Living without a Bible

My friends Mary and Mallory sent me a copy of God’s Smuggler, the story of Brother Andrew and his ministry behind the Iron Curtain during the fifties and sixties. Let me tell you, the things this man has experienced are ca-razy. And ca-razy awesome.

I’ve learned a lot spiritually, but also just historically by reading this book. I didn’t really have any idea how the Communist countries in Europe treated Christians and Christianity during that time until I read this book. Brother Andrew was (still is?) a Bible smuggler. There were Christians behind the Iron Curtain who had no access to Bibles, churches that didn’t have Bibles, pastors that didn’t have Bibles.

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Sometimes, I just can’t fathom that. Sometimes (read: all the time), I forget that the freedom I have to possess a Bible is not universal across this world. I own four different Bibles. The church I attend has a Bible under every seat for each person to follow along with during the sermon. When Brother Andrew visited a church in Yugoslavia, only seven people in the entire congregation had Bibles, and they had to work out a rotation to share the Bibles across the congregation throughout the week. In Russia, the pastor of a church had to borrow a Bible from one of the attendees in order to read the reference for his sermon.

There was no moment in the story when Brother Andrew had to hand over his own Bible. In any case, he couldn’t, because the people he was ministering too couldn’t speak his language. However, it did get me thinking… Would I be willing to do that, to leave my Bible with someone who needs it because I have the incredible freedom to simply go home and buy a new one?

It also makes me think twice when I open my Bible to read. Today, I wasn’t particularly feeling the Scriptures I was reading. I was trying to reread what I’d already read in Luke and also trying to read a few ‘boring’ passages in 1 Chronicles. But oh my goodness, I have the freedom and the ability to read and reread the Bible, any time I want. I don’t have to pass it off to someone else, I don’t have to wait for church on Sunday. When these Christians in Communist countries received the Bibles smuggled in by Brother Andrew, they accepted them in awe and reverence. Brother Andrew even notes that they handled their Bibles with more care than he did. I don’t think they would’ve felt bored or apathetic about rereading a Gospel or working through a dense history record in the Old Testament. They would have read joyfully, grateful for the opportunity to actually hold God’s word in their hands and read it for themselves.

I don’t want to take the Bible for granted.

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Dreaming with Two Desires

Last night I watched the 2006 film Babel for a class project. It was a pretty interesting film, better than some of the other films I’ve had to watch for classes. This one consisted of intersecting stories that ranged over four countries. There was one part in the film (of many) that made me really angry at Western culture. There is a moment where tragedy strikes an American woman on a tour bus in Morocco, and she needs medical care. Being in the middle of the desert, the bus’s only option is to go to the tourguide’s hometown and seek medical attention while awaiting faster transport to a hospital.

Well, the Western tourists really didn’t like that idea, and that’s what made me angry. While this woman is dying and her husband is freaking out, everyone else on the tour bus complain of no air-conditioning and fear for their safety because they are now outside the boundaries of the tour and this Moroccan village must be unsanitary and unsafe.

I wanted to scream at them: Are you kidding me? This is your chance to actually experience Moroccan life, cross cultural borders, and maybe even help someone. Look at all those children around the bus, go play with them. You may not understand their language, but I bet you all understand the basic rules of football. Take pictures with them. Watch them get a kick out of making faces and seeing themselves on the LCD screen. Get some music and start a dance party.

Obviously, I knew the real issue was that the fictional woman was dying and none of the fictional tourists seemed to care, but that’s seriously all I wanted to do…go play with real Moroccan children. (I wonder if that’s what I’d actually do in a situation like that. I like to think I would, but I’m not sure. Conviction.)

For the “future,” I’m currently applying in two different directions. One is a writing program in the country I love, and the other is a missionary-teaching position in two countries I’ve never been to but am sure I will grow to love. I want to work in writing, but I also want to teach and love children. Last night, after watching Babel, as that desire to be around children was present in my mind, I cried to God. I said, “Do they have to be separate? Can’t I have both?” Because right now it feels like it’s one or the other, teaching or writing…forever. The rest of the world or Scotland…forever. Choose now or forever hold your peace.

I don’t think that’s true, it’s just the way it feels.
I have desires, I have dreams, I have giftings and strengths, I just don’t know how they all fit together yet.
But I’m excited to get to find out.

thoughts on telling our God stories

I don’t blog very much, do I? Oops. I really want to be better at this, but I only like to blog when I have something personal or contemplative to say, and those things take time to work out. Well, anyway, here’s one for you.

I’ve been thinking… Maybe we’ve been telling our stories wrong.

I just read a blog post from Stuff Christians Like about that one lie the devil always tells, the one that says God is holding out on us, that if we give our lives to Him, He’ll make us give up what we want and do something we hate. I encourage you to read Jon’s post if you haven’t already.

Honestly, I’ve struggled with this idea a lot because many of the “missionary” stories I hear (or maybe just the ones I assume in my head) are told like this:

“I NEVER wanted to be a missionary — and what did God do? He sent me on the next plane to a third wold country and now here I am!”

And that’s great, and that’s wonderful, but what about me? I WANT to live on another continent and serve the people there…. That must mean I’ll be stuck in the USA forever, right?

That’s a lie. And it angers me so because the devil is now trying to incorporate that lie into our own personal stories!

I understand the purpose for telling stories in that way. It tells the before and after, it shows how God is all-powerful and can use anyone He wants in any way he wants… but it takes work for me to get there in a story like that. It takes work for me to have confidence in my own journey with God and the desires He’s given me when I hear a story like that. [I know, I need to work on my insecurities.]

See, I have a “missionary” story like that too, but I never tell it that way because I never think about it that way. I’ve wanted to travel God’s world so badly for the past six years or so.

However, I guess if you had told me when I was 15 that I’d gain this huge heart for the nations and desire to live across the ocean from my family and serve a people I never knew, I probably would have freaked out and started hyperventilating about my lonely scary future.

But God didn’t send me to a new continent at 15. He sent me to Los Angeles.
I didn’t even decide to go for the “mission trip.” Yes, I wanted to serve, but I went because I had just moved to the east coast from California, and I wanted to go back. I didn’t know that God was using that trip and my new church to begin cultivating the seeds He had already placed in me before I was born.

See– that’s my story. My heart for the nations had been there the whole time, I just didn’t know it until I began to experience it.

After Los Angeles came the opportunity to go to Hungary.
A new continent, a new country, a new language. In Hungary, I met missionaries who served all over Europe; I was exposed to a kind of “missions” I never even know existed. And I loved it. This living on a different continent thing… I could dig it. Maybe. For a little while.

After Hungary came Cameroon — What?

This girl, who only wanted to go back to her home in Los Angeles, went off to Hungary because she figured it was Europe, so it was “safe enough.” Now, she was going to go off, eagerly, to Africa? [God bless my poor father, who has supported me through all these opportunities.] Yes, Africa. I loved that too. I wanted to go back.

But after Cameroon came Belgium. And after Belgium came Israel. And I loved those places too. I loved the people who lived and worked there. I began to desire longer and longer trips…

 

And then came Scotland, and I loved it even more than all the rest. I loved it so much that I didn’t want to come home, even after four months away.

But sometimes I get stuck thinking that, because I love something like that so much, I’m not going to be able to get it. Because that’s the way it works.

How ridiculous!

God didn’t snap His fingers, throw me on a plane, and change me from a scared teenager into someone who wanted to travel the world for Him. He drew out the heart and the faith that was already in me by His goodness and grace. And yes, that changed me, gradually, and I’m so thankful. Does it count as a before and after story if it’s not drastic and dramatic? [That’s another issue I’ve struggled with too. I’ve been taught that when I talk about Jesus, I have to say, “Before I was this. Enter Jesus. Now I am this.” And that’s good, and that’s true, but it’s hard for me to simplify it like that.]

Anyway, my point is… perhaps we need to rethink the way we tell our stories. Perhaps we need to be more thoughtful about what we say and be more concerned about the story being true than about it being dramatic. God doesn’t need us to embellish His story.

Perhaps you did hate the idea of missions, of living in a different country, and then God changed your heart by putting you on the next plane to Cameroon. That’s wonderful, and please hear me when I say that I am not denying that that can happen and that your story is powerful. I would love to hear about what God has done in your life! God is in the business of transforming us into who He created us to be, and sometimes that requires rapid change. A lot of times that requires an awesome before and after story.

But we need to make sure that we teach that God is really drawing out what He put in you to begin with, and we need, need, need to remind each other that God is so good, and so loving, and that He gives us desires and gifts and experiences for a reason. He knows how to give good gifts to His children, and sometimes those gifts come in packages we never thought we’d want, but that doesn’t mean that when we want something so badly and we lay it before the Lord that He’s going to give us the complete opposite. What father, when his child asks for bread, would give her a stone?

Because, God — if You’re going to do that, You’re going to need to lead my heart to find joy and happiness in that stone, and You will. If a stone is what I’ll get, I know You are going to make it so much better than bread. I know You will draw out that part of my heart that I don’t know about yet.

When in Scotland…

Do as the Scots do.

I just got back from having “tea” with a delightful elderly woman and some of the Chinese girls I met at church. And when I say “tea,” I mean a three course meal with tea and more dessert at the end, followed by a second round of tea with toast and biscuits. The starter was a fruit salad, the main course was baked chicken, and the dessert was cream-puffs and ice cream. This woman, Rita, spoiled me severely. I’m pretty sure I had at least six cups of tea, copious amounts of chocolate and sweets, and I left completely satisfied and a wee bit sleepy! We talked a lot about Rita’s life, faith, America, and China… Rita has been following the Lord “for a hundred years,” she says, but really since she was twenty-two. Her house is decorated with multiple Bible verses, and she started our tea with a prayer of thanksgiving. It was wonderful to be in her house, to be invited in to share the afternoon with her. God is good.

Tomorrow, I’m taking part in another Scottish ritual of sorts: watching the Scotland verses England Rugby match! I’ve never seen Rugby before (except on that one episode of friends where Ross gets totally destroyed…), so I’m really excited to watch the game with some committed fans — Let’s go Scotland!

Have I mentioned yet how much I love living here? I’ve been thinking a lot lately about traveling, about getting out to sight-see and explore the different touristy areas of Scotland… I would still like to do these things, but they just don’t feel like a priority to me right now. Is that bad? For the first month I was here, I would stress out about all the places I needed to go, the things I needed to see, and all the fun trips my peers were planning and how I wouldn’t have enough money or time to join them… But these past few days, I’ve just begun to not care so much about that.. Because it seems that every time I think about trying to go away, I realize there’s something going on here in Edinburgh that I don’t want to miss, like a church event or a hang-out with friends (or tea with Rita). I think — and I’m still in conversation with God about this, but — I think that I’m here to do things like that. I’m here to hang out with people, to build relationships, to encourage and be encouraged… I would much rather be doing that then seeing something once, taking a picture, and checking it off my to-see list.

Don’t get me wrong, I love exploring God’s glorious land, and I really do want to visit the Highlands and see more of Scotland’s beauty… but I think I’m getting better at not worrying about it so much. I want to leave it in God’s hands, and if I make it to these amazing sights, then so be it, but if I don’t, I know my time in Scotland will have still been worth something. I don’t need to see Loch Ness to feel I’ve made the most of my semester abroad. Although I’d love to spot Nessie some time, I know that God has me here for greater purposes than just seeing. He’s led me into relationships that are full of His light, and He’s shown me areas where that light needs to be just a little bit brighter… and that is why I’m here.

God, I’d love to see more of this beautiful country you’ve placed me in, but I’ll trust in Your timing and Your plan. No matter what happens, You won’t let this time go to waste. Thank You for reforming my desires, easing my stress, and helping me to see that there is more to Scotland than seeing the sights — there are people to love, and they are just as beautiful as misty lochs and vast landscapes. Amen.

Good, pleasing, and perfect.

I wanted to take a moment to say hello to everyone out their reading this/following my blog. Thank you so much for your support, I hope you enjoy what you read. As you may or may not know, I’m currently studying in Scotland, taking each day as it comes, and seeing what the Lord has for me here. I apologize for not writing more posts about this exciting journey! Sometimes, I feel like I have so much to say, but I just don’t know how to say it…

Overall, though, I just can’t get over God’s grace, goodness, and His perfect plan — and that He chooses to work in and through flawed human beings like me.

In breaking down His blessings bit by bit, I want to tell you about an extraordinary occurrence:

I’ve been church searching for a few weeks, but last Sunday I was going to stay home, since I’d already found a church I loved that meets on Wednesday nights, and I wasn’t particularly feeling the Sunday services I had attended recently. However, a little while after I woke up Sunday morning, I just felt the desire to go to a particular church near my flat. It was the Spirit leading me, so I followed. I quickly got dressed and hurried over. Surprised and a bit put off, I got there to realize that most of the people I had met the week before weren’t even in attendance… I wasn’t alone for long, though, as I got swept into a group of Chinese students who’d never actually been to church before and were jut interseted in what this Christianity thing was all about. –What? What?

Okay, so, for a while, now God and I have had this ongoing conversation where I think about the story Philip and the Ethiopian in Acts 8, how the Ethiopian just happened to be reading the part of Isaiah that foretold about Christ just as Philip was passing along… and I often tell God it would be pretty super awesome if I could ever have an experience like that.

Well, I think this Sunday was one of those moments. After the service, I got to talking to one of the girls — and what a Spirit-led conversation it was! I didn’t do anything but make myself available; God and this remarkable woman did the rest. She was bold, asking me all sorts of questions about Christianity, what it means to pray, why we read the Bible, and my own personal faith; and she really wanted to hear the answers, to learn, to process it all. I didn’t go over to her to preach Christ to her; she came over to me, seeking. It was so beautiful.

By the end of Philip’s conversation with the Ethiopian, the Ethiopian puts his faith in Christ. That didn’t happen at the end of our conversation, but it didn’t need too. God is doing a mighty work, and I trust His timing. I praise Him for letting me be a part of the beginnings, and for reminding me (in more ways than one) that this is where I am supposed to be at this particular point in time. He has led me here, and He hasn’t steered me wrong yet.

Cheers. <3

The Rhythm of the World

Hi friends! As you may or may not know, I am currently studying in Edinburgh. My friend and I have been exploring the United Kingdom for the past couple of weeks — Don’t worry, I’ll blog about that soon! However, while I’m still in the process of getting settled, I thought I’d share a piece I wrote a few months ago for my literary essay class. In the spirit of globe-trotting, it encompasses some of the moments I’ve been blessed to experience around the world. I’m excited to add Edinburgh moments to this story when the time comes.  I hope you enjoy.

I feel it on a rain-stained rooftop in Central West Africa. The sound of clapping and dancing rising from the schoolroom below as I stare out at the endless purple sky. Drumbeats. Stomping. Cries of joy. The air is thick and lightning flashes in the distance. I clasp hands with friends beside me and we begin to sing, harmonizing our own tune that echoes into the night. — No, the song is not our own. We are just joining in the music below, offering our voices to the one great song.

I feel it in an abandoned building just outside of the Brussels Red Light District. A caramel-colored Moroccan woman grabs my arm and pulls me into a dance circle. The music from her home country blares from the stereo, echoing in the barren white room and seeping out the open window into the streets below. Joyful and carefree, we kick out our feet, shake our hips, we loose our tongues to the music. I am not myself anymore, I am part of them. A refugee. We may not have much, but we have celebration, we have the dance, we have our part in the song.

I feel it in the voice of a tired Sudanese woman in the Judean Desert as her long dark fingers cradle a sleeping child. Rocking back and forth on the dusty floor, she sings in a language I don’t understand, her voice laid bare, vulnerable in the quiet room. She rocks, she lifts her arms, she sways, and she mesmerizes. Far from home, in an unfamiliar land, this victim of genocide heaves her soul into her voice and takes her place in the song. Tired, weary, and far from home myself, I listen, eyes half-closed, and let the music flow through me, bringing fire to my bones.

I feel it in me, I feel it in them, I feel it in the rain, the wind, the lightning that illuminates the darkness. I feel it in us as we come together, hearts beating to the rhythm of the song.

Beyond the Blue

Lately, the road ahead has looked something like this:

It’s blurry and out of focus. I can see glimpses of pretty lights and fun colors ahead, but I don’t know exactly how to get there and I can’t see the end. All I can walk towards is darkness, the unknown, as the world shifts around me.

However, in the midst of all this swirling chaos, I’ve come across the music of Josh Garrels, and his lyrics pierce my heart. His words are Spirit-filled, and they hit me right where I’m at:

Hide your spirit in the Vine
Where all things will work by a good design
For those who will believe
And let go of all we cannot hold onto
For the hope beyond the blue.
Said I let go of all I could not hold onto
For the hope I have in You.

I am about to go beyond the blue, quite literally. I’m crossing a real, tangible, physical ocean, and I don’t really know what I’ll find on the other side, but I have hope that God has something in store for me there. I have to let go of all that I try to hold so close, of all that I’m not really supposed to hold anyway. I have to let go, and give it all to Him, and let Him lead me beyond the blue.

I will arise and follow You over
Savior, please, pilot me.
Over the waves and through every sorrow,
Savior please, pilot me.
When I have no more strength left to follow,
Fall on my knees, pilot me.
May your sun rise and lead me on,
Over the seas, Savior, pilot me.

That is the cry of my heart. Lord, pilot me. And as you do, I hear these words:

Like a serpent and a dove, you will have wisdom born of love
And carry visions from above into the places no man dares to follow-
Every hollow in the dark of night, waiting for the light,
Take the flame tonight.
Because child, time has come for you to go
You will never be alone.

Every dream that you have been shown
Will be like a living stone
Building you into a home,
A shelter from the storm.

I do not know what lies ahead, but I know that God will never leave me, and He will use this path to change me, and to change others too. This last verse of the song above speaks to the dreams of my heart:

Like the wolf at midnight howls,
You use your voice in darkest hour
To break the silence and the power
Holding back the others from their glory.
Every story will be written soon.

Because child, time has come for you to go
You will never be alone.

Every dream that you have been shown
Will be like a living stone
Building you into a home,
A shelter from the storm.

[Josh Garrels is giving away his latest album for FREE. Get it here and enjoy <3]

Longing for the desert.

This blog has been pretty silent for a while because I’ve been, quite literally, in the desert.

Ironically speaking, though, while my body was in the desert, my spirit was experiencing a torrential downpour, soaking up the Water of Life.

God took me to this place, this hot, dry, dusty land in the middle of nowhere, fifteen miles from the lowest point on earth…

And taught me more about Him.

He met me there.

And now He’s whisked me away.

I’m back in the lush greenlands of America where the air is thick and humid, and thunderstorms happen every other day.

“I’m sick of the rain,” my friend told me.

I haven’t had rain for four weeks. I welcome it, I walk in it,

But my spirit is thirsty.

Surrounded by green and water and civilization and life…

But I cry out for nourishment.

I long for the desert.

Getting Into You

He said, “I love you, and that’s what you are getting yourself into.”

I leave for my Adventures in Missions trip to Israel in one week…

I am…
Excited, yet…
So scared, and nervous.

I feel…
Unprepared. Unqualified.
And overwhelmed.

Today, God provided a song for me, “Getting Into You” by Relient K. It was totally unrelated to anything (so I thought). I was just sitting with my friend talking about music, and she grabbed her guitar and started playing some of the chords, then she searched for the song and made me listen to it.
And I came home and haven’t stopped listening to it.

It’s perfect.

Because lately, when I think about all of the overwhelming details of the coming week and the month ahead…
I start to freak out and wonder, “What the heck am I getting myself into?”

And then God provides this song, with this closing line:
“I love you, and that’s what you are getting yourself into.”

That’s all I need, that simple phrase,
And peace rushes over me.

It says,
“Whatever you are getting into, it is God-driven, and God will surround you and carry you.”

I’m getting into You
because You got to me,
In a way words can’t describe.
I’m getting into You
Because I’ve got to be,
You’re essential to survive.
I’m gonna love You with my life.

Higher and higher, I want to go there with You.

“Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,
for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” Philippians 2:12-13

I was accepted to go on a missions trip this summer, and I’m not really sure what to think about it.
The week between having the interview and getting accepted was agonizing and trying, and I drew closer to God because of it. I felt comforted in the midst of uncertainty.

Now, I don’t feel anything.

Yes, all these doors have been opened, and all of my friends are very supportive and encouraging, but… well, I feel like they’re more excited than I am.

Not that I’m not excited, I just… am unsure, I guess.

To top it all off, I decided to check out some books because I like to learn about cultures before I interact with them,
And now, I’m just scared.
I thought this book “The Israelis” was gonna be great, but it’s all about terrorism, basically. I mean, yes, it is a good book, and it’s about the Israeli people, but it keeps coming back to the fact that people can’t step on a bus without fear that it’ll blow up.

I don’t know, maybe that got into my head somehow. Maybe it’s affecting the way I feel now…

But really I just feel, numb, I guess,
And I have no idea what to do.

God, I don’t know what to do.
I’m doubting.

I was talking to someone today who is going on The World Race with the same organization that is sending me to Israel. (That was another strange occurrence/encouragement? She got accepted around the same time I did and we leave around the same time.)
We were talking about fear, and I told her that I think when you’re excited, but you’re scared, then that’s a good place to be. I said that’s when God shows up.

It felt good to finally say that out loud, because it’s something I’ve been thinking about this week. It also just sort of popped out of my mouth. Holy Spirit? Yes.

So let’s list this out shall we?
1)    Numerous doors have been opened. Even when it seemed like doors would be shut, new ones were open. I was told I had to face demons, I could have run away, but God provided me a way to fight. I was worried about raising support, but God provided me a back-up plan if all else fails. I got accepted faster than I thought I was going to be.
2)    My dad and my friends are being very supportive. They’re all very excited for me, and even before I got accepted one of them told me that this would be a good trip for me and she thinks I should go.
3)    Strange “coincidence” that I would meet someone else who is in a similar situation.

But wait a second.
I don’t think this is the way to follow God’s will.

A close friend and leader of mine (who also has been through this organization) told me: “’The will of God is for you to be like Jesus Christ. If you’re like Christ, you’ll do Christ-like things. Make a plan and say Amen.’” … I’m coming to realize that God’s will is for us to BE. Be loved by Him. Be Christ to people. Can God speak to us and give us a specific direction in a dream or however He speaks to you? Of course. But a lot of times the direction is the dreams that He’s birthed within us. You want to know the direction of your life just look inside your heart.

So is it ‘God’s will’ for you to go on this trip? Ask yourself this question, ‘Are you following the Lord with a pure heart and letting Him love you?’ Then go for it!

It is our job to just BE loved by our King, Savior, and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

Which parrallels something the interviewer told me. When I called her to make sure the acceptance email wasn’t a mistake, she told me that it I am accepted onto this team, as long as I continue to work to get myself to a place where I am growing with God and letting Him lead me… I don’t know, I wish I could remember exactly what she said, but it seemed similar to the “following the Lord with a pure heart” part.

So if I’m doing that… everything else just sort of… falls into place, right?

I mean in the sense that God’s going to use me wherever I go. [I almost typed “God’s going to take care of me wherever I go.” Holy Spirit again? Yes.]

And I want to go to Israel.
http://www.adventures.org/a/trips/trips.asp?locationID=288

It’s such a diverse country, and many of the people must have such a love for life because they know each day could be their last.
This is the place where many Biblical tales took place.
Jesus walked there, like actually walked there!
God is working in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Jaffa, and all of Israel. It is a land full of tension and conflict, but God is there, and I am blessed to even be considered to be a part of what He is doing.

But I still can get very overwhelmed… Please keep me in your prayers, as well as my team and the people of Israel.