Thursday, April 27, 2006

A Quickie

Tonight at youth group we were preparing a skit for an event next week. The skit shows the two extremes of looking for God's guidance. It contrasts a girl who imagines "signs" from God every ten minutes with a girl who cannot perceive God's leading even when it's obvious. I was impressed by the students' acting abilities. I think the skit will be good!

In other local news...I finally washed my car today. It's so shiny and clean it makes me want to hug it (okay, I did hug it--but only once). Now I'm all set for going to the beach with my awesome cousin, Sheila, tomorrow. HOORAY! See you all next week.

P.S. Please pray for three parents of students in the youth group. I'll use initials for privacy. (1) L. has recently had two strokes and next week is having a test to determine if he needs open-heart surgery. (2) Meanwhile, L.'s wife C. is having a biopsy to determine if she has skin cancer. (3) B is having vision problems, underwent an MRI and then was called in to see the doctor earlier tonight. Thanks for your prayers.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Sadly, It's true. I'm emotional.

Sometimes I wish I didn't have emotions. I like to pretend that Im in control of myself and my world and for some reason, emotions sometimes seem beyond that control. The last couple weeks I have been very emotional...but not for any particular reason. Sometimes it's a small twinge of compassion. But other times it's much stronger.

One night recently I could not get to sleep for several hours. I was laying in bed and I was praying for everyone I could think to pray for: my family, my friends, my church, each of the students in the youth group. As I was praying, I became overwhelmed by the amount of pain and hurt in this world, and my heart ached for those I knew who were experiencing deep trials and pain. Suddenly, I was imagining the masses of the world and seeing all the suffering and hurting and my heart just broke. I trust in Jesus to comfort me through my pain--but so many people have not experienced the peace and hope and joy found only in a relationship with Jesus. I longed for them to know him. I found myself weeping for these souls of humanity--each one individually unique and precious, each one with their own story of love and life and pain. It was perhaps the closest I've ever come to seeing the world the way Jesus sees them.

In Matthew 9, Jesus looks at the crowds of people following him and he has compassion on them. He compares them to helpless sheep, wandering around aimless and shepherdless, not realizing that the Good Shepherd longs to lead them to green pastures if they would only FOLLOW HIM. Jesus realizes that the people are ripe for the message and he asks his disciples to pray for willing workers to go out to the people. And a few verses later, he sends them!

I want to be a willing worker, too! I want people to experience the fulfillment of a relationship with Jesus. So, I'm praying for boldness to tell them. But that's scary for me, because I know it's an unpopular thing to do. Today on the radio a local talk show host was talking about how he was a Christian who believed the Bible but that he did NOT believe in pushing his faith on others. He stated that he was anti-proselytization.

This seems to be a fairly common stance. People say, "I'm glad what you believe works for you, but you have no right to try to convince anyone else of what you believe. That is so arrogant of you." Is it? Is it arrogance that compels me to share with others? I remember a quote purportedly from an article written by an atheist who said:

"If I firmly believed, as millions say they do, that the knowledge and practice of religion in this life influence destiny in another life, then religion would mean to me everything. I would cast away earthly enjoyments as dross, earthly cares as folly, and earthly thoughts and feelings as vanity. God would be my first waking thought and my last image before falling asleep. I would labor in his cause alone. I would hardly stop thinking of my future eternity. I would regard the saving of one soul worth a life of suffering; earthly consequences would never prevent me from acting or speaking out to accomplish this. The griefs of life would occupy hardly a moment of my thoughts. I would go forth to the world and preach this message in season and out of season, and my scripture text would be: What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul? All of this would overwhelmingly preoccupy me--that is, if I believed!"*

If I truly believe what I claim to believe, how can I not tell others? It's not arrogance to do so--its callous indifference not to do so. That doesn't mean that I don't respect other people's freedom to choose. If God grants us freedom to accept or reject him, I certainly am not going to try to trick or cajole anyone into a relationship with him. Just the other week I was talking with two eighth grade boys who had gone through their fair share of hard times. I asked one of them if he knew about Jesus and he told me, "Oh yes. I've heard all I want to about Jesus. I'm sick of it. I hear it all the time and I dont want to talk about it any more." Ouch. That made me sad. I was sad for him. But I respected his wishes; I didnt press the matter. I prayed that his heart would be changed, because I'm convinced that ultimately lasting happiness for him can only be found in Jesus.

Individuals all around the world are hurting. I can't help feeling emotional about it. I want to make sure that those in my life have the opportunity to choose to turn to Jesus. Whether they do or not--that's between them and him.

* I've tried to research who wrote this article, but the information is fairly cyclical. Ultimately, I was unable to determine the original atheist author. It is thus possible that it was actually penned by the first person to "quote" it. Although that's not as cool of a story, it doesn't make the quote any less convicting. The text I have included was compiled from two sources: (1) Rev. John H. Hampsch, C.M.F., Coping with Lifes Dark Moments, (Queenship Publishing: Goleta, CA, 1998). (2) K.P. Yohannan, Revolution in World Missions, (Carrolton, TX: GFA Books, 1986-2004) p. 95-96.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

"I'm too young to be skunked!"

The August sky was full of shooting stars as the meteor shower reached its peak. It was the summer before my senior year of college and I was working at a camp. A group of us had hauled mattresses and sleeping bags up to the top of a hill to sleep in a graveled clearing where we had a great view of the stars. I drifted off to sleep around 1:30 but was rudely awakened by my friend's urgent whisper, "Guys...there's a SKUNK!"

At first I thought it was a practical joke, but as my senses awakened one by one, my nose began to smell that pervasive skunky odor. By the time I slowly sat up and looked around, the skunk had wandered off into the underbrush. Someone had seen it rub against some of our bedding, so we sat vigilantly guarding our stuff for a while. Nothing happened. After a while my heart stopped pounding and I was able to lay back down. My groggy mind slowly developed a defense plan. I scrunched down, almost completely submerging myself in my sleeping bag. But I left one arm out, with a hand tucked underneath the mattress so that at the slightest spray, I could flip upside down, pulling the mattress on top of me to shield me from the toxic skunkations. Someone heard rustling in the bushes and I tensed up, preparing to fling the mattress over my head in one swift motion. Nothing happened.

You know how your mind kind of wanders when you're half-asleep, so that you see things played out in your mind as you think about them? Well, in my sleepy state I saw myself sprayed by this horrible beast. I imagined myself returning back to school in 3 weeks and sitting in the back of the classroom with empty seats all around me, people sitting up front trying not to gag from the stench. No one would be able to conentrate when I was nearby. My classmates would despise me. How could this happen to me now? How would I be able to live a normal life when I radiated skunk?! My imagination found the connection to my vocal chords and suddenly my friends were awakened by my frantic shriek, "I'M TOO YOUNG TO BE SKUNKED!"

It's funny how I always seem to think that bad things shouldn't happen to me. When everything goes great in life, that's normal. Of course. That's what I expect. But when problems come, suddenly I'm wailing and lamenting and wondering, "why is this happening to me? I shouldn't have to deal with this!" Or worse, I begin to question God's goodness.

Recently my cousins' families were struck with some pretty hard blows. Two babies were lost during pregnancy, and one four year old boy* was diagnosed with leukemia. I've been so impressed by my cousins' reactions to these tragedies. They've chosen to echo the words of Job, "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." My cousins' response was not to accuse God of being injust, but rather to trust in his good and loving plan for their lives and the lives of their children. And their response made me think.

Why is it that I'm so quick to argue with God? No Lord, I'm too young to be skunked. It's so clear in the Bible that God uses adversity to strengthen us, to build our character, to infuse us with hope. When I look back on my life I see that the times I grew the most were hard times. So why do I make plans to avoid adversity at all costs? I'm running through life with one hand tucked under the mattress, ready to reatreat at the first sign of trouble. But that's not a biblical response to suffering. If I trust in God's goodness and power, and truly believe that his plan for my life is for the best, then I should welcome hardships as an opportunity to grow and become more like Jesus. Just as God took the ugliness of a torturous cross and turned it into something beautiful when Jesus love was demonstrated upon it, so God can take the ugliness of our weakness and suffering and make them beautiful when his strength and beauty shine through them.

So, I've been praying that God would help me to receive adversity joyfully, when it comes. (No rush, though, Lord!) I'm confident that God will only give me what I can handle, and that it will be for my best. At least that's how I feel today. But just wait 'till the next skunk wanders into camp.

*If you want to know how you can pray for my cousin's son, Connor, check out his website at

Sunday, April 9, 2006

What's Up With Me (Plus: A Word About Success)

Okay, so to start off my blog I figured it'd be good to talk a little bit about what I'm up to these days.

I graduated from Multnomah in December 2004 and was incredibly surprised by a job offer from my church. I was hired to fulfill two part time positions: (1) Administrative Assistant, and (2) Youth Director. I've now been at my job for a year and a quarter, and I'm still loving it! I mean, to be honest, the administrative stuff is fine--but it doesn't really get me super pumped. It's just stuff that needs to be done that I happen to be able to do. But the youth part is awesome! I love being paid to hang out with students and tell them about Jesus and challenge them to grow in their faith. What a privilege! I'm so blessed by my job.

Not to say that it's all perfect. Last fall I was feeling very discouraged because I felt like my labor was producing very little fruit. I felt like such a failure, and like everyone at the church must resent me because they were paying my salary--and for what? I wasn't "producing results."

But, God worked in my heart and taught me a very important lesson about success. He showed me how in Scripture he sometimes called the prophets to lives of "fruitless" ministries--as in preaching to a people whose hearts would remain hard and unrepentant. God didn't tell Isaiah or Jeremiah to preach harder, he told them to turn to him for their affirmation and protection. God also reminded me of the people who had worked diligently to plant spiritual seeds in my life, but never got to see the fruit borne from their seeds. I now realize that spiritual success looks different from the way our culture views success. The world tells us that success is measured effectiveness: making a lot of money or getting a lot of followers. But a successful servant of God is one who obediently follows him, regardless of immediate results. We can trust that since God is sovereign, his plan is bigger than ours, and his plan may involve building our charater through "failure," or it may involve bringing fruit from our labor at a much later time.

And since then, God has graciously given me affirmation that I am indeed where he wants me right now, and that he is able to use me for his glory when I submit myself to him.

Let's see...oh, I started attending what I affectionately refer to as "The Grandma's Bible Study" at my church. That would be the Ladie's study that meets on Tuesday mornings and is attended by my mom, myself and 8 grandmas (2 great-grandmas!). Since it started though one other woman my age has also joined, so I guess we're getting slightly more mixed! But recently, I have undertaken to lead this study, and we're going through a book I love, The Master Plan of Evangelism, by Robert E. Coleman. It's an awesome book about how we can apply to our lives the disciple-making principles that Jesus used in his ministry. But preparing the study guide each week and facilitating the discussion has proved challenging. It has been a great way to build relationships with the women in the church, though.

Last year I had the privilege of directing Jr. High Girls week of camp at Eagle Fern Camp in Estacada, Oregon. That was awesome, and my wonderful friend, Amber, and I are directing once again this year.

That's pretty much what I'm up to. I love to hang out with my family, too. They're only a few minutes from my place, so that's cool. And I'm living with my good friend since childhood, Nikki. We get along well, and I enjoy having her here. I think that should be enough of an update for now.