Should I Feel God’s Presence in My Life?  

If you grew up evangelical, it’s likely you experienced the phenomenon known as the “camp high.” This experience would occur when your youth group or church made its way to a retreat center, or perhaps your parents sent you off to a summer camp. A few days into the week, when you were tired, hadn’t stopped sweating in 96 hours, and were certain that the friends by your side would be your best buds forever, the evening program would happen. A campfire, perhaps, or a stirring message from a stage, and before you knew it, every emotion you’d ever known was rising up within you, a symphony of feelings that you were sure could only mean one thing—this is what it feels like to be near God.

I have many memories associated with this kind of experience, most of them occurring at camps or retreats or on mission trips, moments sweet and safe and removed from the every day normalcy of life. Sometimes I would access those emotions in a smaller dose on Wednesday nights at youth group, or during a Sunday morning service, a certain song or message conjuring up a fiery commitment to God and His ways. How could I want anything else?, I would think. Surely, if He can make me feel this way, He must be the One to follow.

While experiences like this were peppered throughout my teenage years, when college and young adulthood arrived, they seemed to slip away quietly. I wondered, worried even, if I was doing something wrong when I could no longer access the emotional highs I had once known and associated with God’s goodness and presence. As I made my first decisions of adulthood—a degree plan, marriage, my first job, two summers on the mission field—I wondered where God was. I was quite sure factually, logically, rationally, that He was pleased with the road I was walking. But emotionally, I wrestled. Why couldn’t I feel Him? And what did it mean that I couldn’t?

Keep reading at iBelieve.

How to Respond in Times of Crisis

I sat in my favorite corner of our couch, knees pulled up to my chest. A few close friends were scattered around the room, eyes soft, questions gentle. We had been at an event together earlier that evening where words were spoken that caused a part of my heart to fracture. When I left the event as soon as possible, these women called and offered to come, to sit and listen or let silence linger. We did some of both.

Mostly, I rambled, at least that’s how I remember it. I remember tears and I remember closing my eyes as I spoke sentences of which I was embarrassed of, words that made me feel faithless and weak. But most of all, I remember the tenderness of the women gathered in that room, their compassionate strength that bore the weight of my sadness and anger.

When I was in crisis, the physical presence, help, and listening ear of others was critical. Never have I been so aware of the beauty of the body of Christ as I have been when I was dependent upon others to care for me, to support my family, and to pray and believe for me when I was losing my grip on the ability to do so for myself.

When crisis comes, many of us determine to buckle down, to believe that grit and fortitude will be enough to weather the storm. But what this often can mean is that we want to be strong, though Scripture tells us that God’s grace is made perfect in our weakness. We do not want to inconvenience others, though Scripture tells us to bear one another’s burdens. We want to think of crises as linear—as having a beginning, middle, and end, life returning to a happy “normal” after the fact–though Scripture tells us that we will have trouble in this world until Christ’s return.

Keep reading at iBelieve.

On Hopeful Resistance

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
~ Emily Dickinson

I am not sure that I have ever before read a poem that I adore so fully and disagree with so heartily all at once. I am not sure if that is even an entirely possible state of mind, but it certainly seems to be the one I am in as I read Dickinson’s rhythmic words.

I did not used to feel this way about this poem. Not long ago, I found it to be only beautiful, merely soothing, simply grace. “The thing with feathers” — what a gentle, calming thought. The idea that hope could swoop down, land within me, beat its little wings and fill me with hope, why would I want to do anything but wrap my arms around that idea, embrace it wholeheartedly, maybe set up a few directional signs for the little hope-bird so it would arrive faster? Come to me, hope. Fill me up.

While I haven’t abandoned this little imaginative figment entirely, I no longer find it to be enough. I never did, I suppose, since I am one who believes her ultimate hope is in Christ, that He is the only hope in life and death. But I did find that repeating those little mantras to myself, words of Scripture, of creeds, even of Dickinson, was enough to reinvigorate the little bird’s wings, sending him flapping back into my presence, into my soul.

Keep reading at Upwrite Magazine.

Hope in My Earbuds: A Tribute to the Gilmore Guys

Say what you will about Twitter (and we could all say plenty), but I’ll tell you this: it served as the launching point for one of my favorite little bits of happiness over the course of the past year. The bit of happiness wasn’t, however, a Twitter account, a meme, or a GIF (though each of those could serve as runners up). Rather, it was a podcast.

Twitter was the meeting place for Kevin Porter and Demi Adejuyigbe, twentysomethings in Los Angeles, California, who half-jokingly agreed to chat their way through the television program Gilmore Girls, record their ramblings, and broadcast them for whoever may decide to listen. The product of their Twitter-baked plan was Gilmore Guys, a podcast which lasted for three-and-a-half years, ending earlier this summer after rising to #39 of all podcasts on iTunes during its peak of popularity.

Full of silliness, special guests, and skilled analysis made possible by their own budding careers in LA, Porter and Adejuyigbe found the x-factor that so many long to find in creative work—they invited people into a place that felt like home. While their house was built on an existing foundation (Gilmore Girls), the walls and rooms were all their own. And before we, the fans, knew it, their “home” was one of our favorite places to drop by each week. We’d peer around the corners to see who else was there, smile, and stay awhile. In the beginning, we came for the Girls, but in no time at all, we looked up and realized we were staying for the Guys.

Keep reading at Christ and Pop Culture.

*Photo Credit: Gilmore Guys

Review: “The Curious Christian” by Barnabas Piper

It’s not often that I write “Bravo!!!” (complete with, yes, three exclamation points) at the end of a book’s introduction. The Curious Christian: How Wonder Enriches Every Part of Life by Barnabas Piper, however, led me to do exactly that. As unusual as that early display of endorsement was, though, it wasn’t the introduction to the book that hooked me. Even earlier than that, in the dedication section, Piper convinced me that this book was a treasure.

“For my mother,” he writes. “I remember lying on top of the luggage in the back of our Chevy Caprice ‘Woody’ Station Wagon on the endless drive from Minnesota to Georgia and listening to you read adventure stories for me to hear all the way in the back and reading so well I forgot how bored I was.’”

Piper goes on to list memory after memory of how his mother sparked curiosity in him, how she taught him, how she modeled a love of learning for him, how she shaped and inspired him.  Trips to the library, hours spent on sidelines of the football field, the kitchen radio tuned to Fresh Air by NPR or Prairie Home Companion, Piper’s mother showed him a zest for life. “I wrote the words,” he writes. “But the ideas are yours.”

Keep reading at The Influence Network.

What Friends Are For

I grew up in the era of the sanctification checklist. “Have you read your Bible today? Have you spent time in prayer? At church? Serving others? Memorizing Scripture? At Bible study?” The list goes on. Extra points if your youth pastor added, “Did you spend more time reading your Bible or looking in the mirror this morning?”

This guidance came from leaders who desired to see teenagers fully devoted to Christ, but it felt like a fifty-pound weight on my already burdened heart. I longed for the satisfaction of feeling right before God—and that weight on my chest only increased my zeal.

Maybe, I thought, some more marks in those checkboxes would help me become holy. Maybe I can check off the boxes before the weight crushes me.

Many praise the move away from this type of ministry, but I wonder how far we’ve really gone.

Keep reading at Fathom Mag.

How to Be Faithful and Focused in the Face of the World’s Pain

One of my first memories of my freshman year of college is the activities fair that was held in the student center. I attended a large, state university with tens of thousands of students, and hundreds of organizations had booths set up at the fair, inviting students to come and join their ranks. Despite having a relatively good idea of the types of things I’d like to be involved in, I was completely overwhelmed. There were so many good and meaningful things to choose from, and I struggled to know how to decide.

I’d like to say that I grew out of the feeling that there are so many things worth my time and effort that I may need to divide myself in two. But the fact is, as I’ve grown older, while I’ve found deeper passions and grown roots that I did not have had as a young adult, I’ve also discovered so many more possibilities. While I’ve learned more about myself and my specific calling in life, I’ve also learned about so much more of the world, so much more of pain and need, and I find myself wanting to step up and engage however I can.

So Much Pain in the World = Overwhelmed Hearts

I have a hunch that I’m not alone in this. Posts on social media these days seem to rotate between telling one another what we should or should not care about, and telling each other that we’re tired of being told what we should or should not care about. There is no shortage of opportunities to pursue personal development, to become a better parent, spouse, or friend, to learn a new skill, to read a new opinion, or to engage a new issue. As Christians, we ought to desire to live holistic lives that are not merely driven by love of self, nor by work, nor by play, but by worship and fullness and growth spiritually, mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Keep reading over at iBelieve.

pentecost.

pentecost imageOn January 1, I announced a new blog series here at Joy Woven Deep. If you haven’t seen that post yet, I encourage you to check it out, then come on back and join in the journey.

Pentecost
(also known as “The Feast of Pentecost”)

What’s this holy day all about?
“The Feast of Pentecost marks the arrival of the great Comforter and Advocate Christ promised when he left this earth: the Holy Spirit. As they gathered together for their own celebration of Pentecost…Christ’s disciples experienced a Divine sensation unlike any other they had ever known.” (Sacred Seasons Calendar)

Pentecost means “fiftieth day” and celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit. This is recorded in Acts 2.

What’s the history of this observance?
Pentecost occurred during the Jewish Festival of Weeks/Festival of Booths. “As with the term Pascha, in Pentecost Christians borrowed a Jewish term and applied it to their own festivals. Tertullian (3rd century) knew of Christian Pentecost, and the Apostolic Constitutions (4th century) speak of the Pentecost feast lasting a week. In the Western Church the vigil of Pentecost became second only to the Easter Vigil in importance. Eventually in the West, Pentecost became a Sunday set aside for baptisms.” (citation)

What’s it to me?
Pentecost gives us a taste of what Jesus meant when he told his disciples that it was better that he leave and the Spirit come. Rushing like a wind, the Spirit of God overcomes the gathered ones and they are filled with Him.

I’ve been in the church for my entire life, 28 years, but the Holy Spirit remains a mystery to me in so many ways. I think, in part, that this is good. But I also think that there are layers of Him that I need to press into further. The Holy Spirit makes us feel afraid, I think. We’d like Him to be a bit more caged, a little quieter. But I need Him louder, bigger, stronger. I need to stop viewing the Father and Jesus at one end of the table and the Spirit at the other. I want to press into their intertwine further, and better understand the Spirit’s function within the Trinity and within me.

So, boil it down for me, would you?
The Feast of Pentecost commemorates the day when the Spirit of God was sent to the people of God on earth.

So, how could we observe it?

Read the Daily Office texts here or via this app.

Read the Lectionary texts.

Pray the Collect for Pentecost: O God, who on this day taught the hearts of your faithful people by sending to them the light of your Holy Spirit: Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Rejoice! The pouring out of the Spirit is the creation of the church. The Spirit is what bonds the people of faith. Have someone over for dinner, text a fellow believer, thank God for the local church. Celebrate the chaos and the glory that is the body of Christ.

Sacred Ordinary Days Essentials Workbook and grow in your understanding of Pentecost and Ordinary Time season (which begins tomorrow) through the one page summary.

Offer up this prayer for Pentecost.

For kids: Read Acts 2 out loud. Find some great ideas here, including how to make an origami dove which represents the Spirit, and ribbon streamers which represent the “tongues of fire.”


I would love for you to join the conversation. Would you add your voice to the conversation via blog post comments or on the Facebook page and share your thoughts on these questions with us?

What are your ideas for observing Pentecost?

Which components of exploring liturgy and the Christian calendar are you thinking about this week?

Is this series serving you well? What are you enjoying? How could it improve?

From Him | Through Him | To Him,
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when there is wonder and worry.

Friday morning started abruptly, Jared calling to me from Gabriel’s room.

“Babe, I think I need you to come in here,” the slightest hint of panic, definite uncertainty in his voice.

I bolted in to see him holding Gabriel, a pale face, heaving. Something red was smeared all over his crib sheet. Was that blood? Oh, my God. Is that BLOOD? Gabe was lethargic, didn’t look like himself. I called my mom, threw on a pair of boots, and he and I bolted to the Emergency Room.

We walked in the door and I stammered through the complicated explanation with a patient, nodding along nurse. “We think there may have been blood in his crib and he’s heaving and there’s mucus everywhere and he has a neuro-genetic condition it’s like CMT but it’s not CMT but his pulmonary system could someday be affected we just don’t know and so we have to be so careful.” The nurse was exactly how you hope a nurse will be – gentle, swift, understanding, listening, keeping things moving right along. She made me feel not crazy. This is not the point of an ER visit, but it matters. When your inner voices are battling, one telling you that you are paranoid, ridiculous for even coming here, the other telling you that your sons lungs could be failing, having someone agree with you provides an inner ceasefire, if only for a moment.

We saw a doctor, had chest x-rays conducted, discussed Gabriel’s condition overall and his condition that morning and were they related? The conclusion was no, thank you Lord. The doctor was certain that what we saw in Gabriel’s crib was not blood, but that he had vomited something up in the night. I was unsure about his conclusion but it was ultimately confirmed about an hour later when we were back home and the vomiting episodes began (or, continued, I suppose).

It was just a bug. Just a nasty little stomach virus that’s “going around,” as they say, keeping folks down for a few days then leaving, letting us all get on with our lives and Clorox our bathrooms. It’s just that there was the chance that it may not have been, that it could have been so much more. It’s just that these moments, these moments where we don’t know, where that could be a normal childhood temporary illness or it could be a sign of things occurring, things to come, that will impact us forever, it’s just that these moments put our emotions through the wringer, call for so much resolve, require so much decompression.

We really are okay. We are so thankful that it was just a little bug, already a memory. We are so grateful for doctors who were understanding, who did not make me feel paranoid, who listened to my concerns and addressed them. But we, or at least I, am still in a daily battle with thoughts to take captive and what it is to be vigilant enough but not paralyzed by fear and how to receive the “normal” ruckus of life with children yet maintain the possibility that what we are facing in any given moment may be abnormal.

I feel this every time Owen complains of leg pain. “My leg hurts, again!” he will tell me. Growing pains, I’m sure, I think. Or is it? Or are the mutations having their way? Is his body trying to tell us something beyond the fact that he is three-and-a-half, sprouting up like a weed, and runs every chance he gets? So far, it seems that’s the full story. But every day, every time he wakes up in the night with calves aching, I wonder, I fight the wonder, I ask the Lord to hold it for me, because I do not know what to do with it on my own.

We all face uncertainty in so many areas of life. It’s an odd place our family is in, this awareness of how many unknowns we have. Sometimes I would prefer the ignorance. But there is a little part of me, brighter some days, dimmer others, which knows that all of this uncertainty, all of this “what is it?!” of which we are so painfully aware, draws us nearer to the One Who Knows all things, holds all things, the One Who, in Him, all things hold together. I don’t like how much faith all of this requires, most days. I really don’t. But I find that He is here, that the faith springs forth from Him, that even my ability to believe is not contained within my limited strength. So I will keep handing Him the wonder, keep offering up the worry. And He will keep meeting me here.

a few quick thoughts + excitement for tomorrow.

When I first started considering the possibility of crafting a newsletter, a somewhat nebulous fear orbited around me. I wondered if I would be able to produce enough material to blog regularly, work on book projects, pitch articles elsewhere on the internet, be engaged on social media and give the newsletter the attention it deserved. I don’t want to be tossing words out into the wind, filling your ears (eyes?) with more and more and more stuff. Heaven knows that each of us is inundated with “content” day in and day out, and sometimes, it’s just too much.

I have many thoughts on that problem of our era, and perhaps I’ll explore them more in future pieces, but for now, what I want you to know is this. I’ve found that life gives birth to life. As I write words which I am confident came from the Lord and share them with you, He seems to give me more to share, and insight into the best places in which to share them. Some ideas are book ideas, some are for the blog. Some questions fit better in a devotional than a newsletter. Some links are better shared on social media than anywhere else.

This discerning, life-giving spirit is the one in which I’m learning to dwell, and I’m so thankful for how I can see the Lord guiding me in it as I craft April’s newsletter to release tomorrow. I want you to know that it’s written from a place of authenticity, joy, and reality, and that it was written with you in mind, your heart and mind and needs and desires. I’m so excited to see what you think about it.

Make sure you receive Carefully Curated, the Joy Woven Deep newsletter, by signing up here. I can’t wait to give it to you!

From Him | Through Him | To Him,
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