Saturday, December 18, 2010

Do what is true.

Today I just finished reading a book called, No Graven Image. It's the only novel Elisabeth Elliot ever had published... didn't even know until recently that she had written a novel, did you? It's an amazing and powerful story, and I highly recommend it. But I don't want this post to turn into a book critique or plot summary, so I'll just let you read it for yourself, and if you want to talk about it when you've read it let me know and we'll get together and share.

There was a phrase used several times throughout the book: "Do what is true." I've been thinking a lot about what that means, and how to apply it to my life. "True" signifies authenticity, I'm sure, but what does it look like? When I live authentically, what are my motives and intents? And are they "pure" because they are good or because I am being honest? Sometimes when I am honest with myself I see that my motives are not good. Are my actions just means to an end that I anticipate, or are they truly an overflow of God's love in me? How do I distinguish between doing things with a purpose and doing things with an agenda... or is there a difference?

Jesus always did what is true. His responses to people were always linked directly to the attitude of his heart toward them and toward God's will. Why did he teach people? To show them the Father. Why did he do miracles? To give glory to the Father. Why did he love people? ...For me, that is hard to answer. It is a mystery to me why he loves me. The Bible doesn't say why he loves me, just that he does. Does he need a reason? I'm guessing that the reason is hidden in the Father, too, and his divine purposes.

So I teach people English so they can communicate and thrive in America, their new home. I teach people Bible stories through pictures and gestures to show them my friend and Lord, Jesus. I tutor students so they can learn and grow and gain confidence in their abilities. I pray for miracles so as to give glory to the Father before all people. But why do I love? Why do I spend time building friendships and investing time in relationships? Why do I hang out and play games and eat food with others? Sometimes I wonder if my love has an agenda, or if it really is as selfless and unconditional as I want it to be. I think I need to let go of my preconceptions of where my love will lead, and just love for the sake of loving. Love is patient and kind, which makes me think that Love does not press for a result. It continues to love whether or not a result is reached. It may cause heartbreak and pain on the Lover's part when response is delayed or denied, but it doesn't stop loving.

I think this is true: God has his own plan, and so he calls me to love. I don't need to manipulate or plot ulterior motives, because he doesn't need my help in accomplishing his purposes. But maybe if I am faithful in "Doing what is true" - that is, Love, then He can work through that Love to do his will.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Written on my heart

"Why do I like this place so much? Why don't I want to leave?" I asked Pam as we prepared to leave Fort Wayne to come home on Sunday. "It's not like I love the city, and I certainly don't care for the weather. And I could teach ESL anywhere..."

"Oh, you know why you love it here," she replied, with the frankness only a dear, trusted friend could get away with. "There are lots of reasons, and you know their names."

Jo Lien, Michael, Moi Sang, Deborah, Thang Ngaih, Lian, Fatuma, Rahmo, San Nu, Abdis 1, 2, and 3...... The names started to scroll through my mind like credits in a movie. Yes, they are the reasons I love Fort Wayne. They are the blessings God has used this year to show me what love looks like, and to challenge me in my willingness to give and share and serve and receive with humility. Because of them, I understand more about Jesus' heart for all of us who were or are refugees, spiritually, socially, and physically, and what he meant when he said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God."

I went to Fort Wayne thinking that God's purpose for me was to love and minister to those who could not reciprocate, but I think he wanted me to see that the ability to express real love and grace are not limited to financial means, multi-linguistic skills, or social circumstances. I am so thankful for the part I have gotten to play in their lives and in the ministry of International House, but I am overwhelmed by the impact my international friends have had on me. Their lives are a testimony of God's faithfulness, and they are forever written on my heart. 

"You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts." - 2 Corinthians 3:2-3

Monday, December 13, 2010

Greetings from Lothlorien

Well, praise the Lord! We managed to get safely through the snow/ice/slush of Indiana and Ohio yesterday, and God answered our prayers for clear roads and clear weather from Columbus to Winston-Salem, despite the threatening road signs that warned of "Snowy Conditions" through the mountains. It was a long day, but Pam and Hannah were real troopers and got us home safe and sound, where Mom was waiting with homemade cookies, and Kevan surprised me by just being there at the dining room table with crazy Kevan-stories and Mystery Science Theater jokes.

I fear my old concept of snow and all its wonder has been ruined forever. In just two weeks in Indiana, I've seen "real" snow... it became a regular part of every-day life, in which schools and businesses are not closed and ministry programs are still a go even when there are several inches of snow on the ground, the scarf-hat-and-mittens are a normal part of my going-out routine, and I automatically wipe my wet wheels off on the front rug when I come in the house. What I consider "snow" is no longer the same as what my native Southern friends call "snow," and terms like "flurries" and "blizzards" conjure up different pictures in my mind than they once did. I have been inducted - even if only just barely - into the mystical phenomenon of "lake effect snow." Yes, in just two weeks I feel as though I am older and wiser in the ways of winter.

And now I am back in the relatively mild and brown South. My family is here, many of my friends are here, and I realized last night that most of my growing-up memories are here too. I had a story for nearly every exit we passed on 52-South, about the Mayor of Tobaccoville, my kids from my church youth group, graduate school, and favorite hot spots downtown. There is something quite nostalgic about coming home for Christmas.

Right now I'm sitting in my lovely green Lothlorien room, surrounded by pictures and books and poetry and music. I got to have my morning tea in my golden rose tea cup and got to read Lemony Snicket with Kevan. I'm comforted just knowing mom is in the next room and dad will be home from work soon. And even though I know it is cliche, I must say... for the holidays you can't beat home sweet home.