Sunday, March 18, 2012

Spring Semester so Far

Hey Everyone,

Sorry it has been a while since my last update.

God has been doing A LOT in me and in the community at CSULB!!

Winter break was not the most spiritually rejuvenating season, entirely of my own doing. Instead of adopting disciplines over the break (plan) to help me rest in God, I was watching Netflix (reality). Not saying Netflix is evil (though I am sure someone has made a connection before), but I found myself spending all this time watching shows and movies and almost none letting God restore my soul.

As you can imagine that did not help me prepare for another semester at CSULB. Fun fact about CSULB: New Student Outreach is a YEAR ROUND thing. For those familiar with the crazy month at the beginning of the school year… picture that over the whole year. Dying inside? I was a little too. My soul was in need of rest which I had deprived it and then I was back to work, work, work.

My traditional prognosis would be rest. I was spiritually dry, so I needed to go off on my own and find the one who is described as a Spring, welling up into eternal life. I needed that life back.

But God had a new lesson for me.

Perseverance. Endurance. Being faithful even when it was not immediately refilling, rewarding, renewing, exciting, or fun.

And you know what?

“But we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” – Romans 5:3-4

God is growing my character. When I thought “I am too broken to be here, to minister to students” God said “Yes. You were broken when I called you here. Nothing has changed.”

When I whined, “I am tired” God said, “Let Me be your rest.”
When I cried out, “I am so weak!” God said, “But I am strong.”

And then things began to change. As I trusted that God called me to CSULB knowing all of my faults, failures, sins and brokenness, I could be confident that I am where I am supposed to be. As I trusted in God for rest and not myself (or my hulu account), I began to feel restored and renewed. I was actually less stressed and more joyful, despite less time to myself and less sleep. (I have been struggling with anxiety about sleep. I want to protect it like a precious stone, and anything that took sleep away made me grumpy and irritated. God is working on that as I trust Him more.) And as I saw my weaknesses with more clarity than ever before, I saw more of God’s strength, power and glory than in seasons past.

God invited me into a season of “hope and joy.” I am beginning to think we had different ideas of how that would come about… but had I turned to Romans 5, I might have recalled that suffering is a necessary precursor to hope. If when I suffer I look to God and ask Him what I ought to do, then I find perseverance. As I persevere with God in life and faith, He works on my character. And, as my character grows in the LORD, I experience hope (and joy).

So that is my inner workings. What of CSULB InterVarsity?

THIRTY students are registered for Catalina Spring Conference! WOOT! It will be amazing!!!

A non-Christian student recently told me that she broke up with her boyfriend. Instead of being upset about this, she said “This is my time. Like Erna said, this time is for me and for Him—for God.” Oh, and this student happens to be the one prophesied to become a Christian by the end of this school year (which honestly, even the very beginning of the semester I was thinking to myself and praying to God, “Ok… You gotta do something major cuz I just don’t see it.) PLEASE keep praying for her! God is doing GOOD THINGS!

A student in a fraternity who hasn’t been very involved has been coming and is going to Spring Con. He usually leaves right after Sarah wraps up her talk. Last night he stayed after midnight and received prayer for physical healing!
God continues to bring new people each week to our meetings, including some non-Christians.

One of the students I am investing in is doing a God Investigation Group (GIG) with a guy in her dorm! He also comes weekly and will be at Spring Con!!

There have been monthly men's breakfasts that are helping the guys build community and learn what accountability and friendship can look like with Christ involved.

We consistently have 30+ people at Soul Thirst!

God is good!

OTHER NEWS: Brendan and I are getting wedding stuff finalized.

I got a new job at my church! I will start there after Spring Con doing administrative and special programs stuff.
I am very excited for this season, and it is full of much hope and joy (hey, how did God know?!)
Hope you are well!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Repetitive...for a reason?

Another post about sheep. Be warned.

These are my reflections from church this Sunday that I felt God was fueling in me. Enjoy.

Personally, I am having a harder time snapping back into the semester, despite all the good things I have seen. I think the difficulties of ministry are taking their toll. Unfortunately, winter break was not the most spiritually reviving season either (my own doing). I am slowly getting back on track so that I can be intune to God's vision and will for myself and for CSULB.

However, the lack of "feeling" God is growing some of my deeper senses of His existence, His love, His truth. Even if I don't "feel" Him doesn't mean He isn't there. Even if I can't "see" Him doesn't mean He isn't at work.

I believe this season will be interesting, particularly as God is inviting me to more hope and joy... I think it is not by chance that I am not in a particularly "spiritually high" place to grow in these two aspects of faith. Hope and Joy are not emotions but rather realities Christians are invited into. I am excited to see what Jesus has in store for me and my campus.

No greater grace and mercy the world has ever seen than Your body and blood shed for my salvation. For though Your love endures all tribulations and conquers any obstacle, my heart is fickle as I stray far from Your compassionate care. Yet as a strong and gentle Shepherd, You seek me out--a dumb sheep once again caught in the thicket, ensnared by the sins of this world. No amount of time and space can prevent Your ears from catching my cries, however feeble and unwillingly I call. Your rod and Your staff are a comfort: not only guiding me down righteous paths, they hack ruthlessly at the prickly weeds latched onto my shabby whool. The same fierceness with which you cleansed the temple of theives and liars You remove briers and burrs, freeing a foolish lamb like me. As my heart wanes within me, the burdens of this world attempt to crush and bind, You bring release. You pull me from my demise and lift me onto Your shoulders, for You are strong and I am weak. It is for this, Your faithfulness, that I will yet praise You. Though I am lost, I trust that You will seek me out, and by Your diligence, out of love, I shall be found. So I count myself blessed, not that I am worthy, courageous, strong, or capable, but that when I am weak, needy, desperate and vulnerable I again find myself in Your arms.

The scandal of grace is this--that though we were still sinners, Jesus, out of love for us, died and conquered all our faults and failures.

I am not the best for ministry-of this I am now convinced-but I know God called me here for a reason, probably many reasons, and I am hopeful to discover what He has up His sleeve.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

What's in a Title?

I am one dumb sheep.

Every few months since sophomore year of college, I find myself asking this question: what would I do right now if Jesus came to me?

I don't mean in a dream or vision or even a friendly home visit. I mean if Jesus walked about like he used to, what would I do if He showed upin Long Beach and walked down Redondo Ave? Would I run to Him? Would I reach for His garment in secret? Would I climb a tree for a better look? Would my friends need to drag me to Him for healing because I could not get there myself?

I try to be as real with myself as possible. This exercise is not to think great thoughts about myself or even Jesus, it is a time to check in spiritually.

Sometime in December I asked myself this question and here is what I saw:

Jesus was walking with a crowd. He was surrounded by people on all sides pushing in around Him. I had heard that He would come so I went out to see Him and stood off at a distance. Slowly, I started to walk forward to Him, but I did not make it. Instead, I fell at my knees, head down and weeping. Jesus saw.

Jesus walked to me.

He crouched down and put His arms around me and said "I love you so much. I have used you to do so much. You are a good shepherd as you follow Me. I am so proud of you. Trust that I will fill you up before I send you out. Come to Me. My yoke is easy and My burden is light. Let Me fill you up."

With these words, I look forward to this semester, knowing that whatever my weaknesses, faults, sins, failures and brokenness, Jesus will seek me out.

I am worth seeking.

I am one (dumb) sought after sheep.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Another New Year

I'm not one to make resolutions.
My main reason...I don't like failure.
I also do not understand why changing a 1 to a 2 implies the necessity for great character work.
Shouldn't every day be a chance for God to work in us, to transform us?

But, if I'm really, brutally honest with myself... it takes change for me to see God in new ways, to experience Him more, and to see a lot of my flaws. Transition is, I think, one of the main ways God gets into my world because I'm finally in flux and out of control.

So, while I am not making new year's resolutions... God has invited me into new ways of experiencing Him and His inner healing. I will (vulnerably) share them with you:

1) Hope. God is inviting me into a season of hope. This is not because there are a lot of things that are making me hopeful, but because God wants to remove my doubts and fears. God wants to help me see His goodness behind my, and the world's, mess.

2) Joy. God is inviting me into a season of joy, I think mainly because of my coming marriage. If you know me and my background, you know marriage is a scary thing. You know that Brendan and I endured A LOT to get to this point (PRAISE JESUS!). I'm excited to see what God has for me in this area.
** while Hope and Joy sound like obvious good things... it puts a certain amount of expectation on God to make it happen. I can't magically summon Hope and Joy from no where. Those rely on God (and God in me).

3) Art. God has reminded me of how much I loooove art. All kinds. Painting. Photography. Sketching. (Admiring others' work and making my own). During this season I want to continue to explore art, mainly through my journaling experience and through a screenplay I am writing. (Gasp?! Screenplay?!?! WHAT?! Yeah... sorta random... but I no longer so secretly want to write for cinema. It's actually a passion of mine that I haven't done much with before.) So, I'm working on a piece that is oddly introspective. Really I'm writing because I can't stop.

So, Hope, Joy and Art. God is calling me to engage with Him in ways I have, until now, left quite neglected. I'm excited for what God has in store!

Oh, and #4...
4) Group hangouts. Sarah and Eddy both reviewed me in December and said I'm great at one-on-one interactions or small group interactions, that I clearly love and listen, and people open up easily around me. However... I haven't really gotten back into organizing big events. (Again, mostly because I feel failure...what if I plan smoething and... no one comes?!?!) So, it's scary, but I think it'll be fun!

Thanks for reading, I appreciate your prayers in all of these endeavors :D

God bless!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

What is Christmas without Drunken Brawlers?

That's right--drunken brawlers. In the ancient world, some people called them "shepherds." Don't be baited by the paintings of lamb carrying, baby-faced blondes in bath robes. The men from Luke 2 were likely rent-a-shepherds in Israel from the early CE (Common Era).

That means these men were wild and fierce, not to be trusted in upstanding society. They were, to use a few coined phrases, social-outcasts, misfits, ragamuffins. And in the book of Luke, an angel appears to them (that's right, a flippin ANGEL, MESSENGER OF GOD). These guys were greeted by one of those beings of glory and they were struck with fear.

It's crazy to think of a bunch of thugs shaking in their robes, but it is even stranger and more surreal to think of God, perfect and Holy (set apart), coming to a group of unshaven, unkept, barbaric men out in the wilderness.

But that's our God, our King. He came as a helpless babe, born to a young, displaced woman in an occupied country. And Jesus Christ, Redeemer of the World, wanted to be surrounded by the poor, the lowly, the meek, those lost to this world. He came to set things right. He came to bring Shalom--and that is far more than "peace," it is the COMPLETE righting of wrongs. EVERYTHING is set to how God intended.

Jesus brought the Kingdom of God, and He brought it to society's outcasts.

My God loves you, wherever you are, whatever you have gone through. Whatever you've done, whatever you have left undone--He LOVES YOU. He came for you.

This semester, God has been teaching me that I am a misfit in various ways. I have reasons to be ashamed, but my God removes shame. My God gives hope and promises, even to a sinner like me. More so than that, God teaches me that through my brokenness I experience more of Him. The point is not to simply fix the things that are wrong in me, but to experience the Prince of Shalom at work throughout the healing process, throughout the reconstruction of my soul.

And with that, I want to wish you a very Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Stumbling into God's Glory

The past month or so has been marked, in many ways, by exhaustion and discouragement. I have constantly found myself wondering how the heck am I supposed to be in ministry-I am so sinful, so broken, so unworthy, so incompetant, so unloving. I have been gripped by many fears to the point of defeat and despair.

I have wanted to quit my job as a personal assistant because my bosses continued to blame me for things that were not my fault. I wanted to just stay in bed all day, every day, dreading work... then dreading going on campus.

Yet in the midst of this, because Sarah is a great supervisor, I continued to have tasks to do: cook for Soul Thirst, drive students around, have conversations with the three students I am investing intentionally in, participate, gather, invite, lead a prayer treasure hunt, lead a proxy station.

What I didn't realize all along the way was that God was meeting me and I was simply too lost in my own darkness to see Him.:
- Cooking for Soul Thirst has become much less stressful. I like it when students enjoy the food and knowing I am meeting a most basic need in a hospitable, Jesus-like way.
- Driving students is literally my FAVORITE thing to do! I've had so many amazing conversations about dating relationships, loving neighbors, family issues, being missional, prayer, devotionals, God, Jesus, life! I have gotten to live along side them as I hear more about what they are going through. Driving = ministry time of AWESOME!
- As I am investing intentionally in 3 students, I have gotten to see how they are growing over a year. One of them has taken sooo many risks loving her classmates and friends, she even prayed with me for RANDOM people on campus (ex: "Hey, we just wanted to offer prayer to people as a way to love them. Do you need prayer?" Yup. Totally. Random. People. CRAZINESS!). Another girl has been growing SO MUCH wiht Jesus this semester-she is reading her Bible daily, praying, HEARING from God!, loving her suitemates and other students in her dorm. And a third student is slowly learning what it means to be part of Christian community-he is slowly experiencing the transition from "club" to "FAMILY, children of God." Everything he does with us he totally loves! He even shared vulnerably at a men's breakfast this weekend. AWESOME!
- I led a prayer treasure hunt where students learned they can be used by God in real, tangible, practical ways RIGHT NOW!
- I taught students how to do a proxy about Thanksgiving/community, and they got into amazing conversations about how Jesus calls us to love one another!
- God has continued to grow my character (more on that another time).

So although the main feeling I have when I think abotu November is "tired", I think God wants to re-interpret my memories of this past month. The truth is, it was a LOT of stuff, but God has been so faithful throughout it. Here are two mini reflections from this month:

Me: If people knew how sinful and broken I was, the thoughts that are really in my head, they would NEVER let me lead.
God: Yet I have chosen you.

God, you reach me in my darkest hour, in the deepest pit, when life has caved in all around. You always find me.

To end: God is GOOD even if I can't always see it, I don't always look for it, and I continue to ignore it. The moment I choose to acknowledge Him, He is ever present and unconditionally loving. Amen!

Check out my prayer requests to the right for this months events and other things!

Thank you for reading :)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Kept Promises!

At Fall Conference two students became Christian (woo-hoo!). Of the other non-Christian students we brought, God made a promise:

"I will have Alicia in a month, student Karie within a year."

Last Thursday, Eddy gave a talk on being missional, and the students went around Sarah's apt. taking out peoples' trash and telling them it was because they love Jesus and love the community. After that, we all got to hang out and some of the worship leaders did a jam session--mixing secular and Christian songs as we sang along. It was really fun, despite my awful voice :P Meanwhile, Alice and Sarah talked for a long time upstairs.


Alicia, Sarah, and Jasmine (who had invested in Alica) came downstairs... and Alicia had made a first time decision to follow Jesus and become a Christian!!!

I would like to point out that it was ONE MONTH after fall con :)

Jesus is so good and keeps His promises! It is a reminder to me to pay attention to the other promises He has made and live faithfully and hopefully in them.

Three times in four days I have been reminded that 1) The Kingdom of God draws near as I draw near. 2) The power of Jesus goes with me. 3) I need to live in the reality of both of these.

Jesus, help me to live my life that way and let's see what You can do! Amen :)