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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Thoughts on Faithfulness

As I type this, I am sitting in the Hard Rock Cafe Amsterdam, enjoying the free wi-fi and watching the boats troll up and down the canal outside the glass wall. The city is waking up a bit earlier this morning, it seems.

Yesterday, our first day of class, the city seemed to stay in bed much later than I was allowed to. This morning, in anticipation of today's New Year's Eve festivities, the people of the city are out and about already.

I'm excited about today.

Yesterday, the feelings I had included trepidation, fear, discomfort and more. Yesterday, while our first day of class, was also the first day to go out into the city and meet people with the express purpose of engaging them with the Gospel message. For someone who likes to have a purpose, who likes to build relationships, and who is always wary of random people starting conversations with me, this endeavor felt a bit like a dishonest ambush on the people of Amsterdam.

After several attempts, mostly unsuccessful, I was able to meet a girl about my age named Una. Una was Serbian, who had lived in North Holland most of her life and was preparing to move to Germany to start her life over. Getting into our conversation, she quite proudly told me how open-minded she was, and I quickly saw how our conversation essentially followed the map of "ministering to a post-moderns." Although no claim for Christ was made, or even anything close to it, the Lord used the experience with her and with the others whom I'd tried to get into conversation with to open my eyes to some things. Therefore, some conclusions about myself/ministry/God.

1) God does not need me to "do evangelism." The Holy Spirit can draw people to Himself without any successes or failures on my part.
2) What is success or failure in missions? I am only called to be faithful, to share the message, and let the Lord take care of people's souls.
3) My excuses: I like to build relationships, not just start conversations; it's uncomfortable to talk to strangers (Stranger Danger!), I'm being dishonest if I'm not up-front about my desire to share Jesus with them, striking up conversations without having a legitimate "reason" just isn't "me"... These excuses are all just that: Excuses. I have been fearing myself, other people and their reactions, and discomfort FAR more than I fear God. How arrogant and wrong of me.

The Lord has given me this incredible opportunity to serve Him. He doesn't ask me to save the world, he only asks me to tell people how He has saved me. In doing that, I am being obedient. In telling the story of God, I am being faithful. In telling of His glory, He is being glorified by my life. That is where I want to be.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Hitting the (european) ground running....

Hi blog readers! This is just a quick little note to let you know I made it safely to Amsterdam and into my hotel. There was a bit of turbulence on the plane, but the Lord guided us through it and safely to our hotel! I was able to walk around downtown for a little bit this afternoon with two others from the group and get a better feel for the city.

I love Europe. It would be ridiculously hard to live here, financially, but it’s got such a cool vibe. I’m a big fan of bicycles, pink mopeds, history, delicious bagel sandwiches, trams, great fashion, wonderful old architecture, big parks, and over-priced everything….Ok, maybe not a fan of the last one, but everything else, yes.

I’m pretty exhausted with only about 3 hours of sleep (at most) under my belt, so I’m going to take a nap before dinner. I’ll try and post more details later, along with things you might be interested in, but for now, here’s a picture of me and Jen, one of the girls on the trip, as we explored the city! Love the architecture and the canals, don’t you?

I wish you all could be here experiencing this with me, but since that’s not the case for now, please go before the Lord in prayer on behalf of myself and my team! Pray for the Holy Spirit to make a way to talk with people and that He would be softening their hearts even now. Ask for boldness on our parts, discerning eyes to see people receptive to the Word, and rest and good health to sustain us. Also, pray for team unity. There are a lot of different types of people on this trip, and we’ll be spending a lot of time together. Pray we would love each other the way God loves us – unconditionally, despite our faults, and without regard to our amount of reciprocated love. Thanks so much!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Tomorrow begins the adventure...

My flight leaves for Amsterdam tomorrow at 2:30. Am I ready? Notsomuch.

I still am trying to pack, need to do dinner with the fam, pay bills, see a friend, sleep....Plus, did I mention I was sick, sick, sick yesterday? I was. Really grossly sick.

So, as I finish up things here at the house, make a dash for the airport tomorrow, and try to keep all of my food in my body, please pray for me.

As the people of Amsterdam go about their daily lives, many of them lost and hopeless, please pray for them.

This trip, although for work, is also a time I am looking forward to to learn. I'll be taking classes on post-modernism and western Islam, and hopefully learning how to better engage the culture around me with the life-changing message of the Gospel. Please pray I would be filled with the Holy Spirit, and the love and compassion of God for a broken world. Please pray too, that the Holy Spirit would soften the hearts of the people I will encounter and that He will even now, begin drawing people to himself.

Thanks for lifting us (myself, the team, and those we'll encounter) up to the Lord. Please check back here for updates as the journey unfolds... Much love - Lauren

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas gifts and blessings

This Christmas Eve morning, I am enjoying waking up and slowly beginning my day. As I'm lounging in bed reflecting on what stands in front of us, and as I think about the year that lies behind us, I cannot but help be filled with an overwhelming sense of awe and wonder at the glory of God and how bit by bit, it is revealed to us.

In an effort to better understand the implications of "Christmas," that is, the birth of Christ, which we celebrate this time of year, I have been looking at the Old Testament and Luke, to get a better grasp on exactly how it was that the birth of the Lord fulfilled so many hundreds of prophecies. (If you've never studied some of the prophecies Christ fulfilled, around 425 I think, I'd encourage you to do so today.)

I was looking yesterday at Christ's coming as the beginning of the new covenant, and reading in Jeremiah 31. What a BEAUTIFUL picture of the coming restoration Messiah would bring! It is this restoration - the new covenant - that was heralded the night Christ was born.

More than a baby, who would be King, Jesus Christ was God himself clothed in human flesh, come to reconcile humanity to the Holy God. Jeremiah 31:11 shows that "The Lord will ransom Jacob and redeem them from the hand of those stronger than they." Who is stronger than those who believe in the Lord, for "if God is for us, who can be against us?" The answer is that only God is stronger, as his judgment was against us as sinners.

The coming of Christ was more than the birth of a baby, it was the fulfillment of an incredible promise. We were promised death and destruction, as we have all done wrong against the Lord, who, as the perfect Judge, has to administer justice against our sin. However, He also promises that with the coming of His Son, Messiah, he would also intercede for us and stay his wrath against us, and redeem us from his own hand. What a beautiful picture! On one hand you have perfect judgment, and on the other hand, you have perfect redemption. One we deserve, the other we could never deserve or earn. One we can avoid, and one we can joyfully accept.

This Christmas season, rather than focusing on the pretty lights, or time with family, or the newest gadget we want to get, focus on this, the real meaning of Christmas: 2,000+ years ago, our promised opportunity at redemption came as the King humbled himself to become human, offered his own life and sinless nature as the perfect sacrifice for our sins, and became not only our Judge, but our Great High Priest, who lives now to intercede on our behalf.

Praise God!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Preparing my heart for what lies ahead

After tomorrow, life is going to be crazy for a little bit.

Life is always crazy with me, I believe, but circumstantially, it's going to be even more crazy for a few weeks. I'm heading home for a good long rest (I hope) full of good food, good movies, and good times with dear friends.

Then, after Christmas (Christmas shopping? Nope, haven't done it. At all.) I'm leaving home sweet home for Amsterdam! I am getting more excited by the day! I love Europe. Something about all the beautiful architecture, history, coffee, culture....It's such a treat, and I am way excited to spend a couple weeks taking it all in in Amsterdam. In addition to working, taking classes, and meeting some great people, I'm really praying it will be an opportunity for my heart to be broken.

Does that sound weird? I often feel I live in a bubble - one that is insulated from the real world, just because of the circumstances I find myself in most of the time - but one which I must break out of if I am ever going to be effective for the Kingdom. I want my heart to break for the people who walk in darkness. I want to feel compassion and love for the people of God who don't know him, instead of feeling sarcastic and cynical, as I often do when faced with unknown people and situations.

My prayer for this trip is that God would cultivate in me a heart that truly does beat for His people, and an attitude of urgency in sharing with them the greatest news ever - that we are in desperate need of reconciliation with the Holy God, and through his own sacrifice, we can be brought into right relationship with Him.

This Christmas season, praise God for His Son who was born with the express purpose of bringing sinful people like myself into a relationship with Himself where he can show us His love and mercy and grace....forever, and ever, and ever. Praise Him.

May our hearts and our lives be evident of His love, and may we be worthy of this incredible blessing.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Starting new....

God is doing mighty things in my heart and my life, and for that I praise him with all I have! All morning, "How can I keep from singing His praise? I know I am loved by the King, and it makes my heart want to sing," has been going through my head. Later on I'll fill you in on some of the details of how I have seen God working, but for now, just rejoice with me that he makes all things new.

Speaking of new, today is a new beginning for me - the beginning of a new year of life! That's right, yours truly hit "mid-20s" mark today at the ripe old age of 24. I'll be taking donations of gift cards, books, music, and free vacations. Thank you ;) I'm celebrating tonight with sweet friends at the Cheesecake Factory! Yum!!

Anyways - I just wanted to share that God is good....Really amazing, and I am infinitely blessed, both today and forever.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

An analogy for the day

Someone I love once turned me on to the beauty of analogies in conveying concepts and ideas. So, in an effort to more aptly share what it is God has been teaching me, here I go with an analogy...

Just like the opening lines of the song that is playing, "The pathway is broken and the signs are unclear, and I don't know the reason why You brought me here," I am in a place in life where the signs are unclear and I'm not entirely certain where I am supposed to be going or what I am supposed to be doing in the meantime.

I have two turtles (long story....but yes, I am aware that I am weird.). Splash and Scooter live in a 50 gallon tank, and while it is sufficiently big enough for them to happily live, they pollute the water with all kinds of nastiness. As they get fed, they often reject some of the food I provide for them. As they grow, the slough off dead skin cells, which make the water cloudy. And then, of course, the normal everyday waste builds up, just as a product of living.

Sunday, enough was enough. The water was murky enough to where I couldn't even see the turtles in there, much less believe they had a quality of life that was conducive to their growth as turtles. So, I took them out of the tank, put them in a small, dry, high-walled holding pen while I completely emptied the tank, cleaned out the junk of their lives, and then re-filled it. While they waited, unable to see or comprehend what I was doing, they struggled to get out of their temporary holding cell, several times jumping out of it and landing in a place they couldn't survive in. Once the tank was clean again, I gave them the necessary nutrients for a healthy life, fed them again, and enjoyed watching them happily resume a good quality of life.

Maybe our lives are kind of like those turtles. We live in a murky world of our own making - one filled with the remnants of our pasts and the rejection of good gifts. Our Maker desires for us to take everything he gives us and put it to proper use, so as not to "cloud the water," but all too often we reject it and allow those things that were intended as gifts to instead become hindrances to our seeing clearly. Thus, we can only see clearly when God sees fit to remove the muck and junk from our lives - not before and not by anything we do.

In the middle of the cleaning out process, we feel trapped, and unable to see what good this is doing us and where we are to go from here. Therefore, we struggle against the walls of our "safe zone" because it feels like a trap, tiring ourselves out, and sometimes launching ourselves into a place of danger we were never intended to be in - a place that certainly, if we continue to struggle to live in on our own, will eventually be our death. Instead, we must wait patiently for our Maker to place us back into the place we were intended to live in, the one filled with gifts and the necessary things to survive and thrive, and the place where things are clearly seen, knowing He wants what is best for us and will bring us abundant life.

What do you think about my "analogizing?" Maybe it's a bad one, but it has helped me to see things a lot clearer this week. I am left wondering what good things God is trying to give me that I am rejecting or misusing, thus allowing my life to be clouded to a point where I can't see. In the middle of these times of questions, I am learning what it means to trust: Trust that God is doing something good for me, even if I can't tell what it is, and trust that he loves me and desires for me to live an abundant life, His way.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

God, give me faith like this!

There are so many things that make me thankful for the life I lead here, but one of them struck me especially today: I am thankful to be surrounded by "such a great cloud of witnesses."

Both in my job and my classes, I have numerous opportunities to sit under the guidance and direction (even if for just a brief time) of men and women who are spiritual inspirations. Today in one of my classes, I had the opportunity to hear from a young couple not much older than myself who have been through the fire and are living testimonies of God's faithfulness and goodness.

Briefly, and without going into too much personal detail: They were living and working in Asia as church planters. Last year at just about this time, they were pregnant, and discovered their baby daughter had some complications. After being flown to the best hospital available, their daughter was born with a disorder that causes fluid buildup where it ought not be. She lived for about half a day, and then went home to be with the Lord.

This couple stood in front of our class today, with tears in their eyes, and testified to the faithfulness of God. He was with them in that dark time through the ministry of their organization, through their friends, and through His word. After burying her in the United States, they returned to the field to continue the work God had called them to.

The thing that stands out to me from their testimony is this statement, "It was all worth it."

What an amazing testimony! May God give me strength, when I face the dark times of life, to also be able to say that "it was all worth it." Worth it for the joy of seeing people meet Jesus through it, and worth it for the incredible joy of knowing God more deeply and seeing his glory more fully.

"But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead." - Philippians 3:7-11

Monday, December 8, 2008

I would never make it in Hollywood.

I seem to be easily starstruck. By that, I don't mean I become a crazy rabid fan of some teeny-bopper idol, but I have this habit....When I am at a concert, and the opportunity presents itself to meet the musician, I usually try and take it, and I usually make a fool out of myself in the process.

Example A: Weekend Excursion
In high school my group of friends loved this song called "Moving On" by a little underground band named Weekend Excursion. At one of their concerts one night at Blue Cats in Knoxville, I got lucky enough to chat with the band before the show started. I was doing OK until I met the hot drummer, who had a completely normal name that I somehow massacred into "Cas," and then proceeded to call him - to his face - for the rest of the conversation. When he politely corrected me, I did some awkward hand motion and told him I was on a new name kick and was renaming everyone with unique names....Really?
EDIT: I just looked up his name and his name WAS Cas!! What on Earth was I calling him? Daggumit for forgetting and getting stories wrong...Eh, gimme a break - It was like 6 years ago.

Example B: Sister Hazel
At one of the Sister Hazel concerts I went to (yes, "one of" them...I've seen them quite a bit), my friends and I arrived slightly late to the stage area because we were riding one of the rides (the concert and rides were part of a summer festival). Every time they had a pause between songs, the 4 of us screamed out, "Champagne High!!" which was our favorite song...Much to our embarrassment, at the end of the show, one of the onlookers kindly informed us they actually opened the show with Champagne High, so we had been screaming/requesting the name of the first song they sang. When we met the lead singer after the show (duh...We had to get out t-shirts signed!) we apologized "for screaming for Champagne High between every song, but it's our favorite and would you mind to sing it for us now?"

So he did. We were personally serenaded by the lead singer of Sister Hazel with Champagne High. It was awesome.

Example C: Shane & Shane
Let me be clear from the outset here: I was not hitting on them, as BJ insinuated. While I think their music is amazing, they are a) married and b) not my type. Ok, moving on...

Last night, at the Phil Wickham, Bethany Dillon, Shane & Shane concert, I perfected the trifecta of embarresing meet and greets. As I was sitting waiting on the concert to start, I saw the Shanes chilling about 10 feet away and wanted to meet them/get my photo with them. I drug T along with me, even though she didn't want to go, and hovered near them until they weren't talking to any other fans. What proceeded out of my mouth was something like this.... "Um, by the way my name is Lauren. It's been kind of a rough month, and so I've been listening to Psalms constantly. So, I just wanted to thank you for that CD and thank you for writing it. I mean...Iknowyoudidn'twriteit - God did. But thanks for putting the words to music, because, as I'm sure you know, hearing the words in music helps me absorb them better. So thanks. Bytheway - Can I get a picture with you?"

Do I look flushed and embarressed? Because I was.
Hey - I never claimed to be a master at verbal communication!

That's all the stories I can muster up for now...I won't mention my almost-severely-awkward encounter with Dave Barnes...Stay classy, fellow starstruck fans :)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Good news or bad news first?

Well, the good news is that I finished my hermeneutics papers and I'm off to go watch Handel's Messiah.

The bad news is Ben just had my living room. Sick.

I thought weekends were supposed to be better than the weeks? What happened to that concept? Instead I'm spending my Saturdays writing papers and cleaning up after my dog....Oh well, it's a character-building opportunity I guess, right? Right....

Friday, December 5, 2008

Broke? He is too....

Just a thought to try next time you don't have money to pay bills....It didn't work out so well for David Thorne, but hey, he's in Australia. Maybe it will work in the US:

Thorne, who lives in Adelaide, Australia, tried to "pay off" his electric bill by drawing a spider, e-mailing it to the company and rendering it as payment. Needless to say, the company wouldn't accept a drawing instead of money, regardless of how good the spider looked or how many legs it had.... Read the whole story here.

Although the drawing may not have been worth the $233.95 to the electric company, some idiot on EBay apparently found it worth $10,000 ($15,000 in Australia) as he "entered into a binding contractual agreement" for that amount for the drawing. Although Patrick Munoz said his bid was a joke, he's legally obligated to pay the seller that amount, regardless of how serious he was in his bid!

My question is: If Thorne still owes the electric company money, and Ebay idiot still owes the picture's seller (not Thorne) money, who is actually ending up in the black?

Who's the joke on now? The electric company, who could have owned the $10,000 spider; David Thorne, who gave the picture to the man who sold it for $10,000; or Patrick Munoz, who is legally bound by the T&C on Ebay to pay that amount for a hand-drawn spider with seven legs....

*ding, ding, ding* Ladies and gentlemen, I think we have a winner. Sheesh.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

One of those days

Today is just "one of those days." I can already tell, and it's only 10:15 in the morning.

Upon waking, I found that I have somehow strained my back, probably from bad posture while sitting at the computer ALL FLIPPING DAY. I have been working on papers, etc., and have yet to actually be really productive at churning out words for them in order to finish. Funny, huh? Lack of things to say is rarely a problem for me.

Also upon waking, I discovered that it was really late....late, as in "I am supposed to be at work in 10 minutes kind of late." Granted, I'm not on time anyways, but this was bad, even for me. Gotta love baby powder for days like this for turning that two-day old hair blond again :)

On my way (almost) out the door, my darling pooch decided to throw a hissy-fit when it came time for him to go to the porch. Nevermind that it was a warmer morning and the porch comes equipped with chew toys, breakfast, fresh water and sunshine....He was having none of it. He throws his body to the ground, rolls on his back, opens his mouth and proceeds to wiggle/bite/claw/scratch my hands away whenever I try to grab his collar. I finally got ahold of him and went to go throw him outside, only to *ahem* forcefully open the porch door, right into my own face. Needless to say - it left a mark.

So here I sit, with work to do and papers to write, with a knot on my forehead and my heating pad on my back...Is it the weekend yet?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


My office is overrun with ladybugs.

I just counted 30, including a baby ladybug.

Why is my workspace an insect breeding ground??

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Three-Thought Tuesday

Three main things on my mind today:

This website is AWESOME! I downloaded several CDs for free (including Derek Webb's, Sandra McCracken's, Sixpence None the Richer's and Joe Garner's, my former boss at Union). All you have to do is recommend the CD to 5 people and it gives you a code to download the CD! I'm thoroughly enjoying my new, completely free, completely legal musical selections.

2) My grandma
Yesterday, before I left home, I went by with Daddy to see my grandma, who is 92. We looked in the window and didn't see her in her bed or in her wheelchair, so we went inside and asked the nurse where she was. Supposedly she was in her room, so we went to check, and sure enough, she was in her room, albeit laying on the floor, unable to move. She had fallen out of her chair trying to get into bed and couldn't call for help. She said her spine hurt (perhaps her tailbone, she has fractured it before), but her hips (both of which have been broken) seemed OK.

The sad part was that she began asking me why the Lord still has her here, and why she is still alive. I didn't know what to say, except that only God knows why she is still here, but as long as she is alive he has a reason for it, and we have to trust him, because he sees the big picture and we do not. The only thing that seemed to perk her up from my advice was me telling her Brian and I would be home at Christmas and would get to spend some time with her. She mis-heard me and thinks I am getting married at Christmas, so she's excited about that....Haha.

3) God's goodness

Not to sound like a "thus saith the Lord" kind of person, but God spoke so clearly and so sweetly to me yesterday, that I am left in awe. There have been questions I desperately wanted to ask, but realized it is not my place to ask, and not my place to know until/if he decided to reveal it to me...Reveal He did! Last night the veil lifted from in front of my face; the veil which I have felt has been obscuring the lessons I am supposed to be learning and understanding. Yesterday, for the first time, God lifted the veil and gave me answers to those very questions I was refusing to ask. The answer didn't come in the form of a verbal word from God, but from His Scripture, the faithful teaching of His word, and the work of the Holy Spirit in my heart. I'm not saying I fully understand or see everything, but He has given me enough insight to calm my heart and glory in His name! I didn't NEED the answer, I only needed to trust him. However, in this section of my "faith walk", I am learning to trust without questioning, yet God simultaneously is answering those very questions I have had! He is opening my eyes to new truths and new lessons. All I can say is that He is amazing, and oh so good!

That's all for today :) Hope it's been a great Tuesday for you!