Saturday, May 29, 2010

Finally finished a book!

I finished a great book today! This is quite an accomplishment for me since I can't remember the last book I actually read all the way through. That is really sad... Especially since I am a teacher and encourage my students to be lifelong readers! I guess I actually do read all the time. I read tons of childrens' books and books about education. And I did read a potty training book! Those count! I guess the difference is that this is the first book I read that I picked just for me! And I'm sure glad I did!

I read Elisabeth Elliot's book, "Through Gates of Splendor". It was recommended to us as we began planning to follow through with a new life that God has called us to. It was actually the book that was recommended for our parents to read. We bought them each a copy... And they have a ten-page report due by next Friday! :) Not really, but I do hope they, and everyone else, finds the time to read this very moving story.

This story of courage, commitment, and callings follows the lives of five young men and their wives (and some children) as they lived and ministered among native people groups in Ecuador in the 1950's. The amazing element woven throughout their stories is their dedication to doing whatever it took to tell everyone of God's Good News. The author's husband, Jim Elliot, wrote in his journal, "Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God." That sums up their calling then, and our calling now. I just love how Elisabeth Elliot ends the book. This statement was not only true for them, but is a reminder for all Christians that nothing is about US, but is ALL about God!

"It's not the level of our spirituality that we can depend on. It is God and nothing less than God, for the work is God's and the call is God's and everything is summoned by him and to his purposes, the whole scene, the whole mess, the whole package- our bravery and our cowardace, our love and our selfishness, our strengths and our weaknesses."

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

What I Wanna Be When I Grow Up...

As a kid I was a dreamer. I was going to be Spider-Man, I was also going to be the Dread Pirate Roberts (that's the character from The Princess Bride, in case you missed it). Really, I would have been happy to grow up having any occupation in which I could have worn a mask or uniform. I think all kids are to a certain extent. It’s just their nature. I can’t speak for girls, but for most boys, we dream of being heroes, firefighters, cops, cowboys, super heroes... Something larger than life. I have no shame in admitting that when I was in the third grade, my best friend and I decided our calling in life was to start a Beach Boys tribute band. We were going to be called “The All Americans”.

We literally knew all of their songs and would stand out on my driveway and give concerts to all the other neighborhood kids. And the only thing better than a real guitar was the sound of a guitar made with my mouth. It was pretty sweet. And we were going to be huge.

Kids never aspire to be ordinary and never ever wrestle with what they are going to do with their lives. They just know. And while later in life most of us are told that we should stop being dreamers and join reality, I think that our dreams and passions serve a purpose. A Los Angeles pastor, Erwin McManus, posed this question to his church -- “What if our lives are meant to be the fulfillment of God’s dreams for us?”

Let this sink in for a moment.

God has created each of us with a purpose for our lives.

How sweet is that? Maybe there is a rhyme and a reason for why we have these specific dreams and passions. I absolutely believe that before we were even a thought in our parents minds, God had already dreamed big dreams for our lives and given each one of us a purpose. A grand plan for every person that is born, and when we enter into this life, we begin the journey of fulfilling that purpose.

And while God’s dreams for each one of us might take on different shapes and appearances, I think there is an overarching theme in his purpose. I think God created us to be pictures of His truth and grace to the people around us. At the end of Matthew, right before Jesus swoops up to Heaven in a flash, he gives us what we now call the Great Commission and he says, “Go and make disciples.” I hear David (Sutton) remind people all the time that the word GO in that verse is not implying something that will happen, but something that is happening. In other words, Jesus was not telling the disciples to go tomorrow, or next year or whenever they could fit it on their calendar for a mission trip. Instead, it’s something that is happening right now. AS you go. AS you are living your life, let it be a life that paints a portrait of God’s love.

When we choose evangelism as a lifestyle, something that is ongoing, we suddenly find new purpose in our lives. For the four of us, it has changed the way we view our relationships and interactions with others. Paul wrote in his letter to the Thessalonians, “We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News, but our own lives, too.” (1 Thes 2:8) What more purpose do we need than to know that we were placed on this earth to exist in such a way that by just living life with others, we can be living testimonies of God’s grace?

We are always running into people who ask, “How did you know God was calling you to be church planters?”, or, “How did you know God wanted you to move to Colorado?”. But we can’t really give them the answer they are looking for. We don’t have some sort of secret formula that helps determine God’s will for our lives. Unfortunately, God doesn’t usually write out his will for us on the sidewalk with a lightening bolt. Understanding God’s will comes in understanding who He is and who we are in Him. Instead of asking, “What does God want me to do?” perhaps we should be asking, “What does God want to do through me?” The answer comes simply in understanding our identity in Christ and the mission He has given us. Live a life in which you love God and love others.

In our case, it just so happens that we relate very well to the type of people that we will meet in Fort Collins. God has placed a very specific passion in our hearts for that city, but the overarching purpose for our lives is the same as anyone else’s.
We recognize that God has called us to live life with the people around us and in doing so, be a picture of God’s grace and truth. That purpose exists for every believer whether you are in Tyler, or Fort Collins, or across the world or wherever you might be. We have discovered that God’s dream for our lives is to play a part in bringing the rest of the world into the reality of God’s truth. I’ll take that over my dream of being in a Beach Boys cover band.