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.

Documenting Life

Last summer Kathryn came out to Port Alsworth to help document Tanalian Bible Camp’s ministry.  She was finishing up a photography degree at the Art Institute of Colorado.  Not only did she work on photos and video for camp, but she invested in the lives of the staff members while she was here. Here’s some of her work for TBC
  The past two weeks she came back to help do the same for the Tanalian Leadership Center.  It has been so refreshing and encouraging having her here.  God used her creative perspective on life and wonderful suggestions for books to renew my heart and mind in several ways.  Everyday we’ve had conversations that direct my heart back to the Truth of who God is in my life.  One thing I will never forget her saying many times is, “Thank you God for always providing more than enough.”  It’s so true.  He really does. Over the past few weeks I have been truly reminded the He provides for what I need even when I don’t know what that is.  He also is faithful and gives me many things that I don’t need, but want.

I plan to be pretty busy with camp this summer as well as working part time at the new General Store in Port Alsworth. Sometimes I get discouraged and just choose not to even dream up the things I’d like to do. This summer I have lots of things that I want to do.  I have laid all those things at the feet of Jesus.  I don’t know what this summer holds, but I know that God wants me to ask for the things I want.  I just can’t put my hope in those things.  He’ll provide everything that I need, but I am excited to ask for the frivolous things I want. It’s up to Him what actually happens.  This summer will be wonderful no matter what it holds because all the good and perfect things that it will hold are gifts from Jesus.

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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Lessons from Friendship Bracelets

At Tanalian Bible Camp one of the most popular things to do is make friendship bracelets.  As a matter it is not at all uncommon to see groups of campers walking around or sitting with one or more of them with a bracelet pinned to their pant leg with them working away at it.  They make all different styles and colors.  This summer I made my fair share of them and was given about a dozen of them.
I wore my bracelets proudly all summer and after I got home I started letting them fall off one by one.  I still had on quite a few when I saw a facebook post by one of the other counselors about how sad she was that her job was making her cut hers off.  As I began responding to her post I was pricked in the heart.  Why was it so hard for me to let those bracelets go?  I was so convicted knowing full well that it was a symbol of me holding onto anything from my summer that I could.  This may sound completely silly to anyone reading, but it was an epiphany for me.
I know my heart is in Alaska and I know that I will be going back there some day.  It’s a calling that I know God has placed on my heart, but I was clinging to that hope so desperately and I didn’t even realize it.  That is, until I looked at those bracelets.  So tonight I cut them all off.  It’s not so much the act of cutting off the bracelets that matters.  It was the cutting off what I was holding onto.  I know that my future are in God’s hands.  I am completely aware that without God I am utterly powerless.  Alaska is in my heart, but by cutting off those little bracelets my heart was renewed.  I love my God and I am willing to follow Him and wait on His timing fully.  I will not cling to worthless thing because all is loss outside of Him.
Not ten minutes later my cell phone notified me that I had missed a call and that I had a voicemail.  It was from the director of the Tanalian Leadership Program.  God is perfect in all His ways.

My Heart’s All Over the World

This time last year I was in full swing of getting things lined up for summer mission trips at my church (I am the administrative assistant to the pastor who oversees missions). We had a powerful Mission Conference in January and I was so excited to see God at work in so many different culture, languages, and areas on the map that I had only seen in my imagination. I had every intention of going on a mission trip last year. I was hoping for Uganda.
As things progressed, I sincerely felt God saying no. It was not the time to go, but rather to rest. I had been going non-stop in so many directions and was honestly not taking great care of myself. I was working quite a few hours, but that wasn’t what was causing my need for rest. It was something more. So instead of going on a mission trip, I took my week off and headed up to Lake Ann, Michigan as a driver for the campers from my church. The week was exactly what I needed. It was a time to clear my head. I was able to spend time with Christ and just rest.
I was not prepared for what came next. I was dropping off the Uganda team at the airport and they were the last team to leave for their trip, and as I drove away from O’Hare the tears began to flow. I didn’t realize how much it was effecting me that I was not going. I had developed such a desire to get to know other cultures, to share Christ with hurting people, to get involved in missions…. and yet I was still in Illinois.
It was during the time that the team was in Uganda that a missionary my church supports talked with me about the idea of teaching at an international school in the middle east. I would have the opportunity to teach English and Bible to junior high and high school students. This was not something I had ever considered, but the idea thrilled me. It was what I thought I had been waiting for! It was God calling me to something greater. As I prayed, I got more and more excited about the idea of seeing new places, learning a new language, engaging in new cultural experiences, spending time with the missionaries, eating new food, and investing time in students’ lives. It all seemed to perfect. For several months I pursued that path. I even met with the mission board, and was starting to plan. However, in early December I started to feel unsettled about the idea. There was no peace. The excitement was dwindling, but I still had a desire to go, but it was definitely not the right time.
Slowly, as in over two months, I began praying differently about the entire situation. I kept feeling more and more uneasy and just not right about it. I couldn’t make myself fill out the application and move forward with the process. I talked to a few people and they too had an uneasiness about the trip. By mid January I was fairly certain I was not supposed to go to, but then what?
I still had a desire to go. It was not that I could not be content here, or that there’s not work to be done for God’s kingdom in Illinois. That’s not it at all. There was just no peace about staying. There is someplace that my heart was being called….. I just didn’t know where.

It’s All in the Name…

I suppose I should explain where the blog name comes from. What I will attempt to write is the condensed version. I doubt it will come out in a way that seems condensed though.

Most of my life I have been content with where I am. It’s been easy to get comfortable with the flow and not make any waves. In recent months I have experienced something completely different. It’s been almost the exact opposite. It’s a stirring, unsettled restlessness that I can only describe as a prodding from the Holy Spirit toward something more.

I have had a relationship with Jesus Christ for most of my life, but this is a new and different feeling. It’s a call to trust with a radical and a seemingly illogical abandon. As I was contemplating how to put into words what I was experiencing, a dear friend of mine told me about a podcast series that I needed to listen to.I started listening to the podcast on my way home from work and I was floored. I was hearing someone else explain my heart better than I could. Eric Ludy put into words what God was challenging my heart with. What God is calling me to is to take steps into His Endless Frontier. Let me explain.It’s easy to begin a relationship with Christ and take one step into the Endless Frontier, look around and decide you are now better off than 99% of people, get comfortable, and pitch your tent there. You’ve set some standards for yourself based on biblical principles and cleaned up some of the “worse sins” and are feeling pretty good about yourself. Then maybe down the road there will be a prick by the Holy Spirit and you’ll pull the tent stakes up and take another step or so, get comfortable there, and pitch that tent again.

I don’t want that. I am tired to pitching my tent and pulling it up again. God is challenging me to trust Him. To get so caught up in my pursuit of Him, that I forget about the tent. That I pull up those tent stakes and run toward Him. I am not looking around at the scenery, or getting distracted by the challenges in this wild and unknown expanse, but I am running toward the destination my God has set for me. I will never fully arrive this side of heaven. I will never find that perfect place to pitch my tent and I am done searching for it. Beside, I don’t even need that tent where I am headed. My loving Savior is preparing a room for me in His house. As much as I love camping, that will be way better.

God has used godly men and women in my life who have been examples of pioneers into the Endless Frontier who have blazed trails that others have never been on before. I thank God for these people who have been physical, tangible examples of reckless and ruthless trust in their Savior and Lord.

Now, God is saying that it’s my turn. Am I ready to step out with that kind of faith? Am I ready to embark on a journey that doesn’t make sense to me? The answer is not so simple. I, on my own strength and volition, am not ready. I never will be. But as I have been delving in to this concept God keeps showing me that it’s not about feeling prepared. It’s about God. It’s not about me, what I can learn, what I can accomplish. It’s about loving Christ enough to follow Him and explore all that He has planned out.

Passages for Thought:

  • Abraham – In Genesis 12 God calls Abraham to a “land I will show you.” Abraham had no idea where God was taking Him, but he obeyed. I, however, don’t have family to pack up and take on this journey, so it should be a little less intimidating.
  • Elijah – 1 Kings 19 is such a full chapter and has definitely impacted my view of what following God looks like. Elijah get physically tired. He was completely ready to give up. He needed to rest, so he complained to God and then fell asleep. God sent an angel, gave him food, let him sleep again, sent the angel again to wake him up, and then gave him more food. This was when God called him to action. God knew Elijah was exhausted, so He fulfilled the physical needs, maybe not in the way Elijah wanted, but it was supernatural. It was loving. It was exactly what Elijah needed to fulfill the purpose God had for Elijah to fulfill at that point in time.
  • Elisha – God, later in 1 Kings 19, sends Elijah to Elisha. As exhausted as Elijah was in his mission, God was still going to use him. So Elijah threw his cloak on Elisha as a symbol of passing on his role as a prophet. This is when Elisha did something remarkable. He left his work and asked Elijah if he could go and say goodbye to his family. After getting permission, he not only says goodbye, but he slaughters his 12 oxen, feeds his family, and then burns all his farm equipment. Now, this may sound silly, but it is so symbolic. He’s giving up the life he knew as a farmer and instantly follows. He gets rid of everything that gave him an identity and job there, sacrifices it, and heads out to follow God’s call on his life.

This is the beginning. It may not look important. But God is doing something radical. It’s counter cultural. It’s counter everything I have thought of as safe, practical and logical. It’s against the planning and perfectionist tendencies that I have. It’s transformational. It’s God. He’s at work. I am nothing, but a vessel.