Posted in Community, Health, Love, Prayer, Providence, Tumor, Worship

LOVE – Songs of my Soul for Now

In an hour I go to the hospital for my second brain surgery and it feels super surreal to write that.  I wanted to post a quick blog before I go to say thank you to everyone who is praying and who has been supporting us.  We can feel your love and the community surrounding us!

I spent this past week with 30+ students from Gator Wesley touring around the state of Florida doing our Spring Tour – singing, dancing, rocking out, reading scripture and so much more.  There’s a song that they sing in one of the sets (and I love the mash up that they do) called “Set a Fire” by United Pursuit Band and one of the lines says, “There’s no place I’d rather be…but here in Your love…”  I’ve felt that from each of you.

Campus ministry is this crazy special place where things intersect – struggles, fears, hopes, dreams, silly Vine videos, lots of laughter, and experiences that both challenge and inspire. The students this week have inspired the heck out of me.  I’ve been ministered to in their music and their passion and their faith, and even more than that in their zest for life!  There weren’t many stops during this tour where I didn’t feel moved in some way and though I couldn’t figure out how to share that with them without becoming a blubbering hot mess, I want to let them know how special this week was for me.  Even the trampolines.  And the cold water of the spring when knocked off a raft.

Two of the songs that they’ve been singing are two favorites of mine that I’ve been holding dear over the past few weeks.  They didn’t know that when they picked the songs how much they have been resonating with me and yet again, I know that God is weaving all of this together in mighty ways.  The first is Meredith Andrews’ “Not for a Moment.”

And the second is by an amazing band that we hosted here at Gator Wesley called Bellarive.  It’s their song, “Taste of Eternity.”

These have been the songs of my heart.  Worship taps into a place that breaks down the barriers that we place.  It digs in between the walls that we’ve built to protect ourselves and the layers of stress and muck that this world provides.  May the scales on our hearts and our eyes be removed that we may see God more clearly and know God more fully, as God draws us to God’s self.  I know that no matter what happens today, I know that I am God’s and God is ever in the midst working things together for good.

Y’all have humbled me speechless with all of your texts, facebook messages, tweets, and cards and I hope that each of you feels the love, hugs, fist pumps, and high fives that we have for you!  Thanks for being on this journey with me.

Much love!

Cheers to a new haircut!

Grace and Peace,

Narcie

Posted in Christian, Community, Fear, home, Love

The C Word (and it’s not Cancer)

You know how in different seasons, there are specific words or lessons or visuals that seem to keep popping up in your life?  Maybe that doesn’t occur for everyone but for at least for some of us stubborn folks, it’s like God has to drop clues all over the place for us to actually get the picture.  The thing that keeps coming up to me right now is this idea and belief in community.

For those of you that read the blog (or at least when I used to write regularly) you know this is something I talk about A LOT.  Probably annoyingly so at times.  It’s the thing that I’m most passionate about.  The thing that I believe is integral to the body of Christ and to any semblance or form of Christian life.  You just can’t get around it.  But for some reason, in this move and transition which was months ago at this point, I’ve pulled back a little from it.  I don’t know if it’s new places, new people, new community building, or the grief and loss or change of old close community, but there’s something that is raw inside me around this concept.

I then start to think about student and campus ministry life and how hard it is to transition in from high school community to college community and then transition from college community to being out in the wide, wide world.  I also think about how hard it is to transition from friend groups and single life to married life and professional life and all these in between times and the things that work out and don’t and how so many, random things affect how we view community, who we think are part of our “tribe,” and what we need from community.  It’s not all about what we get out of it and it’s not all about what we put into it, but it seems to be this dance of times and places and seasons.

What are the things that hold us back from real community?  Not pseudo surface-level stuff, but showing people the cracks and vulnerabilities.  I think it’s scary.  It’s unnerving.  We want to be stronger and more patient and more perfect on the outside than the swirl of gunk on the inside.  It gets messy.  It takes a lot of time and real sharing.  It sometimes makes us feel like we’re on display, left wide open or being dissected.  But are these some of the same things that hold us back from fully sharing with God?  Or fully sharing from the heart all aspects of our lives?

I know that not everyone is going to get along and gel 100% of the time.  I’m not talking about being bff’s with everyone you meet.  I’m not even talking about everyone “liking” each other even though I believe we’re all called to love each other and live in community together.  I do challenge us to pause and think before we speak.  I concede that sometimes our guard has to be let down to create those thin places where God can speak to us.  I hope and pray that the world doesn’t see how we fight, bicker and belittle each other, but how we love, support, uphold, and care for one another.

For me, the song that’s been holding me through this season is Phillip Phillips’ “Home.”  Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Posted in assumptions, Community, dialogue, God, God's love, Judgment

Sarah Palin and Baptists

This morning I got the rare opportunity to watch some of the Today Show as a made the bed and cleaned up around the house a bit. I used to be a frequent watcher of the show but with the two kids jumping on the bed and me wanting to play with them in the morning, it occurs less regularly.

Sarah Palin co-hosted the Today Show this morning and it was really funny. I know Sarah Palin is a lightning bolt kind of person – love her or hate her and I always find it fascinating when we get to see people interact that you know don’t agree with each other much less like each other. There’s a segment they do where they’re talking about hot topics, much like The View and they’ve got three people that usually do this segment – Starr Jones, Donny Deutsch, and Dr. Nancy Snyderman with the host asking them questions and them sounding off. I love this segment. I like it when they agree and when they disagree. I like the give and take of someone sometimes conceding and the areas where they’re not willing to compromise.

You know why I like it? I like it because they’re talking and they’re often disagreeing but they’re still obviously friendly with each other. I would like to say this about The View but I think too often there either one side or the other gets villanized and so that’s not dialogue but just yelling over each other.

What made it interesting this morning is that they added Sarah Palin to the mix. It was obvious that one was trying to be a peacemaker for her and spoke up for her while the other two barely concealed their disdain, one more than the other. It’s hard to communicate with people we don’t agree with, yes, but it’s really hard to be in conversation or relationship with people that we don’t respect as people and who we’ve made assumptions about.

Now I’m not defending Sarah Palin….and yes, in some ways I am. Each of these “public” figures that we make judgments about are people too. I’m one of the first people to say that if you put yourself on a national stage than you’re inviting the world to comment on what you do. That’s a given. But to me there’s a line between commentary and being nasty. Talking about someone personally is different than disagreeing with their views or choices. When personhood is brought into the mix – it’s a whole different game.

In a conversation with the Baptist campus minister and one of the Presbyterian campus ministers this morning at breakfast we talked about the assumptions that people make about each of us. Of course if you’re a Southern Baptist or a PCA Presbyterian than you’re conservative and close-minded and you obviously judge people. If you’re a female pastor you’re obviously liberal, you obviously haven’t opened your Bible to read the scriptures, and you must not be the best wife and mother you could be.

I get that we have stereotypes. I get that we all make assumptions based on our experience, the information we’ve been given, our world-view – but if we let that get in the way of digging deeper and really getting to know each other not as labels, views or caricatures but as real, living and breathing people, than we are missing out on just some amazing friendships and conversations but on the gifts of community, fellowship and iron sharpening iron that God gives us.

These two things this morning – watching Sarah Palin on the Today Show and the sometimes awkwardness of the situation and talking with two dear friends in ministry that the theological world would have us on pretty different ends of the mainline denom spectrum – it made both convicted for the times that I’ve been the one to make those assumptions or quick judgments and grateful that God asks us to not just hang out with the people like us.

Who are the people that you make assumptions about? Do you think our country is more “split” or contentious now? Have we made things too personal and mean in our attacking? Does the rhetoric we use have anything to do with the fact that God made each of us as people of sacred worth? Even the people that we may not enjoy? Or is that right out the window?

** What do you think about Facebook’s new “EnemyGraph” application? Are you going to declare your “enemies” or “archenemies”? (that’s a whole different post!)

Posted in Advent, Emmanuel, God, Love, Music, Prevenient Grace

Make You Feel My Love

I was in college in the late 90’s so I’m very familiar with the “Jesus as your boyfriend” kind of praise music. I get the critiques and the easy jokes… But in listening to my Pandora a second ago, Adele’s “Make You Feel My Love” came on and it just reminded me so much of this Advent/Christmas season. We don’t love a distant God with arms crossed, tapping foot, we love Emmanuel – God with us. The God who will walk across glass for us. The God who will draw us close even when we don’t realize it and who will continue to love us despite all things. That is beautiful.

As we draw towards this Holy time when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us may we be ever reminded of God’s passionate love for us and desire to be with us. With Christmas songs and tv specials and holiday cards swirling all around us, let us not lose sight of the Savior in the midst offering love and new life. I know that I needed to hear this today.

Posted in Advent, Argument, Family, Impossible, Love, Promise, Rivalry

The Last Word

Winthrop Wesley celebrated Advent early this year fitting in with the college calendar and so my sense of which Sunday we’re on in Advent is all out of whack.  I had never done this before but a campus ministry friend told me about it and I thought we could give it a shot.  It amaze me how much it fit to talk about Peace, Hope, Joy, and Love around exam season with lots of papers, projects, and tests looming, some people ready to be home while others dread it, and all of the highs and lows of community – those ready to hurl their roommate and that want to squeeze out every drop of time with their friends before leaving for the break.

On our last night together, we looked at the candle of LOVE and talked about the last word.  We may pile up all sorts of opinions and points in our argument or debate, but in the end, with Jesus, love is the last word of all – God’s love for us, for all the world, and all of creation.  During this season talking about the last word has a lot of connotations for me.  For some, we wonder if we’ll ever get the last word on anything.  Things seem a bit out of control with questions about work or family or bills or the future or health.  It often doesn’t feel like we get a say in anything and we’re merely reacting to what happens, instead of setting the course. 

For others, we think of some of our friends or family or co-workers or maybe even ourselves as ones who thrive with having that last word and can’t imagine life without getting it.  I think of the television show Modern Family and the hilarity that ensued during the holiday episode this year between the “Realists” and the “Dreamers.”  But as the episode pointed out, you need a little bit of both.  We need each other – both realists and dreamers.  We have ones who are ready to concede the argument and ones that will fight to the bitter end trying to get the last word – but we all need to be somewhere in the middle.  We shouldn’t bowl over just because we’re “Christians” and let people walk and talk all over us, but we also shouldn’t be the ones that are raising to the loudest voice so that our point can be heard over all the masses not caring about the casualties that may surround us.

As some of you know, my brother Josh, is the rebel in our family.  I don’t think he has a corner deal on this and we’re all the rebel at times over such things, but in the delicious rivalry between South Carolina and Clemson, he’s the lone Clemson tiger.  Y’all know things have gotten a little tricky these past weeks with that rivalry and I’m not going to even begin to talk about the game, the history, the record, who said what, or who’s got the better mascot, because it sure as heck is not worth all of the angst and passion and pride that we all put into it.  Josh is not the most die-hard and orange Clemson  fan and I’m not the most die-hard and garnet Gamecock fan, so we can probably have this conversation easier than some of the hot heads, but let’s just say there’s been some thought-provoking discussion over football and faith and where in the world pastors and people of faith should fall on these topics and how they should present themselves not just in “real life” but on facebook and twitter as well.  You can go round and round and as people start trying to throw grenades at each other trying to get the last word, it feels like nobody wins.  That’s what I like and am challenged by in debating with Josh.  Neither one of us wants to give in and both of us have the natural tendency to want to get that last word in, but we also take our faith seriously and we don’t want to unduly hurt the other person or slam the other “side.”  Does that mean that there’s no time that we don’t get angry or want to rail at the other person?  No.  But it does mean that we hold each other accountable not just to our conversation and “the facts” as we think we see them, but also to the core values that we share.  It drives me crazy but it’s also something that I rely on and am challenged by as we can call each other out!

In this Advent season, it’s important to realize that the One who holds the real last word  – not just to some football rivalry or presidential debate or late night talk show snaffoo, but to all things – is the One who’s coming that we celebrate and await for the second time during this Advent season.  In the fourth Sunday of Advent I really love all the texts.  I know I’m biased – I love Advent in general, but I really like that all the texts are talking about God being with us and the impossible happening and Holy mysteries and saying yes even when things look far-fetched and unlikely.  Love it! (Oh I should probably tell you what they are – 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16, Luke 1:46b-55, Romans 16:25-27, Luke 1:26-38)

You may be wondering where in the heck did I get the last word from that?  I didn’t mention any revelation passages.  A couple of things.  The first in verse 33 talking about Jesus, “He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”  The second in verse 37, “For nothing will be impossible with God.”  There is no end to his kingdom.  He will have the last word, not in a Jesus juke kind of way, but in a beautiful, Christ-like, kingdom of God, eternal life kind of way….it really does mean eternal after all.  I love verse 37 too because it’s not saying nothing is impossible for God or in God even though those can be true as well, but nothing is impossible with God.  If we go to God with these things that trouble us, these things that we wrestle with, these things that drive us crazy or make us beyond impassioned, than with God we can find a way to be those Christ-like people in the world.  With God we can be the Jesus that the world sees and knows.  With God we don’t have to worry about the last word or who holds the speaking stick, because it’s not us and it’s not them, it’s the one who created us and who is creating all things new.

I fight for the last word more often than you probably know and some of you know me well.  It gets on my nerves when people talk down to people or about a book or a movie or a cause act like know it all’s.  And there’s a part of me that than wants to say – well more figuratively – I want to blow them out of the water.  Now again, I don’t believe that “Christians” just sit back on their hands and close their mouths and just let the world keep spinning, quite the contrary.  However, I do know that often what I’m reacting to is my own pride or my own issues.  Hello intramural basketball!  That’s the other thing that’s critical in this with God idea.  If we’re speaking with God, if we’re living our lives with God, if we’re juggling all of our demands with God, than for some reason I think that we’ll live our lives differently than if we just go it alone with our own sense of righteousness and justice.  Because I don’t know about you, but for me, there are times I can look back in conversations or experiences and I know it wasn’t God – it was me, going it alone, and spinning out.  But if we are with God, then nothing is impossible.  Not worries about family or friends or work or what we’re going to do with our lives or how we should spend our money or who we need to seek forgiveness or how we’re going to let our lights shine. 

So as I think about the holidays and all of the parties and the family and times of conversation and fun that are coming and I know, knowing our family and friends that things will be said with humor and love but always a little controversy and fun with so many folks and different ideas, may we realize and know that there are promises and mysteries during this Advent and that God’s kingdom will reign forever and we can be apart of that knowing that nothing is impossible with God and that we don’t have to carry all of the world’s burdens on our shoulders, but as we do the work of God, we can feel sure and certain that the last word comes from God – a God of grace and joy and hope and peace and great, great love!

Posted in Busy-ness, Family, God, God's love, Love, Mommy

Held

This is the time in the semester that I am most craving time with my kids. We’re right in the middle of everything, gearing up for fall break and looking at a busy second half of the semester with…wait for it…nope, I’m not going to continue down the rabbit hole of the to do list right now.

There seems to be this innate need for contact between me and the kids. When I don’t have a Wesley gathering at night, you will find us either cuddled up on the floor of Evy’s room reading or in Mommy’s bed watching a movie or more often than not with these exhausting weeks, laying on the couch watching Peppa Pig or Backyardigans. Evy will be curled up beside me with Enoch curled up with his head on me and my arm on him. It’s a pretzel for sure, but one that it seems that we all need. As much as I can call or “face time” when I’m away or play with the kids or pick them up from school and do fun Mommy stuff with them, there’s nothing that seems to substitute for that physical touch.

Evy doesn’t want me reading a book or holding my phone, she wants me to hold her. It’s like it recharges her batteries and mine. That simple presence, that knowledge that you’re there and for that time you’re more than just priority, you’re the center of the universe.

At this time in the semester, students tend to be worn down with midterms and the changes of seasons and allergies and colds and it’s hard to balance it all. I’ve heard so many talk about feeling like God isn’t there like before or feels distant or like God’s forgotten them. I think each of us can relate to that feeling on different levels. There are those desert times or those times of disconnect or confusion or anger or that feeling of abandonment.

But then I think about Evy and Enoch. When I lay down and forget all of the other “things” on the list and I forget all of the worries of the world – I don’t care what I’m wearing or how we look or what’s happening around me, but I’m just focused on her and him. Their love and them knowing that I love them to the absolute moon and back means more than anything in this world. That’s when I feel the most attuned to them.

When are the times that we have felt held by God? In those times of feeling disconnected or lost or just tired of it all, have we taken the time to focus and center and try to reconnect – ask and receive, seek and find, knock and the door be opened? What are the things that hold us back?

Nothing separates us from the love of God. Nothing. Period. So why don’t we in the midst of the hectic or the monotonous, crawl up into the arms of God and settle in for a bit and open ourselves to the Word we will receive there? Let every worry or “but” go and just be and rest and know that our God loves you very much.

Some songs on this theme: