Thursday, November 10, 2011

Have Mercy on Me, a Sinner

Tonight my small group leader said something that really resonated with me: "When you hear about someone else's wrongdoing, the fastest way to humility is to say to yourself, 'I'm guilty of that.'" The example she used was adultery, which to the women in my Seminary Wives class sounds absolutely heinous. It probably sounds pretty serious to most people, Christian or not. Our immediate response is, "I could never do that to my husband. I would never be guilty of that."
But what is adultery other than unfaithfulness? And haven't I been unfaithful to my spouse? Not through intimacy with another person, perhaps, but through putting myself or my wants at the top of my priority list? or through refusing to really listen to him because I was angry? Moreover, Christ is called our bridegroom, the husband of the church, precisely because his relationship to his people demonstrates the very tenderness and unconditional, gracious love that should exist within the marriage relationship. How often are we unfaithful to Him, our first love?
So, then we can identify with our brothers and sisters in sin not out of some false sense of modesty. Self-deprication is making ourselves out to be worse than we actually believe we are in order to gain people's praise. We don't identify ourselves as sinners for that reason. Rather, we take a steely look at ourselves and say "I am truly guilty of that wrong. I am literally no better, because that same heart attitude often resides within me. It is only by the grace of an Almighty God that I have been saved from the consequences I deserve."
Imagine being able to stand next to a sister or brother caught in a cycle of wrongdoing and say "I'm guilty of that just like you are, but we are both called to more than this."
Christians, there is no better way to restore a fellow believer than with humility and love. Likewise, there is no better way to create a barrier than to say in our hearts "At least I'm not like that." It is so very dangerous to decide that someone else is beyond hope and help, unworthy of restoration or forgiveness, and certainly less worthy than we are of love. If we are to be thought of as members of the same body, would we then say "My arm is diseased and hurting, so I'll immediately count it as lost"? Of course not! In your own physical body, you would take immediate action. There is nothing more harmful to the body at large than to ignore illness in one part and allow it to spread! You would not waste time in giving your body gentle attention and care, treating it with love and tenderness in the hope of restoring it to full health!
We are called to be a body of healthy believers, without factions, without dissension, without pride. We are called to restore with humility and love, and we cannot be humble without a careful examination of our own stubborn, prideful hearts.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Good Things

I've been reading a favorite photography blog of mine. And by reading, I mean getting lost in. I had a college acquaintance who started her own photography business and it's blown up. Her pictures are amazing and she has this great flair for business and details. If you want to get lost for a while, read

She also stole an idea from my favorite multi-millionaire of all time, Martha Stewart. So, in the spirit of Katelyn (who will probably never know I wrote this) and Martha, my best friend, I present you with five wonders.

1. Turning six months old!
October 23 was mine and Ben's half year anniversary! It's hard to believe that at this time last year I was picking out flowers and searching tirelessly for invitations. My bridesmaids all had their shoes, but not their dresses! I'm so glad my wonderful family, fiance and co-workers were all so patient and unbelievably helpful. My mother should stop teaching to become a wedding planner.

2. Finding a church
I think we've finally settled. I hope. I don't know. Maybe.
Franklin Street was the second church we went to, invited by our neighbors Lauren and Logan. It's smaller than Clifton, which is our other possibility. It's also pretty quirky. Our Sunday School teacher reads in English out of his Hebrew Bible and likes to dissect the grammar of the prophets. But mannnnnn is it solid. I have never been in a friendlier church. Ever. They are intentional in community and overseas ministry. They practice preaching the gospel to one another (which is crucial. Nothing about Christianity comes naturally to us. We need to continually be reminded of who God is and who we are, or we will quickly begin to add rules on top of the freedom and grace we have!) And they take communion every Sunday! Which leads me to...

3. Wine!
Because at Franklin Street, we can choose wine or grape juice. And I think that's a really really good idea.

4. Shrimp Enchiladas
And the husbands who have them waiting for me when I get home from really long work meetings. With NCIS on in the background.

5. Sisters
I love my sisters. I love nights, like last night, when I get to talk to them about silly things (and really important things like the dream I had about living in Dr. Seuss world). I miss my family pretty dearly and wish that I could go home a lot sooner than...well, I don't know when I'll be home per se. But they'll all come to see me the week after Christmas! I can't wait!

Look forward to more good things (hopefully posted more than once a month)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

An Afternoon Among Apple Trees

 Tuesday of Fall Break found Ben and I both off from work and studies, and thus in need of adventuring. Because it is really and finally fall, and because it was 85 degrees of amazing, we went across the river to Indiana to Huber's Farm and Winery.

Looking down on our apartment from Southern's main campus

Our day at Huber's started by finding a letter from Chico, my cat at my parent's house, to Meika, mine and Ben's pit bull. It read:
Dear Meika,
I do not miss you. Go buy some bones.
Love, Chico

So, thanks...Chico....and mostly Mom, for sponsoring our autumnal adventure!
Walking among the apple trees after a hayride to the orchard.
The branches were so heavy with round, hard beautiful apples!

I could only eat one apple: a hard, tart Nittany.

Ben, on the other hand, ate four.

Yummmmmm. He looks so happy!

Meanwhile, back at the Farmer's Market, there was cider and pumpkin bread for sampling.
And there were lots and lots of pumpkins
Ice cream and cheese together at last?! It's like a perfect marriage!
That is pumpkin nut icecream.
It's cold, but it's spicy and cinamonny so it tastes like it should be warm.
So strange. So, so good. Like frozen pie filling.
In between icecream and going home, we found ponds full of giant koi and a heron and some ducks. And I fell asleep in the sunshine.

And we finished the day with fried apples and sausage:
an homage to  fall harvests and the Creator of apple orchards!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Of course, people do go both ways.

When I think of today's post, this scene plays in my head:

The hunt for gainful employment, which is my role in this Louisville adventure, has had less success thus far than I had hoped, but more success than I had actually anticipated. As of last Friday, I am technically a Red Robin employee. Training should start next week for that. However, Brooks Bros. has also offered me a full-time job. I originally turned them down because I didn't feel comfortable with commission-based selling. I talked again with the GM today, though, and I think that I could make more working for Brooks Bros than waitressing, even with tips. And I could wear my dress clothes....!

Also, today I had a second interview with the Housing office for a part-time position. It has regular hours, it's on campus, it's a small staff where I'd really be effective serving and not, if I can't do writing or publishing I really just want to work on campus. Of course, a part-time job does not pay rent, tuition, and groceries. So, being me, I've devised another part-time job plan too! I talked to the writing center director and she said "I'd love to have you come on-board! I just don't know when." Then today, housing said, "If hired, you could start on the 19th!" and at the writing center she said "Good news! I can bring you on in about 2 months!"

Well, that's quick turnaround for both of those places, but not for us! Which leads me to the real debacle here: how can I get a quick "best place to work" answer from God? This is something I feel I come up against frequently and I think something that, as Christians, we struggle with almost as much as "what's God's will for my life?" Often we've been stuck in the drylands, where we can't get any response, but now that there are many, I guess the heart question is "Which one is most from God?" The job I have? The job I want more that pays more? The job(s) I want most but don't have yet that won't start yet and might not pay enough?

Recently someone said that sometimes, God lets us choose between two (or three) equally good options. And then Francis Chan (in Forgotten God) told me that we spend too much time asking "What's God's will for my life?" Instead of "Okay Holy Spirit, what's the plan for the next half hour?" He says we use an uncertainty of God's will as an excuse for inaction.

Well, that actually doesn't help me too much immediately or practically, but I think it will long-term. Because maybe, as my friend the Scarecrow says, both ways are pretty nice. And maybe, if the one I pick isn't that nice, God will still be willing to take care of what we need and provide something else when we need it!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A struggle to describe things beyond my understanding

I have tried three different ways to write this post and none are really sufficient. Thank you, Lord, that any words I have are weak compared to your reality. Thanks that my vague, dark understanding doesn't weaken who you are!

Lately, my scriptural truths have found their best illustrations in my dog. Meika worships two things: her owners and herself. She loves the love we lavish on her. When she can't feel our petting anymore, she looks around at us and nudges us hard with her nose, trying to make us touch her again. She likes to bury her head against us and just accept our attention, revel in it even. She repays us in kind, licking our hands and jeans and faces. Sometimes she licks us without even looking at us, as though out of obligation. And then, content that she has fulfilled her debt, she continues to expect us to pet her and play with her. This is her worship of herself.
One night last week, she sat on Ben's lap with her back to him, head lowered, eyes half-closed, getting her fill. Then, suddenly, she turned her head to look at her master. All her puppy attention focused on him, and once she saw him she had to respond, not out of obligation, but out of grateful affection. She crossed her eyes so that she could continue to look at him as she covered his face in dog kisses. She gave the best she could give, despite her slobber being of no real worth to Ben. When she acknowledged his love for her and how wonderful he was, and she had to respond in love.

The theme of last week was not actually searching. It was worship, or, as Don Whitney calls it in Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life, "being pre-occupied with God." I spent most of the week being pre-occupied with my own pursuit of God.

Despite wanting a heart for worship, I went to church sleepy. I raised my hands to Heaven hoping that my actions would refocus the rest of me, but I had to put them down to fight the overwhelming feeling of hypocrisy.  I wasn't looking to the face of God. I was thinking about how "spiritually mature" I wanted the people behind me to know I was! I left church feeling really guilty and depressed and bored, none of which are side effects of true worship.
(My friend Jacob laughingly calls the side effects of worship a "God-high," and has explained to me about heightened levels of chemicals in our brains that cause this feeling. I think it's insanely cool that God is so intimately connected to every part of our bodies that he designed chemicals in our brains to help us respond to Him in worship.)

Fortunately, I had several other opportunities for corporate (or large group) worship last week. Ben and I went to chapel twice and I nearly cried at the joy of seeing hundreds of twenty-somethings who were thrilled to focus on the Holiness of God for an hour. Still, the guilt that had hung around me during church remained. I prayed to worship in spirit and truth. I sang my favorite songs loudly and eagerly, but I continued to worship me and to be distracted knowing that I wasn't truly praising God as He deserved. Surely, I thought, this is not the true worship that the forefathers of my faith have practiced. And then, on Thursday, something changed.  It wasn't a state of mind that I figured out. It wasn't any action of mine, lest I should boast. It was more like an invasion, really; a not so hostile takeover. The eyes of my heart (which are not physical body parts, but exist nonetheless) glimpsed something Greater and Holier than themselves. When they fixed on the author of life, I finally stopped mattering. My faithlessness didn't matter, my guilt didn't matter; I could stand pure before the Holy of Holies and know that He had made me worthy to praise Him. And, like the four creatures around His throne in Revelation, I had to praise him. It was the only logical response.

Because my heart is like a sieve, I couldn't stay there in the presence of the Almighty. I had to couldn't hold on to the knowledge of how wonderful He is. Oh how I long for the time when my heart can be filled to overflowing and not need continual filling. I say with the woman at the well in Samaria "Give me some of the water that will keep me from thirst, Lord, so I won't have to draw water day after day!" (John 4)

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Search

Searching has been the theme of these last two weeks in particular: searching for the right church, searching for the right job, searching for new friends, but always searching.

On the job front, I have finally given up having the immediate perfect editing or writing job, or any immediate editing or writing job. I think this was prompted by the realization that we'll be out of money by September 20. Instead, I took a clerical test this week to try for an executive secretary job (I got a 90! Thanks Lord for keeping me clear-headed!). I interviewed at housing for front desk work, and I'm due for a third interview at Red Robin today after my personality test at Outback. And Brooks Bros. called yesterday to offer me a position pending an interview.

Despite not really wanting any of these off-campus jobs (because I want to write and edit and have a career) I am overwhelmed once again at God's faithfulness to us.

Also, the communication department says I can freelance for them as soon as I can provide a writing sample. Too bad all my journalism pieces are on a laptop that's been dead since freshman year of college. And the writing center director says I can come work for her as soon as there's enough business! And the woman at American Printing House for the Blind is going to file a restraining order when she hears the number of messages I've left on her voicemail.
Or, maybe, I'll have worn her down enough that she'll interview me, fall madly in love with my charm and stone cold editing skills, and offer me a job on the spot. Eh, Laura Zierer? How's that sound?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

After a First Attempt at Sleep


Ben and I made the mistake of drinking three cups each of a strong Arabian tea at a neighbor's house. It was in tumblers, practically; we didn't think it could be so caffeinated. Now I'm up and getting ready to paint. Whatever time this blog post will say it is, make no mistake: it is 1:48 am, August 24. Oh, well. I, like so many writers before me, most of whom suffered from psychosis, work best at night anyway. Maybe one day I'll give birth to the great American Psychotic novel. Maybe one day I'll give birth to nocturnal animals who won't mind that I stay awake until 2 so that I can't get up to feed them during the daylight hours.
Ben said he would get up to read, but he hasn't. I suspect a ploy to get me out of the bed so he could sleep without me muttering to myself.

 Yesterday, I re-sent an application to the American Printing House for the Blind for the Audio Book Editor position. I don't know that they'll see my experience fleshed out in my resume, so I want them just to talk to me. I'll call again Thursday. Not that I'm desperate for employment or anything...
I called another small publisher, Memoria Press, but they aren't hiring writers right now. Tomorrow, I'll go to the Communications Office on campus and see if they're hiring staff writers. That would be a really ideal job, since I wouldn't have to use the car.

My husband just got up. One of the best thngs about being married is having someone else up at the crazy hours I am. I don't know that we're always co-conspirators, but we're at least poor planners in league. No no no more Arabian tea at 9:30!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Fairest Fairs

Ben and I just came back from the farmer's market at Beargrass Christian Church and oh my goodness I cannot wait to take my mother (or Ben's)! Fresh cheeses, loaves from Great Harvest Bread Company, Sunergos coffee (started by Southern students), crepes, breakfast burritos, and fresh tamales! And then of course farmers from Kentucky and Indiana sharing their peaches and herbs and cantalopes and eggplants with us.

Now all need is a job so I can stock my fridge and my belly! Speaking of which, the Southern Seminary job fair was on Thursday. It produced some interesting results: two companies that have contacted me since and one that I will stay in touch with because they manage employment for a company seeking copywriters.

Herein lies my quandry: Do I take a job that God provides because I need the money, even if it isn't my dream job? Or do I wait on God to show me something that I'll love and want to do long term? This is the quandry of the young adult world right now; at least all of us who haven't found employers eager to fund our dearest ambitions.

I think my best find this week has potentially been Consuming Louisville, which although very tofu-happy, is the documenting of new meets and eats all over the city. I plan to follow their adventures until I know the city well enough to discover my own.

And now I'm off to work on a new story while my very studious husband reads oh-so-many chapters of theology.


PS: I tried my first Heine Bros (pronounced Hiney) latte on Wednesday. It was good: smooth and not too sweet. But $4.72 is too too much for a medium latte and they spilled it down the side of the cup. And there were no big comfy chairs. I rate it a 6/10.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Old Friends in a New City

Megen writing!

Well, the job hunt officially began yesterday. After two years as a behavioral counselor, I think it's time to take a break from kids and counseling and look for a job in my major, though a local private school says I can teach AP European History without a teaching certificate. tempting...

I've applied on campus, though they only have part-time positions available right now. Today, most interestingly, I sent my resume to the American Printing House for the Blind to work as an Audio Book Editor. Basically, I'd work with narrators on pronunciation and flow and then edit the recordings. So, I'm hopeful!

Today we ate dinner at KT's Restaurant and I had my first Kentucky Hot Brown. This was especially cool because we ate with Brian Kettring and his family, who my parents knew the last time I lived in Louisville, as a three-year-old. Their daughter, Emily, was my first best friend and we have many home videos together. She is now married to a seminary student, too! Brian also had some good stories about my dad biking in 80's style tennis shorts. So that image has now been seared into my mind. Thank you sir.

One of the most surreal things about Louisville has been re-meeting people and places that I've known my whole life. Louisville is home to my earliest childhood memories and yet a totally new city, full of discoveries and promised explorations.

Speaking of which, the goal for tomorrow is to learn to drive these streets without Ben in the car. Pray extra hard for me.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Hey There from Louisville!

Megen writing! I've got four days to cover, but I hate to read long posts, so I'll keep it snappy.

We've now been in our new apartment for six days and on our own (without my family) since last Friday. Since arriving, there has been no doubt in our minds that this is where we need to be. It has been a little hard not having a job or people that I know yet, but God has even been quick to show me that he's faithful in the unsettled places.

Here are some snapshots of His loveliness:
Two weeks ago, my aunt in Georgia told me that Logan and Lauren, the youth intern at her church and his wife, were going to Southern and were looking for housing. Friday afternoon, our next door neighbors moved in so Ben and I went to help. I'd heard someone say "Logan," but thought, No way! Why do I ever "No way" God? Logan asked what part of Georgia I was from, and I immediately knew that this was the couple I had started praying for two weeks ago. God intentionally chose our next door neighbors from my tiny Georgian hometown!  Our families live on the same road!

We took our dog to Cherokee Park and walked for an hour in sunshine. One of the best things about Louisville is the parks everywhere. Sometimes I forget I live in a city because of the huge old trees all around us.

Also Saturday, we had our first Kentucky storm. Sometimes God shows up in sunny days and hikes in the park. Sometimes He shows off his power in a storm that knocks out electricity for half of Louisville and bends  billboards over until they fall on gas station roofs...

One of our callings in Spotsylvania was to be in a specific church filling specific leadership roles. We knew the church he had set out for us even before we left college. It was a joy to be used in those ways. Here, though, there is a new joy: the church hunt!  Yesterday, we tried out Ninth and O Baptist. It was full of people who were genuinely interested in where we came from and what God was doing in our lives. We sang hymns and praise choruses and  clapped along with a drum set (the drummer was probably older than my dad. It was awesome). In Sunday School, we talked about submission and divorce (see Mark 10). Then we ate with a big group of acquaintances at Culver's, which supposedly has better icecream than DQ. We'll see....
But best of all, for me the extrovert, was dinner at a friend's house...even though I still had to cook it! Josh was one of Ben's friends from orientation and is one of the most comfortable people I've ever met. Also, he owns every season of Gilmore Girls. Ben I think I found your best friend...

And today, Monday, begins the job hunt. Ben just left for class, so I think this is a good time for exploring on my own...