Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Shameless Plug

This is a shameless plug for my friend Rob. He is an incredible photographer and is selling his photos to raise money to go to Africa. These pictures are absolutely amazing (and so is my friend!). Look at them here. If you decide you're interested in ordering some prints, e-mail me and I will give you Rob's contact information and prices.

Friday, December 08, 2006


"Advent is the beginning of the end of all in us that is not yet Christ." -- Thomas Merton

Once again, Thomas Merton has arrested me with his words. These sixteen words have been haunting me for a few days now. I am not struggling with their meaning. It is pretty straight-forward, don't you think? This season we love so much because it "prepares us for the birth of our Savior" and the joy of things to come (i.e. - that Christ will come again) is even more than that. Advent is not just about waiting expectantly for our Savior, it is about dying to ourselves and becoming more like Christ. If it sounds more like Lent to you, I would say you are not alone. But I find myself convinced of and convicted by Merton's words about this season.

If Advent really is about preparing ourselves to celebrate Christ's birth and anticipate his return, what Merton said must be part of that. This season must be the start of something deeper in us personally. As we celebrate His birth, we must celebrate our death. Only in death to ourselves can we experience the light and life that Christ brings. Only when we come to the end of ourselves can we begin again with Christ.

I love Advent more every year as my understanding of it grows. This quote from Merton is challenging, but I like it. I think there's real truth in his words. Any thoughts?

Renewal and Refreshment

I just returned from a college ministry conference at The Woodlands UMC in Texas late last night. This morning I find myself both very tired and completely refreshed. The conference was aptly titled "Refresh 2006." This is exactly what happened for me in just a few short days. I feel spiritually, personally, and professionally refreshed and renewed.

The conference afforded me the opportunity to reconnect with some friends from seminary and establish some new connections. I was also able to spend a significant amount of time with a professor and friend of mine who consistently speaks God's truth (which is both encouraging and challenging!) into my life. She breathed new life in me in the time we spent together. For this I am most grateful...

I also found the speakers and seminars at this conference to be very helpful. Most of the people who spoke or taught were others who are in the trenches of college ministry as well. I found their knowledge compelling and challenging and their authenticity refreshing. It was wonderful to be around such knowledge and humility.

I had a wonderful time in Houston this past weekend...wonderful. I reconnected with Jesus, dear friends, and new friends. And I reconnected with myself. More on this later...

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Living Free

"If God is God at all, he must know more about our needs than we do; if God is God at all, he must be more in touch with the reality of our thoughts, our emotions, our bodies than we are; if God is God at all, he must have a more comprehensive grasp of the interrelations in our families, communities, and nations than we do." -- Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

The excerpt above comes from the fantastic book I am working through with my discipleship group here at Auburn. I am loving this book because it is thought-provoking and contains inescapable truths gleaned from the "Psalms of Ascent" in the Bible. I have been living in the Psalms as-of-late and have found this second read of Peterson's book to be so helpful. I encourage you to grab a copy today. You can find used and new copies online.

This particular excerpt comes from the chapter on service. The beautiful thing about the way Peterson thinks is that he always surprises you. His chapter on service (and Psalm 123) is more about freedom than anything else. He speaks a lot about how we as Christians talk about freedom, but not many people "feel or act free" (65). Why is this? Why do we continually allow ourselves to be enslaved by other people or things (legalism, money, etc.)?

One of my favorite hymns is "Make Me a Captive, Lord" by George Matheson. It is not a hymn you hear everyday, but the words speak right to the heart of what it means to be a Christian. To be a Christian is to be held captive only to Christ and not to the thousand other people and things that seek to enslave us. The first line says it all, "Make me a captive, Lord, and then I shall be free."

I long to be held captive only by Christ and to really live free. Free from so much concern about what others think. Free from legalism. Free from the temptation to judge or compare myself to others. Free from the idea that I am somehow Lord of my own life or that I have all the answers. Free to live fully in the knowledge that God is God and I am not and that is a good thing. This is what God desires for me and for you. I pray each day we move a step closer to the full realization that it really is "for freedom that Christ has set us free" (Galatians 5:1).

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

My Cup Overflows...

I have been in Auburn for a little over four months now. I think it is safe to say that these have been some of the most amazing and most challenging days of my life. I absolutely love my job and the students I have the joy of working with each day. It has been a rich experience for me so far and I am confident the Lord led me to this place. I am reminded of that almost daily.

But...it is to leave a place like Asbury where community is practically a part of the curriculum and come to a place where I know no one. I am realizing only now what a unique place Asbury is and what a beautiful thing (imperfect as it is/was!) the community is there. I miss the friends I made there everyday.

It has been a rough road for me here personally. I have never felt loneliness the way I have felt it here. There have been many tears and many lonely nights. Outside of my job, I really know no one. I am making friends with some people in my Sunday School class, but it is a slow process.

However, in the midst of the heartache and tears (and there have been many tears...), I have encountered God in some unexpected ways. Old friends I haven't talked to in ages have randomly written and/or called me and all of my friends have been so good to me from a distance.

I have been reminded that though I know no one here, I am known. I am known by God and loved in spite of me. He delights in me and he can and will take care of me. I am known by my family and loved more than I deserve. I have the privilege and honor of knowing and being known by five of the most exceptional people in the world (and two nephews that are equally exceptional!!). May that not be lost on me. Finally, I am known and loved by people in Arkansas, Ohio, California, Kentucky, Louisiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Nevada, Zimbabwe and so many other places. These people encourage me daily with their prayers and love me deeply.

My cup overflows...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Praying Hands and Feet

"The most eloquent prayer is the prayer through hands that heal and bless. The highest form of worship is the worship of unselfish Christian service. The greatest form of praise is the sound of consecrated feet seeking out the lost and helpless." ~ Billy Graham

Poverty of Spirit

This week at Auburn Wesley Foundation we are deep in a season of discernment as to where God is leading us for missions in the coming year. There is a team of five students and the director who have been meeting for a number of weeks to pray about the direction we believe we should take. It is a beautiful thing to behold how this decision is approached with such tenderness, care, and prayer. I am humbled to be a part of it all and confident that God delights in such diligence in prayer.

Part of the preparation for opening up the process to the whole fellowship was a mission-oriented worship service on Sunday night. It was one of the most incredible worship services I have ever been a part of as a participant or otherwise. Two students shared about their experiences last summer in different locations (Ghana and Bolivia). Both did a beautiful job expressing what they learned, giving glory to God with each story of his faithfulness and their increase in trust. These two have remarkable depth...and now I know more of why!

One of the students shared something that provided the subject for this blog, "Poverty of Spirit." He spoke of how his experiences really stretched him in new ways and caused him to take a long hard look at himself. He read the following passage of Scripture...

"Yet I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer; O my God, do not delay." -- Psalm 40:17

He reflected on how he never really wanted for anything physically in this life. He could not relate to the people with whom he was working in their poverty and need. He realized his poverty was a "poverty of Spirit."

I didn't hear the next few things he said (sorry Joe!) because I found myself in that phrase and in Psalm 40:17. I have never wanted for anything physically, but I know what it is like to live in "poverty of Spirit." I don't want to live there, though. I want to live where the psalmist lives, in a place where all I want is for the Lord to "think of me" and know that he alone is my help, my deliverer, and all I want and need.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Still Learning

I went to see Donald Miller and Derek Webb last Tuesday night in Birmingham, Alabama. Let me begin by saying that I got there at the end of arguably one of the longest and most frustrating days of my life. I talked myself in and out of going all day long. I knew I wanted/needed to go. It didn't take long for me to remember why once Derek Webb began singing.

Derek Webb is amazing. I have enjoyed his music since the early Caedmon's Call days. This is due largely to the fact that he is a lyrical genius. It is not because he is smarter than the rest of us, though...so, genius might not be the right word. It is the best I can think of to describe him right now. He writes what everyone else feels and is afraid to say. I dig that about him.

His music is sometimes comforting (love/lament songs like Just Don't Want Coffee and Somewhere North), but mostly challenging (Wedding Dress, Lover, etc.). I am captivated by his voice, his lyrics, and his heart. He is incredibly honest about the struggles of faith and learning to love as Christ loved. It is at once convicting and encouraging. Last Tuesday was no exception.

I went to see Derek Webb. Donald Miller was just a perk. He is equally as honest and raw, just with words instead of song. Both inspired and challenged me more in two hours than I have been in a while. I loved it and am still processing it. As I make sense of it, I will post more and more.

For now, let me just say I am struggling to love as Christ loved, too. The more I reflect on how much Christ loves me in spite of me, the more I am able to love others. Some days are better than others...

Monday, October 16, 2006

Drawing a Blank

I don't have much to say today, but I felt the need to post something to make my faithful few readers think. I am heading to B'ham tomorrow to see Donald Miller (Blue Like Jazz) and Derek Webb. I imagine I'll have something to say after hearing from these two phenomenal people. Until then, I'll just let Derek speak for me. If you can be both eloquent and raw, I believe Derek Webb to be both. This song is haunting me right now. If you want to hear it, it is on his album Mockingbird. The entire amazing album is available for FREE here. Enjoy and reflect...

rich young ruler

poverty is so hard to see
when it’s only on your tv and twenty miles across town
where we’re all living so good
that we moved out of Jesus’ neighborhood
where he’s hungry and not feeling so good
from going through our trash
he says, more than just your cash and coin
i want your time, i want your voice
i want the things you just can’t give me

so what must we do
here in the west we want to follow you
we speak the language and we keep all the rules
even a few we made up
come on and follow me
but sell your house, sell your suv
sell your stocks, sell your security
and give it to the poor
what is this, hey what’s the deal
i don’t sleep around and i don’t steal
i want the things you just can’t give me

because what you do to the least of these
my brother’s, you have done it to me
because i want the things you just can’t give me

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

...as ourselves

I have really been thinking about the commandment in the NT to "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 19:19). I posted a quote a few days ago (see below) that started me on this path. I love what it says. I am a person of prayer and have learned the truth of such a statement in my own life. There really is nothing that causes us to love another person more than interceding for or joining them in prayer. When we really pray for another person (friend or enemy) we learn to see them through a different lens. We learn what it means to really love our neighbor...or at least what it means to see them as such. This has been proven over and over in my life.

The other part of this commandment is something we often overlook. It clearly says, "Love your neighbor as yourself." It occurred to me that we focus a lot on the first part...loving our neighbor. We tend to skip right over the as yourself. That has to stop.

One of my favorite professors in seminary, Dr. Chuck Gutenson, called me on this very thing. I would always begin my questions or comments in class with "This might be stupid, but...". In the middle of class one day, he completely called me out. "Julie, you have to stop. You have got to get rid of this "preamble" of yours. Self depreciation is not a kingdom value."

"Self depreciation is not a kingdom value."

He was/is right. It is not of God for us to put ourselves down. That is like calling God a liar. We were created "in his image" (see Genesis 1:27). If we are going to love each other, we have to start with ourselves. The "as ourselves" is an important part of that commandment we know so well. Let's start living it now...

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Loving our Neighbor...

"Intercessory prayer might be defined as loving our neighbor on our knees." - Charles Brent

More thoughts on this in the next day or so...stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Fighting for Joy

There's a sign in my office that reads, "Find Joy in Every Journey." It is one of those signs that finds a place in your home or office and in your head. It follows me around everywhere. It is usually an encouraging and uplifting thought that carries me through the day. A subtle reminder that joy is not dependent on the circumstances of my everyday. Yesterday was not one of those days.

When the phrase popped into my head on my drive home yesterday, I was annoyed. The best response I could muster was to shake my head and roll my eyes. I tried to dismiss it, but the idea kept resurfacing in my head. I could not shake it.

What does it really mean to "find joy in every journey"? I know I should, but most of the time I find it almost impossible.

I find myself reading the Psalms almost daily and I see that they were able to do it. Chapter after chapter offers a prayer that begins in difficulty but almost always ends in praise. I read the words, but they don't take up residence in my heart. I read that "those who seek the Lord lack no good thing" (Psalm 34:10), but I doubt it. How do I move from knowing it in my head to experiencing it in my heart and life?

As I wrestled with this idea of "joy" yesterday, a new thought crossed my mind. What if joy is not so much something we "find," but something for which we must "fight"? Joy is not missing when life seems difficult, we just have to fight for it during those times. I think that is what Nehemiah meant when he said, "The joy of the Lord is your strength." Things will inevitably get difficult and joy will be hard to see, but fight for it! It is within you...and it gives you strength no matter your circumstances.

To fight for joy is to rehearse what we see in the Word over and over again. What we see is that God has a history of helping his people. The psalmist knew it. James knew it when he told us to "consider it pure joy" when we encounter difficulty (1:2). And we know it, too...we just have to "fight" for it like they did.

The sign in my office should read "Fight for Joy in Every Journey". Even thought it doesn't, I think I leave it hanging in my office. It will serve as a subtle reminder to me to fight for joy in my life, always rehearsing in my head God's history of helping his people.. And that is a cause for joy.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

God Likes Us

June 12, 2006

"God likes us and wants to be near to us, so he became one of us and lived among us and eventually will return so we can all live together." - Dennis Kinlaw

I ran across this in my devotional recently and thought I'd share it. It is a beautiful and shocking idea...that God likes us. Do we believe it?

Something Inspiring

I ran across another fantastic quote in my reading this past weekend. It comes from Frederick Buechner, a remarkable preacher and writer. Enjoy. Reflect. Share. :)

"We search for a good self to be and for good work to do. We search to become human in a world that tempts us always to be less than human or looks to us to be more. We search to love and be loved. And in a world where it is often hard to believe much of anything, we search to believe in something holy and beautiful and life transcending that will give meaning and purpose to the lives we live." – Buechner

Breathless Expectation

May 1, 2006
I am a woman of words. I love old quotes and prayers. I collect them. I have found this running collection of quotes to be both inspiring and encouraging. It is a practice I sort of stumbled onto and one I'd recommend to anyone. Its difficult to give into despair when you have a thousand quotes tucked away in a book and/or your memory that inspire and uplift.

My phrase-of-the-day comes from My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. A number of quotes from this timeless devotional replay in my head almost daily. This one promises to be no different.

Breathless expectation.

The quote was passed along to me by a friend who knows well my bent for worrying. Chambers speaks of gracious uncertainty and the idea that certainty of God means uncertainty in life. Gracious uncertainty that gives way to breathless expectation.

I want to live now in the gracious uncertainty and breathless expectation of abandon to God and His plans for my life. I long to live in the joyful uncertainty and expectancy that knows and trusts that God will take care of me. May it be so...

Infinite Faithfulness

April 12, 2006

I ran across this thought just the other day and am passing it along to you all...

"Live in what must be. Do not live in your human imagination of what is possible. Live in the Word - in the love and infinite faithfulness of the Lord Jesus. The faith that always thanks Him - not for experiences, but for the promises on which it can rely." - Andrew Murray

This just jumped out at me..."live in what must be." And what is that but the love of the Father, poured out to us in the body and blood of His Son? This is a timely word in light of what is days away...Easter. I love the idea of the "infinite faithfulness" of our Savior. What a beautifully worded truth from a Saint long gone (Murray)!

May you experience the reality of his deep love and unending faithfulness this Easter and throughout the year ahead. May your heart overflow with gratitude as you reflect on His faithfulness in your own life...

"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope that we profess, for He who promised is faithful." - Hebrews 10:23

Falling Down

April 5, 2006

so, i fall down a lot. those that know (and love!) me well are wondering why i feel the need to say that. it is common knowledge. i am a clutz. my friend rob says that i fight a losing battle with gravity daily. mean...but true.

my most recent spill happened this past weekend in LA. here i am in the trendy-city and i cannot even walk a straight line. as i fell forward, my friend craig just laughed at me. i do not blame him...it was probably quite hilarious to watch. and i am sure that someone famous like matthew mcconaughay was lurking in the shadows laughing at me. in an effort to make me feel better, my friend says that i probably blend right in with the countless drunk people walking the streets. again...mean, but true.

as if this isn't enough...he continues. he tells me he thinks the reason i fall down so much is because i have a freakishly long second toe i tell him that this is a sign of "dominance" and "wisdom." he thinks this is a load of crap. i am inclined to agree.

i share this little story to let you know that i continue to fight that losing battle with gravity and to give you a cheap laugh. i also share this because this particular fall and my friend's reaction to my spill got me thinking about the ridiculous platitudes we share with each other. like the idea that a long second toe is a sign of wisdom. so what? some guy who has nothing better to do but study feet decides this? it is probably not true.

what is true is that i do fall down a lot, i have strange feet (that are also a size an a half different from each other...), i am quirky, and i am sometimes difficult. these are all things that my friend knows about me...and he loves me anyway.

i did not intend to wax poetic or anything...i just wanted to share another funny julie-story about falling. alas, though, this is another one of my quirks. i am a cheeseball. i say all of this to say thanks to you people who call me friend and put up with me.

that is all...


I ran across the most incredible quote today...

"The awful thing is that beauty is mysterious as well as terrible. God and the devil are fighting there and the battlefield is the heart of man." - Dostoyevsky

Something to think about...

Monday, September 18, 2006

Entering the Dance

I love dancing. I am absolutely horrible at it, but I love it. I really love to watch it when it is done well. I am a fan of that show "So You Think You can Dance?" and I don't even like Reality TV. Dancing just inspires me. Something in me comes alive when I watch really good dancing. I think somehow it is because these dancers are...free. Whatever the form, they are free. The best dancers aren't just dancing, they are expressing something deep within through creative movement. I am captivated by their movements and what is being said without words.

I chose to call my blog "Learning to Dance" because I see dancing as a metaphor for my life. Those that know me will not be surprised to learn that the inspiration for this title came from a quote I acquired. The quote appeared on a card some friends of mine gave me.

"The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware: joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware." - Henry Miller

This quote conjures for me images of someone dancing (in the rain, perhaps!) and genuinely enjoying life...the ups, downs, and day-to-day of it all. This is who I want to be. Someone who lives and dances through life. This blog is just reflections on that. Enjoy...and enter the dance!