Monday, April 28, 2014

Anna's Story

This semester I have found myself coaching a delightful young woman who is a sophomore at Hope College. We met at a writing retreat I led for Hope women in January.  She is an English Major and each time we meet she shares a story on a topic I have assigned her.  She is definitely a writer, and I have been blessed by her thoughtful reflections.

Her last assignment was to write a story about some aspect of her "WorkLife."  I asked if I could share her story with you.  It is a lesson in growing, getting braver, and expanding our comfort zone.

Here is Anna's Story...Enjoy!

Setting:  the Work Study job fair in the Dow Center gym.  Time:  One of Anna's first days on campus.  Cast:  Anna, the protagonist.  Nine hundred other freshmen, all in exactly  the same boat as Anna.  A large and varied group of staff members at Hope College.


     Twelve or so tables fill one half of the gym.  Behind them sit groups of two or three Hope College employees, all from different departments, all eager to hire.  The nine hundred freshmen flood into the gym in one mass, sweeping Anna along.  The freshmen disperse among the talbes, sitting down to fill out applications.  Anna is left alone in the hubbub.

     The action continues in a most predictable manner.  Anna walks among the tables, aimless, clueless, and not a little overwhelmed.  She asses by the CIT department, the biology lab, and the Dining Hall workers. None of the jobs being offered here are appealing.  She stops near a table with a slightly larger crowd huddled about it.  The name card bears the word LIBRARY.  This is right up Anna's alley.

     She pushes her way to the front of the crowd (or rather, she stands at the back of the crowd until it dissipates somewhat and leaves a clear path) and takes an application.  The woman at the table smiles condescendingly, and informs Anna that they are only hiring a few people this year, and they have already gotten so many applications, but go ahead and fill out the card anyway.  Anna does so, though her hopes are rather less than high.  What can she do?  She turns to leave the insanity of the gym and the job fair.

     On her way out she passes by one last table, shoved a bit off to the side and with a decided lack of eager, job-seeking students in front of it.  The placard reads PHONATHON.

     Ah.  That's why there's no one there.

     Anna turns to walk past.  What the general audience of this tale doesn't know is that Anna has had an only half-joking fear of telephones for many years:  ever since her family got caller ID and she realized the anwering machine did a better job of recording phone numbers than she could, and it never forgot to play back a message, and it never misplaced names, and it never messed things up.  The fact that this table was connected to such frightening things as telephones and calling and actually, like, talking to thank you,

     She turned to walk past...only then she didn't.............................

     I think I realized, in the split second I hesitated next to the phonathon table, that there was no way I would get a job in the library.  And I needed a job.  There were very few people applying for a position, so I had a chance here.  I remember thinking, "Oh, what the heck.  I'll fill out the application.  I can just turn down the job if I get it."

     So I applied.  I didn't realize until it was too late that they were conducting interviews on the spot.  TERROR.  The woman was quite kind, however, and the interview went well, though I may or may not have stretched the truth a little bit.  I told her about our family's farm and B&B inn, and how I helped with the guests and loved hearing the stories of people from all around the world who came to stay with us, and how I loved the interaction with other people.  What I didn't tell her was that I helped from the safety of the kitchen (because washing dishes is important too.)  I heard all the stories second-hand from my mom and sister who actually spoke with the guests, and I loved the interactions, yes, but just the ones that involved staying in our side of the house, peering through the crack in the door to see if the guests were awake and ready for breakfast yet.

     I got the job, miraculously.  I kept it, too, out of desperation for a pay check to help with school loans.  I hated every minute of it up until the last month of school my second semester, by which time I had accepted my fate enough to only strongly dislike it.  But, nonetheless, this job taught me more that any class I took that entire year.  When I came home for the summer several people remarked over how different I was.  I no longer had any problems with anwering the phone and taking messages.  I wasn't as shy of strangers.  I talked more in general (which may or may not have been a good thing, from my family's perspective.) I helped in the B&B more often, and started to really love talking with guests.  I began helping serve breakfast and giving them tours of our farm.  In short, I got braver and my comfort zone got bigger.

     I credit my job with the Phonathon for the majority of the personal growing I did my first year away at school.  Working late nights; sitting for hours in a cubicle with a headset on, talking to alumni and parents of students, or, more frequently, listening to the dial tone when they hung up on me; losing two nights' worth of homework time every week...It builds character, as my Daddy would say.  Even while I was sitting there with my headset and my stack of phone numbers to call, I knew it was good for me and don't think I would have quit even were it an option...At least, that's what I tell myself now, looking back.

Holly writing again...Her sophmore year Anna worked cleaning the college coffee shop(The Kletz) on the weekends, which she enjoyed, BUT next year she has a job in the Writing Center at the Libray, helping other students with their writing...PERFECT.

God always knows what we need, and His timing is perfect.

Thanks you, Anna!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Beautiful Enough

Beautiful Enough

When I am in Australia I enjoy going along with Lilah(6) and helping out in her classroom. One morning I was walking her to school, though I hadn't planned on staying to help. But as we walked Lilah asked if I would ask her teacher if I could stay and help that morning.

I responded that I hadn't really dressed for it. She looked at me, fully clothed, and asked, “Why can't you wear those clothes?” I said, “Well I didn't fix my hair, and I don't have any makeup on.” (Not that I ever wear much, but I rarely go out without putting on my eyebrows.)

Lilah wasn't buying it. She looked me up and down, thoughtfully. Then said, “I think you are beautiful like this.” Enough said, I stayed and helped.

I was humbled to have to learn this lesson again, but learning it again from a 6 year old is probably the best.. Beauty isn't about make-up, though I still prefer to have a little on. Being beautiful in my grandchild's eyes is more precious than just about anything!

This simple conversation made me realize that we often miss opportunities to be with, to serve, to connect with someone, to experience community for quite “silly” reasons. Often these superficial reasons/excuses are weapons of the Evil One to keep us ineffective.

We don't invite someone to our home because our house isn't clean enough, or big enough, or.... so we miss the opportunity to share the gift of hospitality. We don't share a meal because we don't have time to prepare something special, or we feel our cooking isn't “good enough.” We don't help out with a project because we are afraid we aren't “good enough” and we miss the opportunity to serve. We don't talk to someone because we're not sure we are as important as they are, or perhaps we are afraid we don't have the answers to fix their problems, and we simply miss the opportunity to bless. We don't get involved because we aren't ready...yet, and probably won't every be.

There are all kinds of “Not Good Enough” reasons to keep us from being light and love in this lost and broken world that is starving for people to just “do it!”

Romans 12 is a great passage to read when we think that we have to be a person of great significance to be the person God has called us to be. What would our world look like if all of us who call ourselves christian would acknowledge the presence and power of the Holy Spirit to enable us live Romans 12.

We are beautiful enough...strong enough...kind enough...gifted enough...loved enough...wise enough, if we don't try to do anything in our own power, but wholly trust in the One who lives inside us.

Romans 12

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world.......keep reading Romans 12......Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good: love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord, Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of saints, extend hospitality to strangers. Bless........

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Upper Rooms and Rooftops

Last Saturday evening found me in one of those, “God is amazing” places. I hope you are familiar with them. For me they are those moments when you realize God has brought you to a place you never imagined being, and surrounded you with brothers and sisters in faith from all over the world.

We were gathered with young couples and their children on the roof top of an apartment building overlooking Darling Harbor in Sydney Australia. The occasion for the party was to bless with financial gifts and prayers and love a young family heading to China soon to live and work, love and shine in that part of the world.

There was lots of good food from several Asian countries. Grandma Holly got recruited to tell Bill and Edgar stories (some day I'll fill you in on these :), because 15 kids on a rooftop make a lot of noise.

We stood looking over this city that Cory, Elisa and family have come to call home. The people are all connected to Wesley International Congregation. They are committed to one another. They get together as couples often enough to function as Aunties and Uncles for all the children. They know each other well enough to appreciate the roles they play in this community of yet they are outward focused. They are always on alert for others in the city who need a place to belong, and a family to care. I think that is what makes them unique...their closeness hasn't made them “Closed.”

And so Al and I were drawn to, “The Upper Room” aspect of this gathering as we looked out over the darkening cityscape and beautiful harbor. Here they gathered for support and prayer...the prayers of children as well as adults. Here they all gathered for belonging and outreach; not to stay too comfortable, but to recognize that where we are, and what we do, and who we know and love, needs to remain in a growing, stretching, nurturing state.

“Upper Rooms”...the disciples the night that Jesus was betrayed...the evening of the resurrection...the 120 gathered, waiting for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit...the WIC disciples on the rooftop. Not a place to “stay,” but a place from which to “go” into all the world and make disciples, teaching them all Jesus has commanded us. And Jesus promises. “LO, I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS, TO THE END OF THE AGE, and the ends of the earth.”

Friday, April 4, 2014

Out of the Mouths of Babes

We are in Australia getting acquainted with our third grandchild, Kaiden, who was born in January, and of course enjoying the two older siblings.  Our son Cory is pastor of youth and university students at a church in downtown Sydney, called Wesley International Congregation.

We arrived in Sydney on the heels of an inter-generational camp for which Cory was the point person. Camps are Cory's strong point and his favorite part of ministry. (The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.) This was a first for WIC; a gathering for all ages together at one camp. Everyone wondered if it would work. The young wondered if the “old people” like their folks would get the worship. Parents of the high school and University students wondered if the children would “get” anything out of the worship. Cory stood firm that this camp was about all generations coming together to Encounter God; and in the end, one of those committed to making sure this kind of interaction continues was a “70 something” young woman.

While physically and mentally drained Cory was still riding the high of what God had done over the weekend. There were as many as 450 people who took part in at least one day of the weekend experience. About 350 participated in the bulk of it. And IT WORKED! God was encountered by so many in powerful ageless ways.

On Friday evening Cory was introducing the worship and reminded the group that the children were going to be a part of the worship services. Children will be children, so he warned them that it might be noisier than they were accustomed to...they might interrupt...but that would be okay. Much of the music was geared to engage the children, but when the adults saw the children worshiping they too were drawn in.

Cory was preaching that evening. As he preached suddenly his 2 year old, Luka, stood up and said, “Daddy, Daddy! Jesus is knocking on the door!” Cory acknowledge what he had said and tried to be sensitive to what he had said as he continued preaching. A little bit later Luka stood up again, “Daddy, Daddy! If we open the door the Fire will come in.” And Cory knew that for this sermon Luka had been anointed for the preaching of the Word. God Encounter number 1 of many that weekend.

Revelation 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come in and eat with them and they with me.

Remember...Jesus didn't say this to non-believers. These are Jesus' words to the church! We are the ones who need to listen for His voice and open the door anew. We need to let Jesus...the fire bringer into our lives! Jesus, who sends the Holy Spirit to ignite us with power and passion, is calling.

Enough said, Luka preached it.

I wonder how you will encounter God in new and fresh ways...
I wonder who God will speak through to get our attention.....
I wonder what doors need to be opened to allow the Fire to come in.....

I wonder if we are ready for Fire...