Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Go light your world.

You are the light of the world. Jesus said that about us. I'm sure most of us have heard that phrase before, but have you ever stopped to think about exactly what kind of light YOU are? I mean, there are all kinds of lights. Flashlights. Candles. Bonfires. Sparks. Lightning bolts. Romantic dinner-for-two mood lighting. Lava lamps. Glow sticks. Each light has it's own function for a specific event. Think about it: I love blowing out my birthday candles as much as the next person, but if I'm trying to study, I'm certainly not going to try to do it by that kind of light. You may not be the brightest bulb in the lamp, but if you're trying to find the bathroom in the middle of the night a 1,000 watt torch just won't do. 

What kind of a light are you? Are you a lighthouse bringing wayfaring storm victims to safety? Or are you the refrigerator light that always comes on when needed? Are you the faithful light of a spark that ignites the car engine and keeps the vehicle moving? Maybe you're the headlight that spots danger in the distance. Perchance the spotlight on the stage, encouraging others in their performance. Of course there are also the decorative but totally not useful Christmas tree lights. Yup. You guessed it. Their light only comes on around the holidays. 

What is your light good for? Who needs to see by your light? Are you brightening the room so others can see clearly? Are you lighting along the path to keep feet from straying at night? Are you decorative? Have you burnt out?

There is another thing about lights that I find interesting...the darker the place, the less light there is needed to actually see the light, but the more important it is to have good illumination to see clearly. Explanation: If you light a candle outside on a sunny day so you can see better, I would get your eyes checked. It's always in the darkest places that the littlest light shines the brightest. So if you can't notice how bright you are (in the spiritual sense, here, go with me. We're not talking about intelligence....), it's probably because you're always hanging out with other, bright, shiny people.  Maybe it's time to go shine your little light in a dark place. A place where the 10 watt night-light bulb you carry now is exactly what some one needs to see to find their way for the first time out of the darkness. Or perhaps it's just time to figure out what kind of light you are and illuminate accordingly.


Monday, March 25, 2013

What am I supposed to do now?

Place Your Life Before God

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.

In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.

If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.

 Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.


Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.

Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody. Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.


To Be a Responsible Citizen

Be a good citizen. All governments are under God. Insofar as there is peace and order, it’s God’s order. So live responsibly as a citizen. If you’re irresponsible to the state, then you’re irresponsible with God, and God will hold you responsible. Duly constituted authorities are only a threat if you’re trying to get by with something. Decent citizens should have nothing to fear. Do you want to be on good terms with the government? Be a responsible citizen and you’ll get on just fine, the government working to your advantage. But if you’re breaking the rules right and left, watch out. The police aren’t there just to be admired in their uniforms. God also has an interest in keeping order, and he uses them to do it. That’s why you must live responsibly—not just to avoid punishment but also because it’s the right way to live.

That’s also why you pay taxes—so that an orderly way of life can be maintained. Fulfill your obligations as a citizen. Pay your taxes, pay your bills, respect your leaders.

Don’t run up debts, except for the huge debt of love you owe each other. When you love others, you complete what the law has been after all along. The law code—don’t sleep with another person’s spouse, don’t take someone’s life, don’t take what isn’t yours, don’t always be wanting what you don’t have, and any other “don’t” you can think of—finally adds up to this: Love other people as well as you do yourself. You can’t go wrong when you love others. When you add up everything in the law code, the sum total is love.

But make sure that you don’t get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing! God is putting the finishing touches on the salvation work he began when we first believed. We can’t afford to waste a minute, must not squander these precious daylight hours in frivolity and indulgence, in sleeping around and dissipation, in bickering and grabbing everything in sight. Get out of bed and get dressed! Don’t loiter and linger, waiting until the very last minute. Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about!

Romans 12 & 13: The Message.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Seasons of change

We are no longer seasonal people. No: baseball, basketball, football, and hockey don't count as changing seasons. Sure we're aware of when to pull out the winter boots versus the sandals, but even those seasons have blended with the convenience of heating and air conditioning. But we are not seasonally aware people. We get up at the same time each day and go to bed in the middle of the night regardless of when the sun is coming up and setting. We go through the same cycle day after day and do the same things week after month and year again. Get up. Get ready. Go to work. Get groceries. Come home. Eat. Work out. Watch tv. Go to bed. Repeat. 

We do not eat as seasonal people. We eat "fresh" strawberries in the heart of winter and indulge in pumpkin pie in the spring. We even steal off of other lands' seasons, out of turn, with the year-round availability of mangoes, pineapples, pomegranates, and papaya, bananas, etc. (non of which taste very good as compared to when you actually eat them IN season in their country of origin. It ruins the fruit for ever in the northern hemisphere.) Hunting and gathering now involve who is the best at extreme couponing and stocking our pantries with 50 bottles of shampoo and 186 cans of well preserved Chef Boyardee in case of an impending zombie apocalypse. 

We do not gauge our emotions in seasons, either. We have lost the sense of the flow of how we feel. A time to laugh. A time to cry. A time to sing. A time to dance. A time to scream. A time to mourn. A time to eat chocolate and have another glass of wine. Instead it's "happy face on".

We have completely lost the spiritual seasons. Seasons of feeling far from God, lost, out of touch, not sensing or feeling his presence. Seasons of being on a spiritual high, rekindled love, renewed dedication, deep spiritual encounters. Seasons of learning, growing, deepening faith. Seasons of feeling dry and brittle. Seasons of good friendships and community. Seasons of feeling alone and isolated. Seasons of fervently sharing faith with others and harvesting them for the Kingdom. 

I myself have just come out of an extremely long winter in my life. Both spiritually and naturally. My entire 2-year time in Costa Rica was like an extended fall. The kind of fall where the temperature is perfect to wear whatever you want and be comfortable. The kind of fall where the harvest is coming in and you get fresh apple cider with the donuts you can only get straight from the orchard. The kind of fall where the days where it's light early in the morning, but the sun is starting to set at the perfect time for bon fires with friends. My favorite season. Coming home, regardless of what the calendar said, I was in the dead middle of winter. Isolated in the country feeling couped up and penned in with far too few stores to actually make it through. But like during any good blizzard, at least I was snowed in with my best friend, Jesus. I knew he was right there with me. Through my tears and sorrow. Through my grief of leaving the community that I love. Through the doubt of finding a job and the shock of my passport culture. He stood by me, whispering sweet nothings of a hope and a future. Winter is not the end. It is only a dormancy. A time of patience and waiting. A time of death so new life can sprout on a clean slate. 

I am now officially in a season of spring. Naturally, spiritually, emotionally and in every other way. Not just because it's 80 degrees and sunny (sorry to rub it in, midwesterners and east coasters). It's as if something has shifted. I no longer feel the dormancy of the cave I've been living in for the last 6 months. Six months of winter. Oye. There's a newness of life. A refreshment in my soul. Of birds and butterflies and love in the air. I can feel it. That doesn't mean there won't be unexpected thunderstorms and random cold snaps at the beginning, but it means new growth and hope nonetheless.

What season are you in? Can you put a finger on it? A stretch of dry, rainless summer that feels oppressive to the bones? A time to dig in and get dirty in the field of your soul, preparing for another season yet to come? An interim between epochs? A turning of the tides in the attitude of your spirit? A respite from a long, harsh drought? This is what I am learning in my transition: when you are in a season, regardless of what it is or feels like, there will come a time when this, too, shall pass. No season lasts forever. Enjoy it while it lasts. Take advantage of it for what it is. You may never have a season like that again. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Through a Series of Strange God-like Events

Through a series of God events, I actually moved to California almost a month earlier than I was planning!! Most of you know this, but I thought I would put the whole story to paper...well screen). It's mostly for 1. to give glory to God who arranges our lives in spite of our best laid plans (Proverbs 19:21), 2. to make my hasty flight from Michigan a little clearer for those who followed it on facebook and are curious, and C. for me to remember the story in years to come.

Back in January I was still looking for work. I had applied to over 90 jobs, had gone through approximately two dozen phone interviews and had multiple in-person interviews and I had either no peace about the job or they were not what I was looking for or I never heard back from the application. I had even applied and interviewed for a job at David's Bridal. That was an all-time low in my time in the cave when I couldn't even land a job at a freaking Bridal store. One cold, snowy January night my best friend, Sarah, who lives in Los Angeles, posted on facebook that she had an upcoming opening in her apartment for a roommate; who needed housing in LA. Half joking, half serious I posted immediately saying: "Pick me!! Pick me!! I'll look for work there IMMEDIATELY". I opened my job query that same hour (I had only been looking in the midwest or in areas of the country where I know people, like Denver, CO and Manchester, NH, and Columbus, OH). Up popped a job I hadn't seen before at the Child Development Center at Simi Valley Hospital. I was thrilled, but it was marked as only a part time position. I applied for the job anyway, as well as two other jobs: a neonatal position in Madison, Wisconsin and a speech pathology professorship at a local university in Grand Rapids. The neonatal position was my absolute dream job. I had always wanted to work exclusively in a NICU, but it was only a part time position as well. The very next afternoon, at 1:30 to be exact, the director from Simi Valley called for a phone interview. 
Long story short, I decided to fly to LA for a week and interview in person . I mean job interviews these days are like internet dating. You scroll through countless job descriptions looking for just the right one. You start by sending that first, nervous e-mailing and then if you're lucky you get a phone call. But until you meet in person and have that sparkle, that connection, that overflowing peace and butterfly-in-the-stomach moment, you can really be sold any rotten piece of work over the internet. 

It is always curious to me how God likes to be seen and involved in ALL of our plans. No matter how small or insignificant that seem. He likes even better to be a part of the really big things. So He decided to mess with my plans and put his ginormous foot prints all over them. So while I was planning my trip to LA, my college RA also posted on facebook that she was also flying to LA around the same time. I would like it duly noted in the record that A. my college RA lives in downtown Chicago, B. on the L that goes right into O'Hare, and 3. it is always cheaper to fly out of Chicago from O'Hare. I messaged her right away telling her I was also planning a trip to LA, what were the details. For the sake of the story, I'll spare the little details, but in the end I drove to Chicago, was able to have coffee with two lovely teens I met on a missions trip in Costa Rica who were now at college in Chicago, was able to stay with my RA for the night, park my car at her apartment, take the L into the airport with her, and WAS ON THE SAME FLIGHT to LA as she!! Incredible detailing, Jesus!!

The job was everything they said it would be and so much more. The area was gorgeous (and the weather warm, thanks, Michigan, for being so ridiculously cold and snowy). In 17 years the manager had never offered the job on-the-spot until my interview, and now candidate had ever accepted the job on-the-spot until me. It had God all over it.

It's all in the details, really. When I accepted the job, we all knew I couldn't start until April. California is a licensed speech pathology state. I needed to apply for a tests, just lots of paperwork and the one thing all government agencies use to prove you have the right to a license: lots of money. That pushed my start date until the middle of April. Woohoo, I thought, I get a few more weeks in Michigan!! Who wants a coffee date??!!

But that, friends, is where God again steps in and says, "not so fast, I have a different plan." About a week and a half ago Sarah called to tell me that the roommate who was moving out was now undecided about moving out. Her father has terminal cancer and had taken a turn for the worse. I can't blame her at all. Her mother died of cancer a few years ago and now she's taking care of her dad. I would want to have a stable living situation, too. (Please keep her situation in your prayers when the Lord brings it to mind!!) But that left me without housing. So at the very, very last minute, I decided I had to get out here before March so I could hopefully find an apartment before April (I already had a contract with a group of movers for the end of March/beginning of April). A week ago Sunday my mom and I hopped in the car and drove across country together (5 days,  9 states, 30 hours, 2300 miles, one blizzard after-math followed by 1 desert, 5 audiobooks, 1 Enrique Iglesias CD, and more crazy pictures than should be mentioned. Oye). We got here on the last day of February. 

The evening we got in my mom and I spent browsing apartment ads on craisglist and circling potential areas to scout out. Like in 2 Kings 19 I wrote a very, very specific 9 point list of what I wanted for an apartment and spread it before the Lord. I reminded the Lord that HE is my provider and of all the things He had done and had promised to do. I thanked Him for already preparing just the perfect place for me. I reminded Him that I KNEW He was calling me to this area and again thanked Him for providing a good job and the next step in my life journey. Friday, March 1 dawned bright and clear. We headed out in the morning on the hunt. We went first to Simi Valley. I wanted to show mom the hospital and area where I'd be working and we decided to drive about half way back to Sarah's and then start the apartment search. Most of the areas that had cheaper housing were cheap for a reason (I'll spare you those depressing details). I called on several and found the following: most apartments have a common laundry room, I was expecting that, but most apartments in LA come WITHOUT a refrigerator. Quite a few even come without a KITCHEN!!  For a local, this is common. For a midwesterner, this was outlandish. Where the heck was I? A foreign country? You actually have to RENT the fridge!! Most places were not the charming little abode I had seen on the internet (see previous comment about online dating). Half the day was done, finding some pretty sketchy areas and even sketchier housing, we decided to drive back to Simi Valley and look at places there. The first apartment complex we pulled into was very expensive and the high-pressure sales man at the office wanted me to sign on a tiny one bedroom sight-unseen. No thanks. Our blood sugar was dipping. On to In-N-Out Burger for lunch. Across the street was a realty office. My mom had the idea to stop and see if they had any information on rentals. We picked up a local brochure and continued on the search. Eight hours later I had one of the few melt downs in my life. With a body still on Michigan time and one-too-many hours past my afternoon coffee, mom and I headed back to Sarah's. Nothing. Most place I called never even called back. And I never even stepped into a single apartment.

That night we opened the brochure from Simi Valley and started circling potentials. And there it was. The cutest little place I had seen to date. I called right away. I knew it was where I wanted to be. A little one bedroom in Simi Valley, on the east side of the city. It met all 9 of my bullet point requests. Jesus, I prayed, could this be it?? It was late on a Friday night, so I called and left a message. I called on several other properties, but secretly liked only the one.

Saturday morning mom and I decided to drive back to Simi Valley. We had an appointment to see a place at noon, but wanted to get there early to scope out the place. One mile from the beginning of the Simi Valley exits, the realtor called on the really, really cute place I had seen. Could we be there in half an hour?? YEEEEEEESSSSSS!!!!!! Again, I've gone on long enough, the place was everything I could have imagined. I thanked Jesus for providing for me and for remembering me in that place. 
Through the entire process, God keeps reminding me of being specific in prayer. The four gospels remind us over and over that anything we ask, when asked in faith and out of the right motive, the Lord will give to us. Hear me on this, this does not make God a huge vending machine, where we insert our prayers and out pops whatever we want. But it does remind me that when we are specific in our requests, are seeking the Lord for His will, and remember to ask and thank Him for these things, we actually give more glory and honor back to Him. Anyone can ask Jesus for a one bedroom apartment and find one. But to ask for very specific things in a place where those specific things are very uncommon and almost impossible to have all of them at one place, the only reason those things can all come together is Jesus. It's ALWAYS Jesus!! It gives us stories to share, which is basically what the Bible is, for showing how great and awesome and caring and provisional God really is. I'll prove it. Here was my list:

1. One or two bedroom (it's a large one bedroom)
2. Close to a major freeway (it's four blocks off)  
3. In a specified price range (which I'm choosing not to share, but it is definitely in the range)
4. Plenty of storage with either closets or units (this one has tons of closets and pantries inside PLUS a garage with storage!!)
5. In-unit laundry (there's a stacked washer and drier included!!)
6. Kitchen with a fridge (stainless steel!!!)
7. Off street parking (there is its own parking space plus a garage)
8. High ceilings with either a balcony or a patio (it has a cute little enclosed patio with a storage shed)
9. A pool or fitness room (there is a pool and TWO jacuzzis!!)      

This is not just for me. This is a concept for everyone. What are you praying about? How are you being specific in what you are presenting to the Lord? How can you be as specific as possible so when you see your prayer answered you can give the glory back to Jesus? Are you thanking Jesus for what He has given you and sharing the story with others? It's not being prideful, it's being proud of a Lord and Savior who cares about every little detail of your life and giving the thanks and praise back to Him for it.

Next prayer list: my specifics for my prince ;)