Whose Glory?

Sometimes I take away God’s glory and glorify Satan. This is not a statement that I would have ever dreamed in my wildest imagination I would write. Through several conversations over the past few weeks I have come to this deeply unsettling realization.

More often than I would like to admit I choose to focus on the hard things in life. I see everything that’s challenging and see all the spiritual defeat in my life. I even do this when it comes to ministry. I see all the hard battles and focus on wanting God to “fix” the struggles and take away the pain. In the midst of all this, I miss all the beautiful, wonderful, life-giving things God is doing. I blind myself to the good things in life and throw away a chance for joy. I forget that He’s at work while I’m busy fretting about something He clearly knows about and has under control.

My perspective needs a slight major adjustment. Instead of focusing or dwelling on “the work of the devil” I need to choose to see the life-changing, gracious work of Christ. Instead of talking about communication issues I choose to talk about Christ saving lives. Instead of seeing where I failed, I am going to praise the Lord for the small victories I have over sin in my life. Instead of moaning over lack of internet for weeks on end, I will be grateful for countless refreshing hours with the Lord.

I’m not saying that it’s bad to recognize or even talk about the tough stuff. In fact we need to. There is a time and place to look at evil being done and to call it what it is, grieve over it, confront it, pray over it, aggressively fight it, etc. However, it is not ultimately best to dwell on it and neglect to see the incredible things of the Lord.

I don’t know that God will do bigger, more amazing things in my life if I focus on giving Him the glory, but I do know that I will be less likely to miss out on seeing Him. I have the opportunity to do what I am truly created to do. I can glorify God and enter into deeper relationship with Him. I can receive joy and marvel at His goodness and work. I so often choose not to. My challenge to myself is to shift the focus off of how I think things should look and see what God is displaying right in front of my eyes. It’s time for my to lift my eyes and see the beautiful reality of what God is up to. By choosing to see Him for who He is brings me into a closer, joy-filled, and exhilarating relationship. Why wouldn’t I choose that?

Where’s Hope?

I firmly believe that God uses themes in my life to teach me deep and meaningful truths about Himself. Over the past few years God has been gently trying to get me to look at one that frankly scared me. Hope is a word is thrown around so nonchalantly all the time, but I never really stopped to think about the depth of the word. I knew that I had a love/hate relationship with this elusive hope.

I grew up knowing that my hope was in Jesus and that I would eventually go to heaven someday to be with Him, but hope is so much deeper than that. Hope is not just a future thing, or something final. It is something that drives the depths of my heart to long for something greater than I am experiencing at the time. Hope is all about faith that there is something better for me now and in the future. It’s a walk of faithful expectancy, joy, and faith. If I am completely honest, hope scared me because there is so much risk involved in hope. What if I allow myself to hope for something and I am disappointed? What if I realize when I get what I wanted that it’s not fulfilling or satisfying and I want something else? What if God begins to see how fickle I am and He decides not to answer my prayers anymore? And the list goes on…

What I failed to realize is that my concept of hope was rather narrow. My hope was in things and in the desires themselves. My hope was not founded on anything solid and this is where the danger lies. Jesus gently moved into those wounded places in my heart the battled between wanting to hope and the paralyzing fear of letting myself hope. He used Scripture and gentle, loving friends to speak truth into those places of fear. It came to a point where I had to repent of that fear and realize the magnitude of the LOVE that Christ has for me. He was not going to allow me to stay blinded, believing that anything less than Him is going to satisfy my deepest longings. Not that I have a full understanding of what hope is, or plan to anytime soon, but it’s like I just had cataracts removed and I can see more clearly. I can truly and fully hope and desire things as long as my ultimate hope is in Christ. He fulfills every longing I have and He knows my heart far better than I do. H efully knows me, fully accepts me, fully loves me. This is a true act of grace.

The Truth is:

  • Christ can do exceedingly, abundantly more than I can even ask or imagine (and I have a pretty big imagination)
  • When I ask for things God is not a Father who gives gifts that harm. Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father.
  • My soul was bought by the precious, powerful blood of Jesus Christ and I am sealed by the Holy Spirit. What should I fear?
  • Stifling desires that Christ gives me can cause resentment to build. Present all the things I want to Christ with thankfulness, confident that He will guard my heart and mind when I trust Him with my desires.
  • When I truly delight myself in God He will either change my desires or confirm that they are good and right and He’ll give me what is best for me.
  • I am never alone in this journey of hope and faith. I am abiding in Christ and He is in me. There is no greater hope in this life.

The Oregonian Adventure | A Forced Vacation

“This did not go as I planned.” That statement could be my catchphrase. I should not be surprised anymore when things do not go as I plan them. I had planned to fly from Anchorage to Portland with Girla (one of last year’s TLC grads) to get her settled into her dorm for her first semester of college. She’s attending Multnomah University in Portland and I managed to have enough miles to accompany her. I was ecstatic to take a trip with her, help her settle in, and get things ready for this new chapter of her life.

I went into Anchorage on Tuesday afternoon to spend a couple days of “rest” amidst a busy month. Winter Camp was just ending, staff planning retreat is next week, and then TLC starts immediately after. I knew I needed some down time. Promptly after arriving in Anchorage I was without a vehicle. A long series of events and two hours later, I was blessed by the use of a friend’s vehicle. I also ended up having a few unavoidable errands that became more time consuming and frustrating than necessary. This Anchorage visit was much more restful than it normal, but definitely not the “retreat” I had hoped for/planned.

Girla was scheduled to come to from Dillingham to Anchorage on Wednesday so we could fly to Portland together on Thursday morning. That afternoon I got a text from Girla asking for prayers because her flight was cancelled and she was on standby for a flight later that day, but all of them were full. All day we texted back and forth thinking she may make it, then more cancellations. By 10:00pm she was still in Dillingham with little hope of making it to Anchorage before our Portland flight. I still took my flight down and planned just to meet her later on Thursday. But for Girla, Thursday held more disappointment. We rallied people to pray along with us for her flight, but God had other plans.

I landed in Portland around 4pm, picked up my rental car (which I got a complimentary upgrade on because the man at the counter asked what brought me to Portland and I told him a snippet of Girla’s story), checked into my hotel room (which was way nicer than I imagined), and went in search of dinner. Up to this point Girla had been scheduled for a flight late on Thursday and then an overnight flight to arrive in Portland Friday morning. During dinner I received a text from Girla. Cancelled flight. Girla and I were both feeling discouraged. I texted the staff and asked for prayer. Immediately I got two called and was prayed with on the phone. I felt overwhelmed with peace, also a sense that I needed to make the most of this opportunity and see what God had in store for me.

So here I was. Alone in Oregon. Without a plan.

I took myself out for a movie and headed to bed thinking about what Friday may have in store. I woke up the next morning to the unfamiliar sight of the sun being up before 9am. I packed a bag, grabbed my GPS, and headed out the door. I decided to head up the Columbia River Gorge and see what Oregon had to offer. As I drove I had a lot of time to think and reflect. I turned off the radio, prayed, and enjoyed looking at the haze veiled hills. I pulled off at the first place on my list to check out, The Vista House. It was like a my eyes were open and something new was beginning. I began pondering deeper concepts…IMG_5683 IMG_5685 IMG_5687

IMG_5717I, the self-admitted worst vacationer (who feels the need to take care of everyone else and never truly rest), was beginning to enjoy this zero responsibility, no time constraint, do whatever experience. I was out in a rental SUV called freedom and I could stop to see whatever I wanted, I could hike to the top of the falls, I could keep driving just to see what was around the next corner. I was enthralled by this new found freedom to just live, be, and rest.

IMG_5740I had a small feeling in my heart of, “I wish there was someone here to enjoy this with me.” Then I just felt completely captivated by a deep Truth. I was not on this adventure alone. I was walking along this path with the Creator of these moss covered trees. I could take solace in the quietness of solitude, but not abandonment.

IMG_5704 IMG_5729I was able to have intimate fellowship with the One who knew exactly where every drop of the towering waterfalls would land. I could choose in that moment to praise in for this sacred moment. It was time to either dwell on the inconvenience of the day or revel in the calm, quiet whisper of my Lord’s love. I could allow the awe I felt in my heart at what I was encountering to be a conscious act of worship to give glory to the God who knows the delights of my heart. I was met in a new way by El Roi, my God who sees, along Route 30.

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Along the way God answered many of my prayers. He allowed me to feel refreshed, to learn to find rest amidst my plans being foiled. He met my heart right where it was and showed me a portion of His endless love for me. He also showed His love in two small messages:

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Girla would be arriving in the morning. It was later than I planned, but not a second later than HE planned. God knew that my heart had a huge lesson to learn. I have been trying to learn it for a while – I just needed to stop and be forced to rest in order to learn this lesson. God is so patient with me. He has a plan and it is perfect. Will I choose to trust Him?  Will I choose to remember to walk with Him?

I ended my day with a quick trip into the Pearl District and yes, I did pop in. It was lovely. Overwhelming and larger than my town most likely, but lovely nonetheless.

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Thanks[giving in]

It’s that time of year when facebook is inundated with daily posts of what they are thankful for. I have toyed with the idea of doing the same thing (I just don’t have the dedication to share something each day).  So here I am giving in. Don’t get me wrong, I love this time of year. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays and I desire to live grateful for how wonderful my life really is. God is so good to me in ways that I struggle to express in words.  So I have decided that I want to write out 31 things that I am thankful for this year.  It will be set up as my remembrance point of the incredible things God has allowed me.

1.  A breathtaking place to live that screams the glory of it’s Creator every day.

2.  God’s endless grace that desires my heart and the option of repentance even when I feel like I’ve utterly blown it.

3.  Friends who speak truth to me, give me grace, and allow me time to grow.

4.  The people who faithfully offer to do grocery shopping for me just because they want to serve and support the ministry where God has placed me.

5.  Laughter – especially when we’re laughing so hard that we can’t remember what started it in the first place.

6.  God’s Word – For God seeing fit to reveal Himself through it, how it seems new every time I open it, and it’s deeply life changing power.

7.  Village Bible Church – my extended family there and the way that they individually and collectively support me in many ways.

8.  My parents – for raising me, loving the Lord, and quietly challenging me to follow Him.

9.  My two wonderful nephews who make me laugh, remind me how to love and just enjoy life.  (and for all the other children that I am privileged to be the aunt of, even though not biologically.)

10.  Snow! – it’s beauty, source of fun and adventure, and just all around greatness!

11.  God’s peace – I am so thankful for that peace that doesn’t make sense but calms my soul and reminds me that I am exactly where God wants me and that I should/can continue to trust Him.

12.  A warm bed to rest in every night. I am not sure what I would do without it!

13.  Handwritten notes that seem to arrive on the day that they’re most needed.

14.  The ability to travel – to see new places, experience different cultures, and make lasting memories with wonderful friends.

15.  Long hikes in the woods.

16.  Working internet so that I can keep in touch with friends and family that are miles (and even oceans) away.

17.  God’s provision – that God chose to use many generous people to meet my financial needs, and that is a reflection of all the other needs that He willingly meets every day just because He loves me.

18.  Music – because it just makes life a little better.

19.  The Routh family – their desire to make me a part of their family, teach me how to truly rest, and encourage me.  For the ways that Kayden makes me laugh even when I don’t want to, melts my heart, and his “nickname” for me.

20.  Ice cream – I don’t know who invented it, but they should receive an award.  That stuff is just amazing!

21.  Tanalian Leadership Center (& Tanalian Bible Camp)- I am humbled to be a part of this incredible program and I don’t even know how to praise God enough for it. I’m grateful for the opportunity to see each of the students (who become very dear to my heart) and staff (who are pretty great too) grow as we seek the Lord together.  I am thankful for the way that SO MANY people see the value of this ministry and partner with us.  God has worked here in so many ways and it’s a tremendous blessing to see it first-hand.

22.  The Wardell Family – They really love me.  They mentor me, help take care of me, and just desire the best for me.  I am so thankful that they’ve been here to walk through this season of life with me and I look forward to continuing our friendship for years to come.

23.  Rest – even if I battle against it on a daily basis, I am thankful that God brings true rest and that I work with a group of people that values truly resting in the Lord.

24.  Lifelong friendships – the kind that pick up right where they left off even if I haven’t see  the other person in many years.  Those kind of friends are just good for my soul.

25.  Wool (and other winter gear) – I just really like being warm and it can get really cold.  I enjoy the simple pleasures in life 🙂

26.  Prayer – the ability to share my heart with God, thank Him for all He does in my life, intercede for others, seek His will, gain wisdom, confess my sin, and know that through all of it He hears and understands me.

27.  Hot beverages – I just love them. Tea. Good Coffee. Apple Cider. Hot Chocolate. Yum.

28.  Port Alsworth’s Community – I just love this quirky little village that has so much personality.  There’s always something interesting happening. I have grown to love the people here and what an example they are of love, joy, and trusting the Lord.

29. Planes, boats, snowmachines, & Hondas – they’re necessary sources of transportation, but also a source of fun.  I am just really grateful for the ways they make life easier.

30.  Jesus Christ  –  For His deep love, perfect life, demonstration of love & sacrifice, atoning work, resurrection, and hope of His return.  He is the reason that I live and have hope for the future.

31. Growth – I can’t praise the Lord enough that I am not who I was a year ago.  For the working of the Holy Spirit in my life and the ways He convicts me, fights for me, and reminds me I am never alone.  Thank you, Lord, for the work you are doing in me!

As I wrote this I realized that 31 is not very many.  I could keep going on and on, but I need to limit this.  God has done so much in my life and I hope that I never stop seeing what God has done.  It’s been encouraging to reflect on this year and see how truly blessed I am.

The Parable of the Northern Lights

A few weeks ago I was completely awestruck while walking home with a friend by an incredible display of light in the sky.    The Northern Lights that night were mostly green with the occasional bursting streak of red.  I stood there giddy, watching the lights dance in front of the stars and then sneak back behind the mountains.  All growing up I had wanted to see them and I was definitely not disappointed.  No matter how many times I see the sky lit up, I feel that same sense of wonder and excitement.  This last view was no different.

IMG_5305editAs we were walking standing watching the lights I wonder aloud, “How in the world does this happen?”  The reply, “Do you really want to know…. or should I just let you continue to be amazed?”  I was startled at first, not realizing I had spoken my thoughts.  Then I thought about it for a minute and decided I did want to know.  This is one explanation I am so glad I asked for.  The basic gist of the answer is that the sun releases gaseous charged particles that head toward the earth and as they collide with the poles they run along the atmosphere at different depths.  If you want to read more about it…. here’s the scientific answer that was given me.  Basically, all I got from that is that we’re being protected from super harmful gases from the sun and it looks incredible.

IMG_5300EditWhile I was deeply pondering the coolness science of this spectacular display I was struck with an incredible thought.  God is protecting us and His power looks beautiful.  The conditions need to be just right for us to see the lights, however, this is actually happening way more often than it’s visible to my eyes.  Sometimes I even miss it when it’s right outside my window or above my head because I’m distracted, or something is obstructing my view.  Nonetheless, God is allowing me the opportunity to see just how beautiful His protective hand is. He has brought me to a specific place where I get to glimpse at His creativity and brilliance in a new way. I took this thought to the next level (I know, what else is new?).

What if everyday, in a spiritual sense, these things are happening too?  Spiritual warfare is real.  But what if it’s just as glorious in the eyes of God?  What if God’s eyes are attuned to see an absolutely stunning display of His power protecting us and I can’t see it and neither can other people??  All around us there are prayers ascending in a dance to heaven, angels are warring endlessly on God’s side for our hearts, minds, and souls.  What if that divine battle rages with an even more spectacular light show than our eyes can even begin to see and our minds can never comprehend?

IMG_5304editI know an Almighty God is protecting me physically, but He cares even more for my soul.  I would imagine that protection would look even more brilliant than anything on this tarnished earth.  Now I take even more delight in those splendid lights that God placed in the sky just to teach me something about Him.

What is Rest?!

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines rest in several ways (I took some liberties with scaling down definitions and taking out part of speech, etc.  So this is not verbatim out of the dictionary, but bear with me).

1 : freedom from activity or labor  (but I like to have activity in my life)

2 : a state of motionlessness or inactivity (sitting still feel lazy and I don’t feel rested)

3 : the repose of death  (I guess that’s one way I could finally rest)

4 : peace of mind or spirit  (I like that idea and I think for the most part I have peace of mind)

5 : something used for support

6 : to be free from anxiety or disturbance

7 : to remain confident – trust

8 : to be based or founded

I have been struggling to learn what rest is for some time now. I know that I need it, but I am not sure exactly how to feel rested, receive rest, etc.  I don’t like to sit still and I don’t feel rested after lazy days and people tell me I need to rest and take care of myself, but I never truly got what that meant.  I suppose that’s because I saw rest as the first 4 definitions (and you can see my arguments to each) and I never took into consideration the last four.

Over the past few months God has completely revamped me outlook on rest and the importance of it and how it truly does apply to my life.  I read Hebrews 3 and 4 and was struck again by the concept of rest that is found there as well.  I don’t know if I would have grasped the depth of it’s meaning if, by some chance, I just happened to end up teaching that section of Scripture in Bible Class.  I grappled with the concept of what true rest looks like.  Verse 11 in chapter 4 really confused me at first,

“Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience”

How can I strive for rest?  That doesn’t seem to make any sense.  Then I realized that rest always entails trust.  Maybe that’s why I struggle with resting.  Do I trust people?  Do I trust God?  Do I really believe that I can let go of control and just relax?  Maybe not. God has wrecked my world a little bit over this concept.

Definition five is “something used for support” and I have learned that resting is being vulnerable and allowing close, godly women to support and encourage me.  It’s not always easy and it doesn’t come naturally, but it’s glorious.  Sometimes I feel most rested after those deep conversations with ladies where I allow them to support me and pray for me.

The sixth definition is “to be free from anxiety or disturbance.”  Do I truly follow Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” and allow myself to rest in the security that I don’t need to worry.  God is in control, I’m not and that’s a beautiful thing.

I struggle most with the seventh definition, “to remain confident – trust.” I think this is where “rest” is most closely tied in with Hebrews 4. Unbelief is the only thing that can separate me from God’s rest.  Do I believe Jesus died and paid it all for me?  Do I place my trust in Him?  The answer is, yes!  Then I don’t need to work to secure my salvation, to please God, to be good enough, and the list goes on.  I just need to simply trust and rest.  My life has been paid for and I just need to follow Christ and walk in the works He has already prepared for me.  Anxiety and worry should be gone.  I have confidence and faith in the rest giving Savior of my soul.  It’s a beautiful thing!

Which leads to the final definition, “ to be based or founded.” I am rooted, founded, and based in truth when I soak in God’s Word. The Holy Spirit gives me insight and understanding into His Word.  This summer I have learned how to rest in a new way. God is teaching me so much about how to rest in who He is and have confidence in who He says I am.  Rest is so much easier when I understand what it means.

Is Transition a Teacher?

I have gone through a lot of change in the last year. This time in 2012 I was sitting in an office working and day dreaming about what my life in Alaska would look like. I spent hours wondering how God would provide and about what the student and staff would be like. Wondering what winter in Alaska, or even just life in Alaska would be like often preoccupied my mind. In all that time I spent thinking I never realized how much I would learn in all this transition.

If time turned back and I was back there and knew what I knew now I would have done things a bit differently. Prayer would have been a bigger part of my day. I would have talked differently about what my role and this ministry look like.  In my defense, I had no idea what I was walking into. I walked in excitedly (and still do), but I really was naive about what my life here would be like.

Most of the lessons I have learned are not intellectual. They have penetrated in deep and have changed the way I live. Transition has a way of taking me away from what is comfortable and familiar. In doing so, I am vulnerable to learning lessons that I would miss in the monotony and mundane routine of scheduled life. It’s a job to try to condense all I have learned, but I think I have some of the top lessons.

1. The Power of Prayer – When people talked about the sweet hour of prayer I sometimes wonder if they really are praying. Prayer is hard work and can be exhausting. I have prayed more and more fervently than ever before because of the experiences I have had here. Prayer have been answered and God has moved. I have been completely at a loss for what to do or say many times and I just pray – often and in great length. Because of that my faith has been challenged and built.

Image2. Living in Community is Beautifully Hard – When living in close quarters with people they rub on me. The good and bad of them rubs off on me and mine on them. Sometimes the rubbing sharpens and other times it does damage. I have had a lot of unhealthy and sinful patterns in my life exposed while living here. It’s been hard, but wonderful to see God using this process to refine me. I sin against others, they sin against me. I need to ask for forgiveness and I need to  forgive. Most times it doesn’t happen that neatly, but working through sin and moving toward unity is amazing. It’s freeing and it reflects the love that God has for us. It’s definitely not easy, but it’s worth it. I am profoundly impacted by the lives of the beautiful women that I am privileged to call my housemates.

3. I Have So Much to Learn – There is so much out there that I just don’t know. I oftentimes have no clue what the right answer is, or even if there is a right answer to any given question or situation. I love learning and I want to continue to learn forever, but there are times when I just wish I knew right now. Learning takes time and it takes patience. There is one thing that I know for sure; I don’t have all the answers and it’s hard having people depending on me to teach. I am learning along with them and sometimes I feel like God is teaching me more than those that I am supposed to be teaching.

4. Human Expectations Are Awful – Having a title is intimidating. It makes me feel a lot of pressure. When people have unmet expectations if causes a lot of hurt, disappointment, anger, and the list goes on. Whether or not people are willing to admit it, we all have them. We all get our feathers ruffled a bit when they go unmet. I have them for myself and I get frustrated with myself when I don’t meet them. In my mind I know they are too high, but I want to live up to them. Other people put expectations on me and I can’t possibly make everyone happy. But what if that’s not at all how life works? I am God’s workmanship. I am His and I only have to fulfill His purpose for me. I need only to live up to His expectations. The best part is, I just need to trust Him, and He will do the work in me. How amazing is that?

5. Don’t Touch God’s Glory – It’s not my ministry. It’s not my time. It’s not my money, character, talents, life, etc. It’s all given to me by God and He is using me as His instrument to do His work. I cannot take credit for what I have not done. I take responsibility for the bad attitudes, harsh words, prideful thoughts, and impatience. But those moments when people are grateful for who I am or what I’ve done, those are the moments that it’s not me. It’s God at work. He is the artist working to create a beautiful result. I cause blemishes that He so gently fixes and turns into something that is worth looking at. I do hope that gazing on the canvas of my life give people a desire to meet the Creator. I don’t want people to get distracted by His masterpiece and ignore the Artist, who is worth far more than I am. Look to the one who does abundantly more than I can ever ask or imagine. His power is at work. Give Him the glory.

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