Prone to swerve: Avoiding the curves

My parents are a few weeks into a seven-week RV trip across the country. Talking with them before they left, it was clear that my dad was more excited about this excursion than my mom. Though there were several reasons for my moms reluctance, with varying levels of legitimacy, one concern she shared before departing was driving (or more accurately, being driven) through mountains in a 33′ recreational vehicle.

This was our brief text exchange after they made it over the continental divide on their way through Wyoming.

This got me thinking: on some level, aren’t we all a little nervous about the curves that life throws us? Sure, it’s much easier to stay on the known, familiar, straight routes that we’ve constructed. But how often does that result in any measurable growth? Adventure? Or even fulfillment? In the case of my parents, the straight, FLAT Florida roads of familiarity certainly don’t lead to beautiful vistas of mountains and lakes they’re getting to enjoy.

Admittedly, not all of life’s curves or changes to plans are enjoyable or sought out. I’m guessing that few people initially see a cancer diagnosis as their next great adventure. Rarely do we relish the curves and detours, and I’m certainly not implying that we should in those moments. But if we have the luxury of looking back, of seeing where the road has taken us, may we always be people who see and learn and grow from those experiences.

On a spiritual level, the curves are where our faith is tested and, hopefully, strengthened, though that process is rarely a bucket-o-fun while you’re navigating it. Jonah was swallowed by a whale when he wouldn’t first go where God told him. Zacchaeus had an unannounced dinner guest. And the disciples were happily enjoying their lives as fishermen before Christ met them. In each of these cases, I have to think that the outcome after the shift in plans was better than what it would have been otherwise. But that path wasn’t always easy.


As I’m working through my own “curve in the road” ahead, I’m wondering what lies on the other side of it. What adventure awaits? What growth will come of this? I didn’t see this one coming a year ago, but now that I know it’s here, I’m bracing myself for the good–and the bad–that may await.

I may not be one to seek out curves in the course all the time, but I want to be a person willing to take them when they come. What about you? How do you handle them? Are you a thrill seeker willing to make your own curves and plow ahead? Or somewhere on the other extreme, avoiding the curves at all costs?

Stay safe, friends, but take the curves when you can.


Prone to shout: The ultimate groupthink

As I’ve been reading up in preparation for Resurrection Sunday, there’s a line from the book of Luke that has stuck me more than anytime before. I’m certain I’ve read it plenty of times, but never has it stood out like it has these last few weeks.

At this particular juncture of the story, Jesus has been betrayed, beaten, and brought before Pilate: a prefect of the Roman empire overseeing Judea. Pilate can find no fault to warrant death, but the crowd kept shouting for Jesus’ crucifixion.

Pilate offers to release Jesus in light of the Passover tradition of releasing a prisoner chosen by the people, but the people preferred the release of Barabbas–a man known to have been responsible for insurrection and murder.

crowd“Protest in Paris” by Antonin Remond is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Imagine this for a moment: the crowd had rather a known murderer walk the streets than for the Christ to go free. He literally took the place of a murderer.

And they continued shouting.

Luke tells us that Pilate asked a third time “‘Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish him and release him’,” (Luke 23:22, ESV).

“But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed,” (v. 23, ESV).

This is the line that continues to haunt me: Their voices prevailed.

The insistence and urgency of the crowd changed the mind of a ruler of Rome: “So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted…” (v. 24, ESV) Just a short time after this tragic scene, Christ died.

While this death and subsequent resurrection were always the plan, I can’t help but notice what part fallen and flawed humans played. But I think there’s an application beyond the theoretical that I’m continuing to process: To what am I lending my voice?

Throughout history, crowds have changed laws and fought wars and toppled governments. Today, there are still wrongs to be corrected and justice to seek.

A crowd was used by God to change the mind of Pilate and send Christ to death, and their voices prevailed.

Will ours?

Prone to wait: When we get impatient…

I know I’ve been on radio silence here on the blog for far too long. I clearly haven’t been keeping up with my goals. Quite honestly, I haven’t really felt like I’ve had anything to say.

My mom used to say “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all,” though I have a feeling she might have gotten that from the movie Bambi. Even still, I think the same sentiment can easily be applied to social media, and maybe even expanded: “If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything!”

I still question whether I have anything of value to say, but I do have some thoughts I’ve been processing this evening.


I seem to have arrived at a season of waiting.

Waiting on my trip with my best friend from college.
Waiting on my birthday.
Waiting to celebrate Easter.
Waiting to see friends who stubbornly moved overseas last year.
Waiting on direction for a BIG thing to think BIG about.

Often, our immediate-gratification seeking culture considerings waiting to be a negative thing. But in this case, I disagree. In fact, I’m rather elated during this season of waiting, because I know the things I’m waiting on are freakin fantastic!

But we don’t always know that, do we? Sometimes, waiting can be hard. Especially when we don’t know the outcome of what we’re waiting on.

I believe our discomfort in waiting is less about impatience and more about uncertainty.

Sometimes we have to wait on hard things: the test results from the doctor’s office; the phone call after the job interview you had; lunch.

In those moments, my hardest struggle isn’t impatience, though it might masquerade as such. In those moments, my hardest struggle is trust: trusting that God knows what He’s doing; trusting that I really believe His words enough to put them into practice; trusting that He knows the outcome I can’t yet see.

The next time you’re feeling impatient in a season of waiting, check your certainty of the outcome. You may find you’re actually great at waiting! But terrible at trusting.


Prone to learn: 5 lessons from a weekend with 7th grade boys

I’ve written before about my current stint as a 7th grade boys Sunday school teacher at my church. Today, I present to you the second installment in this ongoing series.

While most of my involvement with the student ministry is confined to Sunday mornings, I signed up to work our Surge Weekend this past Friday through Sunday. It’s been a while since I’ve done a weekend church retreat event with my youth group, and that was from the perspective of an attendee–not student ministry staff. I told friends that these students were the tool that God was using for my sanctification, but I really had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Surge Weekend 2014

The low point over the three days was having to ask a student to move and sit by me during one of the sessions because the "chatting" was just a wee bit distracting for the students around him. I officially became THAT chaperone, and I secretly wondered what they would write about me in the bathroom stalls. Do kids still do that?

But lest you think that this whole blog post is a rant, please know that the weekend was actually rather enjoyable and successful. I call it successful because no one was hurt, no one cried, and we returned the same number of students that we left with. But as one of three chaperones against 11 strong-willed 7th grade boys, that’s about as much success as I can claim.

As I look back over the weekend, there are a few highlights that come to mind…

“Please put your phone away.”
“Gentlemen, if you don’t wake up and get up, you don’t eat.”
“Where’s Travis*?”
“Yes, you have to wear shoes.”
“Please put your phone away.”
“Have you brushed your teeth?”
“Where’s Travis?”
“Please stop pinning him to the pew.”
“You want to go to the bathroom now? What exactly were you doing during the 15 minute break that ended 2 minutes ago?”
“Seriously…where’s Travis?”

*–Names have been changed to protect the absent-minded.

For the uninitiated, I thought I would pass along some tips I learned in the trenches. If you ever find yourself responsible for the lives of 11 middle school boys over the course of a weekend, please refer to this cheat sheet as much as possible. It’s my gift to you…

1. If something can be a distraction, it WILL be a distraction. I’ve never seen people so eager to explore the wonders of the pew rack in front of them. Pens, pencils, and tithing envelopes have never seemed so enticing. I saw one of them reading a hymnal voluntarily, and I’m fairly confident one of them may have chewed on his name tag, though I can’t be too sure.

2. The latest app du jour seems to be some iPhone game called Flappy Birds. Even after a full weekend with the younguns, I still have no idea what this is.

3. Some of these students could negotiate themselves out of a hostage situation. Seriously, I’ve never encountered a group so quick to bargain at the first sign of a request.

4. NEVER bring out chicken nuggets in the middle of a devotion time. That discussion will be off the rails faster than Amtrak. You want a heartfelt discussion about grace? Good luck, because the only things they have on their mind are the baked and breaded “chicken” chunks.

5. Despite the less-than-stellar sleep schedule, policing bathroom breaks, and a disproportionate amount of carbs over the course of the weekend, it’s possible to endure a fair bit of discomfort when students from your group are making decisions to commit their lives to Christ. It’s great to be a part of a ministry like that.

If you’re the parent of one of our students from this past weekend, thanks for entrusting your students with us. I pray that it was as much of a weekend of growth for them as it was for me.


Prone to plan: 2014 resolutions and goals

One might assume that a blog post about new year’s goals and resolutions should be written sometime around the new year. Then again, you know what they say about assuming…

In fact, I’ve had this post written a few different times, but I was never quite ready to press “Publish.” Part of the hesitation was “going public” with goals and the accountability that comes with it. But I got over that. Then I wrote about my friend, Elise, and didn’t really feel like writing anything for a little while. But I’ve pushed through that, as well.

Picking out goals for the year was somewhat tricker since I have have a whole list of things I want to accomplish before April 10. But I’ve resigned myself to the fact that my “30 list” won’t be completed in the next 4 months (like the story of the hike), and I’m OK with that.

Before I get to my actual resolutions/goals for 2014, I thought I would share some that I briefly considered but knew I wouldn’t keep. Thus, these didn’t make the cut for obvious reasons:

  • Eat less pasta. Clearly not going to happen.
  • Say something nice about Urban Meyer. I’m fairly certain this one isn’t even possible.
  • Stay current on my ironing–one of the few chores I absolutely loathe. Sadly, I knew this one was bound to fail.
  • Maybe possibly consider eating at Chick-fli-a slightly fewer times each month. With a Christmas stocking sporting a few gift cards, this one was also out of the running. Plus, eating there feels like tithing–they do the Lord’s work.

So here are the resolutions and goal’s I’ve settled on for 2014:

  • Faith: Read the Bible each day, preferably before skimming social media in the morning. Recently, I’ve been convicted about how much time I spend mindlessly reading about my friend’s cousin’s kid’s teacher’s latest class activity and how little time I spend in the Word. So I’m hoping to change that, even with a few minutes of reading a chapter in the morning. Then once that’s done, I don’t have to feel so guilty about finding Pinterest recipies for new desserts.
    • Fitness: Exercise at least three times a week. Getting presents for Christmas is great; getting fat is not. I’ve gotten into a fairly consistent schedule with this over the last few years. It’s normally easier for me to stick with something if I’m training for a race (like this past fall), so without anything on the calendar for the first part of 2014, I’m hoping that making this a resolution will keep me accountable and on track.
    • Focus: Write a blog post twice a week. I honestly hope to keep this one, but I’m not making any promises. It’s a goal, and I’ve declared it here in hopes of my other blogging friends (here, here, and here) keeping me accountable. But this is the one that seems to fall by the wayside when things get “busy.” But if you can’t count on me for two pithy posts a week, I’m not sure that you can count on me for anything.
    • Furnish: Complete one house project per month. I’ve got a house plan a’brewin, but that likely won’t come to fruition until 2015. Between now and then, I want to prioritize some time each month to work on a home project (like this, this, or this): something that will be fun and/or functional. Because let’s be honest, the joys of homeownership aren’t all painting walls and making curtains (though my friend, Mariah, just helped me make some great ones). Someone’s got to fix the sink drain and get the dryer serviced. If I can stay consistent with this (and build up some of my handyman skillz along the way), that will make the future idea that much easier.
    • Finances: Save for goal #1 by June 30; save for goal #2 December 31. I read and learned a while back that when coming up with things like money saving goals, it’s better to break them up into smaller chunks so you can see early wins. I’m fairly good at putting some cash away every month, but this year, I want to be deliberate in prioritizing this in the budget. Like I mentioned above, I’ve got some long term plans that I want to prepare for now, and this is the year to make that happen.
    • Word for the year: Each year, my pastor challenges us to pray about a word that will serve as a “guide” of sorts throughout the year. Last year, I settled on (post). This year, my word is…revealed in a future blog post. Sorry–I’ve got to have something for you to come back for!

2014 Resolutions
At this point, 20 days into the new year, I’d give myself a B- on the goals above. I’ve been doing OK, but not great, and in keeping with the grade school motif, there’s always room for improvement. But I’m excited about the prospects to stick to these plans.

How about you? Have you made any goals or resolutions for the year? If so, how are you doing on them now? If you don’t make any commitments at the beginning of each year, why not?