Thursday, December 23, 2010

White Christmas? Yes, please!

Sometimes I'm really bad at remembering to post. Apologies.

On the upside, its looking like we might have us a white Christmas!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

New staff and interns with Campus Crusade must go through a 2-year training process in order to become full staff. Therefore, one morning a week, I can be found in Remedy coffee for several hours reading articles and books, journaling, listening to podcasts, etc. as part of my training. About half of the training is study, and half is experience (discussing a certain topic with a student, taking a student through training materials, making contacts on a new area of campus, etc.) Its actually really practical and useful, as much as we sometimes get frustrated with it :)

So as part of my training, I was supposed to write my testimony in a way that can be communicated in about 3 minutes. That's really hard to do, by the way, but now that its done, I'm beginning to see how very useful it is! The simple truths of the gospel (we use the basic 4 spiritual laws, if you know what that is) are included in the testimony, and therefore, you can actually share the gospel of Christ in situations where you might not have a lot of time - like chatting with someone while standing in line at the grocery store! It is also the most natural way to share with people, because you're just telling them your own experience and something that is important to you.

One of my checkpoints in training is to post my testimony online somewhere, and receive feedback from people. So, here it is below, and I really would love your feedback!

My Story

God is good. What do you think when you hear that phrase? Does your heart readily agree? Do you cringe? Do you laugh? Does anger well up inside?

I think a lot of people struggle with the idea that God is good. Some spend their whole lives wrapped up in a lie - speaking words of faith and conviction, while they harbor anger at, and fear of, God on the inside. Others go into open rebellion, cursing His name and doing all that they can to rebel against His character and Law. Still others decide to simply deny His existence, rather than deal with their disappointment with Him and hurt over what He has ordained for their lives.

I have definitely struggled with whether I really believed that God was good, cared about me, and was trustworthy. My senior year of college, especially, was a really hard time when I was dealing with a lot of doubts about God and my faith. I have believed in God since I was very young. My parents are Christians, so I grew up going to church and being taught about God, the Bible, Jesus, etc. I knew that God created me, loved me and wanted to have a relationship with me. I also knew that I had done wrong things that were against God’s good laws and standards for living, and because God is holy and perfect, those wrong things made me dirty and separated me from Him for eternity. But I was taught that God Himself, in the form of a man named Jesus, came to Earth, lived the perfect life that I couldn’t live, and then died – taking my punishment on Himself, so that the way would be clear for me to have a relationship with God. When I was nine years old, I decided that I wanted that personal relationship with God. I told Him that I needed to be clean because of my sin, that I believed that Jesus had paid my penalty and that I was trusting Him to cleanse me and rescue me from my own sin and death. I asked Him to come into my life and take control of it, deciding that I would follow and trust Him.

The thing about trusting God is that you have to do it when things are dark and scary and painful, as well as when they’re great. My senior year of college was a very dark time for me. I experienced the loss of a significant relationship in my life, and for the first time, really had to walk through the valley of grief. I was hurt and angry and afraid, and began to doubt many things about God and my faith. Was God really good? Did He even care about me? Was I expendable to Him? Was I somehow messing up my entire life? Was I going to walk away from God? I was afraid of God, and even more afraid of walking away from my faith – I had made it the foundation of my life, and now I was questioning the validity and trustworthiness of that foundation. I entered into months of depression driven by grief and fear.

I wanted so badly to believe with confidence that God is good, that He loves me intimately and cares about all of the details of my life, that He is patient and will never give up on me, but those were the very things that I was doubting, and I didn’t know how to escape those doubts. Then one day a ray of light burst through the very dark clouds in my life. I was laying in bed one morning, literally trying to work up the will to get up and do something – anything – to engage with life. All of a sudden God spoke these words into my mind: “Remember the little girl?” It really took me off guard, and for a second I had no idea what He was talking about, but then a memory rushed to my mind of someone telling me the story of a little girl who was adopted. For months her parents would find rotting and moldy food hidden all over her room, because she was so afraid that she would not be fed. Her father described how painful and frustrating it was to watch his daughter continue to live in fear, regardless of how many times he told her that she was safe now, would always have enough food and would always be loved and taken care of. It was a year before that little girl stopped hiding food and trusted the love of her father.

All of that story flashed into my mind in an instant, and then the Lord spoke again into my heart and mind, saying: “You are that little girl. You’re so scared right now, and you don’t trust Me to take care of you and do what’s best for you, but that’s okay, because I am that father too. He was hurt and frustrated that his little girl took so long to trust Him, but that had no effect on His love for her. He never stopped loving her and taking care of her, and he would wait as long as it took for her to trust His love. It’s okay that you need time and aren’t perfect in this, I’m your father. I love you, and I’ll wait for you.”

Did I instantly trust Him? No. But I had hope. I knew that He loved me. I saw that He is personal and intimate and patient. And looking back, this was an essential turning point in my relationship with the Lord. I needed to see, practically, in my life that He is faithful. I needed to know Him as the God who is incredibly personal, who cares for me with unwavering attention and concern. And it was because of walking through such a dark time in my life that I was able to see and believe His goodness and love. That is the definition of a faithful God – who takes brokenness, pain, and despair, and from that brings newness, wholeness, hope and joy. He is my foundation – one that is solid and trustworthy, and I can say with confidence, “God is so very good.”

Monday, November 8, 2010

CCC Chilean Mine Involvement

Every month I receive a special staff newsletter from Campus Crusade for Christ (pretty official huh?!), and the last one had an article by Christian Maureira, Campus Crusade National Director of Chile, that I found interesting/inspiring/exciting/etc., and so I shall now share a section of it with all of you.

"At Campus Crusade, God guided us to think about how we could help these men and this was how we took initiative to contact some churches in the north, leaders and authorities about sending the JESUS audio (from the JESUS film) into the mine...God in His sovereignty provided that we were able to gain contact with the daughter and the brother of one of the three Christians who were trapped there.
During several weeks, I was in contact with them, and I explored the possibility of sending them audio material. Finally, I travelled to the mine with 33 MP3's containing the JESUS audio version and an ample portion of the Bible. I was there for two days, and we sent the MP3's throught each family member who was there.
Jose Samuel, my contact in the mine is an extraordinary man who has really surprised me. The psychologists, who are giving help from the surface, have recognized that he has been a tremendous emotional and spiritual support for the rest of his co-workers.
He sent me a letter that grabbed my attention for his incredible clarity of thought. For example, some parts of the letter are:

- 'I want to express my appreciation for this great blessing for me and my co-workers, it will be very good for our edification.' (He is talking about the MP3's)

- 'I am well because Christ lives in me.'

- 'We have prayer services at 12 (noon) and 6 p.m.'

- 'I ask all of you for prayer not only for us here, but for all the lost people in the world.'

At the end of his letter he signed off with Psalm 95:4: 'In His hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to Him.'

Let's continue to pray for the salvation of these souls. Thanks for being a part of this."

What amazing evidence of the power of the Holy Spirit in a believer! This man could have been depressed, fearful, doubting God, etc. But instead, He showed great confidence in his Lord, who, even while they were in that mine, was holding the depth of the earth in His hand. He knows that He belongs to God and is held by Him no matter what, and because of that security, his primary concern is that his coworkers and all of the people of the earth will have that same security!

I'm pretty thankful to be working for an organization that is seeking and open to the Lord's will in how He wants to use us in any and all situations - even in the collapse of a Chilean mine. So there you go, my cool story for the day. Enjoy your Monday evening!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Happenings...

It's hard to believe that we only have a few weeks to wrap up the semester, but its true! I had forgotten a bit what college life is like - short but intense semesters. It leave us as a staff team trying to cram all sorts of events, meetings, one-on-one time with students into a very short amount of time, in which students are super busy with school, social lives, weekends home with family, etc. Its definitely a challenge, but also lots of fun!

The next few weeks will be pretty busy, but I'm excited about what we have coming up. On Wednesday we are holding an outreach on campus called iCare. We will have couches out in a prominent location on campus, with free hot chocolate and apple cider, and people ready to sit down on the couches and simply talk about life. It seems like people wouldn't want to sit down and talk with perfect strangers about their lives, but you would be surprised how many people are willing to open up, and this is the sort of event that actually appeals to many college students - just random and weird enough to make them want to participate (plus free food always draws a crowd!) We are hoping to engage people in spiritual conversations, and it should be really cool to be able to just sit down with people on campus and talk about issues, thoughts, experiences that are important to them.

We just had a fantastic Halloween party this past weekend. Our students are always looking for an opportunity to dance, so we called it Rave-o-Ween, gave out glow sticks, got some colored lights and strobe lights, and they danced the night away! We had some great costumes, great food, and great times with great people! Top costumes of the night: a guy dressed up as Madea from the Tyler Perry movies, a group of students dressed up as Toy Story characters, a girl dressed as Sarah Palin, and a guy student who went as our campus director of Crusade, Britton.

In two weeks we will be holding a Fall Carnival on campus in place of our regular weekly meeting. Its a great way to meet new people who aren't involved in Crusade because in order to get tickets to participate in the different carnival booths, students fill out an information card. Then we have their contact information and can do follow-up phone calls and meetings with them individually. Also, it'll be lots of fun - complete with a Cake Walk, balloon-dart game, football toss, and Pie the Staff in the Face booth! Fun times will be had by all.

I've got a pretty regular group of freshman girls who are coming to my Bible Study now, which is exciting because I am beginning to meet one-on-one with them regularly, and figure out how to best disciple each of them. They just held an outreach event for the girls in their dorm where they handed out candy to all 400 of the girls in Morrill. We had encouraging notes in the baggies, but had to remove them because the Resident Hall Director saw it as soliciting. Our prayer is that the girls will hear that the Morrill Crusade girls were the ones who gave out the candy by word-of-mouth, and hopefully that will begin good relationships with the girls in the dorm. I was really proud of how my girls took ownership of the outreach, and I think it helped to bind them closer together as a group as well.

So that's whats going on in the next couple of weeks...

And now, lovely autumn thoughts to leave you with...

"Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns." ~George Eliot

"October's poplars are flaming torches lighting the way to winter." ~Nova Bair

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Autumnal Days

So, I have been a horrible blogger. I have truly abandoned all efforts to update in the past 4 weeks, and there is no excuse except that I have literally been out of town for half of this month, and catching up with everything back in Knoxville the other half! So apologies friends and faithful followers - I shall now attempt to resume updating on a reasonably regular basis!

It is Autumn. I capitolized the word, and I'm not sure if that is grammatically correct, but I love the season so much that I felt it needed the recognition of capitolization. The air starts to get crisp at night, but its still warm enough during the day to sit on a blanket in the sunshine and read, or go on the perfect walk with a friend. I have been having some of my meetings with my girls in a park nearby and going on walks - just to enjoy this incredible weather! Everywhere you look trees and bushes are exploding with color. People seem to be drawn outdoors, soaking in the last warm days of the year, and taking time to simply gaze at the beauty.

Autumn is also the season of the harvest. I think its so cool how God tied this idea of harvest to an experience I had at New Staff Field Training a couple of weeks ago. I was on a team of people who were helping launch a new movement (basically a ministry) contextualized for African American students on a university campus in eastern NC. I went in thinking that most of the people we would be talking to would have some sort of Christian background, simply because of my assumptions that most African Americans in the South go to church as a part of their culture. The Lord really showed me that I can't make assumptions about people, though, and that in doing so, I can actually limit Him and even put Him in a box.

While we were working on this campus, a couple of the people on our team began a conversation with a girl who was willing to fill out a survey. When they saw that she answered "yes" to a question about whether she would want to know more about how to know God personally, they asked her more about that, and she told them that she had always wanted to know how to know God, but she had never been told anything about Him or how to know Him! One of the girls on our team met with her the next day, shared the Gospel with her, and she gave her life to Christ in their meeting! She even shared that she'd had friends tell her that they were praying for her, and she always wanted to know what that meant and how she could pray, but didn't know how. I suppose she just never asked anyone, and no one thought to ask her if she knew God, or if she wanted to.

That story just blew my mind! I was sharing it with one of our senior girls the other day, and she reminded me of Jesus' words: "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest." (Luke 10:2). There are people who are ready to be harvested - they don't need any more time or sunlight or water - they just need the Word of life so that they can respond to it! They need to know about Jesus, because they are so ready to say "yes" to Him - but no one is telling them. How many pepole have I told, "I'm praying for you," but have simply never asked, "do you want to know God? Because I can tell you how to know God." How many people are waiting for a question like that - absolutely ready to respond to the news that they can experience forgiveness, love, peace, and freedom?

The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Pray that we would be bold on UT's campus. Pray that we would take the initiative in the power of the Spirit to share the Word of life with people. And pray that the Christians on campus and involved in Crusade would do the same - that "Christ-centered laborers" (as Crusade puts it) would be raised up to reap the harvest that Christ already said was plentiful. I am praying the same for all of you. And as you pray, go on a walk, because it's good for the soul - and how can you ignore the beckoning of such beauty?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Band Outreach!!

The Cru Outreach Team had the great idea to spend a week loving on UT's Pride of the Southland Marching Band!








I just wanted to post a few photos from the outreach. Students showed up and gave out free Gatorade on Monday, Icy Pops on Wednesday, and Ice Cream Sandwiches on Friday, which was great because the temperatures were in the high 90s last week! We also had all of the students at our weekly meeting last Thursday write encouraing notes to give to everyone in the band - that's hundreds of people! Maybe a student will wonder why a group of people would stand in the 90+ degree heat just to serve him or her. My prayer is that that question will be asked, that the people of God would be such a presence of love and encouragement and acceptance, while still speaking the Truth of the gospel, that these students will be inexorably drawn to Jesus.



Monday, September 27, 2010

This Year Fall Smells Like...

So, I do this semi-weird thing where I pick a scent for a certain season or event in life, so that whenever I smell that specific scent, it brings back all of these memories or that certain time in my life. Does anyone else do this - purposefully choose what smells they want to associate with seasons of life?

What began this quirky habit was this really weird lipgloss I had in middle school. It was from the Gap and the flavor was chocolate orange. Don't know why I even owned that - I hate chocolate and citrus together (it must have either been a gift, or really cheap!) Anyway, it had a very distinct smell, and for years whenever I opened up that lip gloss, or smelled it on someone else, all of these memories and feelings from middle school came flooding back. Fortunately for me, I had a pretty positive middle school experience (I realize I might be one of the only people in the world who can truthfully make this statement), and so I began to recognize how closely smells are connected to memory. It would happen with certain lotions that I had a different times, and so I eventually began to choose smells on purpose for certain seasons or even big trips I went on, to help bring back memories later.

Warm Vanilla Sugar = Costa Rica (I still can't tell you why I didn't choose a tropical flavor)
Herbal Essences (the pink one) = my dear friend and once upon a time roommate Sandi
Coconut Lime Verbena = summer in general, especially during college and the last couple of years. Also, the Bahamas.
Winter Candy Apple = Thanksgiving through Christmas, plus winter in general.
Pumpkin Spice candles = Autumn in Spartanburg

And now.....

Caramel Apple candle = Autumn in Knoxville. (I'm seriously obsessed with this candle. I light it, literally every time I'm going to be home for more than 10 mins.)

So there you have it, the scent of fall this year.

*For those who would also like to enjoy my fall scent, the Caramel Apple candle can be purchased at a participating Wal-Mart near you for the extra low price of only $5!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Real Forgiveness: Costly Suffering

Today I want to write about forgiveness. It is something that God has been challenging me in, and calling me into, for a while now; but it seems like all of the points have aligned in my mind and understanding through a couple of conversations in the past week, and I am finally beginning to understand what true forgiveness is, and to finally submit to this process.

See, I always thought when people talked about forgiving others that it sounded all sweet and nice, and I totally agreed that it is something that we should do as Christians. But it always sounded to me like they just up and decided to do it one day, and that was that. Which is fine, until you're actually faced with forgiving someone in a situation where there is real pain - the kind that roots down deep and starts to reproduce bitterness in the heart. That isn't something you just decide you'll overlook and get over.

I was talking to my dear hermana the other night, who has this incredible ability to get straight to the heart of issues, convict me at every turn, and still speak hard truth in love and grace (if that's a Latin American thing, I totally need to spend some more time there & aquire these skills - thanks, M, I'm so glad you're in my life!) I was telling her about recognizing unforgiveness in my heart lately (I think the Lord has been gently revealing it to me for months now, honestly) and how I want to be free of this anger and bitterness and hurt that rears its ugly head every so often. I told her that I felt like waiting until "time has healed the heart" to forgive felt wrong to me - disobedient and not at all following the example of forgiveness that Christ has set for us. I mean, what about "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" and the fact that He asked the Father to forgive those who had put him on the cross, while he was dying on it? No, we are to forgive in the midst of the pain, not after enough time has passed that we can do it more easily. She gently affirmed this conviction, reminding me of the Lord's Prayer, where we ask Him "to forgive our tresspasses, as we forgive those who have trespassed against us" (ouch! - in a state of unforgiveness, that would be asking Him to hold onto anger and bitterness and a desire to see me suffer). She also spoke of the idea (I think coming from the Gospels where Jesus says that if we don't forgive others, neither will God forgive us) that unforgiveness causes a veil in the heart between the two people in question, and if there is a veil between you and another person, there is a veil between you and God as well. Our relationships with one another have profound effects on our relationship with the Lord, because he is a relational God who created us for community.

For some reason, those words hit me in a way that nothing else has so far. Would I let the anger and hurt that I don't even want inside of me get in the way of intimacy with the Lord? I don't even want a veil between me and the other person - I want to give that person freedom to walk in joy and honor and dignity. I don't want to withold that freedom from them. But then there is that part that remembers the hurts. That can list them. That is still healing. That can't let go and want's the other person to have to suffer somehow. To feel the pain that I feel. So how do you let go of that?

I think its incredible that we hear so little about the "how" of forgiveness. It can't be cheap. It can't be just looking past all of the hurt and wrongdoing - believe me, I've tried that and there was still bitterness in my heart. It feels cheap, to just "get over it all" like everyone seems to describe forgiveness. It feels like ignoring the very real wrongs that were done, and that flies in the face of the sense of justice that we all have a longing for, deep down. I was sharing all of this with another friend a couple of days ago, and she mentioned some of Tim Keller's words on forgiveness, which finally completed all of these ideas for me. The reason that the idea of "just forgive and forget" seems so cheap and impossible is that it IS! Justice has, in fact, been violated.
A few quotes from Keller's chapter, "The (True) Story of the Cross" in A Reason for God:

"We still have a sense of violated justice that does not go away when the other person says, 'I'm really sorry.' When we are seriously wronged we have an indelible sense that the perpetrators have incurred a debt that must be dealt with."

(He speaks of how there are 2 options - make the person pay, either actively lashing out at them in word or deed, or passively, hoping they suffer, telling others how you were wronged, etc.)

"There is another option, however. You can forgive. Forgiveness means refusing to make them pay for what they did. However, to refrain from lashing out at someone when you want to do so with all your being is agony. It is a form of suffering. You no only suffer the original loss or happiness, reputation, and opportunity, but now you forgo the consolation of inflicting the same on them. You are absorbing the debt, taking the cost of it completely on yourself instead of taking it out on the other person. It hurts terribly. Many people would say it feels like a kind of death."

And here is the answer. You don't simply choose to ignore and "get over" all of the pain and hurt - you can't. That sense that my pain is real and must be acknowledged as such is absolutely right! That gut feeling that someone must pay is, in fact, correct. Its just that in forgiving, we take on that debt ourselves. We suffer without requiring the other to suffer as well. We bear the burden, and it is a kind of death. All of this is beautifully illustrated and defined by the way that Christ forgave us. Why did He have to die? Because a real debt was incurred. Real wrong was done to God by our sin, He just chose the path of forgiveness, by taking the burden of the debt upon Himself. But just as His absorbtion of our debt led to resurrection, so does our forgiveness:

"Yes, but it is a death that leads to resurrection instead of the lifelong living death of bitterness and cynicism...you have to submit to the costly suffering and death of forgiveness if there is going to be any resurrection."

And so we forgive, choosing to bear the burden of the pain and suffering, because it leads to resurrection - both for us and the other party. We forgive because Christ first forgave us. I desire to see the other person walk in the freedom and lightness of forgiveness because I live and walk in that freedom, and how could I not want it for someone else? And that kind of love and forgiveness changes everyone involved - as Keller said, it leads to resurrection. We are a resurrection people. Let us choose to walk in the life and light and love that sometimes comes only after passing through the dark suffering of forgiveness.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

So I Skipped Town for the First UT Football Game...

I love holiday weekends. I love the mountains. I love staring at the stars. And I love to be with friends and family. I got to experience all of this the past few days for the small price of missing the first UT football game and the Boomsday festivities which are, apparently, Knoxville's claim to fame. This came at the end of a very busy, but rewarding week in which I was able to meet with a lot of girls and saw a girl come to Christ!!! Woo-hoo! It was awesome, and I'll defintely write in more detail on my next post about her, as well as some of the other experiences/observations/ponderings that I've had in sharing the gospel over the past few weeks, but tonight I just feel like reflecting on and rejoicing in my weekend.
I got to spend a weekend with people who I know and love and already have years of life history built up amongst. I spent a whole day doing nothing but reading, cooking, and having girl time. I played ultimate frisbee and introduced several people to the apparently addictive game of Corn Hole. We had an oyster roast. It. Was. Fabulous. The lovely Rachel Buckner bought Reese's cups just so that I could have them on my s'mores, and it was sooo good. I got to ride my bike down the Virginia Creeper Trail twice, with the smell of Appalachain summers on the wind and the sun shining through the trees. I got to sit around a campfire talking and laughing and marvelling at our incredible Creator. The nights were so clear that we could see the Milky Way stretch all the way across the sky.

"You should see the stars tonight
How they shimmer shine so bright
Against the black they look so white
Coming down from such a height
To reach me now, reach me now.

You should see the moon in flight
Cutting 'cross the misty night
Softly dancing in sunshine
Reflections of this light
Reach me now, You reach me now..."

This is the song that has been playing in my mind ever since I came back from Virginia. It is true that the creation speaks of the glory of the Lord. He is so evident in it all, and I am so looking forward to autumn....beauty upon beauty.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tired. For. Real.

I really don't have very much to say, but in the attempt to be real on this blog, and convey the true ups and downs of this adventure I'm on right now, I just thought it appropriate to let you all know that I am incredibly, extremely, totally and competely exhausted today. Some days I just run all over campus from morning until night, meeting with students, doing random office stuff that needs to be completed, making phone calls, having staff meetings, etc. It can get seriously crazy! I still like it though - its definitely a good kind of tired.

So that's pretty much it for tonight - I'm tired. Really, really, tired. And now I'm going to bed. 'Night!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Experience the "Rocky Top Roundup! "





Things have been going great this week - I think we're all pretty thankful to gain some semblance of a normal schedule. Welcome Week is over, all of the students are in classes now, and we as a staff team have begun our weekly meetings, so we have a better idea of how to plan our weeks! We have all been meeting with students all week long (I'm about to meet a girl as I write this), and several students have already trusted Christ! I haven't had the priviledge of seeing a student come to the Lord yet, but I'm hoping I'll be able to witness that soon! I'm starting to get to know some of the girls who will be in my Bible Study, and am excited to see how God is working in their lives. It will be cool to see Him work throughout this year - some have recently taken big steps of obedience and faith, some I think are still seeking, and some are beleivers, but need freedom in some areas of their lives. It should be an interesting year!

On a lighter note - I wanted to post photos and videos of the "Rocky Top Roundup" that we hosted last Friday night. It was super fun and lots of new students attended. Now all of you can live vicariously through these, and remember when you were a freshman in college!


video

Monday, August 23, 2010

Going Deeper

Wow. It has been a crazy week. In the last 9 days, all of the new freshmen moved on the campus, upperclassmen returned, the sororities had rush, there were a million.5 events and opportunities for Crusade to have tables set up to pass out contact cards, and classes began for all of the students. Thanks to everyone for praying, because despite the fact that some of our events that usually generate a lot of new contacts were denied by the new food service providers on campus, we were able to meet TONS of new freshmen and get a whole slew of contact cards, which we are now working on following up with. Our first weekly Cru meeting was held on Thursday night and we had a lot of students come out, at least half of which were new to Cru! We also held the first annual "Rocky Top Roundup" party, complete with horseshoes and cornhole games, hay bales, and a 4-man bluegrass band and caller for square dancing! It was a huge hit and tons of fun!

This next week we will begin to obtain some semblance of a normal schedule, for which I'm very grateful! It will hold a lot of appointments with new students. All of them will hear the gospel (even if they're obviously believers who are walking with the Lord, we take them through a simple gospel presentation which helps even then to begin training them to do the same with other students one day). There is a lot of potential for students to trust Christ and get plugged into a community of believers, so please be praying specifically for this!

On a personal note, I've recently fallen in love with the song, "You Won't Relent" (specifically the one performed by Kim Walker-Smith and Chris Quilala at Jesus Culture).

"I don't want to talk about You
Like You're not in the room.
I wanna look right at You,
Wanna sing right to You."

I feel like God has been gently drawing me in and calling me to go deeper with Him. I'm not sure what this will look like, but I can feel Him calling me to walk with Him. It's funny because that's what I've been doing, and learning to do more and more, for years now. But this feels like it has something new, somehow. I have no idea what is ahead, but He is calmly, quietly, and steadily calling me to walk with Him in the same manner - with a kind of quiet strength and peace. To know Him more deeply and intimately, with the kind of familiarity that is found in longtime friends and lovers.

And so I am learning, in a new way, to walk on...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Covered

There is nothing quite like the simplicity of the gospel.

I've been taking students throught the 4 Spiritual Laws and thus, have been reminded of the heart of my faith - this simple, yet profound mystery called grace that seems too good to be true.

I've been taking students through the 4 Spiritual Laws, which as far as I can tell boil down to this:
God is holy. He longs for my heart. He made me to be with Him.
I turn away, spit in His face, chase after lesser things, and have created a gulf so wide I will never be able to return to His side.
My God is mighty, yet He bridged the gulf by becoming the least of all. He died in my place, trading the death I had earned for the life that is rightfully His.
I can be with Him in joy forever if I will just be willing to give up this illusion of control and power that I cling to so desperately, believe that Jesus died for me, and give Him my life to do as He will.

And that's it. So simple, yet so profoundly huge and beautiful.

I'm studying 1 John right now, and was struggling with chapter 3, verses 1-10. 1 John's supposed to the be feel-good, love-filled book in the Bible, right? Why on Earth, then, do you run into passages that say, "no one who lives in Him keeps on sinning?" That's the opposite of encouraging, if you ask me, because I definitely still struggle with sin - pretty much every day! But I read a commentary that helped me understand this a bit. This is what it said:

"The statement 'no one who lives in Him keeps on sinning' depends more on an understanding of waht Christ has done for us than it does on what we are able or commanded to do. The Elder's understanding of the Christian life was not developed in observation of the Christian but in percieving the nature of Christ's life and work...sin is not the identifying characteristic of those who live in Him."

That last part just struck me with the beauty of the gospel all over again as I read it. Though I turn away; though I am idolatrous and love many people and things more than Him quite often; though I am deliberately disobedient, or just too lazy and callous to desire my God - despite all of this, which is true of me more often that I'd care to think about or admit - sin is still not the idenfitying characteristic of who I am. I am identified with Christ. He covers me - every bit of that nastiness. When God looks at me He sees the pure blood of Christ and I am counted as righteous. I can't grasp the magnitude of it - but every now and then I have a moment when I get a small glimpse of the depth and width and height and vast measure of this reality of grace that is given to me, and it absolutely floors me.

So I sing with a grateful heart, "it covers me, it covers me, it covers me, grace flows down and covers me."

I can only hope and pray that the students I will be talking with tomorrow and the next day and the next, throughout the coming weeks, will also grasp this truth, and will respond to such a display of love and grace with their whole hearts and lives.

Amen y Amen.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Moving Day!

Well, its official. I am now a resident of Knoxville, Tennessee. After a very long day of driving, moving lots of boxes, sorting through the ridiculous amount of things that I have accumulated, and organizing, I am now officially moved in (though not completely done organizing and decorating). I think I'm pretty darned excited about being here and seeing what the Lord has in store for me this year, but I'm so tired now I can't actually process any of this! I do know that it is a bittersweet feeling right now. I have loved the time that I have spent with friends over the past few days, and I was reminded just how much I love all of you, and how hard it is to leave you all.



I'm praising Jesus for His goodness to me in so many ways, but especially through the lavish way He has poured out love on me through all of my friends and family. Sometimes I can hardly believe that I have been so blessed. Most of the time, actually. So though I am missing everyone I left behind tonight, I am also excited to see what new relationships He will bring into my life as well. I'm thinking this could be a really good year!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Vitality and Practicality

I love how God's timing is always just right. I was at the college and 20-somethings Coffeehouse the other night at my church, and we had a discussion that was incredibly timely.

We have been talking about the beginnings of the monarchy in Israel, and this week we specifically discussed Saul's kingship and the mistakes that led to his removal from the throne. This account brings up difficult questions - why did God put Saul in this position of authority when He knew that Saul would be led astray by the lull of power? Why was one mistake punished so harshly? Why did Saul become more hard-hearted rather than being broken by the Lord's discipline? I don't know how thoroughly we can answer any of these questions, but we can heed the warning that is evident from these events - those whom God has placed in positions of leadership and authority need to be very careful.

Our enemy is described as a prowling, roaring lion; the Father of Lies, the Adversary. None of those titles are given to one who is weak or mild-mannered. He is against us - on the alert for weaknesses and ready to attack at any moment. Why we continue to think that we can somehow stand up against his attacks on our own power, without preparing for a full-out battle as God's Word warns us to is beyond me, yet I often find myself giving into this mode of thinking. Yet the risk of giving into sin is so high, especially with those in positions of leadership. With others looking to you for spiritual leadership, observing what a life lived to the glory of God is supposed to look like, falling to sin in serious ways could do huge amounts of damage. We talked about how this kind of sin could cause someone to lose his or her ability to serve God in many ways, and possibly for a long time.

Of course all sin is serious and against the Lord, but I'm focusing more about the damage that can be done to others and to your ministry because of certain sins. And we must guard carefully against pride in our thoughts and hearts and attitudes - because none of us are above falling into sin in a major way. Moses fell, Saul fell, David fell, Peter fell, etc. So not necessarily a feel-good reminder from the Lord, but a very practical one! I'm about to go into a new ministry where could have a serious position of influence over many college students. I need to be on guard against sin! I need to be honest with myself about my vulnerability to falling. I need to pray for humility, for a hatred of sin, and for the motivation and desire to be in the Word of God, in prayer, and walking more and more in constant fellowship with the Lord. My brother said a phrase a couple of months ago that really stuck with me: "starve the flesh, feed the spirit." That's a great motto and practice. I think one of the most beneficial and practical prayers that I can pray constantly is for God to keep me humble - give me an accurate view of who I am and who You are.

So I will continue to pray for this, and pray it with a refreshed understanding of how much is at stake. Thank you so much to those of you who are praying with and for me - maybe this will give you something specific to focus on!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Three Cheers!

Well its been a while since I've written - apologies everyone. Sometimes I'm just not in the mood to write, and forcing myself to do it anyway seems like an injustice or something, so I just wait until I feel like I can actually put some of myself into again. Tanks for the patience!

I have some exciting updates to share!
1 - I have raised more than 100% of my support, developed my ministry partner team, and completed all of my training requirements in order to be hired - and before the deadline! I was actually the first intern in my region to complete all of this. I don't say that to emphisize myself at all, I actually feel like I really did nothing at all compared to what my peers have been faced with in raising their partner teams and financial support. But it does emphasize God's mercy and grace and provision in HUGE ways! He has provided me with many incredible relationships in three different communities, with people who love Him and who also love me and are incredibly obedient to His call. I can see how He has used years and years of my life to build a network of people who are now participating in His work with me, and I can't believe how blessed I am to have such a large group of people who are partnering with me in ministry. I pray the same for my other friends in similar situations, specifically Luke and Betsy.

2 - I'm moving to Knoxville 1 week from today! Still working out the last details of where I'll be living, but God has provided an incredibly opportunity in that area too, which I'm pretty excited about - I'll let you know how it all works out!

3 - The first thing I'll be doing on the job is a few crazy days of planning the semester/year. That's really exciting to me because I'll get to meet the whole staff right at the beginning of the year, so it should be an easier transition onto the team than if I had come in later in the school year - another big PRAISE to the Lord for providing my support in time for me to be a part of this! Also, part of the planning process is taking place at a lakehouse that some incredibly supporters of the ministry in Knoxville are letting us use, which has me pretty darned excited. Keeping my fingers crossed for tubing and waterskiing on the lake...
In addition to all of this excellence, the students who are involved in leadership with Crusade on campus will be joining us partway through the week, which means I get to meet several of our strong student leaders before school starts = YAY!!

All in all, some pretty exciting things happening!

Much love and thanks to all who take the time to read this small effort at a blog that is at least in some way interesting!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Flickerings of my Consciousness

Sometimes I have so many thoughts all at once that it is overwhelming. I feel the need to write - to express some of what is crowding my mind, but there's so much going on in there that I can't pick even what I want to write about! So I have decided to just let it flow across this keyboard, stream-of-consciousness style, and we'll see what happens. Hopefully some relief for my crowded mind, and hopefully something that at least makes a little bit of sense...

Excitement - I'm so excited about a new stage of life, a new city, new friends, new opportunities. Seriously, ridiculously excited - like to the point where I kind of what to jump up and down and squeal a little bit. Weird thing though, all of a sudden I'm gripped by paralyzing fear and the question - what am I doing? Do I really want to move again? Remember how hard it is to build strong relationships? How much time it takes? Do I really want to do this all over again, only to maybe move in a year or two to go to grad. school? All of a sudden I'm no longer giddy, but I feel like crying. What is that all about? And sadness too - my heart hurts for those left behind. I miss my Boiling Springs community. I miss Spartanburg. I know I will find new community, and I can't wait, but sometimes I feel like the one whose always moving on. I have so many friends living together in Charlotte right now, and part of me wants so badly to just move there and continue in this incredible community that I had for 4 years of my life... But I can't. Something draws me inexorably onward. Is this a bad thing? I don't think I have a fear of staying in a community long-term. I love putting myself fully into a community - that's part of why I'm so excited about moving to Knoxville - the opportunity to do this. I want to maximize my time as a young, single person. I want to take all of the opportunities that I can at this point in my life, but I feel that I am drawing closer and closer to the point where I want to stay somewhere long-term too. Put down roots that won't be yanked up again all too soon. But I also feel that that time hasn't quite arrived yet. So I'm still on the move - next stop: Knoxville!

Goals for my time in Knoxville:
Find a coffee shop that will become my own.
Join a soccer league.
Run a few 5ks.
Maybe do a mini-triathalon.
Host dinner parties.
Have a garden.

Other thoughts - Last night was a great time of hanging out with good friends from home. We talked round and round in college and immediately post-college fashion, about all of the deep crazy philosophical questions and ponderings that we have about life and faith and who God is. It was great. But I was also struck by how we can do this so much that we drive ourselves crazy. And sometimes I have such a longing for the simplicity that is also part of who God is. He is infinitely complex, but He is often found in infinite simplicity. And it is my experience that the most difficult questions and issues that I have with Him are most often resolved or at least put to rest (in the sense that I realize that they really don't matter nearly as much as I thought they did), through experience. I can have a million questions about Him, and then He'll bring me through some experience where He opens my eyes to His heart for me in this or that, and all of a sudden all of my issues with Him in this area aren't neccesarily resolved, but they seem irrelevant. Because I have seen His goodness, I have beheld the beauty of my God, and though I don't understand the reasons for everything, I am coming to trust the Person of my Lord, and His heart towards me and all of Creation. Simplicity.

Speaking of simplicity, I'm really excited for my friends Luke and Betsy and their upcoming adventures doing slum ministry. I recommend their blog.

I have written myself out of all of the other thoughts that were crowding my mind. Don't even remember what they were anymore. Nice. Congrats to those of you who had the perseverance to read this ridiculously long post! Have a lovely Wednesday!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Sleeping with Roaches

The name of this post says it all. For real. Not. Kidding. This morning I woke up, looked over, and there was a cockroach crawling across the bedspread. Gross! This was after I had already killed a few the night before and sprayed my room so much that I was a bit concerned about the lasting damage done to my respiratory system.
I'm on vacation with my family in North Florida visiting extended family before a few days at the beach. I love coming here because it takes me back to my childhood. My whole family used to come down here every summer - aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents - and meet up with the rest of our really extended family (great aunts and uncles, 2nd and 3rd cousins, great-grandparents....). Our days were spent running around outside, getting bitten by mosquitos and fire ants, and doing a hundred random (and probably a bit reckless) things that became sweet memories.

I thought I'd record a few:

Swimming in a lake fed by underground springs where people come to see the vast amounts of alligators. Also, an old version of the Tarzan movie was filmed there.
Swimming in creeks where there were possibly alligators and definitely water moccasins.
Catching a million +1 frogs/toads/lizards.
Running around in the yard after the rain, sliding in huge water puddles and getting totally covered in grass and bitten by all kinds of bugs, but definitely not caring!
Countless hours spent swinging on the front porch swing (and countless cousins dumped out of it into the bushes because we went to high).
Picking zipper peas from the field in the morning before it got too hot.
Picking blueberries.
Learning to drive a riding lawnmower.
Going to Panama city every year and snorkeling and swimming all day; then going to what used to be Miracle Strip amusement park.
Fish fries = fish (obviously), baked beans, cole slaw, hushpuppies, cheese grits, fried okra and eggplant, sweet tea, some sort of incredible pie or cake.
10+ cousins using my aunt's jacuzzi as a swimming pool.
Realizing that I am related to probably at least half of the town in one way or another.
Shopping at the Piggly Wiggly and the Dollar General for any and every item that was needed.

These are a few memories that I have. Not the traditional family vacation, certainly not the most glamorous, but I will never forget these summers. They helped shape who I am, and whenever I come back, I remember that I come from these people - they are a part of me, just like these memories.

So, I will be thankful for my roots. Even while I am also thankful that I don't wake up every day at home with a cockroach in my bed! (REALLY, quite thankful for that!)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Abundantly More

I'm typing in my dining room as piles of suitcases, fishing rods, beach towells, etc. are being loaded into the family car for our annual trip down to Florida to visit family and take a few days of vacation. We're about to head out, but I wanted to post a quick update because I'm so excited!

I was a little stressed last week because going to Florida essentially means that I'm losing a week of the four that I have left to meet with people and build up my ministry partner team before leaving for Knoxville the first week of August. I was progressing well, but still had about 20% to raise when I get back, my list of people to call was getting smaller, while my list of people who I was waiting to hear back from was getting larger. Sometimes I'm not good at waiting, and usually end up trying to give myself at least some false sense of control over my situation by trying to imagine every possible scenario of what might happen, so that I can come up with a strategy of how to address each one.

Some people call this "being prepared: - it is their attempt at feeling quite clever and proud of themselves for what is, in actuality, a ridiculous practice. A more accurate description of this practice is called "worrying" or being a "control freak." And of course, if anything is true, its that I am certainly not in control.

So God, being the gracious and patient Father that He is, takes this opportunity to really just pour out His blessings once again. Over the last couple of days, I heard back from tons of people that I was waiting on, have multiple new monthly partners, and am now over 90% in my financial support! I'm still waiting on several, and have several appointments already set up for when I get back, so its looking like I'm actually going to have even more than I need!

God is so cool! He is Jehovah-Jireh - "the LORDwill provide"

"Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen." -Ephesians 3:20

Saturday, June 19, 2010

My Favorite Thing About God

A large part of the last three years of my life have been spent thinking about and discovering what is now my favorite thing about God - Redemption. He is Redeemer. I can't begin to describe how much I love that about Him. And maybe it takes really discovering the depth of your fallenness ~ I mean really getting down into the deep, dark pit of our depravity ~ before you can be, just, stunned by His redemption. Because until you see how hopeless you are, you can't fully appreciate that He somehow takes that mess, and turns it into something beautiful.

Redemption is like a mosaic. It takes the broken, jagged, hopelessly shattered pieces of something, and uses them to create a masterpiece so much more beautiful than the original creation. It is pain and hurt and sorrow turned into healing and strength and joy.

When everything looks hopeless, when I've messed everything up so bad I can't even figure out where I am or sometimes who I am anymore - then He takes it all and weaves it into this thing of unspeakable beauty. And it just leaves me amazed, without a single thing to say. He is so much bigger, and this story of my life that is unfolding is so much better, because He is constantly working redemption throughout it. When I fail, when I don't seem to have enough to give, when I really did try my hardest but still everything falls apart - I can just beg Him to redeem it all, to somehow bring good and beauty and glory for Himself out of it all...and He does, because that is who He is. Beauty for Ashes. What an incredible God.

We knew it as a wrong turn
We couldn't know the things we'd gain
When we reach the other border
We look out way down past the road we came from

Looking at redemption
Hidden in the landscape
Of loss and love and fire and rain
Never would have come this way
Looking at redemption
In the eyes of sorrow, eyes of rage
What a sordid histories they played
The drama of redemption
Redemption

"Redemption" - Jars of Clay

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Low-Down

Welcome to my Campus Crusade adventure! Thanks for following - I hope that this experience proves as interesting for you to read as it is for me to live! I want to use this post as an official introduction to this blog and my life for at least the next year.

The Adventure I will be working with Campus Crusade for Christ at the University of Tennessee beginning in August. I have the incredible opportunity to spend my time hanging out with college students, getting to know them, talking about life and faith and meaning and our purpose here on this tiny ball in space. I get to teach a group of girls from the Bible, one of my favorite things to do! I get to be stretched as I learn to share who Jesus is more openly and intentionally. I'm a lot of excited, and a little intimidated too!

However, before I can pack up everything I own and move to Knoxville, I have to get together a team of people who will partner with me in this endeavor - both by praying for me, as well as supporting me financially. So I am spending my summer in my beautiful hometown, meeting with people to share my vision for ministry and building my team of partners.

The Low-Down I have passed the halfway mark in my support raising! (yay!)
This is awesome, but I still have a LOT left. (boo.)
BUT I serve a FAITHFUL and MIGHTY God who provides in stinkin' awesome ways! He has worked in some really incredible ways so far, and I am trusting Him to continue over the next 6 weeks! (but if you want to be praying about it, that really wouldn't hurt! In fact, it would help. A Lot.)

So there you go, the beginnings of my Crusade adventure in a nutshell.

~Welcome!



Friday, June 11, 2010

Stillness

It is late. I have an early appointment tomorrow morning, but I'm not quite ready for sleep. It is a quiet night. It rained hard this afternoon, satisfying the earth and leaving everything fresh and renewed. There is no restlessness in this night. The air is cool, and even the crickets are quiet. Sometimes silence and stillness embody greater worship that the loudest praises.

I will be writing of my journey with Campus Crusade for Christ at UT on this blog, and it probably would have been smart and logical and appropriate to write a big explanation of what I'll be doing in the fall, and what I'm doing now, for my first post...

But tonight the earth is quiet. There is a breeze blowing through my window, and the creation herself invites me to join in quiet reverence of the Creator. And so I will walk outside, feel the wind on my face, smell the dampness of the earth and the incredible fragrance of Smoky Mountain summers, and rejoice in the paradox that is my existence - such insignificance, just a breath, and then gone; yet made utterly significant by the One who brings the rain.