Spontaneity

Let me tell you about my day on Sunday, July 28, 2013. Because it’s an unexpectedly special one. And that’s the best kind of special day.

On Sunday morning, I woke up early, had a cup of coffee, and drove to church with my dear friend, Justina. It was just an average Sunday morning. As excellent as the sermon was, nothing outstanding really happened at church. Just the usual amount of fellowship, worship, and free coffee. After church, we went “home”, half-argued with the other YL leaders about when, where, and how to have Campaigners that afternoon, and cleaned the house for an impending surprise party. After cleaning, we came to the conclusion that instead of Campaigners, we would head to our church’s baptism service to witness one of our soon-to-be-Senior Campaigner kids get baptized. Boy, am I a sucker for baptisms. I’ll take any excuse to cry happy tears.

So we got to the church and I popped a squat next to one of my high school friends. Before the service started, she asked me when I got baptized, probably out of curiosity. I’d imagine she was thinking about getting baptized herself and wanted to know my experience. If that’s the truth, I’m sure she was momentarily disappointed, as I had never been baptized as an adult. She then responded saying that she hadn’t been either, but wanted to soon. I had been thinking about getting baptized for a while (and by “a while” I mean “a ridiculously long time”), so I suggested that we both get baptized the next time they have a service. She cheerfully agreed, then we stood up for worship, tucking that thought in the back of our minds.

Three people had been baptized, which was half of the people who had planned on it, when one of the pastors gave an intriguing offer. He pointed out that they had more towels than they needed and extra time, so anyone who would like could come up and be baptized. Maddi, the high school girl next to me, immediately turned to me, grabbed my arm, and said “Let’s do it.” I thought my brain was going to explode. I simultaneously wanted nothing more than to run up there and cannonball into the baptismal to come out a new woman and wanted to hide in a corner and incessantly plan where, when, how, and with whom I really should get baptized – which would inevitably lead to me chickening out when it actually came time to apply. In a milisecond, I went back and forth about taking up the offer about twelve times. Ultimately, the Holy Spirit won the tug-of-war in my heart against my sinful, type-A, overly-prepared personality, and I was baptized.

I have spent my whole life trying to clean myself up. Prior to understanding the weight of what Jesus did for me, I tried my hardest to let my good deeds outweigh my bad deeds to earn my way into heaven. Even after I realized how wrong that notion was, I made sure I appeared to be the perfect Christian to the outside world. I put off getting baptized for four years because I subconsciously felt like I wasn’t a good enough Christian to do so yet. But in that spontaneous moment, I realized my brokenness. I realized how messy my life was. I realized that Jesus died because of that and what I was about to do was a symbol of accepting that I am made clean by what Jesus did and how much He loves me.

One of the other women who was baptized saw me after the service and we talked for a while. When I told her how I felt before going up to the stage, she said to me, “If you wait until you’re 100% ready, you’ll never end up doing it.” Spontaneity is amazing for that reason. When I take the opportunity to quickly say “Yes,” I don’t have time to over-think; I don’t have time to over-prepare; I just have time to enjoy life and bask in the wholeness God offers me.

Spontaneity is my new favorite thing, especially in the face of our great Savior.

My Life as a 1,000 Piece Puzzle

My life has been through quite a lot of uncertainty in the last four months. In fact, when I did the math in order to be accurate on that fact, it’s incredibly difficult to believe it’s only been four months. It all started with a little idea at leadership one uneventful Monday night in January. None of us leaders had planned for what would happen during the summer – it was January, we just wanted to survive the harsh winter at that point – but one of our committee members encouraged us to do so. She said that we should think about living in the area for the summer so we could be close to the school where we do ministry and we could continue to build relationships with kids when the kids (and we, the leaders, too) would be bored. When she mentioned it, something sparked in me, and I thought, Well, that’d be a cool thing to do… but I’m not really one for change, so I tucked that away way in the back of my mind.

Until about a month later when my parents called me with some bittersweet news. See, my dad had been looking for a new job for a while because he’d about had enough where he was. Understandable. So my parents called me – which was strange because usually we just text – and gleefully exclaimed that my dad had found a new job. In the middle of my celebration, they added one tiny detail. That the new job was in Delaware. And not the town about a 1.5-hour drive from where I was. The state. That’s a 9-hour drive from where I currently was. And my dad would be moving out there a month later. So I had some life rearranging to get done. My life was beginning to look like the beginning of a 1,000 piece puzzle of blue sky – a giant pile of pieces and almost no plan of action.

But that thought that I neatly tucked away in the back of my mind started to creep back. Did I really want to move all the way out to Delaware only to live there for three months of the year or did I want to take a leap and start really living more independently? Maybe I should take that opportunity and live in Northwest Ohio so I can keep up with the relationships I was building in Young Life. Maybe I should get a job around here so I could pay for my house next year.

I found the four corners, but now I was still left with a pile of pieces and less direction than I had before. Where would I live? Where could I work? The farther I went into the semester, the less I seemed to know about my summer. I didn’t have a place to live, I didn’t have a job, I had no plan except that I was going to be here. By the middle of April, I had made zero progress on my puzzle. With only two weeks left until summer, my life really needed to fall together or it would spiral downward. But I gotta tell ya, God provides.

Right when the summer subleases were all taken and I was left unsure of what to do, I was asked to babysit for one of our committee families who happened to have an extra room. I sat watching an episode of Lab Rats or ANT Farm or some other cheesy Disney Channel show when I thought What about here? Take a chance. Ask if you could stay here. It’s just for a few months. You won’t be that much of a burden… So I did just that. I took a chance, and they graciously let me occupy the empty bed.

I was finding matches here and there and making small progress on my life puzzle. But after applying for Lord only knows how many jobs and hearing back from only a few – most being rejections – it still wasn’t looking great. On my last day living on campus right after I had taken my first trip out to my new temporary home, I got a call from a campus number. I debated answering it because I didn’t want to have to deal with the bursar or something, but I decided to answer, and I got a job out of it. I was offered a job as event staff at our athletic facility, which I think will be a lot of fun.

And just like that, it all came together. My puzzle is at the point that I just had to search the floor and double check the box for little, unimportant pieces before it can totally be finished and be a masterpiece. Matthew 6:25-34 has always been a bit of a struggle for me to really live.

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

I am a planner and a worrier. Every once in a while, I’m a major type-A personality and therefore have a lot of trouble really trusting the Lord with my life. But God provides and it all comes together. Maybe you’re at a place in your life when you feel like you’re staring at a pile of pieces, but they’ll fit together. You won’t see how just yet, but the Holy Spirit will guide you and it will come together. It might take longer than you’d like, but it is beautiful when it all falls in line. It’s a masterpiece.

Not “Because,” but “So that”

“As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth.  And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.  We mustwork the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”  Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud  and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.” -John 9:1-7

I read this story the other day and found it interesting the way everyone acted. Upon seeing the blind man, Jesus’ disciples, His main men, asked why this man was blind, assuming that it was a result of someone’s sin – whether his own or someone else’s. We know that all are sinners (Romans 3:23), so knowing this and knowing the logic of the disciples, everyone would have to have been born blind for this explanation to be sound. But here we are, most of the world born seeing, so we know that’s not true. But I digress. Jesus gives an intriguing answer to this inquisition, saying that it is not because someone sinned, but rather so that God would be glorified. After all, that’s what our lives are for – to glorify God. This man just had a much different opportunity to allow his life to glorify God. Most of us assume that whatever sufferings we face are because something else happened – we see it as a consequence – when we might be missing the idea that maybe it’s a so that. We may not suffer because we are sinners, but we may suffer so that God can be glorified in our escape from that suffering. Our circumstances are not, “because we did this,” but, “so God could do that.” This man was blind for the purpose of glorifying God in Jesus performing a miracle. Our suffering may be a mystery, but we can live through it with the hope that He will be glorified through it.

Men in my life

I’ve expressed this thought before, but today it has a bit more meaning. I have a lot of men in my life, and to none of them do I have a romantic attachment. I have three older brothers, I have my dad, I have the male portion of my Young Life community – including my co-leader, who is an awful lot like a brother – I have all my guy friends at home, and most importantly, I have Jesus. The last one is the only man I really need, but I have certainly been blessed with plenty more. Now, I’m a 19 year-old girl, so I watch more than my fair share of romantic comedies and I expect a lot out of my non-existent love life. I want prince charming to whisk me away; I want the adorable nerd to prove his love to me; I want to marry most of the fictional men I encounter, but I don’t need any of that. God has the perfect man lined up for me and someday we’ll find each other, but not just yet. For now, all I need to do is focus on who I am as a woman in Christ.

A few of my dear friends explained to me that they’re taking a dating fast. When they first mentioned it, I thought, I’ve been on a date fast since sophomore year of high school. But it’s so much more than just not dating anyone for six months. It’s taking six months to keep my mind focused completely on God. It’s taking six months of accepting romance with no one but Jesus. Using the time that I would take on tending to my non-existent love life, I can focus on my intimacy with Christ and my identity in Him. It’s taking six months to grow as a woman with my female fellowship and teach myself to let the right man pursue me. And let me tell you, when that day comes, that poor boy has got an awful lot of approval to seek.

The gospel according to fandom

If you’ve read any of my past posts, you know that I’m a fan of a lot of things. I’m a huge nerd and when I love something, I love it. I watched all eight Harry Potter movies in a day and a half. I watch entire seasons of TV shows in a day and I’ve watched the entirety of the Doctor Who continuation three times. I own every season of The Office, Friends, and Community. I have a Pinterest account and 80% of the things I pin are about something that I seriously nerd out about (the other 20% is recipes for desserts with a lot of chocolate). And that nerdiness has begun to seep into my relationships. I’ve convinced many a person to watch Community and I recently got one of my friends to enter into the Doctor Who fandom (ok, so she’s just going to watch it, but nine times out of ten that results in fandom). Some may say I’m suffering from a nerd addiction, but I’m loving every minute of it.

But here’s the thing, I wish it were as easy to convince someone of the gospel as it is to convince them to watch a television show or read a book series. Maybe it is, but I just don’t put as much effort into it, which is an awful thought. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve recommended a TV show, movie, band, or book to someone. It happens at least once on most days. It comes so naturally to me, and I’m sure many others, to share the things they love with the people they love. So why is it so hard to tell someone about Jesus? I mean, He’s so much better than any story I could recommend to someone, but I find myself telling people about Him less and less. The gospel is something that I love immensely, so why am I so hesitant to share it with the people I love?

No funeral protests here

What popular notion do you think the world has most wrong?

All Christians hate people who aren’t like them and just want to shove their religion down everyone’s throats. Sure, there are a select few who have a misguided grasp on evangelism, but not all Christians are like that. We are called to love because Jesus first loved us. Jesus came to save all of humanity from sin while we were still sinners. No need to judge someone because they sin differently than us. We may not necessarily be good at it, but we try our hardest to love others the way God loves us.

That is a picture of some Christians at a gay pride rally apologizing for how they used to be and how many Christians treat them. We should all strive for this kind of love.

The Rise of the Superhero

There’s a strange phenomenon occurring in the world today that I’ve dubbed “superhuman fever.” It seems like everyone loves a good superhero. I know I do. Nerds have started to become cool and comic books have become equally popular. Hollywood has really taken notice and started poppin’ out superhero movies like candy from a vending machine. With The Avengers, The Amazing Spiderman, and The Dark Knight Rises all coming out just this summer and another Superman movie coming soon, fascination with the fictional superhuman has risen to what I’m assuming is an all-time high. I can’t know for sure because I have done incredibly little research on the subject.  But unless you have been on media blackout (which you obviously haven’t been if you’re reading this post) it’s apparent that pop culture is being overtaken by men in capes. I think this phenomenon is due to the world realizing that it has a serious need. Especially in the last few months, it has become clear that we humans are a danger to ourselves. Since the consumption of the forbidden fruit, humankind has been in need of a savior. It has taken us until now to realize that our need is far outside mere human ability – hence the superhuman. Someone once told me that, “Movies understand what we need, but not where to get it.” Hollywood understands that our problem is outside of human care, but they haven’t quite hit the spot on the solution. Jesus is the only solution. The world is filled with sin beyond repair. We have turned away from the God who loves us more than we can ever imagine. The cross is the only thing that can bridge the gap between this terminal world  and the perfect God who loves it. Our savior doesn’t wear spandex and a cape. Although, who am I to know what He’s doing up in heaven?

The things I’ve seen, the things I’ve done

What are your 5 greatest accomplishments?

  1. It’s cheesy and kinda cliche, but graduating high school and making it to college. I take for granted how difficult it actually was to accomplish all that. My parents and my teachers did a lot of work in this little brain of mine, which I suppose makes it as much an accomplishment for them as it was for me.
  2. Surviving freshman year of college. It’s a similar accomplishment to graduating, but it is one nonetheless. First semester, I figured, “I had 7 classes a day in high school, I can handle 5 every day,” which was really very not true. It took a lot of work, even if it was 101 level work. All of that added to living on my own for the first time was quite a feat. And here I am. I survived just fine.
  3. When I was a gymnast as a young lass, I was fairly mediocre. At one meet, I was on top of my game. I got a 9.2 on the bars, which earned me a gold medal. Well, I actually received a plaque, but it says “First Place” on it. That was an exciting day in my childhood.
  4. I don’t know how much of an accomplishment it is, but being a Young Life leader. God has done the heavy lifting, so I suppose it’s more of a joint accomplishment. It was a weird day when I got placed. I had wanted to be a leader since I was a sophomore in high school, so when it happened I felt all the feelings. I was excited, nervous, terrified, ecstatic, overwhelmed, you know, all the feelings. And it’s been great.
  5. Staying an optimistic, hopeful person. Sin has always been present in the world, but it seems like these days, tragedies are all too common. Hope is a difficult thing to hold on to in this time, but Jesus gives me hope. So again, not really my accomplishment, but still a difficult feat.

Lost

For sure, you have to be lost to find a place that can’t be found. Elseways everyone would know where it was.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

The first step in understanding how the gospel affects your life is understanding sin. We all sin. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23. With the creation of man with Adam and Eve, we were intended to have a life fully with God, but sin has soiled that chance. We are all sinners. Because we sin, we have lost our way many a time. We are all lost souls. Jesus died so that we could find our way back and live a life in a relationship with God. That’s where “I once was lost, but now am found,” from Amazing Grace comes from. But here’s the thing, believing that you are not a sinner prevents you from having a true relationship with your Creator. You have given yourself directions and believe to be on the right path. But you can’t find Jesus – a place that can’t be found – that way. “For if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose,” Galatians 2:21. Only by owning up to being lost can you truly find what you’re looking for. Only by being lost can you find the place that can’t be found. God’s family.

Observation and Knowledge

The two most recent shows that I’ve been Netflixing (can I make that into a verb? Tough tater tots, I did it anyway.) are Psych and Sherlock. They are essentially the same show, but one is set in Santa Barbara and incredibly light-hearted and the other is set in London and incredibly dark and pretty twisted. Also, the latter is almost a word-for-word modern adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes while the former has a hyper-observant cool guy who calls himself a psychic detective with his partner of many nicknames. What I love about these shows is how much Shawn and Sherlock know about a person just by looking at them.

Sherlock Holmes: When I met you for the first time yesterday, I said “Afghanistan or Iraq?” You looked surprised.
John Watson: Yes. How did you know?
Sherlock Holmes: I didn’t know, I saw. [flashback begins] Your haircut, the way you hold yourself, says military. But your conversation as you entered the room — said trained at Bart’s, so army doctor. Obvious. Your face is tanned, but no tan above the wrists — you’ve been abroad but not sunbathing. The limp’s really bad when you walk, but you don’t ask for a chair when you stand, like you’ve forgotten about it, so it’s at least partly psychosomatic. That says the original circumstances of the injury were probably traumatic — wounded in action, then. Wounded in action, suntan — Afghanistan or Iraq.
John Watson: You said I had a therapist.
Sherlock Holmes: You’ve got a psychosomatic limp. Of course you’ve got a therapist. Then there’s your brother. Your phone — it’s expensive, email enabled, MP3 player. But you’re looking for a flat-share, you wouldn’t waste money on this. It’s a gift, then. Scratches — not one, many over time. It’s been in the same pocket as keys and coins. The man sitting next to me wouldn’t treat his one luxury item like this, so it’s had a previous owner. The next bit’s easy, you know it already. [We see a closeup of the back of the phone, which has been engraved “Harry Watson — from Clara xxx”]
John Watson: The engraving?
Sherlock Holmes: Harry Watson — clearly a family member who’s given you his old phone. Not your father — this is a young man’s gadget. Could be a cousin, but you’re a war hero who can’t find a place to live. Unlikely you’ve got an extended family, certainly not one you’re close to, so brother it is. Now, Clara — who’s Clara? Three kisses says a romantic attachment. Expensive phone says wife, not girlfriend. Must’ve given it to him recently — this model’s only six months old. Marriage in trouble, then — six months on, and already he’s giving it away? If she’d left him, he would’ve kept it. People do, sentiment. But no, he wanted rid of it — he left her. He gave the phone to you, that says he wants you to stay in touch. [beat.] You’re looking for cheap accommodation and you’re not going to your brother for help? That says you’ve got problems with him. Maybe you liked his wife, maybe you don’t like his drinking.
John Watson: How can you possibly know about the drinking?
Sherlock Holmes: Shot in the dark. Good one, though. Power connection — tiny little scuff marks around the edge. Every night he goes to plug it in and charge but his hands are shaky. You never see those marks on a sober man’s phone, never see a drunk’s without them. There you go, you see?

It’s brilliant how their minds work. It’s too bad they’re fictional. There is someone who isn’t fictional whose mind works in an even greater way.

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.”

Jesus knew everything about this woman, much like Sherlock knew so much about Watson, but there’s one big difference: Jesus didn’t have to deduct anything; he just knew. Jesus is God and God knows all of His children well. He has numbered the hairs on our heads (Matthew 10:30). He knows what we’re going to do before we do it and what we’re going to say before we say it (Psalm 139:1-4). He knows absolutely everything about you and He still loves you more than you could ever imagine.