10 Quotes that Changed My Life in 2013

Words are powerful. Sometimes, people say things that sear themselves into your memory, for good or ill. You’ll never forget where you were when they were spoken, or how they made you feel, and you’re a changed person because the depth that they conveyed introduced you to a reality you hadn’t seen before. 2013 was a year of significant growth for me, and I am indebted to those who have shaped me along the way. So without further ado, here are the 10 quotes (and one picture) that changed my life.

“Things will never go back to normal. You’re changed because of the people you’ve met and the things you’ve experienced. There’s a new normal that incorporates all of that and how it’s shaped the way you look at life.”

Specifically, this quote was about the difficulty of moving on with life after a life-changing mission trip. As obvious as it may sound, this was so freeing as I realized I didn’t have to ‘move on’ – that is, I didn’t have to choose between two realities. I could embrace the new and let it make the rest of my life even more amazing. And so far, it has.

“You may not have heard this a lot growing up, but you’re gifted to preach. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.”

If I could point to one life-changing moment in 2013, this is probably it. I can still point to the specific table in Starbucks where I was sitting when these words made my heart skip a beat. Until March of this year, I had never really given much thought to public speaking.  Ironic, then, that it has somehow become one of my most apparent ministry gifts. My knees were shaking as I walked to the podium that Sunday in March – bad combination with six-inch heels – and saw 600 faces looking back at me. And then I found my voice. Sometimes it takes other people to discern a calling for you, and without one man’s faith in my ability, I never would have thought of myself as (what?!) a preacher. To those who have supported, encouraged, and affirmed me along the way – you’ve changed my life.

“We need more people like you in the churches of Christ.”

Me? Church of Christ? I spent the first 3 years of college becoming convinced that those two didn’t fit together. But a fellow misfit — an abstract, artsy youth minister in a tradition of intellectuals who nevertheless believed in belonging — thought differently, offered me a job, and supported me through the growing pains of discovering a unity that transcends uniformity.

“It’s so obvious that God had a purpose in bringing you here.”

We all have those times when we wonder if we’ve actually made a difference – especially when we feel more like we’ve made a mess of things. But God brings beauty from the broken. I was sitting on a wooden bench with my aunt watching an incredible sunset over the water when she spoke these words. Yet, even more affirming than the words themselves may have been the tears that gave voice to my own depth of emotion.

“Find a husband to share life with, because even an independent girl like you will get lonely trying to go it alone. Don’t be in a rush — slow down and enjoy life. When you have a decision to make, ask yourself 2 things: Is it best for you, and will it hurt other people? God’s picked me up and dusted off my britches after too many selfish mistakes. And go out and look at the stars on clear nights, and see which ones are looking back at you.”

This is advice from an 88-year-old WWII veteran who joined the Navy at 15, fought as second loader at Iwo Jima, and came back and started a successful business without a high school education. I figured it would be wise to pay attention.

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A picture is worth a thousand words, right? This picture will always stay with me. Pope Francis looks at a crowd and sees individuals whose pain is very real. Learn to truly see people, and truly love them.

“Take pain and doubt with you as your companions. Say to them, ‘You can come with me if you want, but we’re moving forward.'”

Reid Hillin, Woodmont Hills college minister. He claims to have paraphrased this from another source, but either way, it’s a powerful concept. Let pain shape you and change you, but never control you. Life doesn’t have to be put on hold while you try to figure things out – live wholeheartedly, if imperfectly.

“I see people. They look like trees walking around.”

Mark 8:24. This is a text that I preached on for my Communicating the Gospel class, and this unlikely quote from my good friend Second Touch Blind Guy has changed the way I look at those around me. Do I see others imperfectly, distorted through the lens of my prejudices and cultural biases? Or do I love and appreciate their uniqueness and individuality?

“You know what disgusts me the most about Christianity? Grace.”

This was a little unexpected – and a lot thought-provoking. People have all sorts of pet evangelism methods – as if one size fits all! “Just tell people they’re going to hell without the grace of God!” Well, it changes things up a little when grace itself is the barrier to belief. Maybe evangelism – which simply means sharing good news, and is not at all synonymous with ‘conversion’ – is more about listening and understanding than it is about shoving a pre-packaged philosophy down someone’s throat and expecting them to think the same way you do.

“It would be difficult being with you, but it would be worth it.”

You asked me when I started to change my mind about you. And although I told you I couldn’t pinpoint a specific moment, this might be the closest one. As I recall, you also said that you read my blog posts hoping for a shout-out. Here it is, and I hope you’re reading, because this is about as close as I get to PDA. Thank you for loving me for who I am.

I’ve heard the first part of this quote more times than I can count, but never amended by the second half. It can be difficult for feminists such as myself to find a man who accepts the fact that we will never be domesticated creatures, yet still has his own clearly defined sense of self. These words prove that you are both. They reflect honesty and careful evaluation of the cost as well as a deep appreciation for the return. Although they might not be considered super romantic by some standards, they were to me.

“I love you.”

To anyone who has said this to me over the past year, it never gets old. These words are always life-giving and sustaining, and I could never have made it this far without the genuine love and support of so many people. May this new year be filled with abundant blessings, and may you find beauty in pain as well as joy, in failures as well as successes. Continue to love well, and change the world around you. I love you all.

Published in: on January 1, 2014 at 6:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Plot Twist

I love plot twists.  I love when you find out the good character is bad, or the bad character is good, or the main character is dead after all, or the whole thing was a dream.  I love finding a movie with a good plot twist and showing it to all my unsuspecting friends, one by one, relishing the moment of revelation and the “Wait, what just happened?!”  If I were to watch them by myself, they would lose their luster after a while, but I never cease to be amused by watching other people’s jaw drop and vicariously feeling the disorientation of surprise.

Game 6 of the NBA finals had plenty of its own little plot twists as well.  For a while I thought all was lost, until Allen made that incredible 3-point shot with 5 seconds left on the clock, tying the Heat and the Spurs.  Fortunately, nobody else was home to see my manic state as I screamed and punched the air and bit the couch pillows.   When the game went into overtime, I thought I was going to die of a stroke not knowing how it was going to end.  It was pure torture, but the delicious kind, where you’re on the edge of your seat in anticipation.

That was all anybody talked about here in Miami for the next week. “Can you believe Game 6? Snatched the championship right out of the Spurs’ hands! Did you see that shot by Allen?! Man, don’t you feel bad for the people who left early because they thought it was over?”

People definitely thought the game was over that day at the Praetorium so long ago when the crowds shouted “Crucify!”…when Jesus was led away to be stripped and beaten and crucified.  That was it.  There was to be no political revolution, no reclamation of Israel.  He must not have been the promised Messiah after all.  And these disciples, who had left behind their jobs and families and followed this guy on faith for the last three years — well, what were they supposed to do now?  The cause that they had given their lives to ended up being a lost cause.  It was over.  There was shock and confusion and grief.  And Judas Iscariot was one of those people who, sadly, left too early to see the end and celebrate the unbelievable victory that God was waiting to spring on the unsuspecting:

Having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross (Col 2:15).

For Jesus, death wasn’t the end of the story.  It was only the lead-in to the most glorious plot twist in history.

His whole life, Jesus told weird stories about upside-down values in this alternate reality He called “the Kingdom.”  And not only did He tell these stories; He lived them out.  The Kingdom was where the first were last, and the last were first.  Where the people who worked all day got paid the same as the people who worked for an hour. Where the whores got more grace than the religious leaders.  Where the filthy half-breed Samaritan was the hero.

It’s where the cross turned from a symbol of shame to a symbol of victory.  Where a stolen body was a resurrected body, where the grave yielded life, where the carpenter’s son from Nazareth proved Himself to be the living, breathing, conquering SON OF GOD, who defeated death, scorned its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God Almighty.

I think any sense of apathy, any lack of wonder, on our part is simply the result of forgetfulness.  Those of us who have heard our whole lives that “Jesus died and rose again” can forget all too easily how ridiculous, how unbelievable, how incredible this whole thing was.  God forgive our complacency!!

The gospel is a roller coaster of emotion that we have unfortunately numbed ourselves to.  We know how to receive the message in an appropriately churchy way, never experiencing the waves of shock, the convulsions of grief, the hardly daring to hope, and the struggling to make sense of it all.  We can’t understand the doubting of Thomas, the glorious dawning of reality, and the immeasurable joy they must have felt.  We can talk about hearing it “as if for the first time,” but if we truly heard it that way, we would all either be on our knees in awe or dancing in exuberant celebration.

But perhaps the closest we can get is simply to share the story with others who have not yet heard it.  To smile to ourselves as they listen with bated breath, leaning in expectantly so they don’t miss a word of the riveting drama.  To share in their joy as they see the majesty of God’s plan of salvation unfold.  Perhaps the closest we can get to experiencing the story is to do just what Jesus instructed: Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations, sharing the story, telling the miraculous news, baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything He has commanded us.

Because He is with us always.

Through the ups and downs of life.

Through the confusion, the hesitation, and the joy.

Through every plot twist.

Always.

To the very end.

I’m Going to Scotland!

Dearest readers,

I just took a big step of faith and committed to going on a mission trip to Dundee, Scotland, over spring break, where I will be sharing my faith with students at a high school. As many of you know, I’m studying youth ministry here at Lipscomb, so this trip is perfectly in line with my calling, and it was totally a God thing how it was unexpectedly handed to me. I would love your prayers for this trip, but I’m also going to be real and say that I need financial support. I need to raise $1600 in the next 4 weeks, and I believe that God can do that and more. If you have a heart for service but are unable to go yourself, you can participate in this trip in a very real way by offering your spiritual and financial support. HOWEVER there is no pressure to give if you have other obligations. I will not think less of you, and we will still be friends. If you would like to, however, there are 2 ways to give.By check:
Make check out to Lipscomb University. On the “for” line, write Lauren Calvin — Dundee. Mail the check to:
Missions
Lipscomb University
1 University Park Dr.
Nashville, TN 37204

Online:
Go to http://www.lipscomb.edu/Missions/ and click on the second box, “give”. For “type of gift”, select donation. For “team name” select “UK — Dundee.” After filling out your personal information, click “next step,” which will take you to a page where you can fill in your credit card information.

Whether you have the opportunity to give or not, please keep me and the rest of the team in your thoughts and prayers as we seek to make God known in the UK and invite these precious students to participate in His beautiful story.

I do want to share with you an amazing way that God has already answered prayers. Yesterday, right after I made an appointment to apply for my passport and committed to going, I received this message:

scotland

In Joshua 3, God parted the waters of the Jordan River for his people to pass…but not until their feet touched the edge of the water during flood stage. I took the step of faith, and God started building the bridge. Can’t wait to see what will happen in the next few weeks!

If you would like to join the facebook event and receive updates and prayer requests, you can access it here.

Published in: on February 7, 2013 at 1:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
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No Agenda. Just Relationship.

A guy plans an elaborate proposal for the girl of his dreams. He spends a fortune on a beautiful ring, buys her a dozen roses and takes her out to a nice restaurant. He has spent hours making this super cute scrapbook of their whole relationship together.  When she turns the last page, there is a small scrap of paper that reads, “Will you marry me?” He smiles a hesitant smile as he gets down on one knee and opens the little box, faithfully declaring to love her for the rest of his life no matter what happens.

Unless, of course, she says no.

Because she does.

And he returns the ring and burns the scrapbook and they never talk to each other again.

The relationship ended because there was nowhere else for it to go.

Relationships end when a goal is not met.  If a girl likes a guy and then realizes he’s not interested, she stops talking to him and cuts him off altogether.  What’s up with that?  If she really liked him, you’d think she would enjoy talking to him whether or not they were together.  But too often it seems like relationships have to be “going somewhere” for us to invest time in them.

Or what about being somebody’s friend so you can “fix” them and lead them to Christ? Then one day you approach the topic of faith, they turn you down, there’s nowhere else for the friendship to go, and they realize that they were only part of an agenda for you. What good does any of that do?

As human beings, we want to control everything.  We have our little secret agendas for the way we want things to work out, and we try to manipulate relationships into the outcome we want.

I propose that we forsake agendas and create relationships simply for the sake of relationship — simply to love another person and give of ourselves. Let go of the expectations, stop trying to control the outcome, and just see where it naturally leads.

Be intentional about forming relationships with broken people that may not end in them accepting Christ. I’ve heard the quote that Jesus didn’t tell his disciples to make converts, he told them to make disciples.  And that’s a totally different process.  It requires that we invest in people whether or not we see a return. Those sorts of relationships don’t end once you get a person baptized, feel great about yourself, and forget about them.

Even within the realm of your love life, don’t fixate on one person and exhaust yourself trying to “make it work.” Create relationships for the sake of relationship, because you truly care about another person more than you care about yourself and how it will benefit you.

Live fully and love everyone. No agenda, just relationship.

there’s something bigger going on here.

After all, aren’t we all looking for purpose?

The last thoughts of a teenager with a little bottle of white pills relate to purpose. How they never found it.

The last thoughts of a martyr tied to a stake relate to purpose. How they found it and are willing to give everything for it.

Your last thoughts will relate to purpose. Your entire life centers around purpose. Because in the end, it’s all that matters. The question is, will you have regrets?

The teenager who just took his own life may have heard at some point that God loves him. But for some reason, it didn’t make a difference. Why?

Because it doesn’t matter that God loves us if he leaves us there.

You see, we’re used to telling people that God loves them and can forgive their sins as if it’s the end of the story. But it’s really only the beginning.

Here are some questions to think about. You already know the answer because I already gave it to you. (My first draft of this post started with the questions and made me sound slightly heretical, so I thought it would have more impact if I introduced it a different way.) But think about it from the perspective of how you grew up, or what you’ve always believed. Have you ever asked these questions? Or was it too dangerous to ask these questions, in case you couldn’t find the answer?

Does it matter that God loves us? Does it really make a difference?

What is grace, anyway? What has it done for you? Or is it just some abstract concept of God’s love that you talk about without really understanding why?

If we’re “sharing Christ” with someone to “bring them to salvation”, what does that even mean? Why should they care? Why do they need the love of some intangible, invisible being they can’t fathom?

Because God doesn’t love us just to love us. If that’s all there is, our lives will still be…empty. If the story ends with “God loves you”, it doesn’t matter. It’s meaningless.

Last fall, I almost gave up on my faith. A lot of you don’t know that about me. Now you do. You’re welcome.

There were a lot of factors that contributed to this, and I don’t have the time to go into all of them now, but essentially I began to focus on all the little issues and to let them distract me from what was really going on. How do you interpret this passage of the Bible? How are we supposed to make it relevant for today? What was right and wrong? Was anything right or wrong? I wrote in my journal, “How is it even possible to live as a Christian in this day and age? I’m starting to think it’s not. Maybe it’s all just some big joke.”

I was totally lost. I felt like nothing mattered. But nobody could know that, oh no. I was Miss Blog Queen and the one everyone depended on for the right answers. So for several months I stopped praying, I stopped reading my Bible, but I kept going to church like a zombie and tried to feel my way through the darkness that had become my life.

In December, something clicked again. I was thinking about the 10 commandments, specifically “Do not take the Lord’s name in vain.” All of a sudden, I was like, “I know that doesn’t just mean swearing.” I wrote this blog post. Things didn’t turn around overnight, but that was definitely one of the turning points because I realized that there is something bigger going on here. In the end, it wasn’t about the little things. There was a big picture. There was a big story. There was a purpose.

There is a happy ending to this story, by the way. By the very end of December, I was desperate for truth. Desperate for purpose. Praying for God to change me no matter what it took. He answered that prayer with Passion, right after New Year’s. And without telling my entire testimony, I’ll just say that Passion radically changed me. That was the defining time that I can point to and say that I have never looked back since then. Because I found my place in the bigger story.

You see, I knew all along that God loved me. But that in itself was not enough to make a difference. I was a pretty good person anyway; did I need grace that desperately?

YES.

Because grace is far more than Jesus coming to save us from a stolen piece of candy or a swear word. In the words of Dr. Lavender, “Jesus came to rescue you from the brokenness of a misdirected life. It’s not about, you know, thinking the wrong things while you’re eating a cracker. It’s about fulfilling the purpose for which you were created.”

After all, aren’t we all looking for purpose? We’re looking for purpose because we lost it a long time ago, back in the Garden of Eden. And God won’t fit into your story because you were made to fit into HIS! This whole time God has been working to restore creation back to the purpose for which he created it. Forgiveness of sin is not an end in itself but a means to an end: God gives us grace to return us to what we were made to be.

And it is absolutely vital that we understand this. We need to understand it first for ourselves. Where do we fit into the bigger story? How do all these little moments of our lives work together to actually mean something?

And once we understand that, we have to relearn how to evangelize. We’re not just bringing people to salvation — what is salvation? We’re not just towing them into church — what is church? We’re helping them recover their purpose in God’s story — because what is salvation but restoration? What is church but the embodiment of God’s mission?

Your entire life centers around purpose. Because in the end, it’s all that matters. The question is, will you have regrets?