Thursday, August 25, 2011

Kickin it in the Streets

Growing up I loved Sesame Street! I loved that every morning I could count on the characters to entertain me, and let me be apart of their crew. Sesame Street was so influential because it had the ability to make kids feel like they were apart of the neighborhood, and apart of the Sesame Street family. The creators of Sesame Street understood the importance of living life within a healthy & positive community, and succeeded in creating a nation wide family of 3-6 year olds who counted on their favorite morning friends. This is where I first learned about relationships.....

Lately, I’ve realized how much I take for granted the relationships I get to have because of Christ. I was recently talking with a friend who refuses to relocate in his career because all of his friends live in Fort Wayne.  I understand him not wanting to leave his friends, but my first thought was “you can always just make new ones,” but the more I thought about it, the more I questioned it. Growing up, I easily made friends wherever I went; I think it has had a lot to do with how I was raised and my personality.  Next I looked at the quality of my friendships, and realized that there have been several people over the years that I have felt a special heart connection with. Then I analyzed my relationships more closely and realized that the relationships I treasure the most are with my brothers & sisters in Christ.  

It’s incredible to me that no matter where I go in the world, I immediately have a connection with someone because of Christ. Not just something in common, like “Oh you like Keith Urban, so do I!”  
 No, I have a spiritual, radical life changing experience that someone across the world in a tiny village can relate too. We may come from different backgrounds, and have experienced Christ in different ways, but we share the fact that we have been swept away by the love of Jesus Christ and have allowed his love to transform the very core of who we are.  Sharing an experience like this with someone, how could we be anything but close!

Jesus said he would come wherever two or three were gathered in his name. Why? What makes a difference if a person loves God but keeps to themselves?  From the very beginning God desired relationships; he designed us to work best when we are in relationships and walking with others. My dad has a sign in his office that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go with others.” And it’s so true. God desires that we have a community of Christ followers living life with us because He works best through US.      
 US = Me + you + Jesus.  

For a while, I thought I was a good enough Christian where I would only go to people when I had a serious crisis or needed prayer. Then God showed me that I needed to surround myself with people to live the everyday with. Living life in community is living life to the fullest!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

“Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without, and know we cannot live within.” - James Arthur Baldwin

“Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without, and know we cannot live within.”
-          James Arthur Baldwin

Masks are something I have worn all my life. I’m a master at hiding and can fit into just about any situation.  Over the past year I have realized that I am sick of walking around switching from one mask to another, hoping that one of them fits just right.

Ironically, I know God created me to stand out. I know God created us all different, but some people he made especially to stand out. For example, when I was 3 years old I came down the stairs with a pink glove on my right hand and a rainbow striped on my left, they matched perfectly. Up until I was about ten years old I didn’t find it at all odd that I always wore mismatched gloves and was surprised by all of the people with matching ones.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve struggled with my desire to stand out. On one hand it’s who I am, but on the other, it means I have to walk around naked, without a mask. This means people can see me. This is one of my deepest fears.

Over the past year I’ve earnestly been praying that God would let me see myself through his eyes, but it’s hard to see when your face is covered in layers of masks. I’m not talking about a simple feathered masquerade mask they give out at prom. I’ve been walking around with these huge, misshapen plaster masks layered with the world’s strongest super glue. So, it’s safe to say that the image in the mirror has been little hazy from where I stand.  

Luckily, I know someone who can see through my masks and straight into my heart. Gently, he is calling me by name, showing me that who I was pretending to be to everyone else was not the person he saw. The person I saw in the mirror was not the daughter he created. He pursued me, and captivated me with his love. As I continue to trust him, he gently pulls away each false face. Revealing that beneath all of those horribly uncomfortable masks is his incredible work of art.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Yours, Mine, & Ours

Paris has been an incredible experience. Its given me a lot of time to reflect and think about things that I haven’t had time to think about. One thing I’ve really been struggling this past year is this whole church thing, and what we are supposed to look like. I've been talking a lot about church with my roommate Kelly and she really opened my eyes to a lot of truths about the church.   Over the past two years I’ve visited a lot of churches and started getting involved in an awesome ministry outside of my home church. It’s been so refreshing to see different kinds of ministry that cater to different kinds of people. Lately, I’ve been observing the postmodern church movement and have noticed a few things.

I feel like there is a common understanding that the needs people have from their church have changed, therefore church needs to change. Fire and brimstone preaching just isn’t effective anymore, and people come to meet for relationships first and Christ second. There is this undercurrent in the Christian community that we need to get back to the basics of what Jesus did when he was here on Earth. Love God. Love people.
Because people want to return to smaller, intimate group settings, they are breaking off from the larger mainstream churches to plant new churches. I love this idea, I love the idea that people are trying to reach their community in a way that meets their community’s needs.  
My roommate Kelly and I have been talking a lot about church and she made some really good points. Unfortunately, love isn’t the only motivation that drives church planting. Offense, anger, unforgiveness, and competition are often underlying motives for starting churches. Someone gets hurt, and instead of dealing with their problems, they break off to start what they think is the “right way” to have church.  As a result, you have a bunch of people who are hurt and burned out trying to start a church. They may love God and love people, but if there is any motivation other than love, their ministry will not be very effective and ultimately fail. 

I love big churches. I love them because I grew up at one. My home church will soon be celebrating its 75th anniversary, and I am so proud of that. I am so proud of the founders of my church, the people who prayed, worked, and fought for a vision that God gave them.  A vision for their children, and grandchildren to have a church, a home, a meeting place where God would meet them every week. I am so grateful to my church for the person I am today because of its ministry. 

 About two years ago God started leading me away from my home church to follow him on a journey to find him again, and learn about ministry in different ways. So, I tried out different churches for about 6 months until God told me to stop at the one I attend now.  

On my journey God taught me that he is wherever his people are. He created us, uniquely and individually, so it makes sense that he speaks to us in different ways. We are created for community, so we form a church community around us with people who relate to God in the same ways we do.  This is ok, its good. People get offended by cliques especially in church, but a clique is just a group of people who love God and love each other.  

I still don’t know if I have this whole church thing figured out. But I think that it looks different for everybody, and Jesus knows what it looks like for each person. I think that as long as we are seeking him first, he will provide the community around us we need. I think that if churches understood this, they wouldn’t feel the need to lead out of past hurt or insecurity but in confidence of who they are in Christ and the small part he has let them be in his church. Because after all, it is his church

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Sometimes, I am embarrassed to look in the mirror

 When I was little, I always thought it would be so cool to be a missionary. I would get to travel the world, and every four years come back to the States where every Sunday I would speak at a a different church and tell of the adventures I had been on overseas.  I would describe the exotic foods, warm people, and miraculous signs that God had done. After service I imaged being greeted by hundreds of church goers telling me how they were encouraged by my message, and then would enjoy going out to lunch with the Pastor and his family. The problem with my ridiculous fantasy was that it was all about me.

In the back of my mind I understood that missionaries gave up a lot, and as I got older I decided I didn't want to be a missionary because of all that missionaries decide to give up,  but I never understood sacrifice until I came to Paris.

I have the deepest respect for the staff here at The Bridge. One of my favorite parts about my trip is that I get to hear each one of their stories of how God brought them to Paris. I love how most of them never expected to be here, but some way or another God brought each of them here to create this incredible staff. 

In Matthew Jesus talks about how a man must leave his home, his family, his friends, everything to follow him. I've never liked this verse very much because if Jesus came up to me off the street and told me to leave everything I have and everyone I love to go to some remote village in Kenya I would probably laugh at him. But as I listen to the stories from these missionaries, I am inspired by their dedication to Christ and the love that has compelled them to sacrifice everything.

  I've discovered that missionaries aren't a group of spiritual elite whom God have chosen out of a group of ordinary Christians. Missionaries are people. They are the best kind of people because they are real. They have experienced life, real hard life, and have let the love of Christ transform those experiences into something he can use for his Kingdom. The staff at The Bridge love people with unconditional love, which I've found most churches preach but few live out.

 Missionaries live with the end in mind. Because they have given so much up, they don't take ownership over things like ministries, positions, or even their own families. I don't know how to describe it, but they live with the understanding that at any moment God could easily move them somewhere else, stop their church, their ministry, or move them back to the states. They understand that they are not building "their own ministry" they are not building "their churches" but have one goal and that is to serve the Kingdom of God. 

I am humbled and inspired by these incredible people who I get to work under this summer. First, I want to let Christ's love impact me in a way that I am willing to give everything I am to him. I don’t just want to say a prayer making Jesus the Lord of my life; I want to place him as Lord of my life. And second, I want to live with the end in mind, knowing that my life here on Earth is not my own, but has been bought by Jesus and I want to live for eternity.    


Monday, July 4, 2011

To the French boys

This letter is to the French boys who made a sad attempt on asking me out tonight...... and for all the other ones out there:

Dear boys:

Now I use boys because, well you are not young men you are boys. Your first mistake when asking me out was telling me that you are only 16, even after you found out I am 19. Second, smoking in a girls face then hulking up the worlds most disgusting loogie right next to my foot was the trashiest way to make a pass at me. Next, tell your friend standing next to you that if the only English he knows are swear words and sexual innuendos that he should keep his mouth shut. 

But your worst mistake was even approaching me, thinking that someone this awesome and this gorgeous would even give you the time of day.

Yep. So sorry friends looks like I won't be coming home with a man, or should I say a BOY.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I decided to throw up on this post.......

Sitting in my apartment I open up the beginning pages of Blue Like Jazz, a book a friend recommended to me before my trip. However I can only get through the first three pages of this guy’s story about his walk with Christ after growing up in a broken home. I feel like every best-selling Christian author grew up with a broken home, an abusive past, or was strung out most of their teen years. Only three pages in I stopped. I just didn’t have the patience or interest to hear about another person with the same story of a broken past slowly finding their way to Christ.  This may sound harsh and unchristlike but the truth is, it’s not that I don’t want to listen to people or have sympathy for them. In fact I love hearing about people’s journey through life, and being encouraged by what they have come through, but it’s almost impossible for me to relate to these authors because my life was the complete opposite.

Ever since I was little I have always been ashamed of what I have. My incredible family, my loving church, my great friends, my ability to do well in school, everything I have been blessed with I have felt guilty for having. I don’t understand why I get to have such a rich, full life while millions of people are hurting and suffering in the world. It’s like in school when you and a friend both tryout for a sports team, you run to the gym after school to see if you made it. You did and you are so happy, but quickly hide your excitement when you see the devastation on your friend’s face because she was the only one who didn’t make it. For me, sharing my excitement with people about my awesome life felt like rubbing it in to those who didn’t have as much as I did.

Listening to speakers at church or hearing other students’ testimonies stories after a week at church camp made me feel like I didn’t really have a testimony or story to share at all. It seemed like every evangelist to come through church was just like most Christian authors who came out of a horrible addiction or home life. When I would say something to my counselor at the end of the week I always got the same answer of how I was lucky that I didn’t have to go through what these people went through and I don’t have all of the “baggage” that they have to deal with. Secretly, I wanted some kind of dramatic past. To me it was simple. I would have had a horrible first few years as a kid, get invited to church camp, have God take all of my problems away in five days, and get an awesome life and story by the end of the week. Haha I later learned that’s not how life really works, and was grateful for the life I was given but never wanted to tell anyone about it.

These past few months I’ve had a passion for hearing people’s stories and where they have come from, but recently, I’ve had an even greater desire to share my story with people.  Then I stop and think. “Who would want to hear my story? I don’t have a dramatic past or life altering event that brought me to Christ? Who would want to listen to me or who could ever relate to me?”

Sitting in my apartment today I realized something, I have a story to tell, an incredible story. An example of how rich and beautiful life is when Christ is at the center of every part of it. I’m tired of hiding behind my ministry face listening to others, but also secretly hoping they will ask me about my life, my past. I’m tired of always turning conversations and attention back towards others because I feel inadequate or fear rejection. I know that if I had a coffee date with Jesus, he would sit across the table at Starbucks and get even more excited than I am about all that I have and have accomplished.

In the bible, God says that he hates pride, and he rewards the humble. However, just like pride can bring destruction to a person’s life false humility can be even more damaging.  One of my favorite songs from kid’s church was “this little light of mine” (but the remix version with the black light puppets). Hiding my light from people doesn’t just mean that I don’t share the story of Christ with them, but it can also mean that I am hiding me from them and all that Christ has done for me.  

I don’t know who will read this or if this will encourage anyone else, although I hope it does. But for me, realizing that I have a story to tell and telling it is all that matters.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Simple Life


My dearest friends & family! Its really late here in Paris,but after reading my facebook I thought I probably should post something before some of you explode. :)

It's only been a week since I left home and I feel like I have experienced and learned so much in my short time here in Paris. The past week feels like a blur. My plane landed Thursday morning, and as soon as I got my luggage, the missionary Mark took me to get an espresso and chocolate pastry. I knew that moment that France and I were going to have a great relationship.

 I wasn't sure what to expect when I got here, but I figured it would be like a normal mission's trip where I would get off from the plane and hit the ground running. To my surprise, my first week was quite relaxing and I was finally able to slow my mind and life down for the first time in forever. Its weird, because I've literally come out of one of the craziest times of my life and I feel like God dropped me in a completely new world to just "be, still, and know that he his God." The TV is off, I'm active on facebook one or twice a week, and for the first time I have free time that I can't fill with noise and distractions.

There are so many things about Paris that I love so much, but I've found that its the little things that I treasure the most. I've done A LOT of observing and listening this past week and I've literally been a sponge just trying to soak it all in.

What I love most about the French is their ability to enjoy life instead of rushing through it. The people here are busy and work just as hard as Americans, but they aren't consumed with rushing to their next event. The people here really know how to enjoy each moment of each day. So I have decided that instead of constantly thinking about the next event I'm going to, or ways of filling my time I am going to focus on the now. I am going to focus on each day as it is given to me and live it to the fullest.

" This is the day that the Lord has made and I will rejoice and be glad in it"

I love you all so much! Thanks for all of the encouragement on my wall. I am only using facebook to update my blog and ready messages from friends. I am really trying to give my full attention and energy to my new relationships here so that is why I have been responding very little to posts, but I have loved them all so much!

Thanks for sharing this time with me. I love you all so much!