Be at rest, O my soul

Today, as I spent unstructured time reading the Psalms, God let me catch new glimpses of his goodness, for which I am incredibly grateful.

“It was good for me to be afflicted that I might learn your decrees” -Psalm 119:71

Throughout Psalm 119, the Psalmist wrestles with his affliction, but yet says time and time again that he trusts God’s word. I have wrestled with the Lord for a very long time. I have wrestled with doubt and asked questions that left me feeling deeply shaken, on the edge of despair. But today, as I was reflecting on the process and on the Psalmist’s words, I came to see that when you wrestle with someone, that other person is incredibly near. While I questioned him and wrestled with him, I didn’t realize how real he was to me during it all– how real and how near. I praise the Lord for this process because I have come to know him deeper.Through it all he has taught me things I otherwise would not have listened to. Fakeness has melted away as I have been refined. In my inner turmoil he was faithful to remind me of his mercy. It was good for me to be afflicted that I might know him more.

As I think of the humbling, incredible work he has been doing in my heart, I am grateful to him. Because yet again, he has been good to me.

“Be at rest once again, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.” -Psalm 116:7

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My Yoke is Easy, My Burden is Light

God has began a new work in me recently and it has been so exciting. He has drawn me to himself in a way that I have never experienced before. And surprisingly, it started with homework. For my masters, I was required to read a couple books that I would highly recommend:

Power Through Prayer by Edward Bounds

The Gift of Being Yourself by David Benner

Anyways. While reading these books, God ignited a desire in my heart– a desire to be with him, to be in his presence, and to be communing with him every moment of every day. He is a God that we can learn about in Scripture, but he is also a God that we can experience. These seem like simple truths and many of you may feel that you have learned this already, or maybe that you already have this mastered. But I have found that God can take the simplest of truths and make it real in such an unbelievable way.

As I have explored this new thing God is teaching me, I have been refreshed and renewed. But I have found that I have an underlying fear in all of it, and my fear is this:

If I give God all of me, if I pour out my heart, if I seek him with all that I am… what if he doesn’t answer me even then?

This leads my heart to a place of despair. I wrestle with worries and my mind runs in circles. I know that these things are not from God, but I don’t quite know how to navigate them. My mind becomes so preoccupied with these worries that I become exhausted in every sense of the word. I have found myself, while reading Scripture, examining how I am feeling and whether or not I am hearing from God. Same with while I pray. Today, I felt incredibly worked up about this. And I had this thought come to mind:
When you are tempted to despair, remember the simplicity of the gospel.

And I proceeded to read about the life of Jesus in Matthew. No note taking, no methodical commentaries, just reading the story. As I read about the story of the Savior of the world, I felt these words impressed upon my soul– “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

The last week has been filled with joy as I learn the sweetness of his presence, but that joy has been followed by struggle. I choose to give this burden to him because it is incredibly heavy. I find rest and comfort in the simple gospel– the story of Jesus who came to seek and save the lost, the man who knows us and calls us to know him and to be with him.

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and  you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:29-30

Glory in Inadequacy

I have recently moved to Omaha, Nebraska to be a 2-year missions resident at a large church here. Transition is never fun, and in my experience change is usually scary. I didn’t want to leave my small community back home in Minnesota. I didn’t want to leave my parents and my 4 younger siblings. I didn’t want to leave my wonderful circle of friends and move to a strange city. I didn’t want to have to move in with a family I had never met. But I knew these were all things that just had to happen.

During my first few days here, I began to realize that maybe this wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Maybe it would be a wonderful experience and maybe I would actually enjoy myself instead of just doing it because I “felt called to do it.” My host family turned out to be incredible, the church I will be working at is exceptional, and the city of Omaha might actually be not as awful as I thought it would be. But nevertheless, when I think about stepping into ministry here, I feel completely and utterly inadequate. I suddenly feel like I know nothing– what makes me qualified to minister here? I don’t know what I’m doing!  (Part of my stress may come from my tendency to expect myself to know how to do a job before I’ve even been taught, which, I know, is ridiculous).

During Sunday service, the pastor used Ephesians 3:20-21 in his sermon. The next day, that verse popped up on YouVersion as the verse of the day. The next day, at our church staff meeting, we watched a video sermon in which the pastor used that same passage. That evening, at a church service at another church in Omaha, I was thinking about how weird it was that this verse keeps showing up. I said to God, “if this is a word for me, make it pop up one more time.” The pastor closed the service using that same passage again.

Take a minute to read the passage in Ephesians that I have included here:

A Prayer for the Ephesians

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

 

The truth is, I don’t know what I’m doing. But his power is made perfect in my weakness and he is capable of more than I can ask or imagine. All I can do is give myself to him fully. All praise and honor to him.

“I praise Him because of who He is…”

As I wrote about before, this last week was Missions Fest at Crown and it was awesome.  Tuesday night, everyone who was involved in making it happen was up late, setting up the globetrekking rooms and making sure every last minute detail was in order.  During this time, we covered missions fest in prayer and worshipped together as a group which was awesome.  But that night, around midnight, I started to feel exhausted in every sense of the word.  I honestly don’t remember the last time in my life I felt that way, so it was very strange and out of the ordinary. I felt especially emotionally exhausted, with the recent issues of life seemingly catching up with me.  So I went to bed.  I woke up the next day feeling slightly better as we engaged in the first day of globetrekking. I was in the reflection room and spent all day listening to students’ testimonies about their experiences and praying with people, but I felt like I was in an unshakable fog. It was such a strange feeling; I felt overwhelmed, confused, and did not really know what to do.

After chapel that night, I went with a group of friends to a worship night at North Central University in Minneapolis from 10-12. It was a late night but it was so very worth it! When Praise Gathering began, I decided I would cast aside my distractions completely and fall into Him. I asked God for a true breakthrough that night because I desperately needed it.  I sat in my chair worshipping, continually asking God to break through every barrier, every area of despair. And I felt his Holy Spirit tell me to go to the altar. But immediately, my mind said no. “I’ve never been here before, I don’t know how things usually work,” “What if that’s weird here?” (which was a crazy thing to wonder, if you’ve ever been to North Central…) So I did not go. As I sat there and continually asked God to work in me, I distinctly felt him say to me “You ask me for a breakthrough, but when I tell you to move your feet, you won’t.” At that point, I could no longer deny to myself that it had been God speaking to me, telling me to move my feet and go up front. So I did.

As I sat at the front, on my knees, it seemed as if I was immersed in the music, oblivious to everything that was going on around me, oblivious to what was happening in other areas of my life at the time. As I worshipped, God began to simplify himself. He is infinitely complex, but yet simplifies himself so that we may even begin to grasp who he is. He reminded me that he is good, he is faithful, he is majestic, he is loving, and he is powerful…. And that is why I praise him. When I am confused and struggling, I praise him because of who he is. As he showed me these things, my heart overflowed with praise and it was an experience I will not soon forget. I headed back to my seat at the end, and as I did, I felt as if a thousand pound weight had been lifted off of me– my heart felt light but full.

Run for the One: MissionsFest 2016

So this last week was missions fest at Crown College– a week dedicated to raising awareness of global issues and reminding people of the church’s calling in this world.  Although this week is typically awesome, it also is a huge source of stress for those who are involved in pulling everything together.  The last couple weeks, I have felt very unprepared, but it was encouraging to see it all eventually come together perfectly.

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Our theme this year was Run for the One, and our speaker did a great job of bringing the Word and speaking truth into our lives during all the different chapel sessions.  There were also seminars students could attend.IMG_3645

One of the bigger aspects of missions fest is globetrekking– we take a whole hallway of classrooms and transform them into different scenarios from around the world.  Students then go through the rooms, and many times transformation takes place through this.  Globetrekking had 5 rooms this year.  Room 1: an airport in which students interact with actors playing characters with various backgrounds.  The theme question for this room is “Where does your mission begin?” Room 2: a Syrian refugee camp in Germany, depicting the very real stories of people in a position in which they feel completely helpless and powerless.  Room 3: a red-light district in Amsterdam, where prostitution is legal and a booming industry.  How do you show the girls love while still letting them know what they are doing is wrong.  What can I say to show them that they are truly valued?! Room 4: a hospital room where a man is dying at a young age, questioning why this is happening to him.  This scene demonstrated the difficulty of knowing what to say, the difficulty of conveying the gospel in such a situation.  The final room was the Reflection room– the room I was working in.  Each team came into our room for reflection and debrief.  We asked 2 questions:

  1. What impacted you the most?
  2. How does that change the way we want to live?

At first, I was confused why I ended up in this room, because it did not seem to utilize my strengths.  But I got to spend 2 days listening to students reflect on their experiences and share the truth that God had been speaking into their lives.  I got to see the change that has taken place in the lives of Crown students, and hearing about their change has created change in my life.  So it was clearly not an accident that I ended up in that room for 2 days.

IMG_3648I heard students repeatedly talk about the importance of remembering that each person you walk by is valued, has a story, and has hurt.  I heard them talk about their hurt in realizing that these situations are reality for millions of people all over the world.  They talked about the importance of constant intentionality, the importance of just being with people, how to be prepared and be bold, how to live a life that is fearless for Christ, the importance of wisdom and discernment in knowing how to handle things, what to do, and what to say.  I heard them ask “how do we proclaim Christ from love rather than judgment and condemnation?” I heard them talk about the importance of being equipped and knowing Scripture. I heard students voice the realization that people see the world so much differently than each other.  I saw students bothered by their lack of words and lack of knowledge of what to do in hard situations.  This prompted many discussions about the importance of following the promptings of the Holy Spirit all the time. Ultimately, our discussions came down to on frequently asked question: “Do I truly believe what I say I believe, and if I do, why is it so hard to share it with people?” I saw hearts changed this week, and in that, my own heart was changed.

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Minneapolis Adventures

Today, I went on a tour of the Phillips neighborhood in Minneapolis.  The group that I went with included students going on mission trips with Crown, students in a class called Urban Ministries, and members of Crown’s Global Impact Team.  We did our tour through City Vision, an urban ministry in this area (http://cityvisiontc.org/). We went to different area businesses and got a glimpse of the thousands of different subcultures that exist within one area.

We went to a Nordic marketplace called Ingebretsens, a Hispanic bakery/mall called Mercado Central, a Somali “mall,” where we tried some tea, made a stop at an Asian food market, and then finished off with lunch at the Midtown Global Market.

The city is beautiful and the city is fascinating.  It’s complex and diverse and intriguing.  There are many great things that come from the presence of so many cultures, but it also presents many challenges to all who are involved in the city, definitely including ministries.  How do you reach a community that involves so many smaller communities?  How do you reach an area in which 100 languages are spoken?

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A peek at the Somali mall

Area statistics:

Minneapolis is 3rd city in the nation for human trafficking

Area has largest urban Native American population, 1% of which go to a church

38% of people live below poverty line

During 1990’s, nicknamed “murder-apolis” because there were more murders here per capita than in New York City.

Religious diversity in area: 41 witch covens, 26 mosques, 12 buddhist groups, 4 Hindu groups, 4 homosexual churches, 19 other cult groups

Highest Somali concentration in US

This area has also been a lot of great ministry opportunities that have come in this area as well– the first Somali Christian church in the US is here, and there are countless churches that conduct services in countless languages.

 

I have been feeling lately that after graduation, I should work in an inner city setting.  I haven’t had a lot of experience in this area, but I have continually fallen more and more in love with this urban context each time I come here.  Everyone and everything is intriguing and different.  I have a lot of motivation now to explore the cities more, to try all the different ethnic restaurants I haven’t gotten to yet, and to pursue ministry opportunities within the city after graduation. I still think I’ll go overseas someday, but at this point it feels like a city setting is in my future.  Today felt like a confirmation of that calling.

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Seth and I after our visit to the Electric Fetus

 

 

Surrender of the Will

It’s amazing to me how easy it is to think that I have control over my life– to think that I have the ability to control what happens in the future.  But what I’ve found to be so amazing is that I think that my future plans are the best, when in reality that is far from the truth.  It’s ironic how giving up my plans leads to better things. It’s cliche, I know. But remember there is a reason why things are cliche– they’re applicable.

It’s easy to say you trust God with your future.  It’s easy to say you know that his plans are higher than yours.  It’s easy to say you are seeking his leading.  But it’s entirely another thing to actually live that out.  What do these seemingly abstract things look like when they are lived out and fully applied to my life?

While this is an area in which God has been working in my life, I definitely do not have it figured out.  But I have learned that surrendering your will means giving up the idea that you actually have control of your life.  Many people say you have to surrender control to God, but did I ever really have that control in the first place?  No, I just believed that I had control.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.  “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  -Isaiah 55:8

We cannot fathom what God knows or even begin to understand how he thinks.  Why is it so easy for me to think that what I want right now is best for me?  Why do I think that what I want right now fits in to what God has for me?  As a person who really likes control, it is very difficult to let the events of life play out, trusting Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him and have been called according to his purpose.”

I overcomplicate my life. I stress when things don’t go according to “plan” when in reality, whose plans were they?  They were mine.  God has given us his Holy Spirit to guide us when we walk in him.  So it is important to be sensitive to the Spirit, to seek his guidance and walk in his ways, but also not to stress about things.  I’m not trying to say if you just sit back and don’t do anything, things will work out.  Following the Spirits leading and therefore pursuing what God has for you requires action and diligence.  Surrendering your will does not mean falling into complacency– in fact, it requires the opposite.  It requires waking up each morning and seeking first his kingdom.  It requires taking the opportunities that God has for you, and in doing so, knowing that whatever happens has been predetermined by Him and is truly for your good. It means not worrying when things don’t work out the way you thought they would.  It means knowing that what WILL happen instead is infinitely better because those plans are from Him who is always good.

But man, trusting is so dang difficult. I need his help to trust his plans. His ways are higher than mine, he loves me and works for my good.