Open Palms and Applications

Trust is not a new topic for my thoughts, my prayer life, nor for this blog. Here are some of the things that I’ve learned and written about trusting Jesus over the past five years and a little update about where we are now:

In 2013, I wrote about what it looked like to trust the Lord in moving to Wheaton.

1.) Trust is harder when you feel the need to prove yourself. Control is a natural feeling when situations seem to necessitate changing other people’s perceptions. I’m young, I’m single, I’m currently living at home while I finish up my M.A. – it can feel like all eyes are on me when it comes to my future. What is she going to do next; how is she planning for it? When the goal is less “pleasing God” and more “appeasing  man” (Galatians 1:10), it becomes a lot harder to step into crazy places of trust. Because, as might be self-explanatory, it can make you look a little crazy.

2.) Trust is synonymous with peace; it’s not synonymous with comfortable. There is tension, impatience, and anxiety when I’m trying to figure things out in my own strength. Manipulating variables so that I feel like I have a handle on something usually means I spend most of my energy trying to keep my handle on it. When I’ve submitted something to the Lord and am walking in what I know to be His will, there’s an inhuman level of peace and security. It’s the kind that surpasses understanding (Philippians 4:7), because you feel it permeate everything even when the variables don’t make sense. He offers peace and it’s amazing. But peace doesn’t mean it ever really feels comfortable. It’s imbedded in my human nature to want to be in control of things. Just because I’m feeling divine peace doesn’t mean that I’m ever like, “wow, it feels so natural, comfortable, and easy to give up everything that makes conventional sense so that I can trust Jesus and watch Him show up!” Feels good, exciting, and full of security in who He is – but it’s rarely comfortable.

3.) Sometimes, trust is less about the emotion and more about the action. If God says to do something, I wouldn’t second guess it, regardless of how much sense it makes. Scripture is full of stories of those kind of commands. My life is full of those kind of commands. Chances are, if it’s something that brings Him glory, and is something you wouldn’t choose or didn’t bring about, you can probably trust it. What’s more, if you’ve prayed, fasted, been honest about your humanity in it, and sought wise counsel (remember 1 Corinthians 1:27 here), and the consensus is that it’s right, I wouldn’t hesitate. This may mean giving away the money, signing up, buying the ticket, getting in line, or getting rid of most of your army (a la Gideon in Judges 7). You’re heart still may be wrestling, the doubts may still creep up, and the discomfort may feel debilitating at times, but sometimes, you’ve gotta force the step and pray for faith as your wait. Believing with unbelief is not an unfamiliar concept to our Lord (see Mark 9:23-25). Thankfully.

In 2014, trusting God was less of concept that I was trying to wrap my head around and more of a gracious, nudging, reassuring command of the Lord.

4.) Trusting God starts with the small things. How am I supposed to believe God for miraculous provision or impossible actions if I’m not believing that He will sustain me today? You can pray for God’s glory and for miracles and you can want Him to show up all day long, but if you aren’t willing to give Him the little places of dependance this hour, your soul is going to struggle when trusting Him means turning everything on it’s head. You’ll struggle when trusting makes you look really crazy. Have faith that God sees everything, including your emotions, your frustrations, and your confusion. If you don’t see Him as big enough for your daily slough, then your conception of Him is still too small. I’m grateful for all the crushes, tough classes, and “small” prayers that had me clinging to the Lord; every time I believed Him and He proved Himself faithful, my heart gained that much more resolve in trusting Him with all my finances, healing for my body, and open doors for my future.

5.) Trust is strengthened when we look back. Journaling may not be your forte, but I highly suggest writing your prayers, your stories, and the works of God in your life – big and small – down. Or speak them into your iPhone voice memos. Set up rocks in your bedroom. It doesn’t matter, just find some way to keep an account. When you see His faithfulness in the details, when you see pieces of the story that connect in ways you missed in the moment, it becomes easier to trust that He is who He says He is and that He knows what He’s doing. Help your heart out here. Not only that, but it makes it easier to tell the stories and give the Lord glory when you have a way of looking back on what you believed Him for and how He showed up. You can’t tell the stories of how the Lord has shown up if you don’t remember them.

 

2015 had me smack-dab in the middle of the trusting God, confused and frustrated by things that didn’t seem to be working out or lining up, and using truths from my past to propel my faith.

6.) Trust rarely makes sense in the moment. It feels uncomfortable. It’s often not what we want or had anticipated, both on the front-end and the back-end. Trusting God doesn’t mean we ask for want we want and then open our hands to receive; we ask Him what He wants, open our hands in submission, and then act, pray, and live accordingly. And the things that He gives us are usually not the things where we go, “this is exactly what I thought, happened exactly the way I anticipated, and is exactly what I wanted to do!” From what I can see, that’s not typically the reaction when God says He’s going to light wet wood on fire (1 Kings 18) or asks you to march around a city for a week (Joshua 6). If it makes sense to my rational mind, it’s probably in my control, which means that it’s more about me than it is about the glory of the Lord. When it feels a little crazy and like it doesn’t totally make sense, that’s when I know I’m probably on the right track. That doesn’t mean that we’re rash, unthoughtful, or idiotic; quite the opposite, in fact. The things of God should demand more thoughtfulness, prayer, care, and processing. Just because we step into them with care and intentionality doesn’t mean that they likely make logical sense. Jesus gets the glory in things that are impossible or strange for our humanity; it makes sense that those are also the things that tend to raise an eyebrow.

A big year for my trust in the Lord, the health issues, life changes, and future plans of 2016 deepened my trust in ways that I hadn’t anticipated.

7.) Trusting God means confidently believing that He can . . .We need to have a bigger view of God than we often do. To use some good, adjectival conditionals: He’s stronger, more loving, more faithful, more powerful, bigger, better, and greater than we dare to imagine. The response that people have in Scripture to those who doubt or question the craziness of their trust is always, “who should speak against, stand against, or hold back the armies of the living God?” (1 Samuel 17:26). How can I not be all in with my God when I know who He is? As Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego say, not only do we believe that He able to do it, but that He will (Daniel 3:17). A little future imperative to demonstrate just how resolved they are in the belief that God not only has the abilities but the trustworthy characteristics that define His actions. We should have that same confidence.

8.) . . . but also believing so fully in His sovereignty that you are okay with “He may not.” If our “trust” is contingent on a certain outcome, it’s not real trust. That is just us believing for something that we want. Our view of God should be big enough that it leads us to believe Him for impossible things, but it also has to be big enough that we believe any outcome means that His sovereignty is still in control. It doesn’t mean we have to love all the different outcomes equally, but they should not affect our trust. As soon as we put our hope in the expectation of the thing itself, we’ve missed the point. In that, we run the risk of having a disappointed or offended heart. The end result of trust CANNOT be the object of the trust, it has to be Jesus. If all we ever gain in this life is Jesus, that is more than enough. And if our “trust” leads us to be disappointed, disillusioned, hurt by, or offended with Jesus, then it somewhere along the line we lost real trust. Ultimately, we don’t get the healing, the home, the open door, the family, the city, the situation, or the resolution, we get more of Christ.

9.) Trust comes from intimacy. That is why trust has to come from a nearness to the Lord. First, we only know the heart of God and what He’s leading us into by being near to Him. That means investing time, emotion, and energy into the relationship – like with any human relationship. What is Jesus asking you to do? Don’t ask me; ask Him. Ask Him to speak. Sit and listen, without any pretense. Soak yourself in Scripture. Learn what it means to be intimate with our incarnate God. Experience the nearness of God with others, in community. Second, if the real prize of trust is gaining Jesus, that’s going to feel pretty lame if you haven’t experienced the life-changing, radical, consuming love of the Lord. If you don’t quite get how Paul can say that everything is a loss compared to the infinite value, the surpassing worth, the excellency of knowing Jesus (Philippians 3:8), then let your journey with trust start there.

And here we are, nearing the end of 2017 . . .

I’ve submitted an application that pretty much every current plan for my future is dependent on. I’m walking forward in things that aren’t, by any human terms, for sure. I’m doing things, talking about things, and praying for things in a way that is a little crazy. The rubber finally meeting the road on some of the biggest places of trust in my life. And I’m all in with trust. I’ve stepped off the ledge and it’s up to Jesus. I’m not betting on any human process here; I’m betting on Him.

When it comes to believing my God, I’m all in.

I know, it’s crazy. It’s always crazy. And believe me when I say it’s not always comfortable. I’m not under any illusion that everyone understands. But if God is who I believe Him to be, that means He either gets everything or nothing. So, He gets everything.

And time and time again, He’s proven that He’s worthy of that.

More than that.

Here’s how it goes: He asks me to keep my palms open. To let Him work. To step out of the way, give up my control, so that He can get the glory. He, graciously, slowly, and methodically places things in them. His dreams, hopes, things to believe Him for.

The hardest part for me isn’t opening my hands in the first place or getting okay with whatever Jesus puts in them.

It’s keeping them open when He fills them.

When something is in our hand, our biological reflex causes us to want to clench our fist. We want to grasp onto, wrap our fingers around whatever our palms feel. As soon as I do that, I take the glory away from Jesus, I throw away my trust, and I try and manipulate His plans into something I can control.

It’s easy to trust when my palms are open and empty. It’s a heck of a lot harder when I’m holding something concrete, something He’s given and grown in me, something that I’ve come to love. THAT is when He asks me to trust Him. To hold the things in my hand with steadfast, unwavering faith. To believe that He can. And to keep my palms open, so that He can give and take away as His sovereignty demands.

To be unoffended with the outcome.

To gain Jesus.

This is what I’m learning about trust nowadays.

10.) Trust really has very little to do with us. If you think that trusting God is solely about His faithfulness to you or your role in it, you’re probably missing the point. Our God is faithful just because He is. It is, very simply, who He is. And chances are, the things that we are trusting Him for reflect more than His faithfulness to just us. Remember, His vision and glory are for the nations, the marginalized, and the grand narrative of humanity. It’s less about your ability to hear him, to pray steadfastly, to fast continuously, or even how well you live into the other nine parts of what it means to trust the Lord, and more about who He is. Because, ultimately, it’s not about you. A small part of it may be, because, in His infinite love and mercy, the God of the universes chooses us and cares for us. He demonstrates His faithfulness to us because He’s not just a God of the macro things but delights in the details of who we are. But we’re kidding ourselves if we think that we, in some twisted and subconscious way, are in control because of our trust in God. We’re not. He is. Which means all of it has very, very little to do with us, and everything to do with who He is.

That’s the story. And He’s the only one who gets the glory in it.

To Not be Remembered

It was about halfway through the promotional video that I realized they were using my words on the voiceover. Every subsequent word confirmed it. Excitement rose up in my bones: they were using my letter! I would be named at the end of the video! I was surprised that no one had asked permission, but I shrugged if off. After all, it was a public letter, written as a part of Wheaton College’s Tuition freedom day. That year, I’d received a particularly generous scholarship and wanted to communicate my gratitude. Stories of the Lord’s provision and faithfulness. And now, in the official college video, they were using my letter.

I’ll never forget the sinking feeling when I got to the end of the 1:34 video and all I saw was the school logo. Where was my name? My picture? Even the handwriting of my letter? I dug through my recall – had I put my name on the letter? Why wasn’t it included? Why had no one tried to track me down? Here was this beautiful, professional video with my words eloquently weaving the piece together. It was my gratitude, my story of God’s provision. And yet, my name was nowhere to be found.

The video would come and go and I would never be associated with it. No one would ever praise me for it. I wouldn’t be getting the glory for thanking the donors that year or for being obedient to the Lord in steps of faith that don’t always make sense.

Then again, the donors aren’t being praised for their faithfulness either. Most of them don’t have their names all over campus. It’s a quiet, nameless sort of obedience to be the “vessels that God is using to provide for my education.”

I remember later that semester of my sophomore year, one of my professors posed a question:

Are you willing to serve, do all that is is worthy and beautiful, to give you life away, and not be remembered for any of it?

Clearly, I wasn’t.

But it wasn’t entirely my fault. Because, for as much as I had learned and actively pushed myself (or had the Lord push me) towards humility up to that point, there was still more. The process of being made nothing and Jesus getting all the glory is uncomfortable and painful. And there always seems to be more. It is the actions of anonymity, the hours of intercession in solitude, the offering in secret, the handing over the microphone, or letting your name fall from the record.

We say things all the time that make sense in our head: Jesus gets the glory, it’s His story, not ours, we’re only living for an audience of one, and we will become nothing so that He can be magnified. But when we fade deep into the shadows and the things that make us feel worthy are no longer seen, the reality is something different. We don’t mind it being Jesus’ story if we’re the one who gets to be seen and praised for telling it. We want the life worthy of the biography, but the kind that gets written because you live with such humility that you’d never dream of writing it yourself (ironic, right). We see the people in Scripture who seem insignificant compared to Abraham, King David, and Paul, but they still get a minute in the spotlight. People like Rahab, Boaz, Abigail, or Joseph of Arimathea. I tell myself that I’m okay with humility if it means being one of them. I don’t need to be as beloved or well-known as John, as long as I get to be remembered for my faithfulness like Anna or Lydia.

But what if loving Jesus means that I don’t get to be remembered at all?

What if I lived like it really isn’t about me?

What if I really did decrease, so that He really increased?

What if obedience and faithfulness looks more like the story of the man in Ecclesiastes 9, a story that is only two verses long –

“There was a little city with few men in it, and a great king came against it and besieged it, building great siege works against it. But there was found in it a poor, wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that poor man. But I say that wisdom is better than might, though the poor man’s wisdom is despised and his words are not heard.” Ecclesiastes 9:14-16

The man was clearly operating in some personal and probably spiritual gifts, including a bent towards leadership, if he had wisdom enough to deliver the city from the siege of a great king. Yet, Scripture is clear about both his poverty and his lack of recognition. Yet no one remembered that poor man. God gets the glory in the city and he fades into the shadows. Poor, unremembered, and deeply known by the King of Kings.

Stewardship and humility are not mutually exclusive. We are called to die and that means dying to our desire to be remembered. If we’re fighting for the accolades, the book deal, the speaking engagement, the twitter hashtag, or the biography-worthy life, are we fighting for our glory or Christ’s? None of it is about us. We must decrease.

The reality about being remembered is that the closer I get to Jesus, the less it seems to matter. When I hear Him tell me just how deeply He delights in me, how permeating His hesed love is, how His covenant with me is irrespective of my worthiness, the easier it is to spend my life being forgotten. I can say that “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30), knowing that it’ll mean spending all my energy, my body, my resources, my time in a love for Jesus that may not be remembered. The more that I feel and know that I am as beloved as John, the less I feel the need to be remembered for that.

The more that I’m fighting for Jesus to be illuminated, the more I’m okay I am with living in the shadows. The more that I’m okay not being remembered if it means that Jesus is.

But I Said I’d Go Anywhere.

Way back when, I told Jesus that I’d go anywhere He wanted to send me. I’d be obedient to anything He told me to do. I’d hold nothing back.

And in classic Maddie fashion (is this just me, y’all?), I had a sort of idea about what that would mean. The sentiment to go anywhere was genuine, but my imagination and affinity for biographies won over my expectations. I was ready for “anywhere” to mean the 10/40 window, somewhere without running water and that I’d have to wear a head covering. Honestly, I’m still ready for it to mean that.

I was not ready for “anywhere” to mean Europe.

If I’m brutally honest, I didn’t want it to mean Europe. When I returned from my vision trip to Turkey, the Lord was quick to highlight Europe and I was as quick to shut it down. Decades of prayer leading up to these practical, “rubber meets the road” moments of my future and calling, and I found myself arguing with the Lord over the specifics. Excuse me Jesus, I said anywhere. Going from first-world to first-world on mission wasn’t what I had in mind.

Note: what I had in mind. Per usual, Jesus has different, and infinitely more incredible, plans.

Maybe you don’t get my hesitance. You’re pumped about what God’s doing in Europe; it makes perfect sense that He’d call me there. You’d love to partner with me, and really, with Jesus, in this.

If that’s you, thank you. The response of your heart amazes me.

That wasn’t mine. And for as much as the Lord has spoken about His heart for Europe and His Kingdom strategies in sending people there, I’d be lying if I said that the questions don’t still creep in. He’s graciously and patiently undoing years of preconceived ideas about missions, effective ministry, and serving the Lord.

When I was first introduced to the concept of missions, I met missionaries serving in Europe and the Western world. I loved what they were doing and got excited about God’s movement when they told stories, but I still held a subconscious notion that it was the missionaries working in the 10/40 window who were doing the hardcore work. I never would have said it (because, I like to think, who am I to judge what God is doing in other people’s lives), but I had this idea that those who were willing to go anywhere were sent to the cool places, the gritty places in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. You must not be as hardcore or obedient if God calls you to the minority world. If you get sent to Western Europe. 

There are so many reasons it’s strategic and practical. But even more than the things that make sense about ministry in Europe, God has been abundantly clear about His hand in highlighting and leading me there. Or at the very least, undoing my preconceived and prideful notions about His heart and work there. I’ll go into more detail when there are more concrete answers, which lends to more specifics on why and how. I’m just giving you the precursor to that.

Consider this permission to question how it makes sense for me (or anyone else) to be “called” to a place that traditionally missionaries have been sent from. The kinds of questions I never really felt free to entertain.

This summer, I wrestled with the Lord over this for weeks, afraid to ask Him for His heart for Europe because, deep down, I knew He’d give it to me. And I didn’t want to be called to Europe. We’ve done a 180 since then, but it was weeks of His tender, but firm, guidance and opening my eyes to how much of His Kingdom and plans I don’t get. So know that when I tell you, with all humility and open palms (aka if Jesus does a sharp-right-turn redirect, we won’t be shocked), that the Lord is opening both practical and emotional doors to Western Europe, I’m also giving you permission to have questions. I’ve spent months wrestling with the Lord through mine.

These are not “the hardest questions that missionaries get asked.” These were my questions to Jesus this summer. They come from the deep, often ugly, childish, or confused places of my heart. Way back when, I had these sorts of questions, buried deep down, and it never felt right to honestly ask them. Maybe if I had, there wouldn’t have been so much arguing with Jesus this summer. You don’t have to feel rude or like you’re being judgmental, because I’m going to voice them for you.

And if you’re past the questions, thank you for being one step ahead in the journey.

Lance and Heather, Hillary and Sol, Becca, Kristin, Dr. Pierson, Phillip and Stephanie, the women at Velvet Ashes, Kathy and Peter, Lane, and many more – It is your faith, your stories, and your prayers that have literally carried my heart to a place of more complete obedience. I’m eternally grateful for y’all and your heart for all the nations.

1.) Questions about the surety of “my call,” rooted in the idea that there’s no way that I’m actually hearing God fully – I’ve deluded myself, for some reason or another.

You’re just afraid. You said you’ll go anywhere, but deep down that terrifies you. Western Europe feels safer and you’ve convinced yourself that it’s God because of your own fears.

You’re right to assume that I’m scared. I’ve differentiated the posture of my heart between being afraid and being scared. Being afraid means that I’m living into a debilitating sort of fear, the kind that would causes me to to doubt God and His goodness. I’m not afraid. But I sure am scared, and I’m scared because I’m human. Yes, the idea of moving overseas by myself scares me. The prospect of making all new friends, of starting my life over in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar customs scares me. All the logistics involved in the process scare me. The thing about being scared, that makes it different than fear, is that it can live in tandem with excitement and obedience. None of those things feel like a weight that would keep me from getting on the airplane; they just feel like being human. I’m not invincible and I’m not omniscient and therefore, things scare me. And the things that scare me? They’re as true for moving to Western Europe as they are for moving to Turkey, Uganda, South Korea, or Laos. It’s still a different culture and it’s still moving overseas.

This process has been a decade of the Lord doing and undoing things in my heart. I might not have been able to say two years ago, five years ago, or eight years ago that there aren’t certain fears attached to particular places. Or being single. Or being a woman. Or living among people with a language that I don’t speak. Or any of it. Jesus had not shied away from doing the work where He puts His finger on things and says, “can I have that? What about that? And this too? Are you willing to give me this too?” I groan, we wrestle, and, after awhile, He always wins.  I could point you to specific points in time, reference nuanced journal entries, where the Lord brought things up and we dealt with them.

If you’re calling me out for being scared, I won’t argue with you. You’re right. Call me crazy or normal or human, but it’s true – there are parts of this process and the reality of the unknown that feel scary. But if you think I’m afraid and am basing my obedience on that fear? I’d be open to that wise counsel if it was coming in the context of mentorship and deep relationship, because believe me when I say I know I don’t have it all figured out. But with all honesty, I can say that it is not fear that is guiding my decision or my prayers; if anything it’s the kind of foolishness and faith that Paul says is a mark of following Jesus.

 

You’re in it for comfort. There’s no way that you’re genuinely called to the place your family vacationed this summer. You’ve convinced yourself that it’s God just because you want to live somewhere you’ll have running water and a nice bed.

The best way to answer this question is to be straightforward and honest about the part of it that is true: there are some physical realities that are much easier in Europe, particularly Western Europe, than in other parts of the world. Running water, electricity that doesn’t cut out, and access to grocery stores are a few simple life realities that missionaries often struggle to adjust to in developing countries; you don’t have those challenges in developed countries. But that doesn’t mean that life, or more specifically, ministry, in developed countries is easy. Stigmatized Christianity, closed cultural attitudes towards relationships, and independent attitudes makes adjusting to specific places in Europe difficult in their own way.

Along that same line, it’s also helpful to clarify the kind of life I’m committed to living, both currently and on the field. Just because the overall culture may live in wealth and comfort doesn’t mean that will be true for me (or other missionaries, for that matter). Living like Christ means living generously, simply, and radically close to the marginalized. This means things like living in the same apartment complex as refugees, driving a used car or taking public transportation, and shopping second-hand. In places where the exchange rate is higher, support money doesn’t go as far. That requires budgeting, trusting, and a faithful frugality in stewardship.

To be transparent about the process, part of my conversations with the Lord and my mentors also included looking at the practical realities of my situation: I’m aware that I will be a young, single, white, privileged, recent college-grad. A place of difference that touches on every area of life – new dress, language, cooking, sleeping arrangements, lack of running water, no electricity, etc – would feel jarring. Obedience may mean foolishness for the sake of the Gospel but it doesn’t mean stupidity. I don’t want to find myself burned out after two years because I needed, in my own strength, to go to “the hardest place” I could think of. There’s going to be culture shock wherever I go, but if the goal is long term sustenance on the mission field, there’s a way (and people who’ve gone before know this) to do that transition well.

I genuinely believe the grace of the Lord is sufficient and that He will sustain me wherever He sends (both now and in the future). In my heart, I am genuinely ready to give up every comfort that I’ve grown accustomed to in my twenty-something years of life. Jesus knows better what my embodied personhood actually can and can’t handle (and for how long), and, to use an education term, scaffold me into deeper places of discomfort.

 

2.) Questions about the effectiveness of missions in Europe or strategic advancement of the Gospel in the nations.

But the unreached need it more. It’s not that the people of Europe don’t need the Gospel, it’s that the unreached people have never heard it. There are workers in Europe – there aren’t in other places of the world. How can God be calling you to people who have access to the Gospel and not to those who don’t?

The short answer to this is yes, people should be going to the unreached places of the world – but there’s a lot of complexity in that. First, in many of these unreached places, Westerners can’t even get in. And if people do cross the border, they often aren’t free to share the Gospel; their lives become a dance on eggshells, wondering who they can trust and doing the difficult work of contextualizing the Gospel in an unfamiliar place. I think that’s why, the more I study missional movements and read testimonies of the Lord’s work in unreached places, the more I’m noticing how often it comes from nationals. And in a lot of places, like South America, Africa, and places in Asia – they’re already doing it. There’s something to be said for the empowerment of locals, particularly in developing countries, in pioneering their own ministries. Let them be the ones to share the Gospel – they know the language, the culture, the nuances. Trust is present by nature of who they are. That’s not to say Western missionaries don’t have a part to play – it just often looks a little less glamorous than we may like. It’s often a background part, of support through resources, prayer, and short-term trips in the context of long-term relationships.

This is part of what makes Europe, particularly Western Europe, so strategic. The recent refugee crisis has people coming by the millions from unreached, creative access places. People who you could never share the Gospel with on the streets of their hometown are now living in places where you can. And the recent political and international climate has a lot of them open to it. It’s created new opportunities to walk with the marginalized and do life with people. And there are incredible practical, felt needs – for things like English teachers. I’ll be working with people from these unreached areas in a setting where they are more open, the government is less restrictive, and I have more freedom to build mutual relationships.

However, I want to be careful about minimizing the fact that it’s still Europe. It feels too trite to claim that I’m trading one way of working with the 10/40 window to another; I don’t want to make it seem like I view them the same way, because I don’t. Going to Syria is different than working with Syrian refugees in Europe. Because even if my “primary calling” to Europe is to work with refugees, that won’t happen in a vacuum. Having a heart for the nationals in Europe is important because they need the Gospel too. And in their post-Christian culture, most of them have never heard it. They need invested relationship, discipleship, and the Holy Spirit too.

Christianity is in decline in Europe and even though it’s still considered the major religion of the continent, most of it is an ancestral identity. State churches and cultural legacies can lead to the mindset that to be European is to be “Christian.” Secularism and Islam are both thriving. In many European countries, a vibrant life in Christ, rooted in the love of Jesus and active in the Holy Spirit, is all but non-existent. Working with my middle and highschool students has also highlighted that I’d love to do youth ministry with students who haven’t grown up in church and don’t know the Gospel.

To read more on global Christianity and Christianity in Europe, see European Christianity’s Failure to Thrive, Christianity is Shifting DramaticallyRestrictions on Religion, and an Interactive Map on Global Christianity. And beyond the statistics, listen to some of the stories of the people who’ve lived and worked in places like Germany, France, Sweden, and Scotland; believe me when I say they need the Gospel too.

 

But there are refugees in America. If you want to work with refugees, you can do that in America. It’s a lot of work and resources to move overseas, especially when there are similar needs in the States.

I know it’s a lot of work to move overseas. And I love working with refugees in the States; I’ve built a lot of connections working with refugees in the States. I wouldn’t be pursuing this if I wasn’t sure it was the Lord. Like I said before, while the “primary” motivation may be to work with resettling refugees overseas, there is also a motivation to work with the nationals. It’s not a matter of numbers, it’s a matter of obedience. Jesus is on the move everywhere, including in America; the U.S. needs more people working for transformation and caring for refugees and immigrants (if you want to get more involved, let me know!). But so do other countries. There’s a couple reasons, beyond obedience, why working with resettling refugees overseas makes sense.

First, it gives the grounds for a different sort of relationship. To teach people English in a place that is also not my home means that I’m offering a practical skill while also being a fellow sojourner. I need their community and fellowship as much as they need mine. A different level of trust and vulnerability can be established on the basis that I’m figuring out a new culture too. Because of the location of Europe, working overseas also enables easier (and cheaper) access to working in other places that need more short-term or establishment type work, like in a refugee camp. It may not be sustainable or appropriate to relocate to some of these places, but the ability to set up a short, cheaper flight to help set up something like an intensive summer English program makes the location of Europe strategic. It’s also more connected to the heart of refugee resettlement, like the UNHCR headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland or the receiving base for Syrian refugees in Lesbos, Greece.

 

Don’t let the conversation stop here. If you want some outside resources on this topic, here are some good ones: TEAM: Does Europe Need Missionaries, World Venture: 9 Misconceptions About Being a Missionary in Europe, 10 Reasons Not to Become a Missionary.

When Jesus Speaks

It’s no secret that I’ve done a lot of prayer these past few weeks regarding where the Lord is leading me. Specific, bold, expectant prayers for clarity and provision. There’s been a lot of asking, listening, and keeping an awareness of His voice throughout the day. What country. What people group. What city. What timeline. What organization. What are you doing, Jesus?

Sometimes, I slip into a mindset that says the more others-focused my quiet time is, the holier it is.

Intercession has a place and a critical one at that. It deserves more energy and attention than we often give it. I need to spend time everyday praying for specifics and going before the Throne of Grace on behalf of others.

BUT, that is not the point of my intimate time with Jesus. I go to Jesus to just be with Him, not for the sake of getting answers about my life. The idea isn’t to walk away with some revelation about what He’s calling me to or where I’m going (although, that’s often a part of it). It’s not to figure things out for someone else. It is literally to just be with the God of the universe and savior of my soul. To read His Word, to worship Him, and to hear His voice.

I go before the Father to hear what He thinks about me, because my soul needs to be reminded who I am and who He is.

May the magnificence and the humility of that not be lost on us! That we get to approach the Maker and Sustainer of the world with boldness and in our brokenness because He wants to be near us. He chose and chooses still to be near us. Over and over again in Scripture, even with the separation between God and the people in the Old Testament, we see Him drawing near to His people. His judges, kings, and prophets speak words about the compassion of God again and again.

Don’t forget: He cares way more about His will and His glory than you do. He’s not going to withhold specific answers or prayers that will disrupt His glory (as if that was possible). It’s okay for your time with Jesus to be selfish, in the sense that you sit with Him to hear His heart for you. It is from that place, of knowing our belovedness, that we become generous in giving, convicted in sin, abounding in service, overflowing with grace, and aware of His work in the lives of others. It doesn’t replace intercession, it needs to be what it flows from.

We hear our God telling us, not in a trite, cliché sort of way, just how much He love us and is for us. And we are, in turn, able to worship more fully the God who loves us enough to walk among us, to indwell us with His spirit, and to sing His faithfulness over us!

The other night, He was clear, in the classic “gracious but firm” sort of God-way, that my orientation and questions have been a little off in my recent moments alone with Him:

You hear me clearest when you hear me saying I want to be with you. I delight in you! I love you. I love being near you. I love watching you draw near to me. You move my heart. I see you – I redeem you! And I take delight in that. You ask to hear me for clarity and you will; you do. But clarity on the specific things you ask comes in a moment. My love for you is everlasting. Knowing what country I’m sending you to is one thing, but knowing just how deeply I take delight in you is another. That’s what you need to hear. It’s what Israel needed to hear. Over and over and over and over – I’m never going to stop reminding you, never going to stop singing it over you because there will never be a time it won’t be true. There will never be a time where you won’t need to hear it. I want to make you glorious! I want to make deserts into gardens more beautiful than you’ve ever seen. I have compassion, such compassion. I have more mercy, grace, and justice than you could ever even comprehend. My plans are good, my hand is strong, and I do not fail. I am your God, I am here, and you are mine. As a treasure, as my beloved, as my delight! Feel my heart for you, read about my heart for you, hear my heart for you, because it overflows and it will never stop. Know, deeply and daily, that I love you.

Let us not forget – our holy, holy, holy God, the Almighty on the throne, not only allows but delights in our approaching Him. For love, for compassion, for grace. Ask Him what He’s doing, ask Him for specifics, but don’t forget or be afraid to listen to His heart for you. Ask Him what He thinks of you. And sit in His presence, letting Jesus speak words of love and delight over you. Open the Scriptures, notice the Holy Spirit. Let Him love you with His everlasting love.

Because when Jesus speaks, things change. Because when Jesus speaks, people are seen. Because when Jesus speaks, His sheep know it. Because when Jesus speaks, it is good. Because when Jesus speaks . . . there is love.

Don’t be Like Usain Bolt, Be like Jesus.

The realities of how our world, and more specifically our American culture, is structured are such that the demands are never ending. What concerns me in this? The church has structured herself in the same sort of way. It’s not uncommon to have a pastor who is planting a church, while sitting on the city council board, leading… Read more. . .

Summer Updates

To those of you who are praying for me, planning on supporting me, or are just generally nosy, this is for you. I’m here to give you more than just the “my trip was great; it gave me lots of pieces of things to process” answer about what the Lord is doing and how the… Read more. . .

How to Navigate Transition

I just fell down the stairs. I was walking downstairs to make a cup of coffee, my drug of choice for writing a month’s worth of Sunday School lessons, and I slipped. It’s been awhile since that happened and I forgot just how terrible it is. I slid my way down half the staircase until… Read more. . .

Impatience.

This impatient heart inside me yearning for answers . . . to know unsatisfied with in-between, spiteful of my need to grow. • • • The heart within me groans – how I hate the call of waiting! how I hate all that’s unknown! • • • He tells me His work is slow, His… Read more. . .

Top Eight Lessons from the Past Four Years

When I started this crazy college journey, I wrote a post with my top ten lessons from the first two weeks. In it, I share, with the honesty of an eighteen-year-old, some of the things that I hadn’t realized would be so prevalent in my transition away from home and into autonomy. Some of them… Read more. . .

Stuck in Montreal

I’m currently avoiding two research papers, so I thought I’d engage in some good, old fashioned procrastination and tell a story. A couple weeks ago, I told you a little about what the Lord was doing in my heart over our Spring Break adventure to Europe. This is one of many stories from that trip. It’s not… Read more. . .