Mike&Sarah

Tag Archive: worship

Point of Surrender

I was grumpy.  And not just because it was an early morning prayer meeting and I had to trudge my way across campus to be there.  I was a student leader in Cru, and in other groups on campus and I really liked leading and serving.  But… I was grumpy, and had been for a while.

After the prayer meeting I started shuffling off to the student union to kill time before my first class when a guy asked me a question.  I don’t remember what he asked, or how long we talked.  But I remember what he said: “Sometimes you have to put your hands in the air and talk to God out loud.”

photo by flickr user My Yoga Online

Why do people raise their hands in worship? What is it about that posture?  Surrender is about submitting to someone else’s authority, about laying down your weapons and entrusting yourself to the power, control and (hopefully) good care of someone stronger.

I surrendered to Jesus, entrusting myself to His good care, when I committed my life to Him.  But because I’m human, I have to surrender repeatedly, as in, every time I pick up my weapons of self-protection, self-promotion, and self-preservation.  Sometimes I spiritually surrender to Jesus several times a day.

Somewhere along the way of serving and leading and organizing, of doing all this good stuff for God, I forgot God, and it became about me. I started with a heart of love and gratitude for Jesus. But after awhile, instead of feeling free, I felt obligated and like I was jumping through hoops, which soon became this twisted thing about performing for God. I wanted affirmation, encouragement and praise from others.  I felt like I deserved it, and like God owed me something for all of my good, hard work.  So, yeah, I was grumpy.  To put it mildly.

After that guy left, I scoffed at the idea of putting my hands in the air, hands which felt heavy like lead by my side.  I whispered “Jesus” out loud, quickly looking around to see if anyone had heard me.  Why was it so hard to put my hands in the air and talk to God? The idea was ridiculous.  And the action seemed impossible. But I did it.  And soon I had my hands in the air like a tween at a One Direction concert.  And my grumpiness left.  I just needed to surrender to God again.  Physically, this time.

I admit this to be completely honest: That encounter was about 20 years ago and to this day, I’ve never seen that guy again.  I wonder if he was an angel.  He certainly was a messenger from God.

For Reflection

  • How have you picked up weapons of self-protection, self-promotion and/or self-preservation?
  • What parts of your life need to be surrendered again?
  • What would happen if you raised your arms physically, and not just spiritually, to God?

Stay in Step with the Spirit

Think back on a recent struggle.  What helped you remain full of faith? How did you know you were walking in the middle of God’s will when circumstances were hard?

Douglass1

Steve Douglass, Cru Global President

Steve Douglass (right), Cru Global President, challenged us while in Ft. Collins, CO, for Cru’s biennial US Staff Conference, to reflect on the previous two years of life and ministry through an Ephesians grid.  His encouragement to us is a classic Christian truth: walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. 

But how do you do that when life is confusing, challenging, dull, and/or overwhelming? What about when others are promoted or achieve milestones you aren’t able to?  Douglass said Ephesians offers a metric for keeping in step with the Spirit:  Are you still rejoicing, still thanking and still submitting?

Sometimes I (Sarah) think I’m rejoicing, thanking and submitting to God but not  to other people. But if I’m not rejoicing in and celebrating others’ successes, if I withhold my gratitude to others (including to Mike) and if I criticize people, then how am I living out Christ-like character?  Where am I outwardly exhibiting spiritual maturity and transformation? And to that point, if inner transformation isn’t worked outwardly, is it really transformation?

As we kick off another fall in New York, will you pray for me? I want to remain full of joy, thankfulness and submission to the Lord and other people.  I want to joyfully and obediently follow God, even when it means following God down unexpected pathways.

Restoration

It seems like God called us to live our life out loud, encouraging others from the circumstances and events that challenge us to love and trust Him more deeply.

Sarah shared our experience of God’s overwhelming grace through infertility, our miscarriage and adopting Phoebe at a Cru Campus Christmas conference in Baltimore before New Years Eve, and we were surprised by how our message of restoration resonated with the 1000 students and staff in the room.  Sarah talked about brokenness, living in “the now and the not yet,” and looking to Jesus as our ultimate healer.

RADIATE 2012 – Sarah Evers from Mid-Atlantic Cru on Vimeo.

Your prayers and giving enable us to tell people in New York City and around the world how Jesus restores and transforms lives. Thank you for your partnership.

WHO not WHAT: Resolutions 2012

It’s the beginning of January 2012, so I suppose I ought to write about resolutions, fresh starts and all that.  But I don’t feel like it.  I did that last year.

Rather than exploring my yearnings for a svelte figure or organized and clutter-free living, I’d rather write about WHO I hope to be in 2012 rather than WHAT I want to do. I’m back at the be vs. do challenge around which my life often circles.

Who do I want to be this year? Me, but a growing version of me: ever learning, exploring and creating.

I want to walk in greater avenues of humility with a tender heart, asking for forgiveness, and offering it without being asked.

I want to be a woman who doesn’t hold grudges, nor thinks more highly of herself than she does of others.

I want to be a woman who says “yes,” to new friends, experiences, challenges and opportunities.

I want be a woman who doesn’t “should” on herself: I want to cease making oppressive, unrealistic expectations for my character, behavior, appearance, accomplishments, and anecdotes.

I want to be a woman who lives in the freedom of grace and extends it to others.  I want to be a woman who gives herself and others room to breathe.

It sounds like this is my 2012 manifesto.  As with the resolutions regarding behavior changes, this manifesto of ME development will need accountability, action steps and goals which are broken into achievable tasks.

Did I just turned my WHO into a WHAT resolution?  Maybe that’s just part of who I am.

Small Steps to the Homeless Shelter

The roasted vegetables smelled really good.  I’d been standing behind the serving counter for an hour picking up clean plates from my left, scooping out a generous spoonful of those veggies and passing the plate to the person on my right who filled the rest of the plate with spaghetti.  It smelled really good.  I was hungry.

He was hungry.  His back was slightly bent.  He hadn’t shaved for a while.  It was a cold day, but he didn’t have a warm coat on.  He came to the homeless shelter at the same time everyday, and stood in the same line which wound around the building.  He was a regular, and he knew that hungry men like himself were allowed into the dining room in shifts so that there was room for everyone to sit down in a warm place to eat.

I was hungry.  He was hungry. But I wasn’t as hungry as he was.  Looking him in the eye, I acknowledged his dignity and greeted him with a smile and an overflowing plate of roasted vegetables and spaghetti.

There’s something good about serving alongside your staff and students when you aren’t wearing the hat of leader or director.  It puts everyone on an even level and let’s face it, there’s something about looking hungry people in the eye and handing them something hot to eat that removes any sense of hubris.

Wikipedia, that vast bastion of ever evolving information, says, “Volunteerism is the act of selflessly giving your life to something you believe free of pay.”

at the Rescue Mission

I agree, but I’d also add that when campus ministers and ministry leaders put our love in action by serving alongside of our students, we demonstrate the Gospel in a deeper way.  With over 300 verses in the Bible about the poor, social justice, and God’s concern for both, putting my faith in action seems like a reasonable act of worship.

For years I’ve thought about volunteering on a regular basis.  I had a roommate four years ago who spent one night a week in a local soup kitchen.  I didn’t even know that our small city had a soup kitchen.  As I watched her go week after week, I thought about how she put her faith in action so well.  I put my faith in words very well, but I felt a great divide between my words and deeds.  I justified my lack of intentional effort to serve others by my full time ministry role (unpredictable hours, seasons of craziness, I’m already trying to meet the spiritual needs of so many), but lots of people experience similar work stresses and still find time to help people.

This fall I’ve volunteered at a homeless shelter and a warehouse with supplies for the underprivileged.  Yes, it takes a bit of time to get there, and I have to say “no” to other great opportunities to keep those time slots open.  But those few hours spent serving people in need (people in REAL need) while connecting with my students have given me some sweet gifts and insights.  I walk away so grateful for how faithfully God has provided for me.  I walk away with a full heart of worship, having had my heart touched by compassion.  I walk away knowing that someone else’s hard life was made just a little sweeter because of those few hours.  I walk away with a greater appreciation for the decisions my students make to be there every month, and I get to know my students in a different context.

What’s the next step? I want to model servant leadership by helping “the least of these” without an agenda to advance my own purposes.  For me, it’s to commit to a monthly time to serve at the homeless shelter.  I’d like to make it weekly like my former roommate, but I’ll start with small steps.

What about you?

Earlier that first volunteer day I almost backed out of going to the homeless shelter.  “I’m just so tired,” I thought as the time flashed up that strange greenish color on the microwave clock.  I didn’t know if I had the energy to make the subway trek down to the Bowery Mission.  Enough of our students said they wanted to volunteer at the soup kitchen to serve meals to homeless men that I didn’t think it would make a difference if I showed up.

But it did.  It made a big difference.  To him, to my students, and to me.

 

originally posted on the CruPressGreen Campus Ministry Blog on 15 December 2011

Precious

“What is so precious to you that you can’t trust God with it?”

It was 1999. Or 2000. Charmaine posed this question at the start of the women’s Bible study I attended in Florida.

Just going to that Bible study felt like a big step. The other women were leaders in the ministry. I had heard about the Bible study, heard whisperings about it, but didn’t know if I was invited to go. I wanted to go. I wanted to be included. I wanted to be known. But I didn’t get a personal invitation to join the extended lunch every other week. I don’t know if anyone else had what I would deem a personal invitation, but I felt left out, ignored, unwanted. Thankfully, somehow, miraculously, I found courage. Rather than remaining moody, injured and resenting the very women I revered and admired, I asked. I asked about the group, and if I could come. And they said yes, heartily. One gal assumed I was already planning to go. Turns out I was wanted and I wasn’t left out.

Because I found my voice, I found myself sittingin a group of role-model women with all my longings and desires, and was asked to give voice to those dear dreams, if only to admit them to myself and to the God who already knew my heart.

That question has haunted me for more than ten years, following me through different countries, different jobs, different life stages. It prompts even more questions, like, “Why is that precious?” “What is the character of God?” “Why do I fear Him, or refuse to be honest with Him?” “Why can’t I entrust myself to God?” “Do I really think I am responsible for God’s reputation?” “Can God handle my disappointment?”. “What does it say about my faith (and about my God) if I never achieve/experience/get what I really long for?”

That more than ten year old question is surfacing again. Today. As I wrestle with my longings, with what I think I am “supposed” to long for, and with what I fear longing for, I wonder what I want. Honestly. What is in my heart today? Where have I allowed daily living to dull my dreams? Where have I settled into a comfortable numbness with responsibilities, laundry, dinner, and dreary complexity edging out passion, daring, and hope? Am I willing to risk? Or is the price of risk and the fear of failure too great? Will I live a “whatever” life today? Or will I hope for redemption, reconciliation, purpose, meaning, significance, even in the midst of my every day life?

What about you? As you read this, are your heart and mind stirred? Do you roll your eyes? If so, why? Is the eye-roll motivated by fear, pride, arrogance, indifference or something else? It is possible to categorically dismiss what I’m expressing because you think we are wired differently. Or, on the other hand, when you read these words, maybe you are challenged, encouraged, inspired. Either way, what will you do?

I know what I will do. I’ll be honest about my longings. At least I will today. So I ask you, What is so precious to you that you can’t trust God with it?

Constant Conversation

While riding the F subway home last night, I read the evening devotional from Charles Spurgeon’s classic devotional Morning and Evening. One of my dear friends, Beth, sent it to me a few years ago, and I recently downloaded it for FREE on the Kindle app for my iPad. (Did you know that there are a TON of FREE books for the Kindle and for the iPad Kindle app? I’m reading all kinds of classics on the train! Thanks Amazon!)

I stumbled over this last line from the January 12 reading:

[Silent] children are an affliction to their parents. Lord, unloose all Thy children’s tongues.    – Charles Spurgeon

That got me thinking, reflecting, and meditating as the train arrived at my subway stop and I filed out of the train into the old station. Climbing the stairs and thinking about this quote, I emerged from underground and discovered a crisp, beautiful, snow-covered world. Few people were out at our normally busy intersection where Prospect Park meets Park Slope and Windsor Terrace.

I walked by the movie theatre and thought about parenting. I’m not a parent, but one friend shared with me how difficult it is for her to get her daughter to open up to talk about her day. Another friend confided to a group of us that his son is silent and full of anger, making the home reverberate with tension when he returns from school.

These parents long to talk with their children. They want to hear from them, listen to stories, share memories, interact together and build a relationship. But their children are silent. These children offer very little by way of communication.

Writing “communication” brings to mind words like “community,” “communion,” “unity.” What wonderful longings we have! And how hard for these parents to feel so separated from their children; the children they love, provide for and protect.

Then I began to understand what Spurgeon was saying. How like a silent, morose child I have been when I rush through or forget to pray! What delight it must bring my Heavenly Father when I talk with Him throughout the day, sharing insights, hurts, embarrassments, observations, and asking questions and for forgiveness! The communion, the unity, the community with God comes from our communication with Him!

Now verses like Ephesians 6.18, Luke 18.1, Colossians 1.3, Colossians 4.2 and the more succinct 1 Thessalonians 5.17 “pray without ceasing,” seem like encouragement from a loving parent to communicate about even the mundane in life, and certainly the big issues.

Yes Lord, unloose all thy children’s tongues!

Love & Worship

“…worship is a product of love.”

When I read those words during breakfast, something rang true within me.  Two pages later, my mind was still ruminating on those six little words at the end of a sentence, in the beginning of a paragraph.  I can’t tell you what else was written, though.  I didn’t take anything else in.

So I pulled out my journal.  I wrote and prayed.  And after a page or two, didn’t seem to be any further along.  Worship is a product of love.

First comes love, then comes worship. I adapted that phrase to a silly children’s rhyme.  So, if our hearts worship that which we love, then we should be able to identify our God (or gods) by the things/people/events we center our lives upon, our conversation topics, the thoughts that run through our heads… right?

Or, another take on it, worship flows freely from a heart that loves.  But again, what do I love?  How do people know what I love?  I’m evangelistic about the things I love.  If I’ve discovered a book or a recipe that I love, I tell everyone!  I love to talk about Mike.

Hm.. there’s something deeper to discover here.  I just know it.  Lord, open my eyes.  Show me the truth.  Teach me about my heart.  Give me insight into that which I worship.