Friday, October 21, 2011

Take Two

Two years ago, I attended this conference called Greenhouse which presented the basic ideas behind 'organic churches.' If you go back and look at my post about that night, I had some good things to say about it, but overall I wasn't the biggest fan. I think part of that had to do with the people chosen to train us, and also, to be fair, my own mindset at the time.

With that in mind, I signed up for Greenhouse again. I went the the first part tonight. This time I'm learning from two of the guys that helped start Church Multiplication Associates, which is pretty cool in itself. It's like a whole different experience, maybe because we go off on so many tangents that it really is different material.

I don't know where I'm really going with this other than to say that this weekend I'm giving organic church a second chance, and it may be an idea whose time has come in my personal life. Next week, after everything is said and done, I'll give you some highlights. Until then, have a wonderful weekend and enjoy the change in weather.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

What Makes Me Sad

Yesterday, I told you something I love about New Orleans. Today, I'll tell you about something that pierces to my soul about living in New Orleans. The image above is the current 2011 murder map for metro New Orleans. Each one of those red flags represents a person, made in the image of God and therefore of immeasurable value, who is no longer with us.

As much as I love this city, life seems very cheap here. This extends from the way that we drive (like we're trying out for NASCAR) to the way that we choose not to think about what's happening on Bourbon Street any given night of the year. I just get tired of reading the news every morning only to learn that someone else was shot, stabbed, or raped.

How did we get here and how can we stop it? I wish there was a quick and easy solution, but there's not.

I'm convinced, though, that any solution needs to include the Gospel. I love because I was loved first. Others don't love because they don't know what real love is. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Blues Fest

One of my favorite things about living in New Orleans is the chance to listen to amazing music...for free. After lunch on Saturday, my friend S. and I went down to the Quarter to celebrate the fact that we made it to Fall Break without dropping out of school with a little window shopping. Just on the walk from the car to Jackson Square we heard no less than four bands/musicians playing on the street or sidewalk. And as if the Quarter wasn't enough for our musical needs, we went over to Lafayette Square in the CBD to listen to music at the Crescent City Blues and BBQ Festival. We sat in the grass, eating pralines and talking about life, to the backdrop of soulful music. New Orleans is spoiling me.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Thank you to the Healthy Body Project on Facebook for this mental image.
As I was jogging last night, this picture kept popping into my head. That's it. Nothing special or spiritual behind it. I thought I would just share a smile today. Toodles!

Monday, October 17, 2011


One year ago today, I was here.
I can't believe that it's been a full year since I went to Jordan. I remember most of it like it was yesterday. My favorite memories include:
  • Seeing my friends and their daughters for the first time in a year. They were a big part of my life during my first semester in New Orleans. I still miss them. 
  • Walking around the shopping area of Amman and people watching.
  • Going to Petra. It was stinking hot and I just wanted to collapse and give up near the end of the day, but it was an adventure that I don't regret. Expect for the handsy horse guy. I wish I had kicked him. 
  • Standing at the top of Mount Nebo and channeling my inner-Moses. Reading about the end of Moses' life will never be the same. 
  • Taking pictures of the sunset from the roof of the apartment building we were staying at during the evening call to prayer.
I loved Jordan and feel like I might be going back there someday. I just hope it's soon.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Beyond Joy

My friend V was baptized tonight! 

V coming out of the water.
V stepping out with the biggest smile I have ever seen on her face.
I met V when I started working for a coffee shop in New Orleans. Our first day working together was kind of rough. Looking back, I probably deserved all the means glares and brisk words she threw at me. But we got along after that. I started praying for V not long after I met her. I had a feeling that God had something in store for her and didn't want to get in the way of that. Even after I got a new job, I kept going to the coffee shop on Sundays to talk to V for a few minutes.

After Easter, I started attending a new church. One Sunday I mentioned to V that I was coming to the coffee shop earlier on Sundays because I changed churches. As I was sitting there doing my homework, she asked about the details. Turns out that she had been thinking about how she needed to start taking her daughter to church. My church's night schedule worked out for her and she promised she would come check it out.

The first night that she came we were meeting in a yoga studio that had air-conditioning problems. Summer in New Orleans is not pleasant without cool air constantly being blown on you. As I sat there V's first night at church in seven years, I knew for sure she was never going to come back. I was committed to the church and I was having a hard time convincing myself to return until they had AC again. I braced myself for her to tell me that she hated it and would never return. But she came back the next Sunday. And the Sunday after that. And then she started asking questions. And then she joined a community group. And then she professed Jesus as Lord. And tonight she got baptized.

V is a new person. Talking to her even feels different than it did a month ago. And it is all God's doing. As I told someone tonight, God is the one who had it out for her. All I did was pray and tell her what time to show up for church.

Pray for V as she starts her new life in Christ. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Happy (Belated) Anniversary

My parents have been married 30 years this year! 

Today, we are talking about our families of origin in class. Sitting there listening to everyone, I realized how lucky I am to have two wonderful parents. Here are some things I appreciate about them:

  • They promised my sister and I very early that they would never get divorced, and they stuck to that promise.
  • They made sure that we spent time together as a family. Looking back, those discussion of the dinner table and family vacations have been some of my favorite memories.
  • They have both gone above and beyond their parental duties to make sure that I succeed in life.
  • They loved me unconditionally, even when I wasn't very loveable (a.k.a. the teenage years). 
  • They instilled many traits that I value today: humility, loyalty, confidence, and a sense of humor, just to name a few.
Mom and Dad, I love you and I wish you another wonderful 30 years.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Fantasy vs. Imagination

This week I have been taking a class on worship from a leadership perspective. We've covered everything from how to pray in public to major musical movements of the past two centuries. Even though I've been dreading this class all summer, I have to say that it has been one of my favorite classes in seminary thus far. Since I've been going to this class all day everyday for a week, I think I'll be unpacking all the information I've heard for the next year. At least.

Today, we talked a little about the difference between fantasy and imagination. Maybe I'm not a deep enough thinker, but I've never really sat down to think about the difference. Fantasy is personal. It's what I want for me. The world we live in is good at encouraging and fulfilling fantasies. Cities like Las Vegas base their economy on the human need to fulfill fantasy. Not all fantasies are bad. They can help set goals at times, but a person that spends too much time daydreaming fantasies becomes narcissistic and is generally not a pleasant person to be around.

Imagination, on the other hand, has to do more with society. We imagine how we want things to be, how they should be, how they can be. Imagination put to the test becomes reality. Someone imagined the light bulb and now I can stay up until all hours of the night reading for school (or, more likely, watching TV).

This is the kicker though: not all imagination is good either. There is carnal and sacred imagination. Carnal imagination says something like this: "I will experience as wide of a variety of situations as I can in order to take in every stimulus possible, then I will see what comes out." The problem is that carnal imagination can ultimately lead to the destruction and distortion of beauty. If you've ever walked through an art gallery and seen images that struck you as not quite right, you'll understand what I'm saying. If you've studied the Holocaust, you've seen the very real results of someone's carnal imagination on a global scale.

Sacred imagination, on the other hand, says "I will take in things that are beautiful and good, the things that Jesus would like, and see what happens." This kind of imagination leads to paintings you want to stare at all day, music that moves you to tears, books that you can't seem to put down, and the best solution to problems. The things that come out are things that Jesus would like.

My point? I was sitting there in class wondering about my sacred imagination. If I immersed myself in those things that are beautiful, that honor Christ, whether it be books, music, or that after-school program down the street, what would come out? What solutions to problems would God plant in my imagination?

Understand this: I don't want to turn a blind eye, in the name of focusing on beauty, to the very real problems that surround me. That would be escapism, which is a plague among Christians and ticks God off. But what if we made an effort to take in beautiful things and spend some time with the One who made beauty itself? What divine things would come out?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Life Lived

What does living life to its fullest mean? I have a sneaking suspicion that it looks different for everyone. Tonight what I've been contemplating is what it looks like for me. Does it mean traveling the world, seeing all the beautiful sights and never really rooting myself in one place? Or does it mean settling down and raising a family, investing my life in a very intimate way in someone else's? Does it even have to be a either/or?
For my parents, for my sister, it looks like the second option. Not that they don't enjoy traveling and experiencing new things, but they are very much grounded in their respective areas, grounded in their own groups of friends. They have definite goals and a clear(ish) picture of how to get there. And I pray and ask if that is where my life is heading, but I don't get an answer. I get a big nothing. Or I get a big "Wait." I like to be prepared. I want to know what life lived to the fullest means for me and feel like I'm going to miss out on it if I don't know what it is ahead of time.
I know that I won't. God has always been too faithful for that to happen. But that doesn't stop the need to know. To search it out. To wonder if my actions are leading to that life well-lived.
Just a passing thought.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Saturday Nothing

I just finished writing a book critique on The Last Word by N.T. Wright. It's a small book that packs a big punch. There's not a page in that book that failed to give me something to think about. To spare you the pain of hearing me try to digest everything here, I'll give you the bottom line. Wright understands the Bible as a story that God works through in order to bring about the redemption of the world. It's a five-act play of creation, fall, Israel, Jesus, and the church, with a special sneak peek for a new play that's starting when this one is over.

The climax of our current story came in the fourth act, Jesus. The climax came during the three day period we're observing right now. Yesterday was Good Friday. Some call it Dark Friday. I choose not to. I call it good because of my favorite bit of imagery: the tearing of the veil in the Temple. God tore the veil because he wanted everyone to have unlimited access to him, not just one priest one day a year. Friday was good because God is now truly with us in every way.

Today is Saturday. My friend Josh has a blog called Saturday Nothing. The title comes from this very day. The day that nothing happened. Jesus was still in the tomb. The disciples were still distraught and trying to figure out what they were going to do now that their Messiah was gone. In my mind, today is the dark day. Today was the day where everything had changed but nobody knew it yet. Hope postponed.

Tomorrow is Resurrection Day. The day when every Christian should not be able to stop smiling. It's the day we found out the story has shifted. A new act has begun. Life will never be the same again.

Friday, March 4, 2011


(A friend and I after the Muses parade.)

A picture taken by my cell phone cannot convey the amount of fun that I had last night. I attended one of the most popular Mardi Gras parades, Muses, with some friends from school. Muses is the only all-female krewe (said like "crew") and their specialty throw is decorated shoes. Yes, high-heeled shoes. I didn't get a shoe (because I'm not assertive enough to get one), but I did get the 2011 strand of beads.

I've learned that contrary to the belief of tourists, attending a parade is not about getting all the beads you can. Instead, it's about getting the special beads you can't buy at the store and other items that can serve as a witness that you were there.

I also learned that you never bend down to pick something up off the ground while a float is going by. It's a good way to get your fingers crushed (I didn't do this personally). All you have to do to lay claim to something on the ground is to step on it and pick it up between floats. A big thanks to my boss for letting me know this one before bodily damage was done.

Floats, marching bands, prizes. Mardi Gras, done family-style, is just plain fun.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Yesterday a tragedy hit my seminary family. One of our students, who is a year younger than me, collapsed and died while jogging around campus. He was in perfect shape and they're guessing he died almost instantly from an aneurysm. He left a wife who is 23. They got married last year.

I didn't know this student personally. We had classes together and we said hi to each other on the sidewalk, the normal stuff you do everyday. I found out about his death from one of my friends who happened to be nearby when he collapsed. She did CPR on him along with several other people, but he never woke up. As any sane person would, she's having a tough time processing what happened. She knows that aneurysms are fatal and that she did everything she could, but she can't make her heart believe it. My heart breaks for her. I cry for her. All I can do is be there for her and offer her cookies. This is the stuff they need to teach you in seminary. How to help a friend who tried to save a man's life but was unsuccessful.

Today our professors switched into counselor mode. The good thing about going to school at a seminary is that everybody on staff is trained to help. It's what they live for. More than anything else, right now we are acutely aware of our own mortality. The saving grace is while we might be afraid of the unknown, we are not afraid of dying. We know how the story ends.

I don't know why I'm writing this for the world to see. I just know that they say that getting your thoughts out there helps. Please be praying. Please be safe.

P.S. If you want to read the article on what happened, there is a story on my denomination's news website.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Don't Be a Squirrel

I have to confess that I have a love-hate relationship with squirrels. I love them because they're just so darn cute. I hate them because they're mean. My track record with squirrels is that they don't like me much either. At my undergrad, we had squirrels everywhere. They thought they owned the quad and woe to anybody in their territory. I remember one day I was walking across campus to deliver something. Out of nowhere, I felt something hit me in the back of the head. I turned around and there was an acorn at my feet and a squirrel staring me down. Okay, it may not have been staring me down, but it was pretty close. And that wasn't the only time it happened.

But this post isn't about my somewhat amusing history with squirrels. It's about something I heard at church way back at the beginning of the school year. I wrote it down because it hit me between the eyes and I knew I would write about it someday. Here it is: "Don't be a squirrel." Profound, huh?

Here's the gist of it as explained by my pastor. "Squirrels are cute and fluffy and they're rodents!" Squirrels spend their lives gathering nuts and twigs and whatever else squirrels collect just for kicks. They gather, gather, gather, and the only form of giving away they do is throwing an occasional acorn at a stranger's head. The American church is full of squirrels (and let's just be clear that I sadly fall into this category at the moment, so I'm not trying to be overly harsh on the squirrels of America). We take and take and never give away. When we do give away, it's usually begrudgingly. We don't think that building Christ-centered relationships that last should entail any work on our part.

It's time that Christians, myself included, stop being squirrels. It's okay to be cute if it just comes naturally, but the hoarding needs to come to an end. We need to get out there and share ourselves with others. This week take the challenge that I'm giving myself: don't be a squirrel. Share generously with those around you even when you just want to throw acorns. Go beyond the expected in the name of Jesus.

Have a great weekend! Don't be a squirrel.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Top Three Thursday

I thought I would bring a classic back today. It's Top Three Thursday (because I forgot on Tuesday). In case you're new to the concept, it's like my weekly "happy things" list. So, here are three New Orleans restaurants that rock my socks off...

1. Juan's Flying Burrito. Right now this is my favorite place to eat in New Orleans. I frequent the location on Magazine Street, which has an unique personality and look to it. I usually get "The Flying Burrito" which has beef, chicken, and shrimp packed in with traditional burrito goodness. When I was vegetarian for a couple months last year, I got the Super Green (with dairy, because I didn't give up all good things in life) and it was also tasty.

2. Babylon Cafe on Maple Street. This is my favorite Mediterranean restaurant in the city. I used to get food from this place all the time when I worked at a coffee shop nearby. Every Tulane and Loyola student knows this place for good, cheap food. My favorite is the gyro on homemade bread. Their hummus also makes me smile. It's all good.

3. New Orleans Hamburger & Seafood. I feel like kind of a loser for putting this one on the list because it's a chain restaurant. But the Shrimp Creole is sooooo good. I think they have other food too, but I wouldn't know because the shrimp creole wins the ordering debate every time. Oh, and they have free ice cream for dessert. It doesn't get much better than that!

I'm not a New Orleans native so I don't feel overly guilty about not putting some hole-in-the-wall poboy place on my top three list. Maybe someday.

If you're ever in the city, check these places out. They're worth the trip away from the overpriced touristy stuff. Toodles!

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Sundays always make me think about church. Not just "going to church" (which I do every Sunday these days, Mom), but "the church." How sometimes I think we just don't get it. How we don't need to be cool to have community, instead we need to have real community and "cool" will just sorta happen.

I pray everyday for a church planting movement in North America. I've been praying this way since I first heard of the concept. I heard about thousands of churches made up of mostly new Christians popping up in countries around the world and my initial thought was "Why isn't this happening here?" My conclusion: North American churches just aren't born that way. It's not who we are. This does not equal me saying we should be this way. I'm just stating a fact. How many of our churches are started with intentional splitting worked into the mission statement? Of those that do, how many actually follow through?

I recently finished the book "The Forgotten Ways" by Alan Hirsch. One of my professors indulged my need to study the edges of Christian thought (or at least the edge of what I usually study) and let me read it for a book review focused on transcultural communication. One concept I picked up was "sneezable" church. Churches that spread wide and fast because they are theologically centered on the most important parts of the gospel and easily reproducible across cultures. How I wish...

I'm sorry if this has seemed disjointed or incomplete, but sometimes our deepest longings are those that are hardest to express.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Haps

Hey internet world. It's been a while. I would say I'm sorry, but I'm not. It feels good to take a hiatus every once in a while. A lot has happened since October. I'll try to give you the rundown without boring you to tears.

The Fall 2010 semester came and went. Last time I talked about surveys that I handed out on campus. That went well and I made an A on the paper it was for. I learned that college students don't really volunteer as much as they would like. Maybe if they had a few less papers to write...but possibly not even then. I ran into a lot of motivation issues. Overall, all I can say for my semester is that I survived. My friends noticed a drastic decrease in the amount of time I spent smiling and generally being happy, but I made it through.

Which leads into another big change that has me smiling more these days. I got a new job. I love the coffee shop that I worked at. I miss the people everyday. What I do not miss is rude customers, working odd hours, and never having a weekend off. Now, I work on campus as an office assistant for one of the important, head guys. The only con of this job is that I can't wear jeans. I used to live in jeans (although, Ronnie, I can still wear my sweaters.)

With the new job and the loss of constant stress that the former job caused, my new semester is going splendidly, even though I'm still taking an insane number of hours. For those who are geeks like me and want to know what I'm taking: systematic theology 1, transcultural communication, intro to new testament, a preaching class, and a class about Islam.

Speaking of Islam, I went to the Middle East near the end of last year. I loved every minute of it. I got to travel with and visit some of my wonderful friends who I am fortunate enough to have crossed paths with on this crazy adventure through school. I learned about culture, strategy, and theology. The stuff that I can use anywhere I go. I wasn't there long enough to miss it, but I miss it. The picture below is of the three of us who traveled together standing under some Roman-era columns. (The history major in me thought that it was pretty stinking awesome that they didn't care if you climbed all over their ancient artifacts.)

With that, I will wish you a good night. Extra down time may mean more communication in the future, but I've stopped making promises :) Toodles!