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December 30, 2012

Urbana '12

Christmas night Marie and I both got really sick with the flu. We were out of commission and took turns in shifts to 'use the bathroom.'  I'm glad our bodies were so cooperative for the circumstances since we only have one bathroom. Anyway, I tell you this to share with you that God brought us out of that pain and misery just intime for Urbana '12.

Urbana is a global missions conference held in St. Louis every three years hosted by InterVarsety Christian Fellowship USA and InterVarsity Canada. Our first Urbana was in '09 when we were both part of InterVarsity at Bradley (though Marie had just graduated).  We both had such a great time, me in the poverty track and her as a steward, that we decided to come back as stewards for Urbana '12.

Only two days remain in the conference, but I know there are still great things in store.  Last night we partnered with World Vision and Caregivers in Africa to build 32,000 Caregiver kits, the buigest Caregiver kit build ever! Each participant wrote a personal note for each kit they built before packing them away and putting them in the shipping containers. Caregivers are local people who are trained by World Vision to care for their neighbors and given the kits they need to do so. Some Caregivers walk 45 minutes from their home to their patients to care for them. Sometimes they bathe them, sometimes they massage them, sometimes they cook for them, sometimes they run errands for them, sometimes they just sit and talk with them, sometimes they pray for them. But no matter what they are doing at the time, they are the hands and feet of Jesus.

God has been laying things on my heart too.  It has been pulled in so many directions it has broken.  My prayer is that he piecies my heart back together with purpose, vision, and direction.  All I know is that I am supposed to finish my seminary training and I don't know from there.  I've never felt a calling in overseas missions, but I'm starting to wonder if that was just our of my own resolve to never be called to overseas missions.  God has been chizzeling the stone off my heart though and I'm not sure where I'm supposed to be anymore. My narrow but uncertian world just got a whole lot wider and a whole lot more uncertian.

December 29, 2012

Day Three at Urbana '12

Today is Day 3 at Urbana '12, a world mission conference sponsored by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Timothy and I are both volunteering at Stewards, which is basically a full day of volunteering some days. I'm working with the dinner team. We fed approximately 16,000 participants last night in 2.5 hours. (THANK YOU CATERING STAFF!!! YOU ARE AMAZING!!!) I'm also going to have the privilege to count all the decision cards tomorrow and see first how all the participants were affected by the conference. Timothy has some special jobs, including a special task for tonight's closing session. I don't want to give it away until after it's happened. We're both thrilled to be helping with the conference that changed us significantly only three years ago.

As you await the new year, please keep Urbana '12 in your prayers. 16,000 additional people have descended upon St. Louis. Let's just say lunch and transportation are interesting daily tasks that now take a significant amount of time. Patience and grace are running freely among most participants but the St. Louis businesses and nearby neighborhoods are feeling the strain. The same 16,000 people are seeking Christ with their whole hearts and weighing major life decisions, especially regarding which mission field God is calling them to. Please pray for clarity for these callings. Not everyone is called to Africa and some people need to know it is okay that Africa is not where God needs them. (Not that God needs any of us anywhere for His mission. He's doing amazing just by Himself.)

December 19, 2012

Bless the Lord, O my soul


"10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord)"


[Chorus]
Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I'll worship Your holy name

The sun comes up, it's a new day dawning
It's time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes

[Chorus]
Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I'll worship Your holy name

You're rich in love, and You're slow to anger
Your name is great, and Your heart is kind
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find

[Chorus]
Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I'll worship Your holy name

And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending
Ten thousand years and then forevermore

[Chorus x2]
Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I'll worship Your holy name

Jesus, I'll worship Your holy name
Lord, I'll worship Your holy name

Sing like never before
O my soul
I'll worship Your holy name
Jesus, I'll worship Your holy name
I'll worship Your holy

"My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;"
                                                 -Luke 1:46

I can't help but cry out to the Lord in praise for everything He has done for me.  You never know how God is going to work.  He paid for my tuition, He gave me the opportunity to hang out with three wonderful people at Lutheran Senior Services last night (who also bought me dinner), He moved over men's group when some people shared burdens they have been carrying on their heart and when Travis, our waiter, joined our group last night for celebration and shared with us his story, seeing a friend who invested in me and helped point me in the right direction during college, seeing things God is doing and working in me.  It's been a whirlwind of God's working in my life recently. I am so blessed by Him and so thankful that He has redeemed me and called me Son.  Thank you, Lord!

December 13, 2012

Wednesday Night

Last night Timothy and I were literally brought to our knees by the awesome ways our God works. We have been struggling for about a month about how we were going to afford tuition this Winter term. We had about $1000 that was coming due on December 21. Without a way to pay all of it, we had started speaking with the Accounting Department at the Seminary to see if we could set up a payment plan of sorts to allow us to pay the balance with the Spring term. But Wednesday night that all changed.

In the mail was a donation from the West County Missouri Chapter of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans for $1000, exactly what we needed to pay the tuition bill. With both of us in tears, we came to our wonderful Provider in prayer. This gift was not expected in any way and is certainly a testiment to the power of prayer. We would both like to say thank you to everyone who has provided for us already on this journey and definitely want to thank all of our prayer partners, or should I say prayer warriors. Thank you.

December 11, 2012

Heaven

Heaven.  What is it?  It's a mystery that we know little about, but that hasn't kept people from theorizing and hypothesizing.  And why not?  It's fun to think about.  I have my own thoughts that I know not everyone will agree with, but I believe is founded on the Bible just as much as any other theory out there.

If you know me, you know that I believe to answer some of the deeper questions about life and the next you must go back to the beginning, before sin corrupted the world.  What was our original purpose?  What did life look like before sin, before death?  This life is what was intended for us.  If we look back at the beginning of Genesis, we see that God placed man on earth to work the land, shaping and forming it as an expression of creativity and love.  Our work was not toilsome, but joyous.  The garden was self watering.  The plants grew themselves and there were no weeds.  The weather was always favorable.  He depended on God for his provision and always trusted God in everything.  Our bodies were sturdy and strong.  Creation was not yet groaning under our sin.  All Adam and Eve had to do was enjoy creation.  We were placed here to interact with creation, each other, and with God.

The serpent tempted Eve with taking matters into her own hands; becoming independent of God; relying on herself for her own provision.  Adam stood by passively and watched it happen, and when Eve offered him the fruit of rebellion, he bit into it and partook of its juices.  What seemed sweet at first, suddenly had a very bitter aftertaste.  They brought death upon themselves for to rebell against God was to rebell against life itself.  Sin entered the world and all of creation was affected.

So, what does this mean for heaven?  The Bible tells us that the earth will be destroyed with fire and a new Jerusalem will descend upon the Old.  You can take "destruction" two different ways.  You can take it to mean, completely annihilated; wiped out of existence, or you can take it to mean everything on the earth is destroyed like the wheat is destroyed in separating the wheat from the chaff.  What is evil will be wiped away, but the creation itself will be resurrected.  Like in the resurrection of the believers: the old self in sin is destroyed but out of its ashes the new man in Christ is resurrected.  So too a new world will come out of the old.

The ground we walk upon will be put through the refiner's fire to be made new.  All of creation will be made new without sin.  The lion and the lamb will lie down together.  God will restore us so we will be able to fully depend and trust in Him again.

Now, this is where my personal selfish desires come into play here.  I would like to imagine that in the restoration of creation, all of God's creation is resurrected.  This includes animals that have since went extinct or are in danger of extinction.  If you know me, then you know my biggest desire is to see tigers thrive under God's new creation.  I desire that I may wrestle and play with tigers, lay beside tigers to rest, and live along side of them in absolute harmony.  Now, will this be true?  I have no idea and I believe this is something we cannot know until we are there.  But none the less it is fun to dream about. And even though we cannot know, it is still pleasing to know that no matter what heaven is like, I know that is where I am going and I know that I will be so filled with joy that it won't matter what is there and what isn't.

Time Flies

When I step back and realize that my first year at the seminary is almost half over, I have to stand back in amazement.  That means I'm almost a quarter of the way to vicarage, and an 8th of the way through seminary.  Those longer time spans don't seem as daunting at first, but the pace at which this feels like it's going by, it will be here before I'm ready.  The future is coming and it both excites and scares me.  So, for now I will content myself with my current classes.  I have two of three papers done for this week.  That leaves one more to write by Thursday.  Then the weekend; then another week and more papers due.  That's manageable.

December 3, 2012

Institutional Module

At the Seminary as part of our fieldwork experience we have what we call "modules."  There is both an institutional module and a cross-culture module.  For the winter quarter I will be doing my institutional module at Lutheran Senior Services.  To be honest, this was my last choice out of all of our options, but being later on in the alphabet I didn't have much choice.  Right now though, I'm thankful for that.

On Sunday, I went for the first time to Meramac Bluffs, my assigned location.  I was only to observe worship so I sat next to a resident and struck up a conversation.  I really enjoyed myself and the worship was good.  After service I talked to my supervisor he told me that it is going to be really relaxed.  My only requirements are to show up on communion Sundays to help with worship and for the rest of my hours I can do whatever I want.  So, after more talking, I decided that on Tuesdays I am going to show up around dinner time to just walk around and have dinner with the residents.

I'm looking forward to all of the stories I will get to hear and the people I will get to know and learn to love.  I know this is something that is going to stretch me and put me in situations that I won't be comfortable in, but I pray that God helps me to love all of his people through this experience.