Saturday, January 30, 2010

Living in the Land of Much-Too-Much

This morning, Elliott and I were hosting a breakfast meeting with a couple of our friends to discuss the possibility of living in an intentional Christian community. I wanted to be able to provide an abundance of choices for them—omelets, baked oatmeal loaf, fruit, cheese, coffee, etc. etc. As I walked through the bitter cold to our corner store on 6th and Dickinson, I was disheartened to see it was still boarded up, closed for business, at 8 am on a Saturday morning.

Carrying my disappointment with me, I walked down the block to the Rite Aid for eggs. At least we’d have eggs, if not produce. As I walked back mulling over my disappointment about the lack of fruit, it suddenly struck me as bizarre. Here I was, disappointed that I couldn’t get exactly what I wanted when I wanted it. When did we start living this way?—that we should expect and anticipate that we will get anything we want when we want it? When did it suddenly become a right?

It’s not a right, friends. It certainly is a privilege, and one in which I do not think we should be entirely proud or comfortable.

I thought again of my brothers and sisters in Haiti. Even in their “best” days, even before the earthquake, how often could any one of them think, “I’m going to stop drinking milk and instead drink soy milk because it tastes better?" How many people around the world have such an option?

I’ve spent much of the last five years of my life obsessing about food, and though I do still think there is merit in eating healthy, I don’t want to lose sight of the absurdity of the situation. Many people do not have the option to eat gluten free bread and probably have no idea what a gluten allergy is. Many people do not even have the option of having clean water.

We need to keep these facts close to heart. There is such injustice in the world and we are living in the Land of Plenty—nay, the Land of Too Much. Much too much. We are hoarding our wealth, friends. We have gotten used to a lifestyle that we think we deserve, or that we at least just take for granted.

It’s not a Christ-centered way of living. If we think that what we have is ours, then we have been poorly misled. We are conforming to the pattern of the world.

“All the belivers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, bought the money form the salles and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anything as he had need.”

Acts 4:32-35

I do not have much money to give. Elliott and I live a very meager lifestyle and do not earn a lot; most of what we have earned goes to bills and towards our car. What I do have, though, is plenty. I have plenty of clothes that go un-worn or only worn sporadically. I am writing this as a way for you to keep me accountable: with the help of Victoria (of the blog Tiedemann Tribe), I am going to sell many of my clothes and give the proceeds to relief in Haiti. It is going to take me a while to take inventory and pictures of everything I have and it is going to take up some free time to organize it, but I am going to do it. I want everyone reading to keep me accountable. It is going to take a LOT of sacrifice on my part because I do indeed love my clothes. But the reality is that my sisters and brothers need the money more than I need the clothes.

Please pray for continued release from the world and things that bind, and also for the time to gather everything in order to accomplish what the Lord has laid on my heart.


Friday, January 22, 2010

My Second Confirmation

To preface this claim to a "second confirmation" about whether or not Elliott and I should pursue missions, let me just say that throughout the last couple of weeks, I have been tempted to count numerous occasions as "confirmations" from the Lord. Someone would say something, and I would inwardly strain to hear from God: "Was that a confirmation, Lord?" Then, an inward response or answer to myself: "I'll know when it's God when it's actually God." As with the first moment of confirmation, I will recognize that I am in the full and tangible presence of the Holy Spirit.

So I waited. There was no rush.

Last night at small group, we went around the table sharing prayer requests. Elliott asked for prayer as we discern our next steps: to join the intentional community or not? To leave in two years or not? Where is God calling us? Should we stay? Should we go? Should we invest in a new intentional community or remain where we are?

One girl in our small group, Sarah, looked directly at me and either said pointedly (or was it a question?), "You two are of one mind, though."

Holy Spirit. There he was. Hm. Interesting.

I tried to make sense of this moment as I said, "Well, yeah... we're definitely on the same page here. Wherever God wants us." Inwardly, I was saying, "Ok, God. I think that was my second confirmation, but could you confirm it again? If that was really a confirmation from you, can you just seal it by one more word from Sarah?"

Without missing a beat, again Sarah proclaimed in her clear, unwavering way, "You two were meant to be."

Holy Spirit. Whew. Wow. Awesome. Got it.

I can't help but smile and giggle inwardly as I write this post. Isn't God just so... super cool? He totally knows what we need, whether it's the food to get us through the day or the words we need to hear from him just to know that we're not deciding things for ourselves.

I am totally enraptured by this God. I can't help but praise him with every smile he awakens onto my face. Thank you, Lord!!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Here I Am

"Heavenly Father, you always amaze me.
Let your kingdom come in my world, and in my life.
[...]
The kingdom of the heavens
Is now advancing
Invade my heart
Invade this broken town."

Lord, here I am.
Send me.
I am willing to go.
If you want me in Haiti, find a way. I will go.
Here I am.

"Our God in heaven
Hallowed be Thy name above all names.
Your kingdom come
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread;
Forgive us weary sinners.
Lead us far away from our vices
And deliver us from our prisons."
-Jon Foreman, Your Love Is Strong

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Time Usage as an Act of Worship

“Now you will notice that nothing throws him into a passion so easily as to find a tract of time which he reckoned on having at his own disposal unexpectedly taken from him [...These moments] anger him because he regards his time as his own and feels that it is being stolen. You must therefore zealously guard in his mind the curious assumption “My time is my own” [...] His own personal birthright.”

C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

I believe I have been convicted on my time-usage.

This conviction wasn’t one of those hit-you-over-the-head moments; it was more of a gradual awakening.

Last semester, I practiced a “No” policy, meaning I would say, “No” to anything extra. It was honestly a discipline for me, since the majority of my life has been a “Yes” to everything extra. Everything is interesting to me, I want to help out when I can, and I want to stay busy. I noticed, though, a pattern in my life: too many tasks, not enough time for relationships.

So my “No” policy did indeed give me more time to become available to those around me...theoretically. Yet the more I think about last semester, the more I call to mind the hours I spent getting into various shows on Hulu than spending time building relationships. Hm. Not a very wise use of my time.

Urbana reminded me of the thirst that has been present: the thirst for people, for my church family, and for singing unto the Lord. I have been thirsty, friends. And though I kept praying for opportunities to sing, grow, and belong, I made no sacrifices—no efforts.

That’s changing. I asked many in my church family to pray for my Sundays off, I asked my boss for Sundays off, and Jesus is answering such prayers. I am offering my body as a living sacrifice for worship. Yes, I may become busier than last semester, but I believe this sacrifice will bring more good than harm. God will protect me from exhaustion; God will build me up. I know it. I will grow closer to my community and to Jesus through this “spiritual act of worship.”

I also have been rethinking what it means to “Remember the Sabbath and keep in Holy.” Though a day of rest is good for anyone, I think that the word, “Holy” is key here. Last semester, Elliott and I had the sheer joy to experience our “Sabbath Mondays” together. This semester, I am offering my “Sabbath Sundays” to the Lord, completely focused and dedicated to doing HIS work. It’s not a day for me to chill under my own pretenses, but a day to offer myself to him fully.

“The man can neither make, nor retain, one moment of time; it all comes to him by pure gift.”

C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Truth

"If reading the Bible makes you feel comfortable, you're probably not reading it right."
Paraphrased from my brother, Matt Stephan, in his sermon this past Sunday.

Preach it, brother!!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Once the shine wears off

The shine is starting to wear off, and the reality is sinking in.
If we go overseas, we are leaving everyone behind.

The last couple of days, I have been gripped by anxiety. I have become inexplicably anxious about everyday things and big things. This morning, I realized the root of my anxiety.
God, are you really going to send us? Away from everyone? Away from our home?

Because, well, maybe he won't. But maybe he will.
Maybe he will.

And what does that mean? It means Micah and Titus, my twin nephews--not even a year old yet--won't know their aunt in their everyday lives. It means that I won't be walking through a Philly street, knowing that I completely understand my language and where to get basic necessities. It means I won't see my family all the time or my best friends. It means... a lot of sacrifice.

It's a rough reality to be faced with. So as I walked to the gym, I said a little prayer.
Alright, God. I know that Elliott is pretty convinced and has received confirmation about this going-abroad thing...and I won't deny that I do indeed feel a call, or a pull, to start looking seriously into teaching in Asia. Here's the thing, though: I need confirmation, too. If this is, in fact, YOU calling us to go, please make it clear.
(And then I remembered a number of testimonies I've heard over the last few years about people asking for confirmation from the Lord in "threes," so I said:)
In three. Three confirmations.
Amen.

So there I was at the gym getting on my treadmill when this guy shows up.
"What's your shirt mean?"

I stopped the treadmill, very eager for this conversation. You see, I have a shirt that says, "DECEIVED" on the front and "HumanWrong.org" on the back. It's a campaign by the International Justice Mission to help end child slavery. So I explained it.

"That's a great cause. You see, I've witnessed it first hand."
Sal (that's his name, I found out later) told me about his travels in SouthEast Asia while he was a doctor in the army. He said he saw it everywhere, people treating other people like things, like commodities.
"You know what they really need is education. Education helps people begin to see through a different worldview; you can't just treat people like they're not people. I really think it's through education that people begin to have their minds opened and can start treating others are fellow humans who have emotions and personalities...."

That's number one.
Wow. Yeah, I got that. That was fast.

Alright then. Two more to go.

On a side note, Elliott and I are gearing more towards ELIC to start out. We're looking into Laos as a first choice, and probably Cambodia as a second choice. I just submitted my application tonight. Wild.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Confession

Deuteronomy 4:15-16, 20

"You saw no form of any kind the day the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape, whether formed like a man or a woman [...] But as for you, the Lord took you and brought you out of the iron-smelting furnace, out of Egypt, to be a people of his inheritance."

I have made for myself an idol. I have worshipped this idol, completely giving my thought-life over to it and making my body a living sacrifice unto it.

I have coveted her so much that I have spent the greater part of my life trying to become her--wishing I was already made in her likeness. I have sacrificed rest, relationships, and the Sabbath to chase after her. I have studied her word in the form of magazines, websites, and TV shows.

And now I will name her in order to renounce her. My god has been the god of "the skinny girl."

My search for being thin has been much more than mere sin. I have been putting my trust in this idol and not in the one true God, the God who chose me, who loves me, who redeems me. I have not trusted in the One who created me, the Great I Am who rescued the Israelites from slavery, who came as God Incarnate. I have forsaken the Lord.

I have not trusted in the way that God created me. I have told him that his creation is not "good enough" and needs to be fixed. I have been a poor witness to my sisters and have not been glorifying the Lord with the way I approach my body.

Please pray for continued healing and release. I cannot do this alone.
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