Today I Saw God
Sometimes we have a clear understanding of what Jesus wants us to do. When the disciples asked Jesus, "Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover meal?" Jesus was very specific, head into town, find a man carrying water and follow him. Then say to the owner of the house he enters, "The Teacher asks: where is my the guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples." Jesus said the owner will show you a large upper room furnished and ready. The disciples did exactly what Jesus told them to do and they found things just as Jesus had said. (Mark 14:12-15)
Other times, we have the sense that God is up to something and it's not as clear. I imagine that the owner of the house might have felt like this. The Bible tells us that the owner had the large upper room in his house furnished and ready, this makes me think he was expecting company. But I wonder, did he know who his company would be? How long had he been waiting to welcome his guests? Were there times during the wait that he became discouraged, wondering if they would ever arrive? Did he ever doubt the need to prepare the room? Who told the owner to prepare the room?
I think in the owner, we see someone who was responding to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. I wonder if maybe he just had "the feeling" or "sensed" that he needed to have the room ready. It's hard to be the owner. You don't have the same clarity as when you get a clear instruction from Jesus. But the owner is just as obedient as the disciples, maybe even more so. In preparing the room the owner welcomes Jesus Christ into his house.
Since October, a group of us have been preparing for recent college graduates to join us on an adventure called the Wesley Fellows. Like the disciples who followed the man with the water, these young people have spent time in prayer and discernment and are embarking on a journey that they feel called to be on. They have a vision and mission. Like the owner of the upper room, we have host families who have been prompted to share their homes, mentors who have agreed to walk beside these young people and employers willing to give them jobs. Like the owner, the details aren't clear, but the need to respond to a request to be part of this adventure is clear.
It is an exciting time for all of us. These next nine months we will journey together. Just like the owner of the upper room we will experience Christ in our midst and we will learn and grow together as we extend Christian hospitality to our Wesley Fellows. I can't wait to see what God is going to do with this first cohort of Wesley Fellows!
I was in second grade when the Disney version of "Beauty and the Beast" debuted in theaters. It was also shortly after this time when a girl in gymnastics class told me I was ugly. A more self-esteemed girl might have coughed up a nasty comeback, but I found myself paralyzed with this new truth. Up until then, I was fairly oblivious, but it was at this time that I realized that there was an appropriate way to look, and I was not it. A slew of Disney films in my childhood only solidified this new worldview. As I recapped my favorite movies"Sleeping Beauty," "Cinderella," "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast"I realized that the epitome of womanhood was to be beautiful and loved by a man. Unfortunately as I looked in the mirror, I didn't see myself in any of these beloved images, and I realized that I might just not be pretty.
As a thirty-two year old woman, this is the moment when I am supposed to tell you how much I've grown since then. How I realized that there are so many parts of me that are beautiful and God wouldn't want me any other way. However, if I said that, I would be lying to you, because the truth is I'm not there yet. Instead, I'm going to say the thing that some women think, but we aren't supposed to say out loud after a certain age.
I don't like the way I look.
This is when many people rush in to give some sort of quick gushing compliment, as they assume my statement is a passive aggressive attempt at gaining attention and flattery. Nope. Not the case. It's simply my dirty inner secret. If you were to ask me what is beautiful about my physical appearance, I would probably stare blankly at you then quickly devise a joke to change the subject. Yet if you asked what I would like to improve about my physical appearance, I could easily list at least ten unsavory attributes in less than thirty seconds.
Before you all start rushing to find a therapist for me (don't worry, I have one), be assured that as it turns out, God is starting to work on me in this area a little bit. Recently I was asked to complete a project as part of a group I'm participating in. We were focusing on self worth, which is a surprisingly easy topic for me to preach to others or teach to the fifth and sixth grade girls I used to teach. "All of you are beautiful!" "Look at your gorgeous eyes!" "Girl, be proud of yourself let your light shine!" However, in a clever and evil twist, we were forced to examine our own self worth.
I decided to cheat and write it as a song. As I sat down with my guitar to write about my self worth (insert gagging noises), I strummed aimlessly for a few minutes, got up to pluck my eyebrows, came back, remembered that plant I never watered, then decided I should probably vacuum my pillows. After organizing my refrigerator, I finally ran out of distractions and returned to the empty pages. Why was this so hard? I realized that it was almost impossible for me to speak kindly to myself about how worthy I am because my self-talk is littered with repulsion and negativity. This is great for self-deprecating humor and entertaining the masses, but kind of terrible for self-esteem.
Luckily I remembered that there's this book that God uses to say nice things to us every once in a while, so I pulled out my laptop to Google Bible verses about self-worth. Lo and behold, there was Psalm 139 the Psalm that has been haunting me through various venues, devotions and sermons over the last six months.
"I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made
Wonderful are your works;
My soul knows it very well
My frame was not hidden from you,
When I was being made in secret,
Intricately woven in the depths of the earth."
Boom. There it is. Thank you, King David, for giving me a hook for my new song. I realized that last line was begging for a melody. Finally I had a starting point and I weaved lines into verses, a chorus from the hook, and even settled on a decent bridge. However, I realized God kept pushing me to change a line that I did not want to. I argued, erased, rewrote, possibly rolled my eyes. Finally I relented and finalized my new chorus.
"Intricately woven in the depths of the Earth
I've adorned you with beauty and worth
Stop trying to hide who you are
Your shine is designed to exceed the stars."
God, let's be reasonable. I cannot sing that. Seriously, the whole line about beauty is justtoo much. It feels so wrong coming from me. "Your shine is designed to exceed the stars?" How egotistical is that? I kept trying to change it back to my original words, but God has this nagging habit of getting his way.
The unfortunate reality in writing this as a song is that it came with a melody, which then got stuck in my head. I found myself singing these phrases over and over to myself. Occasionally, it would even sneak its way in while I was busy criticizing myself over my appearance or a mistake I made. Over time, I realized this song was a gift for me from the Big Guy in an attempt to begin the process of healing.
If you are like me and you don't love your reflection, I hope that you will be a little kinder to yourself than I have been for the past thirty years. I have some ideas for you this coming month.
- Try to imagine what God would say to you. About how beautiful, delicate and awesome you are. Or if you're simply more programmed to respond to critical self-talk, imagine what God would say about you talking trash about one of God's fearfully and wonderfully made creations. "Not cool," God would say with a little tsk tsk.
- Each day for a month, look in the mirror and name something out loud that you like about yourself. It can be a physical characteristic, character trait or spiritual gift. However, make sure it's a different something each day.
- Research Bible verses on self worth and write your favorite on a sticky note. Slap that bad boy on your mirror so you see it each morning when you drag your slobbery morning self in to brush your teeth.
Sadly even after my song experience, I still don't quite see myself as pretty. However, the beauty of this crazy Christian life of sanctification is that I know someday I will. I'm going to personally try all three of these things for the next month and sing my little song to myself each day. This song will repeat until I scream, then God will replace it with a new song or affirmation. Then that will continue until eventually one day I look in the mirror and start to believe that maybe I am a beauty underneath this beastly low self-esteem.
Editor's Note: Last week 16 middle school students and fiveleaders traveled to Romney, West Virginia to participate in theJeremiah Project. The following is a blog post from one of the students on the trip, Charlie Miller.
It was my first year on a mission trip as well as my first year at Jeremiah Project (JP), and I wasn't sure what to expect. But as soon as I got there I was glad because the minute I entered everyone was so friendly and cheerful, including the staff. Oh, and JP has amazing food.
They divided us into teams for the work projects we were to do each day. The team I was placed in had only one other person from our church (our leader, Scott), but our team actually got along great!
One of our homeowners was Mrs. Hose. She told us that she had died twice and that dying was peaceful. She said that now she wasn't afraid to die and go back to God.
While we were working, she brought us some Cokes. When we were finished with the steps and she came out to check our work, the look of joy on her face made building those steps worth the while.
Editor's Note: Last week 16 middle school students and fiveleaders traveled to Romney, West Virginia to participate in theJeremiah Project. The following is a blog post from one of the students on the trip, Sydney Schneider.
During the mission trip there were plenty of sermons, but one sermon really stood out and helped me grow in faith with God. The key word in worship that day was "love," and the verse was 1 Peter 1:22.
The verse states, "Since you have purified your souls by obedience to the truth, so that you have a genuine love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from a pure heart." Summarized, this verse says to love others with all your heart.
Throughout worship, we got to acknowledge all the people in our life who have impacted us. We learned that by loving others with our whole heart, we can have a big impact on them.
I really felt a connection with God when we were told to write the names of everyone who has impacted us on a little black piece of paper cut into the silhouette of a face. As I was writing all the names of friends and family while reflecting upon all that was said in worship, I realized just how much love is in my life. I could feel the presence of God with me. Thanks to the Jeremiah Project, my faith and trust in God has grown tremendously.
On the second day after my mother-in-law arrived from Bulgaria, she gave me a ring. When I asked my husband to translate from Bulgarian to Spanish, he confirmed what I suspected: the ring belonged to my mother-in-law's grandmother and was passed down in the family from generation to generation. She gave it to me because I'm the wife of her only son, and she wanted me to always have it.
For me, it meant a lot. I had only met her a few hours earlier. It was a very tender gesture on her part to give me the ring right away.
A few weeks later, I traveled to Pennsylvania for my nephew's graduation. After we arrived, we went to the mall with my sister and my nephew's friend. We entered a shop and saw a very interesting ring shaped like a cross. I decided to try it on. I removed the ring my mother-in-law had given me and put it halfway on another finger for safekeeping. After trying on the cross ring, we went back to the hotel.
That night, I went to bed early, and we were very busy the next day. We attended the graduation, followed by a reception. That night, I realized I didn't have my mother-in-law's ring on my hand. I was frantic! My sisters helped me look for the ring in my purse, in my suitcase, everywhere. But we couldn't find it. Then one of my sisters reminded me that I was trying on rings at the store the day before. Immediately, I called the store, but it was late and nobody answered.
The next day before returning to Virginia, we decided to go to the store. I had been praying to the Lord about my lost ring. It was not the financial value but the sentimental value that was important to me.
I prayed, "Mighty God, owner of everything in the world, I know that for you what I ask is not difficult. Perhaps in the eyes of men, it would be like trying to find a needle in a haystack, but for you, it is possible, because your word says that even our hairs are numbered, and I believe so. Father, you also say that we should be thankful when we request something. At this moment, I thank you in advance because you will find that ring, and I can wear it again. Thank you, Father, because in you I put my trust andyou are my Lord who can do anything. Amen."
My sister saw how hard I was praying in the car, asking with all the strength of my heart and with conviction that I would receive a response from God.
When we arrived at the store, my sister went to the first employee she saw and asked if they had found a ring two days earlier. We were sure the ring was lost there.I asked a young man who worked there. He checked the drawer and said that no, they had not found anything but that he would call his manager.
When the manager arrived, he asked me several questions about the ring. I described it: gold and like an antique. He said that he was sorry but they hadn't found anything.
While I was talking to the manager, my sister and nephew's friend approached the ring section. They lifted one ring and asked me if it could be my ring. When I looked, it was my ring! It had a price tag of $3.50. I ran to grab it. I hugged and kissed my sister and friend and said, "I serve the Lord who is God who makes the impossible possible."
The manager cut off the price tag and gave me the ring. As happy as I was when I found the ring, it was a joyful time for God also.
Thanking God who hears prayers of faith and conviction is what I always do. God answers you.
And I was glad to get this beautiful antique ring back. Our Heavenly Father has joy when you come back to him, because for him, we are precious and valuable jewels.