Thursday, September 13, 2012
i remember those mornings in tanzania.
I remember waking up to my leader's alarm and hearing that same song as we roused ourselves from sleep. I remember huddling in my sleeping bag to hide from the chill as long as possible. I remember the breakfast of noodles, cucumber, chapati and eggs. I remember cup after cup of steaming hot tea. I remember laughing at stories about the sleep-talkers and soaking in my beautiful team. I remember that peace that came with knowing that hours of time in the secret place with Him awaited me.
I remember hoping it would never end, and I remember the feeling of denial that it had to.
I remember a lot of things, and often they make my heart hurt. Like the tears and giggles of my Uganda babies. The Kenyan street boys. Little Ezra, sick and not even a day old- the joy of his mother when I prayed over him. My baby girl. Those teenage girls at Beulah teaching me to dance and loving me even more when I utterly failed. The woman who had been sick for six years weeping as we laid hands on her. That same woman's neighbor, laughing for joy at the sight of us in her house. Joshua getting so excited about my major. My team just being my team, ridiculous and loving and imperfect and beautiful.
I remember, and I wish it wasn't in my past. I wish it was my present. But I am here, not there, learning to trust that God is still just as present, just as powerful, just as relevant... And learning to trust in the promise that moments like those I remember also exist in my future.
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
We are justified, we are saved, by faith and not by works.
But even before that, we were loved. While we were still sinners, Jesus died for us. I was loved before that week of camp one summer when I heard the Gospel. You were deeply adored before your own birth. That CEO and that addict and that preacher and that girl next door were all driving a King crazy with His love for them even before time began.
Before we did anything, we were loved. Before we willingly asked for Him, He wanted us. We may be saved by faith, but we are loved without sense. Not by works, but by our mere existence, the Creator radically adores us.
I've known in my head for awhile that life with God is about abiding in Him, about simply being in His presence. This summer, my heart finally really learned that. It's so easy for us to say that our works are what show our faith; and in many cases, they are. But what if one day, you couldn't "do" anything? What then? Would you be content with not being able to do? Could you be content to just be? To just exist in His presence? Could I?
In Africa, we didn't have to do. The Africans valued our presence. They valued us being there with them. They valued time. Our questions of "Well, what can we do?" stood out and even felt wrong. They wanted our presence more than our plans, our being more than our actions.
So I look at a man sitting on the side of the road, or I see a child with a grin on their face, or an older woman whose laugh lines and weathered skin speak of deep wells of experience - and I want to tell their story.
But others look at them and don't see the story as worth hearing. "Why?" they ask impatiently. "But what have they done?"
I don't care what they've done, I say. They just are. They exist.
Sunday, May 13, 2012
I was talking to one of my cousins briefly today about my upcoming mission trip to Africa. She's done the World Race and worked with the organization I'm going with before, so she's had a lot of experience. At one point in our conversation, she asked me, "So, do people think you're crazy?"
My answer? Without any hesitation, yes.
She just laughed and completely understood. I mean, it's true. The list of people who don't think I'm crazy is very, very short at the moment. Apparently, what my team and I are doing doesn't make sense.
On some level, I get that. But then again, I don't. Especially when it comes to other Christians I know. In my head, I feel like this makes perfect sense. Yes, it's going to be uncomfortable, and smelly, and dirty, and probably a little bit dangerous. But hello, have you ever read the Christmas story? The animals were definitely smelly, the manger was assuredly dirty, Herod wasn't exactly the grandfatherly type, and I can assure you that if you asked Mary she would tell you that Messiah or not, giving birth is uncomfortable. But lo and behold, into all that discomfort and dirt and stench comes The Baby, the one truly worthy of adoration, a child worth getting excited about.
So with that in mind, I think it is perfectly reasonable for me to be excited for my own messy, smelly, uncomfortable adventure God has set in motion this summer. Especially because it's not really my own; it's His, completely and fully. He's just blessed me with the opportunity to take part in His plan to wreak a havoc of love on the East African landscape.
I know God is going to do great things, and I'm excited about it. It's hard to be so excited about something and then not see others getting excited, or at least trying to understand where that feeling comes from. So please forgive me if I get a little bit frustrated by people who look at me funny when I say I'm going on a two-month mission trip. Yes, to all of you who are wondering, it might seem more responsible to get a job or to take summer courses to get ahead on credit hours instead of going on this trip. But God calls us to a higher plan than better grades or a nice cushion in our budget. I'm chasing after what he told me to pursue: Him. And His will. And His people. If that means "wasting" my summer, so be it.
So yes, I'm excited. I'm more than excited. I want June 1st to be here tomorrow. I want God to sweep down and rain love and healing over Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania. I want him to blow my mind, and the minds of each and every member of my team. I'm tired of holding that excitement in just so I can appear properly dignified in public. I'm ready to jump up and down and wave my hands around and talk about it to everyone who asks, because God has placed this conviction and this passion in my heart. And for that, I will not apologize.
So if my excitement is offensive to you, I'm not sorry. Just know that if I seem to be on fire, it's because my soul has been touched by the One who set the sun ablaze. And He is too big to be denied.
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Today is a Thursday, and I got up and had a biscuit for breakfast. I went to class and did some research and talked to people. I came back to my room and then went out again to get lunch with my roommate. I wished that there was a little more sun and a little less chance of rain. I ate a salad and checked my facebook and made a to-do list; I failed a game of minesweeper and won a game of solitaire. I did some homework and listened to some music. Tonight, I will get dinner with my friends and go to a FOCUS meeting and make sure my reading is done for tomorrow's classes.
Yes, today is a Thursday, and all is normal.
Today is a Thursday. I got up on the edges of a happy dream. I didn't have a headache for the first time in several days. I had time to make hot chocolate to take to my class. My toenails are painted and I feel pretty. I laughed and joked and smiled with my roommate as we ate. I looked at the clouds and saw the rain that was coming and knew it just meant that more green things would grow. I checked my facebook and praised God for my friends. I made a to-do list and smiled because of all the extra time I finally have...
Today is a Thursday and tonight, I will get dinner with friends I love and am so blessed to know. I will go to a FOCUS meeting with an awesome team that has blessed me and grown me and stretched me over this past year. Today is a Thursday and seven weeks from tomorrow, I will head off on an adventure that I know will wreck and reshape my life.
Today is a Thursday and I am praising God for thunderstorms and prayers in the rain, for friendships and laughing and tears, for chances I don't deserve to take and yet He gives them to me anyway.
Today is a Thursday, and I am redeemed. I am loved. I am blessed. I am full.
And I am gently reminded that there shouldn't be so many "I's" included in the words I speak.
So, more importantly:
Today is a Thursday, and God is good. He is enough. He is more. He is here. He has provided, rebuked, healed, forgiven, broken, rebuilt, and loved this twisted little heart of mine into something better than it was yesterday.
Oh my soul, praise Him.
Thursday, February 23, 2012
I've been learning a lot about process lately, about how things (at least things of value) take time. Especially when it comes to closure and preparation. God has been bringing me through both of those kinds of processes over the past few weeks.
Going through the process of finding closure has been one of my most recent journeys of note with the Lord. It's not an easy experience. I guess it's my stubbornness to resist God when he's taking his time that makes it harder than it needs to be. My impatient, now-now-now-get-it-done-quick self wants an easy fix, to move on to the next good thing. That whole deal is done, and it wasn't all fun, and it's hard to think about sometimes, so let's move on and be happy again, right? That's how I think a lot. Impatiently. But that quick and easy fix doesn't bring healing. It's like trying to put some ointment and a band-aid on a snake bite. It doesn't make any sense or do any good, and the poison simply spreads. We are so adamant about a punishment that fits the crime; why are we so dismissive of a healing to fit our hurt?
Anyways, God's been teaching me a lot in this area, particularly when it comes to teaching me to slow down and be willing to let him do stuff his way. He is the Healer, and desires to see his children whole from the inside out. He isn't interested in triage or pain-free treatments. He is interested in growth, change, and transformation of the deepest kind and in the most dangerous way. I think of the boy who was changed into the dragon in C.S. Lewis' Voyage of the Dawn Treader, whom Aslan was more than willing to make human again. The process was not painless and it took awhile, but the end result was beautiful and something to be talked about; much more preferable to an easy patch-up or ignoring the problem.
God is more than an easy fix. We are the clay; the Lord is the potter, and wants to make us into vessels full of truth and life. The process involves bending and submission on our part. It requires malleability. It's not necessarily fun; but it makes us all the more whole, and gives the Lord all the more glory.
Finally, through the process, we grow. I have grown. I am growing. I am healing more fully and completely. I am growing to understand more of who the Lord calls me to be. I am becoming stronger, I am maturing. I am coming to recognize more of His abounding grace and overflowing mercy. And as if the list wasn't already overwhelming enough, I can add one more reason to praise Him.
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Let it begin with me.
I don't even know what to say, other than God is good.
It's one of those days. You know, the sun is out. It's delightfully cold. The sky is a paler version of what would be electric blue. Fresh biscuits were put out right as I got to the front of the breakfast line. Something about the coffee tasted extra good today.
I don't know what it is really. I just woke up feeling full.
Today, God seems wild. Big. Breath-taking. Present. So good, His goodness seems threatening. Like if I tried to comprehend how big and good He is, my head might explode. If that makes sense.
Let it begin with me.
I went on a FOCUS ministry trip last semester. We went to a church in Hickory for a weekend to work with the youth, have a sort of retreat weekend with them where we did our best to love them and pour into them, to try to communicate to them what we know of the things of God.
That Saturday morning, we went as a group to a prayer labyrinth. It was a really cool experience. The morning was a lot like this one - bright and quiet and cool and peaceful. It was my first time participating in a prayer labyrinth, and I loved it. Right as you entered this particular one, there was a flat rock on the sandy ground with a simple engraving on it:
"Let it begin with me."
That phrase really stuck with me that whole weekend and in the time since. I keep returning to it somehow. Eventually, I had to act on it. And as I'm finally beginning to learn this and practice it, I can feel the effects. Letting it begin with Him. What ever "it" may be. My day, my decisions, my relationships, my spending, my learning, my loving, my healing, my life.
He was the One who began it all anyway. Who am I to try to deny the Beginner of all things credit? Or His right to begin what He wants how He wants? Who am I to think that any beginning I could come up with could be better than the one planned by the Ultimate Author and Finisher?
I'm not claiming to know much about the ins and outs and interpretations of the book of Revelation. I have no education or experience with that book, much less do I have any idea of how to figure out the symbolism and imagery. But this part of the text seems pretty understandable concerning who is speaking, and the truth contained in it rings out clearly:
And the one who was seated on the throne said, '"See, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true." Then he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end...
Hallelujah to the God who keeps promises and gives good gifts, who gives and takes away, who heals and restores, who rejoices over us and leads us into futures we couldn't have even imagined for ourselves. The God who transforms and renews us daily. The God who was and is and is to come.
He begins because He has a great end in mind.
"Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and do not forget all his benefits-
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the Pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good as long as you live
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's...
...As for mortals, their days are like grass;
they flourish like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting
on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children's children,
to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.
The Lord has established His throne in the heavens,
and his kingdom rules over all.
Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
obedient to his spoken word.
Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
his ministers that do his will.
Bless the Lord, all his works,
in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul."
-Psalm 103:1-5, 15-22
Friday, January 6, 2012
I remember one of the first times (maybe the first time?) I ever went to get a pedicure.
If you know me, you know such events don't happen very often. But my big sister was home for a few days and wanted to take me out, so I went. (For the record, it made my feet feel awesome.) One embarrassing thing did happen, though. The little old lady doing the pedicure took out the rough sponge-type thing or whatever it's called to exfoliate my feet and began to rub it all on my heels. My lack of pedicure/foot care experience began to show as a bunch of dead skin began to come off, enough so that the little lady even commented on it. Yeah, it was gross, and for a middle school age-ish girl it was highly embarrassing.
I was thinking today about how many times similar experiences have happened to me. I'm not polished in any sense of the word. My toenails are lucky if they're painted twice within the space of three months, and my fingernails are always different lengths because I tend to pick at them when bored. My lips are perpetually chapped come December. I very rarely pull off the exact look I want in an outfit, if I even bother to go for a look. I prefer bare feet to shoes any day so that my soles, if not a sight for sore eyes, are certainly a sight to make your eyes sore.
I could go on, but essentially what I'm saying is that I'm not at all outwardly polished like the world encourages a person to be.
Actually, I don't think I was ever meant to be. No, I'm not going to be that one who loudly defies every one of society's conceptions of personal beauty care. I like being clean and looking somewhat normal, thank you very much. The fact of the matter is that I don't care enough to bother with a lot of it. I never have. And considering where I know I'm headed for now, this is a blessing. Even if I'm in the States, I probably still won't be bothering with a lot of it. And I don't care if I'm a missionary to Kenya, Ukraine, Nepal, or Mexico, I can guarantee I won't be lugging around foot cream and a hair straightener across deserts or through the jungle.
I came to the realization today that this is exactly what I'm hungry for. I can't wait. You see, I want my life to be dirty. I want it to be characterized by dust between my toes and shaking sand out of my shoes. I want the sweat and the tears and the mud stains in my jeans. I want the patched-up clothing and the laugh lines and the weathered skin, not only because it is no less beautiful but because for me it symbolizes a life well lived. Even a life undignified.