Forge Guild Turkey Trip: Part 3

The Asclepion at Pergamum
The Asclepion at Pergamum was where emperors, officials and high society went for healing. Here they were entertained only through comedy to make them feel better, bathed in hot spring pools and even were taken to treatment rooms where you were drugged in hopes that the gods would visit you in a dream. Once lulled into a hallucinogenic sleep, servants of the Asclepion spoke into hidden tunnels that amplified into the treatment rooms, giving worshippers the assurance they were seeking. The sick were simply told that they were okay, but there must have been testimony of this actually working… otherwise it wouldn’t have continued to exist. 

This site really haunted me. The image of people walking into a place, hoping to feel better, only to be lulled asleep and be told exactly what they want to hear. While primitive in many respects, its a shadow of our own culture. Just being told that you are “okay” and “normal” is comfort enough when we battle insecurity or unease. How do we stay fully “awake” and with an accurate perception of reality? We can’t be lulled into believing that we are okay, just because our culture says so. 

How in the world do you thrive in a world like this, where everything points to idol worship? How do you begin to evangelize in a world where superstition works? While the world and Satan appeals for us to trust only what we can see and get immediate results, God calls us to walk backwards into the future, able to see clearly what has been and trust that faith will be sight for what we can’t see.

The persecution at Smyrna
Smyrna and Philadelphia were the only two churches of Revelation that don’t receive criticism, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t without suffering. Smyrna was known for its martyrs and aggressive, violent persecution of Christians. Believers here had much to fear, not just a loss of their livelihood, but their life itself. 
Revelation 2:10, “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
The instructions “do not fear” only means something if the one speaking has power. Otherwise, it’s a weak attempt at comfort. Fear is the emotional response to something outside my control that I think will do me harm. When I fear, I’m faced with a trial and test of my obedience. A trial isn’t a way for God to see if we “do good enough,” but instead a way for us to reveal our faith. If we truly believe that God is in control of all things, then what do we have to be afraid of? Be faithful unto death- this is only possible if we know who the First and Last truly is. Only God is worthy of my fear.
Adopting the unwanted in Ephesus
The lifestyle of Roman culture wasn’t without its side effects. A city with dozens of brothels and a hospitality culture that often included sexual favors naturally created an abundance of unwanted children. The result is horrific and disgusting. Unwanted infants were either cast into the agora to be made slaves, if deemed fit, or left to die of infant exposure.
Ephesians 1:5-6, “In love, He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”
In a culture that cast off children to become slaves and prostitutes, how powerful could have the adoption ministry of the church been? They weren’t just loving the least of these, they were saving them from certain death. This is the gospel. We are called sons and daughters, given an inheritance that was never ours. God doesn’t just forgive us and say “it’s okay,” he calls us his precious children and heirs of his kingdom.

Forge Guild Turkey Trip: Part 2

The stadium in Aphrodisias- purpose comes from design
1 Corinthians 9:24-27, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”
Stewardship of my design is as important as training is for an athlete. If we are designed for something specific, we must stay the course. We obey with our bodies, not with our minds, so we can’t mistake understanding for obedience! I can know my design, but unless I actively obey, I’m not walking in the works he’s prepared for me to do. God’s design + my belief in that design = good works that he has prepared. 
The pillars of the Artemesian temple in Sardis
In Sardis there are two ENORMOUS pillars. They are splendid from afar and staggering to stand beneath. The foundations of these pillars are huge, far too big to even try and wrap your arms around, if they didn’t have a wide foundation they would fracture. The fact is, the higher something gets, the stronger and wider of a foundation is needed.
Revelation 3:1-2, “… ‘I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God.'”
The church in Sardis was not what it seemed. Their deeds specifically are where the criticism lies, in their greatest strength is their greatest weakness. The church at Sardis appeared like they were alive and thriving, but in reality there was only a small remnant of faithful believers who were considered worthy. The body of believers there had an inaccurate perception of their reality and things we beginning to fracture as a result. The greater the gap between perception and reality, the more pride you have. The issue of a skewed perception of self works both ways… not just for those who hold themselves in high regard, but also for those who consider themselves as worthless. We are called to BE, not to SEEM. Is your Christianity about managing a reputation, or living out a reality? Manage long enough and it will catch up to you and begin to crumble.
The trade guilds of Thyatira

We don’t really have any pictures from Thyatira. But this is a really cool mosaic from earlier in the day. 

Revelation 2:20, “But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.”

In Thyatira, trade guilds were everything. In order for your business to thrive, you needed to belong to an association of others in the same trade. The problem for 1st c. Christians wasn’t in the association… it was in what was required of those who belonged. Each trade guild has its own patron god or goddess that was honored and venerated at guild feasts. Knowing what we do about Roman culture, this meant eating food that had been sacrificed to idols and participating in all sorts of sexual fantasies. It wasn’t defiantly immoral in Roman eyes, it was a part of worship and how you got ahead in business. What is a Christian tradesman supposed to do? If he is to be successful, then he must participate in the culture of the trade guild. But if he doesn’t, what will happen to his livelihood? What of his family? The tension here is difficult. What do we do in a culture that isn’t aggressively or actively persecuting our faith, but instead will ignore you entirely unless you play by their rules? The letter to the church at Thyatira is one that is a gut-check. They don’t just have a false teacher in their midst, they are called out for tolerating one. Toleration is everywhere nowadays. If we stand firm for what we believe, we are “intolerant,” the cardinal sin of an educated American in 2016. Higher education now calls for training in “cultural competence” and we are left wondering how uncompromising our beliefs has deemed us incompetent.
So what do you do with the tension? The only way is not by deeds, but by holding fast to Christ. If you’re going to suffer, suffer for being Godly, not for being ungodly.
1 Peter 4:1-6, “Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you; but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God.”

Love Life List

Dear Susie Davis,

You get me. You totally do. We haven’t met… but you GET me. My small group Instagrammed you and you responded back to us. How kind is THAT? Seriously, you rock.

My BFF that I’ve never met, Susie, posted earlier today about making a list of things you love in your life. Since it’s been awhile since I’ve updated the blog, I thought… “why not do a list of my own as a little life/blog update…?”

My other BFF that I’ve never met, Jamie Ivey, always asks her guests what they’re loving this week… so why not throw some of that in there as well?

Here goes:

  1. Bilingual 1st graders. They are hilarious and sweet and clap for me.
  2. My small group. There are five women who know me better than anyone right now and that is SUCH a good and vulnerable thing.
  3. Spotify’s Christmas playlists.
  4. Morning car duty. It’s early and I don’t love that… but I love seeing all my students every morning.
  5. Community Advent dinner. It’s my new favorite favorite favorite. I will have to blog about that later this season.
  6. “Noel,” Lauren Daigle. As my friend Elle says, “In heaven we’ll all sound like Lauren.”
  7. Columbia straight leg hiking pants. They are my new yoga pant. #outdoorsy #NOT
  8. Our beautiful bedroom. It’s a haven.
  9. A little sister who is 11 years younger than me. It’s humbling to have someone who will always be looking up to you.
  10. Ghirardelli hot chocolate. Glory.
  11. Front porch views
  12. Elizabeth Clarke Brewer. She’s brand new and SO loved.
  13. Brain Gym. It’s a teacher life saver.
  14. Spontaneous Saturday trips with Dad.
  15. the worship team at Grace Community Church. What a gift.
  16. Squeals of delight about singing “jingle bells.”
  17. YNAB. It makes our marriage better.
  18. Breakfast scrambles and cheap mimosas at the house.
  19. Jesse Patrick Garner. He’s the ultimate best.
  20. Gold accents.
  21. Aeropress coffee. mmm.
  22. Twinkling Christmas lights.
  23. Fresh lemons from Jesse’s mom. They smell so good.
  24. Forge sisters
  25. Spanish. They were right. I would use it ALL THE TIME.

new space


A few years ago, when I was a Forge student, we didn’t have easy access to internet or TV. In fact, we’d committed together as a group that we wouldn’t watch TV or movies at all. We adopted the habit of “bouncing our eyes,” when in the same room as a television, quickly moving our eyes away from the screen and keeping mindful to not get distracted by whatever was playing. Months after we’d graduated the program, I still caught myself involuntarily avoiding TV screens. Eventually, the habit wore off once media consumption became a regular pattern and routine in my life.

Do you want to now what’s strange? In the last two months, I’ve started “bouncing my eyes” from TV again. Not by choice. Something in my mind has all of the sudden flipped a switch and gone back into “Forge-mode.” Last week, I caught myself quickly adverting my eyes when I glanced at a TV in a restaurant. Um… hello? I can watch all the TV I want now, and it was now YEARS ago that I was in the habit of glancing away. What is going on?

I figured it out, though. The trigger is empty space. Lately, my lifestyle has been a lot less noisy. You see, our newlywed lifestyle doesn’t include internet or TV yet and we’re left with a lot of space and a lot less noise. 

I didn’t feel the weight of that space, though, until Jesse left for his first trip out of town for work. I’ve lived with roommates or family members my entire life. In most recent years, I’ve lived with up to EIGHT girls sharing an apartment. A life filled with people has been my norm. But now… its different. There’s a lot more margin for space. When my husband comes home later from work than usual or has worship team practice, or goes on a week-long trip, I don’t have three other roommates to distract me. Instead, there’s space.

I wish I could tell you that I’m really great at using the space for deep, spiritual reflection and contemplation about how the Lord is sufficient, but that would be far from the truth. Instead, last time Jesse left, I filled my evenings with so much activity that by the time it reached Thursday, I was absolutely exhausted from staying so busy and really just wanted to crash at home. But home was way too intimidating. It’s not that I was afraid to be in house by myself (EXCEPT for the night when BEAVERS came and ate the pumpkins off my porch. #countrylife). I was afraid of the space.

In this new space I’m beginning to see how full and distracted I’ve crafted my life to be.

Ginger wrote about “Limiting Distractions,” the other day and she really put into words everything I’ve been mulling over. I’ve reached pro-status at distracting myself, and didn’t even realize it. From the time at a stoplight waiting for the light to turn green, to the few moments while I wait for my work computer to boot up, I can fill every bit of space in my day with something distracting. But what happens when we don’t have cell service, internet or TV to fill the emptiness? What’s left?

Jess and I have been given the gift of space, at least in regards to our media consumption. The scary question I have to tackle is, when Jesse isn’t here, what does my time look like? If I don’t fill up my time and stay distracted, where does my heart and mind land?

What would empty space look like for you? If you didn’t have your phone, TV or internet and were given four free hours a day, for six days, would it scare you or empower you?

I’m looking forward to exploring this new space. It might be quieter and more revealing, but I’m sure there will be a lot to learn.