Tuesday, December 2, 2008

She laughs.

I can be a stresser.

Mostly because I like to have my ducks in a row, be ahead of the curve, give my whole heart to the task at hand, and please everyone. All of which is absolutely impossible and ridiculous with the pace of life we all keep, right? Everyone I talk to is in over their heads right now.

So I want to be like that renowned Proverbs 31 woman, who can laugh at my future (like tomorrow, when my workday starts at 6:45 a.m. and doesn't end till 9:30 p.m., and somehow I'm supposed to be student council advisor, teacher, counselor-administrator, play director, and chaperone, all in one day).

I wrote a poem last May with a message that so many of you friends model for me. I want to learn this!

She laughs.
And all while the papers keep piling,
There’s way too much filing;
Justin stuck gum on his desk.
Her car needs new tires,
A good set of pliers
Would help fix the tub’s leaky mess.
Her phone keeps on ringing;
Tomorrow morning she’s bringing
Juice and bagels for Period 1.
Her love life? You’re kidding.
She’s waiting (though not sitting)
Till God’s Mr. Right comes along.

She laughs.
At the future, the days yet to come.
And she won’t come undone
In the pushing and pulling.
For the secret to laughter,
Is found in the hereafter
And trying to please only One.

Let's laugh hard today!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Every November...

The siblings at our annual Homemade Pumpkin Pie Night last week, taking crazy pictures (with a camera suspended from the ceiling fan) while the three pies baked.

Learning to Love

I’ve had a day of sweet conversations with dear women (my mom this morning; two of my married friends, Emily and Cassandra, over coffee this afternoon; and two single friends, Tiff and Jayna, at my place late tonight). Our talks had very little to do with guys, but they sparked some thoughts which now become tonight’s blog.

How can we single girls love men sincerely and selflessly--in the midst of a sexually saturated and self-absorbed culture?

Now before you read on, please understand: I am no expert in this area of relationships! In fact, I have more questions than ever before. But I have such a desire to learn how to love my brothers in Christ, how to honor God in the midst of the messiness of relationships, and how to live by principle—and not just passion.

So here are a few things that have either helped me along the way or that I still desperately want to learn:

Pursue: sincere love. (“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart.” 1 Peter 1:22)

Pray: for your brothers’ purity. (If my struggle as a woman is this intense, I can only imagine what guys are going through!) When you see him take that second glance, shoot up a prayer, “Lord, help him right this minute. Give him strength to fight lust and think on what is pure and lovely and right and true…”

Practice: patience. Wait on God, not on a man. We’ll need to do this for the rest of our lives, as wives and mothers too, and today just gives us another opportunity to set our hope on the Lord and wait for His timing and purposes in our lives. (“He acts for those who wait for Him.” Isaiah 64:4)

Promise: nothing—outside of a relationship. Don’t give all your precious time, energy, emotions, physical affections, and daydreams to a man who isn’t interested in you enough to pursue a relationship with you. If he’s not committing, you shouldn’t either. ("Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." Proverbs 4:23)

Privatize: your parts. Girl, your boobs, legs, and butt do not need to be hanging out for anyone but your man! And then, within your marriage, let it all hang out all the time! ("But among you there must not be even a hint of immorality, or of any kind of impurity." Ephesians 5:3)

Purpose: that Christ will be your first love—whether you are single, dating, engaged, or married. No man can or ever will be God. (Let man be man and God be God!)

Provide: a safe place. From your inward motivations to your outward body language, let yourself be a woman who is beautifully safe for a man to know and be around. Are you prodding him on sexually, or are you encouraging him in the Lord? ("But encourage one another...so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." Hebrews 3:13)

Preach: truth to yourself. Don’t listen to your emotions; command them! (“The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked; who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9 “…whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and He knows everything.” 1 John 3:20)

Praise: the Lord continually. He gives and He takes away. He is always good, and He knows what He’s doing. And He’s wise enough to not always give us what we think we’ll die without.

Like I said, I am no expert, but boy do I want to learn and live these principles! Wish I could have one more conversation today—with you. I'd love to hear your insights, thoughts, wisdom, feedback…


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Wrapped around his little finger....

I mean, really--do they get any cuter than this?

(Okay, so my "niece" Claire--my best friend Christy's li'l girl--is a close runner-up.)

And Tuesday I'm off to the high desert to see two more of my beautiful "nephews" (Mike and Lisa Hamel's darlings). I love children so much, and I'm blessed to be an aunt many times over!

(And even if my future children come out looking like bug-eyed sticks [see picture of me below], I will love them with all my heart. I just wish you friends and family would stop setting such unreachably high standards.)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Always keep a sense of humor.

And don't take yourself too seriously.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The power of life and death

Tonight a few Proverbs are faithfully convicting and encouraging me to be careful little tongue, what you say. What I say reveals the condition of my heart, and how I talk about others shows so much of what I believe about God.

If I understand God's forgiveness even in the smallest way, how can I ever criticize or ridicule or talk down about another person?

How can I flatter someone to their face and then turn around to whisper my true feelings behind their back?

How can I share a "prayer request" or "concern" that puts someone else in a bad light?

May my heart be so filled with God's grace and love and truth that my tongue overflows with the same.

"The tongue has the power of life and death." Proverbs 18:21

"He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity." Proverbs 21:23

"A lying tongue hates those it hurts, and a flattering mouth works ruin." Proverbs 26:28

"Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he hold his tongue." Proverbs 17:28

One of the sweetest gifts I could ever give to a friend is the promise that I will never talk about them in a way that would embarrass, humiliate, criticize, or shame them. If I have a concern, may I always tell them to their face--and not someone else behind their back.

O Lord, guard our mouths. Keep us from words that injure, flatter, and deceive. We are totally incapable of reigning in our tongues, but You love to do the impossible!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Imagine that.

I love acting.

I love opening that new script for the very first time, getting fitted for a costume, and blocking scenes for tedious hours on end. And then there's the adrenaline rush of opening night, the stage lights (which will always hold a certain charming appeal), the forgotten prop, the caked-on make-up, the five-second costume change, the hard-earned audience laughter, and the mic tape on my face.

But what I love most about acting is--the acting. I'm enthralled with becoming another person. It's a mysterious journey that begins with reading my character's lines off a page of the script and ends when I actually embody her--moving and responding and thinking and looking like this total stranger.

Okay, you're judging me now, aren't you? Was it when I said "embody her"? Yes, that's strange, I'll admit. But think about it: When you were little, you could drop to your knees and bark like a dog and chase an imaginary ball, and no one thought twice about it. You became a dog for those few minutes--and it was stinkin' fun!

But somewhere along the line, we all grew up and stopped... imagining. We learned the harder side of life and we learned the danger of being innocent and naive, and in the process we suffocated our imaginations. Being realistic and pragmatic defined our adulthood.

But then, how do we even begin to deal with eternal realities if we can no longer imagine? If experience and reason alone dictate reality, what are we to do with the miraculous, the supernatural, the infinite?

Which is why I love acting. I'm forced to exercise my atrophied imagination, to think outside my little world, to wonder and explore and create to my heart's content.

And in the process, I understand a bit more of what it means to take on another identity. God has given me a perfect script in His holy Scriptures, and He has cast me as His new creation. This righteous creation could not be more different than my old sinful self. For me, the toughest part of acting is to think like another person. It may be easy to act like them, but to think like them? In the same way, it's relatively easy to act like a Christian, but to think like one? To react and respond like one? To have impulses and desires like one? I must let the Author's script and Spirit shape my heart and mind until the new creation upstages the old.

When a director casts me as a penniless widow, well, then--a penniless widow I will be. When my God, Creator, Sustainer, and Lord tells me I am a new creation--well, then, a new creation I will be. I will study the Script, I will think new thoughts, and I will act in obedience for the applause of One great audience.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Like mental wallpaper

Thanks to my mom and her faithfulness to post Scriptures all around the house when we were growing up, Zephaniah 3:17 has long been one of my favorite verses. These few words are jam-packed with truths about God's character and who I am in relation to Him. I love it!

My friend David Arevalo and I put the verse to music a few years ago, so we could have it stuck in our heads and hearts. Truth wallpapered on the walls of our minds. Glory oozing out of our pores.

But a little disclaimer: I've had the darndest time trying to upload this thing to Blogger, so the cheesy video clips below are the result of a desperate attempt by a very technically challenged woman. Close your eyes and forgive me, won't you? =)

(And yes, it is silent for the first several seconds...)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

30-Something in Singleville

I am far too exhausted to be blogging. I want to sleep for more than four hours tonight. But I'm in desperate need of a captive audience for a light-hearted monologue on a topic I usually try to avoid:


It's weird here in Singleville at 30-something. Sometimes it feels a lot like living in a Dr. Seuss book or having tea with the Mad Hatter. College guys still flirt around; older men talk marriage even before a first date.

Advice is predictable: "When you're content in Jesus, He will bring the man along" and "When you least expect it, you'll meet him!" (Well, some days contentment is an hourly struggle; other days, it comes easily. Isn't it that way for everyone in every season of life? Or have some people arrived prematurely?) Other favorites: "Maybe you should go to a church that has a singles group" and "Have you tried E-Harmony?" I've visited church singles groups and I've tried E-Harmony. Both are terrifying. Perhaps the most boggling one is: "Singleness is so much better than marriage. Be thankful you're single." (But then why did you get married? I don't understand. Am I slow?)

Set-ups are to be avoided at all costs. The few I've agreed to have been... awkward... at best.

Older men check me out now. I mean, older. That's weird.

The pool of eligible men my age is now full of divorcees with kids. That's weird, too. (Not out of the question, because we all have our baggage, but the potentials used to be young guys fresh out of college, ya know?)

It's funny here. But in the midst of the comedy (and oftentimes the tears), there's a lot of beauty in this place. I love that the Author of Life, with perfect pen in hand, writes a story worth the telling. His fingers never slip as He scripts the climaxes and conflicts, the cliffhangers, the antagonists and protagonists. He is all mystery and adventure and comedy and romance. Once upon a time I imagined a very different story, but I've come to enjoy this Author's style much more than my own.

I love what I've learned in these years of singleness. I treasure the time I've had to prepare for the Great Wedding, when all of this waiting and wondering will make complete sense. Something more than my own personal security and happiness is at stake here.

A sovereign God calls me to an adventure far greater than I could ever have planned. Adventure is made of pleasure and pain, uncertainty and risk, faith and hope. I'm still as excited as ever about marrying a godly man someday--if my God writes that chapter. If not, He is far more than all I could ask or imagine. Earthly marriage is created to be only a small glimpse of the infinitely perfect marriage that awaits us...

And so I wait on Him for both.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Three questions for a crazy week ahead...

1. What is the most important thing in life?

2. What kind of woman do I want to be one year from now? (And what choices can I make today to help me become that woman?)

3. How can I take today's stresses and turn them into thanks?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

From one unapologetically proud aunt

Aaron David Langley: noun, adorable baby boy who brings joy and delight to all who meet him; a small, irresistible male child; one who has the ability to wrap everyone around his little finger.

"I can do it." (And other myths that mess me up.)

Let's take, for example, my job.

I love my job more than ever. Actually, I can't believe I get paid to go to work. This year, I'm splitting my time 50/50 between teaching English and administrative-counseling duties. I work like a dog, but at the end of each long day, it's an unbelievably happy, fulfilling exhaustion. If ever I felt like God fitted me for a task, this would be it.

BUT the insidious danger lies in that very statement. I'm made for this. God has given me strengths and giftings to serve Him in this way. And all of a sudden, "Look! I can do it!"

During the last week, I've gotten to sit with brokenhearted teen girls, kick off my heels at lunch to play soccer with middle school boys, teach Shakespeare and linking verbs, write encouraging notes to students, plan our middle school play, and sit in a dunk tank for a school fundraiser.

And creeping, creeping stealthily in is this constant temptation to rely on self, to find pleasure in my own strength, to glory in my giftings.

Which are nothing really.

Aside from God's grace, I'm a lawsuit waiting to happen. Or a stupid comment away from being fired. Or just plain ol' ineffective in reaching some really needy kids.

"Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit..."

And so the Lord graciously allows needs and weaknesses and brokennesses in my life that run so deep, I can't find the end of them. Sometimes He lets His children be "so utterly burdened beyond our strength ... to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead" (2 Corinthians 1:8,9).

He must love it when I begin my morning something like, "Today is way beyond me. I can't do anything apart from You. Help me be fruitful and effective. Strengthen me to do what brings You glory!"

And if that's found in the midst of humiliation or failure, so be it. I've plenty of those stories too... but that's another blog.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I'm in love.

Four weeks ago yesterday...

My Sis-in-law constantly amazes and blesses me... She is a beautiful, radiant mommy.

David is such a phenomenal daddy... and Aaron looks SO much like him!

Yesterday I was singing "The Ugly Bug Ball" to Aaron, and this was the look I got... Actually it was more like a stare. Just not sure if he was staring in fascination or terror.

Friday, September 12, 2008

What thrills me most

I arrived on the edge of a hurricane. It was only fitting: my girls' weekend in Washington, D.C., with Karen and Carlynne begged a dramatic beginning. It was to be the weekend of a lifetime.

I spent the majority of last Saturday safe inside Carlynne's sweet home, playing with her little Caleb, and watching sheets of hot rain masquerade as a tropical storm.

Saturday night cleared up just in time for our outing to Wolf Trap to see my favorite musical, Les Mis. Then Sunday came, and I found myself standing three feet away from our President, Karen Hughes, and Rascal Flats on the Front Lawn of the White House.

Monday night was a dream-come-true Celine Dion concert, and Tuesday morning was a breathtaking breakfast in the West Wing of the White House.

I don't think I'll ever again experience anything like those four days. (All compliments of dear Karen. Unbelievable.) My head was spinning by the time I strapped myself in on Delta Flight 847 to return home Tuesday afternoon.

But as I sat in my blue-vinyl aisle seat with a complimentary bag of peanuts and my knees up to my chin, I was struck to realize that these thrills paled in comparison to the thrill I experience when I spend time in my Lord's presence. And I'm not being hyper-spiritual here. I constantly struggle to study the Word, to pray, to seek the Lord with all my heart. Why it's a struggle will always boggle me, though, for when I do spend time with God, my heart is softened, my mind is sharpened, and the innermost places of my soul are filled with peace, wisdom, faith, joy, hope, healing, and purpose.

West Wing breakfasts, political power, and divas who can bring down the Verizon Center a cappella, can't hold a candle to the King of kings--who alone prepares a feast that will never leave us hungry (John 6:35), gives us the power of His Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8), and whose voice strips the forests bare (Psalm 29).

If I was invited to have Saturday brunch with Celine in her home, I wouldn't miss it for the world. (Are you kidding me?!) But I am daily invited to so much more: to share all of life with the Creator of the world and the Savior of my soul.

Tonight let's accept the invitation, enter into the presence of Almighty God, and know the thrill of knowing Him more. He puts all other thrills to shame.

(In less noteworthy news, today my middle school counseling responsibilities included cleaning up a food fight involving a birthday cake and a bunch of hormonally imbalanced 13-year-olds. Last weekend already feels like such a distant memory.)

Monday, September 1, 2008

I hate when I hurt people.

And I hate letting people down, disappointing them, or knowing someone is angry with me.

I guess I just hate being a sinner. Falling so far short of perfect. Wrestling with weakness...

Rachel Tulloch poignantly confirms that "this is why God’s love is terrible. Think of what it includes: us, with our best and our worst, with our failed attempts and outright cruelty, with our wrong motives for right actions and our right motives for wrong actions... us, with the mess we have made of the world, with our brokenness and despair, with our rebellions and inadequacies. We are the ones included in and redeemed by the deep and wide love of God. Paul is astonished by this reality when he emphasizes that Christ died for us while we were still sinners! (Romans 5:8)."

God's infinitely perfect love is not simply a sweet, storybook love; it's a disturbing love: He loves me even when I inadvertently or willfully hurt someone else He loves. And He loves them when they hurt me.

His love forgives and forgets my sin. It's not sin swept under the rug; it's sin that was heaped on the body of Jesus. He didn't just cancel the debt; He paid it. As Tulloch explains, "The master takes the loss." And I walk away rich.

That's truly terrible love. And love that makes me love right back with all of my heart.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Prayer in temptation

Make no provision,
Not one small glance;
Shut the door fast
So there’s not a chance
Of compromise,
Of one “small” sin
Or diversions that
Let immoderation in.

It will not do then
To just ignore
The sin that beats
Down on my heart’s door.
Sin must be dealt with,
Ruthlessly killed
Utterly abandoned—
Oh, grant me the will!

The will and power
To love Your ways,
Hate what You hate
And run to obey.
You are a refuge,
Immovable, strong.
Fountain of pleasures,
Help me desire and long…

For You alone.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Sunday, August 17, 2008

He's here!

Aaron David Langley was born at 3:35 p.m. today, weighing 7 lbs. 13 oz. He had a rough start (came out blue, cord wrapped around his neck, and had to be resuscitated), but he is doing beautifully now. He's just perfect.

Dad and Mom are doing well, too, despite a long and difficult labor. Heather was amazing--as always. She is going to be the most incredible mommy. And David is as I had imagined--a natural.

So another Langley boy has graced our family, and I have a sneaking suspicion that he won't need a crib. No one's gonna wanna put him down for five minutes...

Monday, August 11, 2008

Going for the gold (and a baby update)

Like many of you, when I was young I dreamed of competing in the Olympics. But should I admit that I firmly believed I had the potential to run in the '96 Games? After outrunning a handful of girls on the soccer field and then watching Chariots of Fire for the hundredth time, I committed myself to an intense season of training: I ran up and down the block really fast, timing myself with a stopwatch.

During this brief but rigorous training stint, one thing was obvious: if I wanted to run fast, I needed to dress light. No parkas. No boots. No earrings or glasses or belts. Just a pair of shorts, a tank top, socks and shoes.

In his beautiful book The Grand Weaver, Ravi Zacharias (brilliant Indian philosopher and Christian apologist) writes:

"Susanna Wesley was a remarkable woman who gave birth to nineteen children. One can only guess the inner strength she must have had to raise John and Charles, two among many others who sat on her knee and learned from her to walk with the Lord. One day, John asked her to define sin. I doubt any theologian could have done better than she did: Son, whatever weakens your reasoning, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes away your relish for spiritual things; in short, if anything increases the authority and power of the flesh over the Spirit, then that to you becomes sin, however good it is in itself.

Zacharias continues: "As a young man, David Livingstone prayed, Lord, send me anywhere, only go with me. Lay any burden on me, only sustain me. Sever any ties but the tie that binds me to Your service and to your heart."

Sever any ties.
Get rid of whatever weakens, obscures, impairs, and takes away.
Even if it's "okay" or "good" or "permissible" (1 Corinthians 10:23)...

Lord, give us the desire and discipline to "lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1).

Because, in the end, don't we all want to win that gold?

Did I mention that Little Langley was due TODAY?! I've taken up singing to Heather's adorable pregnant tummy--songs like "Aaron, O Aaron, You're Darling but Tardy."

[Long, reflective silence.]

I just realized that I'm gonna be the weird aunt.


Saturday, August 9, 2008

Live the Life

Yes, I'm a huge fan of Coldplay's new hook song, Viva la Vida. Accuse me of joining the bandwagon, and I'll unabashedly agree. The song has a terrific sound, reminiscent of U2. (I can never forget when a friend introduced me to Beautiful Day as we sped through a balmy autumn afternoon with the top down on her convertible. It was love at first sound. But this is a tangent.)

Whether you like the song or not, the lyrics--just dripping with biblical metaphors and references--are worth the read and some analysis, or at least a good discussion.

I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning I sleep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own

I used to roll the dice
Feel the fear in my enemy's eyes
Listen as the crowd would sing
"Now the old king is dead! Long live the king!"

One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand

I hear Jerusalem bells are ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field

For some reason I can't explain
Once you go there was never
Never an honest word
And that was when I ruled the world

It was the wicked and wild wind
Blew down the doors to let me in
Shattered windows and the sound of drums
People couldn't believe what I'd become

Revolutionaries wait
For my head on a silver plate
Just a puppet on a lonely string
Oh who would ever want to be king?

I hear Jerusalem bells a ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field

For some reason I can't explain
I know Saint Peter will call my name
Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world

I hear Jerusalem bells a ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field

For some reason I can't explain
I know Saint Peter will call my name
Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world

(Written by Guy Rupert Berryman, Jonathan Mark Buckland, Will Champion, Christopher Martin)

I know. You need to go listen to the song again, too. It's okay to program it to "repeat." Years later, and I'm still not weary of Beautiful Day...

Friday, August 8, 2008

Two chicken sandwiches and a slice of humble pie

Some poor people stir within me a deep compassion, a mercy, an immediate desire to reach out and do whatever I can to help them.

Other poor people bug me. And then it bugs me that I'm bugged. Do you know what I mean?

A couple of weeks ago, I was walking out of a pet store (where I had gone for my occasional pet fix: every other month I wander through the bird, fish, and small rodent aisles--comparing prices, weighing pros and cons, and silently bemoaning the fact that I can't get a puppy) when a lady approached me to ask for money. She and her daughter were stranded and needed a hotel room for the night. I told her I don't give cash but would love to provide a meal for them.

It's always at this point in the conversation that I feel slightly self-righteous and incredibly discerning. I'm far too wise to contribute to a drug habit (as if "they" all have one), but I'm so full of mercy and love that I'll break the bank to buy "them" a meal.

With my halo sparkling atop my head, I offered to get two chicken sandwiches at the Chick-Fil-A across the street.

Suddenly, she had a husband in need of a chicken sandwich, too. This irked me.

With my halo now tipping precariously to one side, I started to head to the Home of the Original Chicken Sandwich when she added, "Oh, and if you get a meal with drinks, could you make it a Dr. Pepper and a Sprite?"

My halo made a lot of noise hitting the pavement. Are you kidding me, lady? I inwardly fumed as I caked on a good Christian smile. Ain't no way you're getting a drink, and you'll be lucky if I come back with your two (not three!)chicken sandwiches!

I stormed through the drive-through, I paid in a huff, and I drove back to that lady with her undeserved dinner.

And then it hit me. I am no better than this woman. In fact, she and I are very much the same. I too am poor, a beggar, in desperate need of stuff I can't afford. And my Lord does not ride by on a high horse, with fanfare and spiritual airs. He gives freely out of perfect mercy and grace--at great personal expense (His only Son). And while I demand a Dr. Pepper, He waits to give me much more than all I could ask or imagine, that which I need most: Himself. He, the spring of living water, promises that I will never go thirsty.

He doesn't distance Himself from me, never walks away irritated or disgusted, never withholds. He loves and gives, and then loves and gives some more.

Lord, teach me to live in the fullness of Your mercy... and then give away my mercy-filled life (not just chicken sandwiches) to other beggars like me.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Not much has changed.

It was a kids' birthday party, for crying out loud. Two weeks ago, Christopher and Nathan had twelve of their friends over for water wars, and the party ended in a fight between siblings.

It was Jonathan's fault. He demanded a second ice cream sandwich, and I refused point-blank. No, sirree. You can be a glutton elsewhere, but not at your little brothers' birthday party. Save some ice cream for the kids, buddy!

The fight in pictures...

Thank heavens for Heather. Just look at the peace and serenity on my face as I sit with my sis-in-law... The Langley family desperately needed another female.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Order the Dehli Durbar!

I'm overly excited about my new find. Last night two of my friends and I discovered a hole-in-the-wall Indian restaurant on Sunset Boulevard: Paru's Indian Vegetarian Restaurant. It's amazing.


Entrees are around $12, with plenty of food to feed two, and the ambiance is enchantingly and authentically Indian. I was giddy the whole time I was cramming the tasty fare down my throat.

Hope some of you can make it in the future... Or join me for my next visit. ;-)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Every season

On my run tonight, I passed a soccer field where two girls’ teams were competing. In an instant, I was transported. Long nights under the lights in shin guards and cleats, sweaty nylon jerseys and itchy tube socks—beating the enemy to the ball and eating orange slices after the game. It didn’t get any better than that.

I played all four years of high school—and as they were for all of us, those years were challenging, exciting, and transforming. I was figuring out who I was, forming my convictions, falling flat on my face, developing new skills, and exploring a variety of interests.

Theater kept me out late on more than one occasion. Babysitting did not. (I love kids, but very few children were well behaved enough to induce me to spend hours with them.) Writing newsletters, short stories, poems, and stage plays (laughable material now) sealed my fate: I would forever be wed to a pen. Late-night street hockey with my brothers and Ben Flower, beach trips and driver's ed, church ministries, singing with Christine Lattimer and Roland Urgino, Katy's birth and Linda's death, Mexico ministry, and my first college visit…

And then there was the inevitable first battle with depression, loneliness in the midst of a crowd, friendships lost, personal failures, hormones, a crisis of faith, and… math. If I remember correctly, I cried through all four years of high school math.

Tonight I’m reminded again that every season of life has its unique joys and trials. It’s so tempting to long for summer’s heat in the midst of winter’s chill—and then gripe about the sweltering temperatures when June finally arrives. Comparing my season of life with yours doesn’t accomplish a heck of a lot either. You can’t have Christmas gifts in July, and I probably shouldn’t sunbathe at the beach in December. But in the words of my dear mom, we should “squeeze the joy out of every day we’re given,” making the most of winter in the winter months, and summer in its months too.

Today, whether there be snow falling outside your frosted window or a balmy sun beating down on your beachhouse, may you know the joy of living by faith and living to the fullest.

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1

“He did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” Acts 14:17

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Photos of the Week (My friends have the cutest babies ever!)

My "niece" Claire Elaine, Thailand.

My "nephew" Caleb, Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

This blog will bug you.

In the course of my 32 years, I’ve killed my fair share of gnats, ants, flies, mosquitoes, mosquito hawks, June bugs, beetles, rollie-pollies, spiders, and crickets. I’ve even bare-handed strange bugs in the middle of a class when a student—typically of the female gender—begins screaming over the realization that during lunch break her purse, book, or (heaven forbid!) her shirt became home to a new species of creepy-crawly.

Yes, I’ve grabbed that ugly beast, put on a formidable face, walked to the door while Bug writhed around in my sweaty palm (all feet and wings and buzzing), and thrown the demon out on his backside.

I’ve had other students—typically of the male gender—put my bug bravery to the test by thrusting lizards, frogs, or rubber bug imitations at my face. I haven’t screamed yet.

But there is one little pest I cannot tolerate. Just one. Let a bee sting me, a pincher bug pinch me, or a moth chew through my socks, but let a cockroach anywhere near me, and I come undone. I will scream (be it stifled or unbridled) every time.

As tradition would have it, our school hosts the annual California Cockroach Convention every summer. Cockroaches from all corners and crevices of California make the pilgrimage to our all-too-welcoming facility. From the women’s bathroom stalls to the teacher’s workroom to classrooms all over campus, large winged cockroaches are to be found drinking, lounging, chatting, and idling away the summer months.

This has presented too many traumatic scenarios for me to recount in this brief blog. But suffice it to say, I may finally surrender my flip-flop heels for closed-toe shoes and begin wearing hats when I go to the bathroom. (The toilet is an awfully vulnerable place to face your worst fear.)

I just realized I’ve been scratching myself as I write this. My skin is absolutely crawling.

Well, friends—whatever the cockroach may be in your life, I wish you peace, safety, courage, and a super-sized can of bug-killing spray.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Saving Seductive

In a culture that lets it all hang out, I want to preserve a little mystery, femininity, purity. I want to be naked for one man only. I want to seduce just one man. I want to yield all of my womanly sexiness for him alone.

I’m hiding it, guarding it, keeping it for him. That is what sexy is all about.

On a drive into L.A. years ago, I saw a billboard advertising a brand of wine. It pictured a gorgeous guy and voluptuous girls hanging all over him; next to the bottle of wine it read, “The only thing that’s still pure in L.A.”

According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, pure is defined as unmixed with any other matter; free from dirt or taint; free from what weakens or pollutes; containing nothing that does not properly belong; free from harshness or roughness.

Ironic, isn’t it, that we covet purity in a car, a meal, a wardrobe, a sport, a paycheck, or a bottle of wine, but we taint our inmost parts—we actually chase after sexual impurity—as if our lives depended on it. It’s a race to see who can defile herself the fastest.

Our “bottle of wine” has been spit in, dumped out, mixed with dirt, roughed up, and we keep drinking. We joke about sex, dress to attract sexual attention, look at naked people for sport, and give out sexual favors without even thinking twice.

When my dad revisited the issue of pornography from the pulpit last Sunday, he said that it “hollows out a man’s soul.” When a woman offers her body visually or physically to men (it’s our warped way of trying to feel valuable, beautiful, loved), it hollows out her soul, too.

Sexual sin deforms the heart and mind until what is bad and harmful seems good and normal. If there’s anything that’s sucking the life out of our generation, hollowing out our souls, it’s sexual perversion. I sat next to a table of teenagers at Redlands’ Gourmet Pizza Shoppe on Thursday night and listened as one of the girls asked a guy, “Would you dig a hot girl, I mean a really hot girl—if she used to be a guy?”

How did we get here?

It’s the Church’s fault. No, it’s my fault. For compromising in the little things. For laughing at the inappropriate joke because I was afraid to speak up and look prude. For watching that movie. For dressing and acting seductively. For allowing lust a home in my heart and mind. For wanting to be lusted after. For that second and third glance.

Proverbs 5:15-23 may be the most poignant Scripture passage on this topic:
“Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love. Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman? For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord, and He ponders all his paths. The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin. He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray.”

Purity is definitely out of my reach. Except for the grace of God, the righteousness of Jesus, and the empowering of the Holy Spirit, I would have no hope of purity. My best efforts at holiness would look like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).

Purity is such a precious gift. Matthew 5:8 says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” And because it is so very precious and valuable, the battle for it is perhaps the toughest we will ever fight. Especially for us singles. With no sexual outlet, and hormones and passions that are raging, we face very unique challenges in the midst of a sexually saturated culture.

But God is stronger and better and rewards His obedient children. (As my Uncle Bob said, “God is not a debtor.” He never owes us!) Just as Moses “was looking to the reward” and so “considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt,” we too need to decide what is truly valuable and worth fighting for. Our world worships Sex. We worship Almighty God.

This week I’m praying for purity of heart, mind, and body. I’m praying I would “save seductive” for my future husband—and not let my springs overflow in the streets. I’m praying I would “shun evil” and “turn my eyes from worthless things.” Would you join me in these prayers? We’re all in this fight together, and we have a very powerful God who fights on our behalf and is forever for us! Let’s trust Him to do the impossible, to grant us grace and forgiveness in our sin and weakness, and to show Himself holy and good to a generation that desperately needs to see Him lived out in us.

“Therefore, put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” James 1:21

Friday, July 11, 2008

This World is not Conclusion.

This poem may make my Top 10. Amazing truths. Beautiful language. Emily Dickinson.

This World is not Conclusion.
A Species stands beyond—
Invisible, as Music—
But positive, as Sound—
It beckons, and it baffles—
Philosophy—don't know—
And through a Riddle, at the last—
Sagacity, must go—
To guess it, puzzles scholars—
To gain it, Men have borne
Contempt of Generations
And Crucifixion, shown—
Faith slips—and laughs, and rallies—
Blushes, if any see—
Plucks at a twig of Evidence—
And asks a Vane, the way—
Much Gesture, from the Pulpit—
Strong Hallelujahs roll—
Narcotics cannot still the Tooth
That nibbles at the soul.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Summer school started today and reminded me how much...

I love teaching.

I love making myself get up early, picking out a snappy outfit and accessories, sipping on my morning coffee, driving through downtown Redlands over the cobblestone streets, and walking the school halls before the silence is broken by chaos.

I love the early morning smell of the halls (by afternoon, the smell has taken a decided turn for the worst), opening my classroom door to the sight of the white board crammed with yesterday’s grammar lesson, and the student who drops by before class just to chat.

I love making eye contact with my students as they walk through the door, to remind them that they are the highlight of my day—the reason I teach.

I love bantering with the witty boys and crouching beside the shy girl’s desk to hear her repeat her soft-spoken question.

I love giving high-fives to Steve and huge hugs to the twins. I love it when my students tease me about my gallon of drinking water or my hideous drawings.

I love interrupting an English lesson for a heart-to-heart talk about divorce or gossip or relationships, or to boast in who God is and show Him off to kids who need Him desperately.

I love it when old students come back to visit, try to make the transition from “Miss Langley” to “Colleen,” or drive me in their car to get coffee and catch up.

I love using my passion for drama and singing and writing and speaking to communicate what can easily be very dry and lifeless language concepts to teenagers. I love it when a student grasps one of these concepts and uses it in everyday life.

Teaching was the farthest thing from my mind when I graduated from college. But a sovereign God changed my course and then graciously granted me unexpected pleasures in my work. (Yes, it’s tough as nails sometimes, but my frustrations and shortcomings are far outweighed by the joys and the knowledge that this is what I’m supposed to be doing!)

And now back to lesson planning for tomorrow…

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Because He loves to answer these requests!!

This is what I'm praying for myself, my dear friends and family this week... That we:

1. "may be filled with the knowledge of His will" (Colossians 1:9)

2. would "store up Your Word in our hearts that we might not sin against You" (Psalm 119:11) and "be doers of the Word, and not hearers only" (James 1:22)

3. "love one another earnestly from a pure heart" (1 Peter 1:22)

4. "turn our eyes away from worthless things" (Psalm 119:37) and "shun evil" (Proverbs 3:7)

5. "fear the LORD your God, walk in all His ways, love Him, serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul" (Deuteronomy 10:12)

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Knocking on the door of the brothel

"At [God's] right hand are pleasures forevermore" declares the Psalmist (in chapter 16). And tonight I return to a question I have to ask myself often: what "lesser pleasures" are ruining me for pleasures that last?

In Ravi Zacharias' devotional, A Slice of Infinity, Jill Carattini writes...

"We live in a world for which the pursuit of pleasure is the most celebrated passion, and yet, our own restlessness in the midst of this boundless pursuit testifies to the timeless truth Augustine once declared: God has made us for Himself and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee. In his candid manner, G.K. Chesterton declared similarly, 'A man knocking on the door of the brothel is knocking for God.'

"That the Song of Songs is included in the canon of Scripture is an affirmation of the goodness of human love and pleasure. But, like all expressions, it too has limitations. Pleasure for pleasure's sake alone can become devoid of meaning. Boundless pleasure can in fact become binding. Yet in its given context, human love and pleasure can point us to the triune God who in his very being is the source of all love."

Am I bound to pursuing pleasure in anything besides God? Am I a slave to pleasing myself? O Lord, don't let us settle for less than You, cheat ourselves out of Your pleasures, or waste this life on cheap passions.

Turn our steps away from the brothel door and let us find forever-pleasures in Your presence tonight.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

A Spiritual Appetizer

I've just had conversations with three different people about our mutual struggle with consistently having "quiet times." Let's admit it: it's tough to spend time with someone you can't see, hear, and touch with physical eyes, ears, and hands. It's definitely a discipline to use our spiritual senses. In the physical realm, we get hungry when we don't eat. But in the spiritual realm, when we don't eat from God's Word we actually lose our appetite for it. (And we get hungrier and hungrier the more we eat! Crazy how that works.)

Inspired by our common struggle, I'd like to serve up a spiritual appetizer: a week of working out our appetites so we're hungrier for more of God's Word and presence! If you're in, here's the plan...

During the first five days of July (this Tuesday through Saturday), we will daily spend:

- 5 minutes in prayer
- 5 minutes reading Deuteronomy 30 and Psalm 16
- 5 minutes in silence (meditating on and listening to the Scriptures we just read)

How fun would it be to know a bunch of people are reading the very same chapters every day and meditating on their truths together--around the world!

Um, and yes. Five minutes in undistracted prayer or silence is HARD. Sounds pathetic, but it's true. So if five overwhelms you, start with two a day! Remember, this is intended to create a bigger appetite--not constipation. Hmmm. Bad analogy. But you get the idea. ;-)

Feel free to shoot me an email (colleenlangley@yahoo.com) if you decide to join in; I'd love to be praying for each one in our hungry group. =)

Whatever your spiritual plan is this week, may your "soul be satisfied as with fat and rich food" (Psalm 63:5)!

"Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." Is. 55:1

Saturday, June 28, 2008

I am such a girl.

(I was just plowing through old Microsoft Word files on my computer, and I stumbled upon this poem I wrote on March 11, 2006. If it weren't so funny, it'd be plain ol' embarassing...)


Hanging on a phone call

Well, I've done it again, Lord.

I'm hanging on a phone call,
Just hoping for a ring--
A little number all lit up on my cell phone screen.
To hear that voice that'll make my heart sing
Is a request that seems so small,
And for a moment I wonder: do You care at all?

Won't You move his heart tonight?
Granting him a dream
Of how happy his life would be if he were married to me;
A little piece of eternity
If he would just call me his wife.
O Lord--let him see the light!

Yes, the waiting's been long;
It shouldn't be this way.
(Profound commentary from a lump of clay.)
But You have never yet made one mistake,
So when the silence seems unending and wrong,
Move my heart (okay, and my phone) to ring out a song.


And over two years later, I can say with even more joy and conviction... He has never yet made one mistake. (And how thankful I am He has not given me who I thought I so desperately wanted and needed. He knows best!!)

And one more thing: Marriage to me will not be heaven. It may prepare a man for heaven, or make him long for heaven even more, but please know that the poem above was tongue-in-cheek. Humorous. For laughs. (I hate to think of the comments I'd get on this entry if you could leave 'em. =)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Happy birthday, dear Lisa!

You are to me a best friend, kindred spirit, confidante, role model, inspiration, and counselor who somehow juggles marriage, mommyhood, ministry, and musicianship (you are still my favorite singer of all time) with grace and faith and joy. I will never be able to comprehend what my life would have been like if our paths hadn't divinely crossed 13 years ago (when we were crazy college kids). You know my heart like few others.

Remind me again why you had to leave San Diego for Seattle? ;-)