Thursday, May 23, 2013

In Which I Move Into the Cline House & Trust Jesus More

Someone told me there were a bunch of houses for rent in this area, so I drove as the sun was sinking beyond the trees, begging God to show me just one. We had to commit in a matter hours and I just wanted something better, something a little more cookie cutter, a little more pretty, something with a dishwasher maybe? I had no idea how I would find the one, get through to the larndords, convince my roommates and get a lease signed between 8pm and 8am the next day, but somehow I knew God would show up because surely He didn't want me to have to live in this jenk one either.

Meeting the girls I would soon call roommates had been a complete God thing from the very beginning. I had been processing the coming fall and what that would mean for me. The plan had always been a fourth year of living in community and pouring into college girls through Lightbearers. God has so extensively used this ministry to encourage, challenge and equip me in my understanding of scripture and its application over these past few years, so it just seemed obvious I would now pour into "the next generation" so to speak. Wow, I feel old. As the year progressed, I began filtering much of my life through this lens of international ministry, as God has continued to require more of me all the while allowing my heart to genuinely love these students and the time I get with each of them in way only He could.

And as He would have it, around this time is when I met Kayla--at an international event of course. We only met that one time, and when I moved back into the apartments this past winter, we lived just a building away though with our schedules it might as well have been miles separating. Completely randomly, we met up and I had no clue why. She was quick and to the point, as I was baking something for an international potluck in my apartment that night. Well, I have no clue what your plans are, she said, but I have vision for a house in the fall, a house where internationals are sleeping on the couch and gathered in the living room studying the bible, after the dance parties of course.  she grinned. And I am looking for girls with the same heart that might be interested, and I thought of you.

As the words flowed from her lips, before the sentences were even formed, I knew this was why God had been interrupting my plans and allowing some doubt to linger in pursuit of the upcoming fall. Before she walked out the door, I agreed to pray for the next week, though looking back God had been preparing me for quite some time and my answer seemed pretty clear.

It wasn't easy though, as a house meant leaving this incredible apartment community that had really weaned me from milk to solid food these past three years, and walked with me close through those tough seasons, this family even bringing me into their home this year. So many who have poured into my life, who were excited to have me step into a leadership role in the fall. I had watched families grow, internationals witness the love of Christ for the first time, babies born right in those apartments and raised up in our little neighborhood. It's been where God's had me and it feels safe--so of course I've wrestled to the ground with these thoughts of leaving, of disappointing, of change, of making the wrong decision, of failing to pour out what I've recieved for the next group of girls.

There came a point where I could no longer deny the clarity God had provided in the move, so soon enough I was all in. Our third roommate, Katie, also committed and it seemed God united our hearts from day one. Then the house search began! We went to look, all three together, for the first time. We saw three houses that night and by the end of the night the first had won over my roommates. I was still convinced we could do better. With about 48 hours to decide as four other groups wanted to also pursue the same house, I had to find something quick!

Which brings me back to my mad drive around Fayetteville at dusk begging Jesus to lead me to the one. I guess someone went on ahead of me taking down every single FOR RENT sign across this darn town, because there was not one to be found--though the next day there they were once again. 

Literally. Defeated, I found myself turning onto Cline Street, the location of this silly little house that had some sort of draw on my roommates. I don't even know why I drove by. There was no magical moment in seeing it again. It hadn't grown any younger and remained dishwasher-less. I turned around at the end of the street and flipped on the radio to clear my head.

There was a song midway through and the very first words to play said "And now you're on this road that's leading you home..."

Well, okay. Okay Lord, fine, I'll just learn to wash dishes by hand. I passed that little house again with full water works, completely assured this move with these girls into this silly little brick house was exactly where God wanted me, talking to Him for hours over the sink most likely.

We called the next morning to see if we'd gotten it or if another family had won out. They said that another group offered them $100 more a month in rent then what they were asking because they really wanted that house. But, they continued, for some reason we really felt like you guys should have this house. So, we turned them down. It's yours!

And on Saturday, we moved into that silly little brick house on Cline Street.

And this morning as I was pulling out of the driveway, I couldn't help but realize how gracious the Lord has been through something so temporal--this little brick house. How He created it with TWO living rooms, a sunroom, and an awesome backyard, all of which equipped us for this vision of continually hosting international gatherings. How He provided four couches well within our budget, two of which have pull out Queen beds, as again He is bringing our vision of internationals sleeping on our couch often to fruition. How He positioned the house close to campus and within our price range. How He led this family, who aren't believers, to chose us even when offered a higher rental rate. How He provided an army to get all three of us moved in a single day or two.

It's His grace. I never imagined this silly little house could possibly teach me to ask in faith without doubting, but it already has.

And when I look back to moving day, amidst all the chaos and sweat dripping, there was a moment where I looked up and couldn't quite contain the emotion. It was when I realized our help had come from America and India, from Panama and Indonesia. Guys and girls here for this season from the nations, two I'd gotten to study the bible with this year that loved Jesus with thier whole heart, another who even offered His dad's help when I arrive in India in several weeks and didn't even know Jesus. These internationals who served us and then got to pray with us as we fellowshipped over lunch, our first little meal in this silly little dishwasher-less Cline street house where God is already at work.

All I can say is this space belongs to the Lord and so do I. Because apart from nothing is sustained and in Him is life everlasting. I am thankful for what Christ has done, what is doing, and what He is going to continue to do in and through my life, my roommates, and our little, brick, dishwasher-less house on Cline Street.

[Oh and I am learning that sometimes, it's okay to use paper plates--even if they don't match the decor.]

To the early days of the Cline House and a year of watching Christ teach us all to place more dependency upon Him, the author and perfecter, the beginning and the end, as we walk down this road that's leading us home! 
18“You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.19“You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.20“You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates,21so that your days and the days of your sons may be multiplied on the land which the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens remain above the earth.

22“For if you are careful to keep all this commandment which I am commanding you to do, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and hold fast to Him,23then the LORD will drive out all these nations from before you, and you will dispossess nations greater and mightier than you.24“Every place on which the sole of your foot treads shall be yours; your border will be from the wilderness to Lebanon, and from the river, the river Euphrates, as far as the western sea.25“No man will be able to stand before you; the LORD your God will lay the dread of you and the fear of you on all the land on which you set foot, as He has spoken to you.  [Deut. 11]

Monday, May 6, 2013

On Hearing the Burning Bush

Yesterday, I was driving kiddos around and we passed by an old abandoned house with huge flames pouring out. The smell lingered for miles. I said a quiet prayer and kept on my way. [There were already firetrucks on the scene].

I was pulling into the Walmart parking lot a few exits away several minutes later only to smell the flames burning again. Being so far away, I knew it couldn't possibly still be the house we'd passed. I smelled my shirt, thinking maybe the scent lingered still. But the smell wasn't attached to me. I started looking all around me, with it being such a hot, dry day and all. We were creeping down the side-road towards Walmart, when something caught my eye.

God used a burning bush to talk to Moses. And today, He did that for me too.

That's right, one of those perfectly trimmed, fancy landscaped bushes was completely engulfed in flames, just a couple feet away. There was no audible voice calling out asking me to strip my feet bare prior to my approach.

Rather it was a still, quiet moment and I haven't heard Him so clear in months.
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Tonight, I finally told granny about my upcoming trip to India. She freaked. She told me that was a mean joke. When I told her I was leaving in July, she went off on one of my old roommates, how that girl filled my head with rubbish. Now that girl is a wife and new mamma, I reminded granny, so obviously it wasn't her that led me to this desire to live overseas. Well, at least she will have a nice life. With her lawyer husband and little family. That's right Courtney, she has a perfect, beautiful life. I guess it's just over for you, huh? You're throwing it all away. Clink. She hangs up.

I spent time with my adopted fam this week and the conversation of dating was brought up. One of the girls said she feels like the weird one even in a big group of church friends. And I feel it too. Even amidst fellow believers, I feel like I don't belong sometimes. As I watch my Jesus-loving friends date recreationally when I spend more nights at home, I wonder if I'm right in all of this.

Just the fact that you have more international friends then Americans, grandma says, is foolish. Eventually they will all leave you and then what will any of it matter, aside from winding up alone and old? she asks. Soon enough, they won't want to hang out with you, Courtney, you're wasting your prime years here. My uncle wants take me out of his will because he says if he leaves me his money, I'd give it all away and what a waste that would be. It's better to leave to his girlfriend, he says.

This is extreme, but I feel it elsewhere. Sometimes I even think my beleiving family thinks I'm a bit crazy--extreme maybe. After quitting secular university and moving in with a homeschooling family of eleven, I get it. And how to begin to articulate all God has done through these decisions this year, how it's all lining up as He changes my desires and vision for life. I just find myself speechless and miles away. So, for now the extremes linger I suppose. And I trust more?

Some days I just want to prove the world wrong. I wanna go be a missionary to unreached people in India for the rest of my life just to prove them all wrong. To prove I'm not throwing it all away. That sometimes obedience looks radical through the eyes of our culture--it's all relative really. I don't know. I just know it feels lonely. And then there are days like today. Where I actually wonder what I have thrown away, what merit or comfort in the world's eyes I've given up in pursuit of this outwardly countercultural and presumably extreme lifestyle.

And so here I find myself, wrestling with my white picket fence fantasies contrasted against this gospel call to obedience--and what the means for me. Is the promised 'well done' enough to quiet the lack of belonging and doubt that lingers today?

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And so I gaze across at the burning bush and He quiets me.

I see you, daughter. I see the trials and the doubt. I see the struggling in and around you. The suffering, I see it too you know? But I AM WHO I AM--I have come down to deliver you, all of you. I know you're a little more broken these days and I know you feel the burden of this world. I see the oppression and I am sending you, my suffering servant to tell them of my promises. Daughter, you have learned to hope beyond the pain and they need to know it too. I know it's lonely, but fear not for I am He who never forsakes. 

Who am I, oh Lord? Don't you see my own suffering seems unbearable at times and yet it cannot compare to theirs. My selfishness and pride are paralyzing. What could I possibly have to say?

But I will be with you. And this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you:  when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.
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The crazy thing is, the very first time God spoke to me so clearly He told me to go to the mountains and share the good news. At the time, I had other mountains in mind. Now I hear Him again. Calling me to these mountainous villages of India. You will see miracles and you will trust me more. Little by little, daughter. I am delivering you.

And I promise, when you taste the milk and honey these temporal sufferings will be washed away. When you hear my words well done, your grandmother's voice will be but a quiet melody. 

Oh Jesus, please blind these eyes to the flattery of this world. Train them to turn from the accusations and dreams unfulfilled. Bind them to you. That I might see through the filter of your gracious hand at work in my life. That furthering your kingdom would propel me heavenward with unshifting joy.

We shouldn't ever doubt right? We should hear and respond to God's voice pouring out of a burning bush with far greater faithfulness then to that of an embittered granny living miles away. And yet, it's hard. But Jesus told us not to be surprised if the world hates us. Because it first hated Him. We have to remember it's the gospel we share that is offensive.

Brothers and sisters, how do we live in this world and yet not of it? Better yet how do we align our thoughts and deeds with scripture but avoid extremes in our witness while maintaining our convictions?  What do you hear God calling you to this week?