Monday, September 27, 2010

Beautiful Bruises

"Pain is awful, but love makes it endurable and even worthwhile. The tragedy of our lives occurs when we let pain overshadow love, which, ironically, only produces more pain. Love always guided Jesus when he faced suffering; sometimes love even compelled him to choose suffering. What's your posture toward pain? A church that loves the Lord and those around us more than it fears pain will inevitably bear beautiful bruises for Jesus."

-Essen Daley, Tabernacle Presbyterian Church

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus,

the author and perfecter of our faith,

who for the joy set before him endured the cross..."

Hebrews 12:2a

This week was our first Young Life club at Waynesboro High School. I got the absolute privilege of sharing my heart in front of the biggest group we've ever had at a single WHS club (my estimate was around 120). Everything about club is designed to lead up to the 10-15 minutes at the end that one of the leaders gets to speak truth about Jesus Christ. The games, the skits, the way leaders make absolute fools of themselves are all with the mindset of dying to ourselves and done for the sake of the gospel.

"For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."

Philippians 1:21

Club is truly a party! An effort to show kids that Jesus is fun and desires exciting, adventurous lives for each of us. Because it was the first club of a new school year, I knew that there would be a lot of unfamiliar faces- there were the usual new faces in the crowd as well as an incredible number of freshmen joining us for the first time. So we decided as a team that it would be a good idea for me to be up front at some point before I got up to give the talk (it is not unusual for kids to think I'm just another high schooler because of my short stature)-- and thus I was also given the opportunity to lead the first set of (fast, upbeat) songs with my teammate Wil.

I. Love. Leading. Music. I do not have a great voice like my teammates, Nichole and Wil, and I am not gifted with the ability to play guitar like they are (nor do I have a desire to learn), but for some reason leading songs brings me a great sense of joy and purpose during club. I was really nervous to give the club talk that night, with so many new faces, and having never given the "intro" talk before, but when I stood in front of the room at the end of the night, all of my nerves were wiped away and I was able to give almost the exact talk I wanted to give. (And I do not take one bit of credit for that!) I felt like the Holy Spirit gave me words and the courage to say them with strength and excitement. I felt like God met me in that room and kids got a sweet first impression of the intense, extravagant love He has for them. I walked away feeling really encouraged!

After club I realized I was in pain, somewhere in the course of Don't Stop Believing, Party in the USA, and You Belong With Me, I had managed to clap so furiously that I left the club room in a sort of pain and with a sense of numbness that I'd never felt before in my left hand-- my palm to be more exact.

The next afternoon, I was at work washing my hands when I realized that the entire left side of my palm- from my thumb over- was an incredible shade of purple and I still had a numb sensation from my thumb and pointer finger up my arm. I still don't know exactly what I did, and the bruise on my thumb and palm is taking its sweet time subsiding, but I do know the pain was inflicted while jumping up and down on a chair on a stage, singing my heart out, clapping as hard as my hands would allow in an effort to set the stage as well as I was able for the club talk that night.

And it was worth it!

This morning in church, Essen talked about the "beautiful bruises" that we have the opportunity to acquire when we suffer and sacrifice for the sake of the gospel-- the wounds of love. My bruise from clapping is such a silly example of such a profound concept. But it honestly brought me great joy every time I looked down to see that purple palm because it reminded me of the joyful abandon I felt in front of a room full of kids who were about to hear the beginning of the greatest love story of all time.

"Finally, let no one cause me trouble,

for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus."

Galatians 6:17

So, is our God worth it? Is he worth the bruises we are nearly promised in this life? Are we willing to shed tears that will bring about a day when there are no more tears? Are we willing to carry each other's burdens in this life?

"Carry each other's burdens,

and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."

Galatians 6:2

This life is painful! But is our goal-- our purpose-- the pain itself or the love that makes the pain worthwhile? I want to be about love!! But I spend so much of my time focused on the painful parts of my life. How different could my outlook on life be if I saw it through the joy of love instead of the misery of pain? God is faithful and while he doesn't promise a comfortable life, he does promise to never leave us to go it alone.

"Because God has said,

'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'

So we say with confidence,

'The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.

What can man do to me?'"

Hebrews 13:5-6

"O joy that seekest me through pain,

I cannot close my heart to thee;

I trace the rainbow through the rain,

And feel the promise is not vain,

That morn shall tearless be."

-"O Love That Will Not Let Me Go"

"We love because he first loved us."

1 John 4:19

And I love you!


Thursday, September 23, 2010

This past weekend, all of the Young Life leaders in our area snuck away to Smith Mountain Lake for the weekend to be together- there were 25 of us total sharing a house. (In usual YL fashion- the girls were upstairs, the boys stayed downstairs.) I usually look forward to "Leader Weekend" with great anticipation, but this year my excitement was dulled and lukewarm as I looked ahead to a weekend without my closest leader friend (who recently got married and moved to be on YL staff in another area) and with nine brand new leaders that I didn't know at all. I am not a big crowd person in the first place, I would much rather invest my heart and time in a few people than spread myself thin to know a larger group halfheartedly.

Things didn't start out on the greatest foot; I had to work Friday evening, so I wasn't able to ride down with the rest of my team- but ultimately this turned out to be an incredible blessing because I was able to ride with my friend Candi who leads at Stuarts Draft High School. So after a 2 1/2 hour drive on the craziest roads ever, we show up to the house dead last. After I take a deep breath, we walk into the living room and I am instantly overwhelmed by the cheers, I wanted to crawl in a hole (fact about Bethany: she hates to be recognized and made a big deal of in front of a crowd- even a crowd of 5); I am thinking: 'why didn't I make up some excuse not to come to this thing?!' Thankfully we got started pretty much right away and I wasn't forced to make small talk for too long (I know how all of this sounds- but

"For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks."
Matthew 12:34

and you are getting my overflow right now).

I love leadership. I love the people. I love the worship. I love hearing other leaders' hearts for lost high school kids. I love eating together. I love seeing friends that I don't normally get to see because we are too busy hanging out with high schoolers to hang out with each other. So when I moved to Waynesboro and started this job and when leadership got moved super far away, I was pretty sad that it wasn't a given anymore that I'd be able to be at leadership every week.

When my friend and teammate Wil first picked up his guitar Friday night, I got over myself real fast and stopped being bitter (for the time being at least).

"Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.
Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord."
Ephesians 5:19

The weekend was still incredibly uncomfortable and challenging, but God had plans for me and my hardened heart- doesn't he always?

I got to finish out the evening with a raw, honest conversation with one of my friends who I respect and love so much! Her tears were the visible expression of what I was feeling inside. I confessed to her that for the first time in my life, I am not only unsure of the Lord's calling, but I am hearing him clearly and saying, 'NO!' Oh what a broken, broken place to be!

But God had bigger plans for me than I could imagine.

Every now and then I feel like there is a quote that really embodies what the Lord is trying to teach me in a season of my life. I have kept a journal over the past 5 years or so and it is perpetually with me... just in case. These journals document my every thought, fear, frustration, prayer, hope, and inspiration. A lot of times the thoughts that show up written on the pages of my journals aren't found anywhere else.

Lately, though, I feel like I have been scrambling for time for anything, let alone spending time alone with my God, my thoughts, and my pen. That was one of the biggest blessings of the whole weekend at the lake. Time alone. And God completely overwhelmed me with words full of truth- quotes from his Word and from other wise people and books.

I have been so hard and so stubborn, but I wanted to be wrecked. I honestly craved that. And he started to chip away at the walls I'd put up around my heart- the heart that I gave back to him a long time ago. The heart that is his and not my own.

"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you;
I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh."
Ezekiel 36:26

Here are some of the words of truth he impressed on my heart this weekend from worship songs we sang together, books we read, and his own sweet Word:

"By thy mercy, O deliver us,
good Lord, good Lord

From the hardening power of sin...
From the pride that lurks within."
-'By Thy Mercy' High Street Hymns

He desires to deliver me! He says,

"I long to redeem them..."
Hosea 7:13

Saturday morning we were given time to spend with the Lord, and we were asked to spend time reading 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22. But God knew what I actually needed to hear and he took me past those verses to 23-24. These words kept tearing at me all weekend.

"May God himself, the God of peace,
sanctify you through and through.
May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless
at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it."
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

He wants me to be pure and blameless... which is something I have NO idea how to be. But he is faithful!! And thank goodness he says HE will do it! I don't have to do a thing but be willing!

"Even when the rain falls
Even when the flood starts rising
Even when the storm comes
I am washed by the water."
-'Washed by the Water' Needtobreathe

I am washed. I am cleansed. I am purified. That is truth, truth that Jesus died for, even when I am stuck feeling so dirty and shameful.

"Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow."
Psalm 51:7

God spent the entire weekend loving me and pursuing me and calling me back to him.
It was really sweet time.

"My heart and flesh cry out
For you the living God
Your spirit's water to my soul
I've tasted and I've seen
Come once again to me
I will draw near to you, I will draw near to you."
-'Better is One Day'

I've tasted and I've seen him, so how could I not draw near to him? He calls me treasured (Deuteronomy 26:18) and beloved (Song of Songs 6:3)- how beautiful!

Saturday afternoon, Dave gave us a book, "Intimacy with the Almighty" by Chuck Swindoll, and asked us to go off by ourselves for an hour to read this tiny little book. Word after word of truth jumped off the page at me. My life has been one frantic moment after the next lately and he finally shouted at me to just STOP!

"God never guides us to an intolerable scramble of panting feverishness."

"Noise and words and frenzied hectic schedules dull our senses, closing our ears to his still, small voice and making us numb to his touch."

"Nothing under his control can ever be out of control."

"Noise and crowds have a way of siphoning our energy and distracting our attention, making prayer an added chore rather than a comforting relief."
-"Intimacy with the Almighty"

I gave my heart and my life to God back in high school- so who do I think I am to pretend it is mine now?
I am not my own!

"You are not your own; you were bought at a price."
1 Corinthians 6:19b-20a

Now how am I going to live this season of my life? This year? This month? This week? This day? This moment? As if I am my own? Or am I ready to start living again in the truth that I am not my own, I don't know best, and finally let God lead me away from the "intolerable scramble of panting feverishness" mess that I got myself into and to the green pastures and quiet waters he promises me?

"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters,
He restores my soul."
Psalm 23:1-3a

Like I said in my first post-
'Be loved.' Because that is what we were created for- nothing more, nothing less.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

my little home

About two weeks ago, I moved into my very first apartment. August 21st was the first night I spent in my new home. I was so hesitant to commit to a place, fearing “renters remorse.” But after praying about it a lot and feeling really confident that it was the best option for me because of the space itself, the location, and my finances, I finally had to “take the leap” like my mom encouraged. Leading up to signing the lease and as I wrote my name on that piece of paper, I felt a great sense of peace and assurance that I was where I was supposed to be.

The apartment is honestly pretty adorable! I have a living room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom, TWO bedrooms, and a front AND back porch! Quite honestly it is way too much space for a single person, but I am trying to feel blessed and not overwhelmed by it right now. I have the ability to provide a space for people to stay- whether that is just friends who come to visit, or my teammates staying in Waynesboro for the night, or high school girls, or maybe sometime my sisters or other family members. But I also have a sweet opportunity to invite people into my life in a new way- I can serve people by feeding them a meal or providing a place to stay if maybe they don’t have another option.

I am so busy and in and out of our building so often that it’s rare for me to see my neighbors… but here is my impression of them thus far:

Right below me is a couple (Vicki and John, I think) and their dog “Peanut.” I see them the most out of anyone because they basically live on their front porch. John drinks a few beers and smokes about a pack of cigarettes a day (many of which I smoke with him as the smoke wafts up from his porch to mine and in my windows). Anyone who knows me knows that I am not the most graceful person living, so I regularly drop and bang things in my apartment above them, so I worry sometimes that they hate me- but they remain very friendly and say hello every time I come and go.

Beside them on the first floor is another couple (I have only met the man and cannot remember his name). One day a few weeks ago, a few girls invited themselves over to my place (and of course I was thrilled to have them), but let me put it this way: you would have thought my apartment had been temporarily inhabited by a herd of elephants! Now don’t get me wrong, these girls are so precious to me but I’m not sure it’s worth the sacrifice with my neighbors (especially since I just signed a lease to live there for the next year of my life). These neighbors below and to the right of me have been giving me nasty looks ever since.

Beside me, upstairs, is a third couple (did I mention none of these couples are married? When I first started looking at the apartment, my landlord Mrs. Hahn kept mentioning her tenants and their "lady friends"- hilarious!) When I first met the man, he informed me that he and his "lady, Lisa" lived next door- that one definitely made me chuckle! I have yet to see Ms. Lisa, and I rarely see her man either.

My landlord, Mrs. Hahn, is this precious little German lady with a thick foreign accent and big desire to talk your ear off every chance she gets. You have to be ready to hear the same story about thirteen times when she stops by or gives you a phone call.

I have been very convicted about this verse in relation to my neighbors-

"Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity."

Colossians 4:5

My prayer is that my presence would be a blessing and not a burden and that they would see Jesus even in our small exchanges.

A few weeks ago, my best friends in the whole world helped me paint my living room-

I knew exactly what color I wanted it to be, so I went to Lowes, bought the supplies, and we spent the weekend making it perfect! Taylor and Katherine rolled the whole place while Britt and I edged the entire room-

I love to paint, and I learned from the best (my parents)- so when it came to my own place you can bet I wanted it just right! And my team was the best I could have hoped for! Thanks guys!!

God is so good- He provides! He has been so faithful and provided a sweet place to live, the financial stability to keep it, and good people to surround and fill it! I am blessed.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 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? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?"

Matthew 6:25-27

Now all I need is company!! (: So come on over!

"But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord."

Joshua 24:15