Sunday, February 27, 2011

Updates on life... nothing earth shattering...

2 Year Academy
I got some great news this past week-- I was accepted into the 2 year Academy for Spiritual Formation's upcoming bilingual academy that starts this summer.  I have written about this before, so I thought I would update my blog to let readers know that I have been accepted.  I'm excited and looking forward to it.  I'm also having to let go and trust God with details.

The Upper Room sponsors 5 day and 2 year Academies for Spiritual Formation.  The days include worship, silence, solitude, teaching, accountability/covenant groups, free time, meals, rest.  In the 2 year Academy you are with your group for the entire 2 years.  The first year of learning is focused inward, and the 2nd year is focused outward.  This is my simplified explanation.  For more information on the Upper Room's Academies, you can check out their website:

A few weeks back I tested for the 1st degree level one probationary black belt.  I made it.  I am excited, though I think testing for the senior red was a bigger step for me since it had been an entire year since I had last tested.  Now I'm in the process of learning a new form.  And, I'm still trying to get my head around E-CAS (Elite Counter Aggression Skills).  For me to figure out what I can and cannot do without hurting my frozen shoulders is a challenge mentally and physically.   I don't know how long it will take me to prepare to test for my decided black belt, but it is about the journey, not the destination.

My seminary classes are going well.  I am reading some good, yet challenging, books this semester for my classes.  The class discussion is proving to be insightful and challenging as well.  I am enjoying being back in this environment.

Other reading
We started a new book in Sunday School this week: The Life You've Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People by John Ortberg.  I can tell by the first chapter I'm going to enjoy this book.  Okay, I'll be more honest-- I could have told you from the title that I would like this book.  (Plus I've read another one of his books.)

I am reminded in the first chapter that "the primary goal of spiritual life is human transformation." (21)  Transformation... that word just keeps coming up.

A thought floating around in my head at the moment: It is not easy to remain the same after we have encountered the life-changing, life-giving love of our Creator.   Ideally, we would not remain the same, we would change.  Yet, sometimes change is too hard for us to journey into or risk.  It requires trust.

Trust was part of today's sermon theme as well.  "Letting go".  Letting God take all the burdens and worries.  There were a couple of clips shown from "Finding Nemo".  Oh, how I love truth found in the ordinary. :)  Dory, believing she understood whale language, relayed to Nemo's dad Marlin that the whale was telling them to "let go."  Marlin wasn't buying that message and was hanging on for dear life.  He asked Dory: "How do you know something bad isn't going to happen?"  to which she replied, "I don't."  

Dory and Marlin let go and were sucked into the water in the back of the whale's mouth and blown out the blow hole.... into freedom....into the ocean.  For them, letting go meant being set free. 

It's okay to let go.  What is it that I need to let go?  What is it that you need to let go?  Am I willing?  Are you willing? 

Letting go of some things in order to pick up others.  What is it that I need to pick up?  What might you need to pick up? 

One thing I'm learning and working right now is deepening my devotional life.  Daily spending intentional and focused time reading, praying, listening, and sharing what I'm learning with others.  Yet this is a life-long something.  Something that can be deepened from this point onward until it is my time to journey from this place to the next.  And, it's an every moment something.  It isn't compartmentalized between my taekwondo self to my seminary student self to my mom self to my wife self to my friend self to my mentor self to my teacher self to my daughter self, etc.  The thread of my being, at my very core, is who I am, no matter what role I am in at the moment.  Ortberg puts it this way: "The truth is that the term spiritual life is simply a way of referring to one's life--every moment and facet of it--from God's perspective." (15)

I look forward to reading more of Ortberg (and sharing it).  For now, I'll call it a "day" and get outside to enjoy the last few hours of daylight.

Desiring to live a cohesive life for the glory of the Kingdom as I journey step by step,


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Getting out into Creation

On Monday, February 14th, my husband and I were able to get out and enjoy the gorgeous, warm day.  We went hiking at the North Chickamauga Pocket Wilderness.  It used to be one of the Bowater properties (it might still be, I don't know).  It is part of the Cumberland Trail.

We didn't "hike" as much as we walked along the flowing creek.  [There are times when this creek isn't so flowing and is just a rock bed and there are times that it is flowing so much that it has kayakers enjoying its thrills.]

The temperature was warm, the sun was out, and there was nary a cloud in the sky.  There was a slight breeze blowing through the tree limbs.  The roar of the water flowing over the rocks was soothing.  Ahhhh....

We walked along the trail, but also took time to get down to the creek and spend time near the water and walk on the rocks.

As I watched the rushing waters flowing, this started going through my mind: "Praise God from whom all blessings flow."  Just as the rushing flowing waters were flowing from above, I was reminded to Praise God, from whom all blessings flow.


As we walked through the trees and along the trail, this went through my mind: "Breathe on me breath of God".  Just that one little phrase of the song, nothing more.  Though there is much more to the song worth thinking or singing, it was that one phrase that came to mind and stuck along that day's journey.

I enjoyed seeing rock formations, twisted roots, deep pools of water, rushing waters, water bubbling out of a rock, etc.  It was just what the soul needed for refreshment.



Getting out into creation is an important part of my journey.  It's one of the key ways I connect with God.  I don't have to go to a hiking trail to be in creation, but I am blessed to have an abundance of hiking choices in this area.  There are also parks, greenways, and even my backyard. 

What about you?  What do you do to connect with God?  Where do you go?  If getting out into creation is one of your ways of connecting with God, I encourage you to find some time to do it.  Regardless of the way of connection, I encourage you to make some time. 

I hope you'll find it refreshing to your soul!

Continuing on the journey, 


PS-- I saw a bumper sticker this past week that relates to the outdoors and enjoying the day that the Creator has made:

Monday, February 14, 2011

A sunrise with cotton candy clouds....

This morning's sunrise was beautiful!  No, gorgeous!  No, exquisite!  Okay, you get the picture.  It was remarkable.  (In my humble opinion.)  After the reds and oranges rose up from the horizon, pink cotton candy clouds appeared throughout the skies.  That, too, was pretty awesome.  I took some pictures, but pictures don't always express what the eye has seen.

Today is Valentine's Day.   A "holiday", not a "holy" day.   Regardless what you think of it or how much you make from it (if you happen to be the CEO of Hallmark or Russell Stover's Candies), it is a day to share how much you care. 

At church, we just finished a series yesterday called "When Christians Get It Wrong" based on Adam Hamilton's book and study series.  The final chapter is about 'when Christians get it right'.  When do Christians get it right?  What it boils down to is when they love. 

So, with "love" being on my mind for many reasons and with a lovely sunrise this morning, I share with you some thoughts I had on love:

Love is what it is all about.
My love for God that will overflow
from my life into yours, helping you
understand how much you are loved as well.
It isn’t always easy to express. 
It gets tangled up in the busyness of daily life
or in the desires and wants for self.
That’s what I hope to show you,
through my words and my actions.
Love is what it is all about.
Living each moment in the grace of God’s love,
Debra J
May your journey be filled with love,


Monday, February 7, 2011

First day of classes...

Today is my first day back into classes at Asbury Theological Seminary.  I have reapplied to the Seminary for the M. Div. program.  The Certificate in Christian Studies that I earned counts as 1/3 of the program.  I have 2/3 to go.  Another 1/3 can be done online and the other 1/3 has to be on campus, either Orlando or Wilmore campus.  Whew, I can't think that far ahead yet, as it will take at least 4 years to complete at the rate of 5-6 credits a semester.  (It took me two years to complete the certificate.)

I am excited.  I am nervous.  I am like a kid going back to school.  You know, making sure all the supplies are ready.  [I did order books back in December and have used January to read several of them.]  Instead of sharpening number 2 yellow pencils, I was checking out my classes at 12:01am.  I think that officially makes me some sort of nerd or geek, but that's okay. 

So, what did I do in my classes bright and early this Monday morning?  I downloaded the updated syllabi, checked out the course announcements, looked over the first assignments, and posted the introductory information. 

I'm expecting both classes to stretch and challenge me, academically and spiritually.  I will need to focus, balance, prioritize, set boundaries, etc. in order to re-establish a healthy rhythm of study integrated into the life of mom, wife, etc.

I guess I'm still having a difficult time believing that I really re-applied and that they really accepted me.  I'm not sure why I'm pursuing the M. Div.  However, I know that I don't have to have that part figured out just yet.  I'm hoping that through the coursework, the next steps on the journey will become more clear.  Right now, I'm simply attempting to take one step at a time.

Journeying into a new day,


P.S.  As a professor, it's one thing to write in your own syllabus that you expect much out of your students.  It's quite another thing to read that as a student.  GULP! :)   My background in teaching both enhances and hinders my journey as a student at times.  I have to learn (and re-learn) balance in this area as well.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see?

Are you familiar with this book by Bill Martin, Jr. and illustrated by Eric Carle?

It's great for rhyming, teaching colors, basic vocabulary, etc.  It's one I use when I teach elementary kids Spanish («Oso pardo, oso pardo, ¿qué ves ahí?»).

The title popped into my head randomly the other day (hurray for random thoughts!) and caused my brain to travel down the following road.

--"Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see?"
--"I see a red bird looking at me."

When you look out into the world, what do you see? 

When I look out today, what I see is an overcast day with raindrops hitting the ground.  From my point of view, it looks pretty yucky.  I'm not really certain I desire to venture out into it.

What if I were to look through the spyglass?  Then, what would I see?  Would I see differently?

The spyglass?  What's that?  Let me explain.

I first heard about The Spyglass at the Holston Annual Conference a few years ago.  During one of the evening sessions, Bishop Swanson read the book to the gathered community.  Before reading, he invited all the children up to the stage.  Not knowing what the age cut-off for "children" was, I decided to join the group heading toward the stage. 

The Spyglass is written by Richard Paul Evans.  It is about a king and his faltering, disheartened kingdom.  A traveler comes through and shows the king a spyglass, through which the king is able to see an entirely different kingdom.  A kingdom that is vibrant once again.  The king's faith is sparked through this vision and he shares this vision with those around, inspiring them as he works alongside with them.

So, when I look at the day or even people, am I looking at them and seeing only what is or what can become?  Am I willing to look beyond what is and look to what can be?  Am I looking with eyes of faith? 

I hope that like the king, I can catch the vision of what can become.  For this day, for each person, for this kingdom. 

As the king worked hard alongside others to make the vision come true, may we do the same.

What is the vision?  Taking the storyline from The Spyglass, it is people coming together in community, working together, loving one another, helping one another, building one another up, meeting one another's needs... while taking care of the resources of the kingdom.

But, The Spyglass is just a story, it's just another children's book.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  If enough people caught the vision and were ignited into action, then I imagine change would become more a reality than a possibility.

Looking through the spyglass as I continue my journey,