Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Appreciating the Journey

I'm sitting here in the room I've been living in all summer trying to recall the last 2 months of my life... it's been a whirlwind of unexpected occurrences. I think more than anything this summer has been encouraging. God has just confirmed so many things in my life... decisions I've made, places I've gone, dreams that I've yet to live out or even discover. Most of all his voice has been so loud, and if I could put it into a single phrase that I feel like he's been repeating to me it's this:

"Don't question where I have you--it's all a part of my plan."

Change has always been a struggle for me. But not really in an "I fear change" kind of way... more in an "I can't wait for what's next" kind of way. I want to skip the waiting and get to where God's taking me. This summer He's taught me to appreciate the journey.

There's an excerpt from a book called Between the Dreaming and the Coming True that I think helps describe one of the things I've learned this summer. Here it is:

I am coming to believe that the thing God said just before "Let there by light" was "Good-bye dark." And that Noah could not say hello to the rainbow without first having said good-bye to the world as it disappeared beneath the waters of the flood. And that something deep and mysterious about saying good-bye from the bottom of the pit made the hello that Joseph spoke to his father all those years later all the more wondrous. "Good-bye Egypt" turned out to be another way for the Israelites to say "Hello Canaan."
"Good-bye, Jesus of Nazareth," whispers Mary through her tears at the foot of the cross on Friday afternoon. "Hello, Lord of the Universe," she murmurs to the one she mistakes for a gardener on Sunday morning.

God has revealed so many things to me this summer that have confirmed that the goodbyes I've said in my life in the last year or so have led to some of the sweetest "hellos." Hellos that have changed my life and my relationship with Jesus.

Goodbye pain and heartache in my family ... Hello redemption.

Goodbye soccer ... Hello ministry.

Goodbye best friend since my first semester of college ... Hello room full of godly women pouring into each other every Monday night.

Goodbye 2-year relationship ... Hello freedom to re-dream up the rest of my life.

Goodbye ungodly beliefs ... Hello relentless faith.

God has taken this time of waiting in my life... this time that I felt like would have no purpose... and He has revealed purpose like I never could have imagined. He's done things in the last year that make it impossible for me to think that he couldn't do something. I've learned to take him at his word this year, because he's taken me at mine.

I asked him to heal the brokenness in my family and he did. When I felt like he wanted me to quit soccer and trust him, I asked him to show me what my ministry needed to look like, and he did. In the midst of a lonely fall semester I asked for community. I received it more than I could have fathomed in a group of girls that I meet with weekly. I asked for direction in my relationship with my boyfriend and he gave it to me. And when I obeyed, he poured out blessings... upon blessings... upon blessings. This summer I asked for greater purpose and He gave it to me, far beyond anything I could have dreamed up.

God has met me here this summer and given me more than I deserve, more than I asked for, and more than I ever could have envisioned. He's made it almost impossible for me to doubt. And he's taught me to be where I am, looking forward to what's next of course, but not jumping there without him.

So as I say goodbye to Nashville, it's a little bit bittersweet, because my time here has been so incredibly blessed. But it's only because of the perpetual presence of the Holy Spirit that it's been that way... and I'll be taking him with me when I go. :)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Get Your Armor...

Three different times in one week, God brought me to Ephesians 6, where it talks about "putting on the armor of God." First it came up at church, then in a morning devotional, and then out of nowhere a friend that I haven't talked to in quite a while texted me and it said, "I don't know why but God just told me to share this with you: Ephesians 6:10."

When God tells us something once, I feel like we should definitely obey. When he tells us the same thing three times in 7 days, read it again. And again and again. So this is where I've been hanging out lately, in Ephesians 6:10-20. I've been really taking a close look at it, trying to decipher what it is God wants me to take away from it.

So let's get dressed with Jesus this morning, shall we?

1. Stand firm with the belt of TRUTH buckled around your waist...
So what do we wear belts for and why do they need to be made of truth? I know it seems silly to think of it so literally but there's actually some interesting symbolism here. Our belt holds our pants up, right? So when we put on our Godly armor, we buckle it all together with truth, and truth holds it up. After all, we don't want to be exposing ourselves here, people. We're putting on our God armor. Buckle that truth belt tightly!

2. with the breastplate of RIGHTEOUSNESS in place...
Righteousness. Morally right or justifiable. Or in its informal definition from good ole' Webster: perfectly wonderful; fine and genuine. I think sometimes "righteousness" is a hard word to swallow in the pride of our flesh. But here God says to put on our breastplate of righteousness... to protect our hearts with righteousness. May our hearts be perfectly wonderful, fine and genuine. Mmm... good stuff.

3. and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of PEACE.
Here we're about to go to battle... our feet are fitted with readiness. I'm imagining the recent FIFA World Cup championship game. Spain and the Netherlands. Lined up against each other, awaiting the whistle, feet ready to go. And as 100 thousand people scream, chant and vuvuzula all around them--peace. God's preparing us for battle, and he wants us to be ready, but he wants us to be ready knowing that we've already won with Him. And so our feet are fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.

4. In addition to all of this, take up the shield of FAITH.
Think about the importance of a shield in battle. I don't know how many of you have seen the movie 300, but in the very last battle scene the Spartans create this fortress with their shields, and then out jumps Leonidus to throw his spear. The point here is that a shield will make or break your survival in battle. And as Christians, our shield is our faith. Confidence that what is unseen is real, that what hasn't happened yet will.

5. Take the helmet of SALVATION and the sword of the SPIRIT, which is the word of God.
Salvation: deliverance from sin and its consequences. Let your mind be protected by this! You are free. Let nothing convince you otherwise. And the sword--our weapon, is the Spirit. The living word of God. All of these other things protect us from the enemy, but it's the Spirit that allows us to fight back. Pretty freakin sweet.

And then, in verse 18, it says this: and pray in the Spirit on all occasions. Put on your armor. Be protected. Be in the word and in the Spirit, and fight back. But no matter what, on all occasions, under all circumstances, pray. Prayer is a powerful thing, friends.

I believe God is preparing the way for something big. Lately there's just been a stirring in my heart and soul, and he keeps leading me to this passage, telling me to get ready. It's time to go to battle.

And cue the bridge of Jordin Sparks' Battle Field... "Get your armor... Get your armor!"

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Cheerwine and fruitful conversation: food for the soul.

As mentioned in my last post, restlessness seems to be a regular feeling for me these days. So in the spirit of restlessness, I got off work on Friday night and decided to drive to Knoxville. Half way to Knoxville I thought to myself, "I need to go to Windy Gap this weekend." So I called up my friend Sarah, in Charlotte, and told her I thought we should meet in Asheville for the day on Sunday and go to camp.

Best decision I made all summer. What a breath of fresh air! We surprised my sweet friend Ellie and spent the afternoon with her just talking and hanging out at camp. There is no place that I feel more at home and in the presence of God than at Windy Gap. It's the place where I fell in love with Jesus. It was just really sweet to be able to be in that place with two people who are so encouraging and influential in my life, and just recap my summer and talk about all that God has been doing. It was exactly what I needed... so good for my soul!

As I drove back to Tennessee through the Appalachian mountains, I began to pray... and I was just overwhelmed with emotion. God has poured out so many sweet blessings on my life this summer. I can feel him preparing me for something big, so much that I lie awake at night just dreaming about it. I'm restless in a really fun kind of way... it's almost like I feel like God is constantly speaking to me and I just have to keep listening! Last night I think I only slept an hour... I was up, just talking to Jesus. And it was so incredible! Today he was just so present at Windy Gap. I'm so thankful for the people I've gotten to meet in that place, for the encounters I've had with Jesus there, and for the comfort of his presence that I feel every time I get to be there.

And as Ellie would say, "I think the new earth will have a sippin' parlor like the one at Windy Gap" ... topped the entire day off with a Cheerwine slush and some sweet, encouraging conversation. And as I fed my sweet tooth, my soul was fed as well. Thank you, Jesus, for days like today. My heart is so full!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Restless soul, clinging heart.

I have recently discovered that I have a strange and contradictory condition. Part of me is a bit of a restless soul. I can't stay in the same place or do the same thing for too long. As mentioned in my last post, I've been in Nashville for 8 weeks, haven't left once, and have done virtually the same thing every single day. And I can feel myself getting antsy. I'm ready for what's next. I need an adventure. I've got an itch to do something crazy... or at least different.

But then I think about the actual act of leaving this place that I love so much, full of people who love me so well, and it kind of makes me sad. I have a heart that clings to places because of the people that I love so dearly. Nashville will always have a piece of my heart for that reason.

I often find myself struggling to find a balance between resting and restlessness. Sometimes I feel like my naturally adventurous and restless heart jumps ahead of God's plan. But other times I think, "this is God pulling my heart to do this." And this summer, his voice has been undeniably loud. I think I've had a great summer full of resting in the Lord's presence. He's poured out unimaginable blessings and opened doors that I never knew existed. I'm so incredibly grateful for all of those things. But at the same time, I'm ready to move on to what's next. I don't want to get too comfortable in those blessings. I guess I don't want to cling to them for too long... I know that God has more to reveal. So I'm praying for patience but moving forward at the same time.

And really, I think that it's OK to be restless sometimes. I think there's an art to balancing it with stopping to appreciate the here and now, but I've always been a bit of a dreamer and I think that's good. I don't think any of us are ever supposed to be too comfortable. And as much as my heart often tries to cling to the here and now, I think that the fact that God always has me "on the move" in some form or fashion--be it physically, mentally or emotionally--is preparing me for something big. After all, Jesus was always on the move.

There's some food for thought. Jesus had an entire kingdom... but he never really had a home on earth. In fact, so many times in the gospels a story begins with, "and then he went to ___." Sometimes it even says, IMMEDIATELY. He was always on a mission. Never in one place for too long, never letting himself or his disciples get too comfortable... because he had to spread the love and he had to do it fast. He was on a mission to reach the cross. And now my mission is to share his.

Here's to a new chapter of my mission... of which not all future destinations are clear, although my eternal destination is. I pray that I stay "healthily restless"... never too comfortable and always learning. But at the same time, always appreciating the present, because it's the only place where I'm truly alive.

With just 8 days left of my summer in Nashville, I hope and pray that I take away from it all that God was trying to teach me. It's been a hell of an adventure, and I can't wait for what's next!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Monotonous. Repetitive. Tiresome. Routine.

How many other words can I come up with to describe what my every day life feels like right now? For 7 weeks, I've done the same thing every day. Internship, work, sleep... lather, rinse, repeat. This past week it started to wear on me. I told my friend Sarah on my way to work last Monday that I was getting restless and ready to move on to the next thing.

Then I went to church that night to a "young adults" worship service I've been going to the last few weeks. For lack of a better term, it was a swift kick in the ass. But a good one! I needed it... I needed an attitude adjustment. During worship, my heart was prepared for the message I was to hear. After the first couple of songs one of the guys on the worship team said, "I see so many tired hearts out there. You guys need to rest."

So I laid down on the floor and rested in the presence of God for the rest of worship. Sometimes singing, sometimes praying, and sometimes just laying there--just being. And then came the aforementioned "swift kick" via the sermon.

She started out with this statement: Your life the way that you live it is your message. If you were to say nothing about Jesus, would people know by looking at you what you belong to?

My first thought was, "yeah of course." Then she started preaching straight at me. I mean, I felt like I was the only one in the room. First she talked about honesty and integrity. Living your life with no gray area, and delivering truth with love and grace. "Alright," I thought. "I think I'm OK in that area. Whatcha got next?"

Then she started talking about patience. "Oh great," says Sara's brain. "Here it comes... God, be gentle with me. Please?" She defined patience as waiting for the appropriate moment and working with time and seasons. Here's the kicker: she tagged on, it ALSO means no whining or complaining in a season of waiting. And echoing in my head were the words that had come out of my mouth to Sarah that afternoon. "I'm starting to lose my patience with work... I'm ready to move on." I'M ready. Ugh. Gross. Listen to yourself. She talked about how patience is a 'fruit of the spirit' and that it says something about what's inside of us to the outside world. What a great definition of 'fruitfulness.'

No time to catch your breath, here we go with ass kicking number two: Hard Work. Oh, man. She didn't even have to say anything besides those two words. I already felt guilty. Let's just ask God what he says about working hard:

(1) Colossians 3:23
"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as if working for the Lord, not men."
(Yeah, that's tattooed on my wrist. Good job, Sara. Way to live out that daily reminder. Idiot.)

(2) 2 Thes. 3:10
"For even when we were with you we gave you this rule: if a man will not work, he shall not eat."

And then she said this: you're not working hard to be loved, you're working hard because you are loved. It goes back to, "the life you live is your message." Being fruitful, because our fruit says something about what's inside of us to the outside world. And then she said this: even when there are no jobs, there is always work. Go bless somebody. Work for God for a bit and see what he does.

All this left me feeling grateful for the job that exhausts me. It left me feeling refreshed and ready to take on 3 more weeks of it. It left me wanting to always be conscious of my "fruitfulness." To not let life, stress or monotony get in the way of living a life that says, "I love Jesus. Jesus loves me. And me and Jesus love you." And 'you,' as we learn in English class in elementary school, is an all-encompassing word. You=everyone. It made me stop and take a look at all that God's doing in my life right now and say, "3 more weeks? Bring it on. What else will you bless me with?"

Long story short: Love Jesus. Love people. WITH patience. Work hard because you're loved. Bear fruit that is noticeably delicious. (That sounds like a commercial for breakfast cereal. Fruit that's noticeably delicious! Haha.)

Love to you friends. Be blessed this week. Maybe even by blessing someone else.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come with me.

This summer has been so different from what I expected it to be, as God usually has it. But it's been amazing to see God work. It's been a learning experience for sure, but not in the ways that I anticipated it being a learning experience. I've learned a lot from my internship at the Nashville Scene but the thing I've learned the most is that my passion for journalism is this: the art of the story. I love knowing stories I would have never known, and telling them to people who would have never heard them otherwise. I think there's a definite necessity for the main stream media, I don't think it's all evil like a lot of the Christian world likes to say. I think it's important to be informed. (Although yes of course there are always misleading messages) But I think the necessity for news in a kingdom sense is so much more important. The spreading of the "Good News"--the only news that matters. I've learned that God has given me a gift and a passion for that, and that I'm called to use it with purpose.

So I've been praying all summer about what that should look like. How do I take my "worldly" journalistic skills and use them for the advancement of God's kingdom? Friends, it has been so crazy to see God answer that prayer a little bit at a time. Through friends with similar passions, a dream has been established and a joining together in prayer to make that dream a reality has begun. I have a friend in North Carolina who told me 2 weeks ago that she has this passion for telling stories through photography, and she wants to use that to love on people and spread the gospel. I have another friend in Nashville who told me today about this vision he has of a ministry that he wants to start to basically raise awareness and draw attention to different missions all over the world by using people like me, and my photographer friend, and other "communications like" people. And so we've started to just pray about it... we don't know where it's going, but we know that there is an anointing on our hearts and our passions, and that God will use them and bless them so that we can bless his people. It's just been cool to see God open these doors and join together a group of people under this one common passion. We're all living in different places right now but we're all dreaming the same dream and praying the same prayer in hopes that we will one day be a part of God's mission together.

Tonight I was reading in Song of Songs... you may be thinking, "What the what?" But in this letter, this intimate love letter in which Christ is the bridegroom and we are the bride, he spoke such sweet words to me tonight. In Song of Songs 2:10-13, it says this:

10 My lover spoke and said to me,
"Arise, my darling,
my beautiful one, and come with me.

11 See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.

12 Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
is heard in our land.

13 The fig tree forms its early fruit;
the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise, come, my darling;
my beautiful one, come with me."

And as he so intimately asks me to follow him, I'm answering. As this fig tree of his calling on my life forms its early fruit, I'm following. I'm praying that he continues to reveal his plan and open doors. I'm praying blessings over the hearts and mission of this group of people that I believe has been joined together by a divine intervention. I'm asking God to bless this mission so that we can bless others and spread His good news.

And friends, my prayer for you is this: that whatever it is God is calling you to do, whatever it is that he whispers in your ear and strikes that fire in your heart and says, "beautiful one, my darling, come with me" ... I hope you'll answer. I hope you'll follow and allow yourself to be blessed... because I believe God gives us our passions and our gifts so that we can bless others and magnify his kingdom.