Sunday, December 1, 2013

Elusive Intimacy

I think that many people are striving for intimacy with God. I think that most of us desire to feel God's presence and to know and believe His Truth. There have been times in my life where I wonder, if people are striving for this intimacy when they go to church, are sitting in prayer, and are reading the Word, then why is it SO hard? Why do we feel disconnected, distant, unknown, and weary while sitting in church, or in prayer? How can we do all do these Christian things and still not feel God? Still not know Him?!

Well this much I've gathered. Knowing God is not an overnight feeling, or a temporary solution to the hurt. Knowing Him is not a standard we are striving to reach or a checkmark on our agendas. Being close to God is an uprooting of what we know and believe; it's a relationship. It is not easy to know God and for many, the risk is too large and the cost too much.

You see, to be close to God is to bear our hearts and souls as they are, to fight against the lies that try to creep into our hearts, and to be in the unknown and the uncertain. To be close to Him is to walk through the pain, insecurities, and fears that we've harbored for so long. To be close to God is to admit fault, release control, and give up entitlements to a "good" life. Intimacy with God is also to know hope in extreme despair, to never be alone, and to know that we are loved, valued, sought after, and deemed beautiful. Knowing Him means knowning wholeness and purpose, knowing Him means knowing Yourself. Because when we are in relationship with Him we are who we were meant to be. There is no need for anything more to be good enough, nothing else to prove. To be close to Him is to know and extend reckless love, nonsensical forgiveness, and agenda-ditching grace. It is where we were meant to be since the beginning of time.

So then, how do we start? We REST in God. We seek counseling, we cry with a friend over the hurt we've experienced. We trust our communities with the real doubts and questions. We repair broken relationships. We take down the walls. We show our real faces and see as the fears of rejection and pain become untrue and powerless in the presence of God. We wrestle with our guilt and shame and speak of the things that have been hiding in our hearts all this time. We pray fervantly to see Him and ask Him to open our hearts and minds to see how He will answer, respond, and show up. We extend our hands to those who need them, we use our money for those with nothing. We pray for others and become advocates for those who do not know of the sacrifice our God has made for them. We care about the hurt in the world around us and we rejoice in the ways that we see God working. There is no formula, there is only living.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

A Generation to Remember

I love when songs and people talk about "our generation". I love the concept of changing this world as a team. And you know, we are going to make an impact on this world whether or not we want to and we will do it as a whole. But when I think about my generation, the ones I have watched on TV, or the ones that I interact with day in and day out, I can't help but grow concerned at the lack of bravery that is expressed there. Many of us (cough me cough) are too cowardly to love well, to serve well, to sacrifice well, and to risk well. We are playing it on the safe route in more ways then we know. We are making profound discoveries and innovative methods towards improving this world. We are traveling around the world are busy playing and adventuring as much as our hearts can handle. But when it comes to looking someone in the eye and saying, "I'm sorry, I owe you an apology" or "You hurt me and I need to hear an apology" we are straight up cowards. When it comes to fighting for a relationship or being vulnerable with our sin and screw-ups, then we are cowardly.

I would love to see this generation become one that is known for its tremendous bravery, for its undying faithfulness towards each other and towards making this world look a little more like the Kingdom of God. I would love to see this generation rise up to be brave in the way that our fathers show their love, in the way that spouses show respect for each other, and the way that neighbors build community that is inviting and wholesome. I would love to see our generation be one of honest sincere words, where people can feel known and seen. That is the result of a community living in bravery and living in full ownership of who they are. Because when you are confident in who you are, then you are able to risk the things that once held your identity. That is the generation I would love to see rise up. And it literally starts with you. Making choices to change the way we function, change the way we relate, and the way that we deal with conflict.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Oceans of Opportunity

I went out surfing one day after work, just me and my lonesome. I got to the ocean, saw all the pro surfers shredding the waves in the jetty, and paddled out to the amateur hour section. It fit my bill just right, actually if we’re being completely honest, even that was a little rough for me. I claim no athletic ability in this field. After paddling out I noticed a younger surfer sitting on his board near me. I thought nothing of it after being frequently out-surfed by 12 and 13 year olds. A while passed and there were no waves, so I decided to paddle in a bit and catch them closer to shore, the young surfer was right behind me. I paddled to the right, boom he paddled to the right. So I turned to him and said, “What, the ocean isn’t big enough for you or something like that? You got a problem? Huh? Do ya, do ya, do ya?” Or a blue fish said that in a different ocean, I can’t remember. 

Anyway, I realized that I was still too far out and started to paddle way in.  As I’m paddling, I keep hearing this small sound, like a sentence over and over and so I tune in to hear what it is. This young boy was saying over and over, “I can’t”. I looked back quickly and I will probably remember this scene for a while. The little boy, completely alone and surrounded by nothing but water, was paddling as hard as he could, quietly adding his own tears to the water, whispering, “I can’t, I can’t”. My heart absolutely shattered. I stopped paddling, turned back and asked him what his name was and told him that we would paddle the rest of the way together. I wasn’t going to leave him. Turns out he was 10 years old and his mom’s friend who took him was out with the rest of the awesome surfers. Well, we paddled together for a little while and then caught some waves together. Then unbeknownst to me he rode one all the way in. So I looked around to find him and there on the shore I saw his little frame jumping up and down waving his arm in the air. I smiled, waved back, and kept surfing.

This scene stuck with me for a while. At first I was confused why I couldn’t stop thinking about it and my heart wouldn’t stop aching. Then it hit me, this is the story of evangelism for me. Let’s say the ocean is a symbol for the world we live in and the shore is a symbol of Salvation in Christ. Is it coming together now? I would say that we are called to jump into this turbulent world, face terrors, and be smashed around a bit. God never promised an easy life. But in the midst of living this life, of walking through this world I think it would be incredibly selfish of us to simply focus on ourselves, to try to find meaning for our lives in the thrill of riding wave after wave of happiness. We are meant to care about the people around us, to care about this world as whole. We as Christians are meant to reach out to those who are lost in this world, those who are paddling as hard as they can and yet look to the finish line and think, “I can’t”. Because it is in those moments when we ourselves heard the words, “But God can.” When people lose hope, we have the chance to come alongside them and live life for a while by their side and say, “look there, hope is right in front of you.” And every once in a while God blesses us with the opportunity to see those that we walked alongside standing on the shore waving back to us, knowing that they are safe in the knowledge of who they are and who they are not.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Musical Conversation

A song begins, the introduction is sweet, inspiring, and thought-provoking. It stirs our interest, draws us in more. The lyrics begin and the words pour out; the artist's heart is so evident in every line, in every note. It tells a story, the words do, the instruments chime in as if reinforcing what is explicitly said. Those lyrics are a window into the artists heart, their true loves, their passion, and their thoughts about life. We can choose to slow down and listen, to become involved in what the artist has created or we can choose to let it be a background soundtrack to our already hectic lives.

A conversation begins, its introduction is sweet, fun, and intriguing. It stirs our interest, draws us in more. Then the stories begin and the words pour out; the person's heart is so evident in every line, in every sentence. It shows a life, the stories do, the emotions and facial expressions chime in as if reinforcing what the words say. Those stories are a window into what that person really believes about who they are, their true insecurities, loves, passions and thoughts about life. We can choose to slow down and listen, to become involved in what the person is sharing or we can choose to let it be a background soundtrack to our already hectic thoughts.

I see it the same. A song and a conversation. We can choose to be involved in both the ups and the downs, to care about what is being said, or we can choose to tune it out. But know this, the more invested we are, the more we appreciate what we have. The more we care, the more we pull out, both in music and in relationship. Tell me, when is the last time we have had a conversation with someone who was so involved in our story that they NEEDED to hear the end? When was the last time we've had a conversation with someone who wanted to know why we said what we did, or what thoughts were behind our words? The world needs people who are involved, who care, who listen to our life lyrics. God has so much interest in who we are and desires to know our stories, our true heart. Who's to say that we can't love and listen to people alongside Him? Be someone who cares what others have to say and see how a simple conversation can become a perfectly constructed song.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Preschool World

You know why I love working at a preschool? I mean other then the ridiculously cute kids with foreign accents and incredible story material? I love it because it's a constant reminder to just play. When you are at a preschool, the playground is not just a playground, it's a fort, a ship, a plane, a soccer field with thousands of fans in the stadium watching you score the winning goal. Nothing is as it seems.

And as I punch my time card and walk out of the preschool for the day it sticks with me for a bit. Sidewalks become runways, planks to walk on pirate ships, or the yellow brick road leading to the lollipop kids. The academic buildings I walk by everyday becomes headquarters for spies and secretive operations. And the airplanes are carrying secret messages of grave importance. The world becomes exciting in every way shape and form. That is why I love working at a preschool, because it reminds me that the world and life is exciting, full of opportunities, full of ways to adventure and be inspired.

As that imagination begins to fade away and the everyday life begins to settle in and the routine takes its place, all i need to do is look at the people in the world. Because I know that they too were once inspired to become a conquistador by a single twig. People show me that this world is still exciting as an adult, because when my imagination fails to fill in the adventure, people step up. I get to discover others, to explore the terrain of hearts around me, and to learn about how someone else thinks. We get to serve the world and those in it. You'd be surprised how much adventure, and excitement is in that simple life choice.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Same Rules, New Meaning

So, I've been a part of this program called BGR (Boiler Gold Rush) for my entire college career (literally since day one). But this year in particular I have been incredibly involved in it and have... well,  one could say, come to breathe BGR.

Something I've been learning lately, is how to live my faith out in a place where it's not the main focus. You know, how do you stand up for something you believe in when it's not common? How do you love those around you, but not take part in all that they are doing? How do you spread God's love to those who don't believe in God? How do you serve God in places where it's not the obvious choice? Like in school, in sports, in the workplace, with friends who aren't believers. Then it hit me, God brings depth and meaning to our lives, to every part of it. He says love and then He takes you life and turns it upside down teaching you how He loves you. He tells us to be humble, and then shows you how to have the strength and confidence in who you are and who He is to do that. He says to serve the poor, and then shows you how much the poor really has and how they end up serving you. He takes the dying weed, uproots it entirely and then replants it to bring about a flower. That's what He does. We offer Him the shallow and He says, "I want everything." But then if God brings depth to the existing order of things, why do I go into these places where God's "rules" for living don't fit and assume that I have a completely different agenda, a different purpose, a different meaning then everything they're doing?

You see God uses things in this world as a conduit for His glory. He uses terms like humility, bravery, courage, love, mercy, and forgiveness to show us where He is and the world has their own definition for these terms. Well, so often I think that when I am serving God, I am bringing a new definition to the world, that I am bringing an answer that is different and right. Oh man, if only I knew earlier, that God is not telling me to "bring" the right defintion, but simply to find the depth in the old meaning, to find Him where the world is already living.

God calls us to go somewhere, see what they live for and then show to them that it is already pointing towards Him! He is adding depth where there is shallowness. He is adding meaning, where there is hopeless struggling. He doesn't tell us to create new rules, but to love through those that already exist. BGR has a passion for Purdue, for making sure that their new students are welcomed and feel comfortable and safe. I have gone into BGR loving all the things that it loves and have found that I am called to pull those exact things deeper and further. To love those in the program for who they are. Who they are beyond all the crap, beyond all the make believe and the pretend, beyond all the judgments and stereotypes. I have been called to love them in their anguish and to love them when they have done nothing to deserve or earn it. And that is me serving God in a place where people don't believe in Him.