Wednesday, November 18, 2015

rest.

 

I don’t know how to write to you about this… At all costs I don’t want you to feel preached at and I don’t want to add anything to your to-do list. You already get that a lot.  I want to give you a chance to breathe. I want this to be a humble encouragement. If anything else it has been therapy for me to write it.

“You have called me higher, you have called me deeper, and I’ll go where you will lead me Lord, where you lead me Lord.”

I sang the words in Friday praise chapel. My heart and mind were racing as usual. It was the end of another long week, and I was late on homework, struggling with grades, failing at work, and injured as an athlete. I had been feeling one step behind all semester. Anxiety was my resting state.

 Then I sang this song. Called me higher? Called me deeper? Why? Why do I have to go further? I’m already running on empty. I don’t have anything left to do, Lord, please don’t call me to be even more uncomfortable.

I was desperate for rest, crying as I sat down in my chair. I gave up, and God was finally able to come in fully and the song began to take on a new message for me.

God was calling me higher and deeper than I would ever choose to go on my own. But He wasn’t asking me to try harder or be more. Instead, He was calling me to embrace what He had already given me.

I think most of us can say we have more asked of us than we can handle. Whether that pressure comes from someone else or ourselves, we are all fighting to reach certain expectations. We always feel like we need a break, but even when we get these, it doesn't seem to be enough to heal our weary, broken hearts.

And our Christianity doesn't seem to give relief. As followers of Jesus, we are told that hardship will come straight to us (John 15:18-20). But we do not need to despair in our tiredness.

Be comforted that you are in the exact place God has called you to. Discomfort is to be expected, but God is sovereign over this and He does not call you into hard work, He calls you into a hard leaning into Him. For He is the Sabbath rest you need and desire.


Take two minutes to breathe and pray. How has God been putting you through hardship lately? How have you responded to this? Let your heart collapse. In dying we live.

Further Reading

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Vulnerability is the Safest Place


Guard your heart. This command comes from Proverbs 4:23 and it seems to be the golden rule in Christian dating. Christians like to think that if we withhold getting emotionally attached and spiritually intimate with someone of the opposite sex we will somehow save ourselves from the heartbreak of a failed romance and have more of ourselves to give to a future spouse.

But in protecting ourselves from the dangers of dating are we sabotaging the whole relationship process?

When you date someone the goal is to get to know them. And you don’t just want to know their favorite color and their hometown-- you want to know everything. You want intimacy and understanding. But Christians tend to set emotional boundaries on these things.

 (And outside of marriage there will always be a gap between emotional and physical intimacy. The intimacy I refer to in this post is emotional. Boundaries concerning physical intimacy are a different matter which I talk about in my post on purity.)

Don’t share parts of your life story that are too personal.  Don’t spend too much time alone. Don’t do bible studies together. We make all these boundaries for ourselves to postpone emotional intimacy until engagement or marriage when we can be sure this person can be trusted. But if we are not careful these boundaries for our hearts may become walls which will stifle all chances of authentic trust and vulnerability.

Perhaps there is a better way?

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Broken Expectations and Fulfilled Promises


I love when things go as planned. But in life perfect moments are rare and, even more than that, they are fleeting. One second I am blissfully living out all my hopes and dreams, the next I am in a flurry trying to recover the broken pieces of my shattered expectations.

If there is anything I have learned this year, it is that expectations are not reliable objects of my faith.

It is almost impossible to live life without any expectations. Instead of looking back at the hardship and failures of our pasts, we look to a future that is untouched by our dirty fingers of fallenness and brimming with our perfect expectations. Expectations are our companions on this earth as we look to the forward in hope of something better.

But if we look only to our own plans and expectations, our pride will blind us as reality catches up to us. In the end we will end up jaded, resentful, and lost. It is not the forward direction of our looking that is mistaken, but the object of our gaze.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Security for Your Fathers Day

Fathers Day is met with mixed feelings. Some use it as an opportunity to boast about their amazing father and share pictures to facebook friends. For others the day is a reminder of all the pain their father has caused in their life because of his selfish mistakes. Still others may meet the day with mourning over the father they lost and didn't get to spend nearly enough time with.

We all have strong feelings about the fathers in our life, whether good or bad. As we grow up we look to our fathers to make us feel secure and safe. It is their job to protect us. Sometimes we reach the conclusion that we have been well cared for, other times the absence of fatherly security shakes us.

When our fathers fail us we must remember the one they reflect.. The one who created us all with a need for security.

My dad and I dominating a frog race at family camp.
I have been blessed in my life with a very godly, loving father. He has made countless sacrifices of his own dreams and desires in order to give me and my sisters security in our lives. He supports us in our passions and encourages us to recognize and invest in our gifts.

 Although he has not always been the perfect dad, he has humbly and lovingly raised us to become women who love God and respect others. He has given us a home where we felt secure and safe.

But most importantly, he has reflected the Father who does it perfectly. This last year when I was four hours away at college, I started to appreciate fully what my earthly father had taught me about my heavenly father.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Discipleship: The Example of Paul

1 & 2 Timothy and Titus, a grouping known as the Pastoral Letters, are some of the most relational books in the Bible. Not only do they contain Paul's advice to Timothy and Titus as they seek to build Christ-centered community in their churches, but they are written by a faithful apostle to men he calls his sons in the faith. The friendships between these men are a beautiful picture of what it should look like to pass down the responsibility of the gospel and equip the next generation for faithful ministry.


Timothy
Timothy was born in the city of Lystra to a Greek father and Jewish mother. Timothy's mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois were both very formative in Timothy's early years. 2 Timothy 1:3-5 speaks of their faithfulness in teaching him the scriptures and building him up in character.

 Timothy's first interactions with Paul likely came during one of Paul's missionary journeys to Lystra where he preached the gospel to a young Timothy. Apparently, Timothy took strongly to the gospel he heard from Paul and grew into a faithful young man of God (Acts 16:1-2). Because of the recommendations of believers from Lystra, Paul decided to take Timothy with him on his missionary journeys (Acts 16:3) where young Timothy suffered alongside Paul, proving himself to be a faithful companion.

Eventually, Timothy became the pastor of the church in Ephesus he and Paul planted. His mission there was to preserve the gospel (1 Tim. 1:3-5), which Paul instructs him to do through his letters 1 & 2 Timothy. 

Timothy was not necessarily impressive in terms of the world. He was shy, physically infirm, and young by the standards of his time (probably mid-thirties). He would not have been our first pick to carry on the work of Paul. However, Timothy exceeded what was expected of him through his faithfulness to God by relying on Christ for all strength and power (1 Cor. 1:26-29 and 2 Tim. 2:1). These are the things Paul encouraged Timothy to continue.

Paul loved Timothy dearly, which is evident from the letters he sent. First, Paul calls Timothy his true son in the faith (1 Tim. 1:2). Paul obviously saw the bond that had been made through Timothy's conversion and ministry with him to be significant, so much so that he thought of him as a son. Second, Paul comes alongside Timothy in ministry, first in his missionary travels and next by instructing him in how to care for his church by protecting the gospel. Although Paul had a lot to teach Timothy, he also valued his younger friend as a partner in ministry (Rom. 16:2). 

The discipleship relationship between these two men ran deep. Philippians 1:1 and Colossians 1:1 tell us that Timothy visited his aging mentor several times during his imprisonments. We also know that the two missed each other terribly when they were apart and longed for the companionship and encouragement of one another (2 Tim. 1:3-4; 4:21). Paul and Timothy show us that intentional and Christ-centered discipling can create powerful bonds that will be used by God for the benefit of both people and, most importantly, for the glory of God and the proclamation of his gospel.

Titus
Much less is known about Titus than Timothy, yet Paul also refers to him as a son in the faith, so he should be considered as another young pastor Paul discipled.

Titus was born as a Greek and became a convert of Paul then joined him his third missionary journey. Titus faithfully served the church in Corinth (2 Cor. 2:12-13; 7:5-7, 13-15; 8:6, 16-24) and he also organized the church in Crete and led them in their early years. While Titus was pastoring the Cretan church Paul wrote him his letter.

We do not know many details about Titus, but what we do know is significant. He worked with Paul as a missionary, he faithfully served the churches, and Paul invested in his life through letters. The book of Titus is an illustration of Paul passing on his wisdom to a leader of future generations of believers, a discipleship model that we should pay attention to and replicate in our own lives and churches. 

Resources:
John Stott's books The Message of 1 Timothy & Titus and The Message of 2 Timothy
Timothy-- Paul's Son in the Faith (The United Church of God)
Titus (Insight for Living Ministries)
The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to Titus

7 Characteristics of Effective Discipleship

The relationship Paul fostered between Timothy and Titus was Christ-exalting and worked to supply the next generation of believers in the early church with leaders who strove to preserve the gospel. How can we model after Paul in producing these kinds of relationships in our own era to build up leaders for the future? Drawing from Paul's example and various sources, here are seven characteristics of effective discipleship to be used in mentorships as one Christian passes down wisdom to another.

1. Time
Being present in someones life is very powerful. Relationships are built on quality and quantity time, and the basis of discipleship is a relationship. In order to accomplish the rest of these characteristics in an effective discipleship, you must make yourself available, being intentional about spending time together. Strong bonds are not built over night and it takes time to be develop an authentic discipleship relationship.
Source: Kathy Anderson

2. Understanding
The full effect of discipleship requires the two parties getting to know each other so they can understand what the other needs to hear-- whether to laugh or cry, encourage or convict, sympathize or rationalize. To achieve this kind of understanding there must be authentic vulnerability and willingness to be honest with each other. Furthermore, vulnerability should be guarded with absolute trust and confidentiality  so the relationship can continue to be edifying without anyone fearing possible ridicule or judgement.

3. God's Word and Prayer
Although it is not placed first on the list, this is the most important element to effective discipleship because there can be no meaningful change without God. Yet the placement is not irrelevant. God's Word and prayer both create intimate bonds when explored together and they are most powerful when they come in the context of a relationship that has invested the necessary time to produce quality understanding.

4. Godly Example
A changed heart should overflow into changed actions. Discipleship should have godly living as one of its main aims for both the mentor and the mentee. The mentor should be the model of a godly life, so the mentee may follow by example. Discipleship is a perfect opportunity to create strong accountability and encouragement for both people to be growing in holiness out of love for God. Most importantly, in discipleship relationships, we should encourage one another to trust God for all peace, love, and self-control (2 Tim. 1:7).
Source: Kathy Anderson

5. Resolution of Conflict
As relationships get deeper, the sinful natures of people will begin to reveal themselves as a new understanding of one another increases the chances of seeing things that are ugly along with the good. As these two sinners continue to interact there is bound to be conflict, but how this conflict is resolved will be the difference in whether the relationship crumbles or continues to grow toward Christ. First, both people must decide to make conflict resolution a priority. It is not always a comfortable process, but immediate confession and forgiveness  of wrongs is necessary for continued trust. Next, both people must commit to handling these issues in love so that no more damage is caused in the resolution, but it is also used as a tool to propel the discipleship relationship to greater depths of understanding and encouragement.

6. Encouragement
Just as Paul encouraged Timothy to "fan into flame the gift of God" (2 Tim. 1:6, ESV) and "not neglect the gift within you" (1 Tim. 4:14, ESV), so we should seek to encourage those we disciple in their spiritual and natural gifts. One of the goals of Christian discipleship is to build up leaders for the next generation, and this means we must be teaching them to foster how God has blessed them so that they might bless others in his name. Encouragement  should be the very intentional result of all the hard labor of developing the discipleship relationship. 
Source: Kathy Anderson

7. Love
Finally, tie all these together in love. Mutual love and submission fueled by the Holy Spirit should  be the overwhelming characteristic of Christian discipleship relationships. God will be glorified in the relationship if it mimics his love for us, not selfish or self-exalting, but sacrificial. Only by speaking the truth in love and seeking to serve one another in your roles will spiritual growth manifest itself in the discipleship. 

Resources:
Kathy Anderson's lectures in the class Pastoral Letters at University of Northwestern -- St. Paul
Model for Mentoring

Friday, April 17, 2015

Fun Facts Friday

1. Les Miserables Medley from Lindsey Stirling
 Yes, please. My two favorites!


2. Five16 Film Festival
This is an annual event at Northwestern where film students have their projects screened for a large audience. I was able to go with a group of friends and it was so much fun. I loved getting to see all the hard work my fellow Northwestern students to tell stories in a way that glorifies God. Our film students are seriously so talented! Here are some of my favorites from every category...

Music Video: "Seawinds" Zac Anderson and Eric Johnson, Best Music Video


Comedy: "Calvin 'The Janitor' Jackson" Zac Anderson and Victoria Cross, Best Comedy



Animation: "Little Patanga" Jenna Hubin and Zac Lundstrom, Best Animation


Drama: "The Writer" Zac Anderson, Victoria Cross, Eric Johnson and Scott Van Daalen, Audience Choice Award



Also, "Compete with Purpose" Matthew Abler, Best Drama and Best Actor (Joseph "Juice" Sutton)


3. The Mundane
I found this and it was a humbling reminder that you never really learn something. I have been struggling with this same exact thing recently. God seems to bring the same lessons around over and over again giving us a new depth of understanding every time.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Winter

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace." -- Ecclesiastes 3:1-8


From February 4,  when winter is feeling far too long and far too cold:

At the beginning of this week I was struggling. The stress and loneliness were crippling. I was tired in every way, but then so was everyone else. What made my problems harder than theirs? What gave me the right call a struggle what we all must call life? I silenced it. But that made my heart hurt all the more.

Then the snow came.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

fear.

I have never been more aware of my introvertedness than on a college campus. As much as I love being surrounded by my friends all the time, I often feel worn out and need to find space to recharge on my own. Although this can feel like a weakness, I come alive in my alone time. This is when my creativity thrives and I feel most comfortable.

However, I cannot be alone all the time (nor do I want to be) and these are the times when being an introvert petrifies me. I walk as fast as I can to my classes so no one will see me and I won't have to go through the awkward decisions of whether to say hi or just keep walking. Then I get to my class as late as possible to avoid having to make small talk before it starts. The rest of  the class I try to learn, but am continually being drained of the energy it takes to be surrounded by people I don't really know.

I worry others will think I am antisocial and rude. I watch my extrovert friends light up the room when they enter as I shrink back into the corner to observe the busyness.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

I'm Gonna Make This Place Your Home

I miss my home... Two days ago I wouldn't have been able to say that.

I anticipated being extremely homesick at college. My parents and sisters are my best friends and I have two nephews and a niece that grow up way too fast. I knew being four hours away would kill me, so I was pleasantly surprised when my fall consisted of very few emotional breakdowns. But this month has made up for it.

Spring semester has been harder than fall semester in almost every way.  At the root of it all is a desire to be at home, and a denial of actual homesickness.

 I day dream about standing next to my mom with our backs facing the fireplace while my sisters lay on the couch and we talk for hours, having to periodically convince each other not to go to sleep just yet. This routine that I used to take for granted has become a concrete memory of a place where I knew I was loved and accepted.

However, up until last night I would not admit that I wished I were home. I knew I missed my family and was struggling, but I would not allow myself to tell anyone, including myself and God. The pretty way to describe it was a fear of burdening anyone with my hardships, they ugly way is that I am too prideful to show weakness. I am all about bearing one another's burdens as long as they aren't mine. I'll keep those to myself, thank you very much.

Turns out there is a reason God commands us to let others help us carry our burdens,