Who’s steering this ship, anyway?

I have diagnosed myself with the complex of everything needing to be planned and orderly for me to be at peace..I’m pretty sure it’s called being human. But I have also recently discovered that I am capable of letting go. And this, my friends, is exciting.

I found out almost a month ago that I will be spending five weeks of my summer in Cape Town, South Africa. Through Campus Crusade, Thomas and I will be traveling with 40 other students from around the country to assist new ministries on college campuses, share the Gospel with students and also work at a community center in a more rural area. After being accepted on the trip via phone, I just cried. I cried because I am nervous. I cried because I finally get to see another country and know people in it. I cried because I felt a freedom in taking a risk that I’ve never felt before. So now begins the support-raising, which will definitely require a lot of faith that God will provide.

In other my-life-is-so-uncertain news, I currently don’t know where I’m living next year. While I did have plans to stay at home, I found out A DAY BEFORE the housing sign-up that juniors with my scholarship are not allowed to live off campus..only the seniors. So that threw a heavy wrench in things. In a mad dash to figure something (anything) out, Shannon and I signed up to live in Candlewood Suites, which is technically off-campus, but a partnership with ISU allows students to live there. However, according to the res life staff, they are not certain that the partnership will continue. Hm.

And then there’s the cliche question, “What in the world am I going to do with my life?” and just as pressing, the question “Will we move away?” I don’t know at this point. But for right now, I’m really ok with that. I very much feel that God is in control and I don’t have to doubt that He can handle it. Maybe this has just been a mentally-peaceful week. Or maybe I’m learning to remember who’s steering this ship.

 

God is Greater Than…

Be warned…you are about to read a novella.

My faith sometimes needs a good kick in the pants.

I spent these last 4 days in Indianapolis for Campus Crusade’s Indy Christmas Conference, a gathering of about 2,200 college students from Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Michigan campuses. The theme was “God is Greater Than.” The purpose of the conference was to simply focus on Christ. Here are my top 5 take-aways from this awesome, whirlwind of a conference.

5.  Get messy: As explained by the main speaker, pastor and author Mike Erre, “God’s kingdom is built not on those who are self-sufficient, but those who are desperate.” In so many of the bible stories, men who are blind or diseased don’t request healing as casually as ordering off a dinner menu, but they beg and plead Jesus for help. “God does some of His best work when we’re at the end of our ropes,” Mike said. Be desperate to be desperate.

4. God walked through twice: There’s this fantastic story in Genesis 15 that I’ve never understood the significance of until this past weekend. In a nutshell, God wants to assure Abram that he will be blessed and have many descendants. They then held a blood covenant, where animals were lined up across each other and split down the middle so their blood would flow to the center, making somewhat of a path of blood. In the culture, the blood covenant meant that if one of the two parties did not uphold their end of the deal, they were saying, “You could do this to me,” (meaning, you could walk through my blood…harsh). So God makes this covenant with Abram to promise his blessing of land and descendants. But here’s the neat part. While Abram is in a deep sleep, both smoke and fire walk through the animals blood; both smoke and fire represent God. The Lord knew that Abram couldn’t be completely blameless, so He walked through twice, the first promise that a sacrifice would have to be made: Jesus. The first chapter in the Bible tells about a New Testament Savior! Blows my mind. When on the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished.” Not only his life, but the covenant. God fulfilled and upheld his end of the deal.

3. Stay thirsty: Mike made the point that no one would turn to Christ without frustration or difficulty. He discussed how we often have this gap in life due to our expectations–where we are versus where we want to be, the job we have versus the job we want, etc. In experiencing this gap, we have options in how to respond. The first, he says, is to escape. This is the method our culture heavily relies upon, whether it’s changing the way we look or running away (from situations, marriages, whatever). The second option is to pretend, which is what the church sometimes does (with the I’m fine’s and positive reputations). But the third is to stay alive and thirsty for God. Let the gap drive us back to Him.

2.  To seek is to be proactive: I have said before to people that God doesn’t back away from us, but it’s us who move away from Him. Spending 4 days devoted to learning more and focusing on God, I obviously made more of an intentional effort in my seeking and “moving toward-ness.” But it becomes so common for me to slip into a mediocre kind of seeking…like if Aiden and I were playing hide and seek, he would be tucked away in a corner across the house and I would be calling for him from the couch. That’s sometimes how I approach God…half-heartedly. This conference was a much-needed reminder that faith isn’t a mediocre, complacent kind of endeavor. If I’ve promised all of me, then I need to give all of me.

1. God is greater than: An Ethiopian speaker named Bekele told how, until he was five, his father participated in demon worship. That changed when his dad had a dream one night where two angels came to him and said that two men would be visiting their house soon, so listen to what they have to say. Two days later, two men came to their home in the remote village and shared about Jesus. Bekele also explained his radical ideas for bringing more people to know Christ, such as the 50-50-50 plan, where the goal was to reach 50,000 people in 50 major African cities in just 50 days. It was successful. Another speaker explained that when he was on a trip to Indonesia, he visited the hut of an old man who had been recently healed of tuberculosis. Upon speaking to him and asking about his healing, the man said, “It was the strangest thing. A man came to me who had a long robe with a gold sash, white hair and a white beard [See Revelation]. He reached down and touched my chest, but it was so odd. He had holes in his hands, but I have no idea who he was.” God moves. And He is HUGE. This God that I pray to, too politely asking for help and the one I sing to on Sunday mornings does not sit idly in heaven, but He makes things happen and still performs miracles and acts of mercy and greatness. My God is so much bigger than I give Him credit for. Good thing too. If He can do all this, then surely I can let go of my fear of risk and this constant safety net that I build around me.

Spiritual “highs” are weird. And short-lived. I hope that by blogging all these thoughts out, I’ll be able to come back to them and be reminded of God’s greatness again and again. I’m also wanting this to be a topic of conversation. The world could use more healthy dialogue anyway.

Thank you for listening…or reading.

 

Evangelists Say the Darndest Things

Evangelism (in the context of sharing the Gospel) is an interesting thing. It’s a confusing thing, and it’s very different things, according to very different people, as this video demonstrates.

I’ve had multiple conversations with people about sharing faith and the “most effective” way of doing so, and here’s where I am currently: an awesome pastor at a conference I went to called it “The Art of Coming Alongside.” Like merging lanes of traffic, we join people wherever they are on their faith journeys, and there’s never a definite destination. Some methods of evangelism can become agenda items or events and can easily become focused on me and my duties as a Christian. We don’t always see people from the other side of the glass and how they feel about being talked to. I’m not in any way saying other ways to share the Gospel are bad. But I think it’s important to keep the journey and the relationship and the “coming alongside” the main purpose.

A bride wouldn’t dip out on her groom after the gorgeous ceremony and joyous reception. That would make the whole ordeal about the wedding…not the marriage. In the same way, we shouldn’t simply focus on getting any person to the point of being “saved.” That’s in God’s realm of business. All we can do is join people on the journey.

The Preaching Saga

Today was exhausting. I know that doesn’t sound like the most positive way to begin this post, but I feel it. Why, you ask? As the ministry intern at my church this summer, I was given the opportunity to preach a full-blown sermon today for both church services and a shorter service at Westminster Village (I know Grandma Rosalie was thrilled to see me up there on her turf). I’m going to make this an anti-climactic post and just say that it went well. Because I think it did. But let me describe the preaching journey for you…

I knew this was coming from day one. I agreed to it, but it’s amazing how fast a date like July 24th can sneak up. Memorial’s pastors teach primarily from the Lectionary, which is basically like a church calendar that assigns each Sunday four scripture passages: old testament, new testament, gospel, and a psalm. About five weeks ago, I looked through the Lectionary to pick my text I would talk about. Genesis was out–how could I make a good sermon out of a story about a father-in-law tricking his new son into sleeping with the wrong daughter? The psalm wasn’t very specific and the gospel was packed with seven different parables. That left Romans 8:26-39. So I spent the next few weeks thinking, looking at commentaries, and being my own harshest critic. Soon enough, my sermon was born.Beyond the sermon, though, I also was able to pick all the hymns, praise music, words of reflection and liturgy, not to mention (nicely) ordering Scott and Jill around, telling them what they were in charge of for the day.

My sermon title was called “The Chase.” The main idea was that even though we’re guaranteed God will always love us, we sometimes run away from that security because we’d rather handle things on our own. Luckily, God still pursues us…every day.

Thought Number One: I totally have a new appreciation for ministers and the art of preaching. I spent however many weeks preparing this sermon, and ministers do this EVERY WEEK. Kudos times ten. For real. Scott and Jill, you are awesome. Thank you for all your encouragement.

Thought Number Two: Many many MANY thanks to my family and friends who came to support me today. Here’s looking at you Mom, Dad, Megan, Matt, Aiden, Owen, Mark, Gina, Grandma Adams, Grandma Rosalie, Emma, Andy, Paul, Madeline, and Ryan, as well as the Manning’s, my extension family, Kelli, Becky, and the rest of my absolutely amazing church family. And Thomas, I felt your support from New Mexico. Thank you.

Geez, I sound like I just won an Oscar or something ridiculous. Wrapping things up though, yes, it was an exhausting day, but most importantly, it was an amazingly rewarding day. Multiple people came up to me and said how they needed to hear those words, or they came with someone who needed to hear those words. That’s so cool. But what’s cooler is this: I didn’t tell them what they needed to hear. God did. He’s good. And to be a part of that goodness reignited my own faith. Oh, the saga of preaching.

(If you want to hear the sermon in whole, head on over to the church website, umcmemorial.com, and scroll down about halfway).

Tired and totally blessed.