reflections on taking chances

I was 23.
April 2008.
Nearly a year of wonderings and wanderings after graduating from college.
I was ready.
Ready to spread my wings and fly,
ready to take a chance.

Screen Shot 2018-04-21 at 12.24.20 PM.png

In 2007 I graduated with a degree in music.  In my young, naivete I thought I would immediately be hired in full-time music ministry and that church job offers would simply flood in as soon as I walked across the stage with my diploma.

(I was wrong, by the way).

That summer I travelled to India for a two-month long mission trip.  In many ways, that trip changed my life.  My first time overseas, my first time fully immersed in an eastern culture, and the first time I really caught a glimpse of life abroad serving a God who isn’t American.  A God of all nations.

I returned home more sick than I’ve ever been in my life, and still had no job and no direction for my life.

The difficult months that followed shook me to my core: extreme culture shock, depression, meandering and wanderings…  but then in April of 2008, everything changed.  You see, when I returned from India, my team spent several days in Bangkok, Thailand debriefing.  I had a distant feeling in my heart, a feeling that I would return to Thailand one day.

Ten years ago, in April 2008, I interviewed for a Music Teacher position in Bangkok, Thailand.  A few weeks later, I boarded a small airplane with 2 large suitcases (and a very heavy carry on) and moved to the other side of the world.

I didn’t know a single soul.

But that decision – that chance.  It changed my life forever.

The friendships forged during that year forever changed me, the students I taught showed me what compassion looked like with hands and feet, and living in another culture taught me how to be empathetic.

That chapter of my life opened up doors for me to later serve in full-time Worship ministry, and the relationships there inspired me to pursue seminary.  Many of the co-teachers I taught with are still my friends today.

The thing about taking chances is this: when the Holy Spirit of God prompts us to take steps of faith, or “chances” in our human thinking, the greater chance to take is to ignore that prompting and taking the wider, easier path.

I’m so glad I took that chance.

S6300051India, June 2007

S6300243.jpgKolkata, India, July 2007

IMG_1493_7Thailand, October 2008

IMG_5313Our street, Nonthaburi, Bangkok, Thailand

Silence and Sound Advent Devotional

Faithful readers,

As promised, our contemplative Advent devotional is ready now for download.  Beginning Friday, December 1 through December 25, enjoy a reading and contemplative exercise each day.

Silence and Sound 2
Download Advent Devotaional

Silence & Sound Advent 2017 is our gift to you this Advent season. We hope that through this devotional, you are called to deeper understanding and fuller practice of the faith we share in Christ! We worked together across the world to compile these readings and thoughts as short daily readings with accompanying contemplations or actions you can pick up at any point in the day or integrate into your personal advent practice.”


“Silence and sound are two vital themes in the Old Testament. Although this pair are often discussed as opposites, we have placed them on a spectrum–silence can sound like many different things. From the beginning, we encounter the silence of the void into which the Creator speaks, a certain silence of good creation at peace as the Creator rests; but also the silence of Adam during the Temptation, the silence of Eve as she gives the serpent too much shrift, the silence of dread that must have filled their ears, knowing the Lord God would show up. Silence gives the foundational mythos of Scripture its cadence, while sound accompanies the interventions of the Creator. God speaks, and the world is created, and so the morning stars sing for joy. Prophets prophesy and kings decree; people cry out in repentance, and then praise.

“All the way through, silence and sound punctuate this holy history of the Old Testament. The silence of pain: from the uncomfortable silence between Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moriah to the deathly silences Esther endured to save her people. The sound of distress: the sound of Israelites groaning under their slavery, the repentant sound of Nineveh’s decree, and the reluctant sound of Jeremiah’s prophecies. The silence of blessing: from the stupefied silence as his brothers are reconciled to Joseph to the hushed silence as the ark of the covenant is placed in the Temple. The sound of victory: the sound of the Lord God cursing the serpent, the sound of the ram’s horn and warrior’s shout crumbling Jericho, the sound of Isaiah’s response “Here am I.”

“Beyond these guiding narratives, we find silence and sound woven through the lives and the faith of believers throughout history. Silence and sound can be sources of strength when we have trained ourselves to hear them. If we will attune our ears and attend to the message, we will hear the glory of God in the sounds and silences of life. The Advent season is a reminder to us of the power of waiting and listening as well speaking out. May the voice of the Lord guide your lives and faith!”


Bethany Stallings
Charlotte Cline-Smith
Meridith Matson
Nathan Bingaman
Scott Matson


Ellie Stager

miracles and the holy spirit

Jesus Christ performed many miracles while here on earth.  Let me say that again, JESUS CHRIST PERFORMED MANY MIRACLES WHILE HERE ON EARTH.  

Are we numb to the idea that the Son of God, while present and with us here, worked MIRACLES?

My suspicion is that if he were to be here, living among us today and performing miracles, we would seriously question who he was getting his power from, and perhaps even think there was a demonic presence in him.  That’s what we do today when anyone claims they’ve seen or experienced a miracle.  One of the “joys” of living after the ‘Age of Reason’ I suppose.  We as humans have become so logical that we can’t even accept that it’s a miracle that we wake each morning.

We as Christians have also become so logical that we doubt even the truest of intentions and heart when we pray to see revival… which will also bring about miracles.  

Though true, in Matthew 24 we are warned that false prophets will perform many signs and wonders. Every situation should be approached with a logical/intellectual mindset, we should also be aware that miracles were the “staple” if you will during Pentacost.  

“But you will receive POWER when the Holy Spirit comes upon you….” it says in Acts chapter 1.  Power?  YES, POWER.  POWER FROM GOD!  


*I’ve been thinking about this after some friends and I had a long taxi ride back to GES the other day… if y’all are reading, thanks for the conversation, it’s really had be thinking the past several days…*

After the Holy Spirit comes, in Acts 2, the first thing was there was a thundering sound that filled the room, and each of them began to speak in other languages.  <If you are a Baptist you tend to skip over some of Acts 2, or simply have another interpretation that doesn’t address the issue of tongues.>  The other languages were for the purpose to proving the Holy Spirit’s power, but also so that the people in the room from other areas could all understand one another.  

Peter then commands order in the room, and makes it clear that no one in the room was intoxicated.  In verse 17 it says, “In the last days, God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.  Your sons and daughters will prophesy.  Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams.  In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants- men and women alike- and they will prophesy'”.  (Perhaps there was a need to say men AND women because of the culture at the time).  “‘And I will cause wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below- blood and fire and clouds of smoke…. But everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved'”.

God’s spirit is with us.  Think about it.  Not the “holy spirit” as we call it… but GOD’S SPIRIT.  With us each moment of each day.  And there is POWER in the name of the LORD.  There is POWER in his spirit.  

Something that I’ve been thinking a lot about is the difference between Christians here in the East, and Christians in the West.  Here, there is already some element of animism to the religion.  It’s a very mystical and spiritual experience.. life that is.  Since their religion IS their life.  In the States we tend to separate the “religious” and “life”.  I’m not saying we as Christians should turn completely mystical in our “religion”, but there SHOULD be a huge element of that in our lives, especially since GOD’S SPIRIT dwells in us… in our bodies and hearts.  

If God’s very spirit is in us, then we should be experiencing miracles every day.  Or maybe we do, but we just don’t recognize it.  In Galatians chapter 5, it talks quite a bit about God’s Spirit in us.  The fruit of having his spirit is: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control.  One of my favorite verses is verse 25, “Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Sprit’s leading in every part of our lives”.  How many of us actually recognize when we have feelings (negative or positive) about a situation that it is the Holy Spirit?  I’m not always thinking that, but maybe we should re-think our every day lives and remember that he dwells within us.  

Back to miracles.  In our taxi ride we discussed that miracles was one of the signs that you had the Holy Spirit.  Across the board; everyone.  

I’ve been experiencing a miracle in my own life, and I didn’t even realize it until recently.  I’m drinking “Pepsi Max” right now.  Seems normal, yea?  Well, some would scold me for drinking pop (or as some call it, “soda”) but the average person who doesn’t know ME wouldn’t think twice.  

For about five years I’ve suffered with IBS.  If you don’t know what it is, Google it.  I struggle with stomach pains all the time, especially while under stress.  I’ve dealt with depression as another piece to the IBS puzzle as well.  BUT.. today, I’m drinking Pepsi Max.  For years, I couldn’t have any pop, or anything carbonated.  I couldn’t have any dairy for about a year.  I couldn’t ever drink coffee.  I couldn’t ever have anything that was fried or had a lot of saturated fat.  

But friends, over the past few months, I’ve been experiencing a miracle, and I was too blind to see it.  I was too busy to see that God has been healing me.  Now, I’m not in perfect health now, and my stomach does still act up occasionally, but going from my condition a couple of years ago to now, drinking CAFFEINE.. that my friend is nothing short of a miracle.


There’s much more that could be said about the Holy Spirit, and it’s role in our lives.  I think the Church of America often focuses much attention on JESUS, rather than God, “three in one”.  Think about that.. it’s so true.

In 1 Corinthians 12, spiritual gifts are discussed.  We all have a gift from God’s Spirit that is for the purpose of serving the body of Christ.  In verse 7 it says, “A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other”.  So, point number 1, we each have a gift.  Point number 2, it isn’t to boast in our abilities, but rather to HELP ONE ANOTHER.  Discernment of messages is a spiritual gift, but so is speaking in “unknown languages”.  So working together, we can hear from God and discern what he is speaking to us.  We shouldn’t shy away from this either, this is how God can speak to us today.  But of course we know as a continuation of these thoughts and ideas, in chapter 13, everything should be done in love. Love is even greater than faith, and hope.  “Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless.  But love will last forever!  Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture!  But when full understanding comes, these partial things will become useless… (12) Now I see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mrror, but when we will see everything with perfect clarity.  All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely just as God now knows me completely.” (1 Corinthians 13: 8-10, 12).

In John chapter 16, Jesus tells more about this gift that will be given to us.  It says “And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgement”.  Then it says “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth.  He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard.  He will tell you about the future.  He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me.”  The purpose of the Holy Spirit is to guide us to truth, not to lead us astray, especially since he’s from God.  Sometimes our discernment and skepticism tends to kick in well before we think something is from the Holy Spirit.  Maybe what we’ve been taught is holding us back from communing fully with God?  Maybe it’s holding us back from seeing more miracles?  Maybe we are holding back the miraculous from happening every single day.

I’m not saying these things to judge the Church of North America, but if we would begin to release ourselves to experience God in a way that may not make logical sense to us, perhaps that’s when we will be released to fully serve God?  We can’t see the full picture now, but soon, we will.  

Walk in his spirit today, and each moment.

Remember that love is greater than anything else we can do or say.

May God’s Spirit guide you.


(Sorry, this was much longer than I intended it to be!)