Sunday, October 6, 2013

My Home Away From Home

The question most asked by people at home was, "Do you know what church you will go to?"

Well, after going to 6 churches (including one from project last summer), I found my new church!

My heart for finding a church in Orlando was not necessarily to find a church that catered to my needs, but I wanted to find a place that preached Jesus, that convicted me and reminded me of how great our God is. I wanted a place that would challenge me and allow me space to grow.

With that in mind I tried many different places around Orlando, some close by, some 30 minutes away. I knew distance would not deter me. Initially I really hoped I could find a place with some fellow interns so that I felt a sense of comfort in knowing at least one other person in the church.

Initially I only went to churches that fellow interns went. From a super hipster church on Sunday nights to a church directly across from Cru Headquarters, I even went to the church the current President of Cru goes to, but I never felt a peace about the place I was going to. The churches didn't speak falsely or muddle doctrine, I just found little things quickly in the service that helped me know this was not the right church.

I really tried to not be picky about the church, because every church has flaws, and who am I to make sure a church tailors to my needs? I kept praying and hoping that the next church would just leave me with a sense that this is the church I need to go to.

After 4  churches I decided to go back to the church I loved so much last summer. It was by far the farthest distance wise, 35 minutes. And I went, saw my old project director, had lunch with his family. And really enjoyed it, by far it was the top choice.

But the week before I had talked with a close friend and she mentioned that she had heard a pastor at the last Cru Day of Prayer in the spring that was phenomenal and she believed was the senior pastor at a Presbyterian church. Also Vonette Bright, the co-founder of Cru with her husband, went to this church.

I went online to see which Presbyterian denomination it was affiliated, and found that is had been PCUSA (Presbyterian Church USA) until 2012 when they decided to be EPC (Evangelical Presbyterian Church). I had no clue the differences, but it did have a female pastor on staff and that appealed to me.

I decided to go to Frist Presbyterian Orlando and if this didn't work out I would end up going to Grace Church (the one I went to on project).

I was nervous because this was the first church I was going to by myself and where I honestly knew no one. I studied everything online to make sure I knew which parking garage I could park in, which church to walk into and what time the contemporary service was. It was in downtown Orlando so the travel wasn't too bad, only 20 minutes with only 4 tolls.

After being guided to the right building (yes, there are multiple buildings this church owns along with the parking garage) even though I sat by mysef, I immediately knew, this is the church I was called to. The pastor had not even preached and I knew, this is my new church home. Suffice it to say that the sermon was convicting, I happen to go the first week they were starting a series called Barefoot Church, learning how to be a disciple of Jesus when our culture calls us to look inward not outward. That Sunday they also were offering a chance after the sermon to leaarn more about FPC and learn different ways to get involved. The Lord was allowing me an opportunity to get a full picture of what this church was about in one Sunday. What a blessing!

I have gone a few Sundays at different service times to figure out if I am still convicted and challenged and I have every time. It mixes my doctrine perfectly. I have learned I am a middle of the road person not only in doctrine, but politically, pretty much every way possible. I determine a church not really by the denomination, but by the people that make up that church. EPC values women leadership in the church (and with a sister in seminary I really feel God can call women to be pastors) but it also focuses on telling people about Jesus and focusing more on the gospel and how we need it as Christians daily and how we need to share this to others. That is all that matters to me, not the "secondary doctrine" of matters that are political or not, I just know I am a sinner and I need a church to remind me not only of that, but that there is a God who wants me and values me and that I need to walk like Jesus.

I am pretty sure there are people at FPC Orlando that don't have the same doctriine, but they all love Jesus, they want to focus on Jesus, and they want to share Jesus with those in the world. And right now that is what I need.

Thank you for prayers, the Lord has answered them and given me a beautiful place to be challenged, to think, to love, and to go out and be a disciple in the world. I am excited to not only go to church at FPC, but to find opportunities in the next few weeks to get involved in various ways and become a part of this body of Christ.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Voices in My Head (My internal conversations with God as of late)

Do you believe the Gospel?

Do you believe that God loves us so much he wants a personal relationship with you. Do you believe that you mess up and make mistakes even when you try to "do better"? Do you believe that Jesus came to the earth to die for your mistakes so the gates of God's love can open up and flood you with grace and love? Do you believe you must decide to turn from your mistakes and trust that God will provide everything? 

I personally have been asking myself these questions again and again. Do I believe the Gospel is real? Do I believe that if I take a step of faith God will be there? I answer yes!!! A thousand times yes! My heart continually yearns to believe God and give all my burdens to him.

But thinking/feeling and doing are very different things.

If someone asks me to share the gospel with anyone, I freeze up. I choke. I can't do it.

Why?

What if the person is insulted? What if they are angry and don't want to listen? What if they reject me? I don't think I can handle people thinking "that way" about me.

Do you believe the gospel?

Yes Lord I believe, but there are so many things in the way!

Then do you really believe the Gospel?

What?

If you believe the Gospel Elise, then you believe I am supreme. I am GOD! I orchestrate life itself, I can bring people to me without you, but I invite you into this beautiful process. I call my children to take the step of faith to share how I have impacted their lives. Have I impacted your life Elise?

Well yeah, you are everything to me. Without knowing you, I would be spiraling in darkness and feeling hopeless, worthless, unloved and hated. I am capable of such evil and only by knowing you can I understand light, my darkness is the absence of light, of you.You saved me and have changed my life in such beautiful ways. I no longer feel angry, I don't feel isolated. Because of you, I love people, I love getting to know people, to hear their stories. I don't try to prove myself to everyone, I can allow myself to make mistakes. Only by understanding You have I been able to forgive myself for mistakes.

Why would you hide this truth Elise? Why live for yourself when you have given your life to me? It is tiring you, this tug of war, let my Spirit thrive in you. By trying to hide this gift and truth you are lost, you are just stagnant. Trust me, you trusted me with your filth, trust me with your blessings.

If I truly believe the Gospel, I have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Would I honestly have wanted people to just be nice to me, knowing I was hurt and messed up, and just watch me wander around feeling hopeless and never tell me "Hey, I know of a God who can take that hurt away."

NO!

If someone hadn't pointed me to Jesus and said "This man died for you, and he loves you, he knows your mistakes and still loves you;" I never would have found that on my own. Because I would be wallowing in my own misery! I am pretty good at over-analyzing myself, I can pity myself better than anyone else can. I needed someone to come up beside me  and share with me how God impacted their life, and that I too could open up my life to God.


So Elise, I ask if you believe the Gospel, make it the center of your life. You can't walk this life alone, you can't hide this light, this joy in your heart. I created you to be in community, and to share this light. I bring people into your life in order for you to share this light with them just as someone shared the light and Truth with you. I ask one thing of my beloved children, that is to go make disciples of all nations.

That means talking to people, so see them as I see them, lost children. I need you to step out in faith and get to know them. To share the Gospel with them in actions, words, life. Don't hide me, because that only hurts you in the end. Don't look back on life with regret, because not sharing the Gospel with people only ends in heartbreak for both of you. I bring joy, so share my joy.

If you believe the Gospel, go make disciples, go plant seeds. Go and trust me, because I love you too dearly to let you fall. The Gospel is bigger than you, you are a part of a beautiful story if you let me guide it. Sorry, you aren't the center of the story child, I am. So you can step into the story and go on an adventure, or I can find someone else. But I want you in the story, so just trust me to be the author of your life. I love you, and I want you to share that love with others, because they need it just as much as you do.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

I Think I'm Gonna Like it Here

This post is later than I planned, so it will be jam packed with lots of details and stories of what has occurred since moving here on Aug. 16th!

My dad and I drove from Texas to Florida breaking the trip in two days. I was moved in the 16th (I was the very first intern at the apartments so I got all of the moving hands as well as first pick of my bedroom!) and the others moved in throughout the day. Dad stayed until Saturday morning and headed back to Texas so I was left to bond with roommates, finish up unpacking my room, and start this new adventure!

The first week consisted of activities such as YearOne dinner, a 4 day retreat, as well as days of relaxing in between to process and just hang out with the interns. I met many of the interns in February when we all flew down to HQ to see if we actually wanted to do YearOne. Praise the Lord we all connected really quickly and genuinely wanted to hang out with each other.

We went on a retreat from Monday to Thursday the first week upon arrival. We stayed in Kissimmee,  which is close to the Disney parks, in a gated resort in 2 houses. The interns stayed in one house (guys on the second floor, girls on the first) which was a terrific way to just be together and hang out all the time. We had information meetings, devotional, meals, and fun activities throughout the week. Throughout the fall/winter we are going to share our "life eggs" aka life stories within our team so Brandy and Mandy Pelton, the YearOne staff leaders, shared their stories with us on the retreat. It was so inspiring and humbling to hear the good, bad, and ugly of their stories and to see God's healing and grace in their lives. We also went to Fantasia mini golf (Disney Fantasia themed), Animal Kingdom resort to meet up with Cru Disney team, and as interns played Murder in the dark and Sardines at midnight. It honestly was so great to be together all the time early on because I was able to get to know individuals and to see the group dynamics.

We then had a few days rest and then went to church together Sunday night. We went to Antioch21 where one of the YearOne staffers goes and also a little known Cru-lebrity Steve Douglas. And by little known I mean Steve Douglas is the President of Campus Crusade for Christ and we happen to go to his church. It is a small very intentional community that at first glance I would not deem a "President of an international ministry" hot spot, but then again Jesus went to where the sinners and unloved so I need to rethink what "church" needs to mean. It was a beautiful community and it was fun to talk with Steve (He actually knows where Sherman, TX is!) and see where he worships regularly.

The following week (Aug. 26th) we got our FL drivers license on Monday. I was so on top of the game I had to do it twice (actually they got my address wrong so that is why I did it twice) but I got to keep my TX license (clipped, but I still have it!) Tuesday we went to HQ (also called Lake Hart so you might see me use both terms) and got a tour and had lunch with our bosses. My boss almost left for lunch without me, but luckily I know who he is so I could run out to the hall and inquire as to if I was attending said lunch and he was apologetic (it shall now be a running joke, my boss almost abandoned me!). Immediately I loved my department, the people are so loving and have fascinating backgrounds, the Lord has obviously been at work creating such a loving department to help recruit and send new staff members in the US, and I am beyond excited to work with them!

On Wednesday we had dessert at Erin's (a YearOne staff member) house as well as a devotional. It was great to again process through what everyone is feeling going into this internship and to have a group devotional focused on justification vs. forgiveness. The highlight of Wed. was at night when I suddenly had intense stomach cramping that left me unable to breathe which took me to the ER at midnight! I had just gotten off Skype with my parents and sister when I started to feel uncomfortable. It soon became difficult to breathe and I called me dad bc I know he had weird cramping when he had gallbladder problems. I didn't think through that I would sound like I was panicking and crying bc of my lack of ability to take a full breath. That likely scared my dad just a smidge which meant my mom would not sleep until this health problem was resolved.

If you have known me in the last 3 years you might know that I have had weird unknown health problems that come up in my life that are unexplainable for months on end. I had a fractured foot my freshman year which was misdiagnosed for 3 months, unknown stomach problems that turned into 4 ulcers in my esophagus which would found to be a result of acid reflux disease, so this present problem left me and my parents stressed about how soon we would know answers.

My roommates were blessedly awake when I started cramping so we (along with John, another intern) drove at 11 p.m. to Centra Care who quickly told us because I was having abdominal problems they suggest I go to the ER because they did not have the equipment to do a CT scan or ultrasound to look inside to see what the problem might me. Now I had been on the phone with my healthcare and the RN told me I should just go home and if there was still pain in 4 hours I should then go to the ER. I have never been to the ER so I was scared and nervous because I didn't want to go there if the problem was only gas, so upon conferring with my fellow interns I decided I probably should go to the ER to at least get answers, because if I just went home I wouldn't know what was wrong. As we are headed to the ER in Winter Park (a nicer suburb of Orlando and also a shorter wait time) my pain is subsiding and I start to worry that I am being driven around for nothing. We get to the ER and when I get into my little screened off "room" the pain is gone but I decide answers are needed. My friends were such a blessing, they kept me distracted, prayed for me, all the while they are freaked out by needles, the people also visiting the ER at 12 a.m. but they kept brave faces for me. The doctor comes in and somehow I mention I am interning with Cru and he is kind, intimidating, and appreciates the work I will be doing. I find out I have gallbadder "gravel" so not fully formed stones. This means I cannot eat fatty foods at night (which I really shouldn't be eating at all, let's be real) and also explains why I have had some stomach issues this summer. Praise the Lord this health problem in discovered quickly and with no questions to what the cause is!

So we return to the apartments at 1:45 a.m. and we have our first day of work at 9 a.m. Perfect! I woke up feeling better and while a little sleepy, beyond excited for finally getting to work at Lake Hart and learn about my job!

My first day of work is filled with a welcome breakfast by the Leadership & Development team (my department of Sending and Recruiting is under the L&D department), orientation by my department to understand the vision, lunch with my department, and more orientation! I struggled with some tiredness, but coffee from the coffee bar and excitement kept me going! Friday was slightly easier because I had a full night's rest. Friday was more meetings introducing us to the programs we will use as applicant liaisons and to start thinking of questions we might have from applicants.

Summary: I love my time in Orlando so far! The Lord has just provided blessing after blessing to myself and our group. There are obviously trials we will encounter, but we are preparing ourselves now and just enjoying the community God is gifting us with now.

I hope to try to blog at least every 2 weeks if not more frequently. Also I bought a Canon camera with graduation money before heading down so I will hopefully post beautiful pictures of the activities/places I am at so it will be less text and more visual art!

I am excited to share this journey with you all!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Turning Points

God is so good! No, as of right now I am not fully funded, but looking back on this summer of trials and lessons, I am so blessed God has taught me so much!

Sure, last night I might have been almost in tears thinking "God, I'm not going to make it, it just won't happen!" But at this time of season that is normal.

But today in worship I had a gut wrenching realization. I keep pleading with God, pleading He will bring in the last $800 in monthly commitments I need, pleading he will do it quickly, before Aug. 1st would be nice! Is that too much to ask?

This morning is the first time I really surrendered to the Lord. I do honestly hope I will reach my goal, I see God working. But I finally said "Lord, I will love you still if this money is not raised." After I said that, I felt such a release!

Sure, I keep reminding myself "God will love me if I don't raise this money. My salvation is not contingent on whether these funds come in." But I think God wanted me to learn to love Him deeply and not have it be contingent on my walk in life. God has put me through these trials this summer asking "Do you love me?" (I have a feeling I know what will happen once I say yes! Something along the lines of "Feed my sheep.")

God loves me, of this I am certain. But God is continually asking me to love Him. Not just when He answers my prayers, or helps me through a trial, but everyday. I don't often choose to love Him outside of circumstances. This summer is helping me see that I need to love God in the big moments as well as the small ones.

So if the rest of my support comes in the next 4 days I will have to give the glory to Him, because my measly work doesn't deserve the amount of love, prayers, support that has come in this summer. God has chosen each day to love me and love me fully, now it is my turn to choose to love Him no matter the cost, even if it means not going to Florida this next year.

I would love prayers for diligence and intentional time with the Lord these next few days as I see the days grow closer to my deadline I want to cling to Him and not panic and go crazy.

He is so good and faithful, this summer has been worth it simply for learning to love my God more deeply!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Differnt Kinds of Services

Every time I am in need of some truth, God just plants Scripture right in my lap.

I have been meeting with wonderful people whom I have looked up to all my life. But I keep hitting a personal wall, my internship next year is not the type of service people see as being a missionary.

Hmmmm, well I see myself as a missionary, but is that wrong? No I am not going to feed children in Africa, but I am going to mobilize missionaries to be on college campuses to share the Gospel with students. Is that wrong? Is there only one kind of service that we as Christians can give? Do we have to choose and put all of our time and energy into just one kind of service?

I have been mulling this over and struggling with this question in my soul. Then God just plops some amazing Scripture in my sight that speaks great truth and understanding for me.

1 Corinthians 12:4-6 "Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but the same God who empowers them all in everyone."

Such a beautiful verse! There are lots of different gifts, no two are alike, no one is better than the other. I definitely have struggled with not appreciating my gifts and wanting another person's gifts from time to time. Mine aren't bad, I just know mine too well along with all the things I do to mess up using those gifts. And while our gifts are different and the couplings of gifts for one person is even more unique, all of them come from the same Spirit. It is what binds us to others and allows to admire what gifts other people posses.

The next section is the balm to to soul during this season. There are varieties of service. There is no one right way to serve others. When I think more on service, the definition that comes into my mind is helping others with a need they have. Sometimes we go out of our way to help someone we know, or someone we don't know, if we see hurt, pain, sadness, anger, happiness even, if they have a need, we desire to help in some way. Sometimes it is food, sometimes it is clothing, what about a kind word? If I allow myself to expand my thought process, I realize that what I am doing next year is a service. People need Jesus, specifically we all crave love, pure selfless love. We will never find that in humanity, because we fail. I fail all the time to love my brother and sister and parents, and they are the dearest people I know! But God is love, he can give people that unselfish, intimate, giving love that we crave. How can I not tell and show others that? That is what my internship is all about this next year. It is focusing on one kind of service, words. Telling others about the love of Jesus and also showing them through a relationship. Sure I am working behind the scenes to be customer service for people applying to be on campus to also serve college students, but my job allows me to help send others out. Also I get to interact with students every Friday, so I get to show love and speak love into their lives. No one service is the best, they are all special and needed in this world, and they all come from the same Lord (Jesus).

The last section is really humbling for me. There are a variety of activities, but one God who empowers them all in everyone. So I can't just stand in my little corner doing the one activity I feel comfortable with doing. Or my one service or one gift in one place. No no no, God has equipped as all to do anything. That doesn't mean I have to try and do everything all the time. But God might call me to do something outside of my comfort zone. He might ask me to be silent in a conversation or to share the Gospel to someone. God has equipped me to do anything He might call me to do.

This Scripture just reminds me that 1) no one gift, activity, or service is the "right" choice, there are many different ways to love people. 2) Everything good comes from the Lord, from evangelism to serving the homeless. 3) He equips us, and finally 4) there is no "one" way to do anything because people are multidimensional and thus are spoken to in different ways. Jesus approached people in different ways, sometimes he directly told them "no one comes to the Father except through me" and sometimes he healed a man of leprosy because that is how he saw the Truth of God. My internship will use various gifts, various services, various activities that some people might not like or feel uncomfortable about, but there all come from God, I am doing this purely from love that Jesus has showered on me that I want to show to others.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

My Plans Piled Up Sky High

God is so good. During this season of finding ministry partners is the most difficult and also most beautiful season in my life. I think because there are huge walls I am stumbling into, I am also so much more humbled and clinging to His Truth all the more! The song that I keep listening to is "Strangely Dim" by Francesca Battistelli.

It is such a powerful song, "When I fix my eyes on all that you are, then every doubt I feel, deep in my heart grows strangely dim. All my worries fade, and fall to the ground, cause when I seek your face, and don't look around, any place I'm in, grows strangely dim."

Wow, when I am struggling in life, I usually just look inward, see the sin, and try to run away from myself. But when I cling to God, He purifies my soul and puts a balm over the wounds. Finding ministry partners is absolutely thrilling. I love every appointment simply because I get to learn new things about every person. They tell me stories, ask me deep questions and while I never know what to expect, I know God is in every situation and is guiding my footsteps in the conversation.

During this season I find myself trying to plan every little detail, from what I should do this week, to what I should do after my internship! I am making piles of plans and not just focusing on God. I have started a devotional called Jesus Calling and it has been the best devotional for this season. Continually it reminds me to cling to God, to just keep my eyes on Him,  because I will never know my future plans, unexpected trials will come, but God is here. He is always here. If I fix my eyes on Him, I will be at peace, because I don't need to plan my future, I need to cling to Jesus. If I desire joy, I have to grow closer to the provider of such joy, which is God. He gives me a spirit that yearns for the Living Water.

I remind myself this because I do not always find joy in my quiet time, or rather the thought of my quiet time. I put it to the side, forget to do it for a week, but when I go back to the Word, I am so excited and humbled. I can always learn something.

Another line from the song "I don't know, I don't know what tomorrow may hold. But I know, but I know, that you're holding it all. So no matter what may come,  I'm gonna fix my eyes on all that you are." I can't predict when God will provide all of my ministry partners, but I can enjoy every conversation, talk and Jesus to some amazing men and women, and just delight in the year ahead. All the while diving deeper into His Word. My plan for today? To just fall in love of Jesus more.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Over the Love of You

So I watched the Great Gatsby last Thursday night. I have only read half of the book, and know people consider it "The Great Novel" but I went to the movie (and it was with my roommies, the last outing we would have together before departing ways).

It was okay, I know the book is just 100Xs better, so I will take time to read it. The soundtrack is beautiful, but not in the movie, and I love Lana del Rey's song "Young and Beautiful" and Florence and the Machine's song "Over the Love" which are both in the trailer and really highlight the struggles in the movie. Last night and this morning when I was listening to the songs, I started to think about the characters, and while they are experiencing "first class problems" their struggles really can relate to anyone from any walk of life. (I am taking this from the movie mostly, it might be slightly different from the book.) I guess I should say SPOILERS in case I say something that is only in the movie and not in the book. I hope most of it is from the book as well.

George Wilson: He sees his life as complete (wife and small business) and does not look around at the people in his life, he is focused on keeping the life he has. When this life starts to crumble, he is going to move them to try again. He has a white picket fence image in his mind and he will do whatever it has to take to make sure this comes true. When it is taken from him, he finds someone to blame, yet he still doesn't see the whole picture.

Myrtle Wilson: She is searching for more, she wants nice things and a bigger white fence than her husband can give her. She is fine with doing whatever it takes to have everything. She is driven to despair when she is going to be removed from the life she has built up. She fights tooth and nail to get it back and looses everything in the end.

Jordan Baker: She is talented, beautiful, and famous, she sees nothing outside of her bubble unless she is directly put into the situation. She is content with what her life is, she desires no one to control her, but will orchestrate others lives to their fancies. She sees all but does not interfere even when she sees the train-wreck that is to come.

Tom Buchanan: He wants love, lust, fame, respect, multiple women, ultimately control. He wants control of everything he owns and desires. When he wants to know if Daisy loves him, it is really control, because if she loves him, he can control her. The scene in the Plaza Hotel is a power struggle between him and Gatsby (in his eyes) over Daisy. When everything is falling apart he finds a way to gain that control.

Nick Carraway: He is enthralled with the glamour he is seeing, but puts the front that he doesn't want it, yet he does. He is obsessed with the idea but will not push himself into the life afraid to loose it or to be rejected from it. When it all fades, he becomes mad and obsessed with Gatsby, seeing him as the pinnacle man, the most honest. He doesn't understand what truly destroyed them all, and his need for sanity and insight. He sees all the corruption and knows all of the secrets, but gives no advice or tries to give sense to the craziness ensuring, he just embraces it and continues.

Daisy Buchanan: She plays the ignorant fool throughout and while she might be bored with life, she is tossed to and fro between the craziness of the life she lives. She knows the past cannot be changed, and she just wants both lives, the love with Gatsby, and the stability of Tom. She choose money and realizes the unhappiness that comes with that, but sees the stability of it and prestige. She loves both men for differing reasons. She is ignorant of the choice she needs to make and allows life to make it for her.

Jay Gatsby: He craves the past, he makes a whole life to please a woman. He has the parties to see her and when he does meet with her again, he is determined to live the past. He is driven mad with the idea of he and Daisy living together again, he desires control of love. Life has not been very kind, so he is determined it will be once he and Daisy are together, that money is the answer to their love blossoming.

It is easy to relate to every character's struggles, and since it is has no spiritual themes, it is easy to see the sin each person is struggling with: greed, lust, adultery, etc. and the answer is "Jesus!"

But if we strip down to the general struggle, I know I experience these struggles in my life as well, even with Christ in my life.

George Wilson: I have a life I enjoy and I don't see the suffering around me. I want this life to be the way I want it, I want God to fit in my life.

Myrtle Wilson: I want everything and God as well. I will run towards the things I desire and won't realize the loss that can ensue because I am running towards things and not God.

Jordan Baker: I have everything, I don't need to pursue any relationship, let alone one with God, I go to him when I am in need, but I am not right now. I see people around me hungering for God, but I wont' tell them unless they directly ask me.

Tom Buchanan: I want control in my life. I am not okay when my life is out of control and I assume it means I need to take back control.

Nick Carraway: I see how others experience life with God and I want it, so I hang around them, not really trying to get that relationship with God, but to just figure out how their life is so perfect. I don't really see the flaws in the plans. I see the need for God in my life, but I am okay with just watching others.

Daisy Buchanan: I am bored with life and will indulge in whatever is right in front of me. I indulge in sins, and again remain ignorant to the sins I am committing and will not fully repent of them. When confronted with my problems I can get overwhelmed and will retreat to what is safe. I will not step out for my faith whatsoever.

Jay Gatsby: There are times when I was really in-tuned and passionate about God, and I want to go back to those times, I want the past with God, not what he could do in the future. I try to build up my faith so that we can go back and experience life as we did. I also want people around me to be the same, to either be wiser, faithful, the same because I like them that way. The future is scary and unknown, the past is safe and secure.

Whether or not we have faith, we struggle with the same things just with slightly different circumstances that fit into this mold of desires and problems.

The two songs mentioned above are what really got me thinking about this entire story:

Lana del Rey's song "Young and Beautiful" is asking the age old question: Will you still love me when I'm no longer young and beautiful. We all question if the person we love loves us beyond our beauty, that when we grow old we will still love one another. We all get a little damaged along the way, and we wonder if those we love will stay beside us in the tougher times. We even question God if he will leave us when we mess up. Even when we don't feel beautiful, will God still see us as beautiful?  It even says "Dear Lord, please when I get to heaven, please let me bring my man? When he comes, please tell me that you'll let him in. Father tell me if you can, all that grace, all that body, all that face, makes me want to party. He's my sun, he makes me shine like diamonds." This is obviously about the man she loves coming to heaven, even if he hasn't been all that good. The person doesn't even see that God is the light, the man she desires is but a shimmer compared to the love God blazes upon us. He makes us more beautiful than we can imagine. But we still worry about those on Earth loving us when we physically start to fade with time.

Florence and the Machine's song "Over the Love" is about trying to save our love "with an ocean in the way." We cry over the love of you. The music is haunting and there is a yearning, a yearning to be with our love and to save them from the disasters of this world. We want to go back to the past and live in that. But we can't, we see the change in them and cannot change back.

God did not create us to have perfect lives where everything we desire, both bad and good, is granted and we can live out own lives. Because then we would never see our depravity and our need for him and Jesus Christ. The quote below really speaks to the Great Gatsby and our own struggles we face:

“Still He seeks the fellowship of His people, and sends them both sorrows 
and joys in order to detach their love from other things and attach it to Himself.” - J.I Packer

Monday, March 25, 2013

My First Big Adventure!

College can be considered an adventure, but I think it was a safe adventure. I already knew what to expect being a student for 10+ years of my life and having a professor as a dad. But post-graduation, I have no knowledge system or true experience to glean from, so I consider this to be my next adventure!

I am off to Orlando, Florida!
Talk about going the farthest place possible from friends and family.

I have felt a tug at my heart to intern with Cru, but this year I really had to rely on God to show me exactly where He might desire me to go. I went to Winter Conference (a conference where hundreds of college students from the region gather and worship and learn about all the different things they could pursue in Cru) seeking an answer to this question and all I got was "Yes, I want you to intern." That really didn't answer my question, "where do you want me to go?"

So through prayer and guidance I felt like campus ministry was not right for me yet. TU Cru has been a blessing and struggle in that I have tried to make it my ministry, my mark on campus. And time and again God has reminded me that it is not mine, it needs to grow and be for God, not for my own pride. So while working with OSU would be insightful and allow me to work with students at TU, I knew it would be heartbreaking not to be closer and not as involved as when I was a student. So campus ministry was out, that left Regional Headquarters or International Headquarters.

I visited Austin, TX Regional Headquarters and was surprised at all of the people and the opportunities that I could pursue. When I left, I had no attachment to Orlando and kept an open mind for the next visit, thinking Austin might be the surprise choice (surprise in that in August I would have said Orlando all the way).

By the time I got to Orlando I actually had some negative emotions going back, especially where Summer Project was concerned. It hurt so much to be back and to realize my project friends were not there. That that time had come and pass, and that no matter what I did, it was in the past as a reminder and cornerstone for my faith, a season of life. By Friday (I got there Thursday afternoon) I was convinced that God must not want me back in Orlando, but I was also confused and did not feel like He had answered that question I had been asking Him all along, "Where God?" But He sat someone down right next to me at lunch and it just clicked. The potential job, the atmosphere, everything just felt right and I felt such peace.

So through application and interviews I found out I was accepted to work in Orlando, Florida at Lake Hart, Campus Crusade for Christ's International Headquarters. I could not be more excited and scared at the same time! I am going to move halfway across the country and live in Florida (I know, going to the one place hotter than Texas!) work in an office where I have no technical skills (majoring in Sociology and Psychology, it only gets you so far in a work force without a Masters) and just a bucketful of faith to lead me and guide me in this adventure! Like I prayed for last summer, God is putting me in a  place outside of my comfort zone (though with a little cushioning, I have worked at Lake Hart for 2 months! That gives me a slight edge, maybe?) yet growing me and challenging me along the way. I am so excited for this adventure, it is going to be emotional, wonderful, exciting, difficult, and joyous along the way! God is always in control, and I have to keep reminding myself of that throughout this journey, I don't need to be the pilot, just an active member of the crew!

I Don't Want to Grow Up

I suddenly feel great nostalgia today. Entering Tulsa after a bliss-filled spring break the song "I Won't Grow Up" from Peter Pan came on. I smiled and softly sang along thinking "I can relate to Peter." When I hit my late teens I realized that I was no longer a child. I couldn't play as I use to and have my parents say "You can do _____ when you are an adult," because soon enough I was able to do everything my parents said I could not do as a child. Neverland has been on my mind as of late, the idea of never growing up. Everything is ahead of you, falling in love, getting a job, going to college, it is a far distant dream when you are a child. My sister put a picture up of the three of us siblings as children, and while I laughed and made a comment about it, I noticed the other comments were "Oh, where did these cuties go?" And I often think that myself. Where did that time go? How fast time is! I reflect more on that as I draw near to graduating college. I dread it and cannot wait for it to come! I want to graduate, I am tired of college and all the schoolwork required of me that will soon be forgotten and unknown by others. But I dread it because all of those dreams I had as a child are becoming a reality, I have lost my chance at Neverland so to speak. I see the future as a bit gloomy (future in general, not the the internship with Cru) because I cannot imagine the joys that will come because I only know the joys of a child.

I think there is something special about being a child, even Jesus saw that when his disciples scorned the children for wanting to come to him. Jesus was mad at the disciples because they still didn't get it, Jesus was put on this Earth to reach out to the forgotten, the rejected. I think I am having a disciple moment. I am just not getting it, I see the future from the viewpoint of a sinner, a human made of flesh living for the flesh.  Jesus is saying "Elise, You don't really know me, or you have forgotten" because the joy He can bring into my life in the future will likely be 10,000 times better than I can know or imagine. Neverland is a place for children, and we all know children tend to sin more than repent for those sins (I know from experience as a child never really understanding my actions) but we still love them. But we all do grow up, we die, it is a fact of life. Peter Pan never gets to experience love, or to hold his child in his arms for the first time, or to grow wise and learn what the deepest love did for humanity through Jesus Christ.

Sure, the future is unknown and not like childhood, but that doesn't mean it is dull and boring, it can be a new adventure, a Foreverland, living for the Kingdom, in the Kingdom with the King at my side to join every adventure He gives me. Neverland will never happen because we can never be children forever (or if we try it doesn't fit because we have grown and moved on) but Christ offers us an opportunity to go somewhere beautiful, to Foreverland, that is Heaven. "To die would be an awfully great adventure," I think Peter got this right, and since I have died for Christ, my adventure is already started and still going on from now until my physical body dies and I truly enter into Foreverland.

I don't want to grow up, I want to grow in Christ.

Monday, February 25, 2013

On A Journey to the Past

Going to Lake Hart (Cru International Headquarters) again this past weekend was such a blessing and heartbreak at the same time!

Walking into the airport and seeing all the familiar sights and knowing where I needed to go to be picked up, to being driven around, I felt like it was a dream. I knew the streets, the sights, the people! The hotel was mere blocks from Ventura which meant every memory and emotion from Summer Project came rushing back. I happened to get to Headquarters before other students and I kept thinking "Will Melanie come over and say hi? Courtney, Shela and Julia are working just over that wall!" But remembering that I (along with Ryan) were the only ones to actually come back to our summer home.

It was a beautiful weekend full of fellowship and reflection, what better way to be introduced to an internship! God happen to open my eyes to a potential job position down in Lake Hart which I was so desperate to find since considering applying to Cru Internship!

Something that really impacted me (as it did 7 months ago) was trying to have an eternal perspective. Our speaker throughout the weekend kept pointing to how I desperately need to stop thinking about the immediate steps or the future steps I will take on this earth, but rather what spiritual steps am I going to take? God is in control of my life on this earth because I gave him that privilege when I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior. Therefore my eyes should be set on the light God can be in this world through me. Instead of concentrating on graduation and getting A's in all of my classes, I need to be looking at the people around me, who have I talked with? Do they know there is a gift that they can receive and be changed forevermore? Where can God use me?

That is so humbling to realize. God pretty much said "Hey Elise, I have got your next step set, go back to Tulsa and just proclaim my name and share the good news you know about. I've got your back." My entire school career has been trying to figure out what in the world I will be doing outside of college, but God has been saying "Share my name, share your testimony, share the gospel." Sadly I have not done that as I should, but no more! This semester I don't want fear and trepidation to control me, Satan can't make me worry about my future anymore! I want to just experience the gospel and to share that experience with others.

Yes I am glad that God has shed a little light on what God could be doing through me with Cru, but really I don't know if I will live beyond today, so I can't concentrate so much on the future, but rather the moments I have with the people on this campus. That is why I loved this weekend so much.