Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Rachel Brackbill

An impromptu photoshoot with my friend Rachel resulted in several amazing images. Rachel is an avid reader and antique book lover, as is reflected in her expressions. Her gentle spirit and love for God reflected in her interactions with others. Any time spent with Rachel is good time.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Words of Life

late at night I wonder why
sometimes I wonder why
sometimes I’m so tired
I don’t even try
seems everything around me fails
but I hold on to the promise
that there is a reason

late at night, the darkness makes it hard to see
the history of the saints who’ve gone in front of me
through famine, plague and disbelief
His hand was still upon them
cause there is a reason
there is a reason

he makes all things good
he makes all things good
there’s a time to live and a time to die
a time for wonder and to wonder why
cause there is a reason
there is a reason

I believe in a God who sent His only son
to walk upon this world and give His life for us
with blood and tears on a long, dark night
we know that He believed
that there is a reason
there is a reason

he makes all things good
he makes all things good
there’s a time to live and a time to die
a time for wonder and to wonder why
cause there is a reason
there is a reason

for the lonely nights
and broken hearts
the widow's mite
in the rich man's hand
and the continent
whose blood becomes a traitor

for the child afraid to close their eyes
the prayers that seem unanswered
there is a reason
there is a reason

he makes all things good
he makes all things good
there’s a time to live and a time to die
a time for wonder and to wonder why
cause there is a reason
there is a reason

There is a Reason, by Caedmon's Call

Monday, January 21, 2008

Relearning Rest

And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a quiet place and rest for a while” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat
. -- Matthew 6:31

All-consuming passion for God does not always equate to all-consuming passionate action.

Production does not always bring productivity.

Stillness does not mean stagnation, and activity does not always equal growth.

Reckless abandon does not mean uncalculated and unnaccountable personal abuse.

Rest differs from sleep, and one often excludes the other.

The surrendered soul does not lie down in defeat, but rather walks away from the busy highway of life directions and walks toward the quiet call of the Life Director.

“To every toiling, heavy-laden sinner, Jesus says, 'Come to me and rest.' But there are many toiling, heavy-laden believers, too. For them this same invitation is meant. Note well the words of Jesus, if you are heavy-laden with your service, and do not mistake it. It is not, 'Go, labor on,' as perhaps you imagine. On the contrary, it is stop, turn back, 'Come to me and rest.' Never, never did Christ send a heavy-laden one to work; never, never did He send a hungry one, a weary one, a sick or sorrowing one away on any service. For such the Bible only says, 'Come, come, come.'” - Hudson Taylor.

And ye, beneath life's crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!
- Edmund Sears, 1849

Saturday, January 12, 2008


Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable? Has His steadfast love forever ceased? Are His promises at an end for all time? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His compassion?” Then I said, “I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High.” I will remember the deeds of the Lord… – Ps. 77:7-11

I’m reading through my old journals right now—nearly nine years of pen-to-paper in joy, pain, and relationship with God. Last week I read through most of 2000 and stumbled upon a seemingly inconsequential entry tucked in between babysitting frustrations and boring girl-talk. As I read my thoughts about the situation, I realized the impact that it had on my life, even though I didn’t understand or comprehend it at the time. 

As a young teenage I was involved in teaching with the Children’s Institute (CI), a VBS-styled children’s seminar held in conjunction with the Basic Seminar (a seminar that focuses on Biblically resolving common life conflicts). The CIs were taught by teenage volunteer, and led by a staff of young single adults. The staffers challenged my walk with God, encouraged leadership development in me, and led me by example. During the seminar week we met together for devotions every morning, followed by hands-on training and preparation for kid-time that night. 

One devotion time stands out in my mind—the same one that I wrote about all those years ago. After the morning devotion, the group leader called the roll, and usually had a question for us to answer when we acknowledged our presence. These were common enough questions—“What would you do with ten thousand dollars?” “If you could spend an hour with just one person, living or dead, who would that person be?” 

This morning he asked a more challenging question. I still remember how the room looked, who I sat with, where I was sitting (about five rows back on the left, four chairs in from the middle aisle… or something close to that). I still remember the sound of Nathaniel’s Bennett’s voice as he said, “What would you do if you knew you only had 24 hours to live?” 

The answers weren’t surprising—“I would call home and make sure that my family knows that I love them.” “I would ask so-and-so for forgiveness for something that I said.” “I would burn my diary.” “I would leave here right now and tell as many people as I could about Jesus.” “I would make sure that my extended family clearly understood the Gospel.” I don’t even remember what I said—it wasn’t much different from the rest. 

Then a young man stood up on the opposite side of the room and quietly gave an answer vastly different from the others—“I wouldn’t change anything. I know that God wants me here this week. All these other things are good, but I would hope that I wouldn’t have to change anything or do things differently. When people look back on my life, they’ll remember my life as a whole, not just my last day. What is my last day worth if the rest of my life doesn’t match up?” 

I wish I knew who he was. I wish I could track him down and thank him for his answer that day. He will never know the impact he had on my life with those few simple words. 

There are other moments like that in my life—small, seemingly insignificant interactions with people that resulted in miniature 180° turn-arounds:

  • Listening to 6-year-old Angela Wilson’s testimony just before she was baptized, which was my springboard to committing my life to Christ as a 4-year-old.

  • The day that my parents gave me my big NKJV Bible, and the countless times I spent in tears, stretched across the floor with my face pressed against its pages.

  • When Kelsey Davis lent me Hinds’ Fee on High Places, which led me into a search for a right view of God, and resulted in my discovery of Zeph. 3:16-17 (which consequently changed my life).

  • Listening to Darlene Diebler Rose’s testimony at fourteen, then reading her book at fifteen—and coming to understand what a real relationship with Jesus Christ looks like.

  • The night that Gina Hawbaker talked with me about a meek & quiet spirit.

  • A conversation with Jenn about reformed theology that turned into a conversation with Dad about reformed theology, the fear of man, and the amazingness of Eph. 1:3-6.

  • The prayer by Charles de’Foucauld that Mom cut out of the Elisabeth Elliot newsletter all of those years ago, and the number of times that I have prayed it in brokenness and tears.

  • Listening to Pastor Doug Kittredge pray that God would make me a woman of prayer.

  • That night at the Wine’s house when an honest heart-to-heart with Jenn led me to freedom.

  • Chris Bentz’s graduation gift to me—The Legacy of Sovereign Joy, by John Piper.

  • Pastor Tom Strode’s e-mail that challenged me to ask God to do one impossible thing in my life that year.

  • The time I picked Courtney Craig up from the airport and she reminded me that God never slays our Isaacs.

  • The summer I spent going through Gabe Burton’s books—coming to understand the emptiness of this godless man that I never knew, and resolving that my life (and my library) would always reflect the God I love and serve.

  • The day that Linz gave me my little ESV Bible, and how precious it has become to me.

  • The many nights spent in Dallas praying to God while staring at the one star I could find in the sky.

  • The precious, happy, hard, and broken times I spent in Chicago talking with God under My Tree.

  • The day I heard Gina share about journaling as a prayer to God.

  • The day that Mandy plopped down in the chair across from my desk and we learned that we were friends.

So many people have impacted and influenced my life. Sometimes I don’t realize how significant an event is until years later, but that doesn’t negate it’s impact and influence. Thank you for everyone that has taken the time to invest in my life. 

  • Dad & Mom—Words cannot begin to express. There isn’t language to communicate how precious you are to me. How many people are actually best friends with their parents? You’ve laughed with, at, and for me; cried with, for, and because of me; you’ve sent me off and welcomed me home again; you’ve listened to countless heart-struggles, watched numerous bad choices, and you still love me. I know you aren’t perfect, but I don’t think you can come much closer.

  • Pete—Greatest irritation turned best friend. How can this be? Love you tons. You have taught me so much about love & respect, guy/girl interaction, and how to honor the men around me. Thank you for your patience as I slowly learn.

  • Jenn—Peter was the greatest irritation, but you were my worst enemy. I find it humorous that many of those closest to me were adversaries at the start. Memories abound; love abounds more. You have seen every side of me in every circumstance and at every phase of my life. Fifteen years of friendship, pain, tears, mutual encouragement, truth spoken, truth received, and the grace of God covering it all. From Dallas to Mexico to Dallas again to King George to Indianapolis to Chicago to Mexico again and back home, you have been a constant friend.

  • Linz— You went from little kid to best friend’s sister to little sister to best friend, too. Your hugs are wonderful, your prayers an eternal blessing, your tears minister to me, your love for people and your love for truth challenges me. You are the only person that I have known as a younger friend that I have come to look up to as a more mature friend. I love you.

  • Gina—mentor turned best friend, leader turned companion, teacher turned sister… you only ever encourage and challenge me. Thank you for crying with me in the stairwell in 2004, putting up with my antics in 2005, laughing, crying, working, half-dying with me in 2006, and rejoicing like no one else in 2007. You are a faithful friend.

  • Mandy—kindred spirits from day one that didn’t discover each other until day 121, you are precious to me. Fellow dreamer, photographer, communicator, box-buster, communicator, and a soulmate, your love for God and your passion to change the world fuels both of the same in me. I look forward to many, many years of memories.

Thank you to everyone who has impacted and changed my life. I can’t include everyone here in written form, but I have tagged those of you who are merit a mention. But beyond a shadow of a doubt, the greatest influence in my life has been the Word of God. Every encounter with people mentioned above resulted in personal time with God in His Word. This is the greatest influence I could wish for. 

Monday, January 07, 2008

Asking questions and defining goals

Four or five years ago at Christmastime, my pastor sent our church body an e-mail encouraging us to set wise goals for the upcoming year. He included a list of questions by Donald S. Whitney, written to urge believers to reflect on their walk with God, to "stop, look up, and get our bearings." These questions had a great impact on my life at that time, and are the reason that I boycott New Year's Resolutions and, instead, prayerfully evaluate wise goals that I should set for myself. This list was given to me again last night, and again blessed me. I hope that it blesses, encourages, and challenges all of you as it has done for me.

Ten Questions to Ask at the Start of a New Year

  1. What’s one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?
  2. What’s the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?
  3. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?
  4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?
  5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?
  6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?
  7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?
  8. What’s the most important way you will, by God’s grace, try to make this year different from last year?
  9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?
  10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten years? In eternity?
In addition to these ten questions, here are twenty-one more to help you “Consider your ways.” Think on the entire list at one sitting, or answer one question each day for a month.
  1. What’s the most important decision you need to make this year?
  2. What area of your life most needs simplifying, and what’s one way you could simplify in that area?
  3. What’s the most important need you feel burdened to meet this year?
  4. What habit would you most like to establish this year?
  5. Who do you most want to encourage this year?
  6. What is your most important financial goal this year, and what is the most important step you can take toward achieving it?
  7. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your work life this year?
  8. What’s one new way you could be a blessing to your pastor (or to another who ministers to you) this year?
  9. What’s one thing you could do this year to enrich the spiritual legacy you will leave to your children and grandchildren?
  10. What book, in addition to the Bible, do you most want to read this year?
  11. What one thing do you most regret about last year, and what will you do about it this year?
  12. What single blessing from God do you want to seek most earnestly this year?
  13. In what area of your life do you most need growth, and what will you do about it this year?
  14. What’s the most important trip you want to take this year?
  15. What skill do you most want to learn or improve this year?
  16. To what need or ministry will you try to give an unprecedented amount this year?
  17. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your commute this year?
  18. What one biblical doctrine do you most want to understand better this year, and what will you do about it?
  19. If those who know you best gave you one piece of advice, what would they say? Would they be right? What will you do about it?
  20. What’s the most important new item you want to buy this year?
  21. In what area of your life do you most need change, and what will you do about it this year?
Written by Donald S. Whittney