March 15, 2012

Vision and Questions for the Future

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , , , , at 8:54 pm by Tamara

“Let me explain–  No, there is too much.  Let me sum up.”  (Name that movie!)

It’s a long story that I’ve shared bits and pieces of, but the summary is that Adam and I have been seriously praying about the possibility of going overseas for two years to do ministry.  We’ve sent in our applications so that we can talk with the organization, find out more about the opportunity, and go from there.  (Incidentally, the application is part of the reason for the lack of block posts lately: too much other writing for the application and school!)

Ever since we started the application process we’ve been blindsided by a bunch of reasons NOT to go.  We’re still processing them, trying to discern if any of them are God saying “Wait” or if they’re just life being life, or the enemy being the enemy, or what.  It’s exhausting and discouraging, but also a good lesson in trust and learning to listen to the Father.  We’re really in limbo so I can’t say what’s going to happen, but if I don’t at least mention it now and we do decide to go, you’ll all think it came out of thin air, so I’m mentioning it!

At any rate, that’s not the real point of this post, just the background.  Here’s the point: I get prayer updates from someone doing ministry in a dangerous part of the world, and they recently had some people visit the region to see about maybe coming to minister there.  This was in a recent update from my friend, and it just about made me cry, because I can so relate!  I can’t share my friend’s name, but they gave me permission to post this.  If you’re in the same boat, I hope it’s encouraging to you, too!

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“Some call them vision trips. Others say they’re survey trips. Whatever the name, it’s all about breathing the air, walking the ground, and wondering if you could do it. Could you make this move? Could you live here, in this stranger than you’ve ever imagined place? It’s about putting your real self and your shimmering dreams before others you may have met only through email, if at all. It’s about listening to what’s said and what’s left unsaid. Its about pushing back the doubts and fears and straining to hear our Father’s voice.

“I am always awed at the courage of vision-trippers. It’s a journey of pure faith; flying face-forward into the abyss. It’s knowing that you’re called but wondering who, if anyone, will receive you. And if they do receive you, will they be glad for it? Will you find a home with the little band, the team you’ve agreed to join? Will you make good decisions? Do you really know who you are? Are you ready? And if you do come, will anyone back home support you? Will people really pray? Will they give? Will they remember you? Will it be enough? And who said you could do this, anyway? Who said you had anything to give? Why don’t you just stay home? Isn’t there enough work to be done there? And how could you take our grandchildren so far away? What about your career and your retirement – and a hundred other challenges?

“This is why I’m always awed at the faith of vision-trippers. These are folks who’ve started the journey. Who’ve stood up and bravely said; ‘I want to go.’  They have some partners who’ve said; ‘I believe in you.’ Who pray and give – who invest in the brave dream that’s not yet been fulfilled. They’ve completed applications and joined an organization. They’ve prayed their hearts out and started counting the cost. They’ve stepped headlong into a spiritual battle the likes of which they’ve never experienced before. The enemy rises up in rage. “Who do you think you are!?!” With weapons of doubt and fear, he would stop us in our tracks if God were not with us. This is why I love vision-trippers. I love their sheer courage and trembling faith. The next steps are clear; join a field-team, raise support and go. If you know any such people, cheer them on. Celebrate their journey. Enjoy the overflow of their faith.”

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January 13, 2012

Dead Chicken Wrangler

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , at 11:07 pm by Tamara

Slimy....

The other night I had to use a whole chicken for a recipe.  I’m not particularly freaked out by raw meat, but there’s just something mildly disturbing about being covered in bacteria-infested slime from a dead animal as you tug and hack away at it.

Life lately is a little less than glamorous.  In theory, we’re trying to get into fulltime ministry.  In practice, life doesn’t feel much like ministry.  It seems like things like “serving God,” “ministry,” “missions,” etc. should have at least an aspect of glamour to them.  Like there should be some sort of heart-swelling feeling of changing the world and leading people out of darkness and sacrificing for a cause and being looked up to as a spiritual giant.  Like I should feel like God’s special favorite, like he’s proud of me.  Happy with me.  I don’t quite envision ministry to entail things like living with my parents and spending half the day wrestling with a dead chicken.

I was reading Leviticus a while back, and thinking how awful being a high priest sounds.  Here is the man with the most “spiritual” job in the whole country, and his job seems…disgusting.  I wonder what Aaron thought when he heard the list of his new responsibilities and compared them to his brother’s.  I have to wonder if I would have been angry:

Well isn’t this just fantastic.  Here’s my spoiled, stuttering brother Moses, who already got to grow up in palace luxury while I was a slave, and now he gets the glamour of leading the nation, and what do I get?  I get the nasty, bloody job of constantly slaughtering, dissecting, bleeding, burning, and cooking sacrifices.  I get to check for hairs growing in yellow skin sores.  I get to inspect houses for mildew.  I get to tend fires and lamp stands and carry heavy things.  I get to teach people laws about bodily discharges.  I get to kick people with infectious skin diseases out of the city.  Wonderful.  Sign me up.

But there is something incredible, awesome, jaw-dropping that priests got to do that no one else did: they got to commune with God.  There is only one person who gets to go into the holy of holies, into God’s very presence and glory: the high priest.

Pillar of Fire

The wonder of that is easy to miss, because I forget how great my God is.  This is the God who shakes mountains, who thunders and smokes, who makes men fall down in terror, who can make your skin radiate after just a glimpse of his back, who makes walls of water crash down over entire armies, who conceals himself in a giant swirling pillar of fire.  To approach him is a very, VERY big deal.  To communicate with him, be his special assistant, step in between him and people he’s angry with, be a recipient of his blessings, sweep the floor of his house…these are big deals.

“Ministry” for me right now is NOT glamorous.  It is not heart-swelling.  I do not feel like I’m impacting anyone, or helping anyone, or doing anything grand to advance the kingdom.  No one is impressed by me or looking up to me.   Lately I am cutting a lot of chicken, changing a lot of diapers, doing a lot of apartment searching, paying lots of bills, scrubbing lots of gunk, etc, etc, etc.  I don’t feel very “useful” to God.  But if Leviticus teaches me anything about service to God, it’s that serving doesn’t always involve glamorous things.  That’s not the point.

What I DO as God’s servant isn’t always glamorous, but what I GET is very, very glamorous: I get to know God.

Friends with the God who made THIS.

What could be more glamorous or heart-swelling than getting to personally be friends with the creator of the universe?  To communicate with him whenever I want?  To know that the veil keeping me out of the Holy of Holies was dramatically ripped in half when Jesus died, and now I can go in his presence whenever I want?  To know that he loves me and values me, and that neither of those is dependent on how glamorous or important or useful I am (or feel)?

As I was writing this, a snippet of a verse floated through my head, so I went to find it.  It sums it up pretty well:

“Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.  For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.  O Lord Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you.”  Psalm 84:10-12

So no matter how insignificant my daily grind may seem sometimes, that’s really not the point.  I’m a dead chicken wrangler in the house of the God of the universe, and not only that, he’s my friend.  That certainly makes my heart swell a bit.

 

P.S.  This post was really hard to come up with pictures and a title for.  “God’s Diaper Changer?”  Um, nope.  Pictures of slaughtered little lambies?  Um, no.