Monday, January 28, 2013

Living Worship

This past weekend Patrick and I went to the membership class for Sojourn Church.  One of the sessions was focused on the body of Christ as worshippers.  A few weeks ago we'd heard a sermon based on Psalm 150, which is all about worshiping God, and it really made me think about what it means to worship on a daily basis.  These days when someone says "worship" most of us automatically think about Sunday morning services and praise songs.  But certainly God doesn't just want our worship for a two-hour time slot once a week.  I think he desires our full worship all day every day.

During our membership class we talked about how worship is a continuous action.  Men and women are innately programed to worship something whether it's God or something man-based.  This can be a really convicting statement.  This means that throughout my day I'm continually worshipping or giving praise to something, and if that something isn't God then I've got some priorities to straighten out!  Harold Best sums it up well saying, "We were created to continuously adore.  We were created to do this as naturally as to breathe in and out, to honor, to submit, to depend on, to fellowship with our Maker."

One thing Jeremy (one of the Sojourn pastors) said a few Sundays ago was that we live in line with what we have and what we believe.  Then he posed this question: Do you live like you have God?  This is a huge question that deserves some thought.  Is my everyday life an expression of the incredible fact that the Holy Spirit resides within me?  Are the words coming out of my mouth and the thoughts I think all reflective of the grace God pours out on me?  Another question I've wrestled with is where my mind and my heart go when they have nowhere else to go, that is, in the occasional quiet moments of life, what do I think about?  Am I thinking about and praising God?  Or am I obsessing over and worrying about eternally trivial things?  Sadly, the latter describes me more often than not.

Thankfully there is grace in all things, and because of that grace Christ is able to transform me and help me renew my mind daily.  Not to say it isn't a constant struggle, but there is hope.  Jeremy reminded us that worship isn't necessarily about doing something and putting another checkmark in the box.  Christians don't have something to do, we have something to celebrate!  Worship shouldn't be drudgery; it should be a natural outpouring of my love of Jesus and my thankfulness for what he has done (and is doing) in my life.

I often wonder what everyday worship looks like; what does it mean to live a life of worship?  A lot of it means recognizing God's overwhelming greatness and glory among a world full of things undeserving of our worship.  When we glorify anything other than God, whether it's a sports team, movie star, or political ideology, we are wasting our breath.  God alone is worthy of our praise, and He will not share the spotlight with anything else.

I've always loved 1 Corinthians 10:31 which says, "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."  It's clear here that we can live a life of worship no matter where we are or what we are doing.  When we live with words of praise to God on our lips, we glorify Him.  We worship by expressing thanks to God for blessings and even difficulties we face.  Everyday I am challenged to live out daily life in a way that reflects an attitude of worship and thankfulness to God.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Finding the New Normal

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm somewhat of a home-body.  I know you wouldn't know it by looking at the last 12 months of our lives, but I do love to be settled and put down roots.  For that reason, I love being back in Louisville on a semi-permanent basis (at least for the next 3-4 years.)  Lately we've been in the process of finding our new "normal," and so far it's been a successful process. I've started two new jobs, and Patrick is working on finding piano and oboe students.

First of all, I have to say how excited I am that after years of working toward it, I've gotten a teaching job.  I'm now a preschool teacher at Chance School, and so far I love it.  My students are fabulous, and I have a great co-teacher, whom I'm excited to be working with.  I think the rest of the school year will be a blast, and I'm looking forward to seeing what is in store for me over the next few months.
My classroom at Chance
My second job is a part-time nannying position for a family with two kids.  They are some of the sweetest, well-mannered kids I've ever worked with, and so far we've had a lot of fun together.  The kids are 10 and 14, and it's nice to have an opportunity to work with older kids for a change.  My schedule is relatively full, but not to the point where I feel overwhelmed.  

I know that just as we start to settle into a new routine everything will change again.  Patrick starts classes at the Seminary at the end of the month, so new adjustments await us then.  For now though, I've enjoyed getting to see him a lot every evening and weekend.  I'm excited for him to start school, but I know what a huge time commitment it'll be to get all of his reading done.  He might actually be reading more than me for once!

As nice as it is to be settled and feel at home, I know it would be easy for us to get too comfortable and stop seeing the needs of people around the world.  It would also be easy to be so much at home here in the US that we stop feeling God tugging at our hearts to head to the mission field.  Please be praying with us that our heart for the nations wouldn't go slack just because life is cozy and comfortable in America.  I know that God has big things in store for us in the years to come during our time in Kentucky, but even bigger things await us overseas, and there's no way we want to miss out on them!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Holding Out for a Hero

Have you ever thought about the way trends in movies disclose a lot about our culture?  A few weeks ago Patrick and I went to see "The Hobbit," and as we watched the previews I noticed that the majority of the movies coming out are of the superhero/dystopian-future-hero-saves-the-planet variety.  What does this say about our culture?  If our bent toward hero worship is any indication I think it's clear: we need a real life hero.

I get the sense that many people living in difficult circumstances are holding onto the hope that someday things will be made right; someday, someone will come along that will have the answers to all of life's questions and problems.  Someone will save us from the mess we've made for ourselves.  That's the vibe we get from pop culture, but I think it's an accurate statement about our communal mindset as well.  There's this subconscious longing for something better.

As a follower of Christ I know that our hero has already come.  We've already been given the one who has all the answers, who has the power to bring us out of desperate situations and give us a living hope.    There's a great song by one of my favorite bands, Abandon, titled "Hero."  Here's the refrain:

There He goes, a hero, a savior to the world
Here He stands with scars in His hands
With love He gave His life so we could be free
The savior the world

I love the fact that Jesus came to earth to give his life to make us free.  Isn't that what we've been longing for?  A hero to set us free from the tyranny of sin and death?  I celebrate this fact every day; that in Christ I have abundant life and reason to hope for so much more to come.  

Monday, January 7, 2013

A Week of Reunions

The more we travel and the more places we live around the world, the more wonderful friends the Lord puts in our path.  It is difficult to be separated from so many incredible people, but during the week of Christmas we were abundantly blessed to get to spend some time with several of our very dear friends.  Reconnecting with old friends made Christmas extra special for us this year!

First off we had a two-day visit with Pete, Emily, and their 2 rambunctious boys, Matias and Titan.  They are one of my favorite families ever, and I was so glad for the time to play with the kids and relive some of our Okinawa days.
Steward and Prikazskys together again!
The result of Titan attempting to absorb spaghetti through his face...
Patrick stole my job as storyteller 
On Christmas Eve we had a bit of time with Chris, Ruthie, and their brand new baby Nancy!  It's still hard to believe that Chris, whom I've known since before time began, is now a daddy.  Seeing Patrick and Chris together with Nancy might have been one of the most heart-warming things I've seen in a long time!
I love this!
Shane and Melia are some of our closest friends from South Carolina, and though we only lived there for a year, it feels as though they've been part of our lives forever.  We had one evening to reconnect with them, and our hearts were so refreshed as we shared what God has been doing in our lives and hearing how the Lord has been stirring their hearts as well.

It's not often that God brings such dear friends into our lives, and the fact that he has blessed us so abundantly with friends from so many places has overwhelmed me at times.  I was yet again reminded of God's goodness and his amazing love for us as he provides us with people to pour out love and encouragement into our lives.

For Christmas we were also blessed to get to spend time with my family, who had traveled from Canada and New York to spend the week with us.  We had a full house, but it was a sweet time of reunion for us all.  We especially enjoyed loving on my niece Asha and little sister Anika.  They are as goofy as ever and certainly kept us all entertained!
Valentine reunion
Christmas dinner

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Finding Jesus' Footsteps

One of the frustrations I had in Israel was that in many instances, the exact location of certain Biblical sites was not certain.  We ended up visiting three different potential sites of the tomb where Jesus was buried and resurrected.  Many of the places we visited we were told "This is where we think such and such happened, but no one knows for sure..."
Likely site of the crucifixion (where the trees are)
Likely site of Jesus' tomb
More than anything I'd wanted to spend time in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed the night he was arrested and led away to be crucified.  The site most people visit which is assumed to be the place doesn't coincide with what scripture says, so it's unlikely that this place was actually Gethsemane.  Amid my disappointment at this I felt God speaking to my heart; he knew that I longed to walk in Jesus' footsteps and see where his footprints had been.  He reminded me that Christ's footprints are all over my life and my heart, and that the point isn't to walk in his physical steps but in his spiritual ones.
Traditional (though unlikely) site of Gethsemane
There were several places we visited where we could be fairly certain that we were in fact walking where Jesus walked.  One such place was Kafur Nahum (Capernum), where Jesus began his earthly ministry.  It was in the synagogue there where Jesus first read the scriptures from Isaiah that prophesied his coming into the world.  In Jerusalem we visited Caiaphais' house, which is where Jesus was first on trial the night before he was crucified.  We stood in the place where he had likely been chained and scourged.
The synagogue in Capernum where Jesus read the scriptures about himself
The pool of Bethesda where Jesus healed a man crippled from birth

Throughout our time in Israel we were reminded that the important thing was not that we were standing in the exact place where certain events transpired many years ago.  The important thing is that we are preparing our hearts right now for what God wants to do in our lives.  God calls us to follow in the footsteps of Christ today, not necessarily those from two thousand years ago.  He calls us to walk in the acts of service and love that Christ modeled for us, and to continue following him even when we are uncertain where he will lead us.  This has been encouraging to my heart lately, and also exciting to think about the places we will go and the extreme joy we experience in walking the path God lays out for us!  
Shore of the Sea of Galilee where Jesus met his disciples after the resurrection