Monday, August 1, 2011

A Bittersweet Calling

Many of our dear friends know what's going on in our world right now, but we haven't really made it Facebook official or anything.  Nathan has been offered the Associate Ministry position at Pleasant View Church of Christ in Angola, IN.  On Aug. 14, he will present a trial sermon, and then the congregation will have an opportunity to vote to approve him.  Though we do not presume that he's already hired or anything, PVCC's bylaws required they give the congregation two weeks' notice of the candidate by name, so out of consideration for our First Church of Christ in Garrett family, we announced this to our congregation Sunday as well.

What a bittersweet season.  I blogged not so long ago about the blessing of hearing my husband preach and watching God mature him.  I've watched God tug at his heart and unfold this area of his ministry over the last couple years.  But Nathan was patient, careful, conscientious.  He didn't want to be responding out of his own ambitions or desires, whether that would mean to stay where we are or to step out on new adventures.  We are comfortable here, secure, well-loved...this is home.  Stepping out to something new is, for me, scary.  I'm timid about leaving my friends, and it took me SO LONG to develop these friendships due to my shy nature.  I'm apprehensive about trying to sell our home, about keeping it "show-ready" with my limitations and life with two young kids, about the repairs we'll need to do or the financial cut we'll take when it sells.  I'm so sad to leave people we love so very much.

But I'm also excited.  Nathan will have new opportunities in ministry that will challenge him, grow him, and let him use his gifts in new ways.  We'll get to look for a new house, which is fun and exciting too, and I LOVE to decorate, so starting over in that regard is so exciting I have trouble sleeping sometimes. And we'll be close, just 25 minutes north, so my friendships won't be over.  I get to keep my job and just get up early enough to make it to work on time.  And I have the opportunity now to make new friends and reach out to other women and families the way so many here have reached out to me.

The bottom line through all of this:  If God calls, answer.  In the Old Testament, there's a story about a young boy named Samuel.  The beginning of his life is pretty cool (and part of the PandaMania VBS if you or your kids have been a part of that this summer!) and worth checking out (see the book of I Samuel or this link  But the part I'm focusing on tonight is a little further in.  In I Samuel 3, Samuel hears a voice calling his name, and he keeps running to Eli, the priest who raised him, to say, "You called me?  Here I am!"  It took Eli a while to figure out what was happening, but when he did, he explained to Samuel that GOD was calling him, and that he needed to say, "Here I am, Lord!" and listen to whatever God had to say.  Unfortunately, God's message for Samuel was one of warning and punishment for Eli (he had been wicked...), but MY point tonight is this: When God calls, answer.  I'm pretty sure whatever He's about to say is important.

In our case, God's calling to Nathan has been to step out toward preaching ministry, and though that means leaving so much that we love, it also means these next steps are sure to be pretty important.

So what are you being called to tonight?  What will it cost you?  Are you ready to answer?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Just Get Out of the Way!

Today I had the privilege of hearing a sermon delivered by my husband.  One of the greatest things about being married to a man who has devoted his life to ministry is listening to him preach.*

When I first met Nathan, he was actually unsure if he could be used by God.  He felt too imperfect.  He questioned his calling.  I finally had to verbally kick him in the hiney.  Below is a paraphrased version of my rant:

"If you keep wondering whether or not God can use you, you're going to get in his way!  He's called you to serve him, he's given you opportunities to serve, and you do it, but then wonder if you did any good!  Are you kidding me?!  Moses said he couldn't talk well enough.  Paul thought his past was too sinful.  Yet those men stepped up and served God.  Are you any different?  This is NOT about what you can or cannot do.  This is ALL about what God CAN do!  He created the world!  He hung the stars in the sky!  He created YOU!  He sent his son to die for you, raised him from the dead, and opened heaven FOR YOU!  Do you think he thinks you're not worth it?  When you question yourself like this, it's like saying all that sacrifice wasn't good enough for you.  And I know you don't believe that.  So shut up, step up, and let God use you.  Quit standing in his way."

OK, so I wasn't really that brutal.  But the gist is the same--he needed to get out of God's way.

Nathan was afraid of becoming too prideful if he was successful in ministry, so he looked for every flaw, every mistake, every mis-spoken word (and, as is true of most fledgling youth ministers, there were plenty).  But pride has never been Nathan's issue.  Once he accepted that it wasn't about him, he got out of the way, and God really started moving.

Since he was that skinny, unsure, barely-out-of-adolescance guy, he's grown into a man of God I truly admire.  He loves God, the Church, and the lost.  I'm grateful he loves me too.  And I am so thankful for the opportunity to sit in a service on a Sunday morning and listen as my husband leads me, and others, closer toward the God we love.

My husband would be uncomfortable with this post.  Remember his fear of pride?  Yep, still there.  He's practically addicted to humility.  But HE gives all the glory to God.  If he speaks well, it is because of God in him.  If his message cuts to the heart, it's because of God in him.  If he stumbles, messes up, mis-speaks, that's all him :)  But Nathan will give all the credit and praise to God.

But I'm his wife.  I get to praise my husband.  I get to be proud of him.  I get to admire him.  I get to love him.  And all because of God working through him.  That's a true privilege.

So while my husband is right to give all the glory to God and keep his own spirit humble, this wife is right to admire the man who has learned to step out of the way and let God move.

Nathan, I'm proud of you.

*If you want to listen to the sermon yourself, you can find it here: .  The link contains the praise service as well.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Blow-Out Blessings

Last night I wrote a pretty heavy post.  Tonight's post is the balance, the other side of the coin.  Tonight I write about blessings.

Though following Christ does not guarantee you blessings on this earth, living a life of genuine love and kindness tends to allow for some special blessings.  Sure, sometimes really terrible people have really easy lives.  And sometimes really wonderful people struggle every moment.  It's not a promise.  But it is a possibility.  And there's something I believe about blessings that I'd like to challenge you with tonight: I don't think blessings are the THINGS we receive or have in our lives; I think blessings are the perspective or attitude of thanksgiving we choose in our lives.  We aren't blessed merely when we have much; we are blessed when we are able to be thankful for much.

Several months ago I wrote about this idea on my Facebook page.  You can check out that note here if you want.  Or maybe you've heard this song (and if you haven't, I strongly encourage you to let it play in the background while you read on).

Let me give you a case-in-point from the very real world of Casa de la Powell.  Last night (or rather, early this morning), we were stirred from our sleep by loud music coming from a house down the street.  Apparently a party was spilling over into the street in front of the house, and people were enjoying conversation at likewise loud volume despite the clock insisting it was 3AM.  I sighed, rolled, over, and tried to let the fuzz of sleep settle back over me.  Not long after my eyes closed, Oren started crying.  Nathan went in to check him and discovered a scene only fellow parents can appreciate: he'd had a blow-out in his sleep.  Not a little too-much-poop-for-the-diaper-to-hold blow-out.  No, this was a frothy, stinky, warm, runny mess.  All over Oren, his sheets, his clothes, his bed...and it stunk.  Bad.  Oren had gagged in the stench and thrown up a bit too and was gagging and crying when Nate stumbled upon the scene and called out to me for help.  Some of you have been there, and you're either gagging or laughing at the memory.  Some of you may even be hearing Nelson of the Simpsons saying "HA-ha!" as you read this.  Yep, we get it.  Anyway, Nathan was frozen, so I suggested he whisk Oren to the tub, and since Nathan is a truly wonderful father, he did, and even managed the squishy clothes with tact.  I stripped the bed, gathered the laundry, and took the whole mess down to the basement and straight to the washing machine, all while breathing as little as possible and whispering quiet prayers for my youngest son.  Long story short, though Oren was VERY upset, our efforts resulted in a (temporarily) clean son and bed, and I found myself holding my little boy in my arms until he was soothed enough to fall back to sleep.  When he's really upset, after the sobbing quiets, Oren does this sighing thing.  He sighs heavily, deep in his chest, with every breath at first, and then every third or fourth breath after he starts to calm.  As his toddler-sized chest was sighing, steadily at first, then less and less against mine, I realized I was praying.  And my prayer wasn't, "God, heal my son and make him well..." like it had been minutes before.  Instead, much to my initial surprise, my prayers were, "God, thank you for this chance to hold my little boy while he's still [relatively] little, for the power of a mother's touch to calm and soothe, for these quiet minutes to just be with my son."  I realized, despite the true horror of poop-gone-bad, this blow-out created a chance for me to stop and snuggle my precious little boy.

So is a blow-out a blessing?  Well, um, not exactly...but the perspective it gave me is.

I've been living out a challenge for a while.  Life is often difficult, and sometimes it's downright desperate.  I think of my cousin Jay and his wife Mary facing their daughter's cancer or my co-worker Deb's son's battle with aggressive tumors as well.  I think of Joplin, Japan, Haiti.  I think of the persecuted Church around the world.  I think of little girls in Cambodia and Thailand trapped in the world of sex slavery.  I think of broken marriages, depression, destitution, and fear.  Even in my own life I face desperation.  Life with EDS can be scary, or at the very least, discouraging.  And we all have burdens like this, regardless of the scope or scale.  We all hurt.

But the challenge is this: in the midst of our hurt, even our desperation, can we find the perspective that reveals the blessings?

When poop explodes across your world, can you praise God?

So tonight, I encourage you to look for the blessings.  And, if you want, I'd love for you to share them here.  But if you want to share your own poop stories--and I know you have them!--you HAVE to include the blessings you found once the stench cleared :)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A State of the Heart

I've been reading the book Story by Stephen James.  James is a story teller, and this book takes us on a journey through God's story, from the beginning, to remind us of the big picture.  Today I came across this verse: Genesis 6:5-6  5 The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. 6The LORD regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. The Message version says that this broke God's heart.  James referenced this verse on page 46, just after the story of Cain and Abel.  I've been mulling this over all day.  I broke God's heart.

I did it.  I broke God's heart.

Yeah, I know what you're thinking.  "But you're a good person, Katie!  You're kind.  You've never done anything all that wrong.  That story was about Cain, not YOU!  Don't you think you're overreacting?"

James put it this way: "When I'm honest with  myself, I can't keep up the illusion that I'm really a pretty good person.  Deep down, coursing through my soul, are the same currents of jealousy and resentment and bitterness and rebellion that surfaced in the life of Cain.  The currents flow all throughout our human family, deadly and deep--currents as old as Eden and as thick as blood.  And sometimes they bubble to the surface when we least expect it." (page 46)

Some of you still may not get it.  You may see me, or yourself, through a lens that allows you to compare me (or yourself) to others instead of to God.  Compared to others, I (you) might be OK.  Never murdered, never stole (well, not on purpose.  There was that flea comb at the vet's office when I was in middle school.  I thought it was one of those promotional things, like a pen at the bank.  It wasn't), even waiting until marriage to have sex.  But compared to God...?  Is that enough?

I'm also reading the book Radical by David Platt.  I know, I know, two books at once?  That's Nathan's fault.  He picks out great books and then leaves them all over the house.  Eve had the fruit.  I have Nathan's books.  It's a problem.  A real one.

But I digress.

Platt's book is about what Christianity originally was (and still is to much of the "underground church" world where Christianity is illegal and deadly) and what that means for modern American Christians who live in a very different world.  He says this: "The modern-day gospel says, 'God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.  Therefore, follow these steps, and you can be saved.'  Meanwhile, the biblical gospel says, 'You are an enemy of God, dead in your sin, and in your present state of rebellion, you are not even able to see that you need life, much less to cause yourself to come to life.  Therefore, you are radically dependent on God to do something in your life that you could never do.'...He has to come to us." Platt goes on to tell of a time he was with a  religious leader from each the Buddhist and Muslim movements.  These two men were discussing that they believed that all three men (themselves and Platt) all worshipped the same gods but through different routes.  They asked Platt what he thought of it, and Platt said that they seemed to be saying that God was on the top of a mountain, and no matter which route one took, if it led to the top of the mountain, one would find God.  The men were pleased with themselves and agreed, yep, that's the idea.  Platt asked, "What would you think if I told you that God doesn't wait for people to find their way to him, but instead he comes to us?"  The men thought it over and replied, "That would be great."  Platt replied, "Let me introduce you to Jesus." (pages 32-33)

See, the problem isn't whether or not I'm a good enough person.  The problem is that the gospel isn't about me.  Christianity doesn't exist for the sake of making me feel good about myself, making my life better, or even helping me to be a better person.  Christianity exists because God is holy, I am not, my sin equals death (my death), but Jesus loved me enough to bear that death for me (and in doing so, bore his Father's wrath for me), and God has redeemed me, adopted me as co-heir with Christ, and granted me eternal life and the amazing power of his own spirit living in me.  

Wow.  That should be enough, right?

But I worry that sometimes we dress the gospel up to make it more palatable.  We lead people, whether intentionally or unintentionally, to believe that becoming a Christian will mean our life is blessed, that we will feel loved, that we will be a good person, and that we'll pretty much feel good about life from that point on.  But remember what Jesus said?  You have to eat his flesh and drink his blood to follow him.  Yep.  And you've got to carry a cross.  You've got to be faithful, even to the point of death.  Sure, following Christ often DOES result in people being good, doing good things, and having good lives.  But that's not the point.  That's not what the gospel's about.  The gospel's not about me, or you.  It's about God.

I don't mean to be melodramatic.  I'm by no means a pessimist.  I'm a very happy-go-lucky person.  I enjoy my life immensely.  I have one son who begs for more snuggles each night, and another who backs up and plops down into my lap any time I'm sitting in such a way that produces a lap.  My husband loves me. I have great relationships with my parents.  I belong to a church family of people that live out love on a daily basis.  I have a career that actually makes a difference in this world (and summers home with my boys!).  I even have easy access to technology to allow me to check my Facebook incessantly throughout the day.  Life's good!  And I am very, very happy.  But remember--it's not about me.  I'm on a journey to better understand the awesomeness of God and what it really means to follow Christ to him.  

If I really want to make a difference in this world, it's vital that I get this.  It's crucial that I understand--it's NOT about me.  It's not.  It's about God.  And to really follow him, I need to understand that.  And so do you.

If you currently follow Christ, then I encourage you to take some time to consider what that means.  Are you following Christ like the multitudes did after he made a feast out of some fish and bread?  They LOVED Jesus.  They did.  He fed them.  He did miracles.  He healed people.  He delivered revolutionary teachings.  They thought he was going to overthrow Rome.  He was cool.  But when he told them, "Eat my flesh and drink my blood," they got spooked, creeped out, and left.  Why do you follow Christ?  Is it about you and what he can do for you?  Or is it about God?

If you aren't following Christ, I highly recommend considering it.  I really, really do.  But what I DON'T want to do is dress Christianity up like something it's not.  Think of it this way--the Bible teaches that we are the Bride of Christ.  But you've seen Bridezillas, right?  A bride's not always a good thing.  Some brides forget that the Big Day is about two people coming together as one in a love much bigger than themselves.  They think, instead, that it's all about them.  You've heard the brides shriek it--"It's MY day!"  If we walk down the aisle of a church because of what it could do for us...well, you get the idea.  You should understand full and well the cost of following Christ.  Coming forward on a Sunday morning is great.  But it's risky.   A blessed life (in THIS life) isn't promised.  Jesus says we'll have troubles.  And many, many followers of Christ do.  Check out to find out more about the cost of following Christ.  Because following Christ isn't about US.

I'll leave you with one more passage from Story that really hit me.  "The fists that beat Jesus were formed by human hands, that lead-tipped whip was wielded by a human will--hands just as human as ours, a will just as hardened as Adam's.  The crown of thorns was woven by human fingers, not God's."

You see, the gospel isn't about me.  But it is BECAUSE of me.  I caused it.  I did.  And so did you.  But thankfully that's not the end of the story :)

Monday, June 20, 2011

It's Time

The story of Esther has always captivated me.  She was just an ordinary young woman who happened to be very pretty.  Because of her beauty, she wound up with the opportunity to save an entire nation.  But that opportunity came at a price--she could die.  Her uncle asked her, "How do you know but that you are who you are, when you are, where you are for such a time as this?*"  He explained that salvation for her people would come regardless of her choice, but that if she chose not to act, she may not be a part of it.  God had elevated her to a position of influence (through something as ordinary as good looks!) in anticipation of this very walk through the doors and save her people at the risk of her own life...or to turn back to her own room and hope to see another sunrise.  What would you do?

I'd like to think I'd walk through those doors.  I'd like to think I'd be as smart as Esther was.  She wined and dined her husband, the king, and got his spirits loose and happy enough to grant her any request she could ask.  She used her feminine wiles for God (what a novel idea!), and in doing so, saved the Jewish people in her kingdom. 

But in reality, would I?  Or would I find reason after reason to go back to my own room, to turn away from the danger, the risk, and hope to see another sunrise?

The reason the story of Esther resonates with me so fully isn't that I'm some beautiful young woman hand-picked to be the queen (ha!), but instead that I do believe I am who I am, when I am, where I am for such a time as this.  I believe all that makes me ME, all my quirks and idiosyncrasies, all my talents and challenges, all my experiences and hopes are on PURPOSE.  I believe God made me ME for a reason.

And the coolest part?  I believe that's true about you, too.

Each of us is called to change the world in some way, and there's undoubtably risk to ourselves.  Following Christ is dangerous.  Risky.  Even--gasp!--uncool.  Yep, it's not politically correct or gentle or safe.  Jesus said that if we want to follow him we must eat his flesh and drink his blood.  And after he said that, the Church numbered 200,000 and they got to build a new campus!  Uh, no.  The Church numbered more like 12, and they left their homes and families and followed Christ, even to the point of death.**You could walk through that door, risk your life, and change the world.  Or you could turn around, go back to your room, and hope to see another sunrise.  So, what will it be?

How do you know but that you are who you are, when you are, where you are for such a time as this?

It's time.

*The story if Esther is amazing and well worth the read.  It actually never mentions the name of God, which is unusual for a biblical book, and made it somewhat controversial when originally canonized into scripture.  I've taken liberties with the wording of the text, and any misinterpretation is fully mine.  You can read the full story here

**Read the full story here  Please note, it's NOT a handbook on how to build a mega-church or to enhance your next altar-call.  Following Christ is costly and dangerous.  He never claimed otherwise.  That doesn't minimize the amazing blessings of being part of his kingdom...but you really should know what you're getting in to.