Thursday, March 26, 2015

Of clouds and hilltops

another installment in "things not written by me thursdays." 

"Faith by it’s very nature must be tested and tried. and the real trial of faith is not that we find it difficult to trust God, but that God’s character must be proven as trustworthy in our own minds. Faith, as the Bible teaches it, is faith in God coming against everything that contradicts Him - a faith that says, "I will remain true to God’s character whatever He may do." The highest and greatest expression of faith in the whole Bible is - "though He may slay me, yet I will trust Him" [Job 13:15].
The Lord does not give me rules; He makes His standard very clear & if my relationship to Him is that of love, I will do what He says without any hesitation. If I hesitate, it is because I love someone else in competition with Him (usually myself).

In the Bible, clouds are always associated with God. Clouds are the sorrows, sufferings, or providential circumstances, within or without our personal lives, which actually seem to contradict the sovereignty of God. Yet it is through these very clouds that the Spirit of God is teaching us how to walk by faith. If there were never any clouds in our lives, we would have no faith. “The clouds are the dust of His feet” (Nahum 1:3). They are a sign that God is there. What a revelation it is to know that sorrow, bereavement, and suffering are actually the clouds that come along with God! God cannot come near us without clouds— He does not come in clear-shining brightness.

It is not true to say that God wants to teach us something in our trials. Through every cloud He brings our way, He wants us to unlearn something. His purpose in using the cloud is to simplify our beliefs until our relationship with Him is exactly like that of a child— a relationship simply between God and our own souls, and where other people are but shadows. Until other people become shadows to us, clouds and darkness will be ours every once in a while. Is our relationship with God becoming more simple than it has ever been?

There is a connection between the strange providential circumstances allowed by God and what we know of Him, and we have to learn to interpret the mysteries of life in the light of our knowledge of God. Until we can come face to face with the deepest, darkest fact of life without damaging our view of God’s character, we do not yet know Him.

[Oswald Chambers, selected passages from My Utmost for His Highest]

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

What I've learned from middle schoolers about eternal perspectives

I'll admit here that I'm not exactly the first person you would call "silly" - I think (although some have disputed this) of myself as a person who isn't naturally a kid person. I've always been serious and my family gently teases me that I am the person who people ask to take care of their dogs and my sister takes care of their children. Not because I lack the skills, I just sometimes like to babysit things that I don't have to make conversation with. (which is such a strange statement because kids don't need conversation. they want silliness. but I'm not silly. so you see the problem.)

I've never been the camp counselor, or the teacher, or the babysitter. I am a bit more reserved and quiet, but also way conscious of how other people see me.

More than that, I also process things in my head - I get so deeply rooted in my thoughts that sometimes it's hard for me to speak up and say something.

And I say all this, knowing full well the perspective of myself I've lugged around for years - the perspective that I am not enough. That I missed something somehow. That no one would hear me anyways. And then that translates to - I'm not good enough. the value of things is lost in that fog.

The Lord doesn't hear me. 

and of course, this is all completely untrue. and yet, it follows me around. It keeps me continually catching myself in moments of genuinity, thinking, "did anyone see that?"

so for a long time, most of my life actually, I've sat in quiet reflection before Jesus asking Him to use me just as I am. and He did. He has. He is not too busy to notice what the tiniest sparrow is doing in His Kingdom. My (not related but might as well be) best friend is still my best friend from high school after close to 10 years of friendship. We talk one on one over the phone or over tea and sandwiches at Starbucks and we challenge each other. We look for ways to grow authenticity and accountability in each other. We met during leadership meetings for Students for Jesus when we were 16. it was a small setting and a small group that blessed me so much. but it was small. I still find myself with small groups of quality friends - but I'm not the person with a huge social circle. As Kathleen Kelly described it, I lead a small life. It's quiet but it is rich.

I thrive in settings like the Christian club in high school or Truth Christian Fellowship in college. I love having girls come to my house for intentionally gospel perspective and conversation and coffee and brunch on saturdays. I like cooking and inviting a girlfriend for dinner. I get to the heart of things when the only thing between me and truth and Jesus is an honest friend and a cup of tea.

I had a small group in college, which I led after I left a HUGE ministry and joined a much smaller ministry. I remember interviewing for leadership and knowing, this is exactly where I am supposed to be. It just worked. I followed Jesus where He led me and He used my personality to build the kingdom and sow seeds and I am so grateful for that when I look back on it.

and then I moved to Houston. and in case you didn't know, Houston is an enormously large city. I was a tiny guppy in an ocean of whales. that actually might be an understatement. and yet, I walked into my apartment in Montrose, I drove down Westheimer and wandered the side streets of the museum district and I fell in love with it. this was exactly where I was supposed to be. so again, I followed Jesus where he led me and He used me again, just like I knew He would.

then in February, He asked me to do something totally new. Which brings me to the point of this post: I recently joined the Heights Young Life chapter to volunteer as a leader with Wyldlife. Young Life and Wyldlife is all about hanging out with kids in high school and middle school, getting to know them, earning their friendship and showing them Jesus. it's so simple and so far, it's been the most enjoyable surprise challenge Jesus has ever asked of me. Middle school kid language is silly. high energy, running around, line dancing, crazy dancing, games where they end up laughing so hard they are literally laying on the floor......this is their language. It's completely foreign to me but I have had so much fun. It's teaching me discipline and patience and faithfulness to face each situation asking "what is the eternal perspective here?" does it matter how I feel or what I look like, or does it matter that they see Jesus in me in a way they can understand?

I chose Wyldlife specifically because I remember how difficult middle school was for me....On top of being the new girl in a state halfway across the country from what I still felt like was "home" - I was also an awkward preteen who felt things incredibly deeply. every preteen experience felt magnified and I remember it well. Although they are way embarrassing, I totally love that I have journals more than a decade old that show me just where and when I learned who Jesus was - in my head, the clearest picture of myself as "fearfully and wonderfully made" was from a time in my life when I was too tall, too awkward, full of braces and acne and desperately trying to make friends in a new town and a new state and in the face of all the cliques of middle school. how cool is that contrast?! I didn't know much theology, but I understood running to Jesus when He was the only thing that made sense. I remember that navigating those years is confusing and difficult and I want so much for the middle school girls I hang out with in Wyldlife to have that experience - the simple truth of the gospel and the unforgettable love and grace and acceptance of loving and trusting Jesus with childlike faith. They say in YL, "you were made for this." This is where they come to that understanding that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

and as I take a deep breath and squash down those old doubts with new strength I didn't know I had, my perspective is reshaped. Eternity is going to be full of laughter and joy and it won't matter how I see myself. Jesus sees me and He has put laughter and kindness on my lips, He has clothed me with a righteousness that He sewed Himself with grace and I hear him say, "this is exactly where you are supposed to be. you are my daughter, and I see you. keep going. be brave."