There have been so many blessings of still being in Charleston. One of them was having the opportunity to attend the historical 226th Convention for the Diocese of South Carolina where I listened to every single priest/parish/mission affirm their “yay” to join the ACNA. For non-Anglicans, this was a long-awaited (as in years) decision for an entire state’s worth of churches to leave their roots–founded in 1785–with the conviction to align themselves under the leadership of those who are committed to protecting the purity of the Gospel.
During Bishop Mark Lawrence’s address, he spoke to the weight that comes in the wait. He didn’t belittle or excuse it, though he did put it in perspective, and I needed to hear it for my own situation. If you follow my blog or know me, you know that I’m very much in “the wait.” And many of you in my life, just by association or partnership, are in the wait with me. I would not be honest if I said that it hasn’t been challenging.
The Bishop reminded us that though the burden is real as we wait and even a type of long-suffering, that we can rejoice in the suffering because it produces endurance, which produces character, which produces hope, which does not disappoint–all based on God’s promise in Romans 5.
I have to say that these are not always on the forefront of my mind. The recording I hear goes more like frustration, defeat, despair, and disillusionment, all of which do disappoint. Thankfully as Christians, we are not alone. Not only is God’s presence real at all times and all places–no matter how we feel or how things appear–but we are also part of a Body who can help us to stand in God’s promises.
One of my favorite passages in Scripture is when Aaron and Hur held Moses’ arms up for him when he was weary. As long as his arms were up, the Israelites won the battle, but they would lose when his arms fell. So, despite my pride which really doesn’t always want to ask others for prayer…again, I reached out to a few who would “lift my arms up.” For me, their prayers take the weight of the wait off of me so that I can endure and hope.
And as I went to God in His Word, He Himself promises that “they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength.” (Is 40:31). As I considered this promise, I realized something that needs changing in my own heart and mind because somewhere along the line, I stopped waiting for the Lord and started waiting for a circumstance (an answer, a date, a percentage, etc.) Yikes! So thankful to have a God who can show us where we’re off and re-direct us to truth.
I imagine that some of you who read this could be waiting for some answers or changes as well. I speak as one who “suffers” with you: as we wait, may we wait for the Lord and put our hope in Him. That “hope does not disappoint us because God has poured our His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit whom He has given us.” (Rom 5:4-5)
Why do you say…”My way is hidden from the LORD…? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to Him who has no might, He increases strength. Is 40:27-9
This past Sunday I was dwelling on a well-quoted scripture: 1 Peter 5:6-7. It says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”
To be honest, it’s one of those passages I’ve read and heard so many times that it takes some effort to internalize and be meaningful. Even though it’s not a new concept to me, what came to my mind was to bring all the things, people, and situations I care about and put them–figuratively–into God’s hand. I love this because God’s hand is a place of power.
Today I decided to look up the Greek–I’m a language person :)–and I absolutely love all of the connotations of God’s hand in scripture. Not only is it what He uses to create the universe, but to protect, to punish evil, and “in determining and controlling the destinies of men.” That sounds like a great place to leave something that’s troubling me. And the reason it’s probably bothering me anyway is because I lack the attributes that God has: the power and control.
So, why don’t I do this more often? Maybe it’s my Low Country life that is used to holding onto the net when casting. In prayer, I don’t always ignore things, but I find myself stopping short of casting–throwing away from myself and releasing it completely to God to deal with. Sometimes I’ll “pray” and tell God about it without really giving it to Him.
“Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.” ~Mother Theresa
The reason scripture gives to throw our cares at Jesus is because God cares for us. What’s on God’s heart and mind is us. We matter to Him. What concerns us concerns Him. It really doesn’t matter what it is, how big and impossible, how seemingly trite and insignificant. He invites us to not just tell Him about, but to throw the things that trouble us onto Him. And I love that it works for the concerns we have on behalf of those we care about!
“You search the Scriptures, for you believe they give you eternal life. And the Scriptures point to me! Yet you won’t come to me so that I can give you this life eternal! John 5:39-40 TLB
Most of my cares right now seem directly or indirectly connected to my preparation for the mission field–including the timing of when I will leave. So, how convenient that this passage even addresses timing. Some translations say “in due time,” others “the right time” or “the proper time.” Does anyone else translate this as “not my timing”? (Just being honest). We shouldn’t. I mean, chances are God’s timing may not be ours; but if it isn’t, it’s because the conditions aren’t right.
Last Greek reference, but Peter uses the word kairos here. I love this word. I remember my pastor preaching on Mark 1:15 years ago as a karios moment. It’s a moment in time where the conditions are right to take an opportunity. In fact, if you don’t take it, it may be a really long time–or never–when the opportunity will present itself again.
So, in this case, when we are able to let go of our cares and trustingly leave them in God’s powerful, mighty hand, there’s a promise regarding the timing of God to raise us to a place of “dignity, honor, and happiness” (exalting us). Basically, God knows when everything is at its peak and opportune time and promises that timing to answer and bless us with the concerns we bring to Him. So, what do you say? One by one, let’s start casting those cares to Jesus and see what happens.
Quotes regarding Greek definitions taken from blueletterbible.org.
“It is not the body’s posture, but the heart’s attitude that counts when we pray.” ~Billy Graham
|How’s Your Posture?
Over Christmas, I dealt with some back pain, which forced me to re-evaluate some habits like posture. It’s something I’m sorry to say I don’t work at when all is well and find it takes a lot of conscious effort and even training to form healthy habits. It’s quite amazing how our natural tendency is to revert to positions that put stress on our weak areas when we could/should use our stronger muscles for this!
This being highlighted in my natural circumstances, I became sensitive to the same concept spiritually. And I noticed how Hannah’s (one of my favorite women from B.C. days) posture drastically improved when she returned from a life-changing experience at the temple. She went from a despondent disposition because of unfulfilled longings to one of worship. Her circumstances hadn’t changed…yet; but her outlook, her attitude, and her actions put her in position to receive the very thing she longed for from the Lord: a son.
Hannah’s exemplar posture of worship is something I’m trying to live out in a time of waiting and extended delay. As you may know, in December my goal to leave in January was pushed to February. Last week I learned that it’s been delayed even further, with the new estimated (earliest) leave date as end of March! I tend to be a “glass is half full” kind of person and could, without even thinking, rattle off about 5-6 blessings that have come from my still being here. Still, the waiting has that “gravity effect” that if I’m not intentional to keep a posture of worship, I find myself spiritually slouching.
So, as I examine my spiritual stance and consider how to practically engage to improve it, I like how Eugene Peterson translates James 4: 8-10 in the Message. Parts of it remind me a lot of Hannah’s own position. So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God, and He’ll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet.
“There are thoughts which are prayers. There are moments when, whatever the posture of the body, the soul is on its knees.”
Sorry I didn’t write in the month of January. I’ve been in a black hole the past few weeks. Don’t worry, I haven’t been depressed. I’ve just been consumed–physically, mentally, and emotionally. You see, I began taking a 3-week intensive course on partnership development 3 weeks ago…the same week I’d signed up for an intensive weekend workshop at my church on top of an already fairly busy schedule.
What does this have to do with obedience, you may be asking. Well, the class wasn’t my idea. I’ve had several trainings and previous experience in raising support; and while I’m a believer in life-long learning, it seemed better to use my limited time to actually be doing it rather than learning more.
But my missions’ agency (SAMS) had asked me to pilot the class. I knew deep down that I could use the practical help. And bottom line, after dialogue with the Lord, I believed that God Himself was leading me down this dreaded path. So, with the prayer support of a few friends and SAMS behind me, I signed up and made it through 3 intense weeks of training.
So, fast forward to this morning when I have my very first partnership presentation outside of class. Now remember that this isn’t really my cup of tea; but I and others have been praying me through this, including my friend Sarah who I’m meeting for coffee. First, I’m thankful to just catch up but also encouraged that it’s genuinely fun and exciting sharing my stories with her, especially when she interjects that the “African man” who had greatly influenced my life a few years back is a personal friend of hers!
Then we both get excited as we share different connections and dream about ways that God could bless a potential partnership. But the clincher is when the couple who has been sitting next to us walks over. The lady politely interrupts to explain that she hasn’t exactly been eavesdropping, but she’s heard enough to know that I’m raising money for something that I”m passionate about and hands me a $100 bill!
|Did this really just happen?
Now, I certainly never want my–or anyone’s–motive to obey God to be for monetary or other personal gain. I want it to be out of a relationship of love and trust. That said, God does promise blessing to those who obey Him.
“If you listen obediently to the Voice of God, your God, and heartily obey all his commandments…all these blessings will come down on you…” Deut 28
It goes a lot deeper than today’s events. But based on God’s own words, I think it’s fair to say that it pays to obey, and for me today, quite literally!
In the midst of the busy holiday season, I always try to spend some time reflecting on the past year and looking ahead at the new one. It’s a helpful way to remember what God has done, and I think He wants us very much to live a life of remembering what He has done-not just in our own lives, but throughout the generations and the history of mankind. In the book of Joshua 3 and 4, He commanded them to build a memorial for this very purpose!
Like every year, there have been highs, and there have been lows. Successes and victories, disappointments and frustrations. But as I look back, I definitely see God’s hand; and this post is to remember and celebrate what God has done this past year. Actually He’s done so much more, but this is mostly focusing on the call I’m responding to.
As an attempt to discern God’s will about going full-time with EE, I attended the European Conference in Vienna, Austria. It was affirming, and I met Helmut, my future boss.
|With former 2015 interns Pete and Jasmine at Europe Conference in Vienna
On a phone call with Rod (EE leader), I was invited to a couple of EE events in the upcoming months, one of them mandatory for me to go full-time. This answered my question about not renewing my contract to teach this year.
Within 24 hours of informing my principal and head of school that I would not be renewing my contract, we received a random email with a qualified replacement!
After several encouragements, I attended the New Wineskins Conference in Asheville, NC. Not only was so encouraged and affirmed, but I also met SAMS’ director and interim director and began to dialogue with them about a partnership.
|A huge surprise to run into the Powells from my BFA days (2008-10) at New Wineskins Conference…and they introduced me to SAMS’ leaders!
Made my first visit to EE International headquarters in Asheville. Had a bittersweet finish to three amazing years of teaching amazing students with amazing colleagues at First Baptist.
Traveled to Switzerland to meet the leadership team I would join and get a taste for what is ahead.
|Re-connecting in person with long-time friend Gunnhild in her homeland of Norway
Got to re-connect with long-time and newer friends in Europe before heading to Australia and re-uniting with more friends and attend a missions conference at a church I knew from the previous year’s internship.
|With Aussie friends at FAC’s Missions Conference in Wollongong, Australia
First time to Asia (Indonesia) for my first Congress of Nations! A very sweet, exciting time as I gained a big picture and met the “whole family” as well as the team in Europe I’ll be joining. Also attended Crossroads Conference in Ambridge, PA as a SAMS candidate.
|With European team at Congress of Nations in Malang, Indonesia
Found buyers for our condo before it ever went on the market (It’s a God story). Packed and moved before leaving for Fiji at the end of the month.
Joined 21 others from 13 different nations to attend the Leadership Development Training for full-time staff with EE. Our condo closed while I was there.
|At EE’s Kennedy Training Center in Fiji for 6-week Leadership Development Training
Had my first opportunity to share about my journey at St. Matthew’s Parish in Fort Motte, SC, where I recently learned my grandfather lived during his childhood! Also, started my first one-on-one XEE training!
|XEE training with new friends Dot and Chris…
At our old condo…because they were the buyers (Only the Lord!)
Encouraged and touched by the many people God has put in my life to encourage and support me through the ups and downs of life and especially to spur me on to continue on and embrace the call and vision God has given me.
2016 was a year of risk-taking, 100% yes, and some dreams coming true. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been exciting and fulfilling. I’m thankful that we have a God who is faithful to lead us and love us. Here’s to remembering what He has done. And since I’ll be without Internet when the New Year rings in, here’s a cheer to the New Year 2017!
It’s true that life is full of unknowns and “not yet’s.” But it’s also true that God will sometimes very graciously give us a heads’ up and help guide us through the waiting process. I’ve seen Him do it in a variety of ways in my own life, the lives of others, and throughout Scripture.
If you’ve been following me, I was hoping and planning to leave for Europe by January. Yet within a week of my return from training, the freshly-determined goal was shattered with a reality check: I cannot leave till I have 100% of my funds for the first year.
When met with a challenge like this, I prayerfully wrestled with one of two options: either the Lord would not be intimidated but simply show off and provide everything really quickly, or He was behind this seeming delay and overruling my timeline. To be honest, I was sensing the latter was the case, though strongly wanting the former.
And I love how God lovingly communicates with us. I had some dreams that opened me up to hearing things I might not want to. Then I was reading Acts 22 where God warns Paul that the Jews won’t accept him. Paul objects, pointing out all the reasons why he would be the perfect person to tell the Jews about Jesus. And where I totally see Paul’s point, God had a different plan: to send him to the non-Jews.
As I interacted with the text, I felt convicted to let God search my heart for where I have objections and think something is obvious or perfect, but God may have a different plan. And so where do I need to accept some things I may not want to hear? Like getting to Switzerland in January. That’s just one example. They keep coming!
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9
But you know what? When I found out Monday morning that my projected leave date is February, I had such peace. No objections this time because I’d already brought them to the Lord. And while I really don’t have to understand, I already recognize the wisdom of having the necessary time to visit churches and complete a checklist before I go. Not to mention the emotional relief of a timeline to say goodbye to family and friends.
It reminds me during the last week of this Advent season that though waiting is a purposeful part of life, our God’s name is Immanuel because He is a God who is With Us in our waiting.