Friday, June 17, 2016

How We Got Here

It began for me on July 21st, 2015.  

Every month I take a whole work day (usually about 6 hours) to spend alone with Jesus in solitude and silence.  It's part of the requirements for my job as an InterVarsity campus staff worker, but it's also a tremendous help and joy since I lean towards the contemplative in my relationship with God anyway.  My general plan for each ROS was more or less the same: spend as much time as I needed quieting my soul and preparing it to hear from God by journaling and reading scripture; then I would reflect on the last month of ministry and ask God for direction for the coming month of ministry.  


For this particular ROS (retreat of solitude) my plans were no different.  It was a beautiful, summer day so I took a picnic lunch and an old comforter and went to the nearby state park.  I found a perfect spot under some pine trees near the water and off the walking trail where no one would bother me.  I settled in and opened my New English Translation Bible to the Psalms.


I don't recall where I began reading, but eventually I came to Psalm 68.  Now, Psalm 68 begins like any average Psalm.  God is big, blah blah blah.  Nothing surprising there.  Don't get me wrong, it's good stuff.  It's true stuff.  But nothing in particular stood out to me....until I reached verse 11:  


Psalm 68(NET Bible)
For the music director; by David, a psalm, a song.

1 God springs into action!

His enemies scatter;
his adversaries run from him.

2 As smoke is driven away by the wind, so you drive them away.
As wax melts before fire,
so the wicked are destroyed before God.

3 But the godly are happy;
they rejoice before God
and are overcome with joy.

4 Sing to God! Sing praises to his name!
Exalt the one who rides on the clouds!
For the Lord is his name!
Rejoice before him!

5 He is a father to the fatherless
and an advocate for widows.
God rules from his holy palace.

6 God settles those who have been deserted in their own homes;
he frees prisoners and grants them prosperity.
But sinful rebels live in the desert.

7 O God, when you lead your people into battle,
when you march through the desert, (Selah)

8 the earth shakes,
yes, the heavens pour down rain
before God, the God of Sinai,
before God, the God of Israel.

9 O God, you cause abundant showers to fall on your chosen people.
When they are tired, you sustain them,

10 for you live among them.
You sustain the oppressed with your good blessings, O God.

11 The Lord speaks;
many, many women spread the good news.



Now, this Psalm goes on in an unassuming way as if nothing interesting has happened.  But I couldn't continue reading.  I was stopped right in my tracks.  Many women spread the good news?  THE GOOD NEWS?  WOMEN???


I quickly pulled out my phone, which I had turned off since I was on an ROS; and I looked up the Hebrew words used in verse 11.  Yep.  It can be translated as women.  In fact, it could be translated as a "great host" or "army" of women.  An army of women who spread the good news.  I immediately thought of the women at the tomb after Jesus resurrected from the dead.  


Lord, I prayed and wrote in my journal, why does this feel important?  What is it that you are trying to say to me right now?


With very little warning I felt like God replied immediately: You must get a Ph.D., for many, many women in my church do not know they can spread the good news.


A what?  A Ph.D.? Me? Why? What? My job is going so well!  I like it!  This isn't my plan!  A Ph.D.??? I don't want to go to seminary!!! Seminary is for snobs and academics who don't care about the practical side of ministry where all the nitty gritty happens and people actually meet Jesus and are transformed by Him.  (clearly I have some unresolved issues around the concept of seminary that need some healing prayer).


No.  Not right now.  I can't think about this right now.  I have work to get done.  I need to make plans for the fall semester with my Cornell students.  I'm supposed to start planting a new InterVarsity chapter at Ithaca College.  I've got so much more to learn and grow in as a leader in IV.  I can't think about this now.


So I didn't.  I stuffed it.  I put it in the back of my mind and moved on.  I didn't think that I had heard wrong.  I knew exactly what I had heard, and my spirit knew that it was right.  But I didn't want to hear it, so I ignored it.  Ph.D.  Whatever.




As the summer went on and autumn blew in, Charles kept bringing up the idea of moving away to attend seminary.  He had planned to take classes online because of his love of scripture and a hunger for learning, but every day that passed he felt more and more as though attending seminary full time was what he really wanted to do.

I was not convinced this was God's call for our family.  We had just bought a house.  A HOUSE.  Our church small group was finally growing to trusting one another.  We were considering training up new worship leaders at our church.  So many things were moving in such productive, positive directions.  Leaving our jobs, house, church, and family (both sets of parents lived nearby) seemed like utter foolishness.  Everytime Charles and I talked about it I said the same thing:  I don't have any clear indication from God that that is what we are supposed to do.  I'm not going to move just to make your own dreams come true.  It has to be for both of us.


After weeks of this it was beginning to frustrate both of us as we both felt each other was being somewhat unreasonable.  I didn't know what to do to resolve it.  We both needed to hear the same thing from God, and of course I felt like someone (named Charles) needed to hear differently.


One sabbath morning, Charles came downstairs from his quiet time of scripture reading and prayer and got down on his knees in front of me.  I have to repent, he began.  I have been asking God what his will is for my life as if I were a single man, not what God's will is for us as a family.


I wept.  That is exactly what I had felt was happening.....but how do you tell someone who has a great relationship with God that they are praying wrong?  I was so relieved that God had spoken clearly to Charles about how to pray in this situation.  And I was so grateful to be married to a man who was man enough to apologize with humility for pursuing his own dreams and interests instead of ours as a couple or ours as a family.  Once I finally stopped blubbering we decided to take the rest of the day in listening prayer, asking God what is your will for us as a family?


It was amazing.  The rest of the day we traded on and off for an hour or so at a time.  One of us hanging out with Wally, our 2 year old, while the other spent time alone with God.  We would share what we heard, if anything, and then switch.  I heard two very clear things that day.  But before I heard anything new, God reminded me of his clear directions in July.  You need to go get a Ph.D.


Ugh.  Right.  You did tell me that.  Why do you have to be so right all the time, huh God?


The two clear things I heard that day as I listened for God's direction were this:

You are better together.  Something about me and Charles pursuing degrees and ministry together was somehow significant, important, and powerful in God's kingdom plan.  I don't have a clear picture of the end result, but I do have complete confidence that we are supposed to do this together, both learning and studying and ministering together.
Whoever leaves houses, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or fields for my sake.... (Matthew 19:29).  As I prayed, Jesus reminded me of this verse.  These were all the things that were holding me back: our brand new house, our families living close by, our field of work.  Would I willingly leave them?  Jesus had asked me this before, but never before had things felt so settled and .... settled.  I don't know how else to describe it.  I grew up in a very unsettled, mobile environment.  Feeling settled in my own house that was finally and actually mine was something I had never experienced.  Strangely enough this was the thing that was the hardest to leave!  I had a home for the first time in my life, as a 34 year old woman.  And after only having it for a few months, Jesus was asking me to leave it.  Our beautiful, brand new, lovely home.  

Sigh.  

Yes, Lord.



It is June now.  It has been almost a year since God called me to pursue a degree and a career I had never expected or anticipated.  We moved into a campus apartment at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary this week.  We will be ending our work with InterVarsity at the end of July when our second child is due to be born.  We will then have about 6 weeks before classes begin as we both pursue our M.Div. degrees here at GCTS.


The past 9 months or so have been filled with many quiet times of weeping before the Lord.  Why, God?  What in the world are you doing?  This is insane! 


Yes, it is insane.  It will be difficult.  I will need Jesus every day to remind me what He is doing.  But it is not uncommon for God to call us out of our comfortable places into uncertainty.  He invited Peter out of the boat into the water.  He invited Abraham to go to a place He would show him.  Throughout history He has called men and women away from home and familiarity into dangerous, unknown places.  My story is no different, and I am by no means special because I have been called.  I am simply aware of the foolish danger of saying NO to God.  I would rather foolishly say YES and suffer the consequences of obedience.


My answer is Yes, Lord.  
















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Audio files of 3 sermons: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1GRBa9JIRbjx-H7U3AYXfNsWD-oT7NBV5 Videos:  https://photos.app.goo.gl/8piMxF8K...