Saturday, January 27, 2007

hope week

I'm sensing that change is in the wind.

Last semester, I felt slumped over. I think a lot of people felt that way. I wasn't praying very much, and I know that didn't set any sort of good example for the people I was leading. To be honest, I didn't want to work hard, and then I felt bad about myself for not wanting to work hard, and then that de-motivated me even more. I struggled to connect with God consistently and emotionally.

This week made me sit up and take notice. God is moving. I know my heart is returning to the bottom line about why I'm doing what I'm doing.

Monday was Kyle C's birthday, and we welcomed him to staff meeting with a tunnel and cheers. We love each other. A lot. Then we worshiped together. Then Shah gave us some thoughts he's had lately about the culture of American college life. All of us, including him, saw ourselves in what he described--the self-absorbed performance mentality, materialism and drive to be entertained. It was humbling and insightful, and I felt convicted. But I didn't feel alone. We're broken, but we're in this together.

Tuesday afternoon, Melissa and I went to Caribou and talked about how life changes so quickly in campus ministry and how "the shuffle" is hard. People we love are gone in four years. Everybody's busy and it's hard to keep in touch. Deep relationships tend to be very seasonal. Later we met up with Chris, Kyle and Shah to talk about the two North Campus New Life Teams (one led by Chris and me, the other by Kyle and Melissa). Chris really encouraged me after I talked about how part of me is still wondering if what I'm doing is "worth it." He pointed out where I've made a difference--mostly places that I didn't ever notice. Then the five of us watched footage from the Willow Creek Leadership Summit 2006 of a line of people holding up cards. On the front, each person had written what their life was like before Christ had transformed it. Then as they walked to the front of the stage, they flipped their card to show what their life is like now that they know Jesus. I cried. We're talking about doing something similar at our building dedication service.

Tuesday night I had lifegroup with Carly, and we talked about how Jesus "set out resolutely" for Jerusalem to accomplish His main goal on the earth, to die for us. I was wondering what the five of us were going to set out resolutely to do this semester as a lifegroup. As we talked, it became clear that all three of the younger girls are struggling with deep questions about the trustworthiness of God. Why do Christians suffer? One of the girls lost nine family members over a period of four months. Why do bad things happen to morally good people? The bottom line: is God good? Is He just?

He is so good. He is the God of justice.

Tuesday night there were around thirty of us in a room in Bursley, calling out to God and praising Him like I haven't heard in a long time. There is a song on the newest Hillsong album "Mighty to Save" called "Higher." There is a bridge where all the men sing: "He is so great and waiting to be praised by you." This is what I want for the people on North Campus--the ability to worship the God of the universe.

Wednesday I allot four hours to spend time with God. Usually it's a rough time for me. I always get intensely drowsy, perhaps because it's the only time during the day that I'm not really DOING something. I struggle with staying attentive in prayer or whatever it is I'm attempting to do. I feel weak. This time I fell asleep for one of the four hours, but then I woke up and read Romans 8-11. After reading the part about God foreknowing me, predestining me, calling me, justifying me and glorifying me, I started to ask the question: is God good? Is He just? Why are some chosen and others not?

You know how Paul always reads your mind? Romans 9:19-21 "One of you will still say to me: 'Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?' But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?"' Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?" and Romans 11:33-36 "Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! 'Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?' 'Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?' For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen." I'm becoming more and more convinced that belief in God and His goodness is my only option. Not because I can't bear the thought of anything else, but because I am the creation. I know nothing. Am I too simplistic? Is my faith unreasonable?

The girls in my lifegroup need to worship the God of the universe.

Thursday I went to BSF with Gaia, and we studied Romans 9:1-5. The only thing I can say is that I marvel at God's commitment to the Jews, and I cannot fathom the day when the deliverer will turn godlessness away from Zion.

Friday morning, Kevin, Hilary and I brainstormed and prayed about something that's been on Kevin's heart for a long time. Street kids in Africa (and elsewhere, I'm guessing) are constantly hungry, so they steal or trade for cobbler's glue, which they sniff to get a high that will stem the hunger pangs. After awhile, many of them choose glue over food, and their brains, due to the chemicals they're taking in, lose much of their function. They're lives are over by their teen years. The question on the table is: could this become a cause for New Life Church? So many now know about Darfur, child soldiers, and conflict diamonds. Those issues are perhaps bigger. But could we find an activist niche for our church? Could we work with Elmers and other glue companies to work against this problem? We're naive, and really, it's just the three of us. But I'm learning to love more and more the simple posture of prayer at the foot of the sheer rock face of injustice. We'll see what happens. Perhaps LIFE will happen.

Last night, Kevin and I got Vietnamese food, and we talked, and I feel stunned by how good he is to me.

This morning, Saturday, there's a lot to do, but I finally made my bed and watered my plants, and I feel hopeful.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

bricks and bridges

I attempted to get up a little early this morning and post. Saturday mornings are even scheduled in as my "blog time." I'm really trying to develop a routine--maybe then I'd actually do this.

Baby steps. I only had a half hour to write this morning, and even then, I was late for work at the building. Today, risking frostbite, we loaded debris from out front into trash cans to be thrown in the giant dumpster around back. I'm pretty darn invested in this new auditorium, thanks to all the work the staff team has put into it.

--hours and hours of A2 Project mailings: printing, labeling, stuffing, sealing and stamping (there was always good conversation, plus bagels or pizza)
--moving lots of furniture around
--helping run a garage sale to get rid of furniture
--bringing concrete blocks from the demolished kitchen in the basement up the stairs to the dumpster (i earned the nickname "one million bobcats" during this activity, as well as some tumor-sized bruises on my forearms)
--sweeping and/or shop-vac-ing
--shoveling dirt for a staff-built retaining wall that now supports the stairs up to the main entry
--lugging more debris around
--giving tours
--attending wretchedly painful planning commission meetings

It is gonna be AWESOME to finally be in the new building, worshiping with 900 other people, most of whom I don't know, because they showed up to New Life and willingly stuffed themselves into the MLB, while we waited for a bigger auditorium.

The last week has been a good one. I'm learning more and more how to do life with my schedule, my responsibilities, my personality, and my capacity for handling stress. After December, which was a tough, burned-out month for me, I'm realizing that I need to slow down. My tendency is to try to shove my way through negative emotions, bull-dozing the pressure I feel with truth about my identity, instead of taking the time to understand the emotional stress I'm under. I read a great book about burn-out, and it helped me see how small things contribute to emotional exhaustion, especially for those of us who have a lower capacity for handling stressful situations. So SLOW DOWN is one of my mantras for 2007.

The other mantra is: cross that bridge when you come to it! I say this to myself so many times a day, it's crazy. The bottom line is clearly a true dependence on God that I've never experienced before this month. It's a "let tomorrow worry about itself" perspective. I'm not sure if this is biblical, but could it be true that God gives us the measure of faith we need just when we need it? Instead of wondering and worrying about if I'll have the faith to tackle an evangelism opportunity that's four days away, I'm learning to pray about it and then just leave it in the future. I may not have the faith for it now, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. Instead of depending on my own ability to maintain an eternal perspective and believe truth about evangelism, I'm learning to let go and live life as it comes. Kevin keeps asking me, "What's your next bridge?" There couldn't be a better question for me right now. Sometimes it's just getting out of bed. Other times it's a bigger deal, but I'm seeing how it's possible for all aspects of life to be about depending on God.

I'm excited about this semester because of the deliberate slowing down that's happening and the time I get to hang out on lovely bridges. Life looks different. There's a lot ahead--another semester with a completely different schedule, a spring break trip, all sorts of stuff. But for the first time in a long time, I feel chilled out.

There are a few things that need tackling soon. I'm still having health problems, like a big fat migraine that kept me in bed until 3:30PM yesterday. I'm thinking more and more that it's a food allergy (maybe shellfish? I made myself a coconut curry seafood soup the other day). But I also need to get bloodwork done, to see if I have deficiencies or something. We'll see.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

potential new year's resolutions

Key word: "potential"

This'll probably start once I'm back home in Ann Arbor and life is normal again.

I gotta start feeling better. Therefore...

1) no more high fructose corn syrup!
2) take my (fish oil, B-12, chasteberry extract) supplements!
3) start taking advantage of the pilates classes at the Washtenaw Rec Center, within walking distance from my house and only $30 for ten classes!

I'll let you know how it goes.