Friday, January 15, 2010

big and unexpected. those were the words i used in my prayer just days after i realized that i didn't pray with real belief and expectancy. there has been a restless feeling in the pit of my stomach for months now; like something great is around the corner or just out of my reach. so i prayed, literally for something big and unexpected, and made a firm decision to believe god was going to make it happen.

two weeks later i found myself saying "are you serious?" to the face of a man who was very unexpectedly inviting me into something bigger than i could have imagined. in the moment, i didn't recognize it as god's answering that prayer. perhaps i don't dream big enough for myself so i'm easily caught off guard.

this man was serious and just seven days later, i found myself committing to the big and unexpected; to moving westward for a season; to stepping into something i never viewed myself as having the ability to do. there are a lot of lessons i could pull from this; there are a lot of lessons i'm going to pull from this before this whole thing is over, but the one thing i do know is that praying with great confidence in my god is something i will continue to do.

and i'll try not to be so surprised when he answers in the truly unexpected ways.

for those of you who are dying to hear the specifics:
i'm going to be spending the summer in oakland, california, directing intervarsity's bay area urban project. those of you that have been "traveling" with me over the years would be familiar with citylights in st. louis and the chicago urban project, both of which i was a part of as a college student. bayup (bay area urban project) is the same. while each project has it's own specific vision and structure, all projects have the same underlying mission: for students to be exposed to/wrestle with, have a rich understand of, and cultivate a desire to live out the biblical view of justice--for the urban poor, the orphan, the immigrant, the refugee--, reconciling races and nations, all the while seeing the gospel interwoven into the bigger picture.

what does this look like practically? most projects include an element of study, both of scripture and experienced authors. students live in community with each other and the neighborhood in which they are placed (most often an inner city). the largest component is similar to an internship where students spend each day or portion of with some sort of non-profit/church/organization that is doing work among the neighborhoods in which they live. in st. louis, students are sent to places such as a summer tutoring program, a spanish speaking medical clinic, and among burundian refugees. in all cases, the idea behind this is that the students will dive into these sub-communities and find that is is through relationship that the gospel can begin to breed justice.

what will i be doing? because every project is structured differently, and because i'm just stepping into what is normally a year round position for only a summer, i don't fully know yet. it will involve some pastoral care for students and staff, some administration/logistics of the day to day stuff that comes up, maintaining networks and checking in with placement sites for students, a couple of talks, and really helping students and staff put the various pieces of what they are learning together.

how can you be praying?
1. for my upcoming trip to mexico city (jan. 27-31) to join other urban project directors and global project directors for the annual training.
2. for a leadership team to come together.
3. for preparation--josh (the former bayup director and now national coordinator for urban projects) will be doing a lot of the initial planning and passing things off to me.
4. for the ability to learn and retain quickly. this particular project has a structure that i've not been a part of before. oakland is a new city. all of the agencies, partners, networks will be very new to me.
5. for the students and staff that will be calling bayup home for the summer.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

my one year anniversary

it's often the things and people that i judge the harshest that end up most radically changing my life; a book that i'll never read, a place i'll never go, even a person i'll never be friends with. god finds ways of changing my heart toward the "judged", then allowing the "judged" to trample all over my life, ruining it (for the better).

it was a year ago today that i walked into just such a place. i had begun the search for a new church to call home, and was certain (in my self-righteous heart) that the building i walked into on january 3, 2009 would not be the place for me. but because i was invited by someone i trusted, i entered anyway. the first words spoken from the stage (by the worship leader), put a hole in the wall of things i believed to be true about this church. each time i came back with a "yeah god, but what about________?", another hole was punched into my wall until eventually it could no longer stand. it was then that my heart heard the invitation to call the building "home", the "herd" "family", and delve with honesty into an authentic community with an open mind about where i might be pushed.

authentic community is the first thing i found. from a pastor that actually wanted to know me by name and story when there are thousands in the church to the two ladies who decided that i was worth it to complete the triangle of friendship to the lady who recently took a gamble and is investing some time in guiding me through life to the incredibly unexpected and transparent friendship formed with another in the last eight weeks; there is really nothing i feel that i could tell these people that would make them stop going deeper with me. for the first time in my life, i never feel the need to wear a mask at any moment. authenticity lends itself well to growth, for when people can see the real you, they will call out your stuff and push you to become even more like christ. and i've definitely done my fair share of growing this year.

the theme of this year has really been one of discovering my "true self". when god invited me into this new church, he greeted me at the door with just the right people to continue the unveiling process. it started with the simple act of commenting on a man's blog and then accidentally meeting his parents and finally him. his kind and simple words made me squirm and then wrestle, and then one day it all released from my head to become a part of how i lived. this same man, in his natural pastoral way, gave me one of the greatest christmas gifts ever when he pointed out change that he had seen in me over my year at this new church. what he didn't know as he spoke, what no one knows, is that i had first asked god for that part of me to change ten years ago; prayers fulfilled in unexpected ways years after the hope of fulfillment subsided.

then there came this woman who, in her quiet beauty, found a way to encourage the insecure artist in me. whether she really believes that my art is good enough doesn't matter because in her choosing to validate my show design (co-design), my photos, my poetry, she opened a door that allows me to write freely, to sing with abandon, and have confidence in what comes when i choose to create.

i lack the eloquence to paint just what i'm really feeling in this moment, just one year after i was certain that this would not be a place for me. i'm humbled that god chose to bring me into such a great place where i'm free to fail and to succeed and to love and to create and to cry and to boisterously laugh. the gratitude i have for the people who have chosen to walk with me in this community replaces words with tears. god is overwhelmingly good, perfectly sovereign, and answers prayers that sometimes don't even get spoken.

(to julie, adrianne, monty, tim b., viv, jamie, ced, lauri, nancy and bill, and to the leadership and community that graciously opens their arms to all becoming the hands and feet of jesus in the moments that often seem so insignificant. moments that are most significant in the kingdom.)