Friday, August 31, 2012

action movies

One of my favorite conversations I ever had with Emmett occurred just a few months into our marriage.    We were poor newlyweds, and he was in graduate school, so date nights usually consisted of watching a movie at home with dinner.  Emmett was in charge of picking out the movie, so after a few weeks of bringing home romantic comedies, he finally asked if I had any preferences.  I said something along the lines of, "Can you please get an action movie?  I don't think I can watch another romantic comedy.  I might shoot myself."  If Emmett hadn't already been in love with me before that comment, he certainly was after that comment.  The look in his eyes was priceless, and his voice trembled slightly as he asked, "I was getting romantic comedies because I thought you liked them.  You  mean, you like action movies?"  Being the sweet wife I was, I'm sure I responded with something like, "How could you not know that I don't like romantic comedies, we've only been dating for five years?"  Date nights after that were much more fun.

I was reminded of that conversation this morning at the Y while watching some random action movie while working out.  I process while I write, so in thinking about last night's post, I felt I didn't capture the weightiness of God pressing down on me in quite the right light.  In the sweet time I had with some friends the other night, they were asking what they could do to help, and I realized that I am not communicating well what it means to have burdens upon burdens heaped on your shoulders by God.  Isn't he supposed to relieve our burdens?  Isn't the yoke of Christ easy and his burden light?



When God clearly calls me to a life that is a life I can barely handle even when stripped of all details like cleaning and grocery shopping, when he opens my eyes to the warfare that sin is raging with my soul and the destruction sin causes in my life, when God heaps failure upon failure on my head until I feel tiny and worthless - in these things God is being very intentional to sanctify me.  And all the meals and sweet notes and "bless your heart" comments are nice, but I am exactly where God wants me to be, and I can honestly say I wouldn't choose to be anywhere else.  No matter how hard it gets.  I'm finally understanding Hebrews 11:

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

So I guess I fell like my life is an action movie.  You cannot really see the blood and gunfire and wrestling and running and car chases in my soul, but the intensity is there with all the wonderful emotional and physical drama to boot.  Maybe that is why I love a good action movie because it feels like my life.  And I kind of want to go chase something or jump out of a plane right now.  But only kind of.

Thursday, August 30, 2012


Standing outside wrapped in the fading warmth of summer makes me long for autumn.  I want to stay up all night, afraid I'll miss that crucial moment of surrender where the last kiss of warmth gives way to the first invigorating chill. I'm so thankful to live where the change of seasons is like an intimate dance of nature played out for me to watch.  No wonder I feel like a live wire lately, unable to just be.  One minute I'm dancing and the next I'm sobbing and then only minutes later I'm so deeply asleep you might mistake me for dead.  It's like every fiber of my being is awake and waiting, standing at attention for something I cannot quite understand.

I've moved to the second book in the collection of John Owen that I'm working through, Of Temptation, the Nature and Power of It.  Listen to this:
Temptation, then in general, is any thing, state, way, or condition that, upon any account whatsoever, has a force or efficacy to seduce, to draw the mind and heart of a man from its obedience, which God requires of him, into any sin, in any degree of it whatsoever.  
He goes on to discuss how temptation is a neutral word, used in scripture both actively to denote how we fall into or are led into temptation by our flesh, Satan, or the world and then passively to explain the trials and sufferings God allows to refine and prove us.  The passive temptations or trials from God occur when he calls us to to great duties far beyond what we are capable of in our flesh and when he pours out great suffering.  These temptations or trials, ordained by God for our sanctification, make us more susceptible to the active temptations of our flesh and Satan.


I've sensed in my spirit for some time that this year is going to be much harder than last year for so many reasons.  Yet despite the preparation of my soul, I can't stop spinning from the force of impact.  I was trying to explain it to some friends last night by saying it's like no matter how hard I work, there's not enough time in the day to do everything I need to do, not because I need learn how to say no or ask for more help or get more organized, but because God is heaping burdens upon burdens on my head in a deliberate and systematic manner as if he were intentionally trying to drown me.  And while that is true on a tangible level, I am only just realizing that it is true on the level of my soul as well.  There is so much work to do in my soul, and no matter how hard I dig at these roots of sin, they grow ever stronger in my heart.

Owen calls this "the hour of temptation."  Because as God places me in the furnace of sanctification, Satan realizes that this is his chance to really destroy me while I do not even know how to defend myself.  Owen distinguishes between being tempted and entering temptation.  Although even Christ was tempted, he never entered into temptation like we do.  I know I am entering temptation when my mind becomes ensnared and entangled, having once entertained the idea of sin in my heart.  Now that it has my attention, it keeps calling out to me, reaching its maximum strength through a long, patient wearing away of my soul.  Its sheer persistence makes it seem less serious, and I find myself not praying for myself and others as I ought.

But this active temptation alone does not bring about the "high noon" of temptation as Owen calls it.  The active temptation wearing away at my soul is more enticing because God has placed me in the furnace of his passive temptation.  The heaping burdens placed on me by God (Owen uses the Abraham being called to sacrifice Isaac story as a comparison for this kind of passive temptation) as well was the suffering of loss and loneliness are aimed with debilitating accuracy to expose the deepest parts of my sinful heart in contrast to the complete holiness of God.  Being crushed by God, even if for the purposes of sanctification, opens avenues to temptations I've never even thought of before, and they come pouring in like old friends I seem unable to say no to.

Owen's advice?  He takes the words Jesus spoke to his disciples in the garden of Gethsemane, "Watch and pray that you may not fall into temptation," as the only way to overcome.  Careful diligence over my heart and mind is required because there will be crucial moments of surrender where I will be called to submit and trust.  And if I miss those moments, then I will miss the grace of God, which is the only thing that can carry me through this minefield of temptation.  So I find myself standing at attention, waiting for something.

Friday, August 24, 2012


Now that school is in full swing and the adrenaline has worn off, I find myself literally falling face first into bed each night, or maybe I should say early evening since last night I am pretty sure I was asleep before 8 pm.  When my alarm goes off at 4:45 in the morning (yes, you read that right.  I'm convinced there's a special reward in heaven for high school teachers that are single moms because we have to get up this early), I think something along the lines of, "God this is either a cruel joke or you better help me get out of bed."  Occasionally, like this morning (after two nights of bedtimes before 8:30), I actually stretch luxuriously and find a tidbit of thankfulness deep down in my heart for the gift of being awake and alone to enjoy Jesus all to myself.

Lately my spirit has felt gaunt.  What a lovely word.  It means lean and haggard because of suffering or hunger.  How appropriate.

At a seminar this summer, a veteran teacher described teaching physics as a performance art.  I would probably generalize that to say that teaching well is a performance art.  Imagine performing interactive, improvisation with a captive audience, all with teenage hormones and a penchant for emotional drama.  Sounds like a blast, doesn't it?  I must be nuts.  If I'm not setting up a lab, fixing something broken, attempting to design engaging lesson plans, grading papers, or teaching rocket science, then I am trying to make struggling students feel warm and fuzzy, obnoxious students love learning, lazy students catch a vision for greatness, and hoping I could accurately tell the difference between those students.

But imagine trying to do all of these things and stay in constant communion with the Spirit of God.  No wonder I'm feeling gaunt.  It's hard to hear the voice of Jesus over the dozens of voices coming from hormonal teenagers in various stages of emotional crises and their anxious parents wanting to make sure I see their child as an individual.  So as I fall into bed each night, I feel my spirit stretched thin, like a thread of metal wire being heated and pulled into a very fine wire.

And I find myself hungry.  Literally hungry all the time because I feel like the Brittany Spears of physics teaching, dancing around the room with weights and springs and light bulbs while singing, troubleshooting, and generally entertaining groups of teenagers.  Emotionally hungry because I have been drawn out of so many relationships I love since teaching and parenting are about all I can handle at the moment.  But mostly spiritually hungry.  I prayed yesterday morning with fond longing in my heart for the chance to read more of John Owen.  Just a couple pages, I prayed.  I carry it around with me in the hopes of snatching a minute here and there to read.  I miss slow days where it is easy to turn my heart to prayer and carry the awareness of Christ with me throughout the day.  I prayed this morning just to not forget Jesus in the hustle of life with high schoolers and a kindergartner.

So God answered my prayer last night and this morning, and I did get read some in John Owen, about five pages.  I wrapped up the first book in the set of three and began the second book.  He admonished the reader to start the process of mortification by setting your faith on Christ.  As the prodigal son fainting with hunger in the pig pen was revived by the knowledge of his father's riches, so should our fainting hearts be revived  by the knowledge of our Father's tenderness, faithfulness, and love.  The Lord's deliverance, his rest, his provision always appear at the right season.  As the Lord says to Habakkuk, "though it linger, wait for it, it will certainly come and will not delay."

So I'm waiting.  and falling.  and praying.  and waiting.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

ant trails

Well that was a glorious four hours of sleep, and now I'm wide awake.  Lovely.  I expect I'll be thoroughly exhausted and ready to go back to bed just about the time I need to be waking up.  Oy.  Thoughts are wandering through my mind like trails of ants, and life is moving by so fast I feel like I need an extra 24 hours each day just to process what is happening and decide how to respond appropriately.

Part of our beginning of the year training involved a briefing on crisis situations and how to deal with the fear induced adrenaline rush that accompanies a crisis situation.  One reaction in particular caught my attention, developing tunnel vision, or an inability to see beyond a particular detail.  For example, you become unable to take in the whole situation and make a rational judgement, and you end up responding based an a preoccupation with one particular detail.  Sometimes I feel like I live with tunnel vision, becoming preoccupied with the most random details of life, completely unable to see the big picture before me.

Apparently that is why training is so important in responding appropriately to crisis situations, why the armed forces will spend weeks of training for a mission that may last only minutes or hours, why there are drills for every conceivable emergency situation in school.  So where's my training on life?  I feel kind of cheated, like I was thrown into this life and thirty-some years later I'm just realizing that I've been operating my whole life in a state of tunnel vision brought on by fear induced adrenaline rush.  When I get to heaven, I'm going to look back at the big picture and think, "what in the world was I thinking? I was nuts!"

Call me slow, but I'm only just now beginning to realize that my "highly rational" responses (and believe me, I could make a profession out of rationalizing my behavior) are deeply rooted in a sinful nature that is tangled up with fear and pride and lust and selfishness and envy - even beyond my ability to understand and comprehend.  I could easily point this out in other people because most of them are nuts, but me?  Heck no! After all, I'm smart! (Please pick up on the self-mocking sarcasm there.)

But lately through the writings of John Owen, I have been spurred on to dig into the roots of my sin, to expose and prune not just my external behaviors, but to really dig up my soul and seek the Spirit at work in the very foundations of who I am.  I've been digesting the part where he admonishes me not to deceive myself by speaking false peace into my heart.  But aren't we supposed to be at peace?  Doesn't God give us peace?  I've wrestled with the tension between what it means to pursue peace and what it means to speak false peace to myself.  One example Owen brings up is the church at Laodicea, which in Revelations 3 is rebuked for their content, for thinking because of their outward blessings that they have arrived at some sort of spiritual high ground.  They "speak peace to themselves" by thinking they are complete when God would have them seek purity and faithfulness.  As I'm reading through Judges and a Samuel, I'm struck over and over by how the people of the nation of Israel return to God when they are afflicted, only to fall away again the moment they are relieved of their external affliction.  Psalm 78:34-40 summarizes the behavior of Israel:

Whenever God slew them, they would seek him;

they eagerly turned to him again.
They remembered that God was their Rock,

that God Most High was their Redeemer.
But then they would flatter him with their mouths,

lying to him with their tongues;
their hearts were not loyal to him,

they were not faithful to his covenant.
Yet he was merciful;

he forgave their iniquities
and did not destroy them.

Time after time he restrained his anger

and did not stir up his full wrath.
He remembered that they were but flesh,

a passing breeze that does not return.
How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness

and grieved him in the wasteland!

And I'm beginning to realize that my spirit has been too overly burdened with speaking peace to itself.  Like the nation of Israel, I use my outward circumstances to hide the inward state of my heart.  Like Job's friends, I don't actually say anything technically wrong, but I dramatically misapply the Spirit of truth.  I approach God through my understanding, through my own tunnel vision, applying the salve of peace to my sores without ever addressing my disease.  

The contemporary church culture stresses grace and peace so much as a free gift and though technically true (and I do need to hear it all the time), this partial truth leaves me powerless and depressed and feeling crazy and faithless when I struggle with the discontent of my own soul.  God is not speaking peace to me because I am in a desperate struggle with my sinful nature and now is not the time to rest, as the modern church understands the term rest.  God honored Job's discontent because Job was dealing with the real problem, and the only answer was the presence of God.  And because Job was dealing with the real problem, God showed up.  When God shows up, his presence leads to a simultaneous understanding of both his goodness and our own filth.  It was this right perspective, seeing himself in the light of God, that led Job to an abhorrence of self.  Ironically to our modern understanding, this abhorrence of self is what brought Job the true peace and rest of God.  While his friends were discussing a theology they didn't understand, liberally and inappropriately applying spiritual principles without any true knowledge of God, Job was experiencing God.  

I feel like my mind is trying to bench press something massive like the sun when I think about these things, especially at 4 am.  I am so entrenched in patterns of thinking, in the tunnel vision created by my own sinful nature, that I'm just beginning to realize that words and phrases that have sounded right for so long (and on some levels probably are correct), have been misapplied to my soul and I don't even know where I am wrong.  I'm like a crazy person trying to diagnose my own mental disorder, and I feel like my brain is about to explode.  

Thank God for his Spirit, which cuts like a double-edged sword and shines light into my darkness.  Now only if I could get some Jesus spit on my eyeballs.  I bet that dude had some amazing sight after that miracle.  Makes me a little jealous.  People sleeping right now also make me a little jealous.  So I'm going to try to go back to bed now that I've downloaded some of the ant trails in my brain.

Saturday, August 18, 2012


I've spent the past couple Saturdays working in the yard trying to bring some kind of order to the chaos that has ensued from months of neglect.  All kinds of spiritual principles come to mind as I'm pulling up the virginia creeper that is sending out its invisible shoots all over the surface of my yard, or trying to dig out the roots of that prickly bush that just won't die.  Trimming other people's plants that are growing into my yard is always an exercise in disciplining the mind against sinful thoughts, one I mostly lose. At the end of the day I am gloriously tired, sore, and covered in mosquito bites.  I've made such a small dent it's hard to even notice what I've done.

I started teaching this week, and Quinn had strep throat my first three days of school.  As I scrambled for sitters and lost much need prep time, my hopes of starting the year strong were pretty well squashed.  There was laughter and joy and fun and unexpected blessings in my week, but these were overshadowed by a wide range epic failures that left me feeling as if, after all the hard work done to clear out my soul, I had only really succeeded in making it dirtier than before.  It would be like walking out my door to find my yard had become a jungle overnight, despite my many recent hours of labor.

And yet -

This is war.  War is epic.  It isn't until you reach the enemy stronghold that you get any real idea of how powerful he is.  I see not only his power, but the deceitfulness of his plan, and I really am helpless to defend myself.  When I started digging up the roots of my sin, I had no idea how deep they were and how violently they would resist death.  I feel like I'm at the climax of the storyline where the hero makes a grave mistake and it looks like all is lost.  I'm waiting for that turning point, the unexpected and undeserved grace to swoop down and save the day.

And I'm glad to be part of something epic, my own death to sin through the sanctifying grace of Christ, even if it is violent and painful because it is also beautiful.  Beautiful and epic.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


A while back I mentioned a book I was reading as part of our summer assignment, With by Skye Jethani.  As we were discussing it earlier this week, I recalled one particular passage that mentioned a favorite author of mine, Henri Nouwen.  The chapter was entitled life with faith, and it described how Nouwen spent some time working with trapeze artists.  Apparently it was documented in a film called Angels Over the Net, but I have been completely unable to track down a copy.  The picture Jethani painted was of Nouwen learning to let go and trust, and gleefully soaring through the air.  I even think the word giggling was used in reference to Nouwen's delight on the trapeze.  Now the closest copy of the movie I can find is in an obscure library 470 miles away, so I cannot testify as to the accuracy of that description, but the picture it paints is breathtaking.

Being pretty much the biggest sissy I know when it comes to anything physical, I have absolutely no desire to actually try out the trapeze, especially considering my embarrassing lack of upper body strength.  But I do love the picture of letting go and soaring and not just gritting your teeth and waiting to be caught, but delighting in the release so much that you can't help but giggle at the thought of the crazy life you live.  Such delight could only come from complete confidence and trust and a healthy understanding of your own insignificance.

So this morning when I woke up for the first day of school already behind on a thousand tasks and feeling the weight of unrealistic expectations pressing down on me, I prayed simply to giggle today, to let go and be so enthralled with the sense of flying that I couldn't help but giggle.  I don't really know how well it worked.  I have a lot of ingrained habits I need to unlearn.  But I liked the prayer, and I suspect I will find myself praying it more often.

Saturday, August 11, 2012


This summer I have enjoyed ignoring my garden.  I love the idea of gardening but the space and the life I have prevent me from jumping in as enthusiastically as I would like.  So I'm considering a number of options, most of which involve some level of giving up.  Currently the crab grass in my little plot is rivaling the chard and rosemary, and some sort of mole or chipmunk has tunneled under most of the strawberries, leaving only a few struggling survivors.

I  reached the section of John Owen's book, Overcoming Sin and Temptation, where he talks about distinguishing between ordinary and extraordinary sin.  Although all of us are plagued by sin, not all of us are plagued by the same particular mix of sins.  Different sins pose different dangers to our souls, tempting us in different degrees.  My particular troubles may or may not be similar to yours, and even similar temptations may manifest themselves in completely different ways.  If the goal then is to aim for the complete elimination of sin, we must be diligent to root out the particularly extraordinary sins in our own lives.  These sins are so hardened, habitual, and deeply rooted that they permeate our whole person and we often live without noticing or being alarmed by them.

In other words, my unattended soul has been on the same path as my garden.  Before Emmett was sick, I was frustrated with my inability to obey God, my frequent apathy, and my general stupidity, but I was confused and powerless about what I needed to do.  Emmett's death seemed to dislodge something in my soul, something that had always been there unnoticed, something big and ugly that had been living unchecked in my spirit.  I was trying to describe it to a friend tonight, and after fumbling for words, I finally said, "It's like a spiritual hairball."  

Turns out that was the perfect analogy.

I kind of feel like my whole life right now (this blog included) is like a cat coughing up a giant hairball so big the cat might as well be dying.  It turns out that these sins that lodge themselves so deeply in our conscience as to pass unnoticed are the deadliest of sins.  The pride or lust or laziness that I excuse away or indulge in with secret delight or the small sinful thought habits I ignore because they have no immediate negative consequences - these are slowly but surely killing me much more effectively than whatever external sin I am currently concerned with.  While I am distracted with the way I eat or how I dress or how I spend my money, the roots of evil thoughts and self-righteous attitudes and lustful cravings strengthen their hold on my heart without ever drawing my attention.

It took Emmett's death for me to be able to see how strong a hold sin still had on my heart.  And now that I have this giant spiritual hairball knocking around in my soul, I'm not sure what to do.  More and more I am beginning to breathe Psalm 119, "O that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees, then I would not be put to shame when I consider all your commands."  I've been reading through that Psalm and then on a whim I went back and read Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 10-11.  I highly suggest you go do that now rather than finishing this blog because it is way more instructive.

I read the words of the law in Exodus 20, and my soul was burdened by the guilt, seeing now how I have broken the commands in ways I never would have been able to see a few years ago.  Then I went over in Deuteronomy and my heart just cried out in prayer as Moses warned the Israelites to love God, obey his commands, and choose life.  These are the same choices I face every minute when I feel the hairball that is desperately trying to lodge itself back into and unnoticed corner of my spirit where it can fester.  And I'm reminded of the passage in James (that I am still working on, ever so painfully, slowly), "each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is full grown gives birth to death."

Owen points out that the goal of all sin, no matter how apparently small or innocuous it may seem, is our death.  Evil will gladly be patient if patience will accomplish our destruction better than sudden, violent sin.

So I'm thankful for the hairball, thankful for the discomfort and awkwardness of my life.  The greatest encouragement I have from Owen's book is that we can mortify sin.  Although Owen freely acknowledges that we will never achieve complete sanctification, he describes mortification as the continual and determined weakening of sin's hold on our spirit.  Too much we have stressed in the modern church that we are not perfect, that we should not be legalistic, so we rarely encourage people even to try to be better.  Instead we excuse our sin with grace so that we can keep on sinning without guilt.  Somewhere along the line we have forgotten that we are called to be holy, to be different, to be set apart.  We are called to battle, first and foremost against our own selves.  We are called to actively cough out the hairballs in our souls, no matter how ugly it gets.  We are called to take up our cross and die, and strangely, I'm finding the yoke easier than I expected and the burden lighter than I expected.

Friday, August 3, 2012

can't breathe

It is the start of school here.  Quinn is off to kindergarten, and while the transition to school has been pretty fabulous, the "I'm so tired I'm having a meltdown every hour and can't hardly see straight" tantrums are taking their toll on us both.  Earlier this week I put him in his bed and threatened to take away everything he likes until he was thirty-five if he got out of his bed before he changed his attitude, followed by the "if you push me, mama's gonna go crazy, so you better wait until I calm down" warning.  No parenting award here.  For the next little bit I was pretty impressed with the number of different ways you can scream, "mom!  I've changed my attitude!"  He starts out with the "I'm going to say what I have to in the most angry tone of voice possible," before moving onto the, "maybe if I'm really pathetic, she'll feel bad" voice.  Then after a while he makes his way back to the angry voice again.  The cycles are quite extraordinary.  I even chuckled a few times at how quickly he could transition between emotions.  The dude has a definite potential career in film.

Then I read some more in John Owen's Overcoming Sin and Temptation.  Zinger.  It's like I can't get two pages without needing a week to meditate, repent, think, and pray. The focus of what I read was on struggles with particular sins, and why God doesn't always give us the victory over the particular sin that we most desire to overcome.  oh man.  get ready.

First, he argues that the rage of one particular sin is generally the result of a negligent or careless course in general.  How true!  When I forsake reading, prayer, writing, and memorizing, how quickly that space in my thoughts is filled with a thousand temptations and evil desires.  The longer I forsake spending time with God, the more I doubt the goodness of his love and choice of life for me.  I just came off chaperoning a retreat and jumped straight into prepping Quinn for school, so I haven't really seen my close friends for several days.  Already I've begun to think they all hate me and I'm a terrible friend and I'm nervous about calling or texting or hanging out because I'm sure in the last five days they've all moved on to better friends.  If I can think those ridiculous thoughts about people whose presence in my life is so real and tangible and good, how much more am I tempted to doubt God's goodness and kindness when I neglect Him?

But even more piercing is that God deliberately does not relieve me from the burden of these particular sins, though I pray like Paul every day for victory.  Why do I struggle with the same sin over and over and over?  Get ready for the sucker punch.  Often God chooses not to give us victory over particular sins because we desire that relief because the particular sin bothers us, not because we grieve over how deeply our sin offends God.  If He were to remove the particular sin and its troubling temptations, we would be satisfied with ourselves, not realizing how desperately we need deliverance from all sin.  In other words, we don't desire the mortification of all sin because it grieves God.  We merely want to get rid of the habits that trouble us so that we can go on living without God, indulging in our pet sins such as pride or lust or envy.  So God chooses not to give us victory because He knows we would not turn to Him if we did not struggle with those particular sins.  OUCH.   

Universal obedience, the complete mortification of the whole sinful nature, and not simply the elimination of particularly annoying sins, is God's desire for me.  When I secretly harbor certain pet sins while asking for relief from the troubles of one or two, then I am deluding myself.  And then when God doesn't deliver?  I get so angry, and I find myself in Quinn's position, saying the words I am supposed to say to God without the change of heart.  Quinn wanted to get out of bed without ever truly being sorry for his actions.  In the same way I want relief from certain temptations and struggles without really wanting to relinquish my entire sinful nature.  I think I should get what I want because I've said the right words, but God wants me to have the right heart.

At the high school retreat I chaperoned this weekend, I got launched off something called "the blob." If you've ever been to a youth camp at a lake, you've probably seen something like it.  I saw it on the drive in and thought, "please, no, Lord, don't make me do that."  So of course I had to go try it.  It's a giant inflatable tube and you sit on one end while the largest football player at the school jumps off a platform, landing on the other end which launches you into the lake in a very ungraceful manner.  And in that instant you're glad you're a girl so you can scream like one and nobody will judge you.  When you come up out of the water after an amazing teeth-first flop, there is an instant when you are physically incapable of breathing and you're convinced you're going to die and all you can think is, "I can't breathe, I can't breathe, I can't breathe."  That's exactly how I feel after reading John Owen.  As I'm reading, it's like I'm saying, "please don't take me here, Lord."  But he does, and it hits me so hard that I feel like I can't breathe, and I've spent all week waiting for my lungs to work again.