Tuesday, May 23, 2017

When My Weakness is My Strength

 ~First written while in Medellin, 
Colombia as a dispatch to our church back home~

One thought that has continually come to my mind this week in Colombia has been my weakness.

 I feel weak walking around a foreign city with traffic and busyness. I feel weak when our leaders rightly demand that women stay in the middle of the group when on the streets so the men can surround us for protection. I feel weak watching the men skillfully build things out of wood then hoist sheets of flooring up to the mezzanine. I feel weak having to ask people what a specific tool looks like. I feel weak not being able to communicate with my brothers and sisters in Christ at the seminary and the church, staring at them blankly, not sure what they are trying to tell me. I feel weak as I try to cross the street without being run over by motorcycles in a city that doesn't seem to have or obey traffic lights.

 So this morning, when I was asked to help some of our Colombian brothers and sisters to prepare our mid-morning snack, I was excited. Finally there was something I could do that I would be good at, and I could feel strong again! They put me to work squeezing tangerines as big as our oranges back home to make the most amazing juice I have ever tasted. But even in that task I didn't know what I was doing. One man, probably after watching me struggle, showed me where to properly cut the fruit, the motions my hands should make, and even how to tell if the fruit was bad (all impressively without words). He put his hands over mine, twisting the fruit to squeeze out the juice, and in that moment I realized something very simple: from construction work, to the language barrier, and even squeezing tangerines, I am clueless and weak.

 There are many things I cannot do here because I am physically weak and unskilled, and that is exactly how I am before God. I am nothing compared to Him. But 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, "...My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me."  God uses our weaknesses, my weaknesses, for His glory.

 So yes, I will sweep. Yes, I will collect bottles. Yes, I will hammer this nail thirty times into the wood despite the fact that any guy here could do it with two strikes. Maybe simply because God is seen in my weakness, and in my weakness I am forced to rely on Him.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

How Uncertainty Can Be Poetry

 In order of importance, I have found these three things to be of most help when I find my circumstances too much for me to handle: My relationship with Jesus and His Word, my family and friends, poetry. 

 I have been writing a lot of poems, lately.

I wrote a lot of poetry my senior year of high school, too. I wrote more poems than I knew were in me. It was a hard year full of loneliness and uncertainty as I waited longer than most students do to find out if I could go to the one school that held all of my hopes and dreams for the future. 

 I wrote about the waiting, the fears, the desires. I wrote about how much I wanted to go to this school, but how I feared the one thousand miles that would separate me from my family. I wrote about being excited for my future and at the same time mourning the childhood that I knew was about to end. I scribbled on notebook paper many poems about the uncertainty of our finances, how to live in-between hope and reality. How to survive a year of not knowing if I would get my dream come true or if I would have to make a Plan B. 

 My poems were an outlet for my thoughts, a way to remember the end of my childhood, and mostly, each poem was a prayer of surrender to God. 

 I had forgotten about that year of uncertainty and those poems.

 Until recently when I have felt like I am again re-living that year, just in new ways.


They said
in March
I would know. 

In March
I would know
how to cry.

These tears 
are not from joy or sorrow
but from the strange winds March blows.

One day
the breeze blowing on my neck is warm,
and my faith in going to Cornerstone is strong.

The next day,
I can feel the wind relentlessly tugging me, taunting me,
"You will never have enough money."

They said 
in March
I would know.

All I know
is my confusion
with March winds.

My poetry hasn't improved much since I was eighteen, and I suddenly find myself in a similar situation. 

 So I am reading my poems I wrote during my senior year of high school. And I am learning. 

 I am learning that as hard as it was to be so uncertain about college that year, I had forgotten. Each situation will pass with time, which will then bring new challenges. The world keeps spinning. 

 I am learning that God did was faithful five years ago, and he will be faithful now. 

 I am learning over and over again about how weak I am and strong my Savior is. 

 I am learning how uncertainty is a struggle that I can choose to dwell in or I can offer to God, and He turns my uncertainty into poetry. 

 I do not know yet how I will cry, if I will cry from happiness or sorrow. I know I will cry either way. But I know that this too shall pass and that I follow Jesus who has already given me far more abundantly than I could ever ask. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Questions Not For Today

 What am I doing?

 The question comes suddenly as I think of a specific situation in my life that I would describe as crazy, scary, and wonderful all with the same breath. It is a situation that like many others has the potential for something indescribably wonderful or painful. 

 And I go back and forth between thinking it will be all wonderful or all painful. 

 So what am I doing? 

 For this new year I chose Surrender as my word. Last year it was Joy. Joy in all circumstances. Joy because God has blessed me richly and far more abundantly than I could have imagined simply because Jesus died for me. This year I want to focus on surrendering my life to God. Surrendering all of my hopes and desires and fears to Him. Surrendering what I thought my life should look like. 

 So surrender has been my theme, and going into this year I knew exactly what I would be surrendering to Him. I wasn't happy about it, but at least it was familiar, like the same chore you hate doing but at least you know what has to be done. 

 But this strange situation I find myself in has taken me by surprise, something I wasn't prepared to deal with, let alone surrender. I don't know how to do this. 

 So I take a walk down a dirt road and hide myself as far away from people as I can. And I pace up and down that dirt road asking God so many questions:

 What if...?
 What happens when...?
 How can I...?
 Should I...?

 But as I am praying and voicing my fears to God, I have this thought: these are not questions for today. Tomorrow, maybe. Definitely for the future. But not today. They are questions and fears I must surrender. Both the "what if it works?" and the "what if it doesn't?" Only God knows the answers, and right now they are not answers He is giving. So right now they are not questions I should be asking. 

 I don't want to live my life in fear. I want to live my life in the present, while sometimes looking back at the faithfulness of God and sometimes looking forward to how God will be faithful in the future. Because sometimes I get so caught up in the questions that can't be answered today that I forget these things:

1. He will hold me fast. 

 I will make mistakes. But I am God's child and no one will be able to snatch me out of my Father's hands. 

"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one."
John 10:27-30, ESV

2. I can't know everything right now.

 I like plans. I like knowing what is going to happen in the end, whether it is the book I am currently reading or my life. But my life is not a book where I can skip pages. So I must take everything one day at a time and not fear the future. 

3. God knows everything right now. 

 When I pray and ask God my hard and painful questions, I like to imagine them floating up into His hands. God is holding my questions, so to speak. I can trust God with my fears and questions. My fears He will dissolve and my questions He will hold until the right time when He will give me the answers. 

 So my fears about my unanswered questions and situation are useless. I must surrender them to Him, because they are not questions for today. And I will wait to see what happens. Even if it just a painful lesson or experience, He is using my strange situation, many fears, and unanswered questions to draw me closer to Him.