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Discernment

Future Faithfulness

We all know “the question,” maybe some of us more than others.  We all know the question that all of our relatives ask us, the question that we are just waiting to hear. It is a question that we wish we knew the answer to, and a question that for many of us is so far from being answered. What I am talking about is the question of, “What are you doing after college?” Oh that dreadful question. It is always fun to answer it with a good ol’ fashion “I DON’T KNOW.”  All joking aside, this can be a tough thing for many of us, and while I personally don’t have to answer that question being graduated already, I get a similar question of what I am doing after this internship. It can be very discouraging to think about, and can be very scary. We all have this sense that life is starting to get real now. We begin to think 6 months into the future, then a year, and then 2 years and we get overwhelmed. It is easy to get freaked out, because for the most part we are all control freaks. We want to be in complete control of our lives and when it comes to the future we cant be, because none of us knows what comes next.

We need God. This is common knowledge for some of us, but especially when it comes to the future. God is the only one who knows what our future looks like. He has us in the palm of his hands and all he asks of us is to trust Him. Trust can be a difficult thing for many of us, including myself, because it means that we don’t have control anymore. I can’t fully trust God and still have control over my life. But what brings me comfort and even joy is knowing that God is FAITHFUL. Because God is faithful, He can’t be anything else. God is the perfect God, so when he says He is something that is what He is, now and forever faithful. It brings me comfort because I remember my junior year of college when I had negative $5 in my bank account, and God was faithful in providing a job. I remember last year when I didn’t know what I was doing after college and God provided an internship in Seattle. I remember when I didn’t know where I wanted to go to college, and God provided Linfield. Throughout my life the question isn’t, “Is God faithful? The question that I ask myself is, “When has God not been faithful?”

So when I look at the future I can find comfort in knowing that God will be faithful, because He cannot be anything else. Though it may not go the way we want it to, he will be faithful. You may not end up being an engineer and instead making the big bucks as a teacher, but God will be faithful in that. When we do this, chances are we will look back and say to ourselves, “Gods plan was so much better than mine.”


 
Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6

Kevin Petermeyer, UMin Intern

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Remembering

A lot of our anxiety about the future boils down to a lack of trust. We worry because we don’t believe that we are going to be okay. That whole passage where Jesus talks about how the flowers in the field and the birds of the air don’t spend time worrying about how they are going to be taken care of, yet they are taken care of nonetheless, doesn’t seem to resonate with most of us.

I’d be willing to bet, though, that if you and I look back in our lives to moments when we felt like our world was ending and our futures were crumbling to dust, we would realize something interesting:  We would realize that God took care of us in those moments.

Example. My junior year at UW I was pretty sure I knew what I wanted to do after college. I was going to move to D.C. and get a job working for the Federal Government at a particular agency that I was very interested in. In order to improve my chances of getting hired on in the future, I decided to apply for an internship with that very agency. I went through the application process, was selected as one of 20 people from all of Seattle to interview, had a great interview in which the interviewers told me I was making it through to the final round, and then… I didn’t get the internship.

Wait, what? I thought I was a shoe-in. God, why would you bring me this far, and give me this much hope just to take it away at the last second? I don’t understand. What am I going to do now? I need to get some experience under my belt this summer. Now I am going to end up working at a restaurant serving pizza and I will spend the rest of my life working dead-end jobs until I end up an old, bitter man with hair in all the wrong places and a beer gut. Why, God? WHY?!?!

Fast-forward to the end of that summer and the beginning of my senior year in college. I am fresh off the plane from the West Bank, one of the biggest political hot spots in the world, where I just lived and volunteered for two months as a Deputee with the Inn.

Because of my Deputation experience, I struck up a relationship with a professor back at UW who, let’s just say, had a very successful career with a certain organization that I was trying to get a job with. He liked me enough to write me a letter of recommendation for another summer program the next year where I would be getting just about the most valuable experience someone in my shoes can get. I was going to live and study in Tajikistan, a culture that speaks Persian, the language I studied in college. Now, with Persian, you can’t really get a ton of first-hand experience with it, because the main places it is spoken are Afghanistan—a war-zone, Iran—a country that really really really doesn’t like the U.S., and Tajikistan—a post-Soviet republic that is home to a large faction of the Taliban. While to most people, the simple answer is, “Well then don’t go to those places,” the problem for someone looking to work in international affairs or international development is that field experience is like gold.  Especially if you have field experience in a culture that speaks a critical language. Like Persian. Thus, the opportunity to go and study in a culture that I otherwise would not have had the opportunity to do so (safely, at least), was a huge opportunity and blessing.

So if my calculations are correct, not getting that internship allowed me the chance to gain a total of four months international living experience, two months of which were spent living in a culture that speaks my second language, the other two months of which were spent in one of the most historically and politically fascinating areas in the world, a relationship with a professor who was very well connected, and personal growth in more ways than I have the time to describe right now.

You tell me: Did my world end when I didn’t get that internship?

It was only after I had returned from the West Bank, and took the time to look back and reflect on how everything transpired that I realized how God had come through for me. Don’t get me wrong, it was not like I just sat back and everything just fell in my lap. I worked hard for the D.C. internship, and I didn’t get it.  That was disappointing. But the reality is that while D.C. would have been a fruitful experience, no doubt, I was freed up to participate in a different experience that I now know to have been much more fruitful.

Of course, I had no idea that this was how things were going to go down when I found out I didn’t get the D.C. internship. I couldn’t have known. That is why it is so important to look back from time to time. Looking back, it all makes a lot of sense, and I see how God was at work in my life.

While I wish I could say that because of this experience, and the belief that God had a better plan for me than the one I had for myself has allowed me to trust God in every situation, the truth is I can’t. I still fail to trust God. All the time. It is nice, though, to have this part of my story to look back on and take comfort in when I come to another, seemingly different, situation that requires my trust in God. Remembering this part of my story at least helps me to put a little bit more trust in God each time. Or maybe to spend less time worrying about the future than before. Remembering God’s faithfulness to me has helped me understand God as a God who gives more than he takes.

Try it out. I bet you’ll find more reasons to trust God than you think.

Written by Chris S.


God is Good at Tetris

 

I love Tetris.  The game is straight butter.  It fits my stream of thought.  You get different shaped pieces and you make them fit nice and tidy into full lines.  It is really a simple game that requires some foresight and strategic placement of pieces.  You get one piece at a time and you get to make it work.

Discerning your call has to come in pieces (otherwise, I am in trouble).  I believe that I have learned one of those pieces this year:  I am called to be in the lives of college students.  It became abundantly clear that my gifting and passions fit more adequately for college students then it does for high school or middle school students.  Before knowing this, I knew that I wanted to work with students.  Slowly, God is piecing together the big plan for my life.  I have seen God come alive in my own heart as I share in experiences with college students.  Whether it is in the Dominican Republic or in the Greek System, God is becoming more known through students and our interaction.  I am excited for more pieces to fall into place in the coming year.

My final burn:  We are going to discern more about ourselves through action and risks then we would spending hours in contemplation.  Go out and explore your passions!  We don’t have to think about them and guess.  God will continue to reveal himself to you as earnestly seek after Him and take steps of faith.  Whatever you do, do it as if you were working for the Lord.  I don’t know if my calling is in ministry, or if it’s in accounting.  For all I know, it could be neither.  Until I put my hand in accounting, it would be impossible to know if I have a calling in that direction.  Take a chance and step into new experiences and be sensitive to the ways that God is nudging you.  Truth be told, you don’t have to know now; do not put pressure on yourself to know.  Chill out.  Enjoy today.  We know we have that.  Take risks and continue to allow God to piece it all together.  After all, I imagine God is really good at Tetris.

Written by Michael W.


A Chat with God — God’s Guidance in the Midst of Pain

Earlier in the year, I found myself in a struggle with some old wounds that I earnestly desired to be healed. Lately, though, I have experienced deep joy and contentment as I consider the ways God has done a work of healing in me since that time. The following is an excerpt from my journal, in which I wrote out a little conversation that I imagined myself having with God about my brokenness. (“L” is Liz, “G” is God)

“I went up to the door of God’s room and knocked. God opened it and looked at me with all tenderness. He could see clearly the burden I was carrying without me uttering a word. He led me into the room and we sat down together.

L: See this ball of mess I’m carrying?

G:Yes. I see it more clearly than you probably do.

L: I’m confused about it. It lives inside me and it feels like it’s tearing me apart.

G: I know all too well what it does to you. And just so you know, this thing you are holding is not the slightest bit confusing to me.

L: God, I hate this thing.

G: I hate it too, Liz.

L: What am I supposed to do with it? I’ve tried everything I can think of to understand it and fix it and get rid of it, only to discover I’m powerless. What am I to do with it?

G: Give it to Me. Who better to hold it than Me? I know exactly what it is, what it does to you, why it is the way it is. Child, I can see how it burdens you. Let me have it. I can carry it, no problem. And then you, my precious daughter, can be free. Totally free. Not because it’s gone, but because you no longer need to continue carrying it yourself.

L: What are you going to do with it exactly?

G: I will hold it, and in return I’ll give you the ability to rest, the ability to experience peace. My peace and my rest, resting on you.

L: OK. Take it. I want to make the trade. The longer I hold it, the more agony I find in trying to fix it. Please take it, God.

G: I will, child. Here is My peace. Let yourself rest.”

Looking back on this journal entry months later, it is abundantly obvious to me the ways God has actively been binding up my wounds since I had this conversation with Him. I have no completely satisfying explanation for why we suffer, why we experience brokenness and pain. What I do know, however, is that God’s goodness, grace and love in the midst of those forlorn spaces in my own story have been felt with more tenderness than in any other time or place in my life. Praise God for that.

Written by Liz O.


Discernment

How have I seen God work in the decision making process of my life?

After 18 months of college ministry in Alabama I really didn’t feel like I was doing anything. In fact I felt pretty poor at my job, didn’t see much fruit from my effort, and was convinced that that this profession of fairly intangible, relational ministry was no longer for me. I am a guy who likes to see results, define success, and feel a sense of accomplishment from a hard day’s work.

So over Christmas break, 2007, I made the decision to come back in January and let my Young Life student leadership team know that I would not be returning after that spring. I had plans to move on to to something totally different, as well as plans to get them involved in other campus ministries, confident that Young Life would dissolve at this time. But after letting the team know, they responded with “Ok, how can we keep this thing going?”

And then story after story came from those that been so impacted by the ministry there that they couldn’t imagine letting it die. And for the first time in my year and a half there I actually felt like people were being impacted by the work God was doing through me and others.  In fact it was so affirming that it changed my trajectory completely from giving up vocational ministry, to continuing to pursue it back at UW.

It may have just been my own lack of faith or insecurities coming out before that time, but I really believe that that was a moment God put in my life to show me in a way that I would see and respond to, that I could be used in his Kingdom work by continuing on what I was doing.

Somewhere where our excitement runs into our gifting, I believe we discover what God has for us. And for me it took inviting my community into the decision making process to help me discover what that gifting was. Probably because it is always easier to see where we fail than where we succeed.

Community should be there to help us see what we can’t see when we get so caught up in our own world. And I feel fortunate that God continues to use others to speak through into my life.

Written by Mike M.


Follow Me.

So, I was on the interstate about a week ago heading into work and decided to turn down the radio to think and pray. I prayed specifically for my future, “Lord, what is it you want me to do. I’ll do whatever. I’ll go wherever. Please, I’m willing.”

That’’s when I look up and see these words on the back of an 18 wheeler:

““Follow me… to get something to eat.””

I remember thinking, “”You are so stinking cool! Thank you! Okay, follow You. Wait, right now? I don’t know where this truck is going and I have to get to work.””

Decided not to follow the truck. Got off the interstate and prayed again, “Lord, seriously, I’ll follow you. Where to? What do you want me to do?”

This time I’’m at a red light. I look up and these words plastered on the back of a van:

““Follow me… to the grocery store.””

That morning I think He was trying to push me into something bigger (or perhaps, simpler). I believe He was saying, “Honey, I don’t care if you’’re driving into work, meeting with students, going to get something to eat, or shopping- follow Me and love Me and love others.”

I want to live into this truth. (I challenge you to, as well!). It doesn’t matter WHAT I do or WHERE I go I’’m called to follow Him. Love Him. Love others.

““Follow me”” are two little words that give me freedom. I hope they give you freedom too!

Written by Amber S.


Curiously Led

Yesterday at UPC, George delivered a great sermon on responding to the “nudge of the Holy Spirit” by reflecting on the Spirit’s work in Acts 8 when Phillip was told to go and join the reading of Isaiah that was happening in the chariot of the Ethiopian. For me, the “nudge” George referred often comes in the form of curiosity.

I graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in journalism. My real major, however, was the job and the internships I had during college. I spent 40-plus hours a week working in the UW Sports Information office in addition to an internship with the Seattle Mariners during the baseball season. Both experiences were a blast and had me thinking I was well on my way to a career in public relations; if not, certainly something in the sports industry. I enjoyed it and I seemed to have opportunities that others would have desperately loved to have. My career seemed to be on a very clear path.

But then I got curious. Curious to know what it might look like to put my gifts and talents into play in full-time ministry. Curious to discover how an experience working at a church might influence my faith. Curious to know if maybe God had something different in mind for me.

The curiosity led me to leave a full-time, (pretty) well-paying job, to take an internship…in ministry. Some voices in my life believed me to making a big mistake, perhaps committing career suicide.

What was supposed to be a 9-month curiosity-relieving experience is now near the completion of its 11th year. Turns out I’m way more passionate about the Gospel than I realized and eager to share that passion and assist in raising up people that believe in and live out the Gospel of Jesus Christ in their daily lives. My curiosity proved to be that nudge that invited me to see and experience more of God’s abundance in my daily life.

Written by Ryan Church


God Doesn’t Waste Anything

God doesn’t waste anything.  As a pre-med, chemistry major I remember getting out of four-hour labs with deep creases around my eyes from my chem goggles, then arriving at offices hours saying,  “oh hey Professor Dasher, I’m here… again…” I remember carpeting the Pi Phi living room with o-chem notes and study snacks.  I remember writing twelve drafts of my medical school personal statement, perfecting resumes and pestering professors for med-school recommendations.

I had a plan. I was just taking a year off to be an intern for a college ministry in Tennessee, while I applied to med school. I remember a month or so into the internship feeling more alive than I ever have. I felt like more of my gifts were being used than when I had done anything else.  I remember being confused and frustrated, wondering if it was a waste of time and money to get my chemistry degree. Yet, through the long process of changing career paths from doctor to pastor, I have learned that God doesn’t waste anything.

I have continued to be amazed at the ways the Lord has used my chemistry to connect to people and mentor people. Sometimes it has been as simple as earning me credibility/respect as I am a young, blond, sometimes ditzy lady. I continue to be amazed at the ways God creatively uses my past for His glory. It has not gone to waste.

I love that about Him.  He will take our past and squeeze all the good He can from it.  Have you ever gotten a beach towel sopping wet?  Then you and a friend each grab an end and begin to twist, trying to wring out every drop of water? That is what I picture God doing with our past. He wrings out all the good He can.  He doesn’t let anything be wasted.

I can’t sit here and tell anyone what you “should” do with the rest of your life, but I am confident that the Lord will use all the decisions and experiences for His glory. Whether broken plans, broken heart, broken family or broken life. As we offer our lives to Christ, he will redeem and use all things. Nothing will be wasted.

What does this mean for us?  It means freedom. It means we don’t have to stress about picking the “perfect” major, boyfriend, living situation, weekend plans or life plan. We are following a God who use our imperfect lives for His glory.  God will not waste anything.

Written by Annika L.


Why Not?

When I stop to think about God’s calling on my life & discernment, I don’t necessarily have explicit moments where I know God was telling me what to do when I had a number of decisions placed in front of me. I think I can pretty much sum up God’s leading my path with one question: “why not?”

Let me unpack that. Honestly, like most college students, I spent quite a bit of my college experience trying to answer the question for myself, “what am I supposed to do with my life?” I’ve never been one to really stress about such questions, I have always kind of figured things would work themselves out, and they do seem to in one way or another. But, as graduation approaches there is the question that you begin to face from other people about what the next steps are going to be.

I am of the belief that God doesn’t only have one specific path for each of us to follow, but that God has a number of possibilities set out ahead of us. If we are pursuing a relationship with God, any of the options placed before us are journeys with God, living within God’s will. A mentor once advised me with a simple rule of thumb for making decisions and figuring out the answer to “what am I supposed to do?”…He said, when God gives you options, take the bigger risk. For me, the approach has been, which options is scarier? Okay, why not?

This has come into decision making at quite a few different points in my journey. Move to Tennessee (where I’d never been and knew no one) for an internship? Why Not?  Pack everything up for graduate school in New Jersey? Why Not? Spend half a year in Kenya working in a slum? Why Not? Live in an Intentional Christian community in California? Why Not?

Obviously, there was quite a bit of prayer, conversation, and weighing multiple factors before making these decisions, so I don’t want to make it sound simple and easy. But, ultimately, my decision came down to knowing God was with me no matter where I ended up, and when that’s the case, asking why not is a pretty simple approach to decision making. I wouldn’t take back one of those decisions for anything.

There were certainly struggles, loneliness, difficulties, and burdens in all the parts of my journey, but I think that would have been true no matter what I did or where I was. God has promised to be faithful, and I have experienced that faithfulness every step along the way. The promise of Hebrews (and Deuteronomy) “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you,” has provided me with confidence to take risks and try out scary experiences because I KNOW God will be with me, guiding every step on the journey of, “what in the world am I supposed to do?”

Written by Janie