Thursday, October 30, 2014

Learning to Stop

Life has been a bit irregular.

Due to travel and transitions, I have seen my husband a total of 13 days out of the past 10 weeks.

Since October 1, I have slept in 7 different beds in 7 different cities and spent over 50 hours traveling by plane, train, and automobile.

And (much to our delight) some of our dearest friends came to visit us from the States, so of the 13 days that David and I have spent together, 3 of them were spent hostng a wonderful and generous family in our home. Yestderday, David went with those friends to Paris for a few days. He'll come home tomorrow.

So today I woke up at 6 a.m. (like I do every weekday), planning to spend an hour alone with the Lord, then go to morning prayer, followed by a 5 mile run. After that I planned to attend a small group and get busy with my homework and all of the ministry responsibilities that I have placed on the backburner. Oh, and I need to schedule a hair cut for Chandler, and take his watch in for repair, and..., and..., and....

Did I mention that in this time frame I celebrated my Dad's 80th birthday with family (Graham was there! So I hugged the stuffing out of him!). Or that my Mom had a total knee replacement followed by post-operative complications that landed her in the cardiac ward?

And then, two days ago, our clothes dryer stopped working.

Anyway, all of that is why I say, "Life has been a bit irregular."

Having Type A tendencies (read: DRIVEN) I just keep plowing ahead, resisting fatigue (no time for jetlag!) and denying the fact that I feel completely overwhelmed.

I tell myself things (half-truths, really) like, "Life is tough all over, suck it up, Buttercup. Nobody likes a whiner." The whole truth is, I am so afraid of appearing weak--or worse, failing--that I forget that my life, and all its craziness, is meant to be lived in surrender to God, not according to my own precious plans.

So, when I woke up at 6 a.m. to spend time alone with God, he spoke very clearly to me.

"Go back to bed."

"But God, I need to run!"

"No, you have been running, you need to rest."

"But God, I have JOB! There is ministry I need to do."

"You are taking a personal day. Cancel all appointments. Now."

"But God, I'll get behind in my classes."

"You'll learn everything you need to know."

"The sabbath is just two days away. You know I always rest on the Sabbath. I can make it two more days.

"When was the time you took a Sabbath?"

"September. The last Saturday in September. No wonder I'm tired."

"Go back to bed," God said. "And when you wake up, here is your agenda:

  • Write a Blog
  • Play a game with Chandler
  • Take Gemma on a Walk
  • Read a book
  • Crochet"

If life could be likened to a game of "Red Light, Green Light," I'd say I'm pretty good at "Go, go, go." I 'm still learning to "Stop."

Today I finally stopped. I went back to bed and slept until 10 a.m. I'm thankful for God who ordains rest.

For he grants sleep to the ones that he loves.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


David will arrive home at 13h00 tomorrow (and there was great rejoicing!).

Then four and half days later (113 hours, that is) I leave for 15 days (and there was great sadness!).

But while I am away, I will be attending classes at George Fox (rejoicing!), celebrating my Dad's 80th Birthday (rejoicing!), and seeing my first born son (great rejoicing!).

Meanwhile, I will miss Chandler's first round of Parent/Teacher conferences (sadness!).

And so it goes, the crazy, transient missionary life we lead. I live the life of which Dickens wrote in Great Expetations: "Pip, dear old chap, life is made of ever so many partings welded together"

So. Many. Partings.

Some temporary, some seasonal, some indefinite.

What do you do with the partings in your life? Do you resist them? Endure them? Embrace them? 

I can only imagine how the discples felt when Jesus told them that he was going away. I'd have cried like a baby. 

"Going? How can you GO?  We need you here! What will we do without you? Don't you care about us? Won't you miss us? Please. Please don't go."

And he left. With this cryptic promise: I will never leave you nor forsake you.

We know at least two reasons that Jesus left, after having conquered sin and death. He went to prepare a place for us, and he went so that he could send the comforter.

In preparing a place, Jesus says, "I'm going to make you a forever home" and in sending the comforter he says "I'm going to make your heart my home,"  

Jesus leaves to put an end to the leaving. 

And even today, should we be seperated from everyone that we love, he remains. His presence  can be found in every corner of the earth at every hour of the day. He is my constant companion, my faithful friend, 

But beyond that, Jesus, by the gift of his spirit, is the one who welds those partings together. In this, we can hold loosely to the ones that we love, trusting them into the capable care of the one who first loved us.

So I will hug my husband's neck these next four days. I'll gaze into his eyes, and listen to his heart, and hold his beautiful, scruffy face in my hands. Then I'll fly to Portland and eat cake with my Dad and laugh with my sisters and squeeze my oldest boy until my strength gives out. And then I'll fly back to France, and play games with Chandler, and run with friends, and kiss my husband again and again. I'll be wholly wherever I am, knowing that the Holy one is both where I am and where I am not--welding the partings together.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

My Bench

A bench sits in the entry way
To welcome weary guests
To beckon them to stop and stay
And linger in our nest

The bench is meant to bear much weight
For once it was a pew
Where faithful men and women prayed
And worshiped Jesus, too

But my son has another aim
For the bench that I love
And so the squatter has staked his claim
I fear he will not budge

Alas! Chandler a locker lacks
And so, as you can see
His school day lands in clumsy stacks
Upon my bench indeed.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


On Friday, the unthinkable happened.

I dropped my iPhone in the toilet.

I had put it in my back pocket, and when I went to use the facilities, well, it sort of slipped out and SPLASH!

After a moment's hesitation, I plunged my bare hand into the depths and boldly retrieved my sunken friend, somehow feeling grateful that it was, at least, my own toilet.

But the screen was black. He was already dead.

I removed the bionic casing that would have protected my phone had I dropped it from my upstairs window. And then, after some basic sanitation efforts, I placed it in a bowl of rice. All of the advice on the Internet suggested leaving the phone in the rice for at least 24 hours. I left it for 48.

When I finally pulled it from the rice, and charged it, I discovered that the sound was working, but the screen was completely blank. I could hear alerts and talk to Siri, but I could not answer calls or read emails or shuffle through music.

So I left it for another day. Still no change.

David, who knows my propensity for accidental phone destruction, had purchased the maximum possible insurance plan. "Just go down to the phone store, Jenn," he encouraged me, "They'll replace your phone."

This morning I stood in a crowded cell phone store, awaiting the assistance of the one and only clerk. When it was my turn I told him my sad story.

"I dropped my phone in the toilet."

He asked my phone number, looked up my insurace plan, and said, "All you have to do is tell me that this did not happen at home."

I stared at him blankly. "But it did happen at home," I said.

"If this happened at home, it is not covered by your insurance plan. If this happened anywhere else in the world, I can replace your phone."

"But I am not going to lie to you," I said, sort of astounded at this odd turn of events.

"Madame, just tell me this happened in a bar, and I will get you a new phone." Everyone in the store was staring at me, listening in on our conversation.

"Monsieur, it happened in my house. And I think it is ridiculous that the insurance won't cover it, but I will not lie about what happened."

So he silently handed the phone back to me.

"How much would a replacement cost?" I asked, exasperated. I had already been three days without a phone, and since we don't have a home phone it is my only means of contact.

"It would be 400€, the full price of a new phone. You used all of your points six months ago when you got this phone and so you won't be eligible for any reductions for another year and a half."

Ugh. I had gotten the phone for 1€ because of my points, and now it was going to cost me 400€ to replace it? Unbelievable.

"Is there any way it can be repaired?" I asked, defeated.

"When an iPhone falls in the water, it's over. There is nothing that can be done."

Five other customers stared at me, sympathetic.

I took my phone and walked out the door. Tears welled up in my eyes. In the past week I learned that our car needs an 800€ repair and there is no way I can afford a new phone this month, not even the most simple phone--seeing as I would be paying full price.

I sighed one of those prayers that has no words and started walking home. I inadvertantly glanced down at the dead phone in my hand, when all of a sudden, for no apparent reason, the screen lit up.

It 's fully funtioning; alive.

I'm thinking of renaming it Lazarus.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

No Other Name

My small group is reading through the book of Acts, and I was particularly struck by an incident in chapter 4. It is seriously making me rethink my prayer life, especially considering how I have been praying for the persecuted Christians in the world.

The chapter begins with Peter and John being thrown into prison for proclaiming that Jesus had risen from the dead. The most troublesome part of their message is the part that still incites anger today. Without compromise or apology, Peter says:
 "...there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
No other name.

For me, those words ring true in the very depth of my being, as the Spirit who lives in me testifies to the undeniable truth that only Jesus saves. I bear witness with Peter and John, not because my eyes have seen the risen Christ, but because my life has been changed by him. His redemption continues to work its way through me, bringing humility where pride once reigned, spreading mercy where brokeness once stung, nurturing compassion where hard-heartedness once resisted, shining hope where despair once lurked. No other name. I'm convinced.

But I can see how those same words sound like a battle cry to a world that has not known his peace. Such an exclusive claim is heard as a rejection rather than an invitation. And those who do not believe that apart from Jesus there is no other way, would clearly take offense at the audacity of such words. No other name.

We don't speak these words to taunt the world, we plead them as poor beggars who have found the bread of life. It's him! He's the one! And every other name will leave you hungry and unsatisfied. Please, taste and see! There's just no other name.

So Peter and John hold to their claim, repeating their offense before their very accusers, insisting that they can not help speaking about what Jesus has done. They will not be silenced, and not because they want to incite violence--no! Because they want to share the peace that Jesus brings between God and men. In fact, to be silent about the name of Jesus is to subject others to the worst violence ever. For the wrath of God, his holy, righteous anger, was unleashed on the cross. And Jesus, only Jesus, could endure it. No other name.

Peter and John are released. Because even their worst critics couldn't find them guilty of any crime.

They return to their friends, and begin to pray:
And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence, while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.
This is not what I would have prayed.

My first thought, my first-world, post-modern, prayer would have begun with a plea for protection! But they never ask God to protect them! They ask God to take note of the threats--and not to protect them as a result, but to increase their boldness and mulitply the evidence of his power!

And God answered immediately.

I have been praying for God to protect Christians from their persecutors. But I think that's the wrong prayer. Maybe I should be praying for God to enbolden his people--to bring them bravely out of their hiding places and to then manifest his power through them in amazing ways. So that the world will know that there is no other name.

Ah, but if I prayed that for them, would I be brave enough to pray it for myself?

Because even though my life isn't at stake, I have my own ways of hiding. I do, so often, seek my own emotional comfort and relational protection. I believe "no other name!" and I fail to proclaim it faithfully.

Lord, I want to speak your word with all confidence, while you extend your hand to do miracles in the name of Jesus, so that many might come to know your name. The name. Because there is no other name.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Seminary Week 2

Okay, okay. I'm alright! Don't panic. 

I am alive and well, just still trying to find the time and place to write blogs with so much verbal energy going into my coursework. Which, by the way, I love.

I love it, even if, at times, it makes me feel profoundly stupid. Take my discussion questions from my Missional Ecclesiology class. Four questions were asked, and we were required to respond to three of them. Each question (and I am not exaggerating!) took me like 15 minutes to understand. After reading the second question, my first impulse was to put it into Google-Translate. And then I realized the question was in English. Oi.

So David (dear beloved husband of mine) suggested that I post one of the questions and my response, just to give you a taste of the agony/ecstasy that is seminary. So, without further ado, here it goes. The question was based on Part II of An Introduction to Ecclesiology by Kärkäinen (whose name I can finally spell without looking at the book cover--but that alone was a feat!)
Describe Pannenerg’s position on individual vs. corporeal salvation. While some ecclesial traditions have long maintained the necessity of church participation for salvation, Protestants have historically championed individual salvation. Does the decline of Christendom arrangement in North America collapse the binary: individual vs. corporeal?
Did you have to reread that? Honestly, I know what every word in those sentences means, and I still did not understand it without great effort. And I've actually done the reading! So, anyway, here is my attempt at a response:
While most theologians prioritize individual salvation before ecclesiology, Pannenberg believes that individual salvation cannot be attained apart from the church because the church is the “bearer of the Spirit of God and God’s grace.” (p. 114) Furthermore, Pannenberg connects the idea of election to corporeal rather than individual salvation. In my opinion, the decline of Christendom in North America does not so much collapse the binary as ignore it all together. Pannenberg views the individual and the church as integrally connected, which would necessitate a binary understanding of salvation; however the North American church only speaks of one type of salvation (the individual). That is to say, while Pannenberg views the church as the elect, which gathers individuals, North Americans view the church as the place where the elect gather. 
I read the question to David and he laughed out loud. Then he said, "Jenn, you know everyone is basically bluffing their responses, right?" As the seasoned seminarian in  the family, I chose to take his word for it. Then I read him my response and he said, "Well, I don't know if it's right or wrong, but it sure sounds scholarly."

Well, I can bluff with the best of them!

However, such writing really makes me miss the sublime art of blogging, where I don't have to bluff because, as they say, the truth is stranger than fiction.

Speaking of which, why is that when David is away a service light comes on in the car, two sinks get clogged, the refrigerator starts leaking, the water bill is inflated by (no kidding) 2000%, and the scanner (which I need to use for my classes) decides to end its relationship with my computer? Oh, and Chandler thinks he has Strep throat, and now that he mentions it, my throat is feeling a bit scratchy, too.

Fortunately, Chandler's computer is still on speaking terms with the printer, so we scan my course work into his computer, and then he e-mails it to me. That's how this inductive Bible Study got turned in on time:

So given the fact that my life has been overtaken by seminary, I suspect that at least one blog post a week (for the next while) will pertain to my studies. But I'm gonna do my best to write at least one non-school-related post each week; I promise. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


Well, friends, it seems most of my writing energy is going into my course work! The sad thing is, I really have a lot I want to share with you, but I am simply not finding enough hours in the day. This has been a bit of a busier week for a couple of reasons. One, my main squeeze in the States, which means it's all up to me to keep the home fires burning. Chan is pitching in where he can, but he is swamped himself! Second, I've been teaching hermeneutics every morning this week to a group of budding French preachers, which leaves only the afternoons to get everything else done. Third, I'm trying to get a bit ahead in my studies so that I can steal away to Paris for the weekend. My sister is going to be there for just a couple of days, and I want to get to see her!

All of that to say, blogging is on the back-burner this week!

Oh, but if I had time to blog I'd wax poetically about one of the apostles' prayers in the book of Acts, I whine about a certain ecclesiology textbook (it's not that I can't understand it, it's that I can't understand why the author says things in such complicated ways!), I'd share some photos from David and Graham's trip to Montana, or I'd tell you about some of the things that are getting discussed in my classes.

Alas, I've got to get back to my reading Not that reading is a chore! Oh no. I'm loving every minute of it.