Friday, October 17, 2014

full to bursting

Has your heart ever been so full you think it might burst?

I remember the moment as if it was last month. I think it was the fall of 1999. The trees were golden yellow. The air was sharp and crisp. The sun's angle cast a glow on the fluttering leaves, the well-trimmed hedges throwing long shadows. I walked down the campus path, drawing a deep breath of autumn. It was the same path I had walked dozens of times, past aging buildings toward home, but that day everything swelled with rightness. 

I had just finished teaching a "lab" section of Advanced Bible Study Methods to upperclassmen at Multnomah Bible College. My heart swelled with gratitude for the opportunity to guide students on their quest to understand the Scriptures. I was doing what I was born to do. As I walked home under the bright canopy of leaves, with joy welling up inside, a seed of hope was born.

I didn't know how or when. But I knew that I wanted to return someday, not as a lab instructor, but as a professor. I belonged here. Teaching. Multnomah didn't hire women as Bible Professors back then. I had it on good authority that they probably never would. But I didn't let that stop me from dreaming. I watered that seed of hope with hours and days and weeks and years of graduate-level education. Maybe someday . . .

Multnomah has not had an easy road these past few years. President Dan Lockwood died of cancer just one year ago, in the midst of financial challenges and unhappy lay-offs. But then our road has not been easy either. Multnomah may not be not the same place it was that fall day 15 years ago. Neither am I. But God is up to something wonderful.

Dr. G. Craig Williford,
5th President of Multnomah University
Fast forward to this afternoon. Danny and I had the privilege of witnessing the inauguration of Multnomah's 5th president, Dr. Craig Williford. The faculty -- men and women who have profoundly shaped who we have become -- paraded by in full regalia to the sound of bagpipes. Retired Professor David Needham prayed, transporting us directly to the throne room, as he did countless times as we sat under his teaching. Luis Palau spoke. Surrounded by beloved faculty and staff, it was hard not to smile. But I had another reason to celebrate, too, because the man who took office today is not just leading my alma mater. In a few short months he will also be my boss.

Are you sitting down? This Spring you'll find me on campus twice a week teaching a Freshmen class on the Gospels and Acts. I keep pinching myself. I have spent the past 19 years getting ready for this moment. Now it's suddenly here and I'm full to bursting. What a joy to begin this stage of my teaching career at the very place it all began!

(No, I'm not finished with my dissertation yet. Revisions will take the better part of this year, at least. But I have the feeling that this experience will give it wings to fly. It has me!)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

leap of faith

"Leap of Faith" by Jasmine May
This is the third of three watercolors that Jasmine May shared with me — and I'm delighted to have permission to share it with you. It grapples with another dimension of faith. "Falling Into His Hands" portrayed the strong hands of God that are ready to catch us whenever we let go of control. This painting — "Leap of Faith" — depicts the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to do what is far beyond our natural abilities. In this phase of Jasmine's walk with Jesus he was asking her not to sit back and watch Him work on her behalf, but to step out and take action on others' behalf with no guarantee of success. Jasmine explains,
"When we sensed God telling us to start an aftercare home for sex-trafficking survivors, it seemed impossible. God was saying, 'Jump off that cliff.' I asked Him, " ... so are You going to catch me?' But He answered, 'No. I gave you everything you need to fly. The wings are the Holy Spirit. The only way to experience how to fly by My Spirit is to jump!'"
The rhythm of our life with God includes both kinds of trust -- both quiet waiting and taking action. Is God prompting you to take a leap of faith? Is there an impossible task that awaits you? If God is asking you to do it, He has already supplied you with everything you need.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

falling into his hands

"Falling into His Hands" by Jasmine May
Today I wanted to share another of Jasmine May's stunning watercolors (with her permission). Describing this scene, Jasmine says, "Many times, in order to trust God, you have to let go of what you are holding onto. Trusting God often feels like falling into chaos and storm and losing solid ground. But only when you let go, do you find God's strong hands."

Take a few moments to think about your own life. Where is God asking you to trust Him? Does it feel like to trust you'll have to let go of everything comfortable and familiar and enter into a season of chaos?

Last fall I let go of the rope. In the chaos that ensued I felt God's strong hands cradling me, protecting me. Had I clung to the rope, trying to maintain control of my situation, I would have missed out on some priceless gifts.

Trust is easy when all is well, but it also isn't very impressive. Life's greatest difficulties are the true test of our faith in God. At the precise moment when life feels most out of control, God is inviting us to fall back into His hands. It would be easy to let go if we already felt the strength of His hands beneath us. But we can't. And that's where trust comes in — believing that He will be there to catch us, even when we can't see or hear him.

As Peter puts it, "Such trials show the proven character of your faith, which is much more valuable than gold— gold that is tested by fire, even though it is passing away— and will bring praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." (1 Peter 1:7 New English Translation)

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

the BIG story of the Bible in a nutshell

I just heard about a great new resource developed by a college friend, Tim Mackie, and his roommate, Jon Collins. Check out their latest video here. In just a few minutes it weaves the story line of the entire Bible together, centered on the Messiah. They're working on videos introducing the big themes of every book of the Bible as well as a collection of theme-based videos. What I've seen so far is excellent.

If you've seen my favorite children's Bible, The Big Picture Story Bible, then you've had a taste of what drives this video project. They have a lot in common. This will be a great resource for teachers, small group leaders, parents, and anyone who wants to understand the Bible's overall message.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

after the storm

Art speaks powerfully. The artistry of Israel's tabernacle captured a sense of God's majesty with its gold overlays, fine fabrics, rich colors, and sparkling gemstones. Images of cherubim, lush fruits, and verdant trees evoked memories of the Garden. Aaron's fabulous clothes illustrated his role as intercessor for the nation. The design of the tabernacle and its furnishings was important enough to God that he gave Moses detailed plans to follow and set apart two men uniquely gifted in the arts to carry out the work (Exodus 30:1–11).

In a recent web article, Christian leadership guru Michael Hyatt claimed,
"Art has the power to point us to the divine, to the ultimate Artist. It doesn’t answer all the questions, but it can shine a light on questions we didn’t even know we had."

My friend, Jasmine May, author of Deep Waters, has graciously agreed to let me share some of her beautiful artwork with you. Like the artistry of the tabernacle, Jasmine's art speaks. While our journeys have been vastly different, we've both experienced pain and brokenness as well as healing.

"After the Storm" by Jasmine May
Her painting so stunningly portrays the state of my soul. The worst of the storm is over and the sun has begun streaming down from the clouds. The tree is surprised to look down and discover that she has not been destroyed. In fact, the power of the storm has stirred up deeper beauty. Her joy unfolds like a flower. Jasmine explains, "As the wind blows the leaves, it carries the seeds of the tree's beauty to the world at large, spreading life."

Thanks, Jasmine, for sharing this gift with the world and lifting our eyes to look to God!

Friday, September 19, 2014

free language resources for spanish, german, french, and aramaic

I've recently been introduced to several free resources for those attempting to learn Aramaic, German, or French (among other languages). For your convenience, I've added links for the Aramaic websites on my Academic Resources page on the right-hand side of the screen.

I studied both French and German for reading several years ago in order to be able to read academic books and essays related to biblical studies. However, since then I've been consistently embarrassed that I can neither speak nor understand either language when it is spoken, because I never learned to pronounce them. I've been tempted to spend big bucks to get Rosetta Stone language-learning software to teach me pronunciation and improve my fluency. But I'm so glad I didn't. This week our family discovered Duolingo, a FREE online language-learning program that may even be more effective than Rosetta Stone (with NO ads!). Duolingo offers practice in reading, listening, speaking (if you have a microphone) and translating to and from your target language. It tracks your progress and offers incentives to keep you learning. In just 3 days my ability to hear, speak, translate, and spell in German has improved significantly!

In case you're not yet convinced, here's another testimonial: Our daughter, Eliana, went through all 5 years of Rosetta Stone Spanish and still felt like she didn't "get" it. After a week of Duolingo Spanish, she's finally understanding how the language works and speaking to me in Spanish. Try it yourself and see!

Monday, September 15, 2014

new author spotlight

Several of our missionary colleagues have recently published their first books. It's my joy to share their work with you here. While I have not yet read all their books, these authors have lived authentically the stories they share here. Each of them have been an inspiration to me, and I'm excited to see their stories published. If you decide to read any of them, I'd be interested in hearing what you think!

Miracle Beans and the Golden Book: From a Snowstorm in Ohio to the Blazing Sun of Africa, One Family's True Stories Following the Call of the Gospel 

We've enjoyed this book as a fun read-aloud with our kids. Each of the short chapters is a snapshot of life in Africa. For us, the best part is knowing the authors and their kids and grandkids (our kids' good buddies from Charlotte), but we think you'll like it, too, if you want to instill in your kids a willingness to follow God's call anywhere. Don and Barb were mentors to us when we began our journey into missions with SIM. All the proceeds from the sale of this book actually go to support the ministry of SIM we joined almost 9 years ago: Sports Friends.

Growing Down: God's Grace in Spite of Myself

Sarah Wetzel and her husband, Jake, served with Sports Friends in Ethiopia at Camp Langano. They brought to Langano decades of experience in camping ministry in Bolivia with SIM, helping to build the infrastructure so that the camp could accommodate dozens of young people and their coaches each week. Sarah is a wonderful writer. Here she shares her own journey of spiritual growth. I think you'll find it encouraging!

God and Elephants: A Worshipper's Guide to Raising Support

Heather Ricks and her husband, Jason, joined our Sports Friends team just a handful of years ago after first serving in Ghana, and before that, planting a church in the U.S. Heather has not only watched God provide for their own financial needs as missionaries, but she has helped to orient others to the support-raising process. She's passionate about writing, about missions, and about seeing God glorified in all things. We've just ordered our copy of her book and we can't wait to see what she has to say!

Deep Waters: a journey of healing from sexual abuse

This book promises to be a fruitful resource for counselors as well as victims of sexual abuse. Our friend, Jasmine, shares openly about her own experiences in hopes that others who have suffered similar horror will find hope in Christ as well as practical help. She says, "This is my story of how God met me in the place of deepest pain and shame." If someone you know could benefit from this book, consider buying them a copy.

While I'm writing, do you know about Amazon Smile? If you begin shopping at, you can select a charity to receive a portion of the proceeds from your purchase. It doesn't cost you anything extra. I picked Compassion International. What will you choose?