For all of you who don’t know, my birthday is coming up next weekend. March 4th to be exact. When that day gets closer, I will post more and expound on this past year and give you guys some insight into what I learned being 18.

Now, I’m turning 19..which means it’s my last year to be a “teen” (thank God). I will only have a YEAR until I’m 20. That was a weird sentence to type. I never thought I’d get past 12, seriously. I thought I was going to be stuck outside of the teen years forever..and now I’m ready to escape them and be DONE. Anyway, the point of this post is to create a list of TWENTY things to do before I’m TWENTY years old. Some of these are going to be SUPER challenging for me and others I will try to make a little easier to accomplish.

1. Take at least one more trip out of the country.

2. Read through the Old Testament

3. Visit family in other states.

4. Go to a movie (at a theatre) alone.

5. Go sailing

6. Take a trip to somewhere new with just my sister.

7. Write a novel. This a request of so many and I am going to attempt it!

8. Reunite with a long lost friend.

9. Volunteer at a local charity/mission organization

10. Go to at least one more huge conference of some sort.

11. Complete 10 Random Acts of Kindness for complete strangers.

12. Speak at a random church that is out of town.

13. Stay up the whole the night til sunrise conversing and relishing in the company of a good friend with whom I’ve never done that before.

14. Play in the rain.

15. Receive a dozen yellow tulips from someone completely unexpected. (Yeah, I can’t make this happen…but we’ll see how it goes! haha)

16. Make a spontaneous trip and sit on the beach and watch a sunrise.

17. Shoot a gun

18. Figure out what one of my random friends REALLY wants and buy it for them.

19. Spend an entire day in silence. (I don’t know if this is even possible.)

20. Hug 4 strangers.


Valentine’s Day.

A poem for my Valentine’s Date…

The way you give me a big red X makes me want to weep
When the semester is over, no part of you will I keep.
There’s a part of me that knows it’s my life you’re trying to take
and by May I will have drowned my sorrows in 19.2 lbs of cake.
You never give me the answers that I seek.
With you, my darling, I must suffer and turn the other cheek.
I spend hours upon hours trying to figure you out
but I have resolved, I will never care what you are all about.
All we talk about are averages, variance and a z score
please know, that sweet Statistics, you are such a rotten bore.
If I ever get away from you, we will not spend this day together again
You are my least favorite thing, no, you will never be my friend.

If you couldn’t tell from that ridiculous attempt at creativity, I am spending my V-day with my statistics homework. Woo-stinkin-hoo. I am on the verge of giving up, but somehow I will keep going and praying that I soon see the finish line and that I can at least spend a small part of my day catching up on my tv shows and napping. What an exciting “day of love” this shall be for me. 🙂

Let’s justify taking a bite out of that Apple.

Over lunch today, a friend and I were talking about how Christians (especially us charismatics) love all things Apple. Why is that? What is it that attracts us to those shiny macbooks and thin iphones? Why? Why are we shouting “GO FEED THE HUNGRY” and secretly saving our money for the newest apple development? (Just know, I’m 100% guilty.. i’m currently typing this post on my macbook.)

I’ve come up with a few reasons for this huge question: (disclaimer: from now on know that the tone is sarcasm. take nothing to heart. you have been warned.)

1) We can’t resist that pesky apple.

I mean.. just think about it. It all started with an apple, so we might as well go with it, you know? Let’s embrace this reminder. Maybe if we stare at that apple that glows on the surface of our laptop long enough, we will be reminded of how far God has brought us from the fall. As we see how it is missing a small chunk, we can call forth that memory of that first bite and how God has redeemed us since. We can turn this love of $1000 laptops into something “spiritual”…. as we can everything.

2) It’s sleek and smooth.

As we all know those two words do not seem to describe this rocky road that we take as Christians. The path of Christianity is not an easy one, so any chance we get to go with something “smooth” and “easy” we jump on like the crazed persecuted Christians we are.

3) The iphone’s thinness symbolizes that the Way is NARROW.

The iphone, little did you know, actually can remind us that narrow and slim is the path that leads to life. I mean, come on…every time you slip that thing into your pocket you are reminded that it is not the bulging and thick flip phone that symbolizes the way of eternity, no, it is that new iphone 4. Bless those people at apple, they were just trying to send us a godly subliminal message ;).

4) The ipod touch brings us back to Steven Curtis Chapman.

“And I can see the fingerprints of God…when I look at you.” Now come on, surely you see where I’m going with this one. The ipod touch reminds us that just with a touch of his finger, God can create the most wonderful things. All it takes is for us to touch one little button on that precious ipod touch and music rings forth throughout our ears (and those ears were crafted by the finger of God). We’re just trying to remind ourselves of how the earth was created and now all creation sings to God… we just want to touch something and hear it sing.. it’s a good reminder of Genesis, okay?

5) The ipad.

Well thankfully, this is like “The Message” for apple. It kind of embodies the “ideas” of all that is apple. It makes everything right there all in one place for you and it’s “easy”, you know? I mean…it’s a computer, it’s thin/slim, it’s touch, there are plenty of cases that put that bitten apple right there to remind you of eve… I mean, it’s everything we’re talking about in one place.

Then..well, then there’s the “i” issue. Most people would say, “now how do you justify the fact that it puts “i” in front of everything? Isn’t that whole Christianity supposed to be about others and not self?!”

HA! Well, aren’t you in for a treat when I tell you this?

Although it may appear “in front” you must see that it is LOWERCASE… so that’s got to count for something, right? It reminds us Christians that… self, although you cannot escape it is not more important than whatever else is being talked about, because you don’t capitalize it. All the best Christians know that you capitalize the most important stuff. When we put up our slide shows we always capitalize Him and sometimes we go crazy and put LORD in all caps. We understand the importance of capitalization, it’s taught in basic Christianity 101…all the unimportant stuff (like references to self), you just leave lowercase, okay?

The Things You Should Learn at Seminary…..

I think I’ve found my purpose in life. I am going to start a ministry school. Not the usual kind of school, but the kind that teaches you the REAL stuff that theological seminaries leave out.

Just kidding. I’m not really going to start a ministry school, but if I did….this is what the course overview would look like.

Maintenance 101:
This is the first required course for the program. You must learn the ins and outs of church maintenance. You must learn how to clean the toilets, carpets, kitchen, baby poop, toys from the nursery, snacks from the preschoolers room, and the crayons from the elementary kids.  You will also be introduced of how to say  “no grape juice in the sanctuary, please!” delicately.

Church Women 101: You will learn how to deal with the women of the church. You will be introduced to the following things:

  • what kind of dish is worthy to bring to the covered dish dinner
  • why some churches think you’re only allowed to be a sunday school teacher
  • how to convince the mom’s that the nursery keeper isn’t going to kill their precious infant
  • when you’re single how to approach men of all ages.
  • how to run from gossip
  • 7 different ways to preach the proverbs 31 passage.

Church Men 101: Topics will include:

  • the real reason why men call each other “brother” in the congregation
  • why men are usually the ushers
  • how to cope when a woman enters the pulpit
  • how to take your child out when they are screaming bloody murder
  • it’s okay to dance
  • why it’s “cool” to be a deacon

Music 101: You will learn:

  • How to have music that pleases the masses!
  • Mixing Southern Gospel and Contemporary (the do’s and don’ts)
  • Chris Tomlin is your middle ground.
  • Soundtracks are a no-no…find another way!

Tithing 101:

  • Why you should never start a message with “I will never talk about money… except today.”
  • 15 ways to spin the “first fruits” scripture
  • Why Jesus didn’t give you $100 after you put $10 in the offering last week.
  • Why buckets are better than offering plates.
  • Why KFC buckets dominate all.

Beating the Lunch Crowd 102: This is an intense course that covers:

  • Why you must end at 12:00 on the dot.
  • The earlier/later service start time the better.
  • How to preach over the sound of growling stomachs.
  • What to do when everyone stares at the clock on the back wall.
  • How to avoid being stampeded when you dismissed at 12:05.

How to avoid… 101: You will learn how to avoid the following:

  • saying the word “sex” in your sermon
  • insane marriage proposals
  • bad singers in your choir/worship band
  • ridiculous questions/interpretations of Revelation.
  • the Harry Potter subject
  • the calvinist vs arminian debate.

Servanthood 201: This is a secondary course because you must have knowledge of the former courses to even begin to understand this one. The following subjects will be covered:

  • When your doorbell rings at 6am
  • Turning your home into a daycare.
  • Fastest routes to the nearest hospital.
  • How a clergy badge presented at hospital parking garage will save you tons!
  • Becoming “tight” with the funeral home staff.

Single Ministers 201:
This course is not for the faint of heart, it will take a lot out of you, you have much to learn, for example:

  • How to tell Miss. Edna that you are not interested in dating her sweet grandson who is “struggling” but just needs a woman to “love him to Jesus”.
  • How to tell apart the “creepy” old men from the sweet ones.
  • My fridge is already full of “thank you” food, now what?
  • Dodging the “my daughter is looking for a good man” from the big scary father.
  • Explaining how you know you’re not called to celibacy.

Married Ministers 102:

  • What to do when your kids can’t find their Sunday shoes.
  • Why you need to wake up ten times earlier than the normal congregant.
  • Why you should NEVER use your children as an example in a sermon.
  • Why your kids are often the ringleaders of the misbehavior
  • Making your children work the church Yard Sale.
  • Rescuing your wife from the church women.
  • Rescuing your wife from the church men.
  • Your child’s birthday vs. A congregant’s mother’s sister’s brother-in-law’s funeral? How to choose.
  • Why you can’t let your kid draw pictures in the service.

Altar calls/invitations 101:

  • Why “Just As I Am” is always a winner.
  • Explaining why you alone can’t pray for every single altar comer.
  • How to steady your breathing when the keys start jingling.
  • Not laughing when someone trips/can’t get up.
  • What to do when the same member gets “saved” every week.
  • Exiting out the side door.

So obviously, I have a passion for church humor. In the event that I do ever start this school, I don’t forsee having many students. These are just some of the things that I wish we innately had in us when we decide to become “ministers”.

I would also like to state that I would have this sign put up in every class room. It’s a quote from a hilarious book I’m reading by Beth Pattillo.

“You see, the in the ministry there’s a fine line between leader and servant. The minute you stand up for yourself, a parishioner is quick to remind you that Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. But nowhere in the scripture does it say the disciples asked him for a pedicure while he was down there.”

There are many questions I have about many of these topics….maybe I’ll cover a few someday! Any suggestions besides these??

The Circumstance Dance.

Classes were supposed to start today; however, it snowed and so therefore I’m curled up in my bed blogging. Part of me is frustrated, feeling like I’ll never get this semester over with (how can you get it over with if you can’t get it started?) Part of me is relieved because I needed time to think, mull, pout (just a little). I came to a realization between last night and this morning. I am not quite as rock hard and tough as I’d once thought. It’s annoying, but probably a much needed realization.

I’ve been working on two writing projects for quite some time now and I am torn about which to finish first. Part of me wants to finish the comedy one (because I do not want to focus on drama and sadness, I do not need to sulk in that.) Unfortunately, now that I am continuing what should be comedic, I am bringing my funk into the project and that is just not okay.

Why the current funk? A ridiculous situation that SHOULDN’T bother me (and hasn’t) but has now decided to slam head first into my thought life for the day. Also, I had a series of dreams last night that included all 10 of the top 10 people on the list of “people I do not want to have dreams about”. Seriously, this is just not cool. Regardless of circumstance(s) though, I am going to try and focus today. God has given me some opportunities to spread his Word and I need to take advantage of this time to plan to soak in his presence, even though everything is trying to distract me from that. No circumstance dance today. Need me to define?

Circumstance Dance: A dance in which your mind flows and partners with your circumstances in order to create a swirl of emotion and turmoil.

And yes, that term/definition is an Ashlin original 😉

I will leave you with this verse today:

1 Thessalonians 5:18
give thanks in ALL circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Passion 2011!

What a way to start my year! If there’s one thing that I can say was spoken to me over and over again by God at Passion it was this, it is not about any other name other than the name of Jesus Christ.
Months ago when I made my plans to attend Passion 2011, I didn’t have many expectations. I’ve grown up most of my life going to conferences and “events” and I didn’t assume that Passion would be any different. When I reached Atlanta and walked into the middle of a movement, I realized something, I wasn’t at an event, I was standing smack dab in the middle of a moment that would forever shape my history. While it would’ve been understandable to be taken aback by the beauty and splendor of Atlanta, I knew immediately it wasn’t that which was tugging at my heart. I knew that regardless of how fascinating the facilities and how beautiful the surroundings that there was something deeper grabbing at my heart. This was something that went beyond what I could see naturally.
I can’t tell you what every speaker said, most of it seems to all run together. There are lines, thoughts, scriptures, stories that all seem to flow together in my head and yet there is no preacher’s name attached, there is only one name: Jesus. When referring to the days of January 1-4, I might say that I was “at Passion”, the truth is though, I was with Jesus. It wasn’t an event, it wasn’t a bunch of services strung together, it was a divine moment in time when everything stopped and God breathed. It was a moment that changed everything.

I imagine that when Moses saw the burning bush, John experienced all of Revelation and Paul was confronted and blinded on the road to Damascus that everything stopped and a whisper came that so violently and beautifully said, “This is it. This is truth.” How can a whisper be violent, beautiful, heart-wrenching, earth shattering all at the same time? I don’t know, but I know that’s the best way to describe what God did in my life at Passion 2011. My prayer in coming home was this: I don’t want to waste another second of not making Jesus known. I don’t want to spend my life on anything else. I have found someone worth giving everything for.

I don’t know where I’m going. I don’t know how I’ll get there, I don’t know the specific details of my daily schedule, but I do know this: I know what I carry. I carry the name of Jesus.

There is a moment for everyone when something clicks. It’s a moment when everything you’ve heard becomes real, tangible, evident. I had this moment and it started on January 1 and has continued since. I’m living in a moment, called life, that is but a vapor, but that is going to be used to make the name of Jesus known. It’s not about how many things I can put my name on, how many people can clap for me or how many pats on the back I can get. If my name is never mentioned, so be it. His name is above every other name.

I write all of this to say one thing, may there be a moment for someone at Passion 2011 in Ft. Worth or may there even just be a moment for whoever reads this. May there be a moment where all else seems to blur and one thing becomes the center of your focus, Jesus. My heart is changed and my feet are set in motion. I send this to say, I’m doing it. I’m going for it. The cost has been presented and it is worth everything. Jesus and making him known is worth everything.

“Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that HIS name is exalted.”-Isaiah 12:4

Our entire group

Social Networking Christmas.

So, if you haven’t noticed..there’s a youtube video out that shares the story of Christmas through facebook. It’s all the rage.

Okay, so I really want to share what goes through my head every time I’ve watched this. (I’ve only watched it 1 and 1/2 times. The first time, I turned it off halfway through because I was just so bored out of my mind and amazed that someone did this. Then, I saw how everyone was sharing it on their wall…so I thought to myself, “maybe something really cool happens at the end”. So, I watched it all the way through and you know what?? Absolutely nothing cool happened at the end.

Here are my thoughts on this year’s popular new youtube video:

a) my favorite part is… “IT’S A BOY! He’s asleep in a manger… it’s all we could find.”
There are several things wrong with this. IT’S A BOY! As if she would’ve been SHOCKED? The angel TOLD her it would be a boy… I mean come on, she obviously had a miraculous conception like the angel said, why wouldn’t she have believed it was a boy? OF COURSE MARY KNEW IT WOULD BE A BOY. Sheesh. THEN…here’s a baby sleeping in a manger…it’s all they could find. BUT they could find a place with wi-fi to update their facebook status. The savior of the world is lying in my arms… DANG, I need to update my status about this one!

b) Jospeh’s status about “Mary is indeed with child..an angel revealed it to me..” He goes on later to tell the world that the child is conceived of the Holy Spirit. I love the response of his friend. “That’s convenient”. I feel like all of this was a sacred thing… these two kids are being told in this unbelievable spiritual moments about how a miraculous baby is going to be born and change the world. I think it’s a little crazy to portray that they are just announcing it to the world like it’s just “whatevs” and gonna be accepted and “liked” by their friends (pun intended). I think this was a fragile event. I think this was a sacred occurence. I don’t think they were running through the town and yelling about it. They were preparing for the biggest moment of their lives.

c) I love the updating of the maps to show where they’re going. Kind of the point of the traveling during this was so that Herod wouldn’t know where they are. He was attempting to kill Jesus. I don’t think they’d be showing MAPS of where they’re going. I don’t think they’d be updating their status saying, “I’ve got the baby that Herod wants to kill chillin in my arms as I ride my donkey back to the mainland.”

Okay, so maybe I’m harsh. I understand the point of this video is not to portray that they had facebook back in the day. It does kind of make it look like “this is what they would’ve done IF they would’ve had facebook” which…is not what would’ve happened. I don’t know if that was the purpose of the video.. but it looks like it.  I know this is supposed to be “cool” and reaching out to the youngins and telling us the miraculous, sacred, precious story of Jesus through modern technology… but it makes me shake my head. Parent’s won’t have to sit down with the written word of God and read the story to them…nope, just share this video on their wall and hope that it has the same kind of anointing. I do think it’s interesting to see the reactions of the “friends” on facebook… but I feel like if that’s the purpose, they didn’t focus in on that and they didn’t portray how harsh it really was for them. It wasn’t as minute as someone defriending them on facebook… it was being made a mockery in front of their friends and family… it was that gosh awful feeling of walking down the street and watching as people who “love” you point at you and whisper what a disappointment and scandal you are. It was heartbreaking. Much more heartbreaking than someone de-friending you on facebook.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m just too fundamentalist in this one area. Maybe I just see a sacredness to the story of Jesus being born. I picture it as difficult, hard, terribly frightening, a secret, a journey that none of us can imagine. I don’t want to try to put it modern terms.. I want it to be in the terms it was in. Life wasn’t easy. Things weren’t convenient. Facebook wasn’t there to update and say “HEY ..THE SAVIOR IS HERE”. No, God sent a star…sent wise men.. he led people there by divine appointment. He had a hedge of protection over Jesus. It wasn’t a nonchalant thing. It wasn’t easy and modern. They weren’t chillin in a barn that looked like the Best Western with wi-fi at their fingertips. It was a precious, Holy occurence.. and it somewhat just bothers me that it’s been taken so lightly.