Wednesday, June 28, 2006

and we're off!

this time tomorrow i'll be on a plane. i still don't feel like we're actually going. i haven't even packed yet.
i've stood at a crossroads for the last year. torn between america and amsterdam. over the next 10 days, i'm trusting God to make things clear.
i sit here, knowing what i *should* be typing. things like "it'll be so good to be back there again", and "i'm so excited". but the truth is... i'm not excited. what does that mean?
it's not as though i'm dreading the trip. i'm glad to be going. but in april, before we left for our trip, i was so excited i could hardly stand it. this time, it's different. maybe because i know there's more at stake. after our trip in april, i came back to michigan and thought "moving to amsterdam won't be that bad. there's not much keeping me here in america anyway."
but now there are reasons to stay. there are ministries and ministry leaders and there's potential for some really really great things. and suddenly, what was so clear in april is not so clear now. christine says i need to set all the questions aside during the next 10 days and simply commune with God. set all the questions aside. that's gonna be tough, 'cause there are a lot of them running through my head. questions about calling, about vision, about obedience, about surrender. and the biggest question of all ... "what if i'm wrong?"
two and a half years ago, God moved me from one church to another. He said "go", so i went. i left a ministry full of kids whom i loved like family. and it was devestating. suddenly there's a very real possibility that i'll have to do that all over again. and i'm confused. and i'm dreading the thought of having to experience that kind of hurt again. life is one big question mark, and i don't like it.

"someday all that's crazy, all that's unexplained
will fall into place
and someday all that's hazy through a cloud of glass
will be clear at last
sometimes we're just waiting
for someday"

"every puzzle's missing piece
every unsolved mystery
more than half of every whole
rests in the hands that hold you
for someday"

i don't know where else to take all the questions and fear and sadness except to God. which is ironic since He's the One responsible for all the questions and fear and sadness. well... let me rephrase that... He's the One responsible for the circumstances that have caused all the questions and fear and sadness. one song i've been listening to a lot lately was written by one our worship leaders at church. i posted it a little while back. it's called "i believe".
i think, during our 10 days in amsterdam, the focus of my time with God is going to be finding scripture that goes with each verse of that song. for example - the verse "i believe in the future You give" gets the verse Jeremiah 29:11 (among others i'm sure). because i find myself listening to that song a lot lately. in the midst of the confusion and uncertainty and the sometimes outright sorrow, i don't know what else to do except choose to believe those things about God.

well... i need to pack. or possibly sleep. sleep is good.
it will be good to be in amsterdam.
it will be good to see everyone. walk the city streets. hear the bicycle and tram bells.
it will be good.

Monday, June 26, 2006

it's incredible

last night, i talked to a good friend in California. she was sharing some of things her church is doing in a village in Africa.

i'm so excited about the movement of God that I see happening in His church! it seems everyone I talk to has stories to tell about visions and work they feel God is calling them to. it seems as though God is sending people out in ever increasing numbers. whether He's sending them for a couple of weeks or a couple of years, He's sending them. And they're responding. I don't think I can explain how I'm feeling in a way that will make sense. All I know to say is that I get a sense of this great orchestration that's taking place. God moving and arranging people to do His work. it's like... ok... random reference here... it's like when you study our solar system. You see all these pieces, all these planets and moons, moving and circling, and it doesn't necessarily make sense to you, but you can tell there's order. You can tell that all the pieces have been intentionally set in motion, and they create this elaborate, beautiful, celestial dance as they move around and past each other.

There's purpose to the movement of God. He setting things in motion. Creating an elaborate, beautiful dance for His Church. We may not see all the parts. We may not understand the reasons for some of the movements. But if we could step back, if we could stand in the Heavens and look upon His creation, we would see. And it would be beautiful. And it is beautiful.

Monday, June 19, 2006

a "Mr. Holland's Opus" of my own

the weekend was very long. by the end of the day yesterday, i was pretty much done. so when i got home, i decided to just chill and watch some tv.
as luck would have it, "home" this week is actually someone else's house because i'm house sitting for some friends. and they have cable. i don't. so... yay.
so i got home, plopped down on the couch, and started channel surfing, and i ran across the movie "Mr. Holland's Opus".
If you've never seen the movie, it's about a music teacher in a public school. The movie follows him through a 30 year teaching career.
The first scene I saw last night was about a student who had been trying to learn to play the clarinet, but was having trouble and had decided to quit. Mr. Holland has her sit and accompany him on the clarinet while he plays the piano. At one point he tells her to "play the sunset". She closes her eyes and plays the piece beautifully, finally getting past the note that was giving her trouble. It brought tears to my eyes.

It brought tears to my eyes because I live for those moments. I live for those moments with students when something great happens. A note on a clarinet. A good grade. A successful school play. A spiritual connection. There's just nothing like it.

Later in the movie, Mr. Holland has to attend a former student's funeral. It's heartbreaking, and though I've never had to attend a funeral, it reminded me of the painful good-byes.
Letting go is an inevitable part of student ministry. God entrusts these students to us, but only for a season. I have to remind myself that they're not mine to keep. I have to remind myself, when they start pulling away and building lives of their own, that that's what's supposed to happen. If God has truly used me to "train them up", they will mature, and start to build a life outside of student ministry.

Those good-bye moments and pulling away moments are enough to make me say "forget it. I can't do this". But then I watch a movie like Mr. Holland's Opus, and God reminds me of how much I'd be missing if I stopped reaching out to young people. I'd miss all those great moments, and those great connections. I'd miss the late night talks, the celebrations, the drama, the joy of being used to reach them for Christ. I'd miss just hanging out, getting ice cream and walking around. And a life without those moments would feel empty.

I want a Mr. Holland's Opus life. I want a life of inspiration. I want a life of moments. Moments of connecting with students, and of students connecting to God. I don't want to write a masterpiece. I want God to write one. And I want to be the pen. Or maybe He's the Conductor and I'm the wand. either way. pick your analogy. I just want Him to use me in the lives of young poeple.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

this is what i'm doing

i borrowed this from someone's web site. so if they happen to run across my blog, hopefully they won't mind me using it.

this is the best visual i can find to explain my spiritual life right now.
my "quiet time" has truly been quiet. neither me nor God have been saying much of anything. but i don't feel like He's abandoned me. and i don't sit wondering "why aren't you saying anything?" i seem perfectly content to just sit.

it feels as though i'm iniside, "me" is inside, roaming around looking for something. as though i'm exploring the caverns of my own soul. it's like i'm looking for something. seeking some deeper part of me, or maybe a deeper part of God - i'm not really sure.

it's the strangest place to be, 'cause i've never been here before. not like this. not with such a strange combination of outward inactivity and internal searching.

just like someone who's caving, it's as though i can almost see "myself", the real me, not the flesh and blood me, with her caving helmet and light, walking through the internal (eternal?) dark passages.... looking... searching. and on the outside, i'm so still. my times of worship, and of prayer are marked by silence. total. it almost feels like the "normal" Christian activities - reading my bible, praying, journaling - like they're more of a hinderance than a help. as though the concious activities distract the inner "me" who's gone looking for something.

and i've never felt such a distinct separation between the "flesh and blood" me, and the "spirit" me. it almost feels as though they're acting completly independant of one another. "flesh and blood" me has work to do (which i should be doing now, actually), groceries to buy, cats to feed, bible studies to go to, friends and family to hang out with. so she does those things. and it's almost as if the inner me is saying "ok.. you go ahead and do the stuff you need to do, i'm going to keep looking". and i think that's why i've felt so distracted lately. i feel like i'm constantly being pulled inside, searching... searching... searching....

so if you talk to me and i seem a little out of it, or distracted, or like i'm not paying attention, please don't take it personally.
i've just gone searching for.... something.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

it's the plank in the eye that most often goes unnoticed
it's the inner voice that says "thank you, God, that i'm not like so-and-so"
it's knowing you're being watched
and misunderstanding the reasons why
it's the sin that so easily entangles
and the snare that so easily b(l)inds
it's sinking to a new low
that you think is an all-time high

it uses His name to build you up
and your name to push His down

it tells you that the ones who don't agree
simply "don't understand"
it gives you the only excuse you need
to discount and disgrace your fellow man

it makes "sacrifice" selfish
and "service" self-serving

it makes you feel sorry the subject of this poem
it tells you that this could never be about you

so good

reposting some stuff from Todd's blog, 'cause it's worth re-posting.

Secular historian William Lecky
“The character of Jesus has not only been the highest pattern of virtue, but the strongest incentive in its practice and has exerted so deep an influence, that it may be truly said that the simple record of three short years of active life, has done more to regenerate and to soften mankind than all the disquisitions of philosophers and all the exhortations of moralists.”

H.G. Wells, British author (1866-1946)
"I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history."Henry G. Bosch"Socrates taught for 40 years, Plato for 50, Aristotle for 40, and Jesus for only 3. Yet the influence of Christ’s 3-year ministry infinitely transcends the impact left by the combined 130 years of teaching from these men who were among the greatest philosophers of all antiquity. Jesus painted no pictures; yet, some of the finest paintings of Raphael, Michelangelo, and Leonardo da Vinci received their inspiration from Him. Jesus wrote no poetry; but Dante, Milton, and scores of the world’s greatest poets were inspired by Him. Jesus composed no music; still Haydn, Handel, Beethoven, Bach, and Mendelssohn reached their highest perfection of melody in the hymns, symphonies, and oratories they composed in His praise. Every sphere of human greatness has been enriched by this humble Carpenter of Nazareth."

Scotish King James Stewart
“He was the meekest and lowest of all the sons of men, yet he spoke as coming on the clouds of heaven with the glory of God. He was so austere that evil spirits and demons cried out in terror at his coming, yet he was so genial and winsome and approachable that the children loved to play with him and the little ones nestled in his arms. No one was half so kind or compassionate to sinners, yet no one ever spoke such red hot scorching words about sin. A bruised reed he would not break. His whole life was love, yet on one occasion he demanded of the Pharisees how they ever expected to escape the damnation of hell. He was a dreamer of dreams and a seer of visions, yet for sheer stock realism he has all of our self-styled realist soundly beaten. He was the servant of all, washing the disciple’s feet, yet masterfully he strolled into the temple and the hucksters and money changers fell over one another in their mad rush to get away from the fire they saw blazing in his eyes. He saved others, but at the last himself he did not save. There is nothing in history like the union of contrast which confronts us in the gospels the mystery of Jesus is the mystery of divine personality.”

Sholem Asch, Jewish author (1880-1957)
"Jesus Christ is to me the outstanding personality of all time, all history, both as Son of God and as Son of Man. Everything he ever said or did has value for us today and that is something you can say of no other man, dead or alive. There is no easy middle ground to stroll upon. You either accept Jesus or reject him."

Will Durant The Story of Civilization (comparing Caesar and Christ)
“The revolution he sought was far deeper, without which reforms could be only superficial and transitory. If he could cleanse the human heart of selfish desire, cruelty, and lust, utopia would come of itself, and all those institutions that rise out of human greed and violence, and the consequent need for law, would disappear. Since this would be the profoundest of all revolutions, beside which all others would be mere coup d’etats of class ousting class and exploiting in its turn, Christ was, in this spiritual sense the greatest revolutionary in history.”

Napoleon - quoted from Jesus Among Other Gods
“Well then, I will tell you. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne and I myself have founded great empires; but upon what did these creations of our genius depend? Upon force. Jesus alone founded His empire upon love, and to this very day millions will die for Him… I think I understand something of human nature; and I tell you, all these were men, and I am a man: none else is like Him; Jesus Christ was more than man… I have inspired multitudes with such an enthusiastic devotion that they would have died for me… but to do this it was necessary that I should be visibly present with the electric influence of my looks, my words, of my voice. When I saw men and spoke to them, I lighted up the flame of self-devotion in their hearts… Christ alone has succeeded in so raising the mind of man toward the unseen, that it becomes insensible to the barriers of time and space. Across a chasm of eighteen hundred years, Jesus Christ makes a demand which is beyond all others difficult to satisfy; He asks for that which a philosopher may often seek in vain at the hands of his friends, or a father of his children, or a bride of her spouse, or a man of his brother. He asks for the human heart; He will have it entirely to Himself. He demands it unconditionally; and forthwith His demand is granted. Wonderful! In defiance of time and space, the soul of man, with all its powers and faculties, becomes an annexation to the empire of Christ. All who sincerely believe in Him, experience that remarkable, supernatural love toward Him. This phenomenon is unaccountable; it is altogether beyond the scope of man’s creative powers. Time, the great destroyer, is powerless to extinguish this sacred flame; time can neither exhaust its strength nor put a limit to its range. This is it, which strikes me most; I have often thought of it. This it is which proves to me quite convincingly the Divinity of Jesus Christ.”

Thursday, June 08, 2006

this is why

this is Andrew. he's one of the people from the church in Amsterdam. this picture sums up Amsterdam for me. this is why i want to go back.

no....not specifically because of Andrew... whatever you're thinkin just stop right now ;). but do you see the way he's hugging me? that's Amsterdam. that's life with people at the Zolder. it's closeness. real closeness, in a way i've never experienced before. i think that being in a place like that, doing God's work, fighting His fight, draws people closer in a way we can't know or understand here. like soldiers who fight together, a bond is formed. it's almost instant. and it's so real, and warm. i think this is why i've never felt unsafe in Amsterdam. despite the spiritual battle that's raging in and around the city, God's people hold each other close. literally and spiritually. being on the front lines, fighting the "good fight" with people who are more than just "ministry partners" but who are close friends.... there's just no other feeling like it in the world.

yeah.. feeling sentimental and homesick for Amsterdam and its people today. can't wait to get back there.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

let's do this

well i tried to post the pic, but it isn't working.
so instead, go here.. then come back and read my blog.
remember that scene from Aliens? the alien is coming after the little girl, and Ripley shows up in this wicked crazy monsterous machine and says "get away from her you b%$@!"
there are days i'd like to throw down like that w/satan. especially when he's messing w/people i love. there are days i wish the Sword of Truth was real, and that the enemy was physically standing in front of me so i could look him in the eye when i deliver the damaging or (preferrably) fatal blow. there are days when i'm so tired of his deceit and cowardice, i wish he had the guts to really show himself. no more hiding in the spiritual realm. there are days when i wish the battle looked more like the final fight in a Rocky movie. only more final. there are days i wish for a fight like that. mortal enemies stuck in a ring until only one is standing. there are days i long for that 'cause i know who'd be left standing.
yeah, there are days when i wish the fight was physical. that i could feel my weapon of choice connect, and do damage. no more hiding. just come here and fight. fight me. stay away from the people i love, and fight me. give me your best shot, 'cause what you've got is nothing. let's do this, and let's end this.