Lakes, Lungs, and Light.

    “The uphills are lung-breaking, the down hills, faith-stretching. in both, God is with me and I am at my best when i cannot do it alone.”
    Sarah posted this during mission trip this summer and preached on it not long after.
    It really resonates with me because it covers everything. Pretty much everyday either sways to lung-breaking or to faith-stretching. For a lot of us, this week was a lung-breaking one. Me too.
It reminds me a lot of another week I’ve had.
A lot of our youth had a friend named Jonathan Baggett. He was a little older than us, and on Student Leadership Team. He was smart, he was funny, no girl in our youth group could lie and tell you she didn’t think he was pretty. But most of all, he was inspiring. Not because of anything that happened to him. But because of everything that happened from him.
Jonathan was so not afraid of ministry, or his call as a Christian, or of just showing his faith in whatever he did. He had a light. He was diagnosed with leukemia and died a few months later-in October. It hit us really hard.
I remember standing up during joys and concern and Lacy and I asking you to pray for his family before we went into the bath room and cried. and cried. and cried. I we asked each other, “why did it have to be him that got sick?”-”He could have done so much!”
At that time, we didn’t know, that he had already done so much. Jonathan had light. Everything that surrounded him was illuminated by God. CLAY POT SCRIPTURE. stuck in my mind is Glen Lake. My first time at Glen lake, i went to Summer Camp with Katie Donaldson. The theme was being transformed. We had all these wonderful transformations, being free to alive, being blind to seeing clearly. And on Friday we talked about the one I will never forget. Dead to alive. Our small group was a calm coloring activity. We were just supposed to write or draw about someone we knew that had died. We all cried, and cried, and cried. Mourning each other’s pain. Girls we had met four days ago, we were sobbing over their cats who had been hit by cars and their grandmothers we never knew. Because that’s a kind of pain we had all felt. And as soon as we saw the expressions on their faces as they one-by-one talked about their lost loved ones, our heart strings tugged in their direction. And we knew. It feels miserable. But there is something beautiful in it.
    During worship soon after, the speaker got up there and said something that I have always remembered. “I’m so glad I get to die. I’m so overjoyed that I can leave all of this behind!” He patted his stomach. “When i die, I won’t have any obesity or diabetes or heart disease or back problems or asthma or cancer or toothaches or nosebleeds or any of it! I get to leave it all behind.”
  It’s wonderful. it’s like we’re all walking jack-o-lanterns. We only last so long, but we have an everlasting light. A light that makes us more than what we really are. A light that outlines our best features and makes us really worth existence. The light is what does that
At night, it’s all been dancing in my head. I’ve been thinking about Roxy and Jonathan and Glen Lake and pumpkins. And all of it at the same time is lung-breaking.
THE UPHILLS ARE LUNG BRAKING…
but you can’t stop there. But if that’s why you stop you’re missing out on the LIGHT!
We are not alone. God is with us. NOT just watching over us. those things are different. We not only have a Heavenly Father who watches over us-who guides the wave and winds around us, who hear our prays and knows our hearts. But we have a spirit within us. Inside of us. God is closer to you heart than yo are. God is not only in Heaven but is in you!
I get so upset sometimes. So caught up. So worried that I’m not doing a good enough job.   And I’ve recently realized that Light is what I’ve been looking for. I thought I wanted to live a glittering, rhetorically rich, life. I thought all this time I was striving to just love as much as I could. To change as much as I could. To have gracious Providence fall off of me like I’m a melting popsicle. To be the best that I could. But I wanted to be Light all along.
  All of the heart-breaking things that seem to attack us are nothing compared to the Light that is within us. GOD is in us. WITH us. All the time. It’s lung-braking, it’s faith-stetching. but we are not alone. God is with us. not only looking over us, but truly WITH us. We get to leave everything except the Light behind. The Light is the important part. Light is what rises above EVERYTHING ELSE Light is what traces our best. Light is what remains when all else fails. light is what will  And Light is what leads us Home.

Please leave a light on for when I come home.

    This week has been rough. I have been mulling over my sermon for Sunday in my head, changing and adding things as I comtemplate the scripture lesson. One thing that has continually been stuck in my mind is Glen Lake. My first time at Glen lake, i went to Summer Camp with Katie Donaldson. The theme was being transformed. We had all these wonderful transformations, being free to alive, being blind to seeing clearly. And on Friday we talked about the one I will never forget. Dead to alive. Our small group was a calm coloring activity. We were just supposed to write or draw about someone we knew that had died. We all cried, and cried, and cried. Mourning each other’s pain. Girls we had met four days ago, we were sobbing over their cats who had been hit by cars and their grandmothers we never knew. Because that’s a kind of pain we had all felt. And as soon as we saw the expressions on their faces as they one-by-one talked about their lost loved ones, our heart strings tugged in their direction. And we knew. It feels miserable. But there is something beautiful in it.

    During worship soon after, the speaker got up there and said something that I have always remembered. “I’m so glad I get to die. I’m so overjoyed that I can leave all of this behind!” He patted his stomach. “When i die, I won’t have any obesity or diabetes or heart disease or back problems or asthma or cancer or toothaches or nosebleeds or any of it! I get to leave it all behind.”

   Six week old Roxy Trick passed away after spending a night with her family. She was a hundred times stronger than me. She was beautiful. She was precious. And she had a Light. Light will always remain. When we leave the diabetes, kidney troubles, nosebleeds and heartache, Light is what remains. Light is what rises above all of it.

   And I’ve recently realiazed that Light is what I’ve been looking for. I thought I wanted to live a glittering, rhetorically rich, life. I thought all this time I was striving to just love as much as I could. To change as much as I could. To have gracious Providence fall off of me like I’m a melting popsicle. To be the best that I could. But I wanted to be Light all along.

   All of the heart-breaking things that seem to attack us are nothing compared to the Light that is within us. We get to leave everything except the Light behind. And Light is what leads us Home.

Pre-Centennial Thoughts

     Often people throw around founding dates and such to prove that they’re good-that they work. We’ve been selling cars since 1900. We’ve been cleaning teeth for forty years. We’ve sold real estate since before you were born. That means that we’re the oldest ones-so we’re the best. We’ve figured out what we’re doing. We are proven in worth by the amount of time we’ve been around. I don’t think this is always so. Often I see these things and think “Yeah, but what have you done lately?’ or even “I realize that your grandparents were pioneers in their business, but that doesn’t say much for you.'” Time just has never impressed me as much as it should, I suppose.

      Several months ago, I was put on the Centennial Celebration Committee. It was at sometimes my least favorite meeting. Several of my friends can tell you about phone calls after the fact. However, that doesn’t change everything I’ve witnessed on such a committee. A lot of time was spent talking about the archives and I found out that it is a pretty contraversial issue to discuss what really is the oldest church in the conference. 

      Even though, everytime I walk into history I’m ready to criticize every person Coach Austin mentions (because it drives me crazy to hear some of the things they do), even though things that are time-tested don’t usually impress me. Even though I wasn’t an official-in-the-book-member of the UMC until Palm Sunday this year. Even though I think it’s more important to know where we’re going. I have to admit that this is a big deal.

    There are so many people that have paved the way for our current ministries. Everything The Church is doing today is because of someone else. There would be no ImagineNoMalaria if someone hadn’t started that first mission outreach. We wouldn’t have the wonderful churches with screens and projectors and basketball courts and kitchen and coffee makers and a couch in every corner- if it weren’t for the first brick of your church. And everything that will someday come for our conference coems from what is happening today.

     Tomorrow, we are gathering together to celebrate all of the wonderful things that have happened in Central texas since the 1840s, and the wonderful 100 years we have spent as the CTC. This conference really is a special place. And I know that God put us all here together for many, many reasons. If that’s not a reason to celebrate-we’ll never have!

People matter.

       When I walked into my first District meeting I really didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know if I was going to stick. I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. I didn’t know much of anything. That was when I met Jonathan Baggett and I learned how much people matter. I really and truly didn’t know him that well, he knew me even less. But he changed my life. He was really the first young person I met that was passionate about ministry and but not afraid of it. I was always afraid. Our DSLT was basically just him. He had a binder and was all-together always. And no girl from Epworth could truthfully deny thinking he was beautiful the first they met him. When Jonathan passed away, we all left church after Joys and Concerns. We went to the newly remodeled bathroom and cried and I looked at Lacy and just asked her why it had to be him, when he could’ve done so much. And neither of us knew why. But then I didn’t realize how much he had already done. Each person that Jonathan touched, even people he barely knew, goes on to touch others. And they are truly being touched by Jonathan, too.

     There are so many people that have changed who I am solely by being who they are. Matt Epting is so level-headed and always considers things like what a white t-shirt ACTUALLY looks like or what’s going to happen if it rains. Knowing him has brought me down to Earth and made me realize how far practicality goes. Katie Lewis is completely enveloped in God’s Word and her faith falls off of her like she’s a flower girl, out of everyone I’ve ever met, no one is more sure of who and whose she is. Just seeing this in her has made me so much more comfortable with my faith and calling. She radiates such peace that just makes you feel okay with yourself. Ethan Gregory knows exactly what he believes, what he thinks and is concrete in all things Wesleyan. I don’t know anyone our age that just has the things he has figured out, figured out. He has been there for me on the days that were the most crucial I had some one to talk to, and probably has no idea how much courage he has given me just by being sensible and faithful. I would not be at the place in my faith I am if I had never met him. Stef Schutz is able to balance like 5 different lives and funnel them into one without losing any of the God involved. I never realized how much I was capable of until I saw how much she does and how much passion radiates out of her. Shawnee Davis is essentially LIFE. Everything is exciting, wonderful and magical in her eyes. She is open to big ideas and can make anything happen. Shawnee makes fasting fun. Sometimes I feel like the world misses out on how much FUN God is, but not when Shawnee is around.  All my beautiful favorites amaze me everyday. I am so blessed to have such a giant, strong community of accountability and encouragement surrounding me. I learn something from this guys every time I talk to them or see their bright and shining faces. Student Leadership Team is nearly the definition fo Providence in my life. It is hard NOT to see God when you watch this students doing what they do. Even the ones who are reading this right now thinking that they haven’t changed me are wrong. Because it really has been all of you.

      My first conversation with Carly Payne included wild tangents about how she would be called Pastor Payne when she grew up, how I would become friends with a lamppost if left alone long enough and how her favorite crayon is Jazzberry jam because she likes the name. We got out driver’s license the same week (in August) even though our birthdays were both in February.  God’s existence is continually reassured to me in my life. Carly Payne is one of those assurances. It would be impossible for any force besides God to create some one as weird as Marianne Brown, AND someone as weird as Carly Payne and bring them together to be best friends. My faith cannot be shaken when I have someone so strong and inspired in my life. Some nights I can come home from church or youth or school or driving and promise myself I will never go back. But Carly always makes me want to go back with the love and passion and excitement as I did the very first time. Whenever I see “if your heart is like mine, take my hand” I think of Carly. Her heart truly is like mine and there is no doubt in my mind that if I lost everyone, Carly would still be there.

      I guess what I’m getting at is I love my life and the people God has put in it. And people matter. When you get to be old enough to finally realize it, you see how you like a little collage of all the people that have touched you. I have my dad’s nose. I eat fritos on my tuna fish sandwhiches like my mom. I worry about awkward situations with carhops at sonic like Katie. I will watch Remember the Titans a million times without it being any less thasn I expect everytime, just like Emily. I journal like Amy. I doodle and take notes on everything like Lacy. Half the occurences in my life make me think “this will be a great sermon illustration”, like Ethan. All these people have changed who I am and where I’m going. Even the ones I barely knew. I can only hope, that some day when the people in my life look around at themselves, they see that their voice is louder or they use the word ridiculous to mean a good thing, or they are just different because they were touched by me too.

“Things about school that make me sad” as published in The Colt

     Fight. Fight. Fight. Fight. Two boys are standing in C-Hall junction, surrounded by what seems like every kid in the whole schoo, starring and yelling. I’m not in the mood. I continue walking through the crowd, in between the two circling each other, and through the crowd again. All the while, I am being starred at and gasped over. I’m not brave or tough or even that interesting, I just can’t take it anymore.

     This is a common scene in schools. Kids just get mad over girls and boys and mommas and babies and Facebook and MySpace and some things that never even happened. Why does school harbor such violent emotions for kids? Why is it so easy for us to be upset?

    Remember when school was fun? We would sit on magic story rugs, eating gold fish, while the sweet sounding voice of your teacher echoed mystical tales of mice eating cookies. Remember the feeling when you got your math papers back with “Great Work!” stickers and holiday-themed smiley faces on them?  Remember the butterfly-in-the-stomach, gasping moment the first time you were really, truly reading? School was fun. i didn’t dream that. I know that at one time it was all I could do to fall asleep at night because I was so excited for SCHOOL.

     I think there are many things that contribute to high emotions and distract from learning in schools. I think that sometimes schools worry so much about holding an institution and having control over everything, that they lose sight of what a school really and truly is meant to be.

   Have you ever actually read the Student Code of Conduct? It reminds me of the episode of The Simpsons where Rev. lovejoy says, in regard to the Bible, “we’re not technically allowed to go to the bathroom!” At some point, dress code turns from eliminating distractions to creating them. It’s ridiculous for a teacher to have to walk around the room, checking everyone’s ankles for frayed edges on jeans when they could be…teaching. If you get sent to the office for somethigns so trivial, you’re being removed from the learnign entirely. I think that spending so much time and effort enforcing some rules does mroe damage then what the rules are against.

    At the beginning of this school year, during my second period class, I recieved a copy of the Student Code fo Conduct. Page 99 said that I had recieved and read my copy. We all had to sign that page and return it before we were allowed to leave class. I know most kids don’t care, but that makes me really upset. obviously, I hadn’t read it in the thirty seconds it had been in my possession. I was then suppsed to have my parents sign page 100 which asks us to keep a page for our personal records so we know what we signed.

     It’s like everything is a process. What you’re doing doesn’t mean anything; you just have to do it. Sign this. Read that. Sit down. Shut up. Hold your breath until 2:45.

      I feel like we get caught up. We get lost between the layers of bureaucracy. We worry about so many things interfering with our education, that the actual educating gets knocked lower and lower on the list. It’s like driving a car and holding a map up over the windshield. You want so badly not to be lost, that you don’t see what you’re actually doing. When you finally get around to the road, you don’t know where you are anymore.

      When I was in 8th grade, my teacher had a little trinket ina frame hanging on her wall that said, “A school is four walls with a future inside.” I always liked that. It made me feel like I wasn’t just a kid but that i was really a part of something special. It made me feel important.

      high school is different though. It feels more like people look at us as four walls with a problem inside. Like we aren’t tiny vessels of potential and promise, but rather little menaces to society, a terrying preview of what the world is coming to. I feel like you get into high school and the rule of “the bigger they are, the cuter they ain’t” comes into play, and nobody really cares as much as they used to. Everything is more stressed, more pushed, less important, less meaningful. The kids aren’t happy, the teachers aren’t happy, the administration isn’t happy. It’s almost like we’re in school not to learn, but to keep us from ruining society during the daylight hours.

      I don’t want to be a problem. I want holiday-themed smiley faces. I want to give a mouse a cookie. I just want to be the future inside the four walls again. I want that back.

God is good because *LOUD NOISES!*

       A few days ago, my Twin was at the State Fair. She called me to tell me about a booth she saw. It was run by a Christrian group made up of several denominations telling small children about the rapture and how God stretch their legs to be the same size when they were at summer camp. I kind of laughed.

“One leg was two inches shorter than the other, but then right there at that camp that night God PULLLLLEDDDD two more inches outta me!”

Sign me up for Glen Lake.

      She told me about the terrified looks on the children’s faces and said “I just wanted to tell them ‘THAT’S IT! YOU’RE NOT SPREADING THE GOOD NEWS OF JESUS CHRIST! YOU’RE JUST BEING SCARY!!”‘

    Today I was cruising through YouTube and I came across an entire community I had never seen. It was Athiests and Christians going on a neverending tirade of Questions No Athiest/Christian Could Ever Answer. Why doesn’t God heal amputees? Where did we come from? Why did 9/11 happen? Why are planets round? Everything comes from Nothing. Everythign comes from God. Nothing comes from Nothing. God comes from God.

   I’m on the debate team. I just started preparing to do Cross-Examination (CX) with my friend John. Basically, one team gets up and talks and the other team tries to ask them questions that make them stupid and then say “Ok cool.”

    Sometimes I feel like I should be saying “Let’s still be friends” instead of “Ok cool.”

   While practicing the other day, this conversation happened;

John: Can you read the end of the Bandow card?

Val: We’re not Bejing’s neighbor

Marianne: Wouldn’t Jesus say everyone is our neighbor?

       I might not be cut out for debate.  But I am cut out for Jesus, I know that for truth at this point.

       Why do we feel like we have to trip people up? Why do we want to scare people?

        I’ve been thinking about what “Good News” actually means. Is it just the flip side to the Bad News? If I make NOT believing in God sound terrifying enough, will you change your mind? If I make you feel stupid, will you go along with what I say? I want you to feel God, but that’s not what that is. I want you to have that moment when your heart feels bigger, like at the end of How The Grinch Stole Christmas when his face lights up and he realizes how much joy there was waiting for him all along. That really is what it feels like. I want that for you.

        Let’s still be friends.

Something Beautiful

“In your ocean I’m ankle deep
I feel the waves crashing on my feet
It’s like I know where I need to be
I can’t figure out
No, I can’t figure out
Just how much air I will need to breathe
When your wave crashes over me
There’s only one way to figure out
Will you let me drown?”

-Something Beautiful by NeedToBreathe

   It’s hard to trust things. Sometimes it seems impossible. You don’t like to let go of what you know will be okay for what you think might be beautiful. It’s hard to let people in when you know what it feels like to be hurt or left alone or made fun of or just forgotton. It’s hard to agree to uncertain terms of heartache when you know if you just don’t step outside your little box, you won’t get hurt. Keeping everyone- even the most awesome, trustworthy people in your life, who you KNOW care about you- at arm’s length is just safer.

   Often times I will hear people say that they don’t believe in God because there is no proof. Because you can’t see God or touch Him he must not be real. Most Christians will face this by saying something like: “You can’t see the wind, but you can feel it” or “You can’t touch electricity, but the lights turn on when you flip the switch don’t you?”

   Although these things are true, it’s not really the way I see it. I almost feel like my belief in God stems from the fact that I have no proof or explanation. For me, God transcends proof.  If His prescence was something I could count, measure or point to, it wouldn’t be what it truly is. As soon as you know how something works, it becomes less precious. Less amazing.

     I know it will be okay if I don’t allow myself to believe in my heart anything that I don’t know in my head. It will be okay. But it won’t ever be Beautiful. I can just say that I’m not going to let myself trust anyone with my heart, and it will be okay. But it won’t ever be Beautiful. I know it will be okay if I lock myself up and say that I want everyone to prove everythign they want me to believe. But it won’t ever be Beautiful. Beautiful things can’t be proven, you just have to trust Beautiful-and let it be.

    Let Something Beautiful touch you.