Kim sat in just yesterday, before her life was taken from her?”

But you know what? This horrible tragedy is an eye opener to us. This sorrow, and our feelings of anger and emptiness, confusion and unbelief- these are emotions given to us for a reason. That reason is not to respond in vengeance.

I’m desperately grasping for a way to turn my mind from it, desiring God would turn time around and make it go away. But that’s not going to happen. Yes, God allowed this for reasons beyond our mind’s ability to grasp and I’m looking for ways to be thankful.

Of course I’m selfishly thankful my girl wasn’t there- that it happened on the only day she wasn’t in that room. And then I think about all those families. The “what-ifs” still flood my thoughts, and they remind me how precious this life is. Our time here in this tent of flesh is short, like a vapor, here one day and gone the next.

I hope we can all wake up with that reality. When we are bombarded with weariness and burdened with sorrow, let it take our minds straight to the truth that this life is but a moment and eternity is forever.

Pray

So as my girl returns to classes on a campus that will never look the same, as she seeks out her new classroom and scans the faces seated beside her, the smooth walls not riddled with bullets, may that moment of fear turn to all of God’s truths.

As she attempts to hold herself together and grasp equations and new math laws, silently mourning the woman with long grey hair, let my baby quietly pray for Kim’s family, for this community, for our nation, and for the condition of her own soul before God.

I pray this drives her heart to her Savior and opens her eyes to the evil that surrounds her. That she may understand that this war is not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers. That she is at war with the ruler of darkness who seeks to destroy her life and soul.

Without obvious, heart breaking, life shattering evil, we grow blind to the hidden wickedness surrounding us. We forget the goodness and all-powerful God who paid a great price for our great sin because of His great love. How can we go a day and not acknowledge that?

So I’m taking this anger, grief, sorrow, and great burden and turning it to prayer and praise.

God is good, Korrie. He is perfect and His ways unsearchable. His love for you reaches beyond the heavens. Satan is your enemy. He hates you with a hatred far greater than you’ve ever felt. His desire is to destroy you and everyone you care about.

Satan Is Real.
His Wickedness Surrounds You.
Don’t Ever Forget That.

And don’t let that reality overshadow the Tenderness, Compassion, and Grace of your God who quiets you with His love and rejoices over you with singing and Gladness.

Do not fear, let not your hands be weak. The Lord your God is in your midst, the Mighty One, will save!

Candlelight

Prayer for Roseburg, Oregon

Candlelight

What is Roseburg, Oregon really like?

Of course people want to know.

Our residents have offered written words and shared photos displaying Roseburg as a humble community full of compassion and strength.

Since being placed in the nation’s spotlight, we’ve taken the opportunity to tell people what our community is like. We don’t want to go down in history as the city of the #UmpqyaCommunityCollege tragedy; another tally mark representing one more massive school shooting.

Roseburg

A short drive through our town of 22,000 displays beautiful mountains, rivers, trees turning with the changing season, and businesses offering support by donating goods, services, and sharing condolences. We’ve spoken up on news sites and social media with calls to #PrayforUCC and #PrayForRoseburgOregon.

Pray2

Years ago my family had friends visit from Phoenix, Arizona. They stood in the middle of Fir Grove Park, watching children run after soccer balls, and admiring the surrounding terrain. Awed by what they saw, they looked at my husband and me and asked, with honest curiosity, “This place is beautiful! Do you always feel like you’re on vacation?” Looking around, we smiled in agreement. We live in a gorgeous community.  Unfortunately it often takes tragedy and heartache to notice the people and blessings around you. I’m noticing them.

I’m also noticing the things about our community that aren’t being shared locally or nationwide. Nobody wants to talk about those things. Nobody wants to hear the difficult truth, especially in the midst of such pain.

My heart is broken! I wake in the morning burdened for those suffering loss and for my own daughter, a UCC student, and her friends. I’m broken because we have a broken community.

What do we really want, Douglas County? We say we need prayer and post it across our small city, but what do we want prayer for?  I imagine many would answer that question with “comfort”.

Do you know that our local public schools called on our surrounding churches? Seeking comforters, they asked Christians, armed with the Word of God and the truth of salvation, to minister to students. However, our school shut the doors long ago and told God He was unwelcome. When our invited Christians attempted to share with heartbroken, confused students, they were met with resistance, and treated with hostility. They were limited as to what they could share and threatened eviction if they crossed the line.

People bearing God’s love, truth, compassion, and freedom were placed before students ready to receive hope and shut down by school counselors.

Why did they ask these people to come? Why are local businesses asking for prayer? Why have we refused to allow God in our schools, and are now asking Him why He wasn’t at our local campus the day a madman opened fire on a room full of students? Why, when we have rejected God, are we asking for His help now? What do we want Him to do?

Do our schools want momentary comforters without lasting change? God’s people have answers and hope and truth. Our community is craving these things. Would our local first responders have even considered putting a simple bandage on a victim’s wound, then sending them on their way, only to bleed to death later? That would be heartless and reckless. Why do our schools want to share a brief word of comfort only to let these students silently suffer without words of life?

Pray

Do you want prayer, Roseburg? You say we are #UCCStrong. I don’t know about you, but I feel heavy moments of intense weakness. I feel as if our very breath has been suddenly knocked from us, and we are struggling for air.

So if we’re going to share the “real” Roseburg, Oregon, let’s share the whole picture. Can we be honest with this country, with our community, and with ourselves, by not cutting and pasting pieces of the truth?

We are a desperate people in need of a Mighty God. We are weak. Our community is full of evil people seeking to take wicked actions. Our drug use is through the roof, and many of our families are barely hanging on. We cannot put a bandage on our pain, leaving gaping wounds of death.

I pray Roseburg would be a city known nationwide for its striking scenic displays of nature; that many would be drawn here because of its beauty as well as our unity. But more than this, I hope we can represent a humble community; that as we try and stand strong in desperate times, we also acknowledge our great need for Christ. We are weak and in need of prayer. Let it be known that our #UCCStrength comes from God, and God alone.

So wherever you are reading this from, please lift our community in prayer. Please join me in asking God to show us our need, and heal our land.

I hope we can be known nationwide as Roseburg, Oregon- a city asking Christ back into its schools and leaning on the strength of God.

I Went to My First AA Meeting {FMF}

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I went to my first AA Meeting.

One after another-without hesitation- they announced their name followed by, “I’m an alcoholic.”

They shared stories and struggles.

It wasn’t shielded by feel good cover-ups or glossed over with poor attempts at excuses.

Their stories were raw and their need was real.

I sat there in awe. These people know a truth so many of us only glimpse.

They said it over and over again-

“She was there in my most desperate time…”

“I needed to know someone cared…”

“He was a person I could call on any hour of the night… “

“They understood me like no one else did…”

And then the one that topped them all- “I feel like I belong when I’m with you guys. I’ve always wanted to fit in, and I do when I’m here.”

ONE ADDICT IN A ROOM FULL OF ADDICTS

When it comes down to it, we all need to belong. And I’ve written this before. But it’s not any less true now than it was then. We all need to be understood, validated, and accepted.

Is it crazy that now I want to walk into the next church service, sit right down in that chair, and announce boldly, “Hi. My name is Stephanie. And I’m a wretched sinner.” I want everyone to know who I am and how flat I fall and then to hear them say, “You too?!”

Because caring is sometimes no more than merely listening, resonating, and relating.

Nope, I’m not an alcoholic, but I’m desperate, dependent, and surely I’m an addict in some form or another.

Five-Minute-Friday-

Joining Kate Motaung for this week’s Five Minute Friday prompt- CARE

Thoughts on Balance and Searching for Truth

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Balance

This religion we live, this love we practice, this belief system we long to understand. It’s all a continuous striving. It pulls me this way and then that way. And just when I’ve got it all figured out, just when I’m feeling stable and as if I can stop questioning and figuring, the pendulum shifts and I sink hard and fast.

Balance

I’ve heard so much talk of it, and some live by it as if it’s life’s mantra. I search for it, struggle to grasp it, seek to find who has it. And at times I think I’ve seen it. There are moments I find myself believing there are those that have found perfect equilibrium. And there are moments I believe I’ve found it myself.

Balance

I’ve leaned so far to one side at times, my head so large I couldn’t see beyond my own conclusions. Searching the scriptures, I fall heavy into the dogmatism of theology. I know without doubt that there is truth. There is a black and white precision that can’t be muddled with blurry gray ideology. And I think I have to find it. I think I’m lost without it.

Balance

The problem is, there have been times that my scales were calculating with unjust weights- to say it bluntly, my priorities are all wrong. I need to adjust my lens- bring the focus out a little. Or maybe dial it in sharper? Because my cross hairs are centered on all the wrong things.

These words keep sounding in my ears- You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.

And these- And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

Isn’t that all I need? Is it a requirement that I know inside and out what the scriptures say regarding head coverings or how to treat your slave? Or if the treatment of a slave is really the issue at all? Do I need to be indoctrinated on the numerous verses regarding sexual sin or male and female roles in the church and family?

I’ve watched these and significant other issues come to the forefront of Christian conversation and it’s tiresome. It’s extreme. It’s enough to make the little children throw their weary hands in the air all huffy and puffy and just walk away. Give up. It makes me want to find something else to think about and talk about. Like, go buy some chocolate. For a friend of course. Or better yet for an enemy-and experience that emotional high.

When you have strong conviction solidified with rock-hard scripture and life experience to back it up, it’s pretty emotionally satisfying. It’s like an adrenaline rush. A spiritual sensation made up of holy truth and self rightness.

Yes, I think we all must be lovers of truth. But what is a lover of truth if not someone chasing after it, looking for it in every crease and crevice, like a hidden treasure. Unfortunately, many of us who are sold out for the truth aren’t searching for truth at all, but rather striving to feed ours to others while being too quick to reject another part of the grander portrait.

If I’m a lover of truth then I’m consistently open to the possibility that what I have accepted may be off. If His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are higher than ours, can I really grasp unquestionable absolute no-need-to-ask-questions truth? Can I really come to perfect, indisputable there-ya-have-it certainty?

And if my faith is built upon my supposed rock solid facts, and those facts prove to be mislead or even slightly off, where does that leave me?

If I drill the unquestionable facts into my child, and he later decides the earth is in fact millions of years old, and Mom was wrong all along, what else might Mom have been naïve about all those years?

I’ve pondered these things for some time now. These questions I have, these struggles I’m striving to overcome- they’re keeping me from sharing here. Or anywhere. I’m hindered in walking out what I think I know because so often what I know is slightly slanted or all wrong. But who says we can’t be wrong? Whoever said, “Don’t say a thing or type a word until you become a know-it-all about the issue”? And who wants to listen to a know-it-all anyway?

There will always be gaps and a lack of the absolute because God is a God of wonder, and His ways are unsearchable.

So maybe it’s not all about perfect balance, but rather teachability. Humility. A willingness to surrender.

I’m not a know-it-all, but my God is All-Knowing. I’m not perfect, but my God is perfection. Some days I lean too far toward Grace. Other days I’m all about the Law. And somehow He intertwines it and fills in my many gaps. Flawlessly. I look about and wonder how He never ceases to work it all out. For my good and yours. But above all for His glory.

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! “For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?” “Or who has first given to Him? And it shall be repaid to him?” For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.

For Palm Sunday

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Today’s calendar says “Palm Sunday” in small italicized letters, and on the way to church this morning we read the original event from Matthew 21. We briefly discuss the significance of the Day, what it meant for the people of that time, and how it could impact us today- if we let it.

Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a colt.

Not a fierce horse, or a war prepared chariot.

On a colt. An untrained borrowed colt.

/ / / / / / / / / /

We enter the sanctuary and quickly find our chosen pew. Comfortable. Soft. Clean.

I watch as God’s people casually pour into the room, into fellowship with one another, and then into worship of the King.

“Yahweh, Yahweh, we love to shout Your Name O’Lord!”

We’re singing and shouting as our hearts break wide open, spilling onto our cheeks. And I’m reflecting on that passage in Matthew:

‘Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying:

“Hosanna to the Son of David!
‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’
Hosanna in the highest!”’

I begin seeing myself in that scene. I see these people there. We’re throwing our cloaks before him, shouting and praising because if we don’t, the rocks themselves would cry out.

And I wonder- how many of us lift His Name in adoration and praise, only to turn in rejection just as they did on that Day? And how does He receive it all? What was that Day like for the God-Man Jesus who committed Himself to no one because He knew the hearts of all? The One who knew every one of them would forsake Him, who knew Judas would betray Him into the hands of wicked men, yet washed feet despite their sin.

He knew the ones singing, “Hosannah!” would soon be shouting “Crucify Him!”

“But Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me.”

We continue in this rhythm of worship and again I’m reminded of that love. That gracious gift no man can earn and no man deserves. I’m reminded that He gave His life for me while I was a sinner, not waiting for me to repent or get myself together.

His love never fails. He didn’t give up on men even as they spit in His blood splattered face demanding His death, shouting that He take Himself down from that cross. Even then He cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

This God-Man who wrapped Himself in flesh and submitted Himself to those created by His own hands. The one who calms a storm with a word and conquered the last enemy- death itself. The One demonstrating His love for us in the gruesome act of giving life through dying.

He rode in on a colt.

This is Palm Sunday. This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.