Friday, May 27, 2016

Germany, '15-'16

This is Friedrichshafen, where I live! This was taken on a cloudy day; it's normally much more beautiful and bright looking!

“How was Germany?”

That question reminds me of another short, complex question that gets asked a lot: “How are you?” 

The short answer is, good. To both of those. God is good, and I’m a recipient of His goodness. So I am doing well. And Germany was a good experience; still continues to be. It was good because God is good and He never leaves me or forsakes me.

Truth be told, I’m sort of afraid to try to write a post about how Germany was because I’m afraid of taking WAY too long to explain it, or perhaps boring you, or taking a ton of your time with my many words. It’s easier to listen than to read, I find – and even sometimes I feel like listening is hard, if you’re like me and the sound of your own thoughts is like a major highway going through your head while you try to concentrate.

Ah, well. I have been asked how Germany was, so I’ll try to answer. Feel free to pretend you’re having coffee with me (because this is a coffee kind of conversation). For accuracy, you can imagine me to be distracted, focused, content, and discontent all at once (you can ask my why I say that another time). When I’m full of thought (which I am right now), it will take me forever to finish my coffee, which is very unusual for me (if there is a beverage in front of me, I generally finish it in record time). I’ll mostly be looking at the walls and ceilings, squinting as I search for the right words and probably using my hands a lot to gesture what I can’t express. I might seem like I’m trying to look through the walls into some distant world. Occasionally, I’ll make good eye contact with you and say, “Do you know what I mean??” I might seem kind of agitated when I do that.

Regardless, here goes.

Why have I been in Germany? 

Well, I’m working at a Bible school there.

What is my job?

I’m an R.A. Well, I’m on the Bible school team. Which means I’m an R.A. and I just help with the general smooth running of Bible school. Everything from paperwork to errands to relationships/mentoring, to organizing school trips and making sure that people vacuum when and where they’re supposed to.

What have I learned?

BOOM. Wow, how can I even…? There are a lot of things, some of which I probably don’t even know yet. But here are the ones that stick out to me:

I’ve learned that I need to set my eyes ahead, above, and before me. “It is difficult to move forward when you’re looking behind you.” That came to me one day as I was stressing about my life. I’ve learned that I need to not look at the present, or the past, for the promises of my future – But to recognize that the Lord is good, and He is always ahead of me. I always have some good to look forward to because, well, He’s always in front of me, and He’s always good. Simple as that.

I have been humbled to learn that familiar truths aren’t limited to familiar packages. It is hard to even explain in what ways. It’s like I was unplugged from the “outlet” of my home, culture, and family, and I was running on “Battery power” for the first little while of being there. I felt the drain of being away from constant familiarity, yet trying to be strong, I kept reminding myself to trust that the power inside of me is strong enough; it is Christ, who never runs out. (Which is true.) However… It’s been a good learning curve for me to realize that an outlet as a power source (if I may continue with that analogy) is just a means of conveying energy. The outlet isn’t, in and of itself, electricity. It’s just the means by which I get connected to it. Being in Europe, the outlets are different; the people are different. I need an adapter to plug my computer in over there – and similarly, I have had to adapt to new people.  I’m learning that I don’t have to run on battery power to survive; in fact, it’s best if I don’t. I have been learning to adapt to being a good student in a new place, willing to learn from a new sort of outlet. And in so doing, I’ve learned that Jesus is the same through both – Though they are different shapes and sizes, it is the same power that comes through them. That has been so good for me. Jesus doesn’t always look the same on the outside, but He IS the same on the inside. I can’t put Jesus into a box and say that “The Lord and his work are always going to look like this.” I can, however, put Him into my life, and that changes, empowers, and strengthens me – in a powerful sort of way.

I’ve been challenged, and encouraged, to be reminded that Love isn’t passive. God isn’t passive. He doesn’t just let me do what I want to my own destruction, but He challenges and corrects me because He loves me and He wants me to make choices and live life in a way that will lead to my greater blessing. I’ve been challenged that I need to learn to love like that. That I can’t be passive. I can’t just, when it is my privilege and responsibility to speak up, let people do what hurts them without saying something- even though, I know, most of the time I am sure I will not be met with gratitude. No one likes to be corrected or challenged. But we all need it. I have learned that there is a time to be silent… But there is also a time to speak. When a word is empowered by Love, light breaks out. Light exposes the truth. It’s challenging for me to recognize this – In some ways, I know that learning to love like this is a way to sign myself up for losing friends or not being very popular. But I’m praying that God give me love that cannot be silent when it ought to speak. To speak a word of judgment is never my place; but to speak a word of love, for the betterment of its hearer, is the best thing I can do. I must learn to speak with love, lest my tongue be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal (1 Cor. 13); I need to learn to love like Jesus.

Other than that- I've traveled. I've seen new places, met new people, and been BLOWN AWAY by the miracle of these privileges in my life. God has better plans for me than I ever could have had for myself! And being overseas has shown me that big time. 

I've made friends, and I've been befriended. What a blessing. I'm so thankful for those who chose to befriend me over there- you guys, if you're reading this, have been one of the biggest experiences of joy and grace in my life.

I've been discipled. The staff at Bodenseehof have taken me underwing and have been the hands, feet, and words of Christ to me.

And... Well, I've been challenged. Challenged to think differently, challenged to confront and resolve rather than run away and wait for things to disappear. I've been challenged in practical ways; I've driven a car in Germany and I have had to run errands, using EXTREMELY broken German to (try to) communicate... hehe.

All of these thing are an expression of God's grace to me; may I continue and ever more learn to be thankful for them!

…I guess that’s the gist of it. I’ve met so many great people that I could tell you about, and I’ve had a lot of great adventures. But none of those things carry the value of walking with the Lord, and the things He’s taught me through that. I’m excited to go back to Germany. I’m excited to learn more from Jesus in that setting, through those outlets. I’m excited to see how he’s going to change me further. 

Thanks for listening, and for asking. I appreciate your interest in my life. :)


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Yet the Lord Takes Thought for Me

"As for me, I am poor and needy,
    but the Lord takes thought for me.

You are my help and my deliverer;

    do not delay, O my God!" - Psalm 40:17

Yesterday was my day off, and as is typical on my days off, I took a walk to the Wilsons'. Walking to the Wilsons' is beautiful. First you cross the busy, busy street in front of our building, and walk back past the old church on a cobblestone road, past that through the little village of Fischbach, and then past that through farm land... farm houses... creeks, abandoned train tracks, and winding, small country roads.

After about 45 minutes of that, you get to the Wilsons' - Which is an old German farm house, situated just where a tiny country road starts to head up onto a hill, topped with forest area and covered with other old farm houses and vineyards. 

As I walked, I started to think. People are all so different. We all have different gifts, interests, ways of thinking and behaving. Any topic that can be thought about by anyone is known by God. Every interest that could be discovered, learned, or explored is known by God. Everything we have in the way of gifts, talents, abilities - these are all gifts of God. And all of this beauty around me - is created by and tended by God, who puts it all to rest every winter and brings it back to life every spring.


Thinking further, I considered that if the entire world were represented only as *I* am able to see it, it wouldn't be very big, and there wouldn't be much to explore. There wouldn't even be much to think about because my mind is limited in how far it can go. There is so much to learn, see, and think about in this world - as we can see when we look at our differences! So much more than can ever be discovered by one person. 

The world is so much bigger than my mind or my ability to comprehend. If the limit of my imagination was the limit of the earth's splendour, well, it wouldn't really be that great, would it?  It's far beyond that! And God knows and made it all. That, and... In a whole new sphere of understanding, he knows the spiritual realm. All of it is understood by him. 

Sometimes I have wondered why God ever bothers to think about me. Why *does* he care about me exactly, when there are so much more important things to do and think about? And even if he does take thought for me, does he really care about all of my little troubles and trials? Why should he?

Well, looking at the grass made me realize - it's not hard for him. He who tends the grass and brings it to life every spring - who takes the time to make sure that every individual blade is unique, green, living, and ready to grace the part of the earth on which it stands is a testimony of the fact that, you and I are not too small to be noticed by the Lord of the universe. 

"...Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." - Matthew 6:28b-33

Somehow, his big-ness is bigger than I can even begin to imagine. And somehow, encompassed in that, is a love and compassion for little people like me.

I can't get my head around it. But that's ok. He can. :)

Thank you, Lord.