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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
Becky R, UMin Executive Assistant
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.
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.
Becky R, UMin Executive Assistant
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.
Kevin Petermeyer, UMin Intern
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