Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Happy Birthday Reed!

Today Reed is six years old! Wow!

Reed is the most amazing little boy! Even in my womb, he was constantly active. Then, at birth, with only two pushes, he was here. I laugh when I remember it, as it seemed he was saying, "There's no way I'm waiting for you to push for hours. Let's get this party started!"

And a party it has been! Reed is a delight -- from his appearance, with golden hair and a huge smile that radiate warmth, to a spirit and energy that do the same. He brings much life and great joy to this family!


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Wrestling With God

This weekend Tim and I were fortunate to attend a one-day conference in Chapel Hill, NC, with Dan Allender. A counselor, writer, and teacher, Allender is also presently the president of Mars Hill Graduate School in Seattle. We've read several of his books (To Be Told, How Children Raise Parents, The Intimate Mystery...) and are great fans of his writing and his teaching.

The conference was titled "Wrestling with God: Jacob's Story, Our Story," (read Jacob's story in Genesis 26-50) with the tagline, "What if you could lead and live in relationship with God and others in passionate, life-changing ways?"

As I look back over my notes from the day, a mere three sessions, I am amazed at how much Allender taught, the questions he raised, the truth he offered for consideration, the stories he told. At times, I felt as if I was clinging, just trying to stay with him, as his words were so thick with meaning I couldn't possibly absorb the impact and implications of them all in such a short period.

So much good stuff I'd love to share...about how God works through our weakness, intends to rouse our desire, and values relationship with us. But I want to share a bit of what Allender said about "Calling," as that is one idea that Tim and I have been pondering for a while now. As I write, though, I see that it all weaves together...calling, wrestling, desire, relationship.

Consider this: "What is your calling on this earth? All of us are meant to reveal God through our character. What does this mean? You have a role to play on this earth, and when you live out your character, you reveal the character of God."

Allender asks, "Do you spend time studying you and how God has made you? The repetitive themes that show up in your life? Have you been wrestled to the ground by your own story? If not, then you want to be a part of God's plan from a safe distance. If you want God, it is a bloody affair -- God mugs those he loves and provokes us to open our hearts to desire."

"Wrestling with God takes you to his blessing: He chooses to bring something beautiful in spite of you, for you, for others, and for Him. It is in our brokeness and weakness that we reveal God's strength and his glory. So the question is -- Will you participate with joy in being used by God?"

I left the day with so much to ponder, but this one overwhelming thought: the God of the universe, who pursued Jacob -- as flawed as he was -- and gave him a new name and a blessing, pursues us as well. He still pursues, he still speaks, and he wants to bless us and give us a new name. As Allender says, "Every story in the Bible is OUR story -- they don't just have an effect on us; they are OUR story. Our lives have crossroads written by God to invite us into a mugging -- God is trying to wake us up."

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

— Wendell Berry

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Screamer

You're probably well aware that I'm not an adventure junkie. I like my feet firmly planted, to obey the speed limit, and to remain well in control of my situation. So, something called "The Screamer" normally wouldn't attract me. But on this, my third time to Frontier Ranch, I knew it was something I had to do. It wasn't my first attempt. Two years ago when I attended Captivating with my friend Jinda, I stood in the line with her, waiting to do The Screamer. After watching one pair of ladies do it, I said, "Who am I kidding?" and walked away.

Let me explain: The Screamer is a massive two-person cable swing situated in a grove of trees, with a clearing just wide enough to pass through. To do it, you don a harness and helmet, climb up on a platform (I wish I knew how high...let me just say VERY HIGH), and get tethered to a partner. A plastic swing (much like on a child's swing set) is put underneath each of you, a rope is attached to the front of your harnesses, and you hold on to a trapeze bar with both hands. And then, on the count of three, you both step off the platform into thin air.

Why? Good question. Many ladies assured me "It's great, fun, a blast, ...." And so I suppose that is why many folks do it...for the thrill. Well, as I have already explained, I'm not a thrill seeker. But I felt, as I approached this fourth Captivating, that God wanted to continue deepening a work He began last year when I was at the retreat -- the whole idea of living fearlessly. And I knew that The Screamer was part of this deepening.

So, Thursday afternoon, with much trembling, I donned my helmet and harness and climbed alongside Jennifer (and dear David from Young Life) to stand on the edge of a platform high in a grove of pines. David counted "3...2...1..." and I stepped off into thin air. For a moment I felt like I was hovering, and then gravity took hold and we plunged, WHOOSH! (See photo, Susan on left; Jenn on right.)

I wish I could say I enjoyed it, that I am transformed into an adventure-loving woman. But to be honest, I will NEVER do it again. I was TERRIFIED and confess I kept my eyes closed almost the entire time (except when Jenn told me it was safe to open them. Silly me, I trusted her and found myself face-to-face with the trunk of a pine tree -- no truly, what an amazing friend to take such a leap by my side!)

But, in retrospect, I don't feel disappointed that I didn't love it or ashamed that I couldn't open my eyes. I realize that the whole experience was about this: "3...2...1...step." In that moment, as I stepped off of the platform, I felt no fear or hesitation. I was completely and utterly brave.

There's something larger in this: I think it is such a metaphor for walking with God, at least for me. I am learning to completely trust, even though it may feel like free-falling, that He is able, that He is good, and that He will catch me. And so I am called to be courageous, even when the initial step is a doozy.

Rocky Mountain High

Last Wednesday (4/2) my friend Jennifer and I flew to Colorado to attend Captivating, a women's retreat led by Ransomed Heart. This was my fourth journey to Captivating and my second time serving on the event's work crew. (Some of you may be familiar with Captivating, as there's also a book by the same title, written by John and Stasi Eldredge).

We had such an amazing time, it is difficult to know how to put it into words. The landscape of the Rockies is just so spectacular, and we were blessed with incredible weather -- blue skies, moments of light snowfall, and really pleasant temperatures for enjoying the outdoors.

Speaking of the outdoors, we started our Colorado adventure with a hike through the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. The stunning rock formations were shadowed by the snowy pinnacle of Pikes Peak. We watched as rock climbers scaled the seemingly smooth surface of the rocks, finding hand- and foot-holds that were unseen to our eyes. It was amazing to watch their slow, deliberate movements inch them closer to the top and imagine the courage it took to hang there as they figured out their next step.

After meeting up with the work crew and the team from Ransomed Heart on Wednesday afternoon, we caravaned to our final destination: Frontier Ranch, located near Buena Vista. This Young Life ranch is situated on Mt. Princeton, one of Colorado's 54 "14ers" (mountain summits over 14,000 feet). This specific area of Colorado is known for its 14ers, and in one stretch of highway you pass a total of 10 14,000 foot peaks on either side of Buena Vista. All this to state (or understate), it's breathtaking.

The whole weekend was breathtaking -- to watch women from all over the country and even the world (attendees from Australia, England, Switzerland, Canada, and other places as well) gather for worship, restoration, and fellowship. I am so grateful that I was able to attend, serve alongside the Ransomed Heart team, hear the stories of so many women, and share the experience with Jenn.

(I have to conclude this post by encouraging all of you reading to visit Ransomed Heart's Web site and check out their events page. Tim and I both would urge you to check out upcoming dates for the Wild At Heart men's retreat and Captivating women's retreat. They are truly life changing.)