Wednesday, June 8, 2011

What Do I Know of Holy?

“It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.” 
      Today is the third day of training for Summer Ministry. I simply cannot go to sleep without trying to express all that has happened in this day and all that I have learned so far! This afternoon, my team began to truly bond. There are six of us, and therefore we are able to pair off if needed in order to be the most productive. The six of us paired into three groups within the same room, and looking back right now, I love the memories of my quick observations: Travis and Ryan planning and practicing their bible story for VBS, in hopes of teaching children the truth within the words of scripture in a fun and interactive way ... Christina and Mixi preparing the entertaining skit for the kids to become engaged and invested in the daily bible points ... me and Ace brain storming about what games to teach the kids. We all focused and worked together, while at the same time, made connections that I believe began to open doors of comfort for my team. I laughed with Ace over past memories of Capture the Flag, the team encouraged and giggled at the first rehearsal of the skit, and we began to see the vision for the daily bible story that the guys put together. The morning seemed to fly by. We began laughing together and enjoying each other’s company. I envisioned what I will feel by the end of the summer...these will not just be my teammates, they will be family.
      “It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.” Honestly, this week started out with some stress. My team is in a difficult position due to our responsibility for learning worship music for camps and churches, in addition to leading four vacation bible schools. We must manage our time efficiently in order to prepare for our summer program! This afternoon, I felt the stress and tension rise as we struggled to find common ground on which song to practice, and whether the “tag” should end with [insert lyric here] 2x or 3x. I personally left the four hour practice a bit discouraged, but after dinner, our team received extra training and instruction from a music graduate of ENC. He seemed to pump up the team, because for the rest of the night, I felt much more encouraged about our progress. Even though the team energy was running on close to empty, we were constantly finding things to laugh about, and were able to work productively until late tonight. 
       Thinking back on the quote from earlier, I feel as though it sums up my team and this summer. We all need to be sheltered by each other, and we can only thrive if we know that we matter and are cared for. My team began to understand what it meant to shelter each other and help each other tonight. We concluded the night with a short meeting about our plan for the weekend, and then spent time in prayer. As I got up to leave the rehearsal room and head back to my dorm, I was reminded of the love that God has for each member of my team. He put us together, He will not allow us to fail. Our job is to take Him seriously enough to remember Him. Without God, we cannot do anything. Our purpose for this summer is to serve Him together with our time, energy, and love. 
      As a final thought, I am reminded of the lyrics to a song that Ryan and I will be singing for a special performance this summer. The song is entitled “What Do I Know of Holy.” To me, the lyrics remind me of my place in the purpose of God. He is perfect, holy, powerful...and yet chooses to give my small team of six such a challenge to serve Him this summer!
Verse 2
I guess I thought that I had figured You out
I knew all the stories and I learned to talk about
How You were mighty to save
Those were only empty words on a page
Then I caught a glimpse of who You might be
The slightest hint of You brought me down to my knees
What do I know of You
Who spoke me into motion?
Where have I even stood
But the shore along Your ocean?
Are You fire? Are You fury?
Are You sacred? Are You beautiful?
What do I know? What do I know of Holy?
This day began as any other during the training week, but it was far from normal. Throughout our small difficulties and differences in opinion, God proved Himself to be mightiest of all and able to calm our hearts. He reminded us to shine His light to each other and to worship him with the words that our songs boldly speak. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Hero Worship

    Who are the heroes in your life? I often find myself excited, entertained, enthusiastic, energized...but envious over the life of the famous music stars we see on TV and listen to on the radio. The stars of entertainment have not only become idols, but objects of worship for our culture and for the world. 
    Ok, I know several will find this difficult to understand, but I spent the evening with my mom and sister watching the “Justin Bieber - Never Say Never” DVD! While watching it, I experienced a sense of longing for a chance to attend a huge concert like his, get a hug from this famous star, or simply be part of the phenomenon that this world is so caught up in! I felt sad as I realized that this DVD was coming to a close and that my little glimpse of Justin Bieber’s life would soon be over. I wondered to myself, why is it that I have such a longing to feel connected to this famous musician? Some may even call him a hero. Millions of girls all over the world would sacrifice just to see him in person. 
    There is a longing that each of us have to feel connected to our heroes. We read books, watch movies, listen to music, and learn as much as we can about our favorite stars. We fall in love with the idea of the hero, and at times can become consumed with passion and obsession. We believe that the hero will sweep down and rescue us from our common life, and from all the troubles of the world. The biggest downfall with hero worship is that although someone like Justin Bieber can entertain and inspire me, he is still a human being like I am. I can escape the “normal life” that I lead for the hour that I watch his movie or listen to his music, but at the end of the day, he is the same flawed person who makes mistakes, rebels, and fails to live up to perfect standards. 
      As I reflect on this night, and on the passionate desire I have to find someone in this world who can satisfy me or live up to my hopes and dreams, I realize that there is no one. Justin Bieber will remain an idol-like figure who I will watch from afar. From the distance that I can see him he seems perfect. If I was to know a star like Justin Bieber in the way that I do my sister or best friend, I would see him in a completely different light. I would see reality, I would see imperfection, I would see “normal.”
    When I change my perspective, I actually feel better about watching this DVD and catching the Bieber fever for a short time! I can now see the human behind the hero, and put him in his proper place in my priority list. I also can see the hero within the human, as I look at the people in my life who I am close with. Yes, they are flawed. Yes, they are normal like me. But they have done extraordinary things. My sister is a dancer and works hard every day to pursue her dream. Her diligence inspires me. My father works hard every day to provide for my family, and although no one is perfect and there are hard times when anger rears its ugly head, I know that he has given me a safe and loving home to grow up in. My dad is a hero. When I think of my mom, I can see the hero almost all of the time! Even at her weakest points, she has the true courage of a classic story-book hero. These are the people who I know the best, the people who see the worst of me, and yet still chose to love me. There is a bond of time and commitment that I could never experience within the short embrace from a famous movie star or singer. 
    I want to encourage you to stop for a moment and consider the heroes in your life, no matter how unlikely. We neglect the people we love best, and forget that they have given so much to us and have helped shape us into the people we are. 
   I believe that the reason we all have “hero-worship syndrome” is because the longing that lies deep within us comes from the only one who can truly satisfy the need. The desire to worship has been implanted into our souls. The desire can be wonderful and beautiful if experienced properly. The problem is that we worship all of the wrong objects! We worship the image of perfection, when in reality, the image cannot satisfy us. Before long, the excitement wears off or the image shows its true colors. We search everyday for something to fulfill us. We hope for the perfect life, job, friend, family, spouse, and home. We will never attain any of these things until our hearts are opened to the love and perfection of Jesus. He is the one who will satisfy us. He fulfills our every longing and wipes away our tears. He will never disappoint us or mislead us. This world is not our home, and we have a place in us that waits in expectation for the gift of Heaven! Here is a quote from C.S. Lewis that I feel sums up this longing:
“There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven;
but more often I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, 
we have ever desired anything else...
it is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want,
the thing we desired before we met our wives or made our friends or chose our work,
and which we shall still desire on our deathbeds, 
when the mind no longer knows wife or friend or work...
all your life an unattainable ecstasy has hovered just beyond the grasp of your consciousness.
The day is coming when you will wake to find, beyond all hope, 
that you have attained it.”
So now, as I look back on this night of watching the Justin Bieber movie, I see a blessing in disguise: the realization that God's perfection shines so brightly in spite of our own imperfections. We can find heroes in our everyday lives, and we can appreciate the movie and music stars for who they truly are. We are all longing to worship because it brings us joy. We simply need to find out who the worship and praise belongs to. God has placed the desire for Heaven in our hearts. We will never be satisfied unless we are satisfied first in Jesus. Be sure to live your life falling in love with Jesus before for the newest Hollywood hero comes asking for your heart.


“I have been through some terrible things in life...some of which actually happened.”
As the date of my mom’s surgery and the start of my ENC Summer Ministry training draws nearer, worry fills my mind. What if this? What if that? Why is there suffering in this world, why do people get angry... will I be good at my job this summer? fear has begun to grip my entire body. I fear the unknown of the summer and the inevitable surgery that my mom has to face. It’s so easy for me to put on a smile and pretend that I am not scared when I am distracted or having fun, but deep down I have a difficult time being truly courageous. 
I woke up this morning with the desire to do something about this worry. I do not want to be stuck in fear or insecurity, because God is so much more powerful than that! God promises us a future with Him that is more glorious than we could ever ask for or imagine! 

“Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. 
They will be His people and God Himself will be with them and be their God. 
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. 
There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain. 
For the old order of things has passed away.” 
Revelation 21:3b-5.

As I meditate over this passage from the last book of the Bible, I am filled with a sense of joy that no other words have brought to me. The thought of no more pain, no more death or tears! It is too good to be true! But it IS true. Why should I be stuck in the worries of today, when God’s promises are so powerful. My mother’s surgery is truly terrible, and although I know that God has allowed her to live with the burden of suffering, there is a purpose in it. The quote at the beginning of this blog brings about a great concept. “I have been through some terrible things in life...some of which actually happened.” This quote struck me as humorous, because there is truth in it’s words that all people can relate to. So much of our worries never come to pass, and we constantly struggle with the terrible thoughts of “what if?” The irony is this: we spend so much mental time worrying about what never even comes true! We allow our minds to be plagued with fear and with anxiety over events in which we have no control. I am worried about my summer, about the team dynamics and the work we will be doing. I have never experienced a summer like this before, or lived with 6 people in and out of a van for 8 weeks! The unknowns are making me anxious. I am a firm believer that worry = lack of trust in God. If we let our minds run wild with fears of the unknowns in our futures, then we are not truly giving our lives over to Him! As a final verse of encouragement to those who read this and also to myself, here is Matthew 6: 26-27.

 Look at the birds of the air; 
they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, 
and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. 
Are you not much more valuable than they?
 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Look at the gift of life that God has given to all of us! He truly does take care of our needs, and we can have peace that we are valued and loved by Him. Although there are unknowns in our futures, God's care for us can outweigh fear. I know that God is trust-worthy and that I can place all of my worries in his hands. The worries I woke up with this morning were a blessing in disguise, because ultimately, God takes them away and fills me up with his peace. Without the fear, there would be no need for courage. Without worry, we would never understand the gift of peace.