Sunday, July 27, 2014

Trouble with the Curve

According to the dictionary, a curveball is something which is unexpected, surprising, or disruptive (when not referring to baseball, of course). I'm having trouble with the curveballs I'm currently experiencing. 

I know that the Lord is good, that His love endures forever. I know that His plan for my life is infinitely more than I could ask or imagine. I know this because His Word tells me so. 

Despite that, I would be lying if I said I understood those things, if I claimed to be entirely happy with everything that God is doing or has done in my life. It is at times like these that I wish I could have the eternal perspective that God has. I see only a small segment of my life, God knows the entirety of the trajectory that He has placed me on. 

That can be little comfort, however, when things are so uncertain, when things are so different from what I expected. It is at times like these that I must surrender my thoughts, for my thoughts distract from the truth that God's Word proclaims. Deep within, I know that God's plan for me is better than anything I could come up with on my own. At this point, it's a matter of letting what my heart knows drown out what my head is telling me. 

The answer to finding peace isn't an easy or simple one. I'm pursuing it through prayer and the Word. I can't guarantee a quick fix for me, or for anyone else. But I do know that, while I'm prone to wander, Jesus sought me when I was a stranger to Him. I know that I am enough, just as I am. I know that God loves me, even when I think I've failed. And I know that, in those assurances, I will find peace.

Today's Verse
Colossians 3: 1-3
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Back to Basics: Lessons from VBS, Day 1

I've always loved helping out with vacation bible school. The kids are fun, there are many excuses to be silly, and, this year, it's a great way to be involved with my church back home after so many years of living elsewhere. What I didn't expect when I signed up, was to actually learn, or rather relearn, so many helpful things.

Monday's take-away lesson was that, even when you are left out, Jesus loves you. The kids were asked to share about times when they felt left out, but I started thinking about times when being left out is unavoidable.

Right now, I'm not living in the place I usually call home. I have a reason for not being there, and I need to be doing what I'm doing. But, that doesn't mean it isn't sometimes lonely and that I don't occasionally wish that I was back with my friends, living where they are living, doing what they are doing.  However, God has a purpose for my being left out right now. We learn a lot about ourselves and about God when we have only Him to turn to and only Him to satisfy us. I'm learning a lot about God and myself and the things He is teaching me are valuable and necessary to His calling on my life.

Today I am choosing to be thankful for being left out, because even when I am left out, Jesus loves me and is fulfilling His purpose for my life.

Today's Verse
Matthew 28:20
I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

Friday, June 20, 2014

All Things

I hear the phrase 'Trust God for big things' fairly often. It's a great concept, but lately God has been challenging me to switch from trusting Him for big things, to trusting Him for ALL things. When I fixate on trusting Him for big things, I tend to ignore the little things He is doing or, even worse, start taking on responsibility for those little things myself.

But God doesn't want me to only trust Him for big, life changing things. He wants me to trust Him with every bit of my life. Every moment, every day, everything. We are promised that the Spirit works within us to give us both the desire and the power to do what pleases God. My desire to trust God and my ability to do so are Spirit-driven, and so I know that, as I lean further in to the Lord, my ability to trust will follow.

Are you trusting God for all things?

Today's Verse
Philippians 2: 13
For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Nature of Trust

A wise friend recently reminded me of exactly what trust is and what it is not. As trust is a huge part of any faith journey, understanding the process is key.

Trust is not a one time event. We don't simply decide to trust one time, with one thing, and suddenly find it easy to trust God for the remainder of our lives.

Instead, a life of trust is built on a series of decisions, a series of choices to trust. Each time we encounter a challenge is an opportunity to remember the character of God and reaffirm our trust in Him. It's not about being able to trust next year, next month, next week, or even tomorrow. It's about relying on the Holy Spirit and choosing to trust today.

The list of things that I am trusting God for right now is long and challenging. It's incredibly scary to find myself in a place where things will only succeed with His help - there is very little I can do. However, I am remembering that God is faithful and trustworthy. I don't need to doubt Him, nor do I need to strive to do more than I am able. I make the effort to the best of my capabilities, and God meets me according to His will.

Today's Verse
Romans 15: 13
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Fruits of Labor

I planted sunflower seeds yesterday. The flower pot sits on our front porch, and I wait for the seeds to germinate. When they do, when the plants are a little more established, I will transfer them to the garden. I'm excited and looking forward to the growing process. I have to be, because if I choose to be excited about the end result, about those big, gorgeous flowers, I'll be disappointed. You see, sunflowers don't usually bloom until August, and I won't actually get to experience the fruits of my labor. By the time they bloom, I'll be back in State College and I won't actually get to experience the beauty of the flowers themselves. I won't get to admire them from the kitchen window. I won't get to cut them and place them in a vase.

So much of life is about learning to appreciate the process because the end result is uncertain or may never come. Ministry is a lot like that, as are all relationships with others. We may never know the impact we've had on those we've come in to contact with. My relationship with God can be like that too. I follow where He leads, but I don't necessarily see the end result. As I spend this summer away from my friends, talking with people about my ministry, and as I go back to the ministry and my life in August, I want to remember this lesson that the sunflowers are teaching me. I want to remember that I don't need to know the end of the story, or to experience it for myself, I just need to play the part God has called me to play. I need to be willing to put myself out there, and be comfortable with uncertainty. I need to rest in the confidence that, at any given moment, I'm exactly where I should be.

Today's Verse
Hebrews 10: 35
So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Pressing Pause

Have you ever pressed the pause button on your life? I feel like that is what I'm doing. I'm back at my parents' house for the next two months, raising support so that I can join staff with Cru in August. I'll be back at Penn State then, back to my version of normal. The movie that is my life will play on when I get back, but for now, it is paused.

I don't have the luxury of taking a two month vacation; there are so many things to be done. But, being home is, in itself, a luxury. I get to step out in faith in some really huge ways and see God move and provide in my life. I get the chance to be an 'only' child for the first time in 24 years. I get the chance to get to know my parents as an adult, to build a new kind of relationship with them. I get to reconnect with people from years past, people I have see infrequently, if at all, since I moved away at 18.

Pausing a life can feel odd, like a step back, like some kind of strange demotion. It's not. In the Psalms, the word 'Selah' may have been used to instruct the listeners to pause and reflect. Pausing is a chance to think, evaluate, and deeply experience my circumstances. It's an opportunity, an exploration, an adventure. I can't wait to see what God does next.

Today's Verse
Isaiah 40:31
But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Humbled into Humility

Humility is a funny thing. I am learning what it is like to learn to be humble, even as I am humbled by the work that God is doing in my life.

I've always struggled with pride, not in a 'I'm so wonderful' way but in a 'I can do this my self, I don't need help' kind of way. To me, the pride of self-sufficiency seems so sly, so clever. I excuse my unwillingness to ask for help, again and again, on the basis of independence, of not wanting to appear needy, of being able to stand on my own two feet. But, quite honestly, there are few times when standing by myself is better than standing with others.

And then there is the process of being humbled, a process that has taken me a bit by surprise, though it probably shouldn't have. I look back on this last year and I see all the ways that God has shown me that I need Him. That I cannot do this, do life, without Him. He has shown me in big ways, and He has shown me little ways, insignificant to anyone but me.

And still, I fight Him. Still I say, 'if I can just hold on, if I can just hold tight enough, I can do it myself." But, God is gracious to me, even in my pride. He knows that my pride is sourced in fear. If I am the only one I count on, I am the only one to blame when things fail.

Instead of admonishing me for my pride, God asks me about my fear. He asks me if I see, if I remember, if I know all that He has done for me. He shows me, every day, that He is in control, that He has everything well in hand.

On Sunday, my church had an all-church worship gathering, where people from all of our campuses came together to worship. It was our 'Commitment Sunday', the commencement of our new funding initiative. There I was, committing to tithing in a way that I never have before, a way that is a little scary, but that I know I can trust God to honor. I'm also fully involved in developing ministry partners to pray and support me as I work for Cru. It was scary, promising to be faithful in tithing when I don't even know if I'll be able to start working in August, if all my needed funds will come in. But God knows that I am scared. At the end of the service, the woman standing next to me asked me what I do. I told her that I work for Cru and that I'm starting full time in August, if everything goes well. I tell her how nervous I am, and how the whole service had felt like a huge step of faith. She proceeded to give me the most wonderful encouragement about the whole process of developing support. She, too, is a missionary, and knows first hand what that is like. She tells me about how she has seen God work in her own life through doing the very same thing.

I can hear God asking me, 'Why do you fear? Don't you see that I am with you?' I tell my mom this story, and her first response was, 'See? God sent her to you to tell you just what you needed to hear exactly when you needed to hear it.'

So yes, God, I see that You are with me. I know that you will lead me. I believe, help me in my unbelief.

Today's Verse
Mark 9:21-24
Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” 
“From childhood,” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”