Talk into the Phone #12: The First Three Bounces are the Hardest

Background: Becki was working on her photography final project based on Things Organized Neatly. ( Seeing her in her element and the HYLO apartment set up for the shoot, it only made sense to interview her like a high fashion magazine. Readers are warned.

Hello this is Brandi here with Harper’s Bazaar and today I here to get the inside scoop of the artistic mind of Becki. Becki, tell me your name?


Full name, Becki.

 Rebecca Bolinger.

Not going to give me your full name? Do it for the readers, Becki.

You want my full name?

I want your full-full name.

Rebecca Christine Bolinger.

**Groupie, Ellie Baugher, at this moment yells “REBECCA!”**

Rebecca? Can I call you Rebecca? Oh wait no, can I call you Becki? Are we on that level?

Yes, please.

Beautiful. Becki, where are you from?

I’m from Palantine, it’s a northwest suburb.

Love it. Becki, can you tell me a little bit about your faith journey and what that’s been like?

Yeah, I was raised in the Lutheran church and have been a part of the Lutheran church pretty much my whole life. I have the seal of the Lutheran church tattooed on the inside of my left arm.

Was that your first tattoo?


Cool. Do you have any other tattoos?



***At this moment, Becki goes in deep concentration setting up her photography piece and takes a few shots while talking to her groupies. Best commentary in order:

  • “I think people will know it’s an avocado”
  • “avo-CADO!”
  • “I just got totally reprimanded!”

Back to Becki: Referring back to the faith journey question, so, there’s not any giant moment that’s like “oh yeah, Jesus and all the things!” or a “come to Jesus moment”, but, it’s like “oh yeah, I go to church all the time and this is how things work.

Good. How did you find Agape/Ecclesia?

 Faith Fest is the short answer.

What’s the long answer like?

 I needed a community when I came here and church is the place where I feel the most comfortable, and that was the option, basically, to do church.

Do you have any words of wisdom?

Try to be as real with the community as you can. Like, really real.

Do you have any secret talents, Becki?

Uh….I can pogo stick.

***Ever the groupie, Ellie at this moment yells, “YEAH!!! POGO STICK!!!***

What’s the longest you’ve ever pogo sticked?

Probably like, 10 minutes?


It’s the first, like, three bounces that are the hardest.

I think that’s going to be the title of the piece, “The first three bounces are the hardest, by Becki Bolinger”

 ***Ellie, #1 groupie, chimes in “Becki also has a lot of other talents, like being a good listener and a really good friend.”***

Best joke?

Uh…Why can’t you hear a pterodactyl go to the bathroom?


Because the “p” is silent!

Ohhhhh!!! And Ellie laughing hysterically.

That’s my favorite joke because dumb people don’t get it, because there’s a silent “p” is pterodactyl. ***Ellie repeats, “there’s a silent ‘p’!!!”***

Ohhh, I get it!

Ellie: Yayy! You’re not dumb!!

Anything else you’d like to say, Becki?


Talk into the Phone #11: God in Their Eyes

How did you find Agape/Ecclesia?

So… I didn’t really grow up in a Christian home where we went to Church every Sunday. I didn’t even have a Bible, but there was something that when I went away to college…I think God just put it on my heart that I was missing something…that I needed more. I remember going to Faith Fest the very first week and I met Mike Moore, thought he was a student, but I also met Taylor Teft and she just took an interest in me which made me feel really great. Then I showed up the very first Agape and I’m pretty sure I got up and gave a testimony too.

Funny story, during Welcome Week I found a wallet during the family picnic, so I turned it into Campus Safety and thought nothing of it. That first Agape, Sarah Harrington also gave a testimony that a person had turned in her wallet during the family picnic. I remember leaning over to Taylor Teft and whispering because I was a shy freshman, “Hey! I think that was me!”. In Taylor Teft fashion, she pointed and shouted from the rooftops, “Hey! That was this girl!!”. Sarah and I got to hug and I think that’s one of my favorite Agape stories, because it’s funny how God works through things like that.

Where do you see Jesus?

People always ask me those questions and really… I think I’m really starting to see Him everywhere. I think the answer that people want to hear is “I see Jesus in our Church” or “I see Jesus in our community”. But no, I see Jesus with the poor, I see Jesus with the sick, I see Him when the sun comes up in the morning.

What breaks your heart?

How do you put it into words? Especially today of all days….Election day….It breaks my heart that people have to live in a world where they feel unloved, feel uncomfortable, feel afraid for their lives. I feel for me in particular, because God has put this in my heart in so many ways, that it breaks my heart specifically when my kids or any kids grow up that way and feel those things… go through hard things…. and don’t know how special and unique and loved they are.

You mentioned your kids….who are those kids?

Most people who know me, know that I’ve worked at a camp the last few summers. It’s called Camp Tanager. It’s a nonprofit for kids from low income families and I think a lot of those kids end up coming from very difficult home lives, whether that’s foster care, single parent homes, kids with disabilities. That’s where I found I was passionate about! Working with kids who are struggling….I don’t know…when you get a week with theses kids and you just…. it breaks my heart, but then when you…when you can get a kid to just stop, think, and realize, and understand and get excited….or when you see that light…when you see that spark in their eyes after they’ve tried something new for the first time…..let them know that they are loved…that life is hard, but they’re not alone…when they finally get it….It’s not a “come to Jesus” moment, but for me, God is in their eyes, whether they know it or not, it clicks, even if it doesn’t have His name. I love my kids.

What gives you joy?

My kids. It’s the perfect definition of the word “joy” for me…and getting to l Iive that out is what I get to do with my campers. Jumping into the pool fully clothed because you’ve been found guilty of alien treason…running into the jail and saving everyone during capture the flag…campfires in the dark with wish sticks… you throw them in the fire and make a wish…camp songs….light saber battles….bed time stories….it’s the hardest job I’ve ever had, but it’s the most rewarding.

What wisdom would you given to first year- Ashley?

That’s hard to put into words too…I think the easiest way for me to think about that…looking at myself and the seniors that have been a part of Agape & Ecclesia my freshman year to now. We were a bunch of misfits. There’s so much growth and transformation here….I’ve just been in awe of it all. God has made it beautiful, God has made us so beautiful. I guess I would tell freshman Ashley just to hold on, let yourself grow, let yourself be changed from around you and your experiences. Let yourself be loved.

Do you have a favorite saying? Something to get you through a hard day?

Psalm 9:9-10

9 The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,

   a stronghold in times of trouble.

10 Those who know your name trust in you,

   for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.

Talk into the Phone #10: Life is Hard. You Need Jesus.


What’s your name?

Kendelle. Polsley.

What’s your middle name?


I didn’t know that- that’s cool. Describe your perfect meal.

My go-to perfect meal is my mother’s homemade chicken soup that has all this random vegetables in it from our Mexican market. Then you put avocado and cilantro in it and salsa in it, and then they have this amazing fresh bread from the Mexican market, although I actually go with the chips because the bread is glutenous.

Is there a dessert with that?

Churros. Of course.



How did you find Agape/Ecclesia?

A lady from my church worked for Intervarsity and knew Taylor Norris. She emailed me Taylor’s info, and then I heard from Taylor about org fair. I went and saw the “We heart Jesus/We heart you” signs and I met Blythe right away. I went to Agape and fell in love with everyone and the rest is history.

What continues to draw you in?

I know you’ve heard this several times, but there is something so unique about Agape/Ecclesia that is so different from other campus ministries that I’ve witnessed. I think it’s the tangible love in our community. I experienced that from day one. That only increased through my personal trials, my suffering; I just felt like I could see Jesus as I was talking to all of these amazing people. That’s an experience I’ve never had and something I hold on to.

Why are you a Christian?

Why not? Take a crazy chance, why not do a crazy dance.

I honestly can’t imagine my life not as a Christian. Not only have I grown up in the church, but it’s a part of who I am. I have had moments where I wanted to walk away, but that’s pointless. We are created to worship God and if we’re not worshiping God, what is the point of life?

What draws you to Jesus?

I love Jesus

Who doesn’t?

I thought you said who does.


One of the biggest things which has been constant over the past four years is that no matter how far I am from Jesus, he’s always drawing near to me. Even if I don’t want to draw near to Jesus, he’s there. His love. Jesus. Period.

How have you experienced that recently?

One time I packed up the car and went on a road trip to Tennessee. I hiked roughly 7,000 feet up Mt. Lacontte- I didn’t know it would be that steep. Once we got to the top and we were watching the sunset over the Smoky Mountains, it was just breath-taking. You can’t explain it- you have to experience it to understand. I was basically crying up there- there were people up there drinking whiskey, they were offering us whiskey. I declined, even though it was cold, because you shouldn’t take whiskey from strangers. Stranger danger. Anyway, as I was looking out, I had this moment where I thought “wow, this is so beautiful. God created this.” And then when I thought about the fact that God created us, I can’t comprehend how God feels towards us- “I created that; I love that; I love Kendelle.” That was a profound moment of that trip- realizing that I am so small in this big world and God still knows me intimately.

What has God done for you that you couldn’t do for yourself?

Everything. Do you want a list? I mean, I was born. The majority of my faith journey, though, was in college- the big things happened in college. Getting through these four years without God would have been impossible. Even my freshman year, I was on the edge of dropping out because I was in so much pain. Same thing sophomore year, and then with my surgery- I wanted to take a semester off. Without Christ through the community and Christ’s strength in my, I feel like I would have gone to a really dark place. Not to say that I didn’t go through depression or anxiety, but it could have been a hundred times worse. God bringing me through college is something I couldn’t have done on my own. Oh! And climbing that mountain! Seriously! God was so present on that mountain.

What gives you hope?

This answer could be different depending on the season. My parents recently transferred job titles and now they oversee a dozen or so adult rehab centers in the Midwest. These centers have programs for any man or woman in addiction. They go through a nine-month program and end up being a part of the church. I never thought a lot about it because I grew up with it being a big part of our church, but over Christmas I went to a service at a rehab center in Detroit. We had all these former rock stars and broadway producers who got caught up in drugs and went through the program. Now they’re clean but they stick in the church. They are using their amazing gifts to glorify God. It was incredible to see how God transformed their lives. Those kinds of stories give me hope. A lot of these folks come off the streets and are caught up in addiction, and they are the people that are often looked down upon the most, but those are the people that Jesus sits with. That gives me a lot of hope.

Is there a book you think everyone should read?

I have a list of books that I’m taking to Malaysia- I haven’t read any of them yet, but I’m gonna steal Emma’s author, Sarah Bessey and tell everyone they should read her books even though I haven’t read them. Only because Emma speaks so highly of her and at the women’s retreat, she gave a talk about going through Bessey’s book and I think it transformed the way a lot of us look at Godly, spiritual relationships.

Any parting words of wisdom?

There’s this quote and it goes like this: “Life is hard. Then you die. Then they throw dirt in your face. Then you get eaten by worms. Be glad it happens in that order.” My dad used this in a sermon once- he talked about hardships and the pain of life, but at the end he said, “Life is hard; you need Jesus.” That’s my parting word.

Talk into the Phone #8: Eggs Without Pepper


Sanj, would you rather live the life of a feral cat or a stray dog?



I’m allergic to cats. I never really liked cats because they always didn’t like me, and also caused me allergies, but dogs always showed me affection. Stray dogs are still cute. Feral cats are terrifying. Stray dogs are either rabid or they’re not.

How did you find your way into Agape?

I just kind of dove in and committed. I think when I came to Loyola, I immediately started attending Agape and never really thought I should do anything different. I was transformed through Christ’s work, and I was a part of it from then on. Also, the worship at the first Ecclesia made an impact on me.

Do you remember the first person you met?

Yes. It was Jackson Tenclay. We had Arabic 101 together and then I came to Ecclesia and he was leading worship, and he led “Jesus Paid it All” which was my favorite hymn at the time and it was really beautiful, and then he made Nutella pound cake and the rest is history.

What draws you in to the community?

As someone who’s been raised in a lot of different denominations and cultures, worship in an interdenominational setting like Ecclesia has been something that’s comforting for me. I feel really at home because no one has the same church background. So I feel like Ecclesia is the space to seek God whole-heartedly where you are based on where you’ve grown up, what your past is. We call each other deeper by showing each other different ways to worship. I’m practically Catholic, charismatic, Pentecostal, who knows.

Why are you a Christian?

I think in the beginning, I was a Christian because I was raised Christian, and then as I started deconstructing the world around me, my thoughts and practices, I’ve realized that the Spirit of the living God has been what’s given me life every time I’ve felt alive.

What draws you to Jesus?

I think that my own emptiness and brokenness and my reality of knowing that I need living water, I need a savior to do anything, to be anything, keeps me coming back.

What breaks your heart?

I spent two hours at a bar this weekend talking about everything we hate about millennial culture. It breaks my heart when humans deny care or acknowledgement to other humans, whether it’s based on your own self-absorbed living in this self-serving, capitalist world, or if its because of race or religion or sexual orientation. When humans deny the humanity around them, I could be angry forever.

What gives you hope?

I have a lot of hope. I think people give me hope. I am somehow able, even in people who break my heart, I still see how good God made people and how much love they are capable of. Christ in the people around me and their ability to be living, loving, laughing flesh to the people around them- it gives me a lot of hope.

What did Jesus do on the cross that we couldn’t do for ourselves?

Jesus made us new every single moment and every single morning on the cross. He didn’t just make us new once; He is making us new. We couldn’t do that for ourselves.

How is He making you new?

He is healing me from things that should hurt me through my whole life and teaching me really exciting things. He’s giving forgiveness and mercy and grace where I naturally wouldn’t have it.

Is there a poet, prophet, preacher, teacher that everyone should listen to?

I love all of Andrew Murray’s writings. He wrote Abide in Christ, which was incredible; he wrote a piece called Humility, which changed my life.

Any final words of wisdom?

There is this saying that all of my great aunts and uncles say- please note that they are all from South India so they have an accent, but it goes like this: “kissing a man without a moustache is like eating an egg without pepper.”

Talk into the Phone #7: 200% More Burps



Alex, what did you want to be when you grew up?


That’s going in the transcript.

Please! Oh my gosh, yes! I wanted to be a doctor, specifically I wanted to work in the ER and eventually do Doctors Without Borders with the long-term goal of eventually moving to Africa.

Why did you want to be a doctor?

I was obsessed with (the tv show) ER and I would record episodes and just watch it for days. I wanted to help people, and I was also intrigued by all the big words like Haldol and Adivan, I would say them to my mom all the time.

How did you find Agape/Ecclesia?

The first couple weeks of school, Sarah Harrington and I had met because we lived on the same floor. We’d both heard of Agape/Ecclesia at FaithFest and so we thought we’d check it out together. We went and we liked it and went again and again and didn’t stop, and now here we are!

What were your first impressions of the church?

I remember thinking “wow! These people talk about God a lot! They keep referring to him like he’s their friend and like they hang out with him.” I remember thinking that was pretty cool.

What continues to draw you in?

I couldn’t put my finger on it for like six months. Whenever I was with our community, there was something about it that felt special. I couldn’t figure out what it was, but whether I was at Tuesday Night Prayer or Agape or Ecclesia, there was this incredible sense of love, both an immense love for one another, and also this great love and reverence for God. Something about it was so attractive. Looking back, I think that was the Holy Spirit at work in our church. That’s what kept bringing me back.

Why are you a Christian?

One answer I could give is because that’s how I was raised and that’s what I grew up thinking and doing and being. I feel like the other part is that God chose me and called me and brought me out of sin and death, even when I didn’t know what that was and set me on this path and ever since realizing and recognizing that, I’ve wanted to keep going in that direction.

What draws you to Jesus?

I think the fact that I don’t have to be anyone but myself with Jesus- I can be real and who I am and I don’t have to impress him or gain his acceptance or approval, because he already loves me and approves of me, he’s created me, and I don’t have to work towards that; it’s just a relationship that’s already there. He just wants to love me and that’s pretty awesome.

What has God done for you that you couldn’t do for yourself?

I think God opened my eyes to the brokenness and messiness in my life. Whether it be personal struggles or family issues, he didn’t leave me alone to deal with those things. He came alongside of me and redeemed and restored those things. I never could have done that on my own, and I never would have imagined these things could be so reconciled.

What gives you hope?


I’ll take that. Do you have a book that you always tell people that they should read?

Okay people. You should all read KYLO. It is not a book about our apartment, but it’s “Keep Your Love On.” It talks about how to choose love and to keep love alive in relationship, whether it’s with your significant other, your family, or in our case, roommates. It very practically talks about loving each other, addressing conflict, communication. This book was very eye-opening and helpful.

Any parting words?

Don’t be afraid of being wrong. Don’t be afraid of not having it all together. You’re not perfect and you weren’t supposed to be. We are all broken and messy and God has redeemed us in that. We don’t have to figure that out alone, but he’s blessed us with this amazing community. When you come with your walls down and your arms open to receive, it is amazing what God will do for you and what God will show you.


I like to burp.

Holy Week 2016

The best week of the year!

Wednesday at 7:30pm we have Agape in the Damen MPR per usual.  Many of you are going home this weekend so please come so we can share a bit of Holy Week with you!
Inline image 1
Holy Thursday is a service where we remember Jesus washing his disciples feet.  We will be washing each other’s feet in an act of service and mutual submission.  If this challenges you then I want to encourage you to let yourself be challenged.  We are modeling Jesus’ radical servanthood to the cross by serving one another.  By far and away one of my favorite services of the year.  We encourage you to fast during Thursday because afterward we will share meal together!  
Good Friday is a reflective and somber time when we remember Jesus’ death on the cross.  We are joining with New Story church at Red Twist theatre.  Please meet in the entrance of Damen at 6:45 sharp!  Event details are here.
Easter Sunrise is a stunning way to start our celebration.  As Jesus rose from the dead we will watch the sun rise and extinguish the darkness.  Meet us at Albion and the beach.  We will read the Easter story and sing a few songs.  Bring a blanket!  Donuts anyone?
Later that morning many of us will be continuing our worship in various churches across the city.  If you need a place we invite you to join our staff at either New Story Church (talk to Tyler or Alec 9:30am) or Missio Dei Uptown (talk to Rachel–10:30am).
Easter Lunch we will be feasting and celebrating Jesus’ resurrection!  Come to Mike’s place and bring a dish.  Details here.

Talk Into the Phone #7: On the Wings of a Mary Williams


Mary, would you rather have wings or a super long tail that you could pick things up with? Also, you could balance on the tail.

And be like Tigger of sorts? I still feel like I would go with the wings because I’m super into perspective, so being able to fly and be over things would be great. You could travel easier. Could you fly to heaven?

I feel like that’s a dimension thing. Plus you’d have to make it out of the atmosphere, and you don’t get to breathe in outer space- that’s not part of the deal.

Maybe the Lord and I will meet halfway.

How did you first come to Agape/Ecclesia?

It was Ecclesia, I didn’t go to Agape my first year here. I went to faith fest with Ms. Lauren Wells and met Katie Younkie and Mike, started coming on Sundays. I’ve always been a “church” person, always went to church and served in a church, so it felt very natural to me to get plugged into a church here.

What’s kept you here?

I would say one thing that’s been unique about my experience here is that it’s interdenominational- it has stretched me in ways that I didn’t know i needed to be stretched. I grew up in a community with people who were a lot like me and expressed themselves like me, and I came into a community where people had different beliefs or different expressions of those beliefs and that caused me to really dig down deep and ask myself why I had the beliefs I did. It also caused me to honor them and the way they express themselves to the Lord. It’s been really hard but also really good for me.

Why are you a Christian?

I would say…I think following the Lord and having a relationship with Jesus my whole life is the one thing that’s been consistent. Everything in my life (where I’ve lived, family situation) has fluctuated, and the one thing I could count on and the one thing that would always bring me joy was my relationship with the Lord. And I think it’s an adventure, signing up to be a Christian, which is funny because a lot of people nowadays see it as so restricting, but I see it as so freeing because a relationship with Jesus takes you places you never knew were possible.

Where has Jesus taken you that you didn’t know was possible?

I think that I’ve had a lot of “desperation” prayers where I’ve just got on my face before the Lord and said “I’m giving this to you, Jesus.” And from those moments God has been able to change my life in a way that I never could. In those moments of surrender, God has just really done some amazing things. Even with my giftings and talents, there were things that I didn’t see in myself and Jesus placed people in my life to draw those things out.

What draws you to Jesus?

It sounds cheesy but he’s my best friend. He’s been in the best and worst of times. He’s been through every season- every disappointment, every good and bad day, and he still thinks the best of me. I would also say that in the life of Jesus, he seemed to be someone who was moved to action. In the Church, we seem to have a lot of things to say but not necessarily a response, so I love looking in Scripture and seeing Jesus being moved to do things. He spoke out what he believed and then was able to follow up and in Christian culture, we’re all about “core values” but do we actually do it? I love referring back to the life of Jesus and saying “I want to walk it out like that.”

What breaks your heart?

So many things. This might be an overly spiritual answer, but honestly people who have grown up with Jesus in a box and have grown up with Jesus through the lens of rules and shame and religion and didn’t understand that he actually came and died for you so that he could be in relationship with you. It’s got nothing to with proving yourself to him or making yourself more valuable in his sight. That breaks my heart, but it also makes my heart happy when I see people freed from that. So many times I see people with shame and guilt and I know that’s not the heart of God, and I know that we’ve messed that up as people and as the Church. I feel like Jesus was all about bringing freedom to people, so getting back to that feels restorative and right to me.

What feeds your soul?

I love people. I love stories of hope and hearing that the world isn’t as bad as I think it is some days. When I get together with people who are excited about things that they’re doing and passionate about what they’re moving toward, that feeds my soul. So often I talk to people who feel like they’re drowning in life and have no direction, so to hear that some people are walking in line with the Spirit excites me.

Do you have a favorite book?

One of my favorite books and one I go back to a lot is called “Culture of Honor.” It’s all about living a life of saying “I am powerful and you are powerful. I get to be me and you get to be you in this relationship, and that’s okay.” That whole idea of honor has been really transformative in every area of my life.

Any parting words?
Stay humble in college. Even though it may feel like it some days, never believe the lie that you’ve “made it.” In school, in your job, in relationships I think as people and as spiritual beings molded by Christ, we have to be in a place of humility and hunger for God to change us and others to change us, and we need to be able to give that humility off to people. You need to say “I want your feedback, your input in my life,” and by saying “I’ve already reached capacity in this area,” we aren’t actually giving ourselves room to grow- we’re actually limiting ourselves. As a senior in college, that’s hit me in the face pretty hard. I wish I had been as humble as I am right now throughout my whole college experience. I think it can be really transformative if you stay in that place.

Talk Into the Phone #6: Introducing Tyler Ward, The New Face of South Dakota


Layne, if you could add one person to Mt Rushmore, who would it be and why?

If I could add one person to Count Rushmore (not a typo. seriously.), it would be Marcus Tyler Ward because I feel that his face would be the best among the five (also not a typo. still serious.) now carved presidents. I feel that his square glasses would make a nice modern addition to the opposing oval ones. His head is a different shape than the other presidents. Abe Lincoln has that whole narrow thing going for him, and Teddy, he’s got the moustache, but Tyler has a beard and a moustache…and sideburns, and this hair thing. That is my answer.

I may have to fact check a few things but I admire your passion. How did you find your way into Agape?

I got an e-mail from Mike when I was just coming in. It just seemed to fit because I knew I wanted to find some sort of non-denominational church; I grew up Lutheran so the e-mail just caught my attention. Then I joined the Facebook group and they started posting things and I got excited.

Do you remember your first event?

I’m not sure if this really counts but I went to Faith Fest and met Mike. I was the first person there, which was really nerdy, but I met Mike other people and I kind of tried to extend the conversation because I didn’t know how long I needed to be there and it eventually got to the point where neither of us knew what to say and Mike awkwardly said something like “well, I guess you don’t want to go to the other tables- they aren’t your religion,” and I was like “yeah, that’s right…didn’t come planning on converting,” and then I left.

What would you say draws you into the community?

I think that the student participation aspect, not just participation, but “student-run” is a better term, is a new thing for me. I know that we say that Mike and Tyler are the pastors, but they aren’t the church- we are the church. There are so many people who do so many things that make that up, whether Agape or Ecclesia or otherwise. That was something very intriguing to me right from the get-go. When they said they needed snacks, I said “I like snacks!” and then I signed up for every other week. Sarah (Carillo) asked me why I didn’t sign up every week, and I said “I wanted to give other people a chance.” No one else signed up, though. So I just really loved serving others and having a say in the church.

Why are you a Christian?

I guess the textbook answer would be that I was raised Christian- you go as a child and learn it from the beginning. I feel like a lot of people go through middle school and high school and that’s when they really start questioning “is this my faith?” I had that time period of my life but I eventually returned and realized this was what I wanted to do. I think I was a senior in high school, applying for schools, going through a lot of changes, and I realized I couldn’t do it without Jesus. I’d say looking back, looking at the times that Jesus was absent in my life, they were just so much darker. Not to say that I was super sad, but there was always just something missing. I look back on the places where Jesus was present and those memories are just so much lighter and joyful, even when I was going through a lot of hardships, I still had someone to look to.

What draws you to Jesus?

The story of Jesus is one where you learn something new every time. What draws me to Jesus is how he leads and how we should strive to be like him. It’s easy to say “What would Jesus do?” but really sometimes you do have to ask yourself that- how did he live? How should I walk in his footsteps?

What has God done for you that you couldn’t do for yourself?

I think he picks me up in times I never thought I could be picked up. I’m a very self-motivated person, and I often ask myself “is it really God? Is it just my personality? Am I just really driven?” and when I go through that thought process, I always get back to God because that may be my personality, but that would be nothing without God. He’s the hand that created you. He’s not just an aspect of your life, just a piece; He’s the one who reigns over you and drives you at all time. He picks me up and has driven me to do things I never thought I could do.

What breaks your heart?

I’d say war. It’s easy to say “I want world peace” and I don’t have the answers. There’s obviously lots of things that I don’t understand that go into the political systems, but when I see a world that would be the closest thing to heaven, where everyone listened to each other and got along, despite religious or philosophical differences, we just understood one another and respected one another, that we can’t be there breaks my heart. It’s impossible for everyone to have the same viewpoint, but I think that “us vs. them” mentality is what gets us in trouble. Anytime you see people die over these things and see sacrifice, its just terrible and heartbreaking. Another thing that breaks my heart is the guilt of the privilege I have. Those inequalities, that lack of respect is what breaks my heart.

What gives you hope?

Definitely Jesus. I’m eager to see the way that heaven and earth collide when the time comes. Eventually they’re gonna merge as one- we’re not gonna lose who we are; we’re still gonna have to love and respect one another. I don’t know if there will be a day when God will say who is right and who is wrong, but the vision of people living together peacefully is what gives me hope.

What would you say to those reading this?

I would say that there’s always room to grow. You have to work towards it- if you’re dedicated to this church, this community, you’ll have a vision of what you want it to be like, whether it’s in a couple of days or in a year. I feel each of us brings talent to the table, and there is always room for these different talents- think about Leah’s love for baking. Leah loves to cook and loves to feed people, so you can ask her to cook and bake for Ecclesia or something, but she can also take that on herself. She can have people into her home. And sense we bounce around from Palm Court to the IC to Damen, we see that when we gather as the church, whether it’s in homes or in class rooms, Jesus is Lord there.

Bachelor in Foolishness

This is the longest break ever.  Truly, it is.  Typically the break is four weeks long, Loyola gave an extra week this year.  After a long wait I am ready to get this party started.

Over the past month I have been reading through Corinthians, Luke, and the Psalms.  I love Corinthians for the kind, yet stern, pastoral tone, for the practical instruction and grand theology, and for the scope of topics addressed—incest, resurrection, generosity, suffering, and spiritual gifts.

Paul describes the cross as “foolishness to those who are dying, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1:18).  Makes sense, right?  Jesus’ capital punishment does not appear to make him a savior, but God uses the “lowly things of the world to shame the wise” (1:27).   God’s wisdom works through what the world perceives as foolishness.  

Part of college is gaining wisdom, knowledge, and competence.  I have been wondering, “What does it look like to get a degree in Foolishness at Loyola?”  I do not think this means doing poorly in classes or choosing God at the expense of academics–as if the two are at odds.  But I do think that what is often times considered the wisdom of college (self-gratification, personal success, uninhibited consumption and autonomy) is completed foolishness in the kingdom of God.

God’s wisdom is given by the Spirit (2:7) and that wisdom is unfathomable to the “rulers of this age.”  It is unfathomable to the standardized tests, the honors programs, and the GPA calculator.  God’s wisdom confounds all those measurements and redeems those measurements.

In order to gain true God-fearing wisdom you must live by God’s Spirit.  God’s Spirit gives a new imagination to see school not as a chore, but a blessing.  To see classmates as companions, not competition.  To see a degree as a gift, not a right.

So my question we will be asking next week at Ecclesia is this: Are you wise?



German Nihilism and Christian Practice (or, the most pretentious title I could think of)

I’m gonna open with a line that I stole from a guy named Eugene Peterson. Peterson, in turn, stole the line from noted German sadsack, Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche claimed that “the essential thing in heaven and earth” is that there should be a “long obedience in the same direction.” Nietzsche believed that it was this sort of commitment that made a life worth living. Peterson, a pastor, most likely had very little in common with Nietzsche (himself an almost evangelical atheist). What Peterson found in this statement, though, was a truth that seemed to characterize the life of faith. Peterson’s own understanding of “true religion” was this long obedience.

This image of the “long obedience” has often been one of my favorite metaphors for my own faith journey. Direct. Consistent. Doggedly unromantic. Just my style. I tend to tire quickly of language that speaks of “big moments,” of the extremes of peaks and valleys. With no ill will intended towards such moments in the spiritual journeys of others, my own story has simply felt a great deal more ordinary.

So I attach myself to this picture: Tyler, on a road, walking toward Jesus. Hopefully He’ll see how hard I’m trying. If I’m lucky, He’ll be proud of me. I say to Jesus, in the incomparable words of the great Kris Kristofferson, “Tell me Lord if you think there’s a way I could try to repay all I’ve taken from you.” In short, I want to work. I want my faith to be on my shoulders, and maybe Jesus will take pity if he sees how much I’ve done.

Maybe some of you are here. Maybe you’ve seen Jesus as one testing you; as one who is waiting to see how much time you’ve spent with the poor before he doles out his blessings; as one who is waiting to see how you control your anger or your bitterness before he decides to make his face shine upon you.

But the problem with this whole enterprise is the Bible.

This morning I was reading the last bit of Psalm 139. Psalm 139 functions essentially as a treatise on God’s consistent presence and care in the lives of God’s children. David writes it this way:

7 Where can I go from your Spirit?

Where can I flee from your presence?

8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;

if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,

if I settle on the far side of the sea,

10 even there your hand will guide me,

It’s made clear from the beginning that, rather than our pursuit of God, the crux of the story seems to be God’s pursuit of us. In fact, the work required of us even rests upon this initiating work, this grace from God:

23 Search me, God, and know my heart;

test me and know my anxious thoughts.

24 See if there is any offensive way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting.

There is work to be done. There is a same direction in which we ought to practice a long obedience. But that road is marked first with surrender; with a daily acknowledgement that our thoughts are anxious; that within each of us lie offensive ways; that it is God who is leading us into the way everlasting.

Maybe you’re already there. Maybe grace is something that comes rather easily to you. If that is you, thank Jesus because that is beautiful. But for me, and I suspect for some of you, it’s a tough pill to swallow- that Jesus has been the initiator; that Jesus has chosen, before anything I may have done or left undone, to be for me.

See, I still believe deeply in a “long obedience in the same direction.” What I’ve been learning lately, though, is that Jesus is on the road with me. Jesus isn’t waiting at the end of the road; Jesus is the road. The way of Jesus is marked by the presence of Jesus. Jesus makes me able to forgive; Jesus makes me able to have an open heart instead of a closed one; Jesus makes me who I’m called to be. See, Jesus has come to find you and come to lead you in the way everlasting. If you’re worried about disappointing him, don’t be; he sees what you’ve done and what we’ve left undone and it doesn’t freak him out- in fact, he wants to carry it for you.
I pray that Jesus finds you today.


M. Tyler Ward, 1/8/16