Sunday, September 20, 2009

E-mail Written to a Friend

I wrote this e-mail today to a friend, and I have been wanting to write about the happenings at Taylor this past week, but I hadn't been able to muster up enough stamina to write all that I wished. The only thing that is lacking in this e-mail is the inexplicable joy that I felt through all this stuff happening. Read with an open heart, please, and this is probably the longest post I have written so far, just so you know! :)


Last week on Taylor’s campus was a week designated “Spiritual Renewal Week,” which, to begin with, makes me already skeptical because designating a week every semester “Spiritual Renewal Week” reminds me a lot of my church back home who designates one week a year “Revival Week,” as if revival or renewal can be a structured and planned event.


Anyway, I always come into the week as a skeptic, although I am always appreciative of the speakers during the week because they always have some good things to say. The speaker this year was especially Bible literate and used a lot of different OT and NT references in his talks. His talks were sometimes basic, but great reminders and pulled from unexpected texts. He spoke in chapel, then also Monday night. When he spoke Monday night, he spoke about participating in faith through confession, prayer, worship, etc. There was a girl who came up before he spoke to talk about foolishness in faith and how sometimes she was self-conscious of other people seeing her pray and thinking she was too radical, but how God calls us at times to look extremely ridiculous when we follow Him.


After Chris, the speaker, talked and everyone was trickling out of the chapel, a boy hopped up onto the stage, picked up the mic, and started talking nervously with a quiver in his voice. He said he was going to show us something beautiful and started talking about what a blessing his roommate was to Him in helping him battle with sin. He proceeded to talk about confession and then he told everyone who was there about sexual sin in his life, losing his virginity, etc. Immediately, about 15 other people stepped up and began confessing these really crazy things.


One guy confessed that he has been having suicidal thoughts for a long time, that his girlfriend has subscribed to a lot of the same thinking, and that they have even talked about killing other people. He talked a lot about how darkness reigns so much in his life and that he feels as though God is nowhere to be found. The pastors immediately surrounded him and prayed with him to confess Jesus as Lord over darkness, and you could hear the deep reluctance in his voice to proclaim light over darkness. It was pretty scary.


Pause: THESE KINDS OF THINGS DO NOT GET TALKED ABOUT AT TAYLOR! Taylor is a pretty conservative, non-charismatic kind of place, but many people talked about such darkness in their lives and spiritual warfare. I actually experienced one night of crazy spiritual warfare one night last year where Satan was taking over my brain and I was not stopping him. I could relate to some of the things people had been saying, but I had always been a little hesitant to ever talk about it because I am normally pretty skeptical when other people talk about spiritual warfare and other things of that nature.


Anyway, the speaker started speaking at 7:30 and our campus pastor had to dissolve the meeting at 3:30am. The night consisted of informal worship, deeply sincere prayer, and constant confession. Leaders confessed their sin because they felt they could not lead the student body and make it seem like they had it all together when sin was rampant in their lives. Women confessed and united against masturbation and pornography, which has only been spoken to male circles publicly at Taylor. Men confessed to the same things, as well. People confessed abuse and eating disorders and many, many, many people experienced broken chains and freedom from these types of bondage that night. I was blessed to be a part of the service, and although I never got up and spoke on the microphone, I prayed against sexual sin in my own life and was able to share in the burdens of everyone else who did speak. I interceded for each and every one of them, and I felt so privileged to be a part of the Christian community in that kind of role. I felt everyone’s pain and declared freedom alongside of them. It truly was beautiful. God was speaking through the first guy when he hopped up on stage and said, “I am going to show you something beautiful.”


Now here comes the hard part: My life was truly changed that night and the rest of the week. The majority of campus seems to be changed as well, although a lot of people who did not experience Monday night are very, very skeptical of the change that actually took place for fear that it was only the “summer camp phenomenon” where an emotional charge directs people for one night and no change takes place. I KNOW that the Holy Spirit was there working in people’s hearts because my heart was changed and I have spoken to many people who would say the same. We are ready to do something to fight against this sin that was confessed to help one another in the struggle and actively pursue a lifestyle that glorifies God in all ways. I have felt no discomfort approaching my brothers and sisters who spoke confessions and prayers Monday night, and we truly feel as though we ARE brothers and sisters because true community was lived out that night on such a large scale.


I am struggling with the people who are skeptical because I want them so badly to participate in what the Spirit is doing. All I feel like I can do is tell them about my experience and pray for them to be sensitive to the way the Spirit works. I do not deny that Monday night was an emotional night, but I can’t simply dismiss it as such and move on because this kind of thing NEVER happens here, people have been praying for a true revival on this campus, I know my heart and the hearts of others have been changed, and the repercussions of the week are still making waves. There is group of women who are seeking to start a small group (which I imagine will actually become quite large) for women who have been hiding in sexual sin, masturbation, and pornography addiction.


Today was such an encouragement because your message was all about acknowledging the Spirit, trusting God in the things He is orchestrating, and choosing to participate in them as a believer. It bothers me that a lot of Christians say they believe in the Trinity—Father, Son, and HOLY SPIRIT—yet many deny the work of the Holy Spirit because it is usually so outside our understanding. The Spirit convicts in the heart and calls us to do things that are ridiculous to those who are outside of those things. How do we live in the Spirit, yet stand up against ridicule from people who say they are, too, walking with Christ and trust that His works are being done in us through the Holy Spirit. I love that a lot of people on our campus are asking questions and being careful not to subscribe to a phenomenon, but I wish that they could trust in what the Holy Spirit has begun on this campus.


Another reason your message today was encouraging was because “if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” I don’t have to worry that people won’t get it if it is truly from God. I will continue to speak through my witness in the situations I can speak, and I will continue to pray for this campus to be in an attitude of prayer for the Spirit to continue to move even after this week has ended.


An additional thought I have been having is that the Taylor community was so hungry for this night of confession and true community because we don’t give ourselves time for it otherwise. We are TOO BUSY, and that is an understatement, my friend. Remember how I freaked out last year with busyness? Yeah, well I was not as busy as a lot of other people are. How can we MAKE time for God if we have NO time for God. How can we pause to pray if we are running on such tight schedules? The shitty part is that they are all good opportunities, but I wish Taylor could commit to a few things and many people could then be involved in one thing with all different gifts instead of offering a ridiculous amount of opportunities and expecting that every position be filled. I would like to see a survey done on the amount of one-person jobs there are in Taylor activities and how many students are here to fill those positions. I wonder what kind of ratio that would look like—I imagine it would be close to 3:1 or something. There are just too many things or students to be able to maintain balance between physical health, mental health, emotional health, and spiritual health. I have talked to a large amount of people who agree with me but don’t know really how to fight it because the Taylor community expects you to be involved in at least 3 organizations and taking at least 15 credit hours alongside those outward commitments. Also—Taylor’s academics could definitely step up a notch in difficulty. The only reason people are failing in some of the courses offered nowadays is because they are distracted by all the other things going on, which are just as important as academics to the Taylor community.


Anyway, I feel that this is a huge issue with many facets and I am overwhelmed with understanding what my role should be in this. I want to talk to administration about reducing the amount of opportunities on campus and for a deepened love for seeking God through prayer, Bible study, etc. My friend Libby talked to her church in Upland about the events of this past week, and I want to declare the work of the Spirit to the Mercy House as well, although I feel as though many people may be skeptical. I want to quit all the meaningless things I am involved with and empower others to do the same. I want to be a part of a group of women fighting against Satan and seeking healing from sexual and other sin. I want my own life to be characterized by prayer and Scripture written upon my heart and engaging in worship with not only my heart but my mind…also with not only my mind, but also my heart! I want to empower other people to do the same. God wants us to be joyful in the grace he has shown us. It’s okay to be excited to give Him praises, it is okay to feel some remorse when we realize our sin and repent. On and on.


How can I be that change? Where is this campus going to go with this realization of the Spirit’s power? How can I help people understand God’s mysteriousness through the Spirit. How can I encourage people to trust in the Spirit and help them to allow the Spirit to live within themselves.

Again, I want to say that I am normally so cautious of over-spiritualizing life, and I understand those who are skeptical, but how do I help them understand what really happened this past week?

Man, I told you it was long…thoughts?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Dreams

My dream last night was crazy awesome.

I remember some kind of Asian adventure theme, and my whole purpose was to climb this modern art, rusty metal sculpture/tower thing that was at a park or touristy looking place and figure out how the solve the mystery. I didn't know exactly what the mystery was, but I knew I would be setting someone or something free and that it would be good. Thank you Mulan airband for subconsciously rooting this storyline in my head :) For those of you who are outside the Taylor culture, airband is a lipsyching and choreographed dance competition, and my wing is doing the song "I'll Make a Man Out of You" for it.

Back to the dream:
The first time I climbed the tower, which was really tall and pretty skinny, I kept finding, at every "level" it seemed, dinner plate-sized platforms that looked like they should hold candles on them. The tower also had a couple different spires sticking up with rungs to climb, etc. It was a sweet tower.

I met different people along the way, some of which who helped me, some of which who did nothing to help me. I also remember being at Taylor, but it was a made up Taylor in my mind with really nice furniture and flat screen TVs in the study lounges on each floor. It was our first open house (just like last night was our first open house in REAL life) where guys can visit and hang out at girls' dorms, and I remember running up and down the stairwells looking for someone in particular whom I knew would help me. I have no idea who it was specifically, but it was someone.

Eventually, I met up with some Taylor hall directors and other staff who helped me to realize that not only do I need to climb the tower, but I also have to light a candle and place upon the platform at the very top of the tower. It couldn't be just any candle either, I had to find THE candle, which was hidden somewhere. The people who were helping me helped me find out where the candle was hidden, and by the time I had found it, time was running out. I remember frantically trying to find someone in the park who was lighting a cigarette so that I could light the candle and then trying so carefully to run to the tower while keeping the candle lit. My dream kind of ended there...the candle went out, but I feel like I went back to try again, and that's when I woke up.

My imagination is very enjoyable at times. I wish I remembered all the details of the story and the scenery to make it more interesting fo you to read, but this is the best I can do. I had to write it down somewhere!!!!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

This Little Light of Mine

What kind of light are Christians supposed to shine? What kind of witness are we supposed to bear?

I have always been told that "they will know we are Christians by our love," but are there other ways to be "noticed" as Christians that are acceptable, pleasing, even, to God?

Should this be some kind of outward appearance: she dresses like a hippie and because there is something different about her, she shines a light for the Lord? What about other kinds of things-- she doesn't curse, so she must be a Christ-follower? He doesn't smoke or drink, so people should assume that he has the high moral standards set by the Almighty? Are we supposed to try and draw attention to ourselves for other people to witness what following God looks like?
To me this is all bollocks.

Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Gentleness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Self-Control.

The days when I am feeling like I am walking closest with my God are the days when these characteristics, among other attitudes God's Word calls Christians to exhibit, are ruling in my life and when I am striving to follow Jesus's lifestyle and preaching. Although I find value in religious elements of my faith, rituals, traditions, and other physical reminders of my heritage as a Christian and the deeply rooted faith in which my forefathers and mothers lived and died, living as one who strives to be like Christ in my thoughts, prayers, words, and deeds is striving to live truly the way that Christ calls his followers to live.

I struggle so often feeling like I am not a good enough Christian and that others are of a deeper faith (or more shallow faith) because they put so much more emphasis upon the outward "signs" of a follower and the surface indications of a faith in the God of Israel. Truly, the Lord calls us away from judgment and to deeply examine only our own hearts and lives in order to live as an example to Christ-followers and non-believers alike.

The way God chooses to manifest himself in people's lives is going to look different from the outside, and only He can judge where someone's heart lies, although that doesn't excuse us from encouraging one another and addressing fellow believers when they need our support. I must trust that God's ways are higher than my own and that I cannot understand the ways he speaks to each one of us individually (inward general revelation, perhaps-- thank you Dr. Pak and Historic Christian Belief texts).

The only thing that matters for my own faith is that I seek God with all my heart, soul, and mind so that he can finish the good work he has begun in me, shaping me and molding me into someone who does, indeed, exhibit the characteristics of a woman who is following her God in that deep way. Even though I feel as though those godly characteristics are becoming more and more evident in my life as I seek to walk closer with God each day, I know that I, too, like all those I have observed, am still not perfect.

Almighty God is light. He lives in us as true light, and I'm gonna let it shine. I'm not gonna shine it, but I am gonna let it shine. 'Cause it will shine if I let it.

Have your way in me, Lord.

Amen.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

With Imagination

"Once there was a tree...and she loved a little boy."

The opening line of a book that I read so long ago that I can't remember when or if I ever actually read it. I bought the book off Amazon because I am working on completing my Shel Silverstein library, but this particular book has more of a story that those other cheaper used copies of the Giving Tree online. The description of this book on Amazon said that the book was in good condition, although it did have an inscription on the inside. I immediately decided I would buy the book-- a book with an inscription is clearly more interesting than one without.

The inscription reads:
"I have come to realize that you're the tree and myself-- the boy. So- I thank you and hope you do realize that there are a whole lot of soft spots in this heart for you.
-Me
P.S. Teach me to dance?"

This inscription gives the story of the Giving Tree an extra dimension, and every time I read the book, I will keep "you" and "me" in mind, rolling the inscription across the screen of my mind, always thinking about what the story behind it could be. Who were these people? Lovers? Great friends? Mother and son, father and daughter, teacher and student? What kind of story did those two people have? What kind of relationship did they share and what kinds of struggles did they face together?

I love that I don't know any of these things about "you" and "me." My mind freely wanders as my fingers turn each page and scan every illustration...

and the story is different every time I read.

You are the tree and I am the boy...teach me to dance...