Wednesday, October 20, 2010

God in a Hurry

We've all heard that certain evangelical strain of pathos: "Thousands are dying without Christ every second" or "Let's finish preaching the gospel in one generation so that the end may finally come!" Yeah, as if I needed to put any more pressure on myself. I have been reading J.B. Phillips' book Your God Is Too Small for the last few days. The book was written in 1952 but aptly categorizes the many false gods or images of God that many "modern" people hold. I do not know the punchline of the book yet - the pithy ending where Phillips tells me how I might open up my view of God to be larger - but his descriptions of the small gods people serve (or avoid) have unmasked several points of small-mindedness within my own view of God.

The most poignant example for me has been Phillips description of the "God in a Hurry" conception of God. When I am being particularly hard on myself (and when am I not), I end up feeling something like a trusty little red wagon that God has piled all his hopes and dreams up in for the Kingdom. Yes, to an extent, "Christ in me the hope of glory," is the equivalent of having all of the glory, honor, and miraculous potential of God's cherished Son in my wagon, but I so easily mistake my "light load" for something heavy.

I have been in a hurry for most of my evangelical Christian experience. Eagerly I read my Bible, go to Church, do good things, and try to shine my bright light for others to see so that I may somehow graduate to the next level of spiritual maturity. I want to do miracles. I want to see people changed and freed and loved. I want to see the kingdom of this world crumble in the face of a powerful Kingdom of God restoring order to all creation. Yet I forget, as Phillips writes, the "quietness of Christ."

When Jesus was hanging in Bethany across the Jordan teaching and healing, his good friend Lazarus passed away. As God incarnate, he probably knew Lazarus was dying, but the messenger did not probably reach Jesus until Lazarus had already falled into eternal sleep. Even so, Jesus still waiting another day to depart to the other Bethany. His disciples were worried he would be killed by outraged Jews in the city of Bethany where Lazarus had lived. Anyway, Jesus finished what he was doing (purposefully) in Bethany across the Jordan before bravely returning to the home of his friend. We know how the story turns out. Jesus shows death to the door and welcomes Lazarus back to the living.

It's easy to see Jesus as some kind of Greek hero going here and there, escaping death, feeding thousands, healing hundreds (or more), and making friends with the lowly. It's easy for me to think that as a "little Christ," I should be here and there, escaping death, feeding thousands, and healing the sick, and befriending the lowliest. I have been told to do that my whole life. Now. Quickly. It's urgent. Don't stop. Don't look back.

Not surprisingly, I am no match for my conceptions of "God in a Hurry" and my visions of "Kid Christmas in a Hurry."

I want to re-aquaint myself with the purposeful kind of God who puts me where He needs me when He needs me there. I also want to believe in a God that will patiently wait for me to not only hear His voice but obey His voice instead of frantically following my own plans.

This is the theme of my time in FrXc0, CO. Slow Down. Stop being so hard on yourself. God is not in a hurry. So I should not be either.

To quote from a recent favorite song:

Why must I negotiate
Why must I think You hold my fate dangling from a string that's worn and frayed
I used to think, it was all mapped out
While I stayed the course, You rethought the route
When lost for good, I tried to sort it out alone

But now You're here
Oh what love I've found
You found me, my days rewound
I need Your love more than I need to understand
If I could I would fall backwards...
I think I'm falling backwards


Monday, September 13, 2010

My First Blog

So, however long ago when I started this blog, I imagined I would fill it with the interesting details of my soon to be ever-so-adventerous life. I planned to be in China touring and teaching English, savoring the culture and learning to share my faith as easy as breathing in and out.

I still live in Colorado. I just got married. Sharing my faith is a challenge. And China is really far off. Honestly, it's still a bit shocking. But strangely ok.

Kicking the Whirlwind for me has meant letting go of all the plans I had made for myself, plans which I thought were god-given but were actually me-driven. For me, being accomplished meant being a missionary and teaching people about Jesus. Now, I'm not sure what it means to be accomplished, but I have bravely tried many new things in the last few years:

1. Taking a scholarship opportunity in S. California at a Bible College for one year
2. Grant writing and non-profit fundraising
3. Working for a home inspector and helping to grow his business
4. Redefining my idea of Church and the Body of Christ
5. Meeting, loving, and marrying the best gift God has ever given me - my husband Chris

I've only been married for nine days, but there is a great sense of adventure in joining myself to Chris because God has combined our likes and passions in such a way as to make for a much bigger whirlwind. Somewhere in Ecclesiastes 4 the verses say something like: "Two are better than one, for if one falls down, the other can help him up. Likewise, if one is cold, two can keep warm together. Two can also fight off their enemy. Finally, a chord of three strands is not easily broken."

Chris and I will kick our whirlwind together. We want to bravely seek out the Lord's plans, even if that means giving up a great deal of security to wander nomadically together in search of the place God has for us.

Well, there you have it - my first blog as a married woman.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

wrtign bleh

I am forming a theory...that I don't want to grant write anymore because I have been forcing myself to write so many pieces that I don't care about for the last 14 years. School has done this to me. I hate writing assignments that do not mean anything to me. Bleh. Can I be burnt out? Can I be finished for a while.

Perhaps after a time passes, I will want to pick up the pen again.

Truth is, I won't stop writing. I just don't want to write about topics and for purposes that mean nothing to me.

Irony? I had to write to say this.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Economics of the heart...

Does change inevitably mean a low tide of emotions? I woke up and discovered suddenly that I had made a life here in the Fort. I am pestered by my attachment to people and places.

I was in a hurry to decide and go, but now I find I will be carrying many things with me...even missings and rebuttles that will never now have a chance to be argued.

Opportunity cost is something my twelfth grade Economics teacher taught me. How did I know then that Economics of the heart would bring the lesson home?

Monday, May 25, 2009

"So they pulled their boats up on the shore..."

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees and said, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!" For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon's partners.
Then Jesus said to Simon, "Don't be afraid; from now on you will catch men." So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. (Luke5: 8-11)

The pastor had spoken about Jesus calling Peter from a livelihood of catching fish to a life of catching people. He emphasized that the remarkable portion of the passage was not simply that Peter's impression of Jesus as a wise Rabbi caused him to cast out to sea after an already long and fruitless night spent fishing. The remarkable part wasn't even that Peter and Jesus caught so many fish. Nor was it that Peter profoundly realized ("Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!") that Jesus was someone more than a wise Rabbi. No. The crashing epicenter of this story was the probable history from which Jesus redeemed Peter instantly.

He expounded further that Peter was probably in his early twenties when this exchange between he and Jesus took place, which means he had been out of Hebrew school since he was Bar-mitzvah'd at the age of twelve. Only the few, the proud, and the ingenious were chosen to continue past Hebrew school into a selective process that would eventually yield one or two young people to be the follower of a Rabbi. Peter, who had already spent years in a worthwhile trade was not exactly the type to be a Rabbi follower. Yet right then, Jesus picked Peter out, set him apart, and called him to be his follower, telling him, "From now on you will catch people."

I listened to that sermon closely and sensed a timely message hidden for me in the pastor's words. I thought, "I want so very badly to be a catcher of people," and then I heard it all so clearly in my heart.

"Noelle, put down your net. After all, you are a catcher of people."

Isn't it funny how much influence pastors have? Later that same Sunday, I ruminated more about the sermon and remembered something another pastor once told me. "Noelle, if they stick you in some corner and expect you to write for eight hours a day, you won't be happy. That would be the worst thing for you."

No cruel person intentionally stuck me in a corner and commanded me to write for the last seven months. I have been working for a wonderful company that is a key participant in bringing God's Kingdom to earth in the darkest parts of our world. I serve under leaders who have victoriously walked through the lowest of valleys over the last year, spending their every ounce of strength fighting to keep the ministry financially stable so that our English teachers can continue living as salt and light in Asia. However, as much as I personally am passionate about evangelism and discipleship in Asia, as much as I have the skill to write fundraising documents, and as much as I love new adventures, this first adventure into the working world has revealed a great deal about who God has created me to be.

I love people. I love the Church. I love the spirit-led influence pastors have on their flocks.

On Monday, May 18, 2009, I turned in my formal letter of resignation from my position of Advancement Grant Writer. After much prayer and seeking the Lord and the wise counsel of others around me, I have decided to return to Grand Junction in order to be closer to my core spiritual community, my family, my boyfriend...and hopefully to pursuing more closely my call. This is not as much of a total change of direction as much as it is a redirection to a more specific goal. What would this adventure have been worth unless it allowed God to refine me and the call He has for me?

The Lord has graciously already opened several opportunities for meaningful work, a possible living situation, and a chance to actively serve my local church body (yay!). Please pray that the Lord would clearly open the door to my next job. Ask that I would finish well at my current job. If you live in Grand Junction, start looking for me around the beginning of July! I am energized by the new possibilities.

Leaving Fort Collins will be bittersweet in many ways. I have met some wonderful people (hopefully you know who you are) with whom I hope to continue friendships long after I have returned to Grand Junction. I am grateful that someone took a chance by hiring a young kid to write fundraising proposals asking for millions of dollars from people she may never meet. I hope to continue maturing the skills I have in grant writing so that more of the world's money can be transferred into the Kingdom while taking a more active ministry role in my local community.

Fort Collins was a wonderful place to be, but my roots are not roots are on a different shoreline and in a call to be a catcher of people in a different sea.

Post Script:
I want to give a special thank you for all your prayers over this last year of major personal transitions. From health issues to trying to answer the question "what should I do after college?" you each have been there right beside me in support and prayer. Your prayers have moved heaven on my behalf on many an occasion. My health continues to improve greatly. I even find that I am able to eat grains occasionally without terrible side effects. Many of my body aches and pains have subsided and I am able to ride my bike more than a couple miles without collapsing. I can now ride upwards of 12 miles. I am hiking and walking and running. All of this is a testimony to greatly increased energy and stamina through God's healing hand. The Lord has provided for me financially. I also am continuing to grow in my walk with the Lord, which is the ultimate blessing. I am so thankful for God's goodness and your faithfulness! May He continue to bring me to your mind and heart in my times of need. May He also continue to bring you to my mind and heart in your times of need.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Kite Flying

On Sunday, I went to the park just down the street from my house in Fort Collins to try out my new kite. The blue sky contrasted the golden-crunchy grass, and I knelt down to open up my kite case to start putting its seven-foot, rainbow-colored awesomeness together. Several attempts to catch the wind by letting the kite float lightly and take off running failed.

I heard someone about thirty yards away chuckle to a companion, "Failure to launch." I just ignored the comment and kept trying.

Another man walked by a few minutes later and said, "Any luck? Doesn't seem windy enough today."

The wind never did start to gust enough. I stuffed the kite back in its case and rewound the kite string. On Thursday of last week, I felt like a crashed kite missing the wind that usually pushes it higher. I returned home from almost two weeks of spending holidays with people that felt more like home to me than my new home in Fort Collins. A friend called this "re-entry shock" to normal, post-holiday life. Fort Collins does not quite feel like home yet. I know the wind will pick up again, but there will be days, even beautiful days spent in parks, when the wind just will not blow. So it goes.

As far as work goes, my boss's assistant was "let-go" last Friday. This is a difficult blow because she performs so many vital tasks. Many of her duties will fall to me in the coming weeks. We need to hire two on-site Advancement workers but they may not be hired for several months. Please pray that ELIC's Advancement department can continue to successfully bring in the necessary funds in light of economic and organizational deficits.

After the last update e-mail update, several of you asked how Chris and I are doing. He and I spent Christmas with his family in Kansas. I had a delightful time getting to know not only his parents but his extended family too. I must have met about forty people, including some of Chris's dearest high school/college buddies. It was wonderful to meet the people and see the places that shaped who Chris is today. We continue to see each other several times a month, both of us travelling back and forth over weekends.

Regarding my health, I broke the no sugar/no grains diet during the holiday season, but interestingly, did not feel awful. I think I am starting to see some healing and am once again returning to a more strict diet. I believe I will see permanent healing from God's hand and from faithfully following the diet.

For those of you that do pray for me, please continue to lift my health and my relationship up - great things are happening in both these areas of my life! At work, some days are harder than others. The leanness of my department at work provides a multitude of opportunities to learn problem solving skills and teamwork. Please pray for peace, cooperation, endurance, favor, and wisdom to flow through me.

As always, I love to hear how each of you are doing, even if I do not have the chance to respond immediately to your e-mails. I pray the Lord is showing you His design for the New Year!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Date Bars

There are many jokes to be made out of the phrase "date bars."

"I'm going home to make date bars tonight."
"You're going to what?
"I'm going home to make date bars tonight."
"You've been doing that a lot lately. It must be working out well for you."
"I'm going home to make date bars tonight."
"What? You're going to bars to find dates and make out?"

Those are just a few examples. I am sure you can only imagine the other possibilities. However, "I'm going home to make date bars" has fallen from my lips several times this last week, and today I succeeded. I love Larabars - an energy-type delicious bar wrapped in clever packaging - and every Larabar usually only has 2-5 ingredients. I decided I wanted to try my hand at making them when it became impossible for me to eat less than one a day.

So off I went to Wal-Mart to find dates, almonds, and coconut. Mmmm, coconut. Then, the experiments began. My friend Bethany suggested I boil the dates so as to make them a stickier binding agent. Then I chopped up the almonds and coconut in a food processor. I combined the boiled dates with the dry ingredients (including a dash of cinnamon) and food-processed it more.

I then tried several different baking methods at varying temperatures and times. I finally settled on the following method:

Grease cookie tray
Roll mixture into little balls
Place on try
Press flat with bottom of cup (to 1/2 inch thick or so)
Bake at 315 for 30 minutes

I am so excited that I unlocked the secret to my own Larabar version. In fact, I believe the Larabar company must dehydrate or otherwise slowly cook the bars because they do not have the baked texture, making my little cakes totally original.

I shall call them:


Ingredients: Dates, Almonds, Coconut, Cinammon, Elbow Grease, Ingenuity, Love

200 Calories of
non-gluten, anti-processed sugar, dairy-free, potato-free, corn/corn-syrup/other-corn-derivatives-free, legume-free