Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Random December

December began with me in Vancouver for the Canadian Youth Workers Convention. Highlights were seeing Ali and catching up, and hanging with Christine.

Something I need to do: TAKE MORE PICTURES!
I completely forgot to get some of me and Ali, and our visits happen way to infrequently to be forgetting to take pictures. And we just got back from the mountains, and all my pictures were taken in the van. All 5 of them. That's just wrong. Frozen fingers that can't even undo buckles are not great for holding the camera, let alone finding the button... I'll have to do something about that.

Five of us did a quick weekend trip to the mountains - stayed in a hostel in Banff and rode Lake Louise on Saturday and Sunshine on Sunday. Not quite enough snow to cover the rocks yet, and it was COLD. Other than that, it was good like a snowboarding road trip with friends.

Joke of the day - this is a laugh AT me kind of joke... So I picked up water last week and then forgot to bring the jugs in from the garage before we went away this weekend. Oops. Here's a shot of the frozen jugs thawing in my tub...

Thursday, November 15, 2007


The second book I finished last week was more of an accomplishment. A History of the Baptists by Robert Torbet is a fat academic piece. A text for an upcoming class, I'm not sure I would ever pick it up if it wasn't required. That said, I learned a few things.

Did you know?
That the origin of the Baptists was in reform? They protested:
- that the traditional way of doing things was NOT equal in importance to Scripture.
- that the church leader was NOT superior to the believers not in leadership.
- that God's grace CAN'T be bought, and that it's NOT through the priest.
- that good works CAN'T save you.

A few key things there. I'm happy to be a part of a group:
- that sees Scripture as truth and as the bottom line.
- that sees all believers as ministers and important parts of the body of Christ.
- that can accept God's grace freely.
- that does works because we are thankful for our salvation.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

more from books

Just finished two books this week - here's the highlights.

In Search of Authentic Faith by Steve Rabey
This first was a quickie - started and finished this week. Quick because what he had to say was interesting, and he told it with some good stories, so it kept me flipping the pages. Also quick because the pages are botched. It flips from 42 to 91 and then at 138 goes back to 91... I liked that this was an overview, and I got the best of a bunch of other authors and pastors and thinkers.

A couple quotes I liked:

"... emerging leaders think Sally Morgenthaler got it right in her 1995 book Worship Evangelism: Inviting Unbelievers into the presence of God. The book argues that instead of dumbing down worship services for people who aren't Christians, churches should invite unbelievers into their periods of mystical worship, praying that they will experience something of the presence of God while they are there."

From Robert Webber's 1999 book, Ancient Future Faith: Rethinking Evangelicalism for a postmodern World: "In the twenty-first century, we will see a convergence of trends that draws from the early church with its mystery, transcendence, and the Eucharist; from the Reformation, with its centrality of the Word; from evangelicalism, with its central emphasis on Christ and strong singing, and from the contemporary church, with its emphasis on intimacy and relationships."

I'll tell you about the next book later...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Job Description

I've been working on my job description - it's been in progress for a couple of years now, since before I got hired.

Coming up with the official version is sort of making me sad - there is no room for all the things that I'm passionate about. It's a very dry academic document which will I'm sure be very helpful as they try to replace me someday, but it won't tell the new person anything about the heart of what I do and why. I understand that they will thave their own passions and ways to do things, but for me, for now, it is important to lay out why I do what I do. So here it is:

The Heart Description for this Pastor to Young Adults

To seek God's leading for the needs of this group. To PRAY for direction.
To make happen whatever needs to happen for those needs to be met.
To teach truth and provide opportunities for deeper education - to encourage people to move from milk to meat.
To instill a love of God's Word and the study of it.
To provide opportunities to pray, and opportunities to worship, using challenging and stretching experiences.
To provide retreats and missional experiences.
To equip people to be the ministers they were created to be, in every realm of their lives.
To develop a sense of community and belonging.
To build relationships, provide pastoral care and spiritual guidance; to know people and to pray for them.

The vision statement I embrace is this:
Westhill Young Adults:
A people who want to be continually in love with God,
a people immersed in prayer,
and a people with a passion to pass on their faith.

Lord, may it come to pass. Holy Spirit, breathe and move us.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


There is wisdom in thinking through what you want to say, then saying it succinctly.
Many words tire the listener, even if your point is true.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


Have you ever tried journalling? Had a time in your life where you consistently jotted down your inner most thoughts, feelings, prayers? Not for anyone's eyes but yours and God's?

I'd advise you to try it. It may not be something that works for you long term, but you won't know until you give it a try for a month or so. This morning I wrote and wrote and wrote and all the negative things I had been thinking and feeling were turned into words on a page and I could see what needed to be changed in me. I remember the truth I know and my mind unclutters, and I figure out as I write, how to change my mindset and what to do so that I am content and at peace again.

There are days where the deep breath that is writing in a journal amazes me with its power. It's almost as if God speaks to me his words through guiding my pen.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Finding the Oak Shoot

Will I ever get it?
Am I too influenced by what I read?
New ideas pour in and I agree and wonder how I can do that or adapt that into what we are doing, or radically change everything we've done so far to do that instead...

I just had a picture in my mind as I lay in bed - you know that state where your body is weary and heavy and comfortable, but your mind is wide awake and firing on all cylinders? This picture had to be written down, partly because I did not want to forget, and partly to soothe the gray cells in my head to the point where I could sleep.

I saw a yard. The background is that I have been reading for the class I'm taking, both the course notes and one of the texts, and each have provided me with images that have stuck in my head. One line in particular from tonight's reading in the text made me completely sure that our plans for the young adult ministry, while well thought out and worked through, and possibly even right, should maybe be approached in a completely differently way. I won't go into the details until I've had more of a chance to think it through, but it led to this picture. I won't go so far as to say a vision; I just think in images sometimes, and explore the possibilities.

So the yard. I am infinitely small, looking up to the great big sky, and all around are things growing, reaching up. The sky is God, and all these things are reaching and growing up to Him. So much of what is growing is grass. It is trimmed and nicely manicured, and only reaches so high. Some of it looks more like weeds - scruffy looking, but with a bloom. Some of it is attractive, but should it be nurtured, or is it really something that is going to suck the life dry, and end up withered? Some of what is growing are strong trees, that reach high, and expand, and produce new branches. I have in my care a group of people. I want for us to be a people that reaches up to God, yearning to stretch and grow. I don't want us to settle for being grass that stays safe within the trimmed limits. I don't want us to fit into a tidy box of programming with all the bases covered and nothing really happening other than staying a healthy green. I don't want us to latch onto one idea or catch phrase that is right but only part of the big picture, and then suffer from lack of the other things we need. I want us to find that sprout that is an offshoot of the oak. Something that we can start small with, but that has within it the right DNA to grow and reach closer to God than anything else. Something that will grow and multiply and become bigger than any of the parts could be alone, something that works together as one, unified in a common purpose, strong in love, and growing into the sun.

How does that WORK? What does that look like in my real job as pastor to young adults at my church? And so I pray. I have a deadline, but I do have time. It will simmer. The ideas will be discussed, options pondered, and prayed over. And God will lead. I pray we hear clearly.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

never arriving - or - enjoying the journey for what it is

Have you ever noticed that life is a process? And yet, we are continually working for some end that we think we'll get or achieve. We fix up the house so it's all nice, but there's always more to be done. We take a class to learn how to do our job better, but there's always new areas to refine and develop. We read books, and whether we get them finished or not, there are others waiting to be read (not all the books I was reading last time I wrote are done, there have been others read since then, and 4 textbooks to read added to that list...)

I think I have a tendancy to get uptight about never getting it all done. I feel frazzled even when I have a few hours to work on stuff, because then I have to prioritize - is it more important to finish painting the window trim or work on my assignment? Should I work on the budget or cleaning out the clutter in the office? Then I have to coach myself - none of it is infinitely important. What is important is that I do well whatever I choose to do. If I can be balanced, it will all get worked on in time. None of it will ever get finished, but it is all character building - if I am faithful with the little things and don't neglect them completely, then I will be responsible when it comes to the big things. And I will realize that the big things are not likely to have a tidy end point either.

It's exciting when you can sit back and have a big picture perspective on things. To think not of the chores around the house, but of how successfully I have maintained a home where love is evident and our doors are open. To not think of the daily tasks at work, but the larger goals that direct what I do, and whether they are being accomplished; whether people's lives are changing and being enriched. And then it's a little bit easier to do the daily stuff that never gets finished, because I know that whatever I do, and however much I get accomplished now does make a difference in the long run.

So I go to do another task and read another book, knowing that through it I will be developed, and the world around me better somehow.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

on my desk

We have a big chair in our office that I often sit in to read, especially if Sean is on the computer. It's nice to be in the same room even when we're doing different things. I was laughing at how many books I have on the go - maybe my attention span is shortening as I get older - I can't just do one at a time any more. Unless it's fiction; then I don't put it down till it's done.

The fiction that I'm reading now is just comedy fluff: Paper Moon by Linda Windsor. I had to give up on the last one I was reading, House by Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti. That was really disappointing - I am a huge Dekker fan, but this was a horror movie on paper. I'm sure it had some great spiritual parallel lines in it, but I couldn't get past the axe hammer fights while locked in the meat locker freezer parts... I'd still recommend any of Ted Dekker's other stuff. Next up for me is his new one, Showdown.

These are the non-fiction ones I'm into (what I meant to be writing about!):

Soul Shaper by Tony Jones. Exploring spirituality and contemplative practices in youth ministry. I'm finding it a good deep thirst quenching one. It's a really good summary of different approaches to Spirituality. I'm looking forward to the chapter at the end on establishing a "Rule of Life" which is "a pattern of spiritual disciplines that provides structure and direction for growth in holiness."

Soul Salsa by Leonard Sweet. 17 surprising steps for Godly living in the 21st century. He asks "How can one live a biblical faith that emerges from everyday living?" Each chapter looks at one way to live a Godly life - think the flipside of your day when you're not practicing the ancient spiritual disciplines from the above book!

Sex God by Rob Bell. Exploring the endless connections between sexuality and spirituality. It's good. I recommend it. You can borrow it when I'm done. It's refreshing; it presents the goodness and wholeness and purity of sexuality that God designed and explains why we have turned it into something bad or dirty or casual. I haven't read his last book Velvet Elvis, but that will come soon, I think.

Cure for the Common Life by Max Lucado. Living in your sweet spot. Got this one as a birthday present. Lucado is ultra positive; reading one of his books is like a warm fuzzy. I went through a phase maybe 10 years ago where I read most of what he had out, but haven't read any since. There are a couple of titles out now that I wouldn't mind reading through one day. This book attempts to teach you to Use your uniqueness, To make a big deal out of God, Every day of your life. (Yes, those caps are intentional; those are the three sections of the book.) It has a workbook section to it to help you discover your sweet spot. Not a bad book.

Growing a Healthy Church by Dann Spader and Gary Mayes. This one is about building "an effective discipling strategy for your church," and has been very useful as I'm in the midst of rethinking what we do and how we do it. That sums it up pretty good - if I try to explain any more, the nutshell will get too big... It is a great standard - written in 1991, it's not old enough to consider a classic yet, but I think it might be in that catagory. It's very solidly based on Jesus' example.

I read once that for every new book you read (like all of the above) you should read one classic. Ones on my shelf that I should read are:
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster
Maybe someone could check up on me in a couple of months and see if I've started any of those...

So many books, so little time.

connecting with the earth

I'm in the middle of Rob Bell's book Sex God, which is about "exploring the endless connections between sexuality and spirituality." It's a good read. In one chapter he talks about how we are meant to be connected with God, connected with each other, connected with the earth, but how our reality too often is disconnection with all those things, and even a disconnection with ourselves.

Last week I decided, partly because it needed doing, and partly because what I read was mulling around in my brain, to spend the first part of the day when I got home from walking the kid to school, in the yard. I never did get all the leaves off the ground last fall. So I've been doing two bags a day, sometimes more, but not trying to be a superhero and get it all done at once. The following is what I wrote in my journal this morning:

I started the day once again outside raking leaves. Half an hour in the yard reconnecting with the earth has been really good for me. It's taking time for something that usually never gets high enough on the priority list to get done. I'm recognizing and responding to my need to be in nature - in your creation. You commanded us in Genesis to look after the land. I have my name on a title deed saying I am owner (as much as we can own land) of a small parcel of it - and I spend more time tending my man-made house and going out then I do caring for this small patch of nature you entrusted to me. And it doesn't take time away from my other stuff, in fact it fuels me to do it better. I get exercise and fresh air and a sense of peace that the world is not resting on my shoulders. Then I can tackle my tasks with the proper attitude: to do my best and not stress about it!

Friday, April 13, 2007

two thoughts

I was studying in Galatians today - 5:13-15. The gist of it is that we are called to be free, right? But we are not supposed to use this freedom, this not being bound in by a bunch of rules, as a go ahead to indulge. We should instead love our neighbor as ourselves. This fulfills the spirit of all the old laws, anyway, right? We are free just to love as we should, without being hemmed in. I thought this was pretty cool because I've been pondering the two greatest commandments as I think about the vision for our young adult ministry: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.

The second thing, which in part lead to the first thing, was a way to study your Bible. Instead of reading it through in a year or whatever and just plowing through it, (like I used to do), I am now taking it little by little and getting as much as I can out of one book or topic before moving on. This is what I've been trying to do this year, and last night I read an article that made that process really simple. I thought it was worth passing on.

Tim Elmore is the guy that wrote this. He says he reads a section (one thought or idea - sometimes a chapter, sometimes less), then writes 3 paragraphs:
ONE TIME - a paragraph paraphrasing what was happening to the original audience
ALL TIME - a paragraph defining the all time, universal principle found in that text
MY TIME - a paragraph describing what my personal application should be to the truth.

Simple and catchy enough to remember. I challenge you to try it.

Monday, April 09, 2007

a thought from our prayer room

I picked up a small candle from the pile. One of many. This one was a little dented around the edges, and the wick was a black stub. Perfect, I thought. The candle was supposed to symbolize me - I was supposed to light it from one of the three large candles symbolizing the trinity and place it around them, reflecting on how God's light in my life should and will make a difference in the world around me.

I'm not starting with a perfect untouched little tealight - I have lots of life left, but there's some that's been used up. I've got the marks and scars that show that life hasn't always been fair or kind. But that wick will still light - isn't it true that it is easier to light a candle once it's already been lit? Once you've seen the power of God in your life, it's easier to give him that space again.

Another parallel. So I set my candle down on an overturned metal tray - it was a beat up old christmas one, so we were using the shiny flipside. It, too, was scuffed and there were dents in the edges. Just like my neighborhood. It's not the prettiest. But God loves the people around me. And for now, that's where He has placed me. And that's where my light will shine. The bent and used tealight shines on the old scuffed tray with a light that is pure and that can't be changed. It is just like the big candle it was lit from. The flame is the same.

Amazing how something so simple can mean so much and sink so deep.

I picked up another one to symoblize my kid - to pray that her life would be a shining light on our street and wherever she is. The one I picked up that time was unscuffed and pure, but sitting beside mine on the tray, we cast more light together. More of that same flame.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Jesus Prayer

I've had this book "Soul Shaper" by Tony Jones for years, and have read the first couple of chapters, but it's one of those that you can't just read, you have to let it simmer in you for a while. But I've picked it up again, and what I've read this week is the chapter on the Jesus Prayer.

Breathing in: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God; breathing out: Have mercy on me, a sinner.

The ancients would do this thousands of times a day, keeping track on a prayer rope. They didn't have clocks; I suppose we could set aside 15 minutes or half an hour to start with. I haven't been keeping track of number of repititions or time - I'm doing it while I'm driving, while I'm doing dishes, while I'm sweeping. Here are my thoughts as I start experimenting with this practice.

The purpose is partly to cry out for mercy, reminding us that we need it. Also, to practice praying without ceasing. (1 Thess. 5:17) It becomes more possible. The book recommends a quiet, dim room, where you can focus on allowing your thoughts / prayers to connect with your heart. Concentrating on that should guard you from distractions. Focusing on the words of the prayer, you pray from the heart and in the heart.

I think my first problem is that I have jumped in too flippantly. And yet, praying constantly as I do my daily tasks is not a bad thing. I want to add some quiet alone time where I can concentrate and do nothing else. It's supposed to flow to where it is on your breath day in and day out.

Another thought - there has to be a balance between praying this way and praying for others. Is my connection with God more important than my duty of praying for others? I'd say yes, but I can't neglect that either. I imagine that it might actually help, in that I'll be able to concentrate in prayer longer and deeper than I do now.

Friday, March 23, 2007

speaking of doing something where you are...

Love is on the move.
Mercy is on the move.
God is on the move.

Preach it Bono!

Have you ever read Walk On: The Spiritual Journey of U2 by Steve Stockman?
I thought it was great.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

God lives in North Central

So I'm trying to be more involved in my community, you know, the whole missional thing - I don't have to drive to work at a church in the suburbs to be a Christian. I mean, really - I sometimes think I should quit my job so I can do a better job living as a Christian. (That's a fleeting thought - I know God put me there for a reason, and that He has designed me for this at this time...)

Being Christ's love in my community, being a good neighbor, has been something I've wanted for a long time. I've got great plans in my head. I'm just not that good at it yet. My brilliant husband said something the other day as I was talking about what I could do in this community, and it hit me that he's right - I don't have to start something new or add something else - what do I already do? I started walking our girl to school March 1 instead of driving (save the environment and get exercise to boot - it's just too cold here in the winter...) and instead of just walking her to the gate of the school yard and then turning around and going home, I decided to walk all the way up with her and stick around until the bell rings. That way I am present in the community - the school is a huge part of my neighborhood. Who are my neighbors? Try everyone in the school down the street! I know most of the kids in her class already, but it's good to keep up with them, and I'm getting to know the teachers on supervision. It's good just to be there. And God affirmed this decision of mine the very first day I walked all the way - the bell rang and the kids came running and Austin pushed Jamie who fell into Tatianna, who hit her head on the brick wall... I know Tatianna well, she comes to church with us most Sundays. So I wrapped my arms around her and tried to help in a mom sort of way and reassure the kids who were pointing fault that accidents happen, and then they all went in and I walked home with a grin on my face. I got to be God's arms there that morning.

Madeline came home from school that day and told me that Tatianna said, "Boy, I'm sure glad Carolyn was there - Madeline, tell your mom thank you for me!" Aww.

And today I walked home with another mom who I've seen but never talked to before. We talked all the way to my place and stood on the sidewalk talking. God opens up the community when you open your arms and heart and eyes.

Feeling like God is stirring,

Sunday, March 18, 2007

It's so simple

The summary first:
Just love Him!

Why that is the big thought of the week:

1 - from Bible Study - my fulfillment must come from God, not my husband or my daughter. I can not expect them to fulfill me because I will be disappointed. They are only human, and their purpose in life is not solely to make me happy.

2 - from class - it's a leadership class, and the current assignment is a self analysis. Last night's "Ah ha!" was that no matter how much I change and improve, I will never be satisfied, content or FULFILLED in myself.

3 - from reading the Bible at breakfast with my kid - What is the greatest commandment?
#1: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. #2: Love your neighbor as yourself.

What do I do to be fulfilled?

Love God.

What do I do to be a great wife?

Love God and love my husband.
What do I do to be a great mom?

Love God and love my daughter.

What do I do to be a better leader?

Love God, and love my young adults.

What is my purpose in life?

To love God.

Who I am
is who He made me to be.
On purpose.

(So I don't need to try to fix myself or change myself!)

And my purpose

is to love Him.

Love Him.

It's freeing.