Keep Your Heart Up.

"When it's over, I want to say: All my life, I was a bride married to amazement." - Mary Oliver

                When I was 21 years old, I received a very unexpected phone call from a woman named Mrs. Nick. She was the campus minister at the high school I attended, but I did not know her very well, so I was surprised to hear from her. She told me very clearly that she did not know what I was doing with my life, but that she was creating an assistant campus minister in her office. She said she had gone through every yearbook from the past number of years and came upon my picture, and God told her I was the one for the job. So in a leap of faith I took the job.

                Mrs. Nick and I spent one year together working with the girls, wearing pajamas all day on retreats, eating toast, and talking about God. She taught me more than I would have ever imagined to learn from one person. At the beginning of our second year of work together, Mrs. Nick was diagnosed with a return of cancer she had already defeated 6 years prior. She lived for just 10 more months after this, and left me to carry on her ministry with young women.

               Mrs. Nick was an unbelievable writer and poet - she knew how to express God to teen girls in a way I had never experienced before. She changed the lives of thousands of teenage girls for 20 years in a little office and at quiet retreat centers.  

                Today is Mrs. Nick's birthday. I have some of her writings, I treasure them greatly, and in honor of her birthday I wanted to share with you a talk she gave on a retreat to our girls...

                "....Lately, I have been thinking heavy thoughts about God - not heavy in the sense of dark - heavy in the sense of deep.

                How is it that a person comes to believe in God - or how is it that someone can't let herself believe in God? For myself - there was never a time I didn't believe in God - from my first thoughts as a child - I always knew.

                I know from my experience as a religion teacher for the last 150 years. I have had students who didn't believe in God who had high IQs. Now, I am not saying they were especially smart or decidedly wise. But they could only believe in what they could see or prove. Others deny God because of a tragedy - they had been hurt in their lives and they couldn't explain their pain with a loving God.

                Sometimes in conversations with students about whether or not there is a God...I want to ask them something - but I don't ask this question because I want to be as respectful as I can. The question I want to ask is this... If you are so sure you know the truth about God then why doesn't that knowledge make you happy?

                Most of us are just not sure about God - from one day to the next - we blame God when things go wrong...we only remember God when we need Him. We can go for days...weeks and never think of God. Even when if God stopped thinking of you - for a millisecond - you would cease to be. Meanwhile - we have confidence in the God we're not sure of - that He will never stop thinking of us.

                My faith in God is strong - but unconventional. I'm primarily a writer and a poet - admittedly unpublished but there's always hope for that. Miss Wilson came into my life like the morning sun can wake you up in morning. She has challenged me to take a good look at how I share my faith with you. A real friend challenges you to be better. They call you to step up - so to speak. There are changes I'm making - but for the most part she is helping me not question my approach to our ministry. Together we can make campus ministry worthy of the word ministry.

                In my own unconventional way I have always compared my understanding of God with snowflakes. I've tried to explain our struggle with faith with the phenomenon of being on the verge of something. You're there but not quite. You can see it and when you reach out to hold onto it - it seems to move...kind of like the horizon.

                Snowflakes are on the verge of reality - first of all. How they are made is just magical. You have to be a physicist to understand - it's remarkable, really - and then they just fall from heaven - right? They are each one unique and extraordinarily beautiful, but you can't see how beautiful unless you study them. And when you reach out to grab hold onto one - it seems to disappear. But of course it doesn't disappear...all the elements are there..."

                So today is a very happy and glorious celebration of the life of a wonderful woman. Thank you again and again, Mrs. Nick, for all the hope about beauty and snowflakes and wonder and awe you planted in our hearts. I am forever grateful.

"Keep your heart up and fight on." -Mrs. Nick