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Shalom, blogworld.

שָׁלוֹם (Shalom), blogworld.

That was too predictable, wasn’t it?


I just wanted to say hello.

My mind is still a bit muddled from the jet lag but the tiny fact that I can’t seem to make out a single coherent thought has never stopped me from talking heretofore so I shall proceed.

And besides, y’all are forgiving and this should help:

Just another thing I love about Atlanta: Octane cappuccinos.  By the way, what is the best cappuccino you’ve ever had?  That is a random but profound question for a Friday, don’t you think?  It just makes my entire week when the barista makes the little intricate designs with the foam.

Have I mentioned that I keep waking up at 4:00 in the morning hungry for hummus?

Yesterday I spent hours on end making this very basic video slideshow from my pictures from Israel.  My new hobby as of late is photography (and yes–it has taken the place of cooking for now).  Israel is quite a location for the photo enthusiast, let me tell you.  Please understand several things before you watch the slideshow:

  • 1) I am not Rich Kalonick, though he did walk me through several things via text message yesterday.  For the first time I think I fully respect the work he does when he creates the slideshows for the LPL events.  It takes more time and work than you might imagine. So thanks, Rich!
  • 2) The slideshow is quite long, running about twelve minutes. By no means should you watch the whole thing if you are bored to tears. You have complete control and you can’t say I didn’t warn you!  😉
  • 3) This slideshow reflects about 5% of the people and places on our trip to Israel. I literally whittled down 2,000 photos to about 200. Sadly, there was just no way to include them all here.  But on the bright side, if I had included all 2,000 the video would have been about six hours.

Having made this disclaimer, I do so much hope you enjoy it!

Israel Trip from Melissa Fitzpatrick on Vimeo.
Music added: “Beautiful” by Shawn McDonald & “I Stand Amazed” by Chris Tomlin.

Our trip was truly incredible.  I have some more substantial thoughts that I would like to share but I will get back to you with those ponderings when I am not in such a fog–hopefully sometime next week.

Have a wonderful weekend, Siestas! We sure love you!




Our First Day on Pilgrimage!

Hey, our darling Siestas! This is your happy but bleary-eyed Siesta Mama writing you from our first stop on pilgrimage. Melissa, the entire LPM staff (minus AJ and CJ), many of our volunteers (for whom this trip was thrown) and I made it to Tel Aviv about seven hours ago, loaded onto buses and headed a half hour’s distance to Joppa. (We are 100-strong) For those of you who are interested, this is the very place Jonah boarded a ship to flee from the will of God. It is also the place Peter raised Dorcas (Tabitha in Aramaic) from the dead. We do not know why she was named Dorcas. We hope it was not because her father was an infamous Dork of antiquity.

Perhaps many of you know by now that Curtis’s beloved maternal grandmother passed away suddenly the night before our flight so AJ did exactly what she should have done. She cancelled out on the trip and headed to Missouri with both children to stand by her man. We miss her so much and bear all the Joneses on our hearts as they mourn their loss and celebrate the absolute certainty that she is with Christ.

We will spend tonight here in Tel Aviv then load back onto the buses in the morning and head for Caesarea and Megiddo. Here are a few pictures Melissa has taken for us so far:

The beautiful coastal city of Joppa, our first stop on the trip.

The Mediterranean Sea

Our First Teaching Session overlooking the Sea:

(I got a little amused when I looked at this one. That’s Hawk standing up in the back. She’s keeping a good eye on her charge. That would be me.)

The Hebrew Text of Jonah which mentions Joppa as the town where Jonah boarded a ship for Tarshish in attempt to run from the Lord (1:3). (That’s Melissa’s Bible. Not mine.)

While we were in route, we came upon quite an intriguing sight. This is a gathering of Jews from one of the most orthodox sects in Israel. They are protesting a building development they believe to be upon an ancient gravesight.

And to make things more interesting , they were “helped” into a restricted area by some police.

Our sweeping view of Tel Aviv from the Hotel

We wish every single one of you Siestas were with us here! We’ll try to stay in pretty close touch. We love you!


Brunch, the # Sixteen & the Gospel.

Colin and I just dropped Mom off at the Atlanta airport.


I was secretly hoping the strong rains in Atlanta would last just a day longer so I could hold on to Mom for just a few more hours. And a cleansing of the final layer of inch deep pollen paste that has coated my car and bronchial tubes would have been a nice little bonus as well.

Colin and I took Mom to the Flying Biscuit in Midtown this morning for breakfast. We really wanted to take her for “brunch” but her flight was leaving a bit too early for such a special event. Brunch is a big deal to the wonderful folk in Georgia and I have become quite fond of it myself. Admittedly, I had to get over my initial aversion to the word “brunch” because it appears to be a combination of the word “breakfast” and “lunch” which sorta-kinda-I-mean-really gets on my nerves. I swiftly got over my petty annoyance, however, the first time those creamy dreamy shrimp and grits touched my lips. Enough about “brunch” though. Except for one more thing, the word “brunch” is far better than “bruncheon” on the velveeta scale. My cordiality comes to a screeching halt with “bruncheon”.

Back to breakfast. In predictable Beth fashion, Mom ordered the Flying Biscuit Breakfast with the Orange scented French toast on the side. Please note that the Orange Scented French toast is actually not a side dish but a full meal. While we were waiting for Mom’s several dishes to come out we were talking about really urgent issues, like how complex and intricate the Flying Biscuit motif was on this little ceramic jar.

If I have not said this on the blog before, by far my favorite time to hang out with my Mom is right after some kind of big event like a videotaping, Passion, Deeper Still, or a Living Proof Live. In this case it was the Simulcast that was evidently extended to over 300,000 women. By the way, I told my Mom yesterday never to utter a number like that to me again without a serious warning and that if she even attempted to introduce me during the second session of the simulcast, I would take her to court for her wrongdoing. As you can guess, Mom did not listen and it turns out there really are restrictions on lawsuits. But seriously, Mom is super fun to be with right after a big conference. For starters, right after a big event she hasn’t slept in about a week and so after she steps off the stage she plunges into a very advanced case of delirium. If I thought she could handle the stress I would use this priceless state for my own advantage and literally take her from the church directly to a venue for her to do stand-up comedy. Also, since her stomach is usually pretty weak right before she speaks since she doesn’t have much of an appetite, usually the first thing she says to us after a session is, “I AM SO HUNGRY!” Then we sit down at the table and she says, “I’m going to order sixteen things.” For some reason, she always uses the same number, sixteen. I’m not sure why she has this affinity for the number sixteen but she does and it delights me to no end each new time she throws it out there, almost like it is the very first time she has ever come up with this golden number “sixteen”. You can ask Amanda. I am not making this up.

My heart is so full from such a wonderful weekend. After Colin and I left Mom’s hotel last night and had gone on home, Amanda and I called my Mom three-way from my cell-phone. It was like 1993 sans landline. We talked and giggled and carried on and on about little snippets and stories from women we had encountered throughout the day until it was past Mom’s bedtime. When we hung up the phone I realized I had a giant lump in my throat. The Lord’s ways are truly remarkable.  His intricate and elaborate pursuit of each of us just blows me away.  Yesterday as I sat listening to my Mom’s message in the second session I noticed a woman a few rows behind me who quietly streamed tears the entire hour and a half. As I watched her emotionally absorb words that were far too weighty for her to bear without a physical response, the gospel in its most unadulterated form was preached to my heart once again. That God, in the cross of Jesus Christ, has forgiven us and brought us into fellowship with Himself is the most compelling news our ears will ever hear and our minds will ever conceive. That He esteems us and deems us valuable is just beyond comprehension. I mean, we’re pretty bad.  Okay, we’re really bad, and even a tad bit unlovable a lot of the time.

Paul told the Corinthians in his second letter, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our heart to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (4.6). God’s work in us through Jesus Christ is nothing short of a new creation. The same creator who sculpted the sun shined his very own light into our hearts by means of the knowledge of Christ’s gospel. This is not the kind of news one just sits and coldly anticipates with a forced half-smile but one that should be absorbed in a manner that cannot be controlled, contained, or folded up neatly like linens in a closet. I thank my dear sister who was sitting several rows behind me, wherever she is now, for reminding me how vast, enrapturing, and beautiful the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ really is. It is a profound experience to ponder the gospel anew in the face of someone who has just internalized God’s indescribable gift. The gospel is not safe and predictable, although we have most often rendered it such. It should turn every aspect of our lives completely upside down. Jesus has thrown everything utterly off balance. Perhaps more often than not the Gospel should completely undo us to the point that we cannot act altogether civilized. It sounds a little bit unsettling or even grotesque for those of us who are especially self aware but the bright side is that the community of God has been a peculiar people from the beginning, so we really don’t have all that much to lose.


Love is as Strong as Death: A Valentine’s Day Post

Dearest Blogworld,
It’s Melissa over here on the other side of the World Wide Web.
Do you even remember me?

It has been FOREVER.

I’ve missed you.

So, what have you been up to?

I’ve been translating Hebrew. And Greek. And more Hebrew. And then even more Greek. And so on and back again. For now, since it is LOVE weekend, I want to tell you about my Song of Songs class that I recently completed. Without a doubt, my Song of Songs class was one of the most fascinating courses I have ever taken. I spent the bulk of the second half of last semester preparing for this class alone. Why the bulk of my time? Well, because the Song is composed of 9.2% Hapax Legomena. Hapax Legomena are words that are only used one time in a given corpus. This means that about one in every ten words used in the Song have never been used anywhere else in the Hebrew Bible. This makes translating the Song of Songs, well,

__Fill ___in___the_blank__with__your__own__Adjective__.

By the way, Hapax Legomena would be a really fun phrase for you to throw around on a date. Super dorky and dorky can be super attractive, right? I wouldn’t leave you without some dating advice on Valentine’s Day! Grin. Anyway, since several of you have been asking me to share some of what I am learning, I thought I would take the chance to walk you through a segment of the text I translated for my final paper.

So let’s just get right to it. If someone hasn’t broken the news to you yet, the Song of Songs is what most Scholars call “erotic poetry”. For some of you this is quite a thrilling thought, for others it is crude and crass. For those of you in either camp, what do you make of your own personal reaction to the Song’s place in the Canon? Or maybe this is a better question: do you think there are any significant theological implications that could be derived from the inclusion of erotic poetry in the Bible?

Rumor has it that ancient Israelites were forbidden to read the Song unless they were thirty years old or married. Oh and by the way, if you are either offended or irritated by me right now, will you please do yourself a favor and close out this blog immediately? I don’t want to upset anyone on Valentine’s Eve.

Now that I am dealing with the remnant, let me tell you, when you slow down enough to really dwell on the metaphors in the Song, things get super heated. I once had a Professor at Moody Bible Institute teach the Song of Songs with a garbage bag over his head the entire class period. He had cut out little holes for his eyes and mouth. Now I know why. Anyway, as I’ve been translating the Hebrew through this class I’ve literally had to fan myself on several occasions. I wrote my paper on the intersection between the erotic poetry in Song 8.1-7 and wisdom literature, like Proverbs or Ecclesiastes, for instance. I won’t bore you with all the technicalities but I do want to share with you part of the message of the passage I worked on. Here is my own English translation of a segment of the text from the Hebrew (vv. 3-7)

3 His left hand is under my head,
and his right hand embraces me.
4 I charge you daughters of Jerusalem,
Do not awaken or arouse love,
until it desires
5 Who is this coming up from the wilderness,
leaning on her lover?
Under the apple tree I aroused you,
there your mother conceived you,
there she conceived you, she gave birth to you.
6 Place me like a seal on your heart,
like a seal on your arm,
For love is as strong as death,
Jealousy as severe as Sheol.
Its flames are flames of fire,
An almighty flame.
7 Floods are not able to extinguish love,
nor can rivers sweep it away.

The passage begins as the main female character, the Shulammite, describes her lover’s embrace in v. 3. She says, “His left hand is under my head, and his right hand embraces me” and then out of nowhere she gives the daughters of Jerusalem (and us, the reader!) a warning:

I charge you daughters of Jerusalem,
Do not awaken or arouse love,
until it desires.

There is a timeliness to love, she says. A right time and a wrong time. We must not prematurely awaken love. We don’t know what the consequences entail but we get the feeling there are indeed consequences. As the woman and her lover are walking away from the countryside from their private rendezvous toward the city they pass by a tree and the woman says, “Under the apple tree I aroused you; there your mother conceived you, there she conceived you, she gave birth to you.” That the woman has awakened her lover’s desire at the same place he was born hints that she has been bound to him all along, ever since he was born.

But having been bound to him from the past is not enough, for she commands him next, “Place me like a seal on your heart, like a seal on your arm”. In the ancient world seals were pressed down or rolled across soft clay to make an impression and that impression signified an association with or even an ownership of the object being sealed (Tremper Longman, Song of Songs in New International Commentary of the Old Testament, 209). When the woman commands the man to place her like a seal over his heart she is seeking to possess the man, or as Longman says, “to allow her to own him, but not in any cheap kind of commercial sense; she wants him to willingly give himself to her” (210). The seal imagery also suggests finality, for once her seal is placed on his arm and his heart, the impression is for good. She is seeking an everlasting love, one that has encompassed the past and promises the future as well. She gives the reason for her command in the next verses which are arguably the most famous in the Song:

For love is as strong as death,

Jealousy as severe as Sheol.
Its flames are flames of fire,
An almighty flame.
Floods are not able to extinguish love,
nor can rivers sweep it away.

Notice that she is not saying that love is a victor over death but that love and death are equals. She is not saying love is stronger than death but that love is as strong as death. Moreover, love and jealousy are allies in this verse, not enemies. This is strange, right? Not a line you would expect in a Hallmark greeting card. Love is compared to some dark images here. Indeed, some of the darkest images that the Ancient Israelite could have imagined: death, Sheol (the abode of the dead), flames, and even chaotic waters. The mightiest waters, the most chaotic cosmic forces, cannot extinguish love’s flames. What do you make of these kind of images and metaphors?

I don’t know about you but I can truly resonate with the woman’s desire to possess her man with a seal. When I was engaged I remember having this fear about what would happen when all the desire and anticipation started fading. It made me sick to my stomach to even think about. I would hear married women speaking about how it was an “act of worship” to be intimate with their husbands and I would literally feel ill. I would think to myself, is it really going to be that hard?! I had such a fear of the intensity of our desire fading that it made me dread marriage in a sense. I wished that I could have pushed some kind of imaginary hold button and frozen the intensity of our yearning for one another for the rest of time. Love is not only powerful in its budding but it is powerful in its fading or even the fear of its fading. To feel love and passion at such extreme heights is like being on a drug and to sense it fading even a notch is like a crash. Human love, like death, is mortal to its core and mortality is fickle. Colin might wear a wedding ring but my name isn’t inscribed on his heart and I have no promises that I will be the object of his desire for the rest of my life. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, I have his promise that he will remain married to me for the rest of time. I hear you. But I don’t have the security of knowing that I will forever be his one and only desire. And let’s face it, we’re just human beings. We’re human beings who are surrounded by a whole lot of men and women who have broken these same promises. It’s frightening stuff we’re talking about here. But, like the poet says, love is like death. And death is scary. Sexual love is one of the greatest triumphs of the human experience. Yet you and I both know (*or ourselves are*) people who have been scarred and marred by the tragedy of sexual love as well.

On Valentine’s Day, a “holiday” some of us love and some of us pass off as a silly day driven by Greeting card companies, we are supposed to celebrate the gift of human love, especially romantic love. And I ain’t gonna lie, I am a sucker for romance. Have I mentioned that Colin’s and my two year anniversary is on Tuesday?! You know what they say, time flies when you’re having fun. Romance is an incredible gift from God. Its power is true mystery. I’ll spend some serious time thanking God for the love of my life tomorrow.
But above all else, I’ll thank God for Jesus Christ because I know of only one feeling that is greater than being wanted and loved by my man and that is the rest and peace I have found in Christ’s scandalous love for me. The flame of his love for me can never be quenched. His desire for me is never dependent upon my youth or my (fading!) sexual allure. I don’t feel threatened but thrilled that He loves my beautiful female neighbor as much as He loves me. I don’t sense the panic to mark Him with any sort of seal because at last, He sealed me first. This isn’t about Colin’s love falling short in any way, shape, or form. This is about needing something more than any human being on this earth could offer me. Some folks call it a divine romance. I don’t have words for it. All I know is His refrain has been reverberating since He came in the flesh several thousand years ago to save this world He loved:
“You are my beloved, and I am yours.”

The mystery is great-

But I am actually speaking with reference to Christ and the Church (Eph. 5.32)

And although you have not seen Him, you love Him. (1 Peter 1.8)

Happy Valentine’s Day!

You are so loved.


P.S. Here are some semi-recent photos of Colin and me!
Remaining Photo Credit goes to Leigh Germy Photography…


The Real Deal.

Hello lady-friends!!!
It has been ages since I have been on the blog and I have missed you madly. I am so looking forward to seeing a handful of you this weekend in Houston! For now, I don’t have time or space to fill you in on all that I have learned in my Seminary experience thus far (oh but I will!) but I want to introduce you to a friend of mine. I’m certain that I speak for all of us when I say my mind and heart have been utterly consumed with thoughts about and feelings for Haiti. This earthquake and its resulting devastation in one of the poorest countries of our global community has been one of the most horrific events to occur in my lifetime and it has rocked me emotionally. One of the most helpful outlets for me has been a family I am acquainted with through Moody Bible Institute who lives in Northern Haiti. The updates on their website have taken what has seemed like such a distant event and brought it home for me. The wife, Pam, is exactly my same age and we went to Moody at the same time. I did not know Pam well enough but what I knew about her was that her face lit up the halls. She had a quiet confidence about her and a smile that warmed my heart every time she passed by. And that is saying quite a bit considering it was -15 degrees most of the times we ran into one another. But back to Haiti- Pam, her husband Matt, and their two little boys have lived in Haiti for three years. They work for Fellowship International Mission and are involved in discipleship and sustainable development. Oh, and by the way, Pam is 36 weeks pregnant. Did I mention that they live in Haiti? As I told my Mom on the phone several days ago- these folks are the real deal. I contacted Pam at the end of the last week and asked if she would be willing to write a short blog for us. I thought there would be no way under heaven that she would have the time or energy to do such a thing but she did it. Pam, it is a privilege for us to read your story. I mean it.

Please meet Matt, Pam, Silas, and Luke.

And again:

Just a boy’s life. An older picture I dug up from their website. Love it:
Look at her smile:

Pam’s story:

It had been a long, tough week. My boys were sick and for eight straight days it seemed like all I did was clean up puke and diarrhea, heat another pot of water to give Luke a bath, change Silas’ sheets again, and hold my 8-month-pregnant-self together when I thought I just couldn’t stand one more stench. The rain didn’t stop all week, which meant when you don’t have a washer or dryer, my piles and piles of laundry were not going to get clean—or dry! I was beginning to feel a bit sorry for myself, and at age 27, it was one of those days when you just want your mom!

It was Tuesday, about 4:30pm. My boys were finally feeling better, the sun was shining, and my laundry was drying! My husband Matt took the boys over to the central park across the street while I caught up on a few e-mails. I quickly wrapped up my work and hurried outside to join them, anxious to get some fresh air. After about 20 minutes the boys and I headed back to the house. As we were climbing the stairs, the house began to shake. Having grown up in California, I knew the drill. I snatched up Luke in one arm, Silas in the other and hurried to get under the nearest doorway. As we stood there for what felt like a long time, I second-guessed myself, “Hmmm, the rules might not apply in Haiti. Maybe this doorway wasn’t such a good idea.” Thankfully, the shaking slowed, we were safe, and there was no apparent damage.

I started on dinner and called a friend who lives about an hour away. The phones were down. Matt tried to get online—internet was down too. Little did we know that family and friends back home were listening to breaking news of a 7.0 earthquake that leveled Port-au-Prince, and were now trying to contact us to no avail.

After dinner, Matt ran out to an Internet cafe with a satellite connection to see if he could find out any news. I bathed the boys, got them in bed, and waited for Matt to get back—I was anxious to hear. The look in his eyes when he walked in the door said it all. His face was pale and he blinked back the tears that filled his eyes. “It’s bad, Pam. It’s really bad.” We talked for a bit and then he headed back outside to talk with neighbors and friends. I retreated to our quiet bedroom, picked up my Bible and read Psalm 46—how perfectly fitting.

The next morning it became apparent just how deeply our community was hurting. In Haiti, Port-au-Prince is not just the nation’s capitol; it’s the nation’s heartbeat. Wipe it out, and it’s only a matter of time before the entire country goes down. Water, gas, food…Port-au-Prince supplies the population with nearly everything. Furthermore, everyone has family and friends in Port-au-Prince. Outside, groups of people huddled around small radios to hear the latest news reports. The few that have television made it available for others to watch. Neighbors were desperately trying to call loved ones—still no word.

Helpless. So much need; yet feeling so helpless. Our neighbors were feeling the same way. We are connected to resources that could help, but how? Matt and I sat down that evening and racked our brains for ideas. We wanted to help our community, but as we continued to hear reports from Port-au-Prince, it became apparent that loading up a vehicle and heading there was probably not the best idea. So, we began coordinating an effort to get much needed supplies to those who are in Port-au-Prince and who are in a much better position to help than we are. Supplies will be gathered in the Dominican Republic and distributed to organizations (orphanages, hospitals, etc.) so that they can stay on the ground and keep their doors open to help. (For more info on this you can see our website:

I took the boys next door to see how our neighbors were doing. They brought me a chair, as they always do. No one was really in the mood to talk—I was glad because I wasn’t either. So I just sat with them. The matriarch of the family (affectionately known as “Big Mama”) was trying to call her son in Port-au-Prince as I watched my two play in the dirt. I knew she knew that I understood.

“Bondye pa renmen Ayiti” (God doesn’t like Haiti) is the word on the street. And though I know it is the furthest from the truth, I can’t blame them for feeling like that. From its beginnings as a slave colony, the people of Haiti have suffered and endured unimaginable tragedy, abuse and injustice. When you think things just couldn’t possibly get any worse in Haiti, they do. Time and time again, Haitians display their iron resilience, and somehow find a way to press forward.

These are the days they don’t prepare you for in Bible College. These are challenges I don’t remember hearing about in my missions classes. It was all so fun back then—translating the book of Jonah from the Hebrew text, studying the historical backdrop of Jeremiah, and understanding the literary structures in the Psalms. And yet, what do I say to my neighbor who believes that God has forgotten about them? And even if I knew what to say, who am I to say it? After all, I have a roof over my head, food to eat, clean water to drink, and…at the drop of a hat, I can get out of this mess and go back to the comfort of the US if I want to. If I offer them myself, I offer nothing. But if I offer them Jesus, I offer everything. For who better to understand their pain and suffering than He who endured the pain and suffering of the cross. Who better to comfort than the Father who watched his own son as he was crushed under the weight of the sins of mankind. Why He allowed it to happen? I don’t know. But in times like these, I can only cling to what I do know. And I know that He is good, and that His thoughts are higher than my thoughts, His ways higher than my ways.

On Tuesday, the boys and I will head back to the States. I hate to leave at a time like this, but baby #3 is soon to arrive! Matt will stay and continue to coordinate relief efforts for a few weeks. Please continue to pray for the people of Haiti. May they turn to the God of all comfort, to Christ the Savior, and to the Spirit who intercedes on our behalf.

Pam McCormick
Fort-Liberte, Haiti

The reason that I wanted us to hear Pam’s story is three-fold. First, I want us to continue to pray fervently for all of those who live in Haiti. Including Pam and her family. Though she is heading back to the States this week to have baby #3, the entire family of five will travel back to Haiti several weeks after the baby is born. Second, I wanted to share their website with you so that you can stay informed firsthand with updates from folks who are on the ground in Haiti. Third, Matt’s updates have dramatically helped me direct my giving; especially the post I encourage you to read his posts from the entire past week.
I love you all so much. You are an amazing group of women.
“For Thou dost light my lamp; The LORD my God illumines my darkness… For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God… (Psalm 18:28, 31a)

Wishing I could be the Pioneer Woman for Christmas



Tongue out in anticipation.



Hey Ladies,

This video from Catalyst has been floating around quite a bit today so a number of you have probably already seen it.


If you have not seen it, please give it a look. I bawled my eyes out. It is moving. [And there is a nice little shout out to my beloved Alma Mater] If you don’t have a whole lot of time start it up around 8:00.

I think you’ll enjoy hearing someone other than myself talk about Compassion.

I hope you ladies are holding up well and dodging all the germs out there. I’m on day 5 of the Fall nastiness virus. Never been more thankful to live next door to Blockbuster.

Love to you!


Catalyst 2009 Compassion Moment from Catalyst on Vimeo.


The Coffee Shop Hop

Hey Siestas!

Oh my word. It seems like it’s been a lifetime since I’ve talked to you girls. I wish I had tons of stuff to catch you all up on but I really don’t because all I do is read. Well, I go to class as well, but mostly I read. And I coffee shop hop. And you are thinking to yourself, “What is coffee shop hopping?” Let me briefly explain this phenomenon, though those of you in school will doubtless know of what I speak. It goes like this: In the morning one spends two to three hours at coffee shop number one. In the afternoon one spends two to three hours at coffee shop number two. And if it is a really crazy day, one spends as many evening hours as needed at coffee shop number three. Now yesterday was a three stop coffee shop hop day. [Say that ten times fast.] I was feeling a little defeated before the day began with all I had to do but it ended up being a delightful day. In the end, I realized I had found sketches of beauty in my mundane schedule. It went something like this:

Stop number one: Early in the morning I was at a modest little breakfast place ironically called “Sweet Melissa’s” getting my sacred first cup of coffee for the day. Sitting right next to me was a guy about my age with his grandfather who was so clearly ecstatic about going out on the town for breakfast. You could see it all over his face and not to mention he was dressed for an outlandish soiree at Gatsby’s mansion. As I gazed down at my book I pondered their sweet conversation. It didn’t take long for tears to well up in my eyes and make their way on to my page because I knew in my heart that this brief breakfast hour was the hour that one bow tie-clad man had been looking forward to all week long.

Stop number two: Mid-afternoon I made my way to San Francisco coffee and I noticed a Mom in her mid-thirties sitting at a table with her six-year-old son; she with coffee in hand and he with hot chocolate. I was amazed by their whole conversation. She was asking him all about his day at school. Questions about his new teacher and the students in his class. At times he would talk too loudly, stutter, or mispronounce various words but she never interrupted him or corrected him. Not even once. She just listened to him. Didn’t even look up from him or care about the rest of us in the room. They sat at that little table just talking and communicating for a solid hour. It was stunning. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything like it. I don’t know why it hit me so hard but I thought to myself, “I want to be like her when I grow up. She’s just cool.”

Stop number three: My third and final stop was at Starbucks. What can I say? I save the best for last. I was sitting in the corner of the store where I could not really see anyone else except a long line of people in my side view. A few minutes into my study I heard the Barista announce, “Hey pretty lady! Sit down, sit down…I’ll bring you some coffee!” I was kind of annoyed with the Barista thinking to myself, “Since when do the Baristas at Starbucks wait on tables when there are ten people waiting in line for their coffee?” So, I turned around to see who this woman was who was getting all this special attention, and to my surprise she was at least ninety years old. Then I watched in awe as this twenty-year-old Barista with spiky black hair and more piercings than I could count walk away from his counter where he had at least ten beverages to make put his arms gently around this frail woman. About twenty minutes later I saw them say good-bye to one another with beaming smiles and genuine affection. These two folks had very little in common yet it was clear they had formed a unique friendship.

I know these seem like small and silly gestures but in a world where it feels like people are too busy to interact with one another, these little things speak volumes to me. Sometimes I ponder the evil in us and among us and I wonder in my heart how the Lord does not look down from His holy hill and utterly destroy us all. Do you ever think that? Maybe it’s just me. Well, anyway…the point here is that other times I watch folks open their hearts and love other people, even complete strangers, and I think to myself, “Maybe these are reasons He doesn’t.” I don’t know. What I do know is that these three seemingly mundane interactions deposited a dose of hope in my heart. I just sat there in my chair at the end of the day and sipped those moments like one sips a hot Pumpkin Spice Latte with extra Whipped Cream. And let me tell you, they warmed this cold and cynical soul of mine.

Can you remember a time when you were touched by a simple human interaction? It doesn’t have to be newsworthy.

Love Triumphs,


Disturb Us, Lord

Greetings, My Ladies!
I just wanted to pop in and say a quick hello before I head off to my first day of classes. I’ve been in new student orientation the past several days but today is the real deal and I can’t wait! For those of you who care to know the details, I am working on a Th.M. (Master of Theology) in Biblical Studies at a local seminary just outside of Atlanta limits. This particular Th.M. is a one year advanced Master’s program for students who have already completed a Master’s degree within the field. There are only five of us in the Th.M. program! The program was right up my alley because it is primarily research oriented and I was looking for something that would help me really grow in my research and writing skills. Not to mention all of my Bible classes assume knowledge of Greek and Hebrew, so I will also grow further in my knowledge of the languages as well. Can’t beat that. My classes are the following: Romans, Th.M. Research Seminar, Exegesis of Mark, Christology, Theology of Isaiah and the Exile, and Song of Songs. Pretty sweet schedule, right? Oh, and did I mention that Columbia Theological Seminary is about ten minutes away…? That helped, too. Columbia is Presbyterian and since I am from a different denominational background it will make for a new kind of atmosphere for me. I am really looking forward to being a tad bit out of my comfort zone. Already I have met people from a very wide array of denominations.
We had chapel during orientation and so many things were different about the service. We had a liturgical reading and sang hymns I had never heard of and we did all this in a chapel with beautiful stained glass, a center aisle, and hard wooden pews. I took a few shots of the chapel yesterday because I thought it was so delightful.
But amidst all of the differences in the service, I couldn’t believe how many things were exactly the same. First off, the President of the seminary welcomed us during our chapel service with that old and very standard joke, “Welcome to Columbia Theological Cemetery!” If you have been to seminary, you know well how this joke is completely predictable and yet it works every time. Because, unfortunately, it is true. Seminary often ends up being a spiritually dry time unless a student is intentional about not letting it be so and this was exactly what Dr. Hayner preached about. His text was John 5.36-40, a text that has become so very dear to me over the years.
“I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”

The part that really gets me is “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life.” There was a long stretch of time during my first several years of theological education that I did not pray. At all. I sat in classes and sermons and rather than receiving the word of God, I listened for leaders to make a theological mistake. And then I would sit around with other students and we would talk about the theological mistakes and whatnot. And we did and said all of this in the name of piety. We would “humbly” explain how we revered the word of God and we didn’t want anyone distorting it or tainting it or mishandling it. Now, don’t get me wrong, those kind of statements are appropriate and noble but when you add a very hard heart, a critical spirit, and a lack of intimacy with God to it- well, it simply isn’t authentic and things go downhill. Very fast. Now this is not everyone’s experience but it was mine. For a season. Thank God He allowed me to live on. My Mom was the most instrumental person in my life in helping guide me out of that dry season. She would often say to me “this is not bearing good fruit in you, Darling… have you spent actual time with the Lord today?” I no longer had the love of God in my heart and it was starting to surface in the way I criticized and looked down on other people and in the way I neglected time with Jesus Himself (see John 5.42).
But the catch here is that during that dry season I was studying Scripture more intensely than I had ever studied it before. Yet I was no longer engaged with the One to whom Scripture points, Jesus. I was no longer receiving life itself. This is a good reminder for all of us who love to study Scripture and my heart leapt for joy when Dr. Hayner preached on this very issue during orientation. Those of us who tend to assume that our spiritual maturity is directly equal to how much Scripture we read on a particular day would do well to keep this verse at the forefront of our minds.
Now, I am not saying that a person can be spiritually mature without reading Scripture but what I am saying is that a person can study Scripture rigorously and not be spiritually mature. Indeed, Jesus said that a person can “diligently study” the Scriptures yet refuse to receive life in Him altogether. The difference here is profound and chilling. There is a right way to read the Scriptures and a wrong way- the wrong way is to read them spiritually detached from the One to whom they point. So, all this to say, I am looking forward to a year drenched in study of the Scripture but I am grateful for the warning and all I know is that I don’t want to go back to that dark place again.
I want to end this blog post with a poem that was also a part of our chapel service but coincidentally is a poem that one of my dear Professors from Wheaton used in his classes on the first day. It made me feel at home. You’ve probably heard it before but it blesses me anew each time I read it.

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.
[Sir Francis Drake]
The Library… where I’ll be spending the bulk of my time. It is a pretty nice sized library for a small seminary. The Librarian told me that almost all of the shelves are Bible and Theology!
The side view of the Library…
Have a great Thursday! It’s almost the weekend! Don’t you love four day weeks…?
Love to you,

I am begging you.

I am begging you to purchase and read “The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism” by Timothy Keller. I am not sure if I have ever mentioned this book on the blog or not… have I? If I have you might be annoyed but I remain at peace because it may just need to be reiterated. I just finished reading it for the second time and I loved it even more this time around. The first time around I was spending most of my energy processing and interacting with the content but this time I was able to sit back, relax on my couch and read it over a cup of chamomile tea and it has blessed me so. Dr. Timothy Keller is the Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. He engages culture and gospel in a unique way and he does it all with the heart of a Pastor.

Here is a sneak peak at just one little selection… I don’t want to spoil too much for you.
The doctrine of the Trinity overloads our mental circuits. Despite its cognitive difficulty, however, this astonishing, dynamic conception of the triune God is bristling with profound, wonderful, life-shaping, world-changing implications… Ultimate reality is a community of persons who know and love one another. That is what the universe, God, history, and life is all about. If you favor money, power, and accomplishment over human relationships, you will dash yourself on the rocks of reality. When Jesus said you must lose yourself in service to find yourself (Mark 8:35), he was recounting what the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have been doing throughout eternity. You will, then, never get a sense of self by standing still, as it were, and making everything revolve around your needs and interests. Unless you are willing to experience the loss of options and the individual limitations that comes from being in committed relationships, you will remain out of touch with your own nature and the nature of things. In many other places in this volume, I’ve traced out how impossible it is to stay fully human if you refuse the cost of forgiveness, the substitutional exchange of love, and the confinements of community… this world was not created by a God who is only an individual, nor is it the emanation of an impersonal force… We believe the world was made by a God who is a community of persons who have loved each other for all eternity. You were made for mutually self-giving, other-directed love. Self-centeredness destroys the fabric of what God has made… The universe is understood as a dance of beings united by energies binding yet distinct, like planets orbiting stars, like tides and seasons, “like atoms in a molecule, like the tones in a chord, like the living organisms on this earth, like the mother with the baby stirring in her body.” The love of the inner life of the Trinity is written all through it. Creation is a dance!” (selected from pages 215-217, 219 of “The Reason for God”).
Are you kidding me??
I love it.
Please bless yourself and buy this book or check it out from the library or download it on your kindle or borrow it from a friend or read it standing in the aisle at Barnes & Noble…whatever you have to do, try and make it happen. And then perhaps we can move on to downloading his sermons in the near future. Wink.
Also, please do not forget to pray for God to move mightily at Living Proof Live in Fargo, North Dakota!
Happy Friday Sweet Siestas!