Thin Spaces

Garden-SmallThrough my life thus far, I have encountered numerous thin spaces. You know the kind. Those physical places where God just seems so much tangibly closer.

Ten years ago, Aaron and I lived in the glorious Rocky Mountains of Colorado. And oh how those mountains are a thin space for me. Maybe it’s the thin air, but I can hear God so much more clearly when I’m in the mountains surrounded by his creation. There was one park in particular in Colorado Springs where Aaron and I would go to spend the afternoon thinking, reading, and praying laying on a blanket staring up at the towering Rockies. God called us to start Camp Machaceh during our time living in the mountains and many a conversation about camp happened in that very park. Thin spaces.

Another thin space for me came a few years later. Aaron and I were on a trip with other students from Truett Seminary in Greece. We were following in Paul’s footsteps across the country, and one of our first stops was in Philippi. There walking among the ruins of this ancient city through the very agora where Paul was arrested, I experienced God’s presence so tangibly. It was as if his spirit lingered in this ancient place, and I could almost breathe his spirit deeply into my lungs. A thin space.

And now here I sit in yet another thin space. By the bedside of my mother in law as she transitions from life here on earth to life eternal with Jesus our Savior. And this is perhaps the thinnest of spaces. This space where heaven breaks into our world, our reality and takes a saint home.

God is here. He is very tangibly present with us. He is with Nancy with each breath she takes. He is with each person who squeezes her hand and says “I love you.” He is with each family member and friend as we grieve and say goodbye. He is with us as we read Scripture together and pray. I especially noticed his presence as we sang hymns around her bed tonight. God is with us. His spirit is tangible here. The air oozes with his presence. A very thin space.

One of the names for Jesus is Emmanuel or God with Us. And I can say that I have truly experienced Jesus as God with us over the last few weeks. He is a God who steps into our trials and our sufferings. He doesn’t just watch it from afar and say “There, there. You’ll be ok.” No. Instead he wades right in and sits with us and walks with us through the dark valleys. And tonight as Aaron and I sit and wait with Nancy for her final transition, we know that God is truly with us in this thinnest of spaces and holiest of moments.

 “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty- the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come.” -Revelation 4:8


Hope-CardsmallFor the last few months, God has been inundating me with hope. It’s Aaron’s fault. Late last spring, he informed me that God had laid a vision on his heart for our fall teaching emphasis at church- Hope. And over the course of the summer, that direction was confirmed over and over again, through conversations with students and adults alike. So we plowed forward, reading widely on the topic of hope, preparing to launch our fall teaching series. At the end of August we started Monsters, Zombies, and Things that Go Bump on Wednesday nights. Little did we know we were going to be living this out this fall.

Over the last four years, my mother in law, Nancy, has been battling ovarian cancer. At the end of September she had her fourth surgery to remove a tumor and give her the best chance to prolong her life for another year or two. Two more surgeries, sepsis, weeks in the ICU, and countless procedures later, and we now sit in her room at a hospice facility.

Earlier this week Nancy received a package that contained cards made by children in a relative’s Sunday School class. Most of the cards had carefully written words copied from the board in the classroom. But one little girl named Savannah simply wrote the word Hope and signed her name.

Hope. We toss this word around quite glibly. “I hope I get a pony for Christmas.” “I hope that boy asks me to the dance.” “I hope my mom makes meatloaf and macaroni and cheese for dinner.” We use the word freely and frivolously lowering the true meaning of hope to the same level as wish or desire. But true hope, Christian hope is nothing like making a wish or desiring a specific outcome.

As Christ followers, our hope is rooted in our salvation. Paul reminds the Corinthian church of this in 1 Corinthians 15:50-57. Because of what Jesus did on the cross and through his resurrection, because of his work of restoration, reconciliation, and redemption, we have the hope of an eternity with him. As Paul says, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:54-57).

But hope isn’t just for one day at the end of life here on earth. We can also experience the hope Jesus brought through his advent here, right now. Mark Oestreicher defined hope this way: “the faithful confidence that God continues to author a story that moves us from vision to action” (Hopecasting*).

 Hope is the confidence that God is continuing to author a story.

Regardless of circumstance, God is still at work, making beauty out of our messes, leading us and guiding us through the storm, walking us through life’s dark valleys, and celebrating with us in life’s joys. God is at work everywhere.

And we have definitely been experiencing this as a family walking through this dark valley. On the day we rushed back to Fort Worth for Nancy’s emergency surgery, we got a call from our adoption agency telling us we did in fact qualify for their China program after months of no progress. HOPE. We also found out the timeline for bringing a child home could be shorter than we originally thought. HOPE. We have seen God working in the hearts and lives of students calling them “further up and further in” to his love, and we have seen them respond to his call. HOPE.

The faithful confidence that God continues to author a story that moves us from vision to action. Hope for now. Hope for later. So yes, Savannah, hope is a perfectly fitting word for this time.


*For further reading about hope, check out Mark Oestreicher’s book, Hopecasting, a well articulated, interesting, and accessible book on hope and how we experience it as Christians.

Tangible God Sightings


A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post on presence. You can read it here. (For those of you reading from our Scriptures 1 class, it was a post I did not tag for class.)  In that post, I share my thoughts on the presence of Jesus with us specifically when we pray. Perhaps this is why the presence of God at the dedication of the temple in 1 Kings 8 stood out to me.


In 1 Kings 8, Solomon has finally completed the temple, and the time has come to dedicate it. The author tells us as the ark was brought to the temple Solomon and the people were “sacrificing so many sheep and oxen that they could not be counted or numbered” (1Kings 8:5 NRS). What a joyous day in the life of Israel. They had finally constructed a permanent dwelling place for God. After the ark was installed in “the most holy place,” the inner sanctuary of the temple, “a cloud filled the house of the LORD, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD” (1 Kings 8:10-11). What an amazing theophany of God’s presence among God’s people!


Sometimes I wish God would show up in such a  visible way. Often, our experience of God’s presence while tangible, is nearly indescribable. However, I wonder, if God did show up in a visibly tangible way, would we recognize Him? Or would our western, scientific brains have some explanation for the theophany? Is our view of God big enough to allow for such unexplainable events?


A quick story. One summer during camp, rain was threatening our last night of worship which was to take place in an amphitheater overlooking a lake. Rain was imminent according to the radar and the clouds. Swimming and other outdoor activities had been rained out several times through the week. So I prayed for God to hold the rain until after our service which on the last night of camp could be quite lengthy. We started our service with the distant rumble of thunder, but as we watched the clouds (and the radar) the rain split and went right around us. It was raining nearby, but not at the camp. We were able to finish our worship service, time of response and prayer, and eat s’mores around the bonfire. The rain came right as our campers headed back to their cabins. One of the workers at the camp facility tried to tell me the lake had some impact on preventing the rain, but I choose to believe God acted on our behalf protecting our time of worship and displaying his glory for all to see.

a man after God’s own heart?


I don’t know about you, but I am never perfect. Ouch. That’s hard for this perfectionist to admit, but it’s true. Try as hard as I might, I am just not perfect, and I never will be. Perhaps that’s why David is one of my favorite characters in the Bible.


In 1 Samuel 13, God rejects Saul as king after he impatiently offered a burnt offering instead of waiting for Samuel.  In verse 14, God tells Saul, “…the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart; and the LORD has appointed him to be ruler over his people.” He is speaking of David.


David, the raiding pirate. David, the adulterer. David, the murderer. This certainly does not sound like a man who follows God wholeheartedly. Or does it?


David commits many sins. However, he repents completely and humbles himself before God repeatedly. We see this most clearly in 2 Samuel 11 & 12, the story of David’s adultery with Bathsheba and its consequences. After the prophet Nathan’s parable and rebuke, David admits his sin. He then humbles himself before God praying and fasting on behalf of his and Bathsheba’s child who has been struck ill. Through the picture painted by the author of 1 & 2 Samuel, we see David communing with God, talking with God, relying on God for protection, writing psalms of praise to God, dancing before God as the ark is brought into Jerusalem, and seeking God’s direction. I think God calls David a man after his own heart because God knew David’s heart, and his heart was devoted to God. Sure he messed up. But he never wavered in his devotion to God. In comparison to Saul, Solomon, and the myriad of kings of the divided kingdom, David stands out because of his wholehearted devotion to God. He is remembered as a wholehearted follower of God despite his imperfections and missteps. What better way to be remembered?

The King’s Table


Throughout the stories of Saul, David, and Solomon we often read of a person who has attained the privilege of eating at the king’s table. We see this with Mephisbosheth in 2 Samuel 9. David desired to show kindness to someone from Saul’s family for the sake of his friend Jonathan. Mephibosheth was Jonathan’s son, and David did not hesitate to show kindness to him. Eating at the king’s table was one of the many things David did for Mephibosheth.


Over the weekend, Aaron and I had the privilege of attending the wedding of his cousin Hayley. The ceremony was beautiful and meaningful. A true worship service. The reception was like something straight out of a movie. It was in a garden at a sculpture museum under a canopy of trees amidst peaceful fountains and stunning sculptures. The trees were lit by hundreds of tiny light bulbs, and the tables were set with fine china and crystal. I felt as if I was at a royal dinner. In the midst of all this beauty, my mind drifted to the kings of Israel. Was this what eating at the king’s table was like? Was there live music and dancing? Fine wine and people dressed in their finest? What must Mephibosheth have felt at the generosity and kindness of King David?


From here my mind drifted to thoughts of heaven and a feast at the ultimate king’s table, the King of Kings. What a joyous day it will be to be in God’s presence!





The Power of Presence

I am taking a spiritual formation class this semester, and one thing we have been talking about recently is truly being present with people. Present in the mundane, present in the messiness, present in the highs, present in the lows. Presence is the idea of completely setting myself, my agenda, my problems, my joys aside, and truly listening to the other person. Presence is allowing someone to fully express the depths of their emotion without interjecting my advice or my stories.


Our professor begins our class every Tuesday and Thursday with a spiritual practice. Tuesday we began with an imagination prayer exercise in which we imagined ourselves sitting and talking with Jesus about things which we had recently been on our hearts. As I sat there next to Jesus, I poured my heart out to him. Words came tumbling out of my mouth as they often do when I’m at my most vulnerable place. The interesting thing to me was not what I said, however, but what Jesus did in response. Rather than tell me some grand advice or comforting word, Jesus just held me. Jesus, God Incarnate, the Savior of the world, simply hugged me.

At first this was frustrating to me. Why didn’t Jesus tell me something? But as I’ve had time to think and process this experience, I began to realize Jesus did the only appropriate thing. He was present with me. He listened to me. He gave me space to express my deepest heartaches and frustrations and He sat with me in that place. I wonder how often Jesus desires to be present with me, but I fill our time together with a bunch of words. Not that words are bad, they are a necessary part of our lives and play an appropriate role in prayer. But sometimes I think Jesus desires to sit with us and offer the comfort of His touch but we miss it because we are so busy talking at Him.

I’ve often wondered how some people spend hours in prayer. “I would run out of things to say,” I’ve often thought. But perhaps that’s the point. These people are not spending hours talking but simply being and allowing Jesus to be with them. We expect answers when we pray. What if the answer is Jesus’ presence?

The last 24 hours have been a roller coaster of emotions. We have been to the deepest, darkest valley and back again. Through it all, I have been overwhelmed by God’s presence and the peace He brings. Sometimes presence is more powerful than words or answers. With presence comes peace.

Aunt Steph

As of 3:09am eastern time on Sunday, October 16, I am an aunt. Nolan Andrew Beazley was born yesterday to Aaron’s brother Luke and his wife Brittany, and we couldn’t be more thrilled!  Aunt Stephanie. That still sounds weird to me! It’s also quite a mouthful. Maybe Aunt Steph is better. Either way, we are super excited and ready to meet the little guy. The only problem? He lives in North Carolina. Boo. I really hope we don’t have to wait until Christmas! Congratulations Luke & Brittany!


You want me to do what?!

As I was reading Judges for class last week, I was reminded of a blog post I wrote a couple years ago for our Camp Machaceh blog. I thought it might be fun to repost my thoughts on Gideon’s 300 person army from May 2008. Aaron and I were gearing up for our second summer of Camp Machaceh, and seminary was still over a year away. Staff recruiting had been a difficult journey that year, as it has been most years. But God provided for our every need, though not always in the way we expected.

From May 28, 2008
Lately, Aaron has been calling our summer staff Gideon’s Army and for good reason. Back in the fall when we started planning for this summer, we thought we needed at least 10 counselors. “We can’t possibly run our program with less,” we thought. But here we are three and a half weeks until staff training starts, and we have half the number we thought we needed.

I can just imagine Gideon’s face when God told him “you have too many men for me to deliver Midian into [your] hands” (Judges 7:2). I imagine him thinking something along these lines: “Are you sure God? Have you seen the Midianite army? You want to reduce my army of thousands down to 300?!” (Find the whole story of Gideon in Judges 6-8.)

But God in His infinite love and wisdom had a plan for those 300 men. In Judges 7:2, God goes on to explain why He wants to reduce the army: “in order that Israel may not boast against Me that her own strength has saved her.”

Put another way: “Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man’s power ends.” –George Muller

If God wants to use 5 counselors and Aaron and me to show His love to campers this summer, who am I to question Him? After all, He often uses a very small number of people to do very big things. (Gideon isn’t the only example. Read Judges. And the rest of the Bible for that matter.) While I still hope and pray that God will provide at least one more counselor, I can rest in the knowledge that His plan is perfect. I have faith that He will provide the staff we need to run three weeks of camp. And in the end, God gets all the glory because the only explanation for Camp Machaceh’s success is His provision.

Camp Machaceh Staff 2008

Be strong and courageous?


2001fbcrseniorssmallWhen I was a senior in high school, my senior class at church selected Joshua 1:9 as our theme verse for the year.


“Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”


We recited this verse each Sunday morning. It was a fitting verse for such a transitional time in our lives.  However, I have realized that God’s message to Joshua about courage is an important one for most stages in life. In college, I needed to trust in God’s presence and guidance as I made decisions regarding my major and other future decisions including getting married. Over the last 7 years, I have needed to be courageous and rely on God’s guidance as Aaron and I started Camp Machaceh. Courage also came into play as Aaron and I transitioned to seminary and life in Waco. I find much peace in God’s promise to always be with Joshua wherever he went.


Over the last few weeks, my mother in law was diagnosed with primary peritoneal cancer and underwent surgery to remove the tumors. She is home from the hospital and well on the road to recovering from surgery, but she faces a long road of chemo ahead of her. My prayer for her and our family on this journey is Joshua 1:9. Regardless of the outcome or the difficulty of the road, I pray that we will always remember and take courage in God’s presence with us.

a left-handed man

 The President Signing Left-Handed

I am part of a minority group. This may seem like an odd statement considering I am a white, middle class American, but I am a minority all the same. You see, I am left-handed in a world created for right handed people. Ever noticed how the pen attached to the credit card machine is geared toward right handed people? Or how most desks in college classrooms are for right-handers? So it is no wonder I have always enjoyed the story of Ehud in Judges 3. Now don’t get me wrong, it is quite a disturbing story. Ehud showed up to present tribute to King Eglon, but when the king was left alone with him, Ehud drew his sword and “thrust it into Eglon’s belly.” The Bible includes all the gory detail about the entire sword entering his belly and the fat closing over it. Overall, a rather disgusting story. What I like about this story, though, is in verse 15- “But when the Israelites cried out to the LORD, the LORD raised up for them a deliverer, Ehud, son of Gera, the Benjaminite, a left-handed man” (emphasis added). Ehud was able to carry out his task of killing King Eglon because he was left-handed. The guards would not have thought to check Ehud’s right thigh for a weapon because everyone was right-handed and would have strapped their swords to their left thighs. Often being left-handed was looked down on and in some cases seen as evil. But here we see God using Ehud to rescue his people, and the writer pointed out that he was left-handed. I guess being left-handed has its perks after all.