Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Resources for Praying Against Sex Trafficking

In just two days, the madness of our Wild Winter Weekend at Walnut Hill will begin! I'm feeling the heat, as I've been pushing for an in-house, Disciple Now-style retreat for over a year--if something goes wrong, I will feel sooo responsible! Not to mention the volume it takes to pull off an event of this magnitude on our own turf. It's like taking a typical retreat (where everything's taken care of by the venue) and multiplying it by 20. The good news is, we have 130 students signed up. ONE HUNDRED THIRTY!! That's a record in my time at WH. And we're saving our families $65 or more per student! Our youth team is pumped!

The other thing that's exciting about this weekend is the justice theme. We're bringing in Love146, a New Haven, CT-based ministry that raises awareness about child sex trafficking and slavery. (I tried for IJM, but they were only avaialble for one of the three days. sadface.) I'm so excited for our students to catch a vision for God's heart for justice! I'm sitting at Molten Java (a Bethel hot spot for coffee and all things granola) working on the small group curriculum now--another thing that has added to my workload the past couple of months, but such a JOY at the same time.

As we've been preparing for this weekend, I've had some freelance work come up that has been justice-themed. One article, a piece on prayer resources, just went live on the site a week or two ago. You can read it here.

Prayers appreciated for our team's sanity this weekend!! Trusting that God will reveal more of Himself and His gospel!


Monday, February 14, 2011

How We Know What Love Is

I may be the only single girl in the world who doesn't hate Valentine's Day. Well, there have been a couple of years when I've hated it. But on the whole I look forward to the cheesiness. Case in point, freshman year of college, my roomies and I staged a cry-fest, complete with The Notebook, plenty of Nutella, and ample tissues.

I love the red juju hearts, the pretty homemade cards (sooo wish I had made some this year!), the sappy movies. And I especially love the excuse to wear red and pink in the same outfit! Plus, my parents always make me feel ridiculously loved on this day when it can be a little tough to be the single girl. Maybe that sounds cheesy, considering I'm 25. But they are so sweet--my dad always sends flowers and my mom sends gifts/candy/etc. This year they combined forces and everything was from both of them. It came in waves--first a bouquet of flowers, sent to the WH office, then a package of gorgeous heart-shaped sugar cookies and Russell Stover sent to my house, and finally a sweet card in my mailbox.

Tonight though, in spite of all the extra TLC, I expected to be just a little sad. Usually I make plans with girlfriends for Valentine's Day, but this year I just worked until 8:00 p.m. I know, depressing, right? Only for some reason, it wasn't.

I came home, made some dinner, and settled in for the Bachelor. Go ahead and judge me. It is a horrible, classless show and I deserve it. But I watch it. Every week. And every week I look at Brad and his entourage and I wonder, what on earth makes these girls willing to throw caution to the wind with this guy who may or may not be in love with them? The answer is so obvious.

We are all, whether we like to admit it or not, absolutely desperate for love.

Not to get all Platonic on you, but the kind of love we conjure up for ourselves is just a shadow of the Love that we're intended for, the Love we were created to be swept up in. I don't know about you, but that makes me feel so sad for Brad and his posse. They don't even know what they're really looking for!

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.
1 John: 16

The grammar in 1 John is just so great. John writes about love using the construction above over and over again. It's like he's saying, "in case you didn't know...THIS (i.e. Jesus) is what Love really is.

I've been a little obsessed for about the past year with this Indelible Grace hymn sung by Laura Taylor called "To Christ the Lord Let Every Tongue." (I quoted it in a post about some Messianic Jewish teaching I heard around this time last year.) As I've been listening to it lately, it has struck me as so SO perfect for Valentine's Day, especially the last (and my favorite) stanza:

Since from His bounty I receive
Such proofs of Love divine
Had I a thousand hearts to give,
Lord they should all be Thine!

And there's just one last little tidbit I want to share (this post has been such a hodgepodge, I know!) from "The Love of Jesus" in Valley of Vision:

I am never so much mine as when I am His,
or so much lost to myself until lost in Him;
then I find my true manhood.
But my love is frost and cold, ice and snow;
Let His love warm me,
lighten my burden,
be my heaven.

May it be so. Happy Valentine's Day!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The God Who Gives Examples

Aiden was completely defiant yesterday. I think these winter months are getting to him a little. One of the barn employees told me that he was pacing the pasture gate all morning...meaning he is seriously over the cold.

When I put him on a lunge line, he was perfect to the left. Walk, trot, canter, and a few bucks for good measure. But when I asked him to go to the right, he made a fuss, as he often does. It's his harder direction, and he tries to get out of it whenever possible. Thing is, once he gets going, it's also his best direction. Go figure. Anyway, usually I just stand my ground and he obeys. But not yesterday.

I wish I had a picture of him, neck braced, feet firmly planted. Would. not. move. And when I tried to get behind him (like you're supposed to do when you lunge a horse), he completely outsmarted me by moving to stay face to face with me. For a moment, I panicked, thinking I might not win this battle. Finally, I went to get his bridle. (Aiden's usually so good on the lunge line that I can just lunge him in a halter.) As I was changing tack, I gave him a little pep talk (read: gave myself a little pep talk) about how he was not going to win and how I am the boss. Once that bit was in his mouth, I actually was the boss again. He obeyed and gave me a good walk, trot, and canter, complete with an impromptu flying lead change, to the right.

Throughout our annoying little battle of wills, I kept thinking that somewhere there was some spiritual significance. Then when I woke up this morning, I read this in today's Psalm (I'm a couple of days behind this week, for those of you who are reading, too):

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.
Psalm 32:8-9

Isn't it cool to serve a God who puts things in terms we can understand? I mean, most of the time we might need to study Jewish culture and historical context a little to get at what God is saying...but still we find Him as the God who has always given relevant examples to His people.

This was one of those modern-day examples. Hate to admit it, but I'm soooo like my stubborn horse. Sometimes I have no understanding and yet I defiantly persist in my own ways.

Yesterday I found myself a bit bewildered by Mageester's disobedience. Doesn't he know I have a whole bag of apples I'm just waiting to spoil him with? Doesn't he know that he's just a horse? And that I have a whole, wide understanding of his life? Doesn't he know that I'm his momma, who just wants him to be healthy and happy?! God must ask similar questions when I'm being a brat.

So I'm taking some time today to realign my life and my will with the counsel of a God who's understanding surpasses my own. His wisdom and instruction are so infinite!

Thanks to AM for being a vessel in the sweet spiritual lesson!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Home Again

After my last post, I'm afraid some of you New Englanders think my hand's on the door. It's not--you're stuck with me for a while! In spite of my winter frustration with the climate and sometimes even the culture here, I really do LOVE the work God's given me to do, and I LOVE the sweet friends He's blessed me with. Thanks for the extra encouragement last week--it was needed!

After a few days in the sun soaking up Vitamin D, I'm feeling more like my sans-Seasonal Affects Disorder self. In a couple weeks I might be SAD Chelsea again, but I promise to try to choose a happy heart :)

I figure I might as well practice now--so here are a few of my favorite things about winter in New England:

I heart patterned tights! I always say, there are only two things I love about winter: Christmas and patterned tights. Polka dots, plaid, diamonds, you name it! I love black ones with a short skirt and ballet flats.

Cozy nights with good friends are the only way to make it through the winter months. Whether it's dinner out or vino in, it'll do the trick!
Snow days! I've had more of them (from work!) this year alone than I had in grades K-12 back in Illinois combined. Even though I've gone a little stir crazy this winter, it is sooo nice to be able to work from home in my PJs on cold, snowy days. Hey thanks, Walnut Hill, for not making me drive to work in hazardous conditions! Here are a couple of pictures of my house covered in snow and ice on.
And my number one favorite thing: AIDEN MAGEE!! Seriously, this guy is so fun. Even when it's 20 degrees outside. I love him to bits for giving me a reason to don my Cuddl Duds (yes, that's for real how you spell it) and snow boots. He's the best! As you can see from these photos, my aloof man gets extra pensive in the winter months. So cute!

So in this long wait for spring, I'm committing Hosea 6:3 to daily consideration:

Let us acknowledge the LORD,
Let us press on to know Him.
As surely as the sun rises, He will appear;
He will come to us like the winter rains,
like the spring rains that water the earth.

Even this dreaded winter rain and snow speaks of God's faithfulness--how about that!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Get Me Outta Here

My midwinter escape to see Grandma Cherry and Grandpa Corwin in Ft. Myers Beach, Florida came not a day too soon. One more day in the frozen tundra of Connecticut, and I might have lost my mind. Or my religion.

Of course, I didn’t get out of town today without a fight. More white stuff this morning. Fed up with the snow and ice, I cautiously tip-toed down my slippery front porch steps and avoiding the mounting pile of snow next to my car, flung my bags in the front seat. Noticing my well-used snow scrapper perched below the passenger seat, I positioned myself to grab for it while trying to keep from sticking my suede boots in a snow drift. It can not have been a pretty picture. I’m sure I looked decidedly ungraceful with my toes as close to the drift as possible, rear end angled outward for balance, and one hand on the side of the car to steady myself.

That’s when it happened.

First one cowgirl-boot-clad foot lost traction, and then the other started to slip. And before I could catch myself, I was face down in the snow, legs splayed in either direction, still clutching the exterior of the car. A not-so-fancy word followed.

Can you really blame a girl for letting a curse word slip in a moment like that?

I continued to yell—albeit no more expletives—as I completed the task of removing the snow from my car and myself. Hopefully my neighbors didn’t hear as I hollered at the heavens, “Get me outta here!!!”

I confess, I have grown weary of Connecticut. I’ve grown weary of doing good, even. It seems the Words of Affirmation tank is perpetually on empty and my patience with the culture has all but expired. I’m tired of feeling like the outsider. Tired of waiting for spring. Tired of getting flipped off and cursed out behind the wheel. Tired of spending myself on behalf of others only to struggle financially in one of the most expensive counties in the nation.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up,” (Galatians 6:9).

I have to guard my heart, lest I start to question the Lord’s wisdom in bringing me here. Spring will come again, after all. And God's Word promises there WILL be a harvest—at the proper time.

So for now I'm just waiting for spring where the Cloud has settled.