A Pig Problem

October Snow

“I think people try to make it too complicated.  You know?  Like Jesus meets us where we are, right?  So I can go to church and all and still do what I do – still just be me.”


These words were paraphrased from a real conversation I had with a coworker a few years ago.  She attended a mega-church some of the time.  She drank somewhat regularly despite the fact that she was only 19 years old.  She had recently moved in with her boyfriend.  She believed that she was a Christian.

I know I’m treading dangerous ground right now, especially with the ideas of tolerance that permeate society today.  But something needs to be said.

Yes, Jesus meets us where we are.  Absolutely.  And it’s a good thing too.  If He didn’t meet us where we were then there would be no way for us to meet Him at all.  We would be hopeless; doomed to sit on our own islands and watch His glory from a distance for all of our lives.

Jesus meets us where we are.  But He doesn’t leave us there.  And if we’re still the person that we were before we met Him then did we really encounter Him at all?  Shouldn’t an encounter with the Living God leave some sort of mark?

Shouldn’t we be changed?

The fact of the matter is that, on our own, each and every one of us is filthy in comparison with God.  Maybe not in comparison with certain other people (and that’s what makes us feel better about ourselves, isn’t it?) but in comparison with God?  With the Almighty, Perfect Creator of All?  Even the best of us is a pig, wallowing in a septic tank.

And we’ve been sold the idea that we don’t have to change our ways to find salvation with God.  And perhaps that is partially true – a pig, stuck in a septic tank, cannot escape its prison unless someone on the outside steps in and rescues it.  But the analogy doesn’t end here.  What happens to the pig when it is found?  Does the one who discovers the pig stand near the edge of the tank and tell the pig that it is safe?  “I’ve got you now,” the pig’s savior hollers down, “just hang out down there and trust that you’re safe with me.”

Of course not.  That would be ridiculous.

The pig’s savior pulls the pig out of the septic tank, hoses it off, and closes the tank so the pig can’t fall in again.

The pig, however, being a pig, had been enjoying the septic tank and so the savior of the pig changes the pig into a new creature – a clean creature (a sheep might be a fitting choice) which will not crave the mud and muck any longer.

So many people in this world today – in this nation in particular – believe that they can say a prayer and check off a box – and that they never need to concern themselves with anything beyond that moment.  “…I can go to church and all and still do what I do – still just be me.”

Are we making it too easy?  Are we making the Christian walk seem like a moment that doesn’t need to affect the rest of our lives?

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 16:24-25, ESV

That doesn’t sound easy to me.  So why are we trying to make it easy when Jesus made it clear that it is a hard and dangerous road?

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!” 1 Cor. 5:17, CSB

Did you catch that?  A new creation.  As in: not a pig-wallowing-in-the-mud anymore.  Or, at least, you shouldn’t be, not if you’re in Christ.

That means that if Christ has rescued you – if you claim to be saved by Him – there should be some difference between who you were before and who you are now.

Because He doesn’t leave pigs in septic tanks.  Not if they’ll let Him rescue them.  Not if they’ll let Him make them a new creation.

And they’ll leave their mud-wallowing days behind them.  Not because of their own will-power.  But because the sheep will follow the Shepherd.  The sheep will love the Shepherd.

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”  – The Shepherd, John 14:15, ESV

Some updates!

There have been a lot of great things happening at the Ranch in the past few weeks.  Working without a co-mentor is exhausting!  There’s so much to get done and it never seems like there are enough hours in the day to do it all.  But somehow, by the grace of God, I’m managing.  He has been incredibly faithful.  My first two days running the house by myself were unseasonably warm – a great blessing from God – He knows just how to encourage me!  The following week we had a run-in with the stomach bug in the house which was going to cause some serious logistical issues during my solo days – and, once again, God provided a way.  Both days – which would have required the help of several other staff members to fill in for things I couldn’t do because I had a quarantined teenager in the house – ended up as snow days!  And though those snow days were challenging in their own right (and exciting as well!), I know that they were far less complicated and stressful than they would have been otherwise – yet another “little” miracle from the Lord.

Snow day 2018
One of my boys – he made a baby snowman because… why not?

We have welcomed a new boy into the house and, though he is sometimes a joy to work with, he is struggling to adjust to some aspects of Ranch life, particularly in regard to submitting to authority.  Prayers for his adjustment would be greatly appreciated as well as prayers for the house staff to have adequate patience to keep working with him, extending grace, and showing love each day.

And pray for more mentors to apply!  We could use several new mentors right now as each of the houses would benefit from an additional mentor.  And here’s my shameless plug: if you or someone you know is a twenty-something person who loves God and loves kids and/or teenagers and is looking for a job – look into the mentor position here at Wears Valley Ranch.  It’s not an easy job but it is rewarding in its own right.  I have learned so much in the five months I’ve been here and I know I will continue to learn and grow in the months to come.  And I’ve fallen in love with so many of the kids – even the annoying ones!  Okay, shameless plug over.

Grace and Peace,



Purpose in the Process

Snowy Road.jpgJust over a year ago I was directing a short Christmas Play with my students on the T’O Reservation.   It was a cute little skit about finding the true meaning of Christmas which was, of course, inexplicably missing.  While rehearsing, one of my young actors continually made the same mistake with her lines: she replaced the word “process” with “progress,” a mistake I soon discovered was a losing battle to correct.

It was only recently that I realized that her substitution was actually profound.

Think about it: what is really the difference between “process” and “progress”?  Is one more important?  The two are most definitely related in some cause/effect way.  But does one matter more than the other?

Should one matter more?

I’ve had several opportunities recently to consider the implications of this relationship.  During school hours, my students almost always desire progress (though on some days, I must admit, even that desire is lacking) but dread the process necessary to achieve it.  And, I suppose, it is a normal attitude to have – we all work better with clearly defined, achievable goals.

But the whole institution of schooling – of learning – is about so much more than results.

It’s about the process.

So much of what children learn growing up is based on experience and practice, not facts and data.  Math skills – practice.  Writing skills – practice.  Communication skills – experience and observation. Critical thinking – practice. Work ethic – practice.

And the most important thing for a child to learn: How to LEARNpractice.

And practice, as any musician can tell you, is more about the process than about the progress.  It’s about disciplining yourself; developing the muscle memory and skill necessary to perform whatever task it is you are practicing for consistently and with excellence.  And that leads to results – to progress.  But it would be a mistake to assume that the practice – the process – is merely a means to an end.

One of the main tenants at the Ranch is that children are always learning, often more outside of school hours than in.  The process of life has just as much to do with a child’s development as the progress found in formal class time.

And it’s a beautiful thing to be involved in both.

So, which is more important? Process or progress?

I suppose, the answer is yes.  Both are equally important in the long run.  Though, in many ways, I would say that process is primary for, without the process, there is no progress.

And, sometimes, even with the process, there is little progress, at least for a time.  And it is in these moments that we must find joy and purpose in the process alone, without any need for the progress to validate us.  If we focus solely on progress, our work will seem futile at times.  Discouraged and disillusioned, we may give up before we should.  If, however, we allow the process to have its own purpose then we will always have a reason to keep moving.  I see this as the difference between students who love school and those who hate school.  Those who look only for progress are easily discouraged when they fail to make any for a time.  Those who find joy in the process of learning itself are rarely discouraged, relishing each opportunity to sharpen their skills.

And this isn’t just about school.  If we can find a joy and a purpose in the process of everything we do (like those New Year’s Resolutions, maybe?) we might just find that life is a much more exciting thing to do.  After all, isn’t life a process?

A few updates!

The new year is opening with quite a few changes.  For the last two months I’ve been teaching three students math and English – three students, with three different learning styles, at three different grade levels, with three different curricula.  And that, in itself, has been quite the process!

But, as so often happens, just when I get comfortable with something, everything changes again!   Hailey, my co-mentor, has left the Ranch to go back to college and I am left, for the time being, without a partner to work with.  This means that, among other things, we’ve had to shift around some of the teaching assignments, leaving me with the majority responsibility (not just math and English) of two different students, one of which is completely new to the Ranch.  This is certainly going to be a time of adjusting for all involved!  As January opens, I pray that I will continue to be flexible, finding joy and purpose in the process and not only search for the results which may seem nonexistent for awhile.  I will miss teaching the students I am passing on to others but my hope is that I will be able to connect well with these new students without too much of a struggle.  I also pray that a new co-mentor will answer the call and join me here soon!  I covet your prayers as I, once again, enter a time of transition.


Grace and Peace,



Little Miracles


So I’ll admit it: I was reluctant to come here.  There are hints about this in my last few posts – how I tried to find a job in Phoenix because I wanted to keep working with the kids I’d just started getting to know.  How I wanted a “real” job instead.  But my reluctance was stronger than I led you, reader, to believe and I feel the need to apologize for misleading you.  I wasn’t just nervous out of fear or a desire for comfort (though that was definitely a big part of it).  I was actively praying for God to close the door so that I wouldn’t have to walk through it.

And, I suppose, in a way He did close the door.  He closed every door I tried to pry open; reinforced every lock I tried to pick.  He answered my prayers by closing every door except the one I wanted Him to close.  So, finally, and with GREAT reluctance, I stepped over the threshold.

And I have discovered a greater expanse of opportunity than I could have ever imagined.

It’s only been a month (it baffles me to think that it has been that long!) and while I have, at times, found myself missing those in the desert, already I am seeing God at work across the Ranch.  Just this last week two students (that I know of) professed a newfound faith in Christ and four others were baptized.  I have seen character growth in kids who have been here for years as well as in those whose tenure is shorter than my own.  Getting to know and spending time with the boys in the house has been a joy and I’m looking forward to many more months to grow together with them, the house parents, and my co-mentor.

But that’s just work.  It’s miraculous.  It’s amazing.  But it’s only a part of this story.

One of my biggest concerns in coming to the Ranch was that I wouldn’t have any time to have a life outside of work.  I think God laughed at me when I pulled out that excuse.  And then He provided me with an opportunity which could have only come directly from Him.

A few weeks ago I was searching the internet for community choirs to join (because, as any musician can tell you, going any length of time – two full years in my case – without performing with an ensemble will give you withdrawals) without much success.  Most rehearsed on weekday evenings when I was unavailable while others had recently held auditions for this year’s concert season.  Then I came across one which rehearsed on Sunday afternoons in Knoxville for six weeks at a time, twice a year.  They were about to begin rehearsals for their November concert.  The only problem was I could find nothing about their audition procedures.  There was no “contact us” button; no e-mail address to write to; only a newsletter request form and a “response form.”

I had no idea what this “response form” was for but it had a comments section so I decided to submit the form with my question about auditions, regardless of the actual purpose of the form (an atypical behavior for a reserved, detail-oriented person).

The director called me the next day wondering how I found the response form.

(Read that again if you can’t see God’s hand in this)

Apparently the response form is sent only to people who had been invited to join the group.  The group which is invitation only, not auditioned as I had assumed.

I talked with the director for a few minutes.  He asked me about my background in music.  We discussed Asbury and my degree which – for the first time ever – served a purpose.  He invited me to join the choir and I accepted on the spot.

I hung up the phone in shock.  I had joined an invitation only choir – by asking­ ­– with a form I wasn’t supposed to be able to find.

You can call it a coincidence if you want.  I’ll call it what it is: a miracle.  It may seem small but I’ve been praying for exactly this kind of opportunity for two years now and I can’t just ignore God’s handiwork in this.

People pray for God’s help all the time.  Then, more often than not, when He comes through they claim coincidence, tell God, “Never mind, I guess it all worked out on its own,” and move forward without giving God His due praise.  This opportunity could expand and lead to more opportunities, spiraling upward into an amazing tale of God’s glory and sovereignty.  But, more likely, it is an instance of God providing for His people by answering their petitions; providing me with the opportunity to lift my voice with more than 70 other people in praise to Him, just as He knows I love to do more than anything.

And I will praise Him for the little miracles (though, are they really ever little?) as I depend on His provision daily.

Grace and Peace

A Question of Comfort

20170827_101157.jpgSo… I’m not in the desert anymore.  In fact, I’m in the mountains… surrounded by trees… and it rained all evening.  I’m almost 2000 miles from the place I’ve so recently learned to call “home.”

And I’ll be staying here for quite a while.

I’m in Tennessee, training to work as a mentor for kids at a unique ministry called Wears Valley Ranch.  It’s a children’s home…. and a boarding school… and a ranch.  The kids won’t return from their summer break for almost a week but I’m already excited to meet them.

Well, excited is one word… nervous is another which would work just as well in this context… terrified might be slightly too strong to describe my emotional state… slightly.

It was a long road to get here – and I’m not just talking about the days spent driving along I-40 – it took quite a while for me to give in to the call to come here. True, I was ready, willing, and excited when I first applied.  But as I considered more of the implications of what this type of job entailed I started to wonder if, in fact, the Lord had called me to this place at all.  I wanted to stay in Phoenix.  I wanted to stay near SIMC so I could keep working with the camp program.  I wanted to stay near my family.  I wanted to stay.

I was comfortable where I was – and that was a problem.

You see, I am a firm believer that God doesn’t call people to be comfortable.  The Bible is full of accounts in which men and women of God are directed into very uncomfortable, even dangerous situations.  In these times, these people are forced to rely upon Him for every need.  God didn’t care if Elijah was comfortable living in a ravine.  Or if David was comfortable living in a cave with a bunch of other sweaty me.  Or if Mary was comfortable looking like she had been unfaithful to her fiance.  Or if Noah and his family were comfortable living on a floating zoo for a year.  Their comfort was not of consequence to God.

But their faith – their obedience – was.

So yes, I was reluctant to leave where I was comfortable.  I admit that I cried several times, struggling with the reality of my plans.  But I came anyway, trusting in God to make something beautiful out of my obedience.

Grace and Peace,


Awaiting the Rain

Stormy Skies

Here in Phoenix we have a season you might not have heard of: Monsoon.  It starts in the summer as humidity levels begin to rise and storms become progressively more likely.  As monsoon progresses, rain happens.  Yes, rain does fall in the desert… occasionally.

Or, sometimes, even though it looks like it’s going to rain, the wind just kicks up dust.

A lot of dust.

We call these dust storms or haboobs.  (Though there is some debate as to whether the latter term is “technically accurate.”)

As I write this a storm is kicking up outside my apartment at the SIMC campus.

I wonder if it will be a full-on dust storm…

I wonder if it will rain a little…

Or a lot…

Or if it will blow over without much effect…

I wonder…

There’s something special about desert rain.  It smells more strongly than other rain (the product of the creosote bush, in case you were wondering).  And since it doesn’t come very often, the rain is appreciated more.  Children rush outside to play and dance in the rare precipitation like Floridians in a flurry of snow.  Even adults gaze longingly out windows, mesmerized by the falling drops or crystalline liquid.

But, sometimes, the rain doesn’t ever come.  The wind picks up; the sky clouds over; the dust blows…

And nothing more.

It seems that the monsoon storm has left its purpose unfulfilled; holding its rain within the clouds for some other area to enjoy.

This is how life has felt for the past few months as I search for my “next step.”  I find a job or ministry which looks PERFECT, send out some inquiries or apply and then… nothing.  It just blows over.  Something doesn’t work out and the whole opportunity evaporates.  Just yesterday I was scheduled to have an interview with a school in Phoenix – the perfect opportunity to stay in the area and keep helping out with the camp ministry with AIF in the summer – and it was canceled; the position filled before I had my time to talk with them.

Each time I think the rain will fall, showering me in opportunity and hope for the future… but the dust blows instead.

But I’ve realized something as I listen to the dust storm picking up outside.  This is only the beginning.  In the beginning of monsoon, very little rain falls; storms culminate in dust devils and the occasional sprinkle of rain.   But by the end of the season monsoon is filled with full-fledged thunderstorms, flooding washes, and sparkling rain-drops, pattering windows for hours on end.

In the Lord’s timing, something will come.

And I must wait through the dust to reach the beauty of the rain.


Three weeks of camp have gone by more quickly than I could have imagined.  Our theme this year is “God With Us” which means: CHRISTMAS CAMP!  I love Christmas so I’m loving the Christmas theme, complete with Christmas trees decorating the buildings on campus (and Christmas caroling during teen camps)!

The first week of teen camp was phenomenal.  I served as a dorm leader (what we call our counselors) in addition to teaching drama class and doing some photography while the regular photographer was unavailable.  We had 16 campers that week.

Week 2 was just as awesome but, with twice as many campers, the dynamic was very different.  I still served as drama teacher and photographer (sometimes) but not as a dorm leader since we had a work team to help us out.

Drama class was great.  Using some of the Bible stories from the week, I had the campers pose in various ways, acting out scenes with costumes and props, to be photographed.  Then I put the pictures together in a slide show to be shown while the campers read their parts in the script.  We did two different stories the first week and four the second week, since we had more campers.  Most of the groups had a great time being silly and making weird faces – one group even got to have a sword fight!

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Week 3 was the first week of elementary camp with a focus on the 4th-6th grades.  My role this week was help lead morning worship and to teach cooking class.  I thought I would get bored between classes and have to find other things to do; other roles to fill in for.  I was wrong.  Teaching this age group to make gingerbread cookies as well as setting up, cleaning up, and finishing what they left undone took far more time and energy than I had anticipated, particularly since we had 59 campers!  I was exhausted by the end of the week when we finally served the finished cookies to the campers at dinner on Wednesday night.  We had a fantastic, albeit small, work team this week, and they truly made camp special for the kids.

Gingerbread week 1

I’m looking forward to teaching cooking class again this coming week, slightly modified for a younger (1st-3rd grade) age group.

There you have it: three weeks of camp in a VERY LARGE nutshell.  And that was only my part in it.  So much worship; so much learning; so much relationship building – happened outside of my classroom time.  These weeks have been exhausting… but they have also been some of the best times – just as camp always is.

That’s all for now – more updates when the rain finally comes!

Grace and Peace,



100_3616 (2)

So I just realized that I haven’t posted any updates since February.


I’m still on the field.  I’m still teaching.  I still exist.  I’m sorry for leaving all 2 of you, my readers, in the dark.  I’m sorry.

Life has been a strange combination of eventful and ordinary over the past two months and, I suppose, it’s time to break that silence and let you in on what’s been going on.

We’re down to the final weeks of school here at LWA – 3 to be precise – and I’ve come to the realization that I’m going to miss each of the students terribly when I leave.  Really.  I’m not lying, I promise.  If you would have asked me during the first few months of school how everything was going and somehow gotten me to give you a transparent, honest answer, I would have told you that I wasn’t sure that I would be able to make it through the year.

Now I know differently.

Sure, they’re a handful sometimes – most of the time – but I’ve come to truly enjoy spending time with the kids, even while they complain about how their work is too hard.  Sure, some days end and I wonder how I managed to make it with all of my hair still attached to my head, but I really do love these kids.

And it’s the same way with a lot of the camp kids; the ones I’ve really gotten to know over the past year.  Weekend camps held periodically throughout the school year provide an excellent means of staying connected with campers beyond the summertime and I’ve had the opportunity to help out with each one.  At the elementary weekend camp, held in March (which was my first “repeat” event, marking a full year on the field), one of the girls latched on to me, sticking by my side for most of the weekend because she remembered me from that summer.  I remembered her too – she had been the camper who had asked me to help her learn to swim.  And, although she never mastered the skill, my attempts had clearly made an impression.

And it is this type of relationship that is most important to build.  But it is also this type that is hardest to leave behind.

Over the past 2 months I have dealt with more emotions than ever before.  From something as seemingly small as replacing my windshield twice in one week, to my Grammy’s funeral, to hearing the stories of teens who have dealt with more pain than one person should ever have to bear… it’s been hard.  And it’s been good.  And it’s not over yet.

These are moments in time that God uses to change us.  These are moments that God uses to form us.  These are moments that we must hold on to.

It isn’t time to say goodbye; not yet.  There are three more weeks of classes; three more weeks to pour into these students’ lives; three more weeks to build these relationships; three more weeks to make it that much harder to leave.

But these weeks could make an eternal difference.  Because my God can change everything in a moment; any moment.

And maybe it won’t be goodbye forever.

Here’s a taste of what I’ve been up to:

Messy Games Day with Youth Group

Elementary Weekend Camp

LIT Weekend Camp

And one more thing: camp’s not over yet.  The people in charge have foolishly graciously agreed to let me stay on through camps this summer.  I don’t know yet in what capacity I’ll be serving, but I’m looking forward to spending more time with the campers!

After the summer, it’s anybody’s guess as to where God will lead me next.  But, if life so far is any indication, I’m sure it will be an incredible adventure.

Grace and Peace

Can you hear me now?


“Does that make sense?”  I asked a student after explaining a concept for the third time.

“What?” the student blinked, eyes focusing back on the present.

Not listening.  Again.  My explanation falling on unhearing ears.

I sighed and offered to repeat my explanation but the student wouldn’t wait for it, stating instead that, “You didn’t help me anyway.”

I’m not writing this to be overly-critical of my students.  I’m not writing this to be overly-critical of kids in general.  I’m writing this because I am just as guilty and, more than likely, so are you.

I don’t know how many times I’ve begged God for guidance in a situation and then proceeded to fill my time with “noise,” only to turn around and blame God for not answering my prayer!

What if I just wasn’t listening?

What if I was paying so little attention to Him that I couldn’t hear his answer?

Sound familiar?

Just this last week in devotion time at LWA I taught the beginning of the story of Samuel.  This has always been one of my favorite Bible stories but in case you’re not as familiar with it, I’ll recount it briefly here:

Samuel was dedicated to the temple at a young age to serve under Eli, a Priest and Judge of Israel.  One night, when he was still a child, Samuel heard a voice calling out his name as he lay in his bed in the darkness.  Naturally, the boy thought it was Eli, his master, calling to him.  So, he ran to answer the priest’s call only to find that Eli had not, in fact, called.  Eli, then, sent the boy back to bed.  This same pattern repeated itself twice more before Eli finally realized what was happening and instructed Samuel to respond to the voice (which he finally recognized as the voice of the Lord) with the words, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Sam 3:9b).   Only then did God give His message to Samuel.

Only then, when Samuel started to listen, did God give His message to Samuel.

How many times have I – have we – missed out on messages and direction from God because we failed to listen?

How many times have we been so caught up in our problems that we tuned out the only way to truly solve them?

How many times have we given up on hearing an answer to a prayer when, perhaps, the bad connection was on our end?

How many times?