Wednesday, August 25, 2010

middle ground

Today I had to swing by campus and let me tell you, it is a strange feeling being surrounded by students and being barely graduated myself. I'm stuck in the middle here. I'm graduated, I'm even (almost) staff, but most of my friends are still students and I'm hardly older than them. Yet there's a clear gap between me and these students I don't know, whether self-imposed or otherwise, and it says: peer is no longer the right word.

And it is all over the place lately that I feel like I'm in limbo. I'm not a student anymore, but I'm not yet working on campus. Although we're praying for the miracle it would take to get me fully funded in time to leave mid-September, I'm not certain when I'll be leaving. I can't put down anymore roots here--I'm leaving--but I can't put them down in Romania yet, either. When I got back last summer, through lots of prayer and awesome wise people, I learned how important it was for me to be where I was, to seek the Lord in that place and time. No living for the future or the past or anything like that, but asking the question, how can God be glorified in what I'm doing here?

But this is hard without a definite amount of time here. And I realize that as uncomfortable as this sometimes makes me feel, it is no accident. There's no plan for me to lean on. There's only the Lord. I know that maybe this is old news, and it's not that I've never relied on him, but this constant process of turning to him, holding onto him and having no other comfortable thing in which to place my trust--it reminds me again and again of who he is and allows him to become bigger in my life than he's ever been. Whether or not it's old news, it's good news.

I thought about calling this post ''holding pattern'' or something like it, but then I realized that while the picture looks more or less right, the connotations are totally wrong. There is no stagnancy, there is no lack of progress, but rather an abundance of it. For me this means he is preparing and changing me for the fulfillment of a promise--I couldn't tell you when (although still praying and hoping for mid-September), but I can tell you I know he'll get me to Romania.

So now to turn it outward, at long, long last: I wonder about this middle ground. It's not the jobs we're trying to secure, it's not the marriages many of us hope for, maybe it's not the hopes or plans we had. Perhaps God is still leading us toward these things, and perhaps not. I swear he loves to surprise and trick us into better things--my foster mom used to always say "God ain't no fool" and, no kidding, some of the best things he's done in my life only happened because he's smarter than me and I didn't see it coming, would never have guessed it.

And then, maybe it is those places, our jobs or families. Maybe in the things we thought were secure, that we'd understand everything and it would all click, he's revealing even more how much we need him. But this middle ground, it is fertile ground, let me tell you. I'm willing to bet when I ''land'' in Romania it will feel even more like this--I'll be able to put down roots in a way I'm not able to right now, but it will be unfamiliar and certainly more than ever they will have to go through him. This is the point, yes?

It's getting way too muddled with metaphors at this point, but it's like being repotted. You are a plant, and you've been in a pot. So then God removes you and you must root yourself in him or you will die (or at least get all shriveled and crunchy). But when you root yourself in life, Life with a capital L, you grow and thrive and live forever. Seems like a good end of the deal to be on, to me.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

too much quiet, too much thinking

My third roommate got home a few hours ago after being gone for the whole summer and so already I'm looking toward lots of movement, lots of activity. It's good and I'm excited for her to be back, for both the new dynamic and especially because I missed her. That said, another person around the house and all the students coming back and it's suddenly way more people-busy than it has been in months. I've spent the last two months meeting one-on-one with people and sending more emails/making more phone calls than I think I ever have in my life, but apart from meetings, most of that work has been alone at the table in my living room.

Last week before church, I drove a few miles farther south and planned to spend an hour or two on the beach just sitting and thinking in the quiet before the chaos of Sundays and the next months to come. It didn't actually work out like I thought since it ended up getting hotter earlier than I expected and I conked out and woke up sticky from the sun, so then I headed to a coffee shop and drank a hot chocolate, reading and thinking.

I was thinking this weekend how being alone here will probably be different than in Romania. Here, as much as I love hanging out with people and talking till all hours of the night, I could probably go all day without seeing anyone and not realize it. So at first I was thinking this will probably make the first part of living there (or probably more specifically when I move from Bucuresti to Pitesti) a little easier in that I don't need to have a ton of friends around me and do fine without it which will make the transition easier. I do want to be clear: I'm not a hermit, and I really do love and want to be around people. I just don't need to very much. But then it occurred to me that being alone here where I'm comfortable and do have community will be very different than being alone in a very foreign place. Just something I'm thinking about, though. Wondering what it will look like--maybe now is a good time to kick back into what's been this summer my Sunday-only, super social Sarawr mode.

Also, not related, but some verses, both of which have pretty neat/crazy stories I'll have to tell later about how I found them (or maybe I should say how they found me):

"Then the word of the LORD came to me: 'This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'Like these good figs, I regard as good the exiles from Judah, whom I sent away from this place to the land of the Babylonians. My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not uproot them. I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.'" Jeremiah 24:4-7. And then,

"This is what the LORD says: 'Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded,' declares the LORD. 'They will return from the land of the enemy. So there is hope for your future,' declares the LORD. 'Your children will return to their own land.'" Jeremiah 31:16-17

I've been thinking and praying about the first one for a couple of weeks and then, bam!, today the second one. I know it's no accident or coincidence, and as I'm praying about what I'm supposed to understand from these, as there are a million possible interpretations and applications my mind jumps to, I realize that this summer has been full of God's promises. There is the promise that he will get me to Romania, and who knows when, but he will. There's the promise of good plans and provision for a whole lifetime and longer, and a reminder of who he is rather than what the details of next month will look like. And preparation, and a million other things, and then these verses, which I'm certain I'll be looking back on in thirty years in awe, telling stories about the good and mighty Lord.

Another thought about trying to understand Scripture: how do I go from saying 'how does this bit of Scripture fit into my life' to 'how do I submit my life to the authority of this bit of Scripture'? Any experience I've had with this has always been the observe-interpret-apply approach--and this has been incredibly helpful. But it occurred to me today that instead of being bogged down by introspection that perhaps it would be like worship in the same way that worship is freeing because it's not about me--and less limiting. Just thoughts though. This is for another blog. And until then--

Thursday, August 12, 2010

"where you invest your love, you invest your life"

Back in May when Rockbridge was over I found myself very suddenly on the other side of something that had been a--well, I'm not even sure what to call it. I mean everything InterVarsity was for me. They took care of me and I cared for them and it's funny how this group of people and everything that it was is something I could never find one descriptor for. Just living, moving. What surprised me, though, what brought on the feeling of suddenness was that I realized that all the things I especially cared about for my friends were things I couldn't work at with them anymore. That's not fully true--but I am graduated and it looks different.

The last couple of nights, my roommate and I have been talking about evangelism and everything to do with that that she'll be leading for the next semester. Leaving that was probably the part of graduating that made me most hesitant--everything else I'll miss, but this I still want so much for. And after two years of leading this, even in the months since graduating I'm understanding things I didn't before.

Last night we talked about how it seems so often (in the context of our experiences with students on an extremely passive campus in a very nominally Christian part of the country) we're forcing this on people and how evangelism shouldn't be a checklist of things to get through and then be done with or something we have to do. And I thought about how when you love something, wherever your heart it, that's what comes out all the time. I have friends who love music, who you can't have a conversation with without them bringing it up. And I have other friends whose conversations always come back to a boy or a girl. I talk about Romania all the time. I don't mean to say that these things are being put in front of God or anything like that--how do I know?--only that wherever your heart is, whatever's in it, it pours out.

What if it were like this with God? I think ''evangelism'' would be so much more natural if it were--conversations about him would come up more naturally and it wouldn't be so much something we are obligated to do but something we just spill over with. What if evangelism weren't a heavy word with too many negative connotations, but instead was a synonym for God being the center of our lives, our very identity, and all that that implies? What if basing your whole life out of the knowing and loving of God were the definition of evangelizing? I think the way this looks is not limited by any means to the traditional sense of open air preaching or going door-to-door or handing out Bibles. You are passionate about the environment and it shows--so with whatever you care about. If you are passionate about the Lord then evangelism is in some ways is the natural by-product (barring things like being nervous or afraid or whatever challenge).

Why would I buy something from someone who didn't believe in the product? (The double meaning with the word believe is unfortunate here because a lot of the times the issues with motivation and evangelism aren't that we don't believe in God but that we don't know him or want to. Also, the metaphor about buying and selling and calling it a product is kind of unfortunate too... but bear with me.) And how could I ever expect someone to ''sell'' something their heart isn't in? Of course they're going to do the minimum requirement, of course they're going to want checklists and feel like it's an obligation. It's like in Walk the Line when Johnny is trying to sell whatever he's selling door to door--he just ends up going back to music and the recording studio. Well, of course. It's what he loves. He doesn't love washing machines, or whatever he's selling.

I'm thinking of Isaiah 43:10. "'You are my witnesses,' declares the LORD, 'and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no other god was formed, nor will there be one after me.'" So that you may know and believe me (yet it doesn't say 'that the rest of the world will know me' or 'so all the people who aren't Christians will know me'). He chose us as his servants and witnesses--evangelism is this, yes? Saying this is who the Lord is, this is what he has done, and we have to want to know him, we have to be on that road that probably won't ever end toward knowing him. Not that we can muster it up ourselves, and this explains so much. If evangelism is the end, if stepping into "the ministry of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 2:20) is the end that we're trying to get to, we won't ever really because our heart won't ever be there. The end has to be the Lord, it has to be knowing the Lord and loving him and when he's where our heart's at, it's not an obligation anymore. It's in everything we do. And I wonder if, when we start running after God and longing to know him better, we'll find ourselves living evangelism instead of just doing it. I think we're meant to live it. This makes me think of part of a song by Mumford & Sons: "Where you invest your love, you invest your life."

This is all a jumble and it's by no means exhaustive and certainly this comes out of a very specific context with specific challenges (and things that have been helpful as well). I've been learning all this over two years and I don't expect to be done learning any time soon--I want to know what you think, how you understand evangelism. Tell me your thoughts, people.

Monday, August 9, 2010

hey-o, galileo

The other day at work we spent the nearly all eight hours filing in the conference room, the radio playing the whole time. I'll admit I don't listen to the radio all that much--not because I'm picky about what I'll listen to but just because not having a car means the only music I listen to is on my computer--and so I don't think I'd heard any of the songs before. There was one that kept playing and I swore it was saying 'hey-o, Galileo!' and of course the actual lyrics were something entirely different, something like 'gotta let go,' but I liked my version and I kept singing it that way and the whole thing reminded me so much of high school I don't think I spent an hour of those eight in that room.

My sophomore and junior years the bus came to pick my neighbor Crazy Amy and me up at maybe 6:10 in the morning. I remember I'd head over to her house at a quarter till and we'd sit in her living room and watch MTV or VH1 while she got ready, switching the channel back to the one it was at before she turned it on so she wouldn't get caught having watched it (her mother would be gone in the mornings and I can't remember a time she wasn't grounded).

In the winter it would still be completely dark out that early so after we got ready we'd stand at the end of the driveway in the dark, just talking, looking up at a whole sky still spread out with stars, no sign of morning. Those bus rides were usually quiet before the sun came up, a sleepy, humming kind of quiet. And Amy and I were so different in so many ways but the tensions of growing up in ways that filled that silence to the very brim and no matter what people said, no matter how often they told me to spend my time with people who weren't in trouble, we were the same. We were clasped together by it.

She loved music, I remember. She introduced me to Guns N' Roses and Mötley Crüe and other bands that made the naysayers crazy. Somewhere around that time she shaved the bottom half of her hair and would alternate dying the top part pink and black. And her family brought me to Florida with them twice, trips that opened my eyes to the possibility of a world outside that I could be a part of, that I could learn.

I think about roots and I think about her and her music and how, sometimes on those dark mornings, our breath coming out like stars washed in streetlights a quarter mile away, she'd talk about her mom and I'd talk about mine. We didn't understand but it helped to say it, to stand on the gravel and listen to each other shift, waiting for the light to come out, hoping then we'd be able to see. Sometimes on the bus I'd borrow her cd player and while the whole sky lit up orange, fast wild sunrises the bus could never keep up with, I'd realize she'd taught me words to the songs that were all wrong. She'd change them when she'd write them out. And I understand now.