Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The beginning of the end... one week left.

It is one of those reflective nights... where I am remembering the last few years with joy and yet, a great deal of sadness. That might be due to the fact that I just got back from seeing Ryan Adams in concert and then getting home and listening to Bruno Merz's "For You Now" on repeat. Regardless of the reason, I am thankful for the way I am wired... to reflect... to grieve... to grow... and to feel things deeply.
A lot has happened in my life while I've been here in St. Louis. Not only did I see my two favorite musicians play live here (hello... Paul Simon and James Taylor!) and get to scrape off layers of ice off my car for the first time... but I took huge risks in letting myself become rooted in the community, in my church, and in dear friendships. With God's help, I worked through some tough things. I picked up a paintbrush again. I started to learn the guitar (again). I took 2 incredible trips to Ethiopia where my heart continued to grow for women's ministry. I lost my dear sister.  I learned I could move on from a difficult relationship. I discovered there was more to my heart than I could have ever imagined- that my life could be a great adventure if I let go of my plans. I learned that there is more to the gospel. More to forgiveness... to joy... to suffering... to life.
There are a few things that I'm leaving that I'm sad to say are not mended. I pray that someday, those painful places will be healed, that there will be reconciliation, and even joy. But for now, they are in the Lord's hands. As I continue to wait for His timing in those places, I am encouraged about the journey ahead.
My time in St. Louis is drawing to a close and I will walk out of here knowing I lived an incredible life here. I don't regret any of it. In fact, the toughest situations that seemed absolutely hopeless were the strongest catalysts to access the deepest parts of my heart. The most painful relationships were used to shape me and push me towards my calling in Africa and maybe even in Europe. I am thankful for the trials. I wouldn't trade a moment. Not one.
I will miss all of my wonderful supportive friends. I will miss the friends I made at the beginning, the middle, and even (Thank You Jesus!) the end. Thank you to all of you that got me through this season. I am better for it- because of all of you. Thank you for reflecting His mercy and love through your care of my heart. I will never forget the place you all have in my heart.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Waiting on Jesus

I'm currently in the midst of raising support to work out in North Africa as an advocate for young women involved in the sex industry and sex-trafficking trade. This hasn't been an easy process as I am left to depend on the Father for guidance and support. I came across a prayer from Scotty Smith today that gives voice to my heart as I continue to lift these women up to Jesus for freedom through the Gospel. I recognize this is one of the first posts about my future work in Africa mentioned on my blog and I'm excited to see what God will do through it. Please join me in the fight against the evil happening all over the world through the sex trade. I've attached a video and then Scotty Smith's prayer.

A Prayer for Not Fretting Evil, While We Wait on the Lord

-Scotty Smith

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land. Ps. 37:7-9

Faithful Father, you send your Word with Swiss timing and uncanny precision. Whenever we’re vexed or fretful, you anticipate it. Whenever we’re confused or anxious, you’ve already spoken wisdom about the matter in multiple places in the Scriptures. Whenever we feel vulnerable or angry, time and time again, you come to us in the Bible and bring us back home to gospel-sanity. How we praise you for the counsel and consolation of your Word; the grace and power of the Scriptures; the truth and authority of the Bible.

It’s easy to get worked up over the apparent success of those who bring harm to others—evildoers who even get rewarded for their madness. Whether it’s madmen playing with enriched uranium like it’s Play Doh, pirates seizing aid marked for poor countries, the exponential growth of human trafficking and slavery, the multi-kazillion-dollar pornography and drug industries, violations of beauty and goodness are everywhere. How long, O Lord, before you send Jesus back to put all things right? When will Jesus return to finish making all things new?

Your answer from the Scriptures to our weary cry is exactly what we need. You won’t give us a date, but as always, you do give us yourself. Father, through the Psalmist, we hear you loud and clear. You’re calling us to stillness and fretless waiting. Every day, in multiple contexts, we need to hear you say, “Be still and know that I am God.” No good comes from our obsessing about the darkness and evil-making. Nothing profitable results from our spending extra time fertilizing our anger, fueling our disgust, fuming about how much evil-doers get away with.

Satan has already been defeated at the cross, and he is filled with fury because he knows his time is short. Having been humiliated, he will be eradicated. Death and dying; terror and terrifying; evil and evil-makers will be gone forever. For a Day is coming when the knowledge of your glory will cover the entire earth as the waters cover the sea. The whole world is “holy land”, not just one small and important bit of real estate in the Middle East. From the Garden of Eden to the gardens of the new heaven and new earth, you are in control. The New Jerusalem is coming down from heaven, not a day early and not a day late.

Until that day, we will seek to seek first the kingdom of God and the righteousness of King Jesus. Push back the effects of the fall through us, and offer a foretaste of the world to come. How we praise you that the very righteousness with which you have already robed us is the same righteousness with which you are going to fill the earth. By the riches of the gospel, you’ve already adopted us as your children and made us to be heirs of a perfect eternity. Hallelujah, what a Savior! Hallelujah, what a salvation! So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ powerful name.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

To other Peters of the 21st century...

I am one of those bloggers that spends most of her time reading others' blogs instead of writing my own. This one caught my attention. Angie Smith first peaked my curiousity when she wrote a book about the loss of her baby girl. Going through trauma myself, I found great comfort in her writing. This post was titled, "Immediately" from her blog Bring the Rain. I identify with what she is saying here... maybe you will to. Take it from me, a Peter of the 21st century, it's worth the read...

"He had just cast his net into the sea when he heard a voice.

“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

He didn’t know the voice, but something about it must have compelled him, because he dropped his net immediately and followed the stranger.

Of all people in Scripture, I think I relate the most to Peter. He loves deeply, intensely, and with tremendous devotion.

But sometimes he says the wrong thing.

Okay, more than sometimes.

In any case, I think the word “immediately” used to describe his reaction to Christ could categorize a good bit of his thinking. He’s sort of clumsily “all-in” with his love.

He is the first of the disciples to pipe up when Jesus asks the disciples if they know who He is, and I imagine him responding a little like me as an eager middle-schooler, hand raised and ready to be praised for my answer. He’s impetuous, but he means well. Gold star, Peter.

One day I want to write a book on his life, because I feel so emotionally charged when I read about him. There are so many details that stir me to tears, because I feel like I’m there with him in it all.

In the water, net in hand.

I heard Him and I dropped what I had been clinging to, even though it was all I knew at the time. I really didn’t spend a lot of time worrying what I was going to do next, or where He was taking me. I’m either “all-in” or “not at all” myself.

Have you ever read the Bible and chuckled to yourself? I assure you, there is humor there if you allow yourself to imagine it. God is the Author of humor, and I genuinely believe He snuck in a few good one-liners for all of us who appreciate wit and timing (hand raised. Gold star, Angie).

At the Last Supper, Jesus tells the disciples He is going to wash their feet. It’s clearly a sacred and holy moment, and as He approaches Peter, Peter resists Him. He tells Jesus that He will never wash his feet (notice the use of the word “never.” We extremists like to jump there. You know, like, immediately.) I presume this statement was accompanied by head-shaking or some other physical motion to emphasize that it wasn’t going to happen. This was Jesus! The Son of God certainly didn’t need to be washing anyone’s feet. Peter saw that, and spoke up. Never. Never. NEVER. As in, not ever. Not now, not in a million years. It isn’t happening.

Well, Jesus responds to Him in approximately ten words and the next thing we hear Peter say is:

“Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” (John 13:9)

Umm, okay. So maybe never was a little bit strong. And now that I’ve had a few seconds to reconsider, let’s go ahead and do the whole shebang, huh? Why stop with the feet? If you want this to happen I’ll grab some shampoo and body wash and we’ll call it a day.

Sweet Peter. He goes from “never” to “head-to-toe” faster than most people can tie their shoelaces.

I get it. I mean, I totally, completely get it (totally, completely. Not that I’m extreme.)

If you heard my Women of Faith talk this year, you will already know one of my favorite stories in the entire Bible, and it involves Peter. If you want to read it, it happens in Matthew 14. The short version is that Jesus tells Peter to walk on water and he steps out of the boat in faith. Wouldn’t you just figure he was the one who called out to Jesus and then climbed into the impossible?

He does okay for a little bit. Step by step he gets closer to the Lord.

But then he realizes the waves are huge, and he doubts. He starts to drown.

Yep. Been there.

I’m going to skip some of my favorite details for the sake of brevity (and because I really do want to write a book and I think there is a lot more here than a blog post), but the next thing we know, Peter is reaching out to Jesus, asking Him to save him from the sea.

And I love this.

I LOVE THIS (I’m fairly certain Peter would have loved italics and bold, capital letters)

Scripture says this:

“Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him.” (Matthew 14:31)



We see this word approximately 30 times in the New Testament, and one of the other occasions is when we read about the way Peter responded when he first heard the voice of the Lord.

Remember? He immediately dropped his net to follow. No dilly-dallying. You called out to me and I responded right away. Jesus is doing the same here, and I can imagine that as His arm dove into the deep, Peter might have remembered what it was like to be a fishermen in desperate need of a Savior.

I know I do.

Peter wasn’t born with the name “Peter,” but rather, “Simon.” Jesus Himself named him Peter, meaning, “the rock.”

Does it surprise you at all that Jesus chose a man like Peter to be a “rock” of the faith? After all, let’s not forget what Peter had yet to do at this point. At the same dinner that Jesus washes his feet, He tells Peter that he will deny Him three times. Peter argues that passionately, saying he would rather die than deny Christ (Not just, “I won’t do that, Lord,” but “I WOULD RATHER DIE!” Well, at least he’s consistent).

I can’t help but wince when I read those words, because as we know, all the passion in that moment didn’t translate when Peter was on the spot a few hours later. He did, in fact, deny His Christ three times, and when he heard the rooster crow, he remembered the Lord’s words. He wept bitterly as he considered his betrayal.

Three times, he says he doesn’t know Him. And I’m sure he said it with all the intensity that characterized his life. What must it have been like, on that dark night, as Peter considered that he had been too weak to defend his King? As the Lord was beaten, bloody, hung to die while mocked relentlessly-was Peter weeping over his actions somewhere else in the night?

We have no reason to believe he was at the crucifixion of Christ. Maybe he was still too terrified of what the crowds might do to someone who had been associated with Jesus. Or maybe he was swallowed by his shame, his regret too profound to even move towards the cross.

Have you ever felt a shame that told you that you weren’t worthy to be near the cross? I hasten to guess that you have. The enemy of our souls wouldn’t have it any other way, I’m afraid.

Regardless of where he was in that particular moment, it isn’t the last we will hear from Peter. Not by a long-shot, in fact. He will rise to become a great evangelist, proclaiming the name of Christ to people everywhere, no doubt in boldness. But what about in-between? Did this man ever wonder if he could truly be forgiven for his sin?

The risen Christ reveals Himself to Mary the Magdalene, who runs to tell the apostles. For the most part, they don’t believe her. But there is one who does.

“But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.” (Luke 24: 12

I would imagine it was immediately, wouldn’t you?

Maybe he had the same thought I have, many times over.

He is real.

And that means there is still a chance for me to dedicate the rest of my life to Him, no matter how many times I have failed Him in the past.

Just today, as I read the words I am about to share with you, I cried in the corner of a coffee shop over the power of what the Lord chose for Simon Peter. Suffice it to be said, God is a phenomenal writer-never missing the imagery and symbolism that brings you to your knees in worship. It’s not lost on me, and I pray it isn’t lost on you either.

Peter knows in theory that Jesus has risen from the dead. He has heard the stories and while he believes on some intellectual level, he hasn’t experienced Him in person. If this was a movie playing, wouldn’t you long to know what happened next? Wouldn’t you be curled up in your chair, wondering if he would ever have the chance to speak to Jesus again?

Maybe it’s just me. Say it’s not just me.