Sunday, December 20, 2009

Disrupt us.

I was asked the other day whether or not it bothered and angered me to be ministering at Wake Forest University- where, inside the gated campus, there is extreme wealth, as well as some of the most highly educated people in the country.

I went to Los Angeles 2 years ago where I spent time with the poorest of the poor. The only gates I can remember were the ones at Nickerson Gardens (the projects), which kept gang members out and kept me alive.

So, how do I go from project-housing and poverty to one of the most prestigious universities in the country, and not get annoyed?

I looked at her and smiled a little bit for asking the question, because it's something that I have definitely thought about. The things I saw and people I interacted with in Los Angeles have been branded onto my heart and I can't help but think about them as I drive onto Wake's campus each day. I had two things to say in response...

First: I'm rich, too. I may not be rich compared to people around me but I am sickeningly rich compared to the majority of the world that lives on less than $2 a day. I've been told that the NUMBER ONE way to determine a person's spiritual life is by THEIR WALLET. So, before I look to the person next to me...what does my own wallet look like?

Second: When I look into the eyes of the students and athletes that I work with everyday, I see the same eyes that stared back at me as I walked on the streets of Skid Row. Same eyes, newer clothes. Same eyes, bigger house. Same eyes, thicker wallet. Same eyes, different lifestyle.

Same eyes...same lostness...same confusion.

Wake Forest is Skid Row with money. Our whole country is Skid Row with money. I love being at Wake just as much as I loved being on Skid Row. It's about the people. All of them are searching. They all want to be known and loved. The poverty doesn't do it, the wealth doesn't do it...only Jesus can give what the souls behind all of those eyes are screaming for. LIFE.

So, how can I NOT love them the same? Rich or poor, every heart is starving.

"I don’t know the suffering of people outside my front door
I join the oppressors of those who i choose to ignore
I’m trading comfort for human life
and that’s not just murder it’s suicide
this too shall be made right..." - Derek Webb ('This too Shall be Made Right')

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sound the alarm in my SOUL.

"What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith."
- Phillipians 3: 8-9

The Gospel is so simple yet so complicated. It's not just a one-time thing. It's a living thing. We don't ever really get "beyond" the Gospel....because the Gospel is IT. We must realize, everyday, that we are more flawed and wicked than we ever dared believe, and more accepted and loved than we ever dared hope. I never want to lose sight of how DESPERATE I am for God's grace.

Our world functions on a "works-righteousness" mentality, but the Gospel- the true Gospel- is about finding our justification in Jesus. How do you gain approval? What is your justification rooted in? If it's "Jesus plus something else" it's not the Gospel. I can't "try harder" and/or "do better." If I could do that then Jesus' death was pointless and I become my own Savior. But what does God say? Well....each and every one of us is really, insanely messed up, no matter how "good" we are. So, not only does He say, "you're forgiven," but He also says, "you are freely-justified." This is amazing because He is telling us to COME TO HIM and that we are WELCOME TO ALL HIS LOVE AND JOY."

Isn't that beautiful? I'm a sinner and I need Jesus. Therefore, I am TOTALLY DEPENDENT ON THE GRACE OF GOD.

The Gospel (this GREAT news!) cuts right to the heart. It doesn't deal with the actually deals with the heart-issue. We all know there is something wrong with us but we can't stand being "exposed." Everybody is finding justification in something (gold medals, art, music, children, food, friends, control, people-pleasing, sex, drugs, etc.) We need to ask ourselves (constantly): HOW AM I GETTING APPROVAL/JUSTIFICATION? And then we need to realize that, without Jesus, we will never be "good enough." In our own strength we fall so far short it's not even funny. With Jesus we are FREE to take a deep breath, admit our failures, and pick up the grace that is sitting at our feet.

Stop trying. Accept the gift. Love recklessly.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Laughter is good for the soul.

I've been here at Wake for almost 2 months and I'm starting to settle in and get into the swing of things. As I said last time, it was a little rough start (it always is when moving to a new place). Now, we have been mentoring/discipling a few of the girls (one soccer player, and 2 field hockey players). We meet with each of them, separately, once a week and talk about life and/or go through some sort of Bible study. We are also starting a Bible study for the field hockey team. A few of them came over for dinner the other night and we had a lot of fun....just eating pizza and hanging out! They are an awesome group of girls and I'm excited to get to know them more! Just fyi...they are ranked #4 in the country. I'm just sayin'. :)

Last week we went to Krispy Kreme and bought 2 dozen donuts to hand out on campus. I never thought handing out free donuts could be so humbling: by 10:00am I had already been rejected at least 25 times. But here are my 3 favorite reactions to a free donut...

"A FREE donut!?! Heck yea I want a free donut!!! What's wrong with all these people? How can you not want a free donut? This just made my day!!!"

"Who are you? Are you promoting something? It's free? What did you do to it? Are these safe?'s free? Ok, I'll take one."

"A free donut? Are you serious? What's the catch? ...Wait, what do you mean there's no catch?"

That first response was great because the lady was so overly excited about a donut. But my favorite are the last two. They are my favorite because of how CONFUSED those two people were. Free? You mean you don't want something from me? Not to overanalyze a box of donuts but, this is how Jesus makes me feel. I'm forgiven without having to "do" anything? Grace is free? Yes. Absolutely. He calls us to love like this. What if people had these responses to the way we LOVE them? What if we lived like the true hands and feet of Jesus? People wouldn't know what to do because the hug we give them or the word of encouragement we say to them won't actually be from's from Him. He is the source and we are just the vessels.

Love people in a way that confuses them.

"Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe." - Phillippians 2: 14-15

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wildcat turned Demon Deacon...?

No more blue and white. Just gold and black now. 

I've been here at Wake Forest for a little over a month. Let me just be honest and start by saying that it isn't easy adjusting to a new place. It's like starting at square are always lost and everyone you meet is new. At the same time....I have absolutely loved my time here so far! It's a cute city and the University is amazing. There are only 4500 students, so it has a small school atmosphere with big time athletics. The weather is beautiful...sunshine and 80 degrees almost everyday!

First thing I am learning: I don't know how to make friends. I'm kind of joking, kind of not. I mean, I've been on some sort of team my entire life up until last year. I have had 30 instant-friends around me all through college. Now I actually have to put myself out there. Dang. Ok, it's not that bad, haha, but it's just different being on the "other side" of things. I'm an outsider. A nobody. I'm not an athlete anymore. I'm not at UK anymore. So I just have to be patient in building new friendships because it takes time. But I do love meeting new people...everyone is so unique and it's exciting meeting all kinds of new personalities. 

I am also learning a lot about the HEART. Not the anatomical one. But the one where all of our feelings are. AND all of our wounds. The place that we like to guard but that we must open up to allow for healing. And Jesus wants ALL of it. It's easy to become numb to life. But I want to LIVE and FEEL. It's not easy. In fact, it's probably going to be painful...but totally worth it. We are all hurting in some way. We have got to let Jesus dig deep into the places in our heart that we have shut down because, whether we realize it or not, those places are keeping us in some type of bondage. We all have broken hearts...literally. But the cracks let the light come in. We are called to be FREE from anything and everything. This is hard to grasp because nearly everything on earth can be some sort of "chain." This means that we have to continue to be real with ourselves, with God, and with those closest to us. Somewhere along the line we have just got to trust. It's scary but it's also the most amazing thing in the world: to let more and more of your heart be redeemed by the only One who knows who you truly are. 

As I talk to my friends back at UK (who I miss dearly), I have been so encouraged to hear what's going on there. I had the chance to pour my life into some of the athletes there and now THEY are the ones leading! How sweet is that?! It's Jesus...and it's a ripple effect. They are passionate and it's contagious. People see how their life has changed and they want the same thing. As someone once told me, "The Spirit is attractive." :)

One more thing. We don't need to "do" anything. I hear people say how they need to "do better" or "try harder." No. That's crap. All we need to do is have faith...even if it's as small and weak as a freaking mustard seed. God tells only to come to Him. As we do this, he drowns us in his love and grace. That means it's never ending. Drink it up. 

I more thing. I don't want to "walk" with God. I want to SPRINT towards Him. Is anyone else coming with me?

"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may find grace and receive mercy in our time of need." -Hebrews 4:16

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Where the heck are we?!?!

It's August. But I promise you that, just yesterday, it was May.

About a week ago, I walked out of my house on Woodland Avenue for the last time. But I promise you that, just yesterday, I was deciding how I was going to get my bed and dresser up that narrow stairway and which pictures I should hang on my wall.

Oh, life :)

This summer has gone by incredibly fast (as usual) and I am still processing through all the stuff I have experienced, which I will get to in a second. The summer culminated with a road trip up to Ohio and then to Kentucky to move out of my college house and on with life. A girl that I played soccer with this summer made the road trip with me. She grew up in San Diego. At one point as we were driving, one of her friends from Cali called her and asked what she was doing. She said that we were driving through Ohio to Kentucky. The girl on the phone said, "Where is that?!" She responded by saying, "I have no idea!" It was at this point that I realized I should never bring a Californian to KENTUCKY. Needless to say, I couldn't really turn around and we had a hilarious trip as she experienced the Bluegrass for the first time ever. It was full of sideways rain, horse parks, creepy old men, and SAND volleyball (which she made clear, since there is definitely no beach!)

One of the things I am learning, and will continue to learn for the rest of my life is what genuine "community" actually is. Transparency and vulnerability are 2 words that are often thrown around in regards to community. There are so many different types of people in the world and we are each so unique in our own way. I think that's awesome and beautiful because each person is a little piece of who God is. At the same time, this can also be frustrating to find people who we truly connect with. You know, people who are "picking up what we are laying down." Which is why I think that it's imperative to have people in your life to challenge and encourage you. People that you have deep, truly meaningful relationships with. People you can be real with. Because, honestly, the "surfacy" relationships just aren't going to cut it. It's not how Jesus calls us to live. These relationships take effort and be BOLD. :)

I'm also learning about gentleness. Words hurt and can pierce like a sword. As women, I think we really know how to use our words to cut others down. With as much as I love people and enjoy getting to know them, I can also be extremely critical. When I looked the word "critical" up in the thesaurus, one of the synonyms used was CRUCIFY. Dang. Jesus was crucified: nailed to a cross, beaten, pierced. So, as I'm criticizing, I'm doing the same to others. Instead of seeing them as Jesus sees them- lost, broken people looking for Truth- I'm not even giving them a chance and, in a sense, denying them forgiveness and redemption. That's pretty convicting. It's a process but, I want what I say to people to only build them up. While words have the ability to destroy, they also have a beautiful way of empowering others. It's about speaking Truth...encouraging others and making sure they feel God's Love THROUGH me.


Sunday, June 7, 2009

Let's go, birds.

I've been in Charlotte for a month, playing soccer for the Charlotte Lady Eagles. The Eagles are W-League team (semi-pro) owned by Missionary Athletes International (MAI). MAI has a passion to share the Gospel through soccer. Ministry is done through the team, (i.e. we are a witness to the teams we play and to the fans watching, etc.), and it is also done through coaching youth camps all summer.

I absolutely LOVE it here! There is much to tell so I will try to get to the point and tell you the main stuff I am learning.

Most of us stay with host families during the season. We live in their house and they basically support us for the summer, giving us a place to live and some food, too! I love my host family. I am learning what an awesome, godly marriage looks like. They have three adorable children, all under the age of 5. I'm starting to learn what Jesus meant when he said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." (Matt. 19:14) An example.... Hailey is the oldest of the 3 children (4yrs. old). I had only been living with them for 2 weeks at this point. I was leaving for 2 days to go to an away game. Hailey stood up on her chair, stretched her arms out as far as they would go, and said, "Kelsey, aren't you going to give me a hug and a kiss before you leave?!" Hailey is teaching me what FAITH is.

I have missed being on a team, and the people on this one are truly amazing. I have gotten close with a few of the other girls and I am learning different things from each of them. One of the girls, specifically, is teaching me about BOLDNESS. She loves Jesus and is not afraid to talk to anyone about the way he has drastically changed her life- from complete darkness and destruction (seriously, I'm not sure how she's still alive) to everlasting joy. One of the other girls is teaching me about being SILENT. I know that sounds ridiculous but there is a lot of "noise" in our world and I think it distracts us from listening. She is very quiet, taking in everything around her...and when she talks, she is full of truth. For real...few words, but straight truth. Sometimes I think she can hear the voice of God.

One of my best friends went on a mission trip to Honduras last week. When I spoke to her she told me how ridiculously poor everyone was...but then she told me how incredibly HAPPY they all were. Life is so simple...and they love it. It hit me while I was sitting in church on Sunday how drastically different it is here. Don't get me wrong, I love this church and all the people. The sermons for the past two Sundays were entitled: "How to find happiness" and "What to do when my life is falling apart." How ironic that the people in our country (the wealthiest in the world) are dying of depression and loneliness. Or is it? Jesus wasn't kidding when he said "the love of money is the root of all evil."

I find myself a little trapped in the Christian "bubble." It's amazing because I'm around so many people that are wise and that I am learning a lot from. It's also frustrating because Jesus doesn't call us to isolation...he calls us to GO out and be the light in the darkness. And oh how thick that darkness is. I think many Christians like the "bubble" because it's safe. We can all sit around and have cookouts together, in the suburbs, talking about our 'heart for the poor,' while a homeless man digs through our trash each night. I know how important it is to be in community with other believers...but I am also seeing how important it is to spend time with those who want and need LIFE. I've been thinking more and more about how to make our two 'worlds' collide. The one in which we live in (wealth) and the one that most of the world finds themselves in (poverty and destruction) are growing further and further apart. So...what does it look like for these two extremes to come together with grace and love? I'm not sure...but I'm beginning to see.

Jesus. People. Soccer.

Embracing the LIFE THAT IS TRULY LIFE (1 Timothy 6:19).

Sunday, April 12, 2009


"This is just a phase of life. You will grow out of it."

THAT is what people have been telling me, or, more often, suggesting in the way they talk to me. We all go through a phase of wanting to 'change the world,' right? Yeah, we all feel guilty for a short period of time and then realize we are only one person and can't do anything about it so we might as well continue living in our selfish ways because it's just easier. 

Well I think that is crap. 

I went to Atlanta over spring break a few weeks ago. We were serving at a ministry located on the worst street, on the worst block, in the worst neighborhood in the state of Georgia (it has the highest rates of HIV, murder, and crime). We were hanging out with these kids and I spent most of my time with a 6 year old girl named Essence Magnetic. I know, sweet name, right? I helped her with homework and then played soccer with her for a little while. When her mom (who looked to be about 18 years old) came to pick her up, Essence looked at me and said, "Will you stay?" I had to look this precious little girl in the eyes and say, "No, I'm sorry I can't. I have to go home." She started crying as I walked out that door, my own heart aching. 

THAT makes me uncomfortable.

When I was in Los Angeles last summer, we were helping  a family move some stuff out of their "house" one afternoon. It was a family of 5; a mother and 4 kids. They lived in a garage that was approximately 10x10 yards. Their refrigerator and "kitchen" was outside with a tarp as the "roof." There was old food all over the place, junk everywhere...conditions that were not suitable for living. As we walked up to this "house" to begin to help move stuff I looked around and then I looked down to take a sip of the $4 cup of coffee I was drinking.

THAT makes me uncomfortable.

I have a surplus of what I want while others don't even have what they need.

THAT makes me uncomfortable. 

Jesus calls us to love and serve "the least of these." There is a man that digs through the trash outside my house everyday and I have never fed him.

THAT makes me uncomfortable.

I coach a girls soccer team. I watch them lose their innocence of youth more and more each day as they are confused by the pressures and lies the world is telling them about who they 'should' be and what they 'should' do. 

THAT makes me uncomfortable. 

I have friends and family whose hearts are hurting just as badly as the children living on the streets in Atlanta and in similar ways to the homeless person on the corner in Los Angeles. 

THAT makes me uncomfortable. 

As Matthew Sleeth in 'Serve God Save the Planet' writes, "What good will a billion compassionate thoughts do?...To move from thought to action we must feel some discomfort with ourselves...We may think ourselves philanthropic and generous until we see a widow giving away her last two pennies." 

COMFORT DOES NOT RESULT IN CHANGE. I am more afraid of being complacent and comfortable than I am of taking risks. Jesus tells us to "follow Him" and I sure as heck don't want to be standing in the crowd as He walks away. 

This is not a phase. This is life. This is real. I don't ever want to be complacent. It's only a phase if I choose to ignore reality and go back to my selfish bubble. I am not called to be comfortable. I am called to let my heart break for others and to love radically. People are going to continue to tell me that the problems of our world are too big to fix and that I can't help. They will tell me that I will soon grow out of this phase. 

First...I will tell them that they are wrong because we have already won. HE has already won.

Second...I will smile back at them, and then I will bend down to wash their feet. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tell me there is more.

There was a local high school soccer player, 16 years old, that died today. He had MRSA Staph infection and they unhooked the machine that was breathing for him after he had gone brain dead. He was running around on a soccer field five days ago and now he's gone. I don't know why I need stories like this to remind me life is so short; when the reality is, I could die tomorrow. Or in five minutes, for that matter. I should never forget how short my time here is.

A few of the girls I coach were good friends with this boy. After finding out about his passing, one of the girls texted me this: "Coach, WHAT IS THE POINT OF LIVING? Because we only live for a little while...then we die. And I wish we could just skip this part, and go onto the good stuff...because life sucks man." 

Wow. I mean, how do you even respond to that? How do you explain death to a 15 year old. Heck...I don't even understand it. The first thought that popped into my head: The answer to that question is God. Nothing makes sense without Him. Nothing. Like she said, we are only here for a "little while" and then we are gone. None of us are getting out of here alive, so why all the meaningless stuff? I'm glad she is coming to this realization at 15 rather than at 50, but I am not glad for the reason she is coming to the realization. 

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." -Matthew 6:19-21

Everyone worships something. You can tell by what they spend their money on, what they read, what they watch on tv, how they spend their time, who they look up to. Dont' you think we should all be worshiping something legit? Something that isn't superficial? Something that is meaningful? Something that gives life? Because most of this stuff isn't coming with us. Most of it doesn't mean anything. Seriously. It means NOTHING. I don't think people want to believe that. They don't want to believe it because they know it's true and they would rather have something else that makes them 'feel good' rather than something that 'IS good.'

I wish we would all stop fooling ourselves. It's not always pretty...sometimes, "life sucks man." So this can't be it. We can't be here just to live and die and rot away. We are pleasure-seeking people but we are willing to settle for meaningless things. Our souls are screaming for life eternal. It's here, my friends....and the best is yet to come. 

"Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased." -C.S. Lewis

Monday, February 2, 2009

Come to the water's edge.

The more people I meet and talk to the more clear it becomes to me. I listen to endless stories of lives burdened with confusion, family issues, negative self-images, depression, death, drugs, addiction, loneliness....whatever it is, there is always something. We are all different. Yet...we are all the same. Hurt. 

Sometimes I wonder at what point in life we lose our eager, naive, childish joy of life to join the masses of selfish, searching-for-more adults. When does that happen? I know we are all sinful but, I feel like the life gets sucked out of all of us at some point. Like, do we wake up one morning and realize how messed up our world is? and realize how much it has messed us up?

So I'm looking at all these faces. There's always a story. I don't care how good the 'mask' is. Always a story. 

I want to tell each of these faces that their story is very important. And that hurt can turn into REST. Why do I want to tell them this? Because this is what Jesus tells us: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11: 28-30)

But...what the heck is "rest"?

If anything, my heart is restless. Restless over this messed up world. Story after story after story, (whether it's the person sitting across from me at Starbucks or a child halfway across the world), is just filled with hurt. So please, tell me what the crap "rest" is. 

And I thought about it. And I don't know if this is right but this is what I think...

Paul talks about the chaos within our hearts and says we will be "sorrowful, yet always rejoicing" (2 Corinthians 6:10). I've already talked about this "sorrow" enough, we know it's everywhere around us. But this "rejoicing"...this is what our rest is. Beyond all the destruction and loneliness in our world we have an inner peace. The peace that tells us that this is not about us. The peace that tells us we are free. The sin is here but it no longer burdens us. We literally "die" to the world meaning that we die to everything in it. We are given a new heart that still hurts...but now can be healed. We will ultimately have eternal rest, but we also have rest here and now. I like the way one of my favorite authors, Brennan Manning, writes it: "Home is not a heavenly mansion in the afterlife, but a safe place right in the midst of our anxious world."

Jesus' yoke is "easy" because he is the one carrying it for us. It doesn't mean life is perfect. Like I said, it means our hurting can now be healing. 

Someday we won't know the meaning of "hurting" anymore. Until then...let's all just chill and live in a Love that is stronger than our fear of everything being out of control.