like wrestling a jellyfish

We were sitting around a crowded table at the youth offices with plastic plates piled with Abbey’s ciabatta pesto creation and various other potluck offerings. Our Bibles and devotionals and journals were all spread open in the mix of things and we were talking about how Jesus learned things. He studied the Scriptures and realized what it was He was supposed to do. As he learned, he obeyed by submitting to what was prophesied about Him. Jesus learned things.

Doesn’t that sound crazy?

It could have been all the banana bread baking or the fumes of a newly refinished gym floor a few doors down, but as the realization settled in, we wrestled. We tried to make sense of Jesus being human – learning things from the Lord and learning things about life that he didn’t know before. We wrestled through the possibility of another human obeying perfectly and submitting to the Father’s will. Yes, we know it’s not possible. We know that Jesus fulfilled the law. But, we thought about it. We wrestled.

And that’s when I looked around and saw that we were thinking of things, imagining things, wrestling with things that made our minds hurt a little bit. It kind of just came out,

Sometimes, when we seek hard after the Lord in Scripture … sometimes it’s like wrestling a jellyfish.

They looked back at me blankly while the picture played in their minds. I probably should have, but I didn’t take it back, because I really do think that our searching sometimes feels slippery and even that sometimes we are surprised by what we find. Sometimes answers seem illusive or strange and sometimes they sting. But, we’re drawn into that wrestling match because there’s something incredibly beautiful about knowing more of something so wonderful.

Yes, the analogy breaks down, as all analogies do.

But, until someone gives me a good reason not to, I’ll keep wrestling the jellyfish as I seek to know more about my Savior, to find out what pleases Him, and then delight to do those things.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

on the hook: making disciples in non-vocational ministry

I met a woman today while I was running errands for work. We fell into small talk and she asked if I had anything “fun” planned today. I took the road most traveled with my bland reply, “Just work, I guess.”

I thought of all the stories I could weave about my complicated life and my unpredictable schedule… and then I heard her ask, “Where do you work?” I kept up with the North American charade and chose the job where I have an office, “I work at the E Free Church here in town.”

Her eyes lit up. “Oh! The one on 24th street?”

Our conversation turned a corner and I arrived again at a crossroads. Though technically I’m employed by a church right now as an administrative assistant, I am growing into a stronger conviction about the power of non-vocational ministry. When Jesus spoke the commission over the disciples in Matthew 28, his directive was to make disciples – baptizing them in the name of the Father and teaching them to obey all His commands.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
(Matthew 28:19-20 ESV)

What he did NOT say was this, “Go into all the world and find leaders that you can pay to be disciples and hopefully people will follow them.”

We are settling for a powerless Christianity when we rely on paid ministry workers to carry all the weight of the Body of Christ. We have an amateur complex – an idea that we aren’t qualified or capable of reading and understanding the Word of God unless it is unpacked by an “expert” of the faith. We have elevated individuals in the church because of their knowledge or charisma or firm Sunday handshake and, in the process, given ourselves a ready excuse in the face of spiritual failure. “Well, I know I messed up again… but I’m no Pastor John. I wonder if there’s, like, a program where someone would help me with my addiction.” We make excuses (and we accept others’ excuses) for skipping devotions, church responsibilities, and Bible studies because we’re not “in the ministry” and there’s a lot more than Bible going on in our lives.

What?

Again, when God gave the direction to go and make disciples he was talking about regular people living like Jesus and inviting other regular people to do the same.

Do you know that Jesus grew in wisdom and stature (Luke 2:52)? He grew into more knowledge of the Lord just like he grew into size 28 jeans (or robe). Every day he found out more about His Father and every day He obeyed with more joy and every day Jesus found more favor with God and man. This was his vocation. He was expert at loving the Lord, growing in knowledge of Him, and serving others.

No one is off the hook. Not a pastor? You’re qualified if you are born again. Don’t have a degree in women’s ministry? You are adequate in Christ. Not confident in your less-than-perfect Christian journey? Jesus wants you, too.

Here’s the catch (wink): you WANT to be on the hook. For all the squirming and protesting Christians do to get out of ministry and outreach and loving neighbors, they don’t realize that a worm on a hook is how you catch a fish. Jesus has qualified us to be His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). God is making His appeal through us to the world so that they might come to know the saving work of Christ.

WHOA.

No one is off the hook, but no true Christian should want to be anywhere else.

God has called, redeemed, and equipped regular people to take His message of redemption to the world in our everyday, regular encounters with regular people. So, why is it so much easier for people in vocational ministry to have conversations about the Lord?

We are all in ministry.
We are all on “staff.”
We are all called to make disciples.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

postcards

I wrote this post after a couple hard days during my time in Honduras, talking with girl after girl after girl who has been battered and bruised by an unforgiving world. Today I am realizing that I will always collect these “postcards.”

… the stories are piling up like postcards from similar destinations: despair, loneliness, anger, betrayal, pain, and sometimes hope. Those are the ones I like best – the hope ones. The others are ones that make my heart hurt. Those destinations are hard to explain, but they seem to keep arriving at my doorstep.

Last night a few more postcards arrived at my doorstep, all busted up and barely legible from the journey. The stories seemed tucked under the furrow of the girls’ brow or their dimpled giggles, but soon it all came out. These girls, too young to experience what their stories exposed, too beautiful to be found in such a mess.

We talked and questioned and fumed a bit. I strained to make my face say what my heart felt – pain. I didn’t want to say, “It’s okay,” because too many people say that.

What I did say, at the end of both conversations was this, “I don’t know what kind of messes you’ve got… I don’t want to pretend I know you at all. What I do know is that there is abundance that can overwhelm the pain. There is a way to make sad eyes smile.”

It was probably too much, but I said it anyway. I can only keep receiving these postcards if  I drop off mail of much lighter weight. I wanted what they received from me to be Christ – a FULL, abundant, joyful image of freedom and grace.

This song by Zerbin is the motion of this desire. We are not stuck in this ground, this skin. We are bound for a land free from messes and weights and sin. The headlights of this glory-bound train will one day meet a sunrise that will make earth mornings seem quaint.

This is the message I want to leave when I gather the stories from all these girls. This is the only JOY that can walk through pain and survive.

 

one FINE day

Remember that movie, One Fine Day?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Well, yesterday was about as FINE as it could get! I spent the whole day laughing with and talking and listening and dreaming with a very special Honduran someone. She reminded me of all the reasons God filled me up to be poured out during my time in Honduras.

It was amazing to introduce her to a few aunts and uncles and cousins and see her fit right in. She sensed right away our bond through Christ and His love and I’m so thankful! My family does an AMAZING job of showing love. I can’t wait for the big thanksgiving extravaganza in a few weeks! This was ONE fine day – imagine what several will be like with friends and family gathered up to celebrate the many blessings we have!

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

one step at a time

When I was somewhere in the range of seven years old, I remember performing in a Psalty musical at my church. Don’t laugh … it was really cool back then. Well, I felt cool to be in it, anyway. Probably because I was so small (and a bit of a troublemaker) I was cast as the girl who got lost in the woods when we went in search for firewood. I’m not sure, but I think the rest of the cast sang this little number when we were lost and they were discouraged. Once you get past the bizarre, over-sized singing songbook, I’m sure you can appreciate how sweet this is!

Then me and my other lost buddy sang this song:

Oh! The memories! I don’t think it’s a coincidence that 16 years later I ended up lost in a cloud forest on top of a mountain in Honduras singing that same song!

La Tigra cloud forest... the sunshine is swell, but being lost at night is a different story!

That right there is proof positive that we store all those childhood lessons somewhere deep in our hearts where we will one day need to retrieve them.

Right now is a 1 Peter 5:7 kind of time and (no matter how silly that man looks dressed like a book) I’m humming this tune as I live believing God is big enough to handle every last one of my cares. Not only that, but He takes my burdens and turns them into blessings. I’m praying something very simple over my students tonight… that they would have this kind of song etched deep in their hearts, so when they go away and get lost they will be able to reach down and find the only place to put their cares.

What an absolutely beautiful thing!

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

the cost of “a la orden”

ouch!

My entire Saturday was saturated with a painful joy. I’m resigned to calling my emotion painful joy because, as much as I’ve reached and grabbed at the English language, I can’t find anything better. I guess it has a lot to do with processing a very emotional week of mission, but I think it’s also this new life philosophy I’m trying out.

I’m really attempting to put everything in my life in the “a la orden” perspective. And, as I do so, I’m noticing the painful joy pressing in on my heart more than I can express. As I share stories with people and listen to memories from students on the mission trip, I am overwhelmed. It’s like standing under Niagara Falls and trying to be thankful for every drop of water cascading from such a great height. It’s TOO MUCH to take in. I was trying to build up monuments (like the Israelites) with words so we can look back and see the Lord’s blessing, but I felt almost frantic to find enough stones and build fast enough.

Have you ever sat with someone who is sharing his/her heart and not known how to express the love blooming like springtime in your soul? I sit there and wish there was a way to dance, sing, laugh, and hug with the colorful power of a hundred springtimes. If I sound crazy, I am doing well with this explanation because it doesn’t make any sense to me either.

The more I make my gifts “available” to the Lord, the more I feel completely blown away by His brilliant use of them. I really consider any gift or ability I have not at all my own, but the Lord’s, so it shouldn’t surprise me that He knows best how to use these gifts for His glory. But, I think the surprise is wrapped up somehow in my joy as well. The mystery of seeing the Gospel alive and working in front of my eyes to transform people I love is marvelous.

THIS is what it means to taste and see that the Lord is good!

Where is the pain? you might ask. Well, yesterday my soul hurt. It ached like the worst charlie horse, but there was no massaging it away. This pain was in every way attached to my joy and I’m still figuring out why.

taste and see
I think (maybe) the more we taste and see that the Lord is good, we might also start to understand the limits of that taste. Let me try to explain. While we are still living on this earth in the “already, not yet” of Kingdom Come, we are limited to merely taste and see the Lord is good. To be honest, I think “taste” is all we can handle, but that reveals one very important, painful truth: this broken world can’t handle the whole feast. We are not yet in eternity where our days will be filled with the FULLNESS of the Lord’s goodness, not just a taste. When we taste something, if it’s a good something, we generally want more.

This could not be more true of the Lord. When we are overwhelmed with delight in His presence, we want more of Him… even ache for more of Him. Within this deep desire there is a struggle for the “eternity set in our hearts” where this ache will be relieved.

subject and mode
The subject of my true delight is the Lord always, but the mode seems to be this “a la orden” (make every gift and talent available through service). And, in serving, the pain comes with the joy as well. With every child comforted or hungry man fed, millions more wait. There is pain (possibly the “groaning in expectation” in Romans?) in serving others in this world when the need is so great. So, at the same time I am experiencing the joy of obedience and following God’s heart, I am experiencing pain through the realization that others may not feel the same joy.

selfish love
I love these students. It almost scares me how much I love them. To see them ENJOYING the presence of the Lord has been one of God’s greatest gifts to me in my time here. Because I’ve been so blessed to see God work in them, I realize that my part in their journey may soon end. It is, of course, the LORD who is moving and working and drawing them near the Throne of Grace. And I am realizing it is one of the biggest steps of faith to believe God will take care of them whether or not I am by their side. I am having to let go of the reasons my love for them encourages me … and hold on to the reasons my love for God will help me love them in the best way that encourages them.

So, there’s some Sunday reflection for you. I hope you are all enjoying a beautiful Sabbath day!

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

for God’s glory means for our joy

I am still trying to process and understand the many lessons from the past week. Really, it’s not just the week busting at the seam with lessons… it’s the week of the mission trip pointing to everything God has been moving in my heart over several years. This week, one of the students from the mission trip literally gave the shoes off her feet to a woman whose sandals were broken in half. She walked out with plastic bags tied around her ankles. Later, she told me, “I mean, it didn’t seem like that big of a deal.”

I’m just sitting here, amazed by it all. God is transforming lives right in front of my face. I can’t shake off the joy! I just can’t! One thing I kept telling the students during the week was, “I promise that if you are serving the Lord with your whole heart, you will find yourself with an abundance of joy. I’m not promising this because I can give it to you… I’m promising because the Lord is faithful.”

I know I can’t tell them they will always be happy when they serve others, but I can say that a life of serving others will bring you close the Father’s heart… and there joy runs deeper than anything else. So, I’m trying to encourage this reflection of the trip because I don’t want the students to think it is only about the people or the memories (because given a different purpose, like vacation, they would have had a completely different experience with the people). I hope they will look back and remember how beautiful it is to come together in community with the goal of loving God and loving others… with an attitude of “a la orden” in the ways God has gifted us.

 

crazy group of fired up kids 🙂

 

 

With that, here is David’s reflection. It’s very long, but very worth it!

Very frequently, as imperfect human beings, we tend to believe that the world is a bubble formed by our own problems, fears, difficulties, and achievements. However, when one takes the time to let go of worries and decides to focus on others, one finds that there is much more in life. As a Christian, I had many times wondered, “What is my purpose here? What is God going to do with my life?” It was this 2011 mission trip that served as an eye-opening experience and answered these questions I kept in my mind. This mission trip has been used by God to revolutionize my world and give me a new perspective on life.

“Why did we decide to do this? Why did we decide to give up the daily comforts we have? Why did we decide to make sacrifices that people out there might consider out of place?” If I were to answer these questions with one word, that would be LOVE. It is because of love that today we can declare that we are saved. What a greater example of love than He who came down to the world and took the nature of a servant, making himself nothing to give the world a chance? As Christians, we need to resemble Christ in every way possible; it is our duty, then, to go out to the world to share His love and His wonderful message of salvation.

Christian life is a narrow road that few are able to find. Once you find it, walking in it demands everything you are to the point that you are willing to give up all you are for it. Even though at the moment it might not seem so, at the end you will have what is actually important- the salvation of your soul. Personally, before going on the mission trip, I decided to let God guide me and was willing to listen to his soft whispers. Like always, He was faithful and gave us the most spectacular and spiritually-rewarding week that we could have asked for.

God called us during this past week to do several demonstrations of His love. Personally, what impacted my life the most was the evangelism we did at Villa de San Francisco. I was amazed after seeing how little people know about God and how desperate they are to establish communication with their Daddy, the one who gave them life and created them in His image. When I stepped out of the van with my group, I thought to myself, “I don´t know how, but God will do amazing things through us today.” I made no mistake. Just starting, we met a group of about five teenagers who were clearly not very pleased with us coming to talk to them; after giving us the opportunity to talk to them, a couple of them seemed to be interested in learning more and started to debate with us about whether God was real or not. Even though the conversation wasn´t as fruitful as we would have hoped, we were sure that some of the guys were questioning themselves about how unlikely it would have been that Jesus was made-up by history, taking into account the fact that He is the only one that has turned the world upside down in such a manner.

After our first encounter, we felt even more motivated to find people to talk to about God. We found several more people and talked to them about God and about His purpose for their lives. It was really hard to conceive that most, if not all, of the individuals we approached that day had misconceptions about the requirements for getting to Heaven. Several were amazed to be told that all that was required was to truly believe and accept Jesus Christ as the Messiah and Savior; many said they were not ready to make this choice, because they did not want to change their way of life. A guy we talked to that day told me, “I might be rejecting the best invitation that has
ever been made to me in my life; however, I assure you that one day you will come back and I will then call you ‘brother.´” This phrase made me smile, even though I tried to make him realize that the next day could be too late for him. Like him, many others shared how much need they had of a God who helped them get through life but how unwilling they were to give up everything for that God.

The seed has been planted, and we are sure that God is going to do what He needs to. We were just humble instruments used powerfully by the Holy Spirit throughout the week to bring a smile to a number of orphans, do a couple of work projects, and spread the Gospel. The world is in need of people who are brave enough to stand up for what they believe and for what God expects from them. Are we willing to be part of that group of people? Are we going to answer? We need to be ready to listen to God and be quick to answer, “Here I am LORD. Send me!” There is much more work to be done, and what God has done this past week in our lives is just a great motivation to let go of ourselves and give out all we are in name of Jesus Christ, our wonderful and mighty Savior.

There are so many stones for this monument of blessing! I’m learning so much from these students as we build up a place of remembrance for our Lord!

let LOVE fly like cRaZy!