Sunday, February 27, 2011

Everything in Its Time

If I were to not believe in God, it would because of suffering. There is a lot of suffering in the world. It doesn't take long to find out how terrible this place can be. And yet God is a redeeming God.

Yesterday in church, our pastor, Ray K, preached his second sermon out of the book of Ecclesiastes. Here is a selection from the text he covered:
Ecclesiastes 3:10-15 10I have seen(N) the business that(O) God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 11He has(P) made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot(Q) find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12I perceived that there is(R) nothing better for them than to be joyful and to(S) do good as long as they live; 13also(T) that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is(U) God’s gift to man. 14I perceived that whatever God does endures forever;(V) nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. 15That which is,(W) already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God(X) seeks what has been driven away.

Solomon asks some pretty big questions in this text. Pastor Ray highlighted the phrase in vs. 11 "He has made everything beautiful in its time." I guess I hadn't noticed this phrase before. The next two phrases have a massive amount of tension - God has "put eternity into man's hearts, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end." Often times, we hear the phrase "eternity in our hearts" used to defend our knowledge of God (though that is another post / master's thesis), but the connection to our personal lack of knowledge is interesting.

God gave us a taste of eternity, just enough to ask questions, as Ray puts it "why this, why that, why everything, why anything?!"

I think ultimately Solomon ends up saying that if our lens had a wide enough angle, if we could see the big picture, it would all make sense God will make everything "beautiful in it's time." Justice will be done, and He will get the glory.

I have seen this to be true and have things that I am praying God will make "beautiful in their time."

So my question is this: is it just that we need a wider angle? How have you seen God redeem suffering in your life? How have you not seen it?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Who moved my cheese?

In December of 2004, I finished my last semester at Wheaton College and came home for my final "Christmas break" before starting full-time work. I remember very clearly how I was feeling at that the time - the mixture of emotions I faced as a major life change was on the horizon. I was sad that my college experience was over, uncertain about entering the working world, disappointed that I was graduating a semester before most of my friends, and exhilarated that "real life" was on the horizon. Change was both scary and exciting.

To help process this change, I purchased and read the book Who Moved My Cheese. This book helped me process how to cope with and process the approaching transition , seeing the positive in it rather than focusing on what I felt like I was losing as I said goodbye to a phase of my life.

I have been revisiting many of these feelings and thoughts in recent weeks as I approach another major life change - leaving my full-time position at One Smooth Stone. I have worked at OSS for almost 6 years and concluding my time there will be the first in a series of changes and goodbyes as we prepare for Austria. My colleagues have become good friends and over my 6 years, I have grown up there, going from bright eyed, naive and fresh out of college to experienced in our industry, married and a least a little more mature (or so I'd like to think...)

Saying goodbye to One Smooth Stone will be hard. I have so many memories and walking away will mean I will not be making more of them. This can easily feel like a loss. But at the same time, I am overcome with excitement about what I will gain. Leaving my job means getting to Austria is that much closer and I am eager to begin our life there. I guess that is how change is - full of emotional contradictions and a rollercoaster of feelings.

What I keep going back to is my constant - God's unchanging nature. The same God who walked me through my departure from college and the last 6 years of my life will be with me through this transition and will go with us to Austria. It says in the book of James, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." God does not change. Ever. If I'm the mouse and God is the cheese, I never have to worry about the cheese matter what. When I am struggling with change in the coming months, my prayer is that God's constancy will be my on-going comfort and solice - my rock to stand on.

How do you cope with change?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Danger, Adventure and Relationships

the pillar of ice to the left is called Pegasus

Last week, I returned from a four day ice climbing trip to North Conway, NH with a group of family and friends.  This trip was nothing short of amazing.  Imagine your top five most emotionally and physically intense experiences; for me, this trip easily makes my top five.   

I don’t think this post can be a “why do I climb?” sort of piece. Many climbers have tried to explain why they climb, most of them far better writers than me, and even they haven’t completely gotten to the core of it.  Climbing, like many other emotionally and physically intense experiences, offers many insights and illustrations into the Christian life.

The first question I got from my grandma (whom I love dearly) when I started climbing was something along the lines of “Isn’t that dangerous? You could get really hurt doing that!”  In fact, you don’t have to go very far (say youtube or google) to see pictures, videos and stories of people getting really hurt climbing.  There are many days where even a trip to the local climbing gym results in banged up knees and elbows.  

The reality is that the gear works, the systems hold and climbing is actually a very safe activity, even when compared to lots of other things we do.  There is a perception that because you have the capacity to fall 400 feet off a ledge as you climb, that is some how more dangerous than going down the freeway at 70mph.  I think the reality is that both activities are equally as dangerous.  A broken leg in a car wreck is just as bad as a broken leg climbing.

The biggest part for me is that if I were to stop doing something just because, “you could get hurt doing that,” there are SO MANY things I would need to stop doing.  Riding my road bike would have to be out, as would crossing the street or traversing an icy parking lot.

Ultimately, this is something I really really love about climbing.  It is a chance to look fear in the face and realize that actually I don’t have anything to be afraid of.  The opportunity to face my fears and win is compelling.

What is something you do where you have the chance to face a fear?  Is there a fear you wish you could face?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Perspectives in Missions

As part of my preparation for the mission field, I was asked to enroll in the Perspectives in Missions course. This 15-week class is offered all around the country and seeks to educate Christians about God's heart for missions and give them the tools to understand and be engaged in God's ministry around the world.

So far, I have attended 3 perspectives classes and each one has been different but wonderful! The speakers are drawn from a variety of backgrounds and places - missions organizations, college professors, church pastors and missionaries alike. Some focus on teaching and scripture, while others delve more into personal stories from around the globe. But the heart of it all has been that God desires for the nations to know His name and be saved!

If you haven't taken Perspectives and you would like to learn more about missions, I would encourage you to consider signing up for a course in your area. It will challenge your thinking and push you to consider your part in God's work globally.

Here is a sneak peek at what the classes are all about:
  1. The Living God is a Missionary God
  2. The Story of His Glory
  3. Your Kingdom Come
  4. Mandate for the Nations
  5. Unleashing the Gospel
  6. The Expansion of the World Christian Movement
  7. Eras of Mission History
  8. Pioneers of the World Christian Movement
  9. The Task Remaining
  10. How Shall They Hear?
  11. Building Bridges of Love
  12. Christian Community Development
  13. The Spontaneous Multiplication of Churches
  14. Pioneer Church Planting
  15. World Christian Partnership
Check it out!

Sunday, February 6, 2011


You may have heard of the recent blizzard that hit the Midwest... "snow-pocalypse", "snowzilla" or "snow-mageddon" were some of its nick names! We got about 24" of snow and it was absolutely beautiful. Plus, we had our first ever "snow day" from work! The unfortunate part was that Nate and I almost didn't make it to our WorldVenture training this past weekend. After 3 different flights and some stress, we finally were able to get to Littleton a 1/2-day late and all was well.

Here are a few photos of the snow and our shoveling experience!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Broken Cisterns

Right now, Nate and I are in the midst of a 4-day training at WorldVenture, which will launch us into the fund raising stage of our preparation for Austria.

When we begin meeting with friends and family to discuss financial partnership, the process will include some "tried and true techniques"... It is important to be able to clearly communicate your vision for ministry in a way that connects with people and gives them a glimpse of your passion and an understanding of the need. But fund raising is not just like sales - it's not all about the skills. It is a God thing. This is God's economy and we need to pray and depend on Him through the entire process. No matter how great our presentation is or how well we "follow the right steps", it is in God's hands.

A friend of mine (fellow missionary) challenged me yesterday with a verse from Jeremiah:

“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water. " - Jeremiah 2:13

Here, God is telling his people that not only have they turned away from him, they have "dug their own cisterns". The Israelites were relying on their own strength and abilities and not relying on God. They were putting their trust and faith in themselves and things of this world. And what is the result? Those cisterns are broken. The water leaks out and they don't fulfill their purpose. Putting their trust in anything other than God does not fulfill them or give them the strength they really need.

This verse convicted me. I am a task-oriented person and I like to accomplish things. But while Nate and I are raising our financial support, we need to depend on God, not rely on our communication skills or our elaborate presentation. Those things are useful, but ultimately, they are broken cisterns that will not hold water. What will hold us up? God's provision and faithfulness.