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How Do You Prepare for Deputation?

Hello! My name is Taylor Johnson, and I am one of the 2017 deputees. In less than 12 hours, I will be at the airport with my team to spend the next 8-weeks of my summer in Montenegro. Throughout the entire deputation process I’ve been continuously asked: “How are you preparing for this?” “Aren’t you scared?” “What if it’s not everything that you’re expecting?” and that’s why I’m writing this blog post, to address these questions, and to specifically focus on how I have been preparing for deputation.

Deputation Reveal Night

Me holding the Montenegro flag.

Truthfully, I love when people ask me the questions I stated above, because not even a year ago, I thought exactly the same way they did. I felt this constant need to have control and order, and I needed to always know what was going to happen and when. Well, I have discovered this need for control and order comes from not fully trusting God in all aspects of my life. Making the decision to go on Deputation, was also me making the decision to give all trust to God in all aspects of my life.

So, how have I been preparing for this trip? By trusting in God every step of the way. By trusting in God, I see that as me having complete faith in God. My favorite verse in the Bible is Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see (NIV). Deputation is giving me the opportunity to finally live out the truth of this verse. I may not have all the answers to everything as I get ready to board this plane in a short, twelve hours, but I have faith that God has me going on this trip for a reason. I may not know what the reason is yet, but I feel Him calling me to this, and hearing Him calling me to serve this summer is all I need to know this is the right choice for me.

So, am I scared? No, because I have faith that God has a plan in store for me greater than anything I could ever imagine. Am I scared my expectations aren’t going to be met? No, because I don’t have any expectations. The only thing I expect to do is go and serve the Lord for the next 8-weeks, other than that, I am leaving the adventure and experience to God. The only way to truly prepare for this trip is to understand that you don’t have control. God has the control. When I understood this, a huge weight was lifted off of my shoulders, and I have been able to grow in relationship with God and to hear His voice more clearly. As I finish typing this post, and add last-minute items to my suitcase I feel an overwhelming sense of peace. I am finally walking by faith, and it is such a beautiful thing, indeed.

 


On Troughs

We get ourselves into trouble when we expect direct, visible growth.  I had lofty expectations for spiritual growth during my time at Clemson.  Aside from a few national championships in football, I anticipated drawing closer to Jesus, finding a community, and discovering clarity in my future: namely an aspiration for ministry.

Yet the only clarity I found was that I, for whatever reason, was not written into God’s plan.   I wrestled with doubt and begged God to relieve me of the burden of constant questioning.  The response I heard was not a powerful or even a polite refusal—I heard nothing.  Absolutely nothing.   I was depressed, I felt abandoned, and quite honestly I felt a bit pissed off.  To me it seemed as if God had been leading me by the hand to a life of ministry and then just left me, cold and alone.  Even worse, I would resent friends who were growing closer to Jesus because I was jealous that, metaphorically, Jesus had taken them by the hand while leaving me lost and looking.   I felt like a lost, wandering, meaningless orphan.  And worse yet, Clemson went 6-7, in as much of a tailspin as I was.

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?  How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?

In Psalm 13, David wrote those words to God.  They felt like they had come on a telegram from my soul.  I understood why God wasn’t felt by those who refused to seek him, but I was actually trying to seek Him. I was pleading God to remember me and show Himself to me.  But I detected no response.

I’ll never claim to know the Will of God, but I do believe there was value in the suffering.  Romans 5:3-5 says that ‘suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.’  And it was true.  After two and a half years of desperation and perceived isolation from God, I could feel his hand and hope again.

But that’s all it was all along – a perceived isolation from God.  He was no less with me after the storm than he was in my darkness.  He was no less with me when I only bothered to pray once a month then when I prayed daily.  He was there, regardless of what I did or how I felt or who I felt.  Through it all I learned not to base my perception of Jesus’ closeness and compassion on something so untrustworthy as emotions and feelings.

The process was a lot more painful and took a lot longer than I wish it did, but the most meaningful spiritual growth in my life occurred during and directly after this most trying part.  CS Lewis wrote – ‘He(God) relies on the troughs even more than on the peaks; some of His special favourites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else.’

Why does God rely on troughs?  It’s because real faith is truly born ‘when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do God’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.’ – CS Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

-Big G aka Gray Segars, UMin Intern


Jumping In

Have you ever tried to live your faith sitting on the sidelines, instead of participating in the game?

This past summer I was vacationing in upstate New York with my family. Before we went to the airport, we took the boat out on the lake one last time. Everyone jumped off the edge and swam around in the clear refreshing water.

Knowing our flight was in a few hours, and I wouldn’t have time to shower, I decided not to go swimming. Having wet, unkept hair for a four-hour plane ride seemed uncomfortable to me.

The water looked so refreshing – and my favorite thing in the world is swimming in open water on a hot summer day. After wasting time sitting on the sidelines, I recognized how I was not allowing myself to live fully. I was letting an irrational worry – wet hair – keep me from indulging in a life-giving, memory-making moment.

In a quick moment I ran off the side of the boat, submerged beneath the water, and I allowed myself to feel free and alive. My hair was wet and unkept, and not once during the whole four hours on the plane, did I regret my decision to jump.

How often do I do this with my faith and my relationship with God? God promises that he will “Never leave me or forsake me,” Jos 1:5. He tells me, “Do not be afraid, do not be terrified, for I will be with you wherever you go,” Jos 1:9. He tells me, “I know the plans I have for you! Plans to prosper you and not to harm you!” Jer 29:11.

So why do I still find myself sitting in the boat? It’s not that I’m afraid of the water, it’s that the water is inconvenient for me.

Has Jesus ever given you an opportunity to tell a friend about him? Or ever invited you to go somewhere, maybe a mission trip, or Deputation? Or maybe Jesus has given you an opportunity to have a hard but necessary conversation with a friend, a parent, a boyfriend or girlfriend – but it just seemed too inconvenient to participate?

The times I’ve sat on the boat, I’ve missed out on an opportunity or an experience to grow in my faith. The times I’ve sat on the boat are the times when I’ve doubted his promises.  But the times that I’ve jumped off the boat, I’ve learned that Jesus is excited to help me grow, he’s excited to teach me, and to love me, and he will, always, catch me when I jump – or even better, he’ll swim with me!

It may be easier and more convenient to sit on the sidelines and watch everyone else play the game of faith, but what if we put convenience aside, and allowed God to reveal himself, as a God who loves us, who won’t ever leave us, who we don’t have to fear, and who we can trust has an awesome plan for us – if we jump!

Ready, set, go!

Megan Giehl, UMin Intern


“Will you be with me?”

My inclination when it comes to reading the Bible is to turn to the New Testament. I’ve always believed that that’s where Jesus is, so that must be where I will learn the most about what it means to be a Christian. Plus, the Old Testament seems so daunting. Simply because of how bulky it is with references to so many characters I’m unfamiliar with. That being said, the fact that we’re taking time to go through stories of the Old Testament at The Inn will probably be good for me in more ways than one.

This last Tuesday Janie spoke on Abraham and the promise of God. To summarize what I understood from her talk was that God made a huge promise to Abraham that seemed unthinkable, but Abraham saw God through on his promise and amazing things came from it…for example Jesus was born.  Abraham screwed up plenty of times along the way but as Janie said “none of his failures were fatal.”

How encouraging is that? God saw Abraham through because God’s promise to Abraham didn’t rely on how great of a person Abraham was or how successful he was. Simply that he trusted God and God was faithful!

What if I were to live my life out as if to show I believed that? What if we all did? That God will be faithful to us and use us regardless of our failures. Often times I get caught up in how “I mess things up” or when I fall on my face in my walk with God. I’m my own worst critic and I spend far too much time beating myself up for my little mess ups. And then the insecurities sink in that I’m not good enough for the task at hand. When in all reality God is patiently waiting for me to get over my self-absorption so he can continue being faithful to his promises to me.

This is proof that the Old Testament can teach everyone a thing or two (or maybe it’s just me because I rarely seem to open those pages). But looking at Abraham’s story reminds me that through the failures, doubts, and impatience…God is faithful and always will be. I don’t need to get my act together or wallow in the ways I screw up. God’s bigger than that and his promises are for me and for you! None of it is rooted in how we perform. God blesses us before we even take a step and His promises are rooted in how amazing he is, not in how awesome we think we are. That’s a truth that rejuvenates me and hopefully encourages you as well.

Brooke Watson, UMin intern


‘Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.’ 1 Peter 5:7

The different types of life’s anxieties and stresses make me think of Legos. They look very different and come in all sorts of different shapes, sizes, and structures, but I feel that we can separate all of these into two categories:

Geometrically sound square and rectangle Legos:  These are minor stressors, like organizing binders for new classes, eating undesirable leftovers to save money, walking in the rain without a jacket, and other trivially trying phenomenon.  They are often predictable and honestly not that unique to an individual.  But in sequence, these can be anything but irrelevant. They gradually accumulate and eventually end up affecting our mood and how we treat one another, not to mention ourselves.  We typically don’t bring these to Jesus because we don’t want to ‘trouble’ Him with our light work.  We typically reserve requests like that for…

The windshields, wheels, and weapon Legos: All of the unexpected, weird, out of the norm, and just plain puzzling situations that life brings.  These are curve balls like an unexpected sickness, depression, loneliness, loss, or disappointment.  Sometimes we take them to Jesus, but other times we are so focused on relieving the despair these events bring that we try and shoulder the burden ourselves.

I found myself asking why I don’t take certain things to Jesus, and I’d challenge you to ask yourself the same.  I realized that deep down, I often have more faith in my ability to handle situations than I do Jesus’ ability.  Time has shown the error in my thinking, yet I still find myself scrambling to relieve my own anxiety, not turning to Him for aid.

Whatever types of Legos are building up on you this week, maybe it’s time that you bring it to Him, because He can handle it way better than we can.

-Gray Segars, UMin Intern


Where is Your Hope?

I want to ask you to take a minute with me to pause and reflect on this question: where do you put your hope?

(Are you taking a minute?)

… Good job. This question is one of great interest to me. Some of us find our hope in sports teams, some of us in friendships, or relationships, and some of us in money, but I hope that most, if not all, of you reading this thought of Jesus Christ when posed with this question.

Hope is a very interesting concept. We can’t necessarily weigh it, it is not tangible, and we can’t touch it or smell it or taste it. But we all know when hope is there. It is almost like we were made with a 6th sense that enables us to hope. Something that is intriguing to me is the way that our different senses interact and work with each other. If we plug our nose then we don’t taste things right or we can’t even taste at all, if someone is blind or even when we close our eyes our other senses grow in awareness. Even when all the senses are working they do a great deal to help the others out; we hear something behind us and turn to look and catch a glimpse out of our peripheral vision without even taking a second to think about it. Not only are our senses heightened at the loss of another but they are made stronger by the others.

This brings me back to hope. Do we hope in what is tangible? Sometimes, but that is one of the beauties of hope; it doesn’t take a tangible thing for us to have it. However, the tangible things around us do play a huge factor in our coming to have hope. We hope because of what we have seen, what we have heard, and what we have felt. I hope because when I look for truth, and listen for answers, and dig deep into my feelings only one thing remains. Jesus Christ! He is truth; we don’t always remember this – I know I forget it way too often – but we are always seeking it. Those things that you thought about when answering the question about what you hope for – while not necessarily bad things – all fall extremely short except for Jesus.

We use the word “love” for almost everything: we love our hat, and we love our moms. We love our shoes and we love our girlfriends. We are a species that is all about love, we are crying out for it, in the songs we listen to, the books we read, and the shows we watch. We are searching for love. Where does the Bible say love is found? The better question is, who does the Bible say love is? The answer? God. We were created to have hope, and created with a longing for love, and only when our hope is found in the true love of Jesus Christ, will we really have peace. This doesn’t mean that all the problems in our lives will be fixed; rather we are told our lives will most likely be harder. What it does mean is that we are no longer defined by the clutter and the craziness of the things that we say we love and hope in – the things that distract us from Jesus – but rather, we are defined by the fact that we are loved by God and made alive in Christ. Let’s work and fight to live into that hope together.

Chris Thurton, UMin Intern

O Come All Ye Faithful

I’ve recently been reminded (and, quite honestly, wonder-struck) by the moment-to-moment nature of relationship, including the relationship into which God has invited us with Himself. Faithfulness is an action verb, and a choice we make continually – not just once. An oft-heard comparison of our relationship with God is the marriage analogy because it is another covenant relationship, wherein each person has a choice to make. In a sermon I heard recently (11/20/11), former pastor at UPC, Bruce Larson was quoted as saying, “Nobody gets married by saying, ‘I agree.’ Or ‘How true.'” Instead, it requires, “I do.” Covenant relationship is a choice and an action, not a mental ascension.


Christmas carols and hymns are one of the gifts of Advent. Yearly audible reminders of the season. Until recently, though, I have struggled a bit with one of the mainstays of December, “O Come All Ye Faithful.” That is because when I start to sing that song – which opens with the title line – I ask myself, “Is that me? Am I faithful? Am I faithful enough to even sing this song?” The answer is without fail, “Sometimes,” which can make me feel unworthy to be singing a song about faithfulness. But, I’ve started to change my perspective on this song recently. Instead of seeing it as an invitation to the faithful, I now sing and hear it as an invitation to be faithful. It’s not a call to the most pious among us to take their  rightful place next to the God incarnate. It’s an invitation to all of us to be faithful by simply coming, beholding, adoring, God – who came to us as a baby.

It’s what I like to call the present progressive nature of faith. Present progressive is a verb tense that – much like its name indicates – indicates action now. “I am writing” means something altogether different from “I write.” The former requires intentionality in the present moment that the latter does not. I see “O Come All Ye Faithful” in a similar vein. Regardless of my past faithfulness, I can right now choose to look for God. The actions the song invites us into — behold, adore, come, sing, greet, give glory — are actions that invite us to simply gaze upon the wonder of the gift God gave us in Jesus. Those actions are in and of themselves acts of faithfulness.

Let’s commit ourselves to faithfulness today, looking for what God is doing all around us. Praise God because in this covenant relationship, He has already chosen us and now the choice is ours; whether we have been faithful most of our life or we have never chosen to behold God before, the invitation is there.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, 
   and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. Luke 2:8-20

Lord,
Like the shepherds, help us to seek You today.
Help us to gaze upon You – who You are and what You have done in our lives & then to join the angels praising You.
With Mary, we want to ponder the wonder of who You are in our hearts, allowing it to transform who we are.

Allow us to be faithful today to You, who are faithful always.
Remind us of Your presence with us, that we might be faithful to simply behold You.
Give us the courage to say, “I do,” now and in each moment.
Amen.

Becky R, UMin Executive Assistant


O Come, O Come Emmanuel

When I think about waiting, what usually comes to mind is the woman at the end of the Mervyn’s ad. “Open, open, open…” I can’t think about anything else! And I suppose, that is kind of the point when we talk about Advent being a season of waiting. When we anticipate something happening, we tend to see everything through a lens of waiting for the big moment. Of course, this can cause us problems when it comes to failing to live in the present… (How often have you said this year, “If I can only get to the weekend?”) But this is not a post about that. This is about waiting for something someone who has already come; which means even as we anticipate His coming, we can experience it today as well.

All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).” -Isaiah 7:14

This time of year, Christmas music is ubiquitous. One of my favorite songs of the season is O Come, O Come Emmanuel, because it sums up the experience of Advent — the waiting, the watching, the anticipating on the front end, but also a reminder of who we are waiting for: Emmanuel. God is with us. This means we are anticipating a miracle — a miracle that will ransom us. Think about that word for a minute. Ransom is paid to gain the release of someone who is imprisoned. In order to appreciate the miracle of Christmas, we have to recognize our state on our own. Without Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection, we are prisoners. We are captive to our own sin and the sin of the world, but God comes to be with us — to “put on skin,” that we might be set free.

6 “I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; 
   I will take hold of your hand. 
I will keep you and will make you 
   to be a covenant for the people 
   and a light for the Gentiles, 
7 to open eyes that are blind, 
   to free captives from prison 
   and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.” Isaiah 42:6-7

As we live into Advent, let’s remember not only Who we wait for – God With Us – but our need for His coming. The sin in us and in the world doesn’t cease to exist upon Jesus’ arrival, but we are no longer captive to it. This is why we rejoice in Emmanuel. God is with us now – even while we wait for Christmas to come and even while we wait for Him to come again.

Lord,
Keep our eyes open and show us how You are with us, even in our messy lives. As we study for finals, interact with friends and family, travel, and wait… Remind us of Your presence behind, before, and beside us in each activity. Thank You for Your Spirit that goes with us today, and thank You for Your son, who came that we may be able to choose abundant life in relationship with You.
Amen.

Becky R, UMin Executive Assistant


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


Living in the World

Feelings and emotions aside, Tim Tebow (NFL quarterback for the Denver Broncos) represents Christ well. Even if you think he should be quiet or tone it down a bit, you cannot deny the fact that he sticks to what he believes in and that is Jesus Christ. He represents Christ well. A week ago, a former NFL quarterback criticized him for always thanking God and talking about God. His response was, “If you’re married, and you have a wife, and you really love your wife, is it good enough to only say to your wife ‘I love her’ the day you get married? Or should you tell her every single day when you wake up and every opportunity? That’s how I feel about my relationship with Jesus Christ; it is the most important thing in my life.” This is an example of how we should live our lives. It doesn’t mean we should throw God in peoples’ faces, it means that if Christ truly is the most important thing in our lives, shouldn’t we want to tell people about him? Wouldn’t we want to take any chance we could to give thanks and give him the glory for everything in our lives — whether that’s scoring touchdowns or getting an A on a test?

He later made a comment that said if all we are doing is scoring touchdowns and winning football games, we really haven’t done much as football players. This statement is true for all of us as well. If all we do while we are at college is go to class, study, and play video games, or go to parties, we really haven’t done much as people.

We are called to live IN the world, but not OF the world. And while living in this world we need to recognize where everything comes from. We are called to give glory to God for everything in our lives and give thanks in all circumstances. Not because it’s popular but because it’s what we believe. He is the reason for all good things in our life. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Kevin Petermeyer, UMin Intern


Quote

Freedom in Boldness

A key theme in my life recently has been this idea of being bold, stepping out and doing something no matter what the result might be. This is a particularly important concept for men. Men have this
tendency to be lazy and passive. We easily see this when a guy likes a girl and does his best to show her so, which usually ends up being a pretty feeble attempt. This shows up even more noticeably in our faith journey. We think because we are reading our Bibles and praying, then we are doing well. But God doesn’t call us to live a cozy life reading our Bibles and going to church where you know everybody. Life may involve these things but a life rooted in Christ is much more risky than that. It requires us to not know what is coming next, and to do things we would never think of doing. It requires us to step out, into the unknown and do things we wouldn’t necessarily want to do. For a lot of us it’s that simple act of being intentional in our conversations with close friends.

The beautiful thing about being bold and stepping out of our comfort zone for Christ is that it frees us. Once we take that action that the Spirit leads us to, we no longer have to worry about the outcome. That’s not ours to decide; that’s up to God — and in God that’s freedom. In being bold and living into who God has called us to be is freedom, and a life worth living.

Freedom lies in being bold

-Robert Frost

Kevin Petermeyer, UMin Intern


Am I a Good Person?

I think that a popular phrase for many people to identify their own faith in association with Christianity to say they are trying to be a “good person.” And this is where I have always had qualms. Besides the man Jesus Himself, who is or was a good person? I wouldn’t even say Jesus is good, I would say He is magnificent, awesome, indescribable, but “good” seems too misrepresented to even associate with our Lord.

I don’t think we should strive to be good people or good Christians; we should strive to follow Jesus and how he called us to be. Because let’s face it: we are all sinners and we have all been very bad. And how do we classify what is good? The terms “good” and “bad” have always, always confused me. I think it is because both words carry with them a certain level of our own human judgment over things, and I think that we have called too many bad things good and too many good things bad to be able to correctly use the words.

Also, when we expect Christians to be good people, they have and always will fall short. People will always disappoint us. When I ask someone if they are a Christian and I ask them to define that, often times I’ve heard people say, “Well I’m just trying to be a good person, you know?”

How sad that we have lowered out eternal walk with Christ to, “Just trying to be a good person.”

I would instead challenge us to be careful with the language we use. Let’s dispel the rumor of the phrase “a good person” when associated with us as Christians. We are broken but faithful. We may not always feel the Lord and be living out what He called us to do, but He is good and He is sticking with us.

C.S. Lewis says, “All right, Christianity will do you good — a great deal more good than you ever wanted or expected. And the first bit of good it will do you is to hammer into your head (you won’t enjoy that!) the fact that what you have hitherto called “good” —all that about “leading a decent life” and “being kind” isn’t quite the magnificent and all important affair you supposed. It will teach you that in fact you can’t be “good” (not for twenty-four hours) on your own moral efforts.”

Kelly Thoma, UMin Intern


What God is Showing Me Right Now

A couple days ago I started thinking, “How in the world am I going to do any other job besides this one after I leave in June?” I know that god is everywhere and always with us, but in this job He is so intensely, almost tangibly, HERE. I see Him in every student I come into contact with. I see Him every Tuesday night. I see Him and I feel Him saying, “Kelly! It pleases Me that right now you too are witnessing what is giving Me great joy!” It brings me intense joy to meet with students who want change. These students are busting at the seams with a want to make God more alive in this college community. I have been participating in this ministry for the last four years as a student and I never really understood and now I look at these students dreams and I feel alive.

You might be reading this thinking, “Thoma is over the top. This is fluff.” Friends, I want to say I mean every word of it. I have cried more and felt alive more in the past fews weeks about the Lord challenging me and pleasing me than I have let Him in a while. I feel like I am running with God right now. Though some things in my life – extraneous circumstances – may be difficult, and sometimes I am dragging my feet through the mud, at other times God is helping me sprint towards His kingdom, looking at all the glorious things He is doing in the lives of students all around me.

One particular example is freshman girls in sororities. I myself just graduated from a UW sorority and so I am fond of meeting these new freshman Greek students. I kid you not, I have interviewed freshman girls from 14 out of the 17 sororities to be put into Core Groups (The Inn’s small group Bible studies), and almost every one of them has spoken about how they are trying to find other christians in their house, how much of a blessing it has been to find other Christian girls in their houses, and how they want to bring more girls from their house to the Inn or just want to be able to love other girls in their houses as they have been called to do so. FRESHMAN sorority girls are telling me this. If this isn’t evidence of the spirit at work here in our Greek community, I don’t know what is.

Life isn’t perfect right now. Life is difficult and heartbreaking and challenging. But watching the ways God moves in others, and myself, brings me to tears of joy. I hope that you can see Jesus running along with you in your life right now too, whether He is trying to pull you out of the mud, or walking slowly down a new path, He is there with you.

Kelly Thoma, UMin Intern


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.


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.


Which Way, God???

When I hear people talking about “God’s will,” I still tense up sometimes. I remember being a college student, trying my very best to follow Jesus and constantly seeking to find God’s mysterious and elusive will. You see, to me that phrase was tied to finding the one right path that would lead me to being the person God had created me to be. It meant that God had something great for me… And that it was my job to find it. I felt like the world God had created us to live in was one giant rat maze, and it was my job to find the one path that would lead to the “cheese.” (Cheese, of course, being a symbol of a fulfilled life). For you visual learners, my life looked something like this:

Prayers such as “God, what am I supposed to major in?” or “Where do You want me to live next year?” were commonplace. My hope was to get clear answers from God… “International studies and the dorms, Becky.” Sure, there might be two or three alternatives that were “ok” choices that God could use even though they weren’t the “right” choice, but most decisions I could make boiled down to being “wrong” choices – if they weren’t God’s perfect will, then they weren’t good enough. And if I made one wrong – or even less than perfect – choice, that would then affect each choice I made down the road. How would I get the “right” job if I pick the “wrong” major? I would have to start at the beginning of the maze again! I took Isaiah 30:21 quite literally. “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” Why was I not hearing that voice? Had I already made a wrong decision that got me off the path?

But as I grew in my faith and talked to mentors in my life, I learned that “seeking God’s will” was actually much more complicated than that and that it was not about making one right choice at each fork in the road. In fact, I began to realize that if I was seeking God in my life and truly making decisions that helped me live into my part of the greater body that Paul writes about in 1 Corinthians 12, I could not make a wrong decision. It was like when I used to cheat at the mazes (you know – the ones on the place mats when you were a kid), working backwards from the end! (If you don’t know, that makes maze-solving a much simpler task).

My new paradigm starts with Christ. Seek God first and then each decision along the way becomes just that – a decision. I read the passage from Isaiah in a new light. I can go left or right and either way, God is with me, encouraging me to stay on his wide path.

Written by Becky


God deserves more

I have been reading through the gospel of John. Today, I came across this passage: “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” (John 14:21).

This got me to thinking, “Well I want to love Jesus. I want to love God, and be loved by Him. So, what are these commands that Jesus says I need to obey?” The first two commands of Jesus’ that come to mind are: 1) Love the Lord, your God, with all of your heart, soul, mind, and body, and 2) Love your neighbor as yourself. (I may have paraphrased here, so be sure to look them up for yourself.)

I feel like I understand the second of these commands. I might not always live it out, but I think I have a good idea of how I love myself, and the things I would do for myself. Therefore, I have a good idea of how to love my neighbor on the same level. My struggle is with the first of these commands.

Typically, you love someone or something for a reason. I love my family because they take care of me when I need help. I love my fiancé because she makes me laugh, and pushes me to be a better person. I love a good song because it makes me happy. You follow? Now, why I should love God is not hard for me to understand. I love God because he loves me, and he saved me from eternal separation from him (a.k.a. hell).

What I realized today is that while this is amazing, and blows your mind when you think about someone/something saving you from hell without you ever having done anything for them, it really only means something if you accept the fact that you needed saving in the first place. Without acknowledgement of our need to be saved, Jesus’ death is just further proof that human systems of justice are flawed. Maybe this is why I struggle to understand how to love God with everything I am. Maybe I have not internalized the reality that I needed to be saved. How do I get there?

Written by Chris S., UMin Intern


Some thoughts on true healing…

A recent adventure into Scripture has left me wrestling with God. It’s a story I’ve probably read a hundred times. And yet, somehow the questions I’m asking about this passage never entered my consciousness the first 99 times I read it.

It’s the story about Jesus healing a paralytic, found in Mark 2. Here’s what happens…

1 A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

I’m not gonna lie, after reading this recently, my reaction to Jesus’ initial response to such a bold, desperate act of faith was deep frustration, even anger. How must this paralyzed man have felt? I’m sure there was an element of embarrassment for him as he allowed his friends to fight against all odds to get him to this place before Jesus. And think of how the hope in him, the desperation for healing, must have been rising. As Jesus is about to open His mouth to speak, I’m sure this man was faced with the overwhelming realization that he might actually experience true healing. Only to then hear, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
I wonder if the man was processing Jesus’ words something like this:
“Um, excuse me… forgiven? Has He seen the state of my legs? Why does He think I came to Him? Maybe I wasn’t clear… I want to walk. I appreciate the His gesture of forgiving my sins and all. That was sure nice of Him. But that isn’t why I let my friends destroy the roof and interrupt His preaching. All I want are legs that work.”
Only after Jesus senses that the teachers of the law are making an inward fuss about His open display of authority does He say to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home,” thus healing the man of his paralysis.

I guess the question that troubles me is this: If the teachers of the law hadn’t questioned Jesus’ authority, would Jesus have healed the man’s legs at all? Could this story have ended with Jesus walking away from the man after forgiving his sins while leaving his legs paralyzed?

When I think about the places in my own life where I yearn to experience healing, I imagine being set in front of Jesus with my wounds open and bare before Him, hopeful that He’ll choose to heal me once and for all. I can imagine hearing these seemingly irrelevant words from Jesus: “Your sins are forgiven.”
“No, Jesus,” I can hear myself saying, “that is NOT what I wanted. Why can’t you just give me what I want? I want to be relieved of my pain, not forgiven of my sins!”

In all honesty, I have not come to a solid conclusion regarding the tension I find in this text. It still doesn’t entirely settle. The one thing that has become clear to me as I read, however, is my own short-sightedness and small-mindedness. I entered this passage wanting from Jesus an immediately gratifying result. Please, Jesus, heal this poor guy’s legs. But, surprise, surprise, Jesus doesn’t conform His ways to meet my expectations. I wonder if this man’s request was too small. The paralyzed man wanted his legs healed, but Jesus wanted the whole person healed. The paralyzed man wanted the freedom to walk, but Jesus wanted to give him freedom from the weight of sin. The paralyzed man wanted healing from the physical sickness he could see, but Jesus wanted to heal him from the spiritual sickness he could not see.

I wonder if the hope I have for my own healing journey is tragically incomplete. Perhaps Jesus wants to give me more than I have found the words to Him ask for. Perhaps He longs to give me true, eternal wholeness over immediacy. The question I find this text asking is, “Will I trust Jesus’ picture of wholeness and healing over my own?”

By Liz O, UMin Intern


Rain

You would think that blogs are for brilliant thoughts. Well try this one on for size: It rains a lot in Seattle. For as long as I have lived in the northwest, you might wonder how I have not yet come to this realization. Twenty-three years old now, I think I might be on to something. The rain can be an extremely depressing thing. For what seems like two thirds of the year, we deal with the rain. Any good Portlander or Seattleite makes sure they have plenty of rain gear. We have boots, fleeces, soft shell jackets, umbrellas, rain slickers; the list goes on. We do a lot to protect from the rain. To those reading this, I am guessing you have all experienced what it is like to experience a rain storm without having anything to protect yourself. Your clothes are soaking, your socks are wet and each subsequent step gets a little squeakier. Over time you realize how heavy you are weighed down because of the rain. It is an unpleasant experience.
It is not instinctive to stand in the rain. Our natural reaction is to get out of it as soon as we can. The less we get wet, the better off we are. We run to any source of cover we can to find a sense of shelter. Sooner or later, we have to step back into the rain whether by choice or not. Sometimes we are lucky enough to avoid it, but it is inevitable that we will have to deal with the rain once again. The last thing we want to do it let the rain cover us.
Ever feel like you are just fleeing from the rain in life? I do. In fact, I do it all the time. My guess is you do too. There is a lot of hurt in our worlds that take on the form of “rain.” We don’t want to deal with pain. Particularly, trying to avoid the pain of losing someone you love. We run away pretending that we are going to be okay. We try everything we can to find shelter. We take on more hours at work; we go to the gym more often and even study harder for classes just so we don’t have to deal with the hurt. When those forms of shelter aren’t enough we turn to others to fulfill our need to get out of the rain. Drinking, Sex, partying, you name it. Any form of shelter is good for now. No matter the rain we are experiencing, it is the shelters we are desperately seeking in order to stop the rain. The truth is that shelters don’t stop the rain.
“So what do we do? Should be never step into shelter? That sounds stupid Michael.” I agree that would be foolish. But I urge you to step into a shelter that is sustainable. Step into a shelter that you know can ultimately withstand the fierce and unceasing type of rain. For me, that shelter is found in community of people that can engage the rain with you. I might even challenge you to find that shelter in a relationship with Jesus. How you do that might be for another blog entry, but hear it from someone who has sought out a lot of different types of shelter to deal with hurt: There is comfort and warmth in a shelter built on Jesus and his friends.
My final thought for this blog: As much as the rain hurts, there is something good about the rain. Something life giving and cleansing that makes the rain worth all the trouble. As depressing as it can be, there is something liberating about standing still in the rain. It is a unique feeling to surrender to the storm and lets the rain fall on you. If you can stomach country music you might know the song by Luke Bryan that says, “Rain is a good thing.” It is. Rain produces crop. Rain makes things grow. Likewise, it is the same in your heart. It is the rain that can lead to growth. Healing, time and good shelter are certainly a part of that process. Let the rain wash away all the pain of yesterday. We cannot control the rain. Sometimes you have to be in the rain to get out of it. So have courage and stand in it.

By Michael W, UMin Intern


Letting Go

Has this ever happened to you? There is something in your life you need to “let go and trust God with.” So you begin to pray, possibly confess, acknowledging that God is ultimately in control and He is good. Then you stand there with your hands open, “releasing it” to the Lord, with all the trust and faith you can muster. You look up to the sky in thankfulness, only too look back down and realize you are still clenching that thing! White knuckles and a death grip!

What do you do? I would probably grunt in frustration. Lord, I thought I gave that to you…why is it still in my hands? I’d then try to pray again, to release it again, and again I would find myself clinging to it. Feeling frustrated, defeated and still burdened.

Back to that question from earlier, “What do you do?” I think that is where my problem begins, with the two-letter word, “do.” How can I give something up to the Lord, how can I trust Him more, what can I do? The answer to that question is probably “Be still and know that I’m God.” AKA, do nothing.

To be honest, doing nothing is hard. I don’t exactly know what that looks like. Perhaps as I focus on the Lord, He will grow and all else shrink. Perhaps my “thing” will eventually become just a crumb that will slip out of the palm of my hand.

I’m still wrestling with all of this. If you were hoping for answers I’ve got none. Just know you are in good company.

Lord teach us. Holy Spirit help us out. We need You. We love you.

It’s in the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.

By Annika L, UMin Coordinator


One Word? Yes.

Have you ever wanted to live simply?

I know I have. I want to live that every day.

How do you live that life? Well, I’ve got a challenge for you. And I’m pretty sure it’s a piece of cake. And if it’s not, well, come find me and I’ll actually buy you a piece of cake. Seriously, my treat! 🙂

Just follow this 3-step process:

  1. Do 25 jumping jacks.
  2. Sit down and take 10 really deep, soothing, and calming breaths.
  3. Let God reveal one word to you. Yes, one word. Begin thinking about this word. Meditate on it. Live it. Breathe it.

The point of this is simple. It allows you to focus on one word. The amazing thing is, you’ll start to see this word throughout your day. Whether it’s on someone’s shirt, in Scripture, or someone writes it to you in a letter, know that God is speaking to you through it.

I hope this activity gives you as much peace, smiles, and wisdom as it has me!

Written by Amber S.


Jesus on Facebook

This weekend I finally saw the movie The Social Network. I love to watch movies and I see most everything that hits the theaters, but I was particularly intrigued by this movie for the subject matter (it’s very well done, BTW). The migration of the human world toward a virtual existence online has fascinated me in recent years, and also freaked me out a bit. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Facebook. Okay, more of a hate/hate relationship, but I honestly don’t begrudge anyone their Facebook page use. Before you write me off as an old fogey going off about the “crazy kids these days and their wild boxes with screens,” know that I recognize the fun and appreciate the usefulness that can be found in Facebook. And, as Mark Zuckerberg says in the movie, Facebook is THE way people connect with one another. But, I can’t help but wonder, as relationships move more and more online, are we missing a key element of what relationships are supposed to be about?

I began to wonder what Jesus’ Facebook page would look like. Check out his new profile pic, tagged with Peter and James, all of them having a crazy time cruising in Galilee. EPIC! Okay, a bit facetious, and I’m not saying Jesus wouldn’t have a Facebook page, the book of John could easily serve as his “info” section. But I don’t know if Jesus’ relationships would really fit into a Facebook page. I think the major difference between the relationships that Jesus had with people throughout the gospels and those he might have on a Facebook page is that whenever he engaged with people as individuals—the interaction, the conversation, the relationship—was about them. Whomever he was talking to, Jesus made the relationship about the woman or the man and what Jesus might be able to do for him or her.

That’s my biggest fear with moving more and more of our relationships and interactions online – 99% of the time, whatever we put out there and post is about ourselves, not about the other people that we’re getting to know. Yes, there is certainly something positive in being willing to open up about ourselves and share with all our “friends,” but where do we model Jesus in this new virtual universe? How often are my relationships about the other person first and then about me? And, honestly, this is the question I don’t have the answer to but one I’ll keep pondering and thinking about as life seems to continue to move this direction: where does living out the gospel truly fit online?

Written by Janie S.


Wombs

Our whole lives we are trained filter information.  More and more information is thrown at us each day and it would be absolutely impossible to process and dwell on all of it. So we are constantly searching for what is important and throwing out the rest.  This is especially true in the school setting.  A professor will sit up front and spew hours and hours of information at you.  You are forced to try to grab hold of what is most important and naturally forget the rest.  Also, when you are reading material, there is way way too much information for you to process it all, so we try to search for what’s most important, scanning, speed-reading or use cliff-notes.

We have all been in school for over twelve years.  It has been deeply ingrained in is to process information like this.  It is almost subconscious to filter as we listen and read.  I would argue that almost every time we listen to someone speak or read something this happens. We search for what are they really trying to say?  What is the Cliff Notes version? What’s the point?

All this filtering and overloading of information is hard work.  It takes lots of energy to listen closely and process information.  It’s no wonder we often dreed school, work, meetings, studying.  Before we begin, we are anticipating being overwhelmed.

The understanding of how our education system and culture has trained us to process information is important.  I was thinking about it last year and around Christmas time I had a revelation that was so so simple yet oddly profound.  Jesus was born in an empty womb.  Simple, obvious right?  We all know that Jesus didn’t enter a womb with twins already hanging out in it.  It may sound dumb, but it really struck me that if Mary had something in her womb, Jesus would never have been born.   Jesus found an empty space and he filled it.

I then began to think about my life.  We all want to touch, feel, experience Jesus.  Maybe more than anything in the world. Yet, all the times I have designed to spend with him are usually full.  I look ahead to a meeting and am already (even if it is subconscious) thinking about what am I getting out of it, what will I need to learn, what do I expect to hear.  And the second I show up, I turn on the filter, searching for what is most important, or just wait for the meeting to be done so I can check the box on my to do list.

But what if we looked at meetings as wombs?  Yes, a womb.  An empty block of time carved out in our week where we expect Jesus to show up.   What if instead of picturing a hour block of “meeting, listening, filtering” we pictured an empty space in which the Lord will arrive and fill.

Since last Christmas, I have been thinking about this visual image and trying to retrain my mind to come to meetings, Bible studies, conversations, the Bible, and work as an empty space which God can fill, instead of anticipating what I’m going to be doing/learning there and then getting ready to filter the rest.

I tried this with scripture.  Instead of reading it to get three main points, I carved out thirty minutes and just read words.  I was reading John 18 about Peter denying Christ.  It was a story I had read a million times and I fought to just skim the words since I had been taught the “main point” million times before.  Yet, when I stop just looking for the main point I noticed something I have never noticed before.  Verse 18, which I probably skimmed over it a million times, says:  “It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they made to keep warm.  Peter also was standing with them, warming himself.”  Pointless right?  Wrong.  What this line did was put a picture in my mind.  Peter stood by a fire and warmed himself.  The night he betrayed Jesus, it was cold and Peter had to warm himself by a fire.   We sometimes read these stories thinking these people were different then ourselves, but they get cold and have to stand by a fire to warm themselves.  Peter was human.  He was just a man as you and I.

That was the point the Lord wanted me to be reminded of that day, that the stories in the Bible are about real people, just like you and me.  I didn’t need to hear the main point again, but just to understand in a new way that Peter was just like me.

Wombs.  Empty spaces.   What would happen if you approach your next Bible study, leadership meeting, conversation, or quit time as an empty space, with your mind stilled and emptied?

Maybe all you would notice at the meeting would be a genuine hello and smile when you arrived.  Instead of filtering, you might be able to dwell on the truth you are deeply loved and cared about.  Maybe in quiet time you might see a small word you never noticed before or in a conversation hear what the other person wasn’t saying.  There is so much we are trained to miss.

Picture our days as series of empty spaces, spaces the Lord desires to fill.  Still your mind, and watch as Jesus fills those spaces.   You experience what we are all craving.  You experience our God.

Written by Annika L.