Tag Archives: fear

From Urban to Rural

15 Apr

20140413_170254Being in northern Minnesota is like being in a different world. You wouldn’t think that things were so different in the same state that I grew up in, but they are.

It feels weird to say but I think I’m struggling with culture shock. I grew up in a town of 80,000 people, but after living in major metropolitan areas for the past 12 years, even that feels small to me. Now I’m out in the middle of nowhere: 10 minutes from a town of 350 people. I’m used to there being 3 Targets within 10 miles of my house. Now the closest one is 65 miles away. I expect businesses to be open 24 x 7 x 365. Here, they close at 5 pm on Fridays and aren’t even open on Sundays. And because this is a tourist area, a lot of the ‘area attractions’ are only open from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Travis’ parents have deer carcasses hanging in a tree – a tree you can see from their kitchen window. They shoot porcupines and beavers for being nuisances to trees. They hunt and fish year round. They have more guns than I have fingers. They lease land from a logging company specifically for hunting.

Don’t get me wrong – I love my in-laws (hence my willingness to live with them for several months while we look for a house). And it is true that they’re farther out in the boonies than many people. But a lot of these things are just realities of living in a rural area. To visit specialized doctors or go to a real shopping mall, they drive all the way to Fargo – 3 hours away, one way. Just Walmart is 25 minutes away.

It’s one thing to visit during holidays; it’s another to actually plan on living here. To be honest, it has made me start questioning my desire to live in Brainerd (with neighboring Baxter, the population is 20,000). They have a Target, Kohl’s, Menards, Home Depot, JCPenney, Walmart and Fleet Farm. They have a Starbucks and a library. There’s no shopping mall, but I hardly ever shop at full-price stores anymore anyway.

I have a friend Emily who lives in Park Rapids (the nearest town to here, population 3,500). She grew up in Ramsey, a northern suburb of the Cities, and she said it was a big adjustment moving to Park Rapids. It took a couple of years, but now she feels like Brainerd and Bemidji (13,000) are the big cities. So it is possible to adjust.

I think a common question for city folks like me when they come up here, especially in the winter, is “What do you people DO here?” I grew up in Minnesota and have been around Travis’ family enough to know that there are lots of winter activities: snowmobiling, ice fishing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, sledding, ice hockey, broomball, ice skating. Only problem is, it’s often too cold outside to do that stuff!

I think a lot of my apprehension comes from having Emma, at the age she is. There’s a very limited amount of things she’s willing to do, and those things have a time limit – either because she gets bored, or I get tired from pushing/holding/lifting her. And for pretty much all of those winter activities I listed above, Emma is too young (though she will be old enough next winter for some of them). In the city, it was nice to have lots of parks, museums, shopping malls and playgrounds (open year round) to choose from. There were walking trails near our house. So part of my trouble now should get better once we move from tiny Nevis to bigger Brainerd.

The other part of my apprehension comes from just not being plugged in to our new life here. We’re in this limbo stage, where we’re too far from Brainerd (1 ½ hours) to start getting plugged in, and the people we meet here will be too far away to stay in touch with once we move . So I don’t have many friends or activities to occupy my time other than hanging out at home and venturing into town a couple times a week. The relaxation has been nice, but after another couple months of this…?

But when I think about why I question moving to Brainerd, my main reason is fear. Fear that I’ll be bored to death. Fear that there will be nothing to do. Fear that my city-girl self won’t be able to adapt – or won’t want to adapt – to small-town ways.

I have to admit that it’s easy for me to fall into the trap of feeling superior in a small town. “These small-town folks – how in touch with the real world are they? Look where they live. Look what they wear. Look how they decorate their houses. Look what they drive. Look what they do for fun. I’ll never be like that.”

That judgment, though, is just me trying to rid myself of some of the awkwardness I feel from being out of my element. It’s also very arrogant – saying that I know everything there is to know about the world from living in a big city, and small town people are small-minded and have nothing to teach me.

God’s love frees me from having to judge others. Being grounded in His love for me enables me to be confident in who I am in Christ, so I don’t need to prove myself to anyone. When I am confident in who I am, I don’t feel pressure to completely conform to the culture and lose my identity, but I also don’t need to dig my heels in against everything that is different from what I’m used to.

For example, I’ve been thinking about running in the winter up here. Often it’s so cold that I will have to run inside. Brainerd does not have an indoor track (that I know of) so it will be either a treadmill or nothing. I could get frustrated and grumble about not being able to run in the winter, saying “This sucks” and “Stupid small town” or I could embrace the opportunity to expand my horizons, and snowshoe and cross-country ski more. That is a big benefit of the small town! The trails for that sort of thing are MUCH closer than they were in Denver.

The anxiety and uncertainty I feel about moving to Brainerd reminds me that this move requires faith. Just like moving out to Colorado required faith. Faith that God is leading us. That we’re leaving behind everything and everyone we know to forge a new life, in faith that God is everything He says He is, and will do everything He has promised.

The Jesus Calling devotion today was EXACTLY what I needed to hear:

“Trust Me, and don’t be afraid. Many things feel out of control. Your routines are not running smoothly. You tend to feel more secure when your life is predictable. Let Me lead you to the rock that is higher than you and your circumstances. Take refuge in the shelter of My wings, where you are absolutely secure.

“When you are shaken out of your comfortable routines, grip My hand tightly and look for growth opportunities. Instead of bemoaning the loss of your comfort, accept the challenge of something new. I lead you on from glory to glory, making you fit for My kingdom. Say yes to the ways I work in your life. Trust Me, and don’t be afraid.”

Are you a city-goer or small-town folk? 

Have you ever made the switch from urban to rural, or vice versa? I can see that going either way would be challenging!

Where’s the panic?

25 Aug

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I’m sure this has happened to you. You’re walking through a parking lot, or sitting on a restaurant patio, or chilling in a hotel room – and all of a sudden, a car alarm starts going off.

What’s your reaction?

If you’re anything like me, your reaction is “Ok, where’s the idiot owner who will shut this blasted thing off?”

Not “Someone’s being robbed!” or “A car is being stolen!” but sheer and utter annoyance.

“Gah! Doesn’t that person know I’m trying to watch The Bachelorette here?!?”

How did this happen? 

I’m sure we’ve all observed (but certainly never done ourselves) someone accidentally hit the alarm button on their car remote (aka fob). While the obnoxious alarm cries wolf and echoes off walls, windows, and other cars, the mortified auto owner fumbles around with the remote, pressing every button they can get their fingers on, trying to get the thing to just shut off already.

We’ve also observed those overly sensitive car alarms that bark and hiss at you if you even look at their host car the wrong way. “I won’t let you get within 10 feet of me, so help me God!”

Add together those two situations, and subtract the number of times you’ve actually seen a car alarm going off because the car was being stolen (most likely zero, unless you live in North Denver), and you have the amount of times no one will panic when a car alarm goes off.

I recently observed a similar thing. I was at the grocery store on Tuesday night, buying ingredients to make Chicken Pesto Pasta and Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Bars. As I walked through the frozen vegetable aisle on my way to the dairy case, the fire alarm went off. The white lights were flashing, the sirens blaring. I stopped walking and looked around, unsure if it was for real or not. As I did so, I looked at my fellow shoppers.

No one cared.

They all kept shopping as if it there was not a 115 decibel sound ringing in their eardrums. The people in line at the pharmacy just stood there, waiting. Seriously? We are now desensitized even to a fire alarm?

I have to admit, once I saw no one reacted to the fire alarm, I also continued shopping. Meh, if the flames aren’t anywhere near me now, I definitely still have time to escape if the fire is real.

These two situations are prime examples of when technologies that are supposed to be helpful end up failing miserably. The thing about technologies is that they’re still being used for and by humans. Until we’re out of the picture, we just have to admit that they’re not going to function like they were intended to. We are continually messing things up, finding ways around them.

It’s too much work to panic every time a car or fire alarm goes off. So we just stop panicking altogether.

Although, I had this thought as I stood in line at the Express Lane 15-item Self-Checkout behind a guy who obviously had something more like 40 items, the fire alarm still blaring away: if the sprinklers went off in addition to the alarm, there would be a greater likelihood of people clearing out. But I’m sure there would still be that old stubborn lady, bound and determined to buy her prune juice, who would refuse to leave until the flames were licking at her feet.

Dear Lord, save us from ourselves.

(Disclaimer: I realize that standard fire protocol says that you’re not supposed to panic but to proceed to the nearest exit in a calm, controlled manner. But I think we’ve taken that advice a little too literally.)

Ugly unbelief

9 Sep

Unbelief is an ugly thing.

My blog post yesterday is some pretty convincing evidence of that statement. Just writing that post made me depressed and discouraged – I can’t imagine what it’s like reading it!!

But instead of deleting it as the insane rantings of an emotionally unhinged lunatic, I am leaving it. This is real evidence of the struggle with unbelief, a struggle which everyone has, to some extent, every day. I just show what happens when you let it spiral out of control.

I woke up today planning to run 15 miles but since our race this weekend has been cancelled due to the Fourmile Canyon fire (and I really didn’t feel like running that much today), I decided to do that run on Saturday, when I will be better rested and can take a nap afterwards. So instead of lacing up my running shoes at 6:30, I cracked open Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest.

This is what I read: “A river is victoriously persistent, overcoming all barriers… [Has] an obstacle come into your life and you do not seem to be of any use to God? Then keep paying attention to the Source, and God will either take you around the obstacle or remove it. The river of the Spirit of God overcomes all obstacles. Never focus your eyes on the obstacle or the difficulty. The obstacle will be a matter of total indifference to the river that will flow steadily through you if you will simply remember to stay focused on the Source. Never allow anything to come between you and Jesus Christ – not emotion or experience – nothing must keep you from the one great sovereign Source.”

This is why I love reading Oswald Chambers. So often, his devotions are exactly what I needed to hear. I have been so focused on my problems that I’ve been saying “See how big my problems are?!?! How can God possibly help me with this?” When in reality, I was the one being the problem and God was the only answer.

After a little bit more rational pondering (and no doubt some inspiration from the Holy Spirit), I have realized that I am contributing to this problem of my job more than I was aware. There are 3 main issues:

1. Working from home has definite benefits – I love the flexibility. But it’s that very flexibility that has made me subconsciously feel like a slacker all the time and resulted in a huge burden of guilt. I don’t feel like I am giving a wholehearted effort in my job – I’m doing just enough to get by. That feeling, though subtle, has been wearing on me. And I think, in this instance, that guilt is a good indication that I am not glorifying God in my work ethic right now.

2. I also have been overwhelmed by feelings of not being able to do all the things that I would like to do – and I blame it on work. I think this feeling goes along with any commitment, since naturally, by doing one thing, you eliminate the possibility of doing another thing at the same time. So instead of letting this limitation breed discontentment, I am memorizing the verse, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). God has commanded that I focus on the positive things (Philippians 4:8) and be content (Philippians 4:11).

3. Last but certainly not least, I have been very fearful in my job. The modern term is “stressed out” but I’m pretty sure that’s just a fancy way of saying I’m scared. I’m scared about failing (volunteer coordination) and scared about what other people think about me (getting new timing clients). Instead of looking to God and saying “This I know, that God is for me… what can man do to me?”, I have been saying “I can’t handle this!!” These realizations seems so obvious that I feel a little sheepish for my previous blog rant. But that is the effect of unbelief – you can’t think rationally, you believe sinful emotions instead of the truth, and rely on your own very limited understanding.

So in response to these 3 issues, I’m going to take some practical and spiritual action:

With God’s help, I am going to maintain a more intentional work schedule. Instead of working just whenever, I’m going to try to sit down around the same time every day and work for a particular duration – say 9 to 4. I am also going to start keeping track of the hours I work so I will know whether my guilt is sinful (letting my actions dictate how much I’m worth) or godly (I am not glorifying God by being a hearty worker).

I am going to prioritize my non-work time. The things I really want to make a priority are, in no particular order: running (the marathon is only 2 months away!), getting in the Word, praying, reading, cooking healthy food (not frozen pizzas!), and blogging. I need to be intentional about not getting sucked into mindless TV – though I do still hope to watch my favorite shows, like Bones and Desperate Housewives. But that will come second to my other, higher priorities.

And when I feel fearful about failure or human approval, I need to run to God. I need to remind myself of the revelant truth that He loves me and nothing I do or don’t do can change that. And because He loves me, I can trust Him. Just like with sanctification, I am responsible for the practical, everyday matters but He is in charge of the final product. I am called to be faithful in my job, but He is the one who makes me succeed. “The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever” (Psalm 138:8). I can trust God with the outcome of my job.

Yet again, I am so incredibly thankful that God is who He is – faithful, enduring, patient, loving, gracious. I am ashamed of my unbelieving behavior over the past week and a half and yet, I can come into God’s presence through prayer as if nothing ever happened. That is amazing.

“Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him, for God is a refuge for us” (Psalm 62:8).

The pull of this life

22 Mar

It’s been a LONG time since I updated my blog, an unfortunate side effect of my new job. It’s kept me really busy and I’m enjoying it so far.

But…

It’s kind of bittersweet. Not that leaving Dare 2 Share makes me sad (although it was the day I left), but I’m not as ecstatic about the job as I thought I would be. Deep down, my soul feels wary and disturbed. It feels like I’m living a different life – this wasn’t just switching a job, it’s switching a lifestyle. And I knew that going into this. But I didn’t know it would make me feel so… weird.

Maybe I don’t feel totally pumped about this job because it’s still a job, after all, and not a ticket to paradise.

Part of it also is that I am now salaried and I work from home – 2 factors which make working everyday not only a possibility, but also something that is encouraged (my boss D works 60-70 hours a week). I’ve been averaging something like 45-50 for the 2 weeks I’ve been with YCS. This situation, however, produces guilt in me whenever I am not working, which sucks. I’m sure it’ll get at least a little better as I get settled into this new role and it feels more comfortable. But I was not prepared for that aspect.

The past week or so, I have been good about making time with God and exercise a priority – those are 2 things that I NEED daily or I seriously think I would cease to feel like myself ever. I also need to make time to cook, go on walks, read, and relax – things I really enjoy. If I don’t make time for those things, I think I will end up hating my life and that was most definitely NOT the point of taking this new job.

All that aside, however, my biggest fear is that I will drift away from God. It would be easy to do, with being busy all the time, and thinking about work constantly (something else that needs to stop for the sake of my sanity). And even though I am getting in the Word regularly, and went to Women’s Group and church this past week, I still feel far from God. Part of it is that I haven’t been praying as often as I had been while still at D2S. But the other part I attribute to my job. It’s very similar to my last post about vacation. My whole life now feels like a vacation – unfortunately, not in the aspect that it feels like I’m lying on the beach 24/7, but in the aspect that nothing feels familiar. Everything changed. I live in the same house with the same husband but honestly, that feels like pretty  much the only things that are the same.

As I try to reclaim my identity in the midst of this new job threatening to consume my life, I think about this song by Shawn McDonald:

The ways of this world are grabbing a hold
Won’t let me go, won’t let me fly by
It’s taking it’s toll down on my soul
‘Cause I know what I need in my life
Don’t let me lose my sight of You
Don’t let me lose my sight

Chorus:
I don’t want to fall away from You
Gravity is pulling me on down
I don’t want to fall away from You
Gravity is pulling me to the ground

This world keeps making me cry
But I’m going to try, going to try to fly, GOTTA FLY HIGH
Don’t want to give into the sin, want to stay IN YOU ‘til the end
Don’t want to lose my sight of You
Don’t want to lose my sight

Chorus

I want to fly
Into the sky
Turn my back on this WHOLE world AND
Leave it all behind
This place is not my home
It’s got nothing for me
Only leaves me with emptiness
And tears in my eyes

God is powerful and can – nay, WILL – sustain my spirit in the midst of this. I cling to that truth.

A Scared Excitement

24 Jan

I’m sitting at Panera right now (I puffy heart Panera). Although I forgot how crazy Saturday mornings are here. I did manage to finagle a table near an outlet (my laptop is so old–7 years to be exact–that I need to plug it in for it to turn on…the battery needs to be replaced again but Travis and I are probably going to buy a new computer anyway).

I’m here for my 2nd day of writing. The first day (last Tuesday) went ok. I just stayed at home and hooked my computer up in the kitchen. I wrote for about an hour and then got sidetracked reading my diary from the time I studied abroad in Venezuela–when I became a Christian. It’s very interesting. But after reading my diary for a while, I got bored and started to get a sore throat so I copped out.

But I’m excited to write and after pondering (and re-writing) my memoir for a couple years now, I think I know how I want to tell the story. I don’t want it to be like your typical book written by a Christian woman (not that they’re bad…there’s just so many of them!!) I want it to be more like literary non-fiction. I want to show the story, not tell it. I want to walk through the experiences with my reader, instead of just recalling them. And I don’t want to explicitly analyze what happened and what I realized. Rather, I want to reveal it, let the reader see a few glimpses here and there, make them piece the story together as they read (though I can’t do that too much or else the meaning will be lost entirely).

Writing my memoir feels a lot like training for a race. Running makes me anxious with anticipation: I want to either run a certain distance or at a certain pace and am not sure if I’ll be able to do it. So I feel scared. But there’s also a real possibility that I’ll be able to pull it off. So I’m also excited.

That’s how I feel about writing. I want it to be good, to flow, to come together in the way that I imagine it in my head. But I’m not sure that I’ll be able to do it; so I’m a little anxious about writing (which has resulted in me avoiding it altogether…until now). I’m also excited because of the possibilities. I have a story to tell. I have thoughts to communicate.

Paul says in Acts 20:24, “But I do not consider my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”

That’s how I view my desire to write about how God drew me to Himself–I want to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And really, that is every Christian’s purpose. We are all to testify to the gospel, through our words, actions, and lives. We just do it in different ways.

Writing is my way.

Powerful beyond measure

12 Jan

Let me just say how much I love the Bible, especially when I am going through hard times. There are times when I read a verse and it resonates so closely to my own recent experiences that I am literally left breathless. And I know that my “stumbling across” that verse was no mere accident or coincidence…it was God speaking to me.

As you can see from my last post, I have been having some “issues.” Really questioning my life: what it means to me, what it means to others, what it means to God. Little by little, I have felt the inkling that I am called to write. I absolutely love writing. When I was growing up, I was always writing stories. I wrote one about a porcupine, I started a few novels. I remember going to a football game at the Metrodome when I was 9 or 10 (my oldest brother was in high school).  When we left, I pulled my notebook back out and continued writing.

I also devoured books the minute I brought them home from the library. I loved reading. I still love reading. I am awed by authors like C.S. Lewis and Jane Austen who can create characters and stories that are so fascinating yet so realistic.

I want to be a writer. I really do. But I feel like saying so–as well as saying that I believe God has given me a talent for writing–seems too boastful, too self-absorbed. “Who am I to write? What makes my thoughts or words better than anyone else’s? What makes me think I am a good writer? Who am I to have such high aspirations, such big dreams?” are the thoughts that keep me from pursuing this dream of mine.

But today, Romans 12: 6 caught my eye and left me breathless. Paul writes, “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given us, let us use them…” Let us use them. Let us not leave them on a shelf collecting dust because we’re too falsely humble to use them for the mutual encouragement of the body of Christ. Let us not neglect the developing of them and the pursuit of them because we don’t deem ourselves worthy of such an honor. Let us use them.

We had an intern this past summer at D2S named Emma. She was a great girl and a wonderful help. One day, she gave me (and the other people in my department) a piece of cardstock, decorated with a striped border, with a poem on it written by Marianne Williamson. The poem called to a deep yearning in my heart and I have read it numerous times since that day. I think that it echoes Paul’s sentiments in Romans well and it is a brilliant response to my fears and doubts about writing.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are meant to shine as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

I am beginning to see just how very true Marianne’s words are.

May they be true in your life as well.

Dreaming

6 Dec

I got an email yesterday from one of my best friends in Minnesota. She wrote about how she was scared to date anyone because she had gotten her heart broken in the fall by a boy. She had spent a lot of time with him and thought he liked her but turned out, he didn’t. (When will boys understand that spending a lot of time with one girl who is “just a friend” is a no-no?!?!?)

Her email reminded me a lot of what I had to work through while dating Travis: learning to trust again.

After reading that email from my friend, I felt a renewed desire to write my memoir. I have suppressed this desire since I graduated from college. For my senior thesis, I wrote a prospectus, which is a fancy name for book proposal. I submitted it to about 5 specialized publishing houses. All came back saying “Sorry, no dice.” I put it on the back burner while I went to another Beach Project, got a real job, got engaged and then married, and then moved to Colorado.

But the dream has not disappeared. There is nothing I’d like to do more than be an author. To have books published. To tell other young women my story and share what God has taught me through the hardships I’ve gone through. They are not extraordinary hardships; they’re common ones. And that’s why I think my story would be so relevant and useful to other women.

I’ve hesitated to proactively go after this dream for a number of reasons. 

1. Every time I tell someone about wanting to write my memoir, I feel like so narcisstic. I ask myself, “Why is my story worth telling over someone else’s?” 

2. I’m scared that my dream won’t come true. I’ll put all this energy into writing and developing my manuscript, only to have it sit on a shelf somewhere, unread. I also wonder if this dream is just a selfish ambition or if it could really be in God’s will for me.

3. I’m working full-time and use that as an excuse to not devote time to writing. ‘I would have to quit work and only write for it to work,’ I think. But then what if #2 happens?

As I was doing my hair today, I was again wondering about what I should be doing with my life. Mentoring? Teaching? Volunteering? And I finally put 2 + 2 together: Writing is my passion. And writing is my gift. I should be using it.

1 Peter 4:11 says: “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace…in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.”

I should be using my gift of writing to serve the body of Christ and to glorify God. So I am daring to dream big and start writing, in faith that God will use it for His glory and purposes, whatever that looks like. Travis is starting grad school in January (God willing) so my plan is to write while he is going to class and doing homework. I will submit my manuscript and if no one agrees to publish it, I will look in to self-publishing. I am going to go for it…we’ll see what happens.

Sharing the Good News

16 Nov

This weekend has been a culmination of sorts. It was the Dare 2 Share Invincible Conference in Denver. I was at the event for the whole weekend and while it was physically draining (I’ve had an incurable headache all day), it was spiritually nourishing. Not only did my personal relationship with the Lord benefit (which I will talk about in a little bit), my job became ever more valuable.

Over 7,000 people filled the Pepsi Center for the conference. That’s a lot of students. And I have to tell you, it is beyond amazing to see these young people on fire for Christ. Not only are they fellow members of the body of Christ, they have found something to live for, a purpose for their lives. I can’t help but think back on my own life. What would my life look like if I had discovered that purpose in high school or even junior high? I have no doubt that if I had been invited to a Dare 2 Share event in junior high or high school, I would have rolled my eyes and said no. But maybe I would’ve gone…

There are hundreds of kids just like me (when I was that age) at our events: disinterested, apathetic, cynical, hopeless. And they leave the conference believing in their souls that Christ died for them. They leave with hope. They leave with the knowledge that, no matter how many people in their lives don’t love them, God loves them. And best of all, they leave with a burning desire to see their unbelieving friends come to know Jesus as well.

It’s ironic that I struggle so much with sharing my faith and yet I work at a ministry dedicated to teaching teens how to share their faith. I know God did that on purpose. Where else would I be continually convicted over the importance of giving hope to the lost, especially teens?

Our President, Greg Stier, is an amazing person. I’ve obviously heard him speak/preach quite a bit and know that since he is very animated and outgoing, he’s a great person to have speaking to a teenage crowd. But more than that, he is an inspiration. He inspires me to evangelize. God created Greg to eat, breathe, and sleep evangelism. He’ll tell you that ever since he became a Christian as a young boy, he’s been going around his neighborhood, around the mall, and now, around the country sharing the gospel. And not just in a preachy sort of way (though he does that too). He has the God-given ability to bring up the gospel with anyone, in any conversation. A guy in my care group also has that ability too. I get so inspired listening to both of them. They remind me that sharing the gospel is not something Christians do once in a while; it’s a lifestyle:

It’s walking through each day with the desire to share the gospel with someone, somehow. It’s seeing every situation and every conversation as a segue into the gospel. It’s seeing the gospel relate to every aspect of life, from waiting for a bus to eating a meal. It’s sharing the good news of Christ with those who are going to hell but don’t know it.

The biggest thing that happened this weekend was that God spoke to me. Listening to Greg speak, I knew the answer to my question, “What does living out my faith practically look like?” God’s answer:

Evangelism.

I’m pretty sure that I knew that was the answer all this time. And even now when I’m sure that it is the answer, I want to go look for a different one, one that’s not so scary and risky. One that I can feel comfortable doing. I feel like saying “God, I said I would follow you anywhere, do anything for You. But this? Anything but this…”

Whenever I think about sharing my faith with our neighbors or my brothers or friends from Travis’ work (since all of my co-workers are already Christians), I get a feeling of dread in my stomach. It’s like I’m back in 9th grade, dreading my next speech in speech class, feeling the impending doom of that fateful day.

But I know that it’s the answer, no matter how hard it is to take. I try to envision the living out of my faith without evangelism and it’s sort of like playing basketball with no hoops. I’m dribbling and running around but when I look up, I see that I’m just playing with myself. Similarly, it would be easy for me to just focus on my personal Christian walk. But when I look up at God, I see that I’m not actually playing in His game, I’m just sitting on the bench.

I want to play. I’m called to play.

But how do I play?

I know places I can start: my neighbor Patty, my brother Brian, friends I know through Travis. But beyond that… [insert big question mark].

I do know that my style of evangelism is going to look a lot different than Greg’s. He’s an outgoing person who speaks his mind…sometimes a little too much. 🙂 I’m not shy but I wouldn’t say I’m outgoing either. And I definitely like getting to know people before sharing the gospel instead of doing cold evangelism. So where to get to know people?

I’ll let you know what I come up with.

A self-imposed glass ceiling

21 Oct

“I want to feel that each day is better than the day before and that I’m happy to be waking up and have the opportunity to do the things I do. And when I no longer feel that, I’ll do something else.”

That’s what Helene Gayle, CEO of CARE USA, said in the Newsweek from October 13, 2008. As I read that statement, I find myself half-scoffing at her, half-wondering what her secret is. How did she get to that place where she enjoys her job and feels that her life has meaning? How can she be so content with the world and herself to say that she wakes up feeling that every day is better than the day before? How I wish I had that contentment!!

I know all the trite Christian stuff: Christ gives my life meaning, I have so much to be thankful for, I have been given the greatest mission on earth, yadda yadda yadda. While I’m not saying those things aren’t true (since I still am a Christian, I know they’re true) what I have felt stirring in my heart and soul for the past year goes a lot deeper than that. Those pie-in-the-sky answers feel like a band-aid for a severed limb.

I’m disturbed lately about what my life is like. I’m not satisfied with it. I don’t like what I do everyday. I think it’s pointless. I’m living for myself and my own pathetic desires. I get up every morning to take a shower, do my hair and makeup, get dressed (while wishing for more and cuter clothes), eat breakfast, make lunches for me and Trav, read my Bible reading plan, fix some coffee and go to work. After work, I come home, make dinner (most nights), read/watch TV/blog, exercise, and go to bed.

These are the times when I think that being a non-Christian must be so much easier. Instead of fighting all the natural desires, you get to indulge them. Sure, they end being your ruin but at least you go down without a fight. But as a Christian, I feel like I’m stuck in limbo between 2 worlds. Half of me hates the materialistic, vain, narcisstic culture than we live in while the other half of me takes the bait and runs. I want to be free from the desire to have a big house, cute clothes, go on exotic vacations and see the world, have gorgeous wedding pictures, etc. But when I see others who have or do them, it feels like jealousy eats me alive.

Last weekend, I was in a major funk. All I wanted to do was sleep, laze, do nothing. So that’s what I did–and at the end of the weekend, I felt disgusted with myself. Yesterday and today I have been more active but still, what did I do that was of importance? Sure, I educated myself about the Colorado amendments and exercised. But I also watched 3 episodes of House and an hour of Boston Legal. Even if I had spent that same time reading though, I doubt it would have done anything for my conscience or sense of self-worth.

Some would say that my job (at a non-profit Christian ministry) is contributing something worthwhile. I suppose in some remote way, I am helping teens get trained to share their faith. But that’s just the thing–they’re the ones being trained to get out there. They are the ones living our vision out. Me? I just work there. Punch in my 9 to 5 and come home to…what?

I’m somewhat confounded at the seemingly sudden unrest with my life. Where did it come from? Why is it here? Why am I not like everyone else, going through life, content with the status quo, never doubting or guessing why their life is the way it is? Isn’t this what I’m supposed to be doing–working, married, living, breathing.

But it’s not enough for me.

I don’t want to do this for the rest of my life. Sometimes I feel like I don’t even want to do this for the rest of the year. My life is passing by right before my eyes and I am doing absolutely nothing about it. I do dream about what my life would be like if I was doing something I really believed in, something I could feel good about leaving behind. A legacy of any sort. But I fear that if I died tomorrow, only my family and a few friends would truly care. Surely the world would not notice at all.

As I said earlier, this has been going on for about a year. Really, ever since we moved to Colorado. There’s something about being out here, about being torn away from everything so familiar that you don’t think twice about, that is revealing and intrusive. I try to think about my life back in Minnesota, about why I didn’t feel like this then. Why was I ok with my life? I’m really not all that different from who I was then. Actually, I’ve volunteered more out here in Colorado than I did back in Minnesota–one year vs. 24. Doesn’t that show that I’m becoming more concerned about others, rather than wasting my life on myself?

If anything, the times I’ve volunteered out here in Colorado have shown me just how little I do for anyone but myself. All of my thoughts constantly center on me and what I want. When I feel like I don’t do enough for other people, instead of moving into action to remedy the problem, I mope and feel depressed. Which just shows that it’s really all about me in the end anyway.

What I yearn to do is break free from living under my own glass ceiling. I dream about doing big things–but I always rationalize my way out of them. I fantasize about being impulsive and about throwing all my eggs into one basket to achieve something of epic proportions–but well-meaning advice from well-meaning friends coaxes me from the edge. So I try to pacify myself with a life of mediocrity, monotony, and quasi-fulfillment.

It may sound to some reading this that I’m on the verge of doing something rash. But I’m not. I know that the Lord is in control of my life and I truly believe that He has put this unrest in my soul for a reason. It has come along enough times now that I finally realize that I need to grab it and ride it, though I have no idea where it may take me and when. While my fleshly desire is to despair under the comforter on my bed, my Spirit is preparing me for the biggest battle I will ever have to fight–the battle against myself.

Was that last line too cheesy? 🙂 I couldn’t resist.

What it means to be born again

29 Mar

A couple weeks ago, I went through this period of spiritual doubt. I had a hard time understanding why the Christian life works. Whenever I heard stories about people giving up addictions because Jesus freed them, I thought, “How is Jesus enough for them?” When I hear of people who are going through a rough time of trials and they say they’re hoping in God, I wonder, “How does the knowledge of God aid them in their despair? How is it enough that God is a stronghold? Why does it matter that God cares for me? That I’m released from the bondage of sin? If I’m having a hard day at work and pray to God for strength, how does my prayer really matter? How does it change my circumstances? Why do I need to rely on God? What does relying on God do for me? Is it even possible to do? If I say that I’m relying on God and drawing down strength from Him, does He really do anything for me? Or are those words just a human attempt to make life a little easier, to make hard times a little better, to deceive ourselves that ‘everything is going to work out for our good’ when the dice could really fall either way?”

I guess you could sum up my doubts in one question: “How does my relationship with God affect my life beyond salvation?”

As I was journaling about these thoughts on March 15th, I had been reading Romans 7 where Paul says that we are released from the Law “so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.” And as I pondered that verse, I realized that the key to the Christian life, the thing that makes it “work,” is the Spirit. Without the Spirit, I am the same person before and after conversion. But with the Spirit, I am changed. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”

My mind was comforted after that revelation given to me through none other than the Spirit. But what brought this again to my attention was something Pastor John Piper said in his sermon called The New Birth Produces Love. This is what he said: “As we enter Holy Week, the aspect of the new birth that I want us to focus on is the fact that new birth creates the connection between God’s love for us and our love for each other. If anyone ever asks, How does the fact that God loves you result in your loving others? The answer is: the new birth creates that connection. The new birth is the act of the Holy Spirit connecting our dead, selfish hearts with God’s living, loving heart so that his life becomes our life and his love becomes our love.”

When I heard Piper say that, it validated my personal Bible study. I wasn’t deluding myself with soothing words and vain hopes. This is true and real. My nature really is changed after conversion and I am enabled to do things I couldn’t do before. The Spirit empowers me to live for Christ, to desire God, to conquer sin, to be loving, to desire godly, eternal things over worldly, temporal things.

This is the hope that we have in Christ: “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1: 13-14)