His crazy, stupid love

She woke up especially energized that Friday morning, earlier than normal, and ready to be about her day. More than ever before, she anticipated his proposal to her. She had been pretty convinced in the first few weeks of dating him, that she wanted to spend the rest of her life with this man. That was five months ago, and her waiting was growing weary. Their weekend was planned, and though she wanted, nothing by her own conclusions pointed towards a proposal happening in the coming days. She feared the level of disappointment that awaited her bus ride Sunday evening as she was growing more confident that her waiting would be longer. In spite of what felt like the death of dream, she woke up surprisingly, at rest, and content.

Her day at the office was filled, ironically, with many conversations about engagement and the confidence she had in the man she hoped to spend her life with. Her work responsibilities had slowed down and become more stagnant as she stared at the clock as is typical on a Friday afternoon. It was nearing 3pm, the time where she tends to get a little antsy. The elevator dings, and from her lobby desk, she sees the figure of her young beau step out and in her direction holding a brown envelope.

“It’s him. What is he doing here? I’ve been trying to get in touch with him all day… Is this happening?” she thought frantically. He opened the door to her office with a smirk on his face, “I got bored and wanted to come see you” He said handing her the envelope, “I need you to validate my parking ticket and follow the directions on this card.” She stared at him, confused and insisted that she finish the email she was sending. Frazzled, she shuffled about clumsily, and opened the card he referenced. It read,

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Get all of your possessions as if you are leaving for the weekend.

Don’t say anything to anyone who works here.

You may ask me one question while we’re in this building.

I’m going to ask you to hand over your phone.

She gawked at him, asked a few several questions and after much resistance, stood up, abandoned her desk, and followed him out of her office. The drive out of town was interesting…. She knew, he knew, she knew what was coming, but she and he both attempted to be as normal as possible. So they talked more awkwardly than ever before, him asking creative questions, her unable to articulate even the simplest answer. It wasn’t until they arrived at the coffee shop where they had their first date five months ago, that their nerves calmed. The shop looked a little different having been decorated for Christmas. They sat down to drink their hot peppermint mochas together, and considered their first date, what they felt, hoped, thought and wanted. Five months ago, they sat there for the first time, both on the brink of confidence then, of their choice of one another.

The drive towards camp was full of remembering and reminiscing. She recapped the wave of emotions that accompanied the various seasons over the past thirteen years as she traveled the road to Camp Travis, her favorite place on the entire planet. Pulling up to the front gate initiated the drive into camp where butterflies of anticipation overwhelmed her, just like they had many summers before. When they turned the last corner, he gave her direction to close her eyes until he stopped.

The day was damp, misty, foggy, cool, yet crisp… he lead her out of the car and through the woods to the guys side of camp. This was where they had ventured on the last evening of camp. They hiked down the ravine to the edge of the lake, where he had taken her that night, only a few weeks into their relationship. It was at this spot, where she shared her story with him.

She looked around, the sight was a different scene from the last time she sat with him there, months prior. The grass about her feet was lush and green, the dirt, muddied, the lake in the distance, not so dry… She noticed a mason jar at her feet filled with a scroll and a strong stemmed sunflower.

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She looked at him confused. He directed her to pick up the sunflower, and to help him unravel the scroll. On it, a letter, he had hand written.

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“Your story…” He looked at her and began to read it aloud, pausing every few words in an effort to hold himself together. Sparse droplets of rain were enough to dampen the page he was holding, but not enough to deter their focus, or distract them from the moment. She had always loved hearing him read his own writing, it’s one of the ways she felt most connected to him. He went on to describe that evening four months ago when she first shared her story with him. The sights, smells… His own thoughts and feelings, the weight of her story… He quoted something that her camp director told her the first time she heard ever heard her story, “Some man is going to love you one day, despite the shame in your story.” She always feared her story would deem her unworthy to be chosen, that no man would accept her with the baggage she carried… He proceeded to share part of his journal from the morning after this confession where he wrote to God, “I want to know if I am that man. Can I be that man? I think I want to be that man…” He then looked into her eyes and said, “Kara, I stand here today convinced that I am that man, that I will love you in spite of all this..”

They cried, and hugged and she thought to herself, “Here it comes, he’s about to drop to his knee..” But when he pulled back to look at her, he said, let’s go, and lead her back up the ravine, through guys side of camp to the next spot of significance, the slide tower.

The slide tower was a very special spot to their relationship, it was where he first shared his story with her the week after their first date, where they often stayed up talking well into the night after campers and staff had gone to sleep, it was where they adventurously watched the most exhilarating lightning storm over Lake Travis one very late Friday night. It was the highest point at camp, up there, they could see everything.

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They got to the top, she noticed another mason jar, again with a scroll and a strong stemmed sunflower. Also strung across the slide were bunting flags, which marked evidence of her dearest friend, Hunter, who had played a significant role in her relationship with Jacob. Surely, this was the spot. She braced herself for what was next. She followed suit from the last scroll and sunflower, and he began to read…

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“My story…” He painted the scene from that night perfectly, the way the shadow darkened her face, and the light shone on his. Similarly, he had feared that in the sharing of his story, he would be rejected. He revisited that evening, the questions she asked, the care she showed, his inability to hide and the compel to be transparent and become known in the way he had always feared. He shared the gospel he encountered that evening, and the many evenings since, as continually together, they have worked out their salvation through wronging one another, confessing and repenting. He thanked her for responding the way she did that night. She loved him then. Acceptance was non-negotiable. Again, they hugged and cried and just when she expected his drop to the knee, he looked at her and asked, “Are you ready?” She complied, and he said, “Well, let’s go” And at it again, he lead her back down the stairs and across the sports field to the barn swing.

The barn swing was another after hours spot they visited in their season of getting to know one another. Their interactions had to be discreet in the summer so as not to distract campers or staff from the mission and purpose of camp. So, in an effort to remain inconspicuous they lost sleep, lots of it, and their lost sleep increased their admiration and attraction of one another through conversation in this place.

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As she approached the barn, she noticed even more elaborate decor, this time in addition to the mason jar, scroll, sunflower and bunting flags, tea lit candles created a scene around the bench swing that had become their’s last summer. This was it… This was the final spot. They sat on the swing and reminisced about the conversations they had had there on those hot summer nights… He picked up the scroll, opened it, this time, she noticed that there was a large letter at the bottom left corner, and that the previous two letters had one also, the first one, an “O”, the second a “V” and this one, an“E”…. She considered his last name, ‘Overby,’ and concluded there must be three more spots… He began to read…

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“Our story…” The barn swing was a place where they often attempted to figure out our relationship, how it was supposed to work, their roles, what it was supposed to look like… They wanted to do it right. They wanted a formula, but didn’t have a clue as to what it was. In the letter, he shared how even in his attempt to do it right, they had both screwed it up from the start. Reflecting on their stories, it wasn’t about what they could do to make our relationship right- they had both blown it so bad before they even knew one another. He indicated that their story wasn’t about us, really, that they had no part in discovering the other, but when they were to really examine what brought them together- it was by God’s hand alone. It was His work in each of their stories that brought back to camp that summer. There was no explanation, except for His grace. She had shared an email she’d sent to one of her most respected friends describing their relationship, “What is being made right and restored is not a story I would have chosen, but it is a testament of Christ alone, and to that I can’t describe a greater joy.” He shared a dialogue he had had with the Lord about this statement and then, with confidence proclaimed, “Kara, this is our story. And this will be our story. And our story will point others to the bigger story being written- a testament of Christ alone, and to that, I can’t describe a greater joy.”

They stood up, hugged and cried, and then he began to lead her across camp, past the Outpost, through the Courthouse and to the back of the Rio (our kitchen/dining hall). This summer, she had worked as the Travis Crew Director, where she oversaw graduated seniors in high school serve as a work crew in the kitchen. He was the Program’s Director, making all the fun things happen at camp. The Rio, was where they re-introduced themselves during Bro Week, noticed one another’s work ethic, and had their very first very awkward interactions. Walking into the back of the Rio, he lead her to the Encouragement Board where he had written her notes throughout their dating relationship at camp. There, on the board, was a note labled ‘KARA” in the same handwriting as all the other notes he had ever that summer.

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They walked back into the kitchen and before he began to read, she looked around, and there, she lost it. She couldn’t get over the reality that they were standing in the kitchen that held some of my sweetest and darkest of moments of her life. She uttered through sobs, “I love this kitchen.” That kitchen was a cherished place to her. Blood, sweat, tears, songs, dances and millions of memories. This one becoming her favorite. He read her one more encouraging note declaring her ‘the most beautifully messy, amazing woman in the universe’ along with all the things he loved about her, ending with a phrase that often concluded his notes to her this summer, “Thanks for showing up!”

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Again, they cried, hugged and he paused for a moment, “Wait, here”. He ran around to the camper’s side of the cubbies (the cubbies that separated the two of them during meal times), and reenacted one of her favorite scenes of the summer, their ‘meet-cute’ moment for those familiar with ‘The Holiday’.

“Hey Kara,” he smiled, “could you grab me some yogurt.” and smiled again. (This summer, this was the first time that he looked at her in they eyes and smiled at her. It was the first moment of giddiness for them both.) In a hurry, she went into the ‘Walk-In’ (refrigerator) to retrieve the yogurt, and found her favorite bottle of wine. She handed him the wine, and he led her to the front porch of the Rio.

She noticed her cowboy boots resting alongside a rocking chair and lights strewn about to set the scene.

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It took her breath away.

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A quilt covered stump tabled two glasses, a lovely boxed bouquet of red sunflowers, one last scroll and a bottle opener.

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He pointed out the last of four sunflowers, and directed her to add these to the existing bouquet of sunnies.

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They sat in the two rocking chairs and looked out over a foggy lakeview. It was so quiet. Raindrops on the tin roof of the Rio calmed her nerves.

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She bundled in a blanket as he poured them both a glass of wine.

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He opened the last scroll, and immediately, I noticed the letter “L”, this really was the spot. “LOVE”….

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He began to read,

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“What is love?” The question he posed to 200 campers every other Thursday night this summer. He recapped the talk he delivered at camp this summer, reminding her what he proclaimed from that stage, and how he had defined love as, “actively thinking of others.” He shared that over the past few months in dating her, his understanding of love had evolved to understand more fully that God is love, and His expression of love was declared through the gift of Jesus. Therefore, love is sacrificial death, or, “the dying of the self for the benefit of the other, and this, is crazy, stupid, love, BUT it is true love.” He shared, looking more intently into my eyes words that he had never shared with me prior to that day,

“Kara, true love is only possible when it is promised, when it is not based on performance or emotion. Love is a choice. The dying of the self for the benefit of the other. Crazy, stupid love. Kara, I am in crazy stupid love with you. Kara, I love you, and tonight, I promise my love to you, love that is not based on performance and emotion, but love that I choose. I love you, Kara, and I will choose to love you for the rest of my life.”

(Insert heavy tears and hugging)

He then directed her to put her boots on and asked her to dance. His song of choice was “She’s Like Texas“, by the Josh Abbott Band. Don’t be fooled, this song, her favorite, had incredible significance also. It was a song she suggested, that he added to the Boot Scoot Playlist, (a most favorite dance that happens every Thursday night at camp). It was one of their (and his) first songs to dance to, and also, a song that articulately describes the beautiful mess that she is. They danced, laughed, and sang.

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And after declaring her choice of love for him also, he got down on one knee….

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And asked her, “Kara, will you marry me?” she said with a beaming smile, “I will. I will marry you!”

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Then, they hugged, kissed…

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 Then, he put the most perfect ring in the whole world on her left ring finger, and they squeeled and smiled and giggled…

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Sitting down they soaked in the moment, and she curiously asked if there was anyone else there.

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Hiding in stealth were two photographers, two of her most cherished friends, his sister, Erinn, and Hunter, one of her heart and souls.

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They celebrated, took a few photos, and in form, he said, “Well, let’s go!”

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They stopped in the Outpost, and by the Rudy house to see Bob, and in making their way to Maudies (their first group date/hangout) for some Tacos, they both decided their tummies were too tumultuous for Mexican food, and settled most contentedly with a drive by Chick-Fil-A.

They ventured back to her Austin neighborhood, where he led her from her driveway, accross the street to celebrate with one of her other heart and souls, Smash, only to find so many of those that she dearly loves awaiting their arrival.

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She looked around the room and from every walk of life, were those who had contributed to the story that was being written, and the story that will continue to point to THE story, the greatest love story of all. The story of Jesus, Immanuel, God with us, and the gift of His crazy stupid love that gave his life for the forgiveness and reconciliation of our sins.

This story is not about Kara, it’s not about Jacob, it’s about Jesus. Join us in celebrating Him!

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as she repents

September, October, November, falling, falling, falling. But in her falling, she hopes. She hopes in His catching her. She hopes in His embrace. She hopes in His rescue. She hopes in His mercy. She hopes in His salvation. She hopes in her belovedness. There, her joy, her deep settled confidence of redemption, is complete and not lacking.

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[though she fall, she shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholds her with His hand. -Ps. 37:24]

She often calls to question her ‘crazy’, who she is, and why He created her the way He did- to respond to life’s circumstances like she does- so dang passionately based on her ‘feelers’. She asks why He’s written her story like so, or what about who she is so distinguishing from the worlds of others she observes around her. She is known to operate in extremes, responding to circumstances quite dramatically, the highest of highs, the lowest of lows. It doesn’t take much to send her one way or the other, it’s a daily, weekly, monthly, regular, way of life. She lacks steadiness, constancy. Her sister says it’s been her way since she was three-years-old. The wisest of friends recommend ongoing therapy. She’s that girl. The crazy one. And so she finds, with weekly counseling, she’s steadied. But why is this so necessary for stability? Why so dang needy? or as she perceives in comparison to those around her, high-maintenance? Her feelings, her sensitivity, a gift? or a curse? She often has viewed this way of life as a curse, but this way of life has only sent her deeper and more intimately into her Father’s love.

She’s resolved many ways to steady her soul in the heated midst of these elevations and depressions, many of those mentioned in previous posts. But as of lately, she takes great comfort and communion in the words of David. She observes his words, and they make sense. She can relate to them. They’re dramatic, a bit nutso, but unlike anything else she’s seen from humanity. His life, his words, his emotions make sense to her. And though the expressiveness of David may seem far off from the life she knows today, she sees his response to his own sin in conjunction with his understanding of a Father’s steadfast love and there is cultivated a revelatory trust, hope and intimacy with his Lord resulting in praise, glory and honor. What could be more precious? She wants to worship like David.

Here, she follows his prayer, as she repents….

Psalm 51

Have mercy, on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.

Like the tax collector in Luke 18:13, [she would not even lift up her eyes to heaven, but beat her chest, crying out, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’]… ‘Have mercy, on me, O God, not according to who I am or even what I have done, but according to your steadfast love. Have mercy on me, according to your lavish, and faithful, and relentless, and promised, and ever chasing, always pursuing, full and abundant, covenanted loving kindness. Have mercy, on me, O God, according to your tender mercy’s sake, blot out my transgressions. Wipe out my debt, let them not demand judgment of me, nor stare me down in confusion or terror. Not that I’m worthy to beg, or plead, but out of desperation, reconcile my sins.’

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!

The stain is deep, having lain long soaking in guilt. Her sin defiles her, renders her odious in the sight of a holy God. It unfits her for communion with God in grace or glory. She cries out, ‘Wash me, wash my soul thoroughly, wholly, completely from my defilement, and cleanse me from my tarnishing acts. Purify me. Make me acceptable to you, lend me, by grace, access to you.’

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

She recognizes her offenses, and is convinced of her wrong doing. Her sin is before her, she cannot get away from it. It deems her unworthy, unforgivable, her own grace and mercy is insufficient for herself. Shame and sorrow follow her, a passionate grief: ‘My sin is ever before me, to humble me, mortify me, and make me continually blush and tremble. It is ever against me, accusing and threatening me.’ Her pardon is in profession of the faith of His mercy and grace greater than anything she can muster for herself.

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.

She recognizes her sin against God. Him, the party wronged, His truth, she wilfully denied, His character, she despised, His command, she rebelled, His promise, she mistrusted, His name, she shamed… ‘Against you only,’ she expresses with deep contrition, ‘you only,’… While indeed she had sinned against her community, her ministry, her family, the Church, and against her own soul and body, all helping to humble her, yet none of these were sinned against so as her heavenly Father was, hence, her most sorrowful articulation, ‘Against you only, I have sinned.’

What she has done, her sin, was committed under his sight, in his view. With her deliberate action against him alone, she proclaimed disbelief in who He is as all knowing, either that, or a hatred toward his righteousness. However, her confession of this alone, justifies God as blameless. His justice cannot be denied.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

In confession, she grieves her original corruption. Though created in the image of God, as a child of God, she, by nature, not from God’s hands, but from her mother’s womb is a daughter of eve, molded and shapen with a corrupted nature, a beautiful image, twisted with sin. Deteriorated from primitive purity, she has from birth the trap of sin in her body, the seeds of sin in her soul, and the stains of sin upon both. Her original sin, her proneness towards evil, and foolishness bound in her heart, is grievously bent to backslide from God.

Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

Though she was brought forth in iniquity, she acknowledges the grace of God. It is His good will towards her, ‘you delight in truth in the inward being,’ and His good work in her ‘you teach me wisdom in the secret heart’ that accomplishes what He requires of her. His grace abounds exceedingly. It is in her repenting, that the enlightenment of her eyes, ears and softening of her heart to gain her will, compel her towards obedience, that He might be glorified.

Even the truth she knew in her head and obedience she desired to walk in did not keep her from falling. She did not live to what she knew was true. She hopes that in His delight, and goodness towards her, His teaching to her secret heart will in fact keep her true to what she knows and believes, lest she be deceived. Sincerity to her resolutions is what the new woman desires. Sincerity to faithfulness, to avoid the deception of the tempter, yet, once again.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Again she pleads for purging and washing, recognizing that her efforts aren’t enough to make her right and pure again. She is unclean, and restrained by her pollutedness, there must be a cleansing balm holy enough that when applied will make her pure again. ‘Purge me with hyssop,’ that is, the blood of Christ, the only balm able to purge the conscience from dead works, the only worthy wash to reconcile her to commune with her Father. She shall be clean. [Though her sins have been as scarlet, they shall now be white as snow.] Isaiah 1:18

Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice.

She prays in faith, in confidence of His ability to cleanse, that she might be clean, that the bitter root of sorrow may be removed, that she shall be clean. She prays for joy, for a deep settled confidence, that she has been redeemed. Her heart is like that of broken bones, yet the comfort of one who has been pardoned, spared, freed is the perfect ease from the most exquisite pain. She desires the Lord lift the light of her countenance and make His face shine brightly upon her, putting gladness in her heart, that she would be reconciled, and further grace than that, be given the ability to rejoice in communion.

Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.

Her comfort rests that though her acts were done in His sight, He might pardon her sins, and hide his face from them. This request, she’s unworthy to petition. For in his blotting out, One will receive judgement from what her sin deserves. One will pay her debt. One will have to be separated. Her desperate plea, is that she will not not be condemned. ‘Blot out all my iniquities.’ Again, she is grieved to recognize her hammer driving the nails into the One who would pay her debt. O, but the love of the Father! O, but the obedience of the Son! O, but the power in which they would overcome! She doesn’t understand. His love, crazy and stupid, she is confident is the only way.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

She is concerned about her inability to be clean on her own, and begs of His creation the only One able as creator, to create a clean heart inside of her. She longs for the corruptness of her nature to be transformed altogether. Her spirit, wavering, inconsistent, unsteadied, she prays, ‘O God, and renew a right spirit within me.’ She needs repairing from the decays of spiritual strength which has been weakened by deception. Renewing of constant, steadfast spirit within will persevere her for the time to come.

Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.

Though she is unworthy of His presence on her own, she prays that she might never be removed from His favor, to abide in her Father’s protection, that wherever she might go, He would be with her, divinely under His guidance and the custody of His power, that she may not be forbidden communion with His majesty. Her presence without his is disgust, it is a sight that cannot endured to look upon, so she begs. In her rebellion, she had quenched the Spirit, grieved Him, told Him to get lost, and what she knows now, is how undone she becomes without His counsel. She is needy for the Spirit to perfect the work of her repentance, for she is unfit to walk her own way.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

From a place of sorrow, she prays, first, for the restoration of joy- that the sowing of grief over her sin, may reap of joy in His salvation of her. Weakness leads her next cry, ‘uphold me with a willing spirit’. Prone to fall, into sin or despair, she cries, ‘Lord, uphold me with a willing spirit, sustain me, my spirit is not sufficient to keep me from sinking, and I need your strength to make me willing.’

Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.

She promises with His rescuing of her, that she will teach others the ways of the Lord, and that they would return to Him also. She had rebelled, and therefore could testify of the mercy she found in the Lord through Jesus Christ, and the way to God by repentance. She recognizes, she has nothing to boast of, her story without Jesus is shame, but with Him it stands for the glory of His name. Therefore, she must proclaim.

Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.

She prays against the guilt of sin, for the grace of God, that she would sing praises aloud of His righteousness.

O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.

Her lips had been closed by guilt, almost to stop the mouth of prayer, her shame was so great, knowing she had offended greatly, could not look upon the throne. Her heart condemned, with little confidence towards God. Her spirit dampened by the lost joys of her salvation is being renewed, and therefore she prays, ‘O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.’

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with burnt offering.

Though the Lord required sacrifices offered for atonement, he had no delight in them for their worth or value- His delight in the sacrifice lay outside the duty of it.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Her heart broken with itself, and breaking from its sin, is a heart pleasing to God. It is a heart that is malleable to the word of God, patient under the hand of God, a heart humbled into obedience, it is a heart that is tender and trembles at God’s word. Oh that, there be such a heart in her. How gracious He is please to accept this. It is the breaking of her heart for sin that is a sacrifice of acknowledgement. It is in her surrender of a sacrifice insufficient for His requirement that He prepares the perfect lamb, who was slain and made sufficient to pay for what she could not. This was the sacrifice acceptable, only in Jesus Christ, making a way for true

Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; build up the walls of Jerusalem;

then will you delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on your altar.

As David prays for his community, city and government, so she prays for hers. She is concerned for those affected by her sin, and those who similarly are prone to fall into such wounding sin.

Austin, her soul city, “Lord, would you do good to this city in your good pleasure, continue to make your name great here and enlarge the hearts of these people to adore you. Make those of us who know you, faithful and bold to testify of your story. You will be delighted in their sacrifices, in their repentance as they turn to you in expressions of gratitude and obedience. You are the God of this city.”

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Valley of Vision: Continual Repentance

O God of grace,

Thou hast imputed my sin to my substitute,

and hast imputed his righteousness

to my soul,

clothing me with a bridegroom’s robe,

decking me with jewels of holiness.

But in my Christian walk I am still in rags;

my best prayers are stained with sin;

my penitential tears are so much impurity;

my confessions of wrong are so many

aggravations of sin;

my receiving the Spirit is tinctured with

selfishness.

I need to repent of my repentance;

I need my tears to be washed;

I have no robe to bring to cover my sins,

no loom to weave my own righteousness;

I am always standing clothed in filthy garments,

and by grace am always receiving change of

raiment,

for thou dost always justify the ungodly;

I am always going into the far country,

and always returning home as a prodigal,

always saying, Father, forgive me,

and thou art always bringing forth

                                      the best robe.

Every morning let me wear it,

every evening return in it,

go out to the day’s work in it,

be married in it,

be wound in death in it,

stand before the great white throne in it,

enter heaven in it shining as the sun.

Grant me never to lose sight of

the exceeding sinfulness of sin,

the exceeding righteousness of salvation,

the exceeding glory of Christ,

the exceeding beauty of holiness,

the exceeding wonder of grace.

in His embrace

Though she might despise the fall, and curse its stripping of her soul, she rejoices in His catching her, because it is in this inevitable embrace, she sees more clearly, hears more audibly and understands His love more.

In the stripping of our soul, and the breaking of our heart, He makes a way. He makes a way for us to see His face, to hear His voice and He softens our heart to trust Him more. A month ago, I only thought the fall had shaken its leaves off this tree. However, the falling I’ve encountered over the past week is a fall I never imagined. It’s a fall I’ve feared, but never thought possible. It’s a fall that broke me beyond breaking. It’s a fall I didn’t know I was capable of. It’s a fall that brought me more low than I’ve been. But, it’s a fall that was necessary, a fall neccesary to make a way for growth. A growth I couldn’t accomplish from being perfect; a growing I could not accomplish in my own performance; a growth I need desperately, but can’t achieve. This growth is nothing of me, in fact, it highlights my sin, it boasts of my weakness, it leaves me alone. It leaves me naked, broken, despairing and desperate. But in this desperation, He is needed, nothing else will do. And in my needing Him, he catches me, and in His embrace, this growth becomes possible. Not only does it become possible, but it becomes an opportunity for rich testament of His gospel. It becomes a place of beauty, of glory, of majesty. It shows of His redemptive work that transforms, shapes and molds us, lowly and despised, into the image of His son, honored and prized.

This growth, it’s stupid. It takes our depravity, and it makes it beautiful, radiating glory. Our depravity, that of rubbish, most disgusting, the furthest from truth, the most tainted of good, our sin, He takes it. He takes our shame, and makes it for His fame. It doesn’t make sense. The gospel. It doesn’t make sense. The love of it, the grace of it, the hope of it, it’s too much. It makes nothing of us, it leaves us with no word, no explanation, nothing, nothing except Jesus. Jesus. Jesus, our everything. My fall, my weakness, my shame, my despair looks to Jesus. And in Jesus, in His embrace, this place of desperation discovers a soul revived, a soul strong, a soul relishing in the stripping, because it’s remedy is Jesus.

In His embrace, in this place of desperate glory, where nothing else will remedy, Jesus has me, undistracted, so feeble, so lifeless, unresistant, at rest, with no strength to run or fight or wrestle, He has me. There he lifts the veil clouding my eyes, and speaks tenderly into my ear and the truth of His promise enters the softness of my heart, and it changes me. It changes me.

I am not the same.

So, today, I trust. I trust that He cares for me. I have not to worry. I cannot take thought outside of His promise, of the truth of His word. I am to be. To be in this moment, with Him. In His embrace. He has me. He holds me. He cares for me. I am not to worry. But, I must, I must testify, because, dear, He cares for you too. He longs to get you in His embrace, to speak tenderly to the softness of your heart. He longs to have you, here, in this moment, with Him. Where are you running? Where do you think your strength is sufficient? or your plan is better? Where are you being deceived? Where don’t you believe? Where are you trying to accomplish what He has promised to do in His beautiful time? Just be.

“Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;” -Psalm 37: 3-7

He caught her

Once upon a fall, he caught her.

Sweet dear, wake up… let your first conscious thought stir into my affection. Feel the warmth of this fall sunrise on your face. I want to meet with you… There you are, my darling, good morning! Those eyes, I havn’t seen them so soft, so surrendered, so light, in so long. I see you, dear Kara, my beloved, I’ve been waiting months to see your gaze again. Your tender gaze, the way you rest in my arms, the stillness of your soul, I have missed you, my dearly, I have missed you so. Lay with me. You are safe here. Don’t move. Don’t wrestle. Just be. Just be with me. I have you. I won’t let you go. Keep your eyes fixed right here… Shhh… You don’t have to say anything. You don’t have to do, just be… Be with me, where you belong. Rest here, relief is here, right here, with me. My sweet, my, my, my dear, you are beautiful. You are precious. You are mine. Do you remember this? You are mine. My delight. My prize. My beloved. You are my beloved. I have named you as mine, one whom I radically love. But my sweet dear, my precious one, Where have you been? I’ve been fighting hard for this gaze, for this rest, for this trust. Have you been running from me? Where have you been hiding? That sneaky ole serpent, he’s at it again, isn’t he? His way of trickery, I know he’s at it again. He is relentless. He’s out to get you, my dear. He wants you to forget moments like these. He wants to separate you from me, to distract you from my love. My love, I will warn you. He knows you well. He knows you all too well. He knows what to whisper, and how to decieve, he knows how wet your longing outside of me. He’s had twenty six years to study you, watch you, follow you, and even before then, he anticipated his way of attack to steal you from me. He is on the prowl, stalking, seeking to devour, to kill and steal and destroy. I know you are weary. I know you are tired of resisting him. I know you are exhausted from his lies. I know you are hurt and scared from his schems. I know, dearly, I do know. I’ve been there,  and I empathize with you. This war, it will be over soon enough, but for now, you will battle, and precious one, you aren’t strong enough. Your fight isn’t mighty enough. But my love, not to worry. I hold you. Nothing, absolutely nothing can take you from my embrace. Long ago, I claimed victory over this war.  But, I need you to trust me, to trust my strength and not your own. Oh, sweet one, I want you. I want all of you, desperately, whole, forever mine. I want your gaze. I want your rest. I want you. I have secured you as mine. But dearly, you doubt me. You don’t believe this about me. You struggle to understand what I have done for you. It cost me everything, my life, but my love, you are worth it. You, I am so jealous for, and I will fight to show you my love, every day, I will fight. So, my beloved, rest. Rest in me. You’ve been trying to fight on your own, havn’t you? Aren’t you weary? Come to me. Let me take a look at those wounds. Oh sweet, those must sting, they are fresh and exposed. Heartwrentching pain huh? I know these wounds, afflicting, piercing… I feel the pain with you, even more than you can bare, I suffer this same sting. I suffered it for you long ago. I want to take it from you, can I? Can I take the pain from you? Would you let me kiss it? I know you don’t want me to, but it will bring healing. I promise, my touch, it heals… Now, then… These wounds, they’re all too familiar aren’t they? This isn’t your first battle is it? My little fighter, you are so ruthless in your rebellion, darling, you go so hard, with so much zeal and fervor, you run, you run like the wind, away from me, disregarding my strength, and you expose yourself to so much hurt. And as grieved as I am, I rejoice in this return. In this moment. I delight in rescuing you. I rejoice, because I get to show you my power, and might and love for you like you wouldn’t know if you didn’t run so hard. Let’s take a look at these scars, I want to show you something. I want to remind you of who I am, and what I have done. I promise, my dear, I will do it again and again and again. I am your healer. Look here, see this one. You may not remember it as clearly as I do. You were young, youthful and innocent. My dear, this wound was one inflicted upon you.  You had no control, you were powerless. I wanted to protect you, because I knew how disabling this wound would be, but more than that, I knew how beautiful I could make it. I know so much more, and I know that now for a little while, this wound would bring great suffering, great pain and great heartache, but I also can see the beauty in it the full awe of it. I knew that in allowing this wound, you would be destined to fall back into my arms over and over again.  It was gruesome, debilitating, earth shattering, and jaw dropping, they gaped upon your wallowing and asked, “Will she make it? Will she survive? That is a messy one.” I assured the great cloud, “Oh, this one, she will thrive. Though intended for evil, I will make this attack beautiful, glorious and of my splendor.” And look at you now! You are radiant. Even in your hurting, in your limping and despairing, you glow my glory.  I will come back to secure it. And all these others, they are secondary scars, where you ran away to find healing for this one outside of me. Some self inflicted, others of an attack.These scars, my dear, they aren’t meant to hide, to be ashamed of. Sweet Kara, these scars testify of my redeeming work. It’s miraculous. So don’t hide them, expose them, so that others can experience healing, also. I’m bringing this wound there, to my complete and whole and redeemed glory. Thats what this war is about. My victory. It has been finished. Rest in the reality that I have already fought this for you. I know you’ve been chasing after the wind lately, but I have you home now. I want to tend to you, to care for you. Will you let me? All you need is to be. Be still. I’m here. I’m not going anywhere. You are mine. Love of my life, look deep in my eyes. There you will find what you need. And give me your life, the lust and the lies and the past you’re afraid I might see. You’ve been running away from me, but you are my beloved, lover, I’m yours. Death shall not part us, it’s you I died for. For better or worse, forever we’ll be. My love it unites us, and it binds you to me. It’s a mystery. I’m the giver of life. I’ll clothe you in white. My immaculate bride you will be. Oh, come running home to me. You’ve been a mistress, my wife, chasing lovers that won’t satisfy. Won’t you let me make you my bride? You will drink of my lips, and taste new life. You’re my beloved.

once upon a fall

There is something about seasons that just fascinate me. Evolving, they are constantly in motion in accordance with the way the earth sits in relationship to the sun, consequently, affecting weather, daylight, and all processes in which we as humans survive and thrive.

Winter, a time where days are short, weather is cold, and most of life is bitter and uncomfortable. It is a time for plants to die, animals to hibernate and birds to migrate. Creation hides. We resist it, avoid it. I want to cuss thinking about it. I hate the cold. I’m cold right now as I type this, and I’m highly irritated about it. Then, there is spring, often symbolic of rebirth, rejuvenation, renewal, resurrection and regrowth. The rain comes, then the sun and heat follow. Creation awakens, flourishes, thrives. Following spring, is summer, sweet summertime. A season that beckons for vacation, activity and celebration. Though hott, summer is favored for liberty, freedom and long days of livelihood. Creation dances. Summer, my favorite. And fall, the freaking fall. Fall is marked by the shedding of leaves from trees as they pave the way to growth. Creation falls. I think there is something melancholic about the fall, maybe its the end of a vacation or the anticipation of bitter cold weather, but it just doesn’t have the same thrill as the other seasons.

I’m a bit dramatic, sentimental and highly feeler-esque, but as the seasons shift, call me crazy, so does the state of my soul. So, if fall marks the shedding of leaves from trees paving a way for growth, you can imagine the same shedding of my soul. Good grief. Every year, I just find the season of fall inevitably not very pleasant at all. Most people anticipate the season of fall for relief from hot weather. I, do not. The summer lends itself to a completely elevated, intoxicated and dancing in confident bliss state of existence (reference my last post), then somewhere right around September 1st, my world begins to fall apart, slapping my fairy tale summer right across the face.

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[fairytale summer to fall]

This year it came swinging a day earlier than expected, just when I thought my incandescent perspective might keep me this year from really ‘fall’ing. Smitten as a kitten in the most irresponsibly vulnerable financial state, unemployed and unphased, I was on the road with foot heavy to meet the man of my affections’ family and hometown. And there, in small town east Texas a state trooper found it fitting to write me four traffic violations in one slam. That was it, the marker of the fall. Here it comes. I only thought I was living the life I never imagined. I sure never imagined what the following days and weeks had in store, but a reality check and wake up call was long over due. Flat tires, dead car batteries, flooded rooms, unmet expectations, dying of dreams, a leaky and squeaky shower, prolonged unemployment, rejection, opposition in relationships and shot car breaks mark a few of the unfortunate circumstances accompanied by the poor man’s diet of summer camp leftover oatmeal, peanut butter and honey. Not so incandescently wonderful anymore, eh? Just a hott mess. Enough to make me aware of my ungodly dependencies and entitlements. Enough to rock my identity, worth, and enough to heighten my self-centeredness resulting in fall after fall after fall. Stupid sin. Every fall, there is an exposing of my darkness and depravity like never before. The shedding of the soul, alright.

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[confess: repent: be reconciled] [flat tires] [dead batteries]

Something else that never ceases to amaze me about the fall, is what I learn about who God is, and how He loves- faithfully, relentlessly and lavishly. He meets my falling with mercy brand new, grace abounding and generosity beyond my comprehension. In this wrecked world, in the falling apart and shedding of my soul, I recognize a good God. A very good God. Whether it be a unexpected financial crisis, a soft spot in identity or the recognition of my depravity, He meets me, and His faithfulness is unparalleled.

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[sunnies, monies, thursday nights, receptionist heights]

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[beauty, brilliance, babes, birthdays]

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[mighty men, faithful friend, soul city style, smirk of smile]

So I in my ‘fall’ing, I ask my good and faithful Abba, “Why, Lord, why do you let me fall?”

His tenderness responds, “Dear one, I see you. I know you. I want you. I see you blameless. I know you fully. I want you wholly. This falling, this shedding of your soul, brings you to me. I am about you becoming mine- perfected, completed, restored and redeemed. I have rescued you, darling, and I am making all these things beautiful. Let me show you my faithfulness, my love for you, and my mighty power to bring you to glory where I have prepared a place specifically and significantly for you to be with me… forever.”

What I learn every fall, each year, a little bit more poignantly and simultaneously joyfilled, is how our good God is about sanctification. Surely, He doesn’t delight in my falling, but confidently, He delights in His rescuing of my once so shabby soul, in the dependence I encounter in the fall. I get to see Him when I fall, because I realize that I am not enough. I realize that I need help. As burdened, and broken and despairing as I am in the fall, He is at rest, unphased and smiling, He knows the outcome, it’s beautiful. He promises it. All things beautiful in His time.

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beyond the finish line

[They were there. They saw it all, every step, every fall. Pummeling along dirty trails, rocky roads and sidewalks sales, the two traversed in stride laying every weight of entanglement aside. Supporting the weight of her restless heart, they gave her an outlet to completely fall apart. From tears, giggles, glee and cheers, to grunts, groans and singing in off tones- fit in them, she was fully known. Free from judgment and full of grace, with weary souls and loosely laced, the two matched tone and submitted to pace. Her faithful companions for 500 miles, they carried her through the most tumultuous trials. The eight-month journey to twenty-six point two could only be credited as experienced in her running shoes.]

20130828-160746.jpgFour months ago to the date, her running shoes carried her 26.2 miles across a finish line. This finish line was symbolic of many thoughts, ideas and experiences. It was the end of an adventure, the reward of discipline, the anticipation of glory, the completion of a goal, but most feared, the turning point into the unknown. With arms high, and heart abandoned, the step that followed four hours and twenty five minutes of running marked the step of surrender; a letting go of dreams, of plans, of expectations, a trust that her way isn’t best, and a longing to know His way as better. The life she’d imagined, she’d dreamt of it, she’d planned it and she was living it. But it wasn’t good enough. She was disappointed. Her expectations weren’t met. She was unsatisfied. Even in the best of what her futile mind could create in wonder and zeal, even in the full exertion of every fiber in her body, it wasn’t enough. The adventure incomplete, the reward too little, the glory fallen short, the goal too small, and the unknown so great. Her plans, her dreams, her imagination, done. Eight months of rigorous training, done. The career she once dreamt of, done. The expectation of his engagement, done. This finish line marked the end of her arrogant attempts to rule the life she’d imagined, and the beginning of what control couldn’t manage. Here, crossing this finish line, the life she’d never imagined, began.

20130828-160820.jpgThe attempt to articulate this life recently begun overwhelms her. Eight half written blog posts lit up in her doc are her efforts to do so. Their appearance on the screen reflect off of the partially consumed cup of coffee in her hand that meets with the lips of her semi-smile of smite as she sits, contentedly at rest, and irresponsibly unemployed. “This is it.” is what she ponders, staring at the screen, “This is life beyond the finish line, life surrendered, life beyond my wildest dreams. This is it. This is grace. This is what I do not deserve. This is it. This is the gospel. This is Your delight in me. This is it. This is redemption. This is it. This is glory. This. is. it.” Maybe she doesn’t know what ‘this’ or ‘is’ or ‘it’ really is, and, maybe her testament of the past three months beyond the finish line could never fully paint a picture that this is it, but she knows this is better; better than what she could have planned, better than what she has dreamt, better than what she asked for, and better than what she imagined.

Because pictures paint a thousand words, and because a thousand words couldn’t articulate this life beyond the finish line, I’ve chosen a few to take you where I’ve been since then.

20130828-160911.jpgShe let go,

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cleared her inbox and to-dos, quit her job, prepped her last clean eat

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moved to camp,

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remembered His covenant,

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honked, ran fast and free, met beyonce, became known as ‘momma’, loved like crazy,

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waved her flag,

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played in the mud,

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 made eye contact, drank alot of coffee, caught the bouquet,

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got ‘er done,

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burnt some bacon, flushed a fork, ate a chop, met some gems,

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shared her story, experienced grace, tasted the gospel,

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dominated the dam(n) slide,

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and at the end of it all, she came home.

This. is. it.

It. is. better.

Beyond her wildest dreams, the life she’d never imagined.

in her rebellion

Imagine her, red-headed, giggle-full, ketchup-stained, a spunk of sass and a smirk of sweet. Precious, right? She’s at her third birthday party; playscape, balloons, chicken nuggets, chocolate milk, a Muno cake, presents, her ten best friends and the whole famn damily- all in celebration of her. With no threat of harm, fully protected, completely provided for and lavished with the most specific and significant of love, it is evident that she is delighted in, and has no inkling to doubt otherwise.

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Yet, when helping hand of a curious cousin reaches before her into Grammy’s gift, the sweet smirk fades and that spunk of sass erupts into rage. Rage comparable to that of a famished tyrannosaurs rex, as she whales, “BUT I WANNA DO IT!!!!” Her white knuckled clinched fists stand out in starkness against her face, which now camouflages the tint of her striking red hair. At the pinnacle of meltdown, her crooked little chompers sink deep into Grammy’s gift bag ripping it in half before collapsing into fluidity onto the floor. Party over.

Some say sugar crash, others swear she was over stimulated, while most claim she was just too tired; valid, accurate, yet, unjustified. She’s loved, remember? Cared for, delighted in, protected, provided for and lavished with more affection than she knows what to do with. Why turmoil? Why doubt? Why fear?

Perhaps she’s cursed. Cursed with a whispering that tears away at her being, “Rylan, they don’t love you, and they don’t know and cannot provide what is best for you.” Though this whispering is subtle, it drowns out the truth she has experienced and heard about the loved one she is, and she must fend for herself. She knows what she wants and needs, and, by golly, she’s going to get it. Choosing to abandon vulnerable dependence on those who love her most, she is about her own way, her own will and her own glory. Though she is more loved than she dared dream, she’s been deceived. She doubts, and therefore, in defiance, she runs and rebels outside of who she is as a daughter delighted in and one who is radically loved.

Whether it be the defiant melting down of my three year old red headed niece or the itching rebellion of the teenage students I interact with throughout the week, there are more days than not that I encounter someone whom I deeply care for engaging in activity that is detrimental, destructive and less than God’s best.

But then again, who am I? Not far from my dear Rylan Hope, I’m a hoarder of the gifts I’ve been given, lashing out in vicious protection against any threat, undeniably resulting a time or two in an F5 meltdown on the floor of Chick-fil-a. Marred, cursed and haunted with human depravity, I am deceived. I doubt, and out of defiance and mistrust, I run and rebel outside of who I am as a daughter divinely delighted in and one who is radically loved.

What a cheap life we choose.

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We search and we cannot find. We strive and we can’t achieve. We control our way to anxiety. We indulge and are unsatisfied. We numb and become addicted. We long and are unfulfilled. And at the end of the day, birthday parties end early, gifts go un-opened and the fullness of what was intended is far from experienced.

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing that I hate. –Romans 7:15

A few years ago I was given the assignment to write a paper on, ‘How to change someone’s behavior…’, and let’s just say, I’ve been unsettled with the matter since. From my very own wretched heart to that of my darling niece and the teenage students I walk with day-to-day, are my observations, futile philosophies and failed attempts in convincing a heart deceived that it’s way is far from best.

Outlined in it’s simplest form is her hypothesizing:

What she does, how she lives, in her ACTIVITY [or behavior]

is dictated by her view of self, who she is, in her IDENTITY,

and what she believes about herself is a result of how she views God,

her belief of who He is, in her THEOLOGY.

So, if how we live our life all hinges on our view of God, what determines that? Over the next few posts, I’ll venture to share a thought or two on what I’ve cut and pasted together as my tattered and evolving philosophy of discipleship.