What do you think you’re doing?

Sometimes I’m asked do things for which I have no logical explantation why I’m doing it.

That’s hard for me. I’m analytical and systematic. I love to understand and am a person of endless questions.

But when God leads in my heart to do something that has no explanation and exposes me before others, leaving me open to potential misunderstanding, I falter.

This has happened again and again until I’ve realized recently that each time I’ve decided to obey despite my fear, something crazy awesome happens and not only am I blessed, but so are others.

So I’ve come to this conclusion: I don’t care anymore if I’m right or wrong. I just want to obey.

With Palm Sunday yesterday, I’m reminded of a word God gave me recently regarding faith and obedience. God was asking me to do something that was uncomfortable given the visible circumstances. I felt it exposed me and was kinda odd, so as I laid down to sleep I wanted a word from the Lord to confirm, and I somehow “randomly” hit up Mark 11. This was the word:

Jesus sent two of them on ahead. “Go into that village over there,” he told them. “As soon as you enter it, you will see a young donkey tied there that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks, ‘What are you doing?’ just say, ‘The Lord needs it and will return it soon.’

Exactly what I needed. Jesus spoke and told them to do something. The disciples didn’t know why they had to, though I’m sure they were fine with initially doing what he said. The opposition and test, though, came when the everyday observers and friends said, “What in the world are you doing?” 

And that’s where faith is tested. People are going to think and say, “Uh, what are you doing? That makes no sense.” And often all I can say is, “Jesus wants me to.” I have to have enough faith to walk forward with his words alone because that is my reality.

The thing is, if the disciples had caved under the fear of man and that pressure, they would have never taken that colt, they never would’ve brought it to Jesus to use, they never would’ve gotten to lay their garments down for Jesus, and Jesus never would’ve had his triumphal entry through the city where the people worshipped, “Hosanna! Praise God! Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord!”

All over a small colt. And an unashamed act of obedience. He asks for small acts of faith in the midst of misperceptions all around me.

Here’s what I learned: obey his voice. Always. Because he’ll take my small colt and ride in triumph over my circumstances and my life and my city and conquer!

God, I almost always don’t understand. But, you know, that’s ok. And I proclaim that I am committed to following your voice. I will obey because I love you and you are worth my life and your commands are always for good. And you always bless my obedience! I lift my life up and place it in your hands. I ask for nothing out of “deserving” or cling to something that rightfully belongs to you. You can take or leave it; it doesn’t matter. Because I know all you have is mine anyway; I’m a child, not an orphan. Keep creating my life into something beautiful. I can’t see the complete work of art yet, but that’s because I’m not the artist.

Want to fall captive to a regime? Stop believing in resistance

I’ve been thinking about culture. Specifically about the societal cultures I’ve lived in. It’s amazing how people can be so “awed” by various cultures you’ve experienced.

Example. I work in a really sketchy part of town. There’s the homeless, drug addicts, pushers, prostitutes, thieves, alcoholics, criminals. I see them every day. I know a good number of them by name.

In my free time I have been able to meet them, talk with them, go to their “homes,” open up with them. Some may refer to it as “outreach” or “your ministry.” The way I see it, it just happens to be the street God sent me to work a full-time job, and where he sends his people he sends the Kingdom, so that’s my responsibility. So don’t feel bad if you don’t know this unique culture. You have your own street, your own job, your own neighbors.

Often people say to me, “Wow, you are really courageous.”

Yeah sorry, but not really true. I know– it seems that I should always be on guard and somewhat frightened, while also aware and careful, constantly speaking bold words to my heart.

But honestly once I’ve spent enough time in one culture, I gradually start losing all sense of resistance and awareness. I stop noticing things as much. After time it becomes normal. “There goes another prostitute.” “Another drug deal going down.” “Another robbery.” “Another passed out drunk.”

Then I stop thinking. I stop resisting. I start accepting

And once I’ve lost resistance, I’ve lost my independence, both of mind and action. Anyone can make me whatever they want. Because resisting is hard and causes friction and emotion. It’s much easier to accept and move on.

Recently I was listening to Josh Garrels as I was running and his song The Resistance started playing. The words immediately shocked me and at the end of the first verse I almost had to stop running. I think my jaw dropped.

I realized quickly that so much of my life has been giving up resistance over and over and over until I have become something of a robot, void of questions and explanations. Think on this:

See the secret committees, commence with their meetings 
To make red tape in response to simple questions.
Questions threaten the perception of the beneficial systems 
A pyramid scheme with it’s cogs and it’s pistons
Mechanization of men, making more and more 
Live in a miserable existence.
How can so few, claim so many victims 
And this begs the question 
My rest is a weapon against the oppression 
Of mans obsession to control things.
Look at the long line of make believe kings 
The lord of the flies wants you to kiss his ring.
Follow new rules with invisible strings 
And become a puppet in the diabolical scheme. 
How do good men become part of the regime 
They don’t believe in resistance.

I hate conflict. My whole life I’ve tried to peace-make circumstances and people around me. If I was recognized for something, it had better not be because I resisted a system or expectations. Seemed logical enough. So I started accepting and hardly questioning because resistance drew way too much attention to myself.

After some time in my culture the past year, both at work and the surrounding neighborhood, I found myself being okay with evil. It just didn’t bother me as much any more. It became normal. Everyone was doing it or simply accepting others doing it. But you know what happens once you stop resisting evil? You close off capabilities to recognize and love truth. And that’s a scary place to be. I did become aware and scared and was forced to ask questions.

And that’s when I found that to evade resistance would grant me a first class ticket on the “I’m Wasting My Life” flight.

It’s hard. Resistance is one of the scariest practices, yet the alternative is worlds more frightening.

You know what could eventually happen when people stop resisting? Look at history: Brain-washed disciples. Tyranny. Scandal. Evil. Nazi regimes. Genocide.

But you want to know what else is making me hot right now about resistance (interpret as Angela sees this in herself first and makes her sick)? We know full well about the causes that needs resisting and change. We get so upset about our government, the path of society, our economics, our degrading culture…and what do we do?

We post status’s.

We share opinionated memes.

We borrow other people’s thoughts.

We virtually “like” ideas without committing to doing them.

If you call yourself a Christian and your city is hurting and falling apart, you’d better stamp your name on the face of the problem because Jesus sent his Kingdom to your streets, city, and country through your hands, feet and mind. And the last time I checked his Kingdom is peace, and healing, and success, and freedom, and growth, and joy, and prosperity. So if that’s not happening in your city, own up to it and get to work. Cause it’s your responsibility.

Start resisting.

It’s going to be difficult. Resisting always is. But we can’t allow people to have a longing for the kingdom without inviting them in and living it’s reality.

Word of caution: Be very careful in your practice of resistance. Is your banner defined by hating evil or loving truth? When you start thinking and questioning you’re going to see a lot of messed up stuff. A lot of hypocrisy. A lot of evil. So will you channel your resistance into aggressive exploitation or will you intentionally proclaim truth and love and grace? If your resistance causes vengeful disunity and damaged reputations as a result of your actions, no matter how much those people and organizations “deserve” it, you might need to rethink your approach.

Yes, you may say that Jesus clearly spoke woes against the Pharisees and exposed their evil hypocrisy that they were using for their own means in the name of religion. But you know what he did afterwards? Matthew 12. He went right back into their place of worship, where they hung out and spent their time practicing their religious hypocrisy, and he healed someone. Jesus’ resistance resulted in healing and freedom. Every act of resistance was with Kingdom advancement as it’s core drive.

And that’s a great example to follow.

Stop telling the truth

I can’t think of any roundabout way of saying this.

I’m a very direct person.

Tried to deceptively slip that by you, didn’t I?

I don’t know when or where this came about. When I was a kid my dad would refer to me as “spit fire.” And I don’t think he was referring to one of my spiritual gifts. I’ve always been pretty strong-willed, yet this directness and woeful transparency hasn’t been really noticeable to me until recently.

Maybe it’s because people weren’t transparent with me in the past and I had to learn things the hard way. Don’t you sometimes wish someone would just give you one big gun shot of the truth so that you would have to be shredded by a hundred mini-bullets later down the road?

But recently I’ve been rethinking things. Sometimes I just need to stop telling the truth. Hold off on all the upfront direct statements.

You know what direct statements can possibly do? Cause blind followers. Surface listeners. Head nodders.

When were the moments of your deepest thoughts and times of real discovery and illumination? Probably during the questions. When the reasons why you believed you existed and everything you said you believed in were stoutly challenged. And the questions came.

During those moments you can’t borrow someone else’s experiences. You must work through your own beliefs and purpose. Some things simply can’t be borrowed.

I mean, I totally get this to an extent. Don’t you hate it when someone makes a direct statement about your life and heart and they really have no idea what you’ve been through? You’re thinking, “You don’t even know me.”

But boy am I full of truth statements. Hey, nice problem– now let me solve that for you. Prepare yourself…. Truth Bomb!! And I feel justified in speaking the truth this way because, it’s just that: truth. Ok so sure, it’s been real truth for me and real lessons I have learned. But, hello, I’m not them. Maybe this is about approach. Maybe it has something to do with love and placing someone’s perceptions before mine.

I’ve been thinking recently about this man who seemed to have had some real impact in people’s lives (his name is Jesus). What did he do? He told stories. He asked questions. Ok, so tell me, why did Jesus, ie God, ask questions?? He knows everything. everything.

Maybe he actually cared about people and wanted their hearts and not just their heads. Maybe he used indirect means to get to direct truth.

Am I encouraging people to be blind followers and head believers by spouting off truth statements at every red flag that comes up? It’s easy to do, cause most people don’t want to point-blank argue with truth. But did it really answer any core questions, or better yet, did it even cause core questions to arise?

Do we just borrow someone else’s truth or do we own it personally? Does it terrify you to think for yourself? to stop turning to books, articles, status’s, friends, blogs, music? When was the last time you were real with yourself, with your circumstances?

Why did God answer that prayer and provide $5 for laundry but didn’t come through when the school bill was due? Why was it that you worked so hard to make the basketball team and the final cut only to sit on the bench the entire season? Why did you finally get pregnant after praying for years and years, only to be in a car accident when you were 8 months pregnant and have your baby girl stillborn? Why did you give yourself in self-sacrificing love to a coworker that seems to finally be accepting you, only to have him stab you in the back and ruin your reputation? Why did you so confidently pursue in real passion your career dream only to have it shatter to pieces in your hands? Why did God cure your 17 year old brother of cancer only to find out that it’s aggressively returned and is inoperable and that they are simply doing chemo to ease the pain before he dies? Why did you so clearly follow God to that church for the purpose of serving in leadership only to have the people maliciously rip your family apart and scar your heart for years? Why did you so assuredly marry that man who was leading you in godliness, joyfulness and purity only to have him divorce you for another woman, leaving you with 3 small children to care for?

Why do I even exist? Does God even exist? Do I really have purpose in this life? Does anybody care? Is it really worth it?

Everyone is talking, but is anyone thinking?

Are you going to settle for darkness or will you pursue the truth? Will you keep borrowing truth, or will you search out your questions yourself? Is it too painful? Are you frightened of what you might find? Will you search for truth in yourself, or will you go to a real source?

Are you taking my word for it, or have you even questioned this?

What Saved Me

I just remembered.

I just remembered what saved me.

A year ago, in the midst of my purposelessness and confusion and frustration, right before I moved back to Greenville, somehow this video came across my path.

and I haven’t been the same since.

I’ve never before wept over the Gospel like I did when I saw this. God speaks to us in different ways at different seasons in our lives. And this is one way he did for me, and may do for others.

But in the middle of my hopelessness, when I felt I had lost everything, my dreams, plans, hopes, drive, personality, desires– when all seemed lost, the Gospel walked up. And, it seemed, for the first time in my life, I wanted it. I needed it. I had to have it or I would die. I couldn’t go on living defeated. I am a victor in Christ. I wanted it so badly and I knew it was my only hope to make it to the next day. and the next. and the next.

Did it encourage me? yes.

Did it excite me? yes.

Yet was I then completely at rest and secure and “in the light” and happy? no, not really.

It took a while. a long while. He showed me the feast and then has slowly piece by piece fed me over the past year so that recently for the first time in a very long time, I’m actually at rest. Yes I’m different, yet I feel like “I’m back.” Some sort of recovery maybe. I guess those prayers I prayed 1 1/2 years ago actually were effective. It just took longer than expected. and more than I dreamed.

Oh, and it’s not over yet. just wanted to clarify that for you. This one’s got a ways to go, that’s for sure.

Real Lives: Rodney, a trail of bitter losses

Rodney is a slightly older black man. He has tight curly hair that has sprays of white here and there. He’s typically not completely clean shaven and has white, curly hairs randomly sprouting around his chin. His left eye always seems a bit swollen and I can typically only see his right eye. Sometimes it’s a bit bloodshot.

Jaclyn had met him and then introduced us one Thursday when we were doing street outreach. She mentioned she was pretty sure he was unsaved. So for the past month or two I had made an effort to build a relationship with him, even extending the invitation to come to church with us. He’s always promised to come, but at the last moment seems to find a way to back out.

He seemed kind enough to me and was willing to converse. Over the weeks he became more and more open and I knew that some level of trust existed.

Last week he mentioned that he really needs to find another place to live because of the living conditions of the house he’s in at night. I’m not sure if he has a room or what, but I definitely always see him on the street.

So that Tuesday night I asked him about the rooming situation and let him know I was praying.

I’m not exactly sure what happened; I think I was just giving suggestions about ways to find a new place. Talk with friends, make new connections, and then of course you can pray.

He slammed his hands on the table, and slowly stood up while saying, “You know what?”

His tone was drenched with bitterness.

“You know what? I’m sick of this church thing, praying thing. I went to church all growing up. I went with my mother, and even with my grandmother, and I believed it and prayed and everything.

“And then my mother died. And then my grandmother was taken away. And just recently my neice died. All within 4 years. I couldn’t give a rats butt about life because everything I loved was taken away.

“It’s like walking down some steps and each step down you keep losing something you love. I loved them. I don’t know why this had to all happen to me.

“I mean, I believed the Gospel and everything, and always went to church, but then it’s like I lost everything. I had a good life. I had a house, car, motorcycle, a wife, children…and then my wife left me with the kids, and then I just lost everything.

“My life sucks. And you’re trying to tell me that it’s worth living? I’m sorry that I have to be so blunt but…”

“No,” I interjected. “I’m very glad you’re being transparent. I see where you’re coming from…”

“Yeah, you see where I’m coming from but you don’t agree.”

Praying for wisdom in these moments. Not easy to know what to say.

“Have you ever heard of the story of Job?”


“No, no I don’t recall…”

“It’s quite a story.” I gave a brief outline of Job’s story, and how God’s hand clearly allowed it to happen. “Rodney, God allowed that to happened because He wanted Job to know that having God is enough! He was testing him to prove if Job really did love God more than his possessions. And God restored him! He is good. Really He is.”

Rodney tilted his head. “Well, now that you say that, I think I do remember learning about that story when I was a teenager…”

“Have you heard the story of Joseph?”

Another pause. That was all I needed.

“Joseph was thrown in a pit and betrayed by his own brothers, sold into slavery, treated severely unjustly whenever he did something right, and you know what? God used him to save Egypt! Rodney, what story does God have for you, you particularly, that you are missing because you are rejecting him?”

“I don’t care. I just don’t care anymore.”

“So you don’t want hope or another life?”

“I could care less about this life, it’s just been so rotten, so out of my control…”

He went on and on. Bitter words and bottled-up anger spilling over.

At me. at the world. at God.

Our conversation was coming to an end.

“Rodney,” I pointed at him as he was walking away.” “I’m praying for you that God would show himself to you for who He really is instead of this perception you have of God that is not true.”

He cocked his head and said in sarcasm, tinged with anger, “You are a blessing and have a great night, ma’am. I will see you later.”

It’s very interesting to me that the person that had built a relationship with him through kindness and generosity was now the one that was being attacked. Maybe he felt he could be transparent. Maybe I just happened to be the next person that mentioned “praying.”

It then occurred to me– I have been reading and meditating on Matthew 10:16-24 recently, and today I read that Jesus told his disciples that a disciple is not above his teacher and therefore shouldn’t expect to be treated any differently. If Jesus was maligned and mistreated, both verbally and physically, then why should I expect anything less?

If my goal in life is the be like Jesus, then be like Jesus in all ways will I be.

Though his reaction was rather surprising to me, now that I think about it, I’m joyful. Not about his situation; I’m heartbroken over his hopelessness and very wrong perception of God.

But I’m thankful that in one small way I was able to “share in His sufferings” because that’s simply what happens when one determines to know God above all else. “That I may know him…” — sweet words.

So this story of Rodney is continuing. It’s sad, truly it is. But there is always hope– in the real Gospel. Not in a list of do’s and don’ts. But in grace, and mercy, and forgiveness, and freedom. Rememeber Rodney. Pray for God to charge into his world and turn it upside down.

And remember the real costs and joys of Paul’s words: “I count all things as loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ.”

And if we aren’t experiencing sufferings and rejections…perhaps we are not as committed to knowing Christ as we should be.


25 years.


It’s a pretty good number. It’s the cost of obtaining a treasure from the gum ball machine. It’s the year your car insurance goes down (supposedly). 1925 was the year Scotch tape was invented!

It’s also a great time for everyone to remind you that you have crossed the quarter-century threshold.

thanks friends.

It’s been a great time to think. remember. I clearly remember the day I turned 24. If my calculations are correct, that would be 1 year ago.

1 year ago. I had just graduated from grad school.

The next day I was leaving for a 2 month missions trip to Spain, England and Italy. My life was very simple. and condensed. like Campbell’s chicken noodle soup. And I had about 5 banana boxes and 3 suitcases to my name packed away in Greenville.

All I knew at that moment was that I was going to Europe to live with broken people and serve where needed.  After that there were no plans, no job, no income, no “direct revelation” about next steps.

I would not in a million years dreamed up what has happened in 1 year. 1 single, solitary year. Can I even begin to describe…? A couple thoughts come to mind about this past year.


The 5 months after graduation were a little out-of-hand, borderline ridiculous: 14 homes, 9 churches, 4 countries, 6 cultures, 15 couches/beds/mattresses, 7 ministry offers, thousands of dollars. And when it was all said and done I was still broke, jobless, homeless, and directionless, without a clue of where in the world I was supposed to be.

Even when I got a job (check that: when God gave me a job) and came back to Greenville, I had a huge struggle with financial instability. I had to wait 3 weeks before getting paid, on top of being unemployed for 5 months. Back to my mathematical insight, when you add $0 + $0, you get a very stressful life transition.

It took a long time to recover from that, longer than I wanted to wait. Through tears and faith-straining, God taught me patience and trust. I was horrible at it, but He was teaching me none-the-less.

He taught me to practically boot strap.

He taught me to not feel guilty about saying “no” to certain activities or opportunities.

He taught me to pray, and to love Him more than money by thinking about Him more than money.

He showed me I’m actually a very fearful, controlling person that is in need of a Savior every single day.


This descriptive overlaps with the previous one, yet focuses more on my emotions. My emotions were up and down, and tended to stay down for long periods. Then I’d go through deep, soul-stirring moments of Jesus-love and be soaring, and then I’d be discouraged about a difficult situation or sin. I knew that I wanted Jesus more than anything, but this war kept raging in my heart more than I’ve ever noticed before in my life.

Identity Crisis

Actually, it was more of an identity loss. crushed. God piled up everything that I loved and was finding my identity in and called it “Idolatry” and that was really hard for me to take, so I fell flat on my face. He told me to burn my idols and turn from them before they turned on me.

But, everything? Even my mind? My thoughts, my dreams, my passions?

God: “Yes, they have become idols. Your heart is an idol factory. You sacrifice them and I’ll give them back when and where I decide, if I ever do. You say you’re ‘Complete in Thee’, but you’re not. So let go and cling to Christ. Do you love me more than these?”

That was a very dark time for me because I had for the first time truly come face-to-face with my wicked heart of idolatry. And it was not fun. And then I wasn’t sure whether I had ever truly loved Him, or wanted Him for the gifts He gives. Yes, Jesus became more precious to me that anything during that time, but it took months to “recover” and fully understand the hope, promise and victory of the Gospel. It’s still a struggle.

By the way, yesterday (after I wrote the first draft of this post) a friend sent me this sermon from T4G to listen to about God’s plan in disappointments and dashed hopes. HIGHLY recommend it. Disappointments are purposeful!


Always remember that it’s not about the quality or quantity of faith, but WHO IT’S IN! My faith was often with fear and trepidation and cold sweats, but thank God it never was or is about me! How relieving!

This past year I was more often that not in situations where I had no other alternatives but to pray for God’s protection, guidance, and provision.

Obstacles included traveling alone, finding correct buses and trains in foreign places, language, money for travel, money for bills, money for moving, money for gas, a job, place to live, a table to eat at, a bed to sleep on, a friend to encourage me…the list is endless.

Yet here I am. Still sane. ish. And full of praise to Him because HE DID IT! Don’t forget that. Don’t praise me. Just stop. I mean go. Go praise Him.


Yes, I just said the bad 6-letter S-word. Let’s face it– it often awkward and/or inferior, and not only in our culture, but also in the church. I mean, have you ever seen a movie where this awesome person is going about life, trying to find this missing piece that will make their world complete, looking for that true love and affirmation…and then they find it! They get to be single for the rest of their life!!

Highly unlikely.

Yet– watch this– isn’t it awesome that no one has to “wait” for fulfillment and completeness and purpose?? Please read the Gospel! Jesus fills that empty hole and missing piece in our hearts! every. single. time.

So…. anyway, on this earth, I am experiencing challenges that naturally come as a result of living alone and being single, not married or dating. The main one has been the need and desire to talk about something discouraging or exciting or even mundane, and there’s simply no one around to share that with in the moment. In particular I have had many discouraging times coming home from work, and I often just wished I had someone to talk to. I found myself keeping things to myself and mulling over it in my mind.

But I soon found that to be unhealthy and, actually, ungodly. That’s why the Body of Christ is so important. I now make it a practice to immediately text or call a very close friend if something happens that I need to release and be open about.

It’s also been challenging not having another person closely peering into my life and challenging me. Not many people challenge me, question my intentions, point out inconsistencies, reveal my laziness. I’m always unsure if I have gone as far as I could’ve, because I’m the only standard to my standards.

Again, I’m finding that I shouldn’t just “accept” these things, but need to do the extra leg-work to seek out others in the Body to meet those needs of mine. And it’s ok to admit need, weakness, insecurity. Christ DIED for His Church, so it’s pretty important that I work hard to involve them in my life. And practically, if I practice keeping to myself while I’m single, then that is how I’ll eventually live out marriage.

So that just about sums it up. I’d like to think that this time next year will be full of stability and normality…but, eh, that is pretty unlikely.  Actually this past week right before my birthday God has been specifically guiding my prayers about a next step and/or phase in my life. Scary, exciting, fearful, invigorating, challenging…

I can’t wait to see what next year’s post “26” will be. Praising Him for 25.

The day of my birthday. 25 years ago.

A Taste of Italy: Enter the Country


That is precisely how I arrived in Venice, Italy on June 24, 2011. The past month had been a whirlwind of language immersion, culture shock, long work days, and a challenged life system as I knew it. Because of some scheduling conflicts, I ended up arriving via train at Stansted Airport in London on Thursday at 11:00am and leaving the next morning at 8:00am. I had never slept in an airport, much less by myself, much less in a foreign country.

Yes, I was obviously well-prepared.

Having just watched The Italian Job a day earlier, my imagination kicked in overtime and everyone was a potential stalker and/or stealer. My sleeping defense strategy was to have a limb protecting each of my possessions: head on my purse, arm draped over my carry-on, leg hugging my 50lb suitcase. At any moment I felt I could explode into a total round-house kick to the face. And you thought I didn’t know a thing or two about security. Thank you TSA and Walker Texas Ranger.

Barely 2 hours of sleep and a massive body cramp later (yet with all my possessions still intact), I finally got to head to my flight. Even after being in some of the darkest, most crime-infested parts of Madrid, this was ironically the scariest moment of the trip. I had to get from Stansted, to Cologne Germany, find my connecting flight to Verona Italy, find a bus to the train, buy a train ticket to Mestre, and somehow get in contact with the Carls to let them know when and where I’d arrive.

No phone connection, no 3G network, no translator, no experience, no friends.

I could’ve been lost. forever.

Thankfully, at that time I didn’t think that far head. I realize now that every part of this experience from beginning to end was moment-by-moment steps, having often to choose to move even when I had no idea how to accomplish the next step. Not that this is the way I think I should approach every life circumstance, but that is how God led me those few months. And boy was it adventurously scary!

The flight from London to Germany to Italy was the most beautiful scenic experience in my life. Crossing the English Channel at sunrise, entering into mainland Europe and France barely minutes later, seeing winding rivers in Cologne, and the ultimate: the Swiss Alps. Any words and pictures cannot do justice. For the first time I saw jagged mountains that towered into the sky, the snow caps shooting through the clouds, and then to watch their steep inclines collide into these tiny green summer villages that were snug between the mountains. It was incredible. A masterpiece. This one huge mountain-side plunged from it’s white-capped summit straight down into a huge lake that we were flying parallel to, and where the water met the beach there was only enough room for a single row of houses that stretched for several miles. I admit—I was gaping. I became aware that my mouth of hanging open, and I was about to adjust myself until I realized that this was indeed a gape-worthy moment. It was my rightful duty to leave my mouth open. Perhaps even my expression of worship.

We passed the mountains and the plane began it’s decent. This was it. The moment I was so excited for and one that many people dreamed of getting to do and I actually had the opportunity… stepping out into Italy.

When I finally did step through the rotating doors to enter the country, I was greeted with a blast of humid air, and there were definitely not any vineyards, fresh bread stands, or olive oil fountains around. My secret stereotype dream was dashed.

But now I had a real problem. I didn’t really know what to do next. Oh yes, get to the train station. Once I got to the train station, I could figure out the next step. One step at a time. Hm, no signs for a train, at least ones I recognized. You’d think with all the centuries of art in Italy that they’d have more visuals for public transportation.

So I tried wandering. You know, the prideful wandering. Pretending like you’re just browsing around when in reality you’re lost as all get-out and am feverishly looking for some sign or help. Thankfully an Italian lady that knew English approached me and asked if I needed help. She showed me where to get a bus that would take me to the train station. Thank God for sweet old ladies.

There was only one other person on the bus and she looked about my age, so I asked if she spoke English. I found out she was German and yet was fluent in English. And amazingly she was heading to Venice in a few days to study Italian for 2 weeks! How providential! She was very kind and we exchanged emails so that we could connect as soon as she arrived in Venice.

The train station. I thought, I can handle this. How hard can a train station be?


Basically from here on out everything was this sick form of a guessing game: I wonder if this is the right line to buy a ticket. Is this ticket actually going to take me to Mestre? I need to contact the Carls…That looks like a payphone—I hope these buttons work. Nope. Guess I need to buy a prepaid card. Maybe they sell them here. Ok she doesn’t understand the word “phone” “prepaid card” or “help” for that matter. I hope this 5 Euro card works. Nope. Ate my money. Multiple tries. Sweating in the heat. Forget this. One more try with the credit card– it worked! And Lewis answered the phone! Quickly told Lewis when I’d arrive. Whew.

Where are the platforms? Seems like everybody is going this way. I’ll just go up this way…and that was wrong. Opposite direction. Ok I think this is the right platform. Maybe. But… I can’t tell if my train number is showing up on the arrival list. A moment of hyper-ventilation in the possible event that I miss my train, and would be stuck in Verona forever, living on my short supply of Cadbury chocolate, tea biscuits, and olive oil…

Oh I think this is my train… I hope. On the train, barely juggling my luggage. And…there are no seats left. Not one. Uninhibited, I sank to the floor for the hour trip, desperately needing a nap and/or shoulder massage. But I couldn’t miss my stop. If I did I’d go all the way down the line and the Carls wouldn’t know and would be waiting for me in Mestre and I’d be lost and homeless in the back streets of Venice… Stressed. Breathe in and then out. Be strong and fake it. Oh I think the next stop is mine. Finally to the platform, down the millions of stairs, through the gates, and on to the streets of Mestre.

Now where were the Carls going to be? Hm, I’ll just act American and lost. At this point I could care less about patriotism. Oh there they are, with toddler Amelia in tow. Finally, safety and security. I was not lost forever.

(note: I am not exaggerating any of these details. In fact, I’ve left out several frustrating, scary, intimidating moments. Sometimes I look back and think, “What the fat world was I thinking?? Borderline insanity, sufficiently stupid.”) 

We had our introductions and briefly caught up about my trip as we walked about 15 minutes to their apartment. By this time it was 4:00 on Friday afternoon and I had pretty much been awake since 11:00am the day before. I was looking forward to a cold refreshing shower, finally getting to let go of the 100 pounds of luggage, and then a blissful sleep. About half-way there, as I was dwelling on this plan, Lewis says, “Hey we have our Filipino youth Bible study tonight, and I was wondering if you would share a devotional with them.”

Ironic. There are a couple things that are ironic about this opportunity. First, obviously, I was being asked to give when I wasn’t sure if my thoughts and capabilities were logical or coherent. Yet I knew, as I often experienced in grad school, God always gives grace in order to give when physically I feel like there is nothing left to give. So I knew I could go forward in that strength.

Yet the other ironic part was the fact that spiritually and emotionally I was entering, and somewhat already in, the darkest time period of my life. Dark as in lost. Dark as in purposeless. Empty.  Void. Even now I feel it’s very hard to express, though 6 months later. In the past month, God had turned my world upside down, then took my identity, and crushed it. How am I supposed to “lead” a devotional?

In this present state, I showered, took a power nap, and went to the Bible study where I got to share a lesson that I had heard a week ago from Acts 3. Just like the beggar entreated Peter and John for money to buy to food to survive, we often go to God for things that to us are absolutely necessary and life sustaining, yet He wants us to leave that behind because He has better plans in mind. The beggar asked for money in order to have food to survive; Peter said that he had no money to give, but instead gave the ultimate Treasure and Meal, eternal life in the name of Jesus.

We are so narrow-minded and much too easily satisfied. It was a simple devotional, yet never in my life had I felt so unworthy and unclean, thinking, “I should not be doing this right now. I totally don’t feel complete in Christ. Everything’s a mess inside and I don’t really know why.” I couldn’t really express anything because I didn’t even know yet what exactly was wrong.

Yet again, often He tells us to give when we perceive we have nothing to give,

because once we are useless, maybe that is when he can actually use us.

And this was only Day 1.

Why was I born in America?

Why was I born in America?

Of all questions that I anticipated would run through my head during my European travels, this was not one that I expected.

Some background: The biggest obstacle I came across in all the countries I visited and with all the people I met is summed up in two words: cultural communication.


If communication were really just about words and grammar and sentence structure, then anyone could really live anywhere, given enough time to learn a new language structurally.

But if you have nailed the language (reading, writing, and speaking), you honestly have just skimmed the surface. Put that at about a 4th grader’s level. What about expression, double meaning, sarcasm, humor, idiosyncrancies, body language etc… Understanding a country, a culture, is so much more than language. What about history and how that affects feelings and emotions of people of that nation? What about different sub-cultures within a country (North, South, etc…)? And to top it off, the varying sub-cultures of Christians within all those sub-cultures?

Light bulb moment: Being an American gives me a communicative advantage to other Americans over anyone else in the world. Yes, meeting Spaniards and Britains and Italians and Filipinos have been very exciting, and it’s always an adventure trying to figure out each other’s past and life experiences and connect with each other. Yet if I were to put myself into the middle of their community and live with them, I would literally have to re-learn culture because I’m not in America anymore; I’m in their land so I adapt to them. And the same would happen if they became my neighbor in South Carolina and if they really did intend to be involved in community.

This is where I really struggled. As a foreigner, not only did I have to mirror those around me in order to simply participate, but I had to also search for some avenue to communicate who I was as a person in a way that they would understand.

Problem is, I only know how to do that in American English. Who I am as a person is how I express myself in my language and my culture.

I was faced with many questions at this point. I know that God does and will continue to place and move people around the world for the purpose of the furtherance of His Kingdom. History testifies this mobilization of the saints. I believe in mission and how God is using it, but what about this cultural barrier?

Realization: I have 24 years of American experience. If I travel within any part of the U.S., I would have a pretty developed understanding of the history and type of culture diversity in any given location. I could communicate fluently and could understand that if they said a certain sentence with the right inflection, they may be either content, or bitter. Sarcastically jovial, or demeaningly pessimistic. We all have a varying degree of social awareness (painfully, some less than others), and this is often derived from culture.

Enough of the rambling.

Here’s the point.

Why was I born in this country?

Unfortunately, I think Christians only start taking culture seriously when we strategize about missions in foreign fields. We give all these encouraging strategies about cultural transition and celebrate being able to share Christ while speaking and understanding in the same language—at the same time! And that is exciting, please don’t get me wrong! But why don’t we think this same way about our own country? Missionaries are simply praying about opportunities to meet people and tell them about Jesus, and then actively looking for those opportunities every day. If you’re looking for something extraordinary about the mission field, don’t ask me about it. What I observed on this trip was very ordinary and real. Loving God, loving others. They plant, God gives the increase.

Missionaries have to learn about a country and culture, and it’s exciting to relay to supporters how they were finally able to use that understanding to start a conversation, which led to a new friend, which led to a Bible study in the apartment complex, which led to a family being saved, along with all the relatives.

Why would we expect less in America? Is this only “missions” stuff? Is the Gospel only more effective in godless cultures? Is it not the power of God unto salvation to all who believe?

Maybe it’s because we don’t have the same dependency on God that they do, because cultural transition is really hard work. Without the strength and help of God, it would drive most to despair. (take a moment and thank God for His children living out the Gospel outside their culture. No seriously- right now. Do it.) And since (at first) they only know how to communicate personality in their own cultural language, they are forced to rely on God, and not abilities and personality. How humbling is that?

God didn’t have me to be born in America to waste it. Because of wealth and resources, maybe I could be more effective in Kingdom growth by supporting a national that is already culture savvy. Or maybe His intent is that I go and preach the Gospel where there is not a soul that knows His name. American or foreigner, it doesn’t matter—it’s the drive in the heart to live a life that’s not wasted.

I realize that when I was born in America, that it was part of God’s Kingdom strategy. None of this “I’ll go but I’m willing to stay.” We’re all to “go.” Or perhaps we’ve already “went.” Going does not mean simply moving. It means dwelling somewhere with a purpose of living, sharing, breathing the Gospel. America is not homebase, and neither is any country-of-birth. The only country-of-birth that matters is the country of our 2nd birth, our birth into God’s Eternal Kingdom.

So why was I born in America? Maybe I need to realize that this really isn’t my country; maybe I need to start living like a foreigner. After all, isn’t my passport just… paper? Live in light of the permanent citizenship you truly eternally have.

June 5_ Betel Madrid, Video Journal

Here’s a video journal I recorded after I had been in Spain for just over a week. Jet lag and initial culture shock past, I basically just recounted some of my first impressions, though much had to be edited out because of time constraints. I mean, let’s all face it– nowadays it’s really hard to keep an attention span for a 30-sec deodorant commercial, which not only promises to protect you from sweat, thieves, and awkward conversations, but also gives you no-residue confidence to conquer the world as we know it.

I can offer you neither, so if you have the time, go ahead and listen to some of my first week experiences.

Great Expectations

At this moment I’m filling out pre-orientation documents that are getting to be a bit personal. hitting home for sure.

I know of many friends and family right now that, along with myself, are going through short-term or even long-term transitions and changes. I suggest that you go through these questions and answer them yourself. Often we go into new situations with pre-conceived expectations and have not even thought that perhaps they may not pan out as expected. Maybe we need to think more, at least even become aware in our minds that some things may turn out differently, even in the simple, every-day mundane activities.

Still thinking— how can this apply to other pursuits and activities in my life? I want to take time later and think through this as a possible tool for organizations and entreprenuering. If you know of any other tools out there that are similar to this, please let me know!

Great Expectations

Do you expect:

1.    to be bored?  What kinds of situations could produce boredom for you?

2.   to have a schedule set up for you?  to know what’s happening next on the schedule? to have a part in making the schedule? How do you expect to respond if it changes?

3.    to eat national food? Where would you expect to get this food?

4.    to enjoy the smells of the country?

5.    to have peace, quiet, and privacy? to sleep at night?

6.    to get sick? What type of remedies do you expect to be offered to you if you do get sick?

7.    to suffer? What do you understand “suffering” to be?

8.    to receive mail?  Or emails? to have access to the internet? How often?

9.    to have ups and downs? What makes you up and what gets you down? 
How do you get out of a down?

10.    to get along with teammates?  to get angry? How do you normally relate to a team?

11.    to be involved more in hands-on ministry? How do you expect to do this? 
Do you see daily chores as ministry?

12.    to accomplish anything? What is accomplishment to you?

13.    to be faithful in your devotions and prayer times?

14.    to encounter Christians with different beliefs? What to you would be a different belief?

15.    to be compared to the previous worker that was on your field?

16.    to make friends with nationals? How?

17.    to share Christ with someone? How do you imagine doing this?

18.    to be challenged spiritually? What is one area of your life you would like to be challenged?

19.    that God will change your life forever? What steps do you plan to take to make that happen?

20.    to be understood by friends and family when you return? How will you react if this doesn’t happen?