We see in the Great Commission, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 NRSV).
Every stone that is tossed into the pond creates a ripple. There is not one person who will be able to go to all nations and evangelize all in the world. But for every person living into the calling that God has set upon their lives and is doing the work to which God has called them, they are like a stone thrown into a pond. They are causing a ripple effect creating the space and place for others to live into their calling and do the work God calls them. Then when everyone is living into their calling and doing the work of God here on earth, we as the Body of Christ are going to all nations and proclaiming the Gospel.
It can be so easy to look at the bigger picture and think that we have to take on so much to fulfill the great calling of God. However, God does not call each and every one of us to fulfill the big picture alone. God calls us to a work that each of us can do ourselves that will eventually cause such a ripple effect that the collective Body of Christ effectively fulfills the great calling.
The very work you are doing has such a significant impact that when combined with all the other work done to fulfill the calling of God, the Great Commission becomes a possibility. As the ripple gets larger and larger, the Great Commission becomes closer and closer. One day this Great Commission will be completed and would not have been possible without the very work you are doing. You are a stone thrown in the pond, and your ripple is making it possible for others to find themselves tossed into the pond. Thank you for living into your calling!
Progress cannot be a straight line if life is full of twists and turns. Why is it were are told that as long as we are going forward we are moving closer to our destination? If I turn left where I should have turned right, I am getting no closer to my destination by just moving forward. By having this mindset when tracking our recovery progress, we are only setting ourselves up for failure.
I don’t know about you, but I am my own biggest critic. I have a support system I am no where near worthy of, but I cannot tell myself that I am ever doing a good job. No matter how long I am able to go without self-harm behavior or how many days in a row I go without skipping a meal, I cannot see that it has been months longer between episodes or a shorter episode than ever before… All I am able to see is that I have fallen back down the stairs. I have gone backwards. I am not making any progress.
People would tell me that I have not gone back as far as I think and to look at all the progress I have made, but I just saw all the progress I lost.
I recently read this quote from C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity:
We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.
What if progress doesn’t mean going forward, but it means getting closer to a destination? What if knowing that we took a wrong turn actually helps us get closer to our destination? What if progress is more of a spiral than a straight line.
Well, my friend… then we are rocking it!
I mean think about it with me. When you make a mistake or fall back into old habits, you feel bad and work towards where you were before. You realize the wrong turn and start back to where you were before the turn. You begin to make it closer to your destination. You are making progress. You are well on the road to recovery!
I am so proud of all the hard work you are putting in!
Keep up the hard work. Stay on the Spiral. I am here for you.
“Do not come any closer,” the LORD warned. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground.”
This verse follows Moses seeing the burning bush and hearing God call out to him. As Moses began to approach the burning bush, God calls out, “Do not come any closer…. Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground.” The message of removing sandals upon the entrance of holy ground is found in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.
Churches in the east, especially Eastern Orthodox churches, usually have a sign posted outside the church asking for visitors to remove their shoes. Some will quote this very Bible verse in one translation or another. Churches in the west have seemed to abandon this practice. In fact, many church circles see it as disrespectful to remove one’s shoes in the church.
I am a girl of many flip-flops. I really have enough to change my flip-flops depending on my outfit (I am just too lazy to do so). I also am more likely to be found carrying my flip-flops than I am to be actually wearing them. When sitting in the pew, I always take my shoes off and move them to the side. This carries on to when I preach and or am helping lead worship in some way. I take my shoes off and either leave them behind the pulpit or under the first pew depending on where I am and the set up of the worship space.
Why do I prefer to be barefoot in church? It all goes straight back to the verse in Exodus. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground.” For me this is a little more literal being an avid flip-flop wearer. I choose to not wear my shoes in church because for me the church is holy ground. The church is not the only place of holy ground but it is indeed holy ground.
Do I believe that the west does it wrong because this is not a common practice? Absolutely not. I do not think there is a right or wrong practice for wearing shoes in church. What I do believe is that there are ways to make a space more guided towards God during worship, and for me, personally, I find removing my shoes to be just one way to guide my attention towards God in worship.
If I could choose to be anywhere, then I would choose to be exactly where I am, Perkins School of Theology. Why would I not choose some exotic place that I have never been before? Well, I plan on telling you just that.
Perkins is not a place I prayed I would end up one day. My life goals had changed so quickly and frequently I didn’t really have a plan beyond college. When I realized I needed and wanted to go to graduate school, I began to panic. Applications didn’t make me feel any better about the process. Perkins came highly recommended from a trusted friend, oh, and the application didn’t stress me out. Perkins ended up being the only place I applied.
I had a summer position lined up and all thoughts of Texas seemed to be so far away. The closer it became, the more nervous I became. Then came time to leave PA. I was a nervous wreck. Hours before I left I told my mom I didn’t want to go. The further away from PA I got, the less likely I would be to turn around. I finally made it it Texas and I only felt like I had made a huge mistake.
The feeling of making a mistake quadrupled at orientation. Everyone seemed so positive and sure Perkins is where they were supposed to be, but I shared none of those feelings. So now you are really curious why I chose Perkins out of all the places in the world, right? Be patient.
Orientation was also the beginning of realizing Perkins was exactly where I was meant to be. As the year faucet was turned on full blast, I sought out the first official person I could find to tell them this wasn’t it and I was going home. However, the person I chose was not willing to see me go and not in a typical concern of losing numbers king of way. She genuinely wanted me at Perkins. Why? She didn’t even know me.
This is how Perkins is, a family. The Perkins hug is real. From day one (of classes that is, orientation was rough), the people at Perkins have been the definition of a caring community. We laugh together and cry together. We study together and find solace in not doing our work together. However, this doesn’t stop when we leave the classroom. We have get-togethers and meet frequently for meals.
The fellow students are only a part of what makes this such an amazing community. The professors and other faculty create the space for this to occur. They are here for more than making sure we succeed academically. They are invested in our lives and want us to succeed in finding and pursuing our passions. They celebrate with us and mourn with us. They are here with us.
Leaving everyone behind in PA, including my support system, was an extremely difficult situation for me. However, I now feel so at home at Perkins and among all the people there. As much as I miss everyone in PA, I am so happy to be with everyone here in Texas.
Perkins is where the coffee is always flowing, the tissues are being handed over, and conversations about theology happen even on a Galentine’s Day outing (which ended at a coffee shop studying). Perkins is the place where your professors and faculty purchase your book and are so excited to walk this path with you. Perkins is where you aren’t afraid to walk into an office bawling or shouting about an awkward moment you just encountered. Perkins is where you get to pursue your passions in a completely supportive environment with a bounty of resources.
So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All of this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.
2 Corinthians 5:17-18
The time leading up to the New Year is filled with reflecting on the past year and planning on making the New Year even better by creating resolutions. We think resolutions to eat healthy, work-out more, or declutter our lives will create a new us. However, most of these plans fail before January ends.
This review of the past can also be dangerous. Focusing on the past does not allow for us to be in the present moment. We are not able to see what God is doing in the here and now because we are focusing on what God has or has not done in the last year.
The past can be improved. The story is yours to write. However, this can be done at any point. We do not need the New Year to decide to do what is best for ourselves. There is no New Year, New Me. The way we become new is not the hours between December 31st and January 1st.
We become new in Jesus. In our relationship with Jesus, we are reconciled with God. The old versions of ourselves pass away and we become new in Christ Jesus. There is no need for resolutions or unmet goals. There is only a need for preparing room in our hearts.
As the New Year greets us, do you have room in your heart for Jesus?
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.
Christmas is not all joyful and stress free for everyone. The stress of seeing family, of having money for the best presents, the anxiety the day brings and so much more cause this day to be less than joyful. However, unto us a child is born, a child who will be called Prince of Peace.
Peace. Christmas doesn’t seem so peaceful all the time. But peace is not a promise that things will be good all the time. Peace is knowing that even admits the bad that there will be good that comes later.
As you celebrate with your families and friends this holiday season I hope you are able to have peace. A feeling that no matter how this season plays out that good is coming. God is with each and every single one of you! God is never going to leave you.
The Prince of Peace has been given to you to remember to accept this peace into your hearts. Do you have peace in your hearts this holiday season?
Prayer: Almighty God, we thank you for the Son that you have given us on that first Christmas night. That you didn’t want to be without us, so you made sure you never were. Grant us peace this Christmas season and the days to come. In Jesus name, Amen.
It isn’t just about what you love. It’s about what God created you to love so that you can use it to honor Him.
I graduated from Messiah college in May. It’s crazy how fast four years have gone by. I now have a degree in Christian Ministries.
I got a taste of what it’s like to lead my own ministry this summer when I worked in two different state owned campgrounds as a chaplain in the park. I led two services every Sunday. It was an incredible experience to worship in God’s creation every week.
When the summer came to an end, I packed up my car and drove down to Texas. I started at SMU Perkins. I’m on my way towards a Masters of Divinity (a pretty pretentious title if you ask me).
When I arrived in Texas I began doubting everything. I wasn’t sure that I was meant to be here. I felt lost. I attended orientation for school, and everyone seemed so sure that this is where they were meant to be.
I was overwhelmed. I was scared.
I made a quick decision that I wanted to go home. Thankfully, some of the faculty at Perkins stepped up and talked me down. They answered my questions, showed me they actually wanted me to be here. They showed me that they cared about me. Me, a person they didn’t even know.
I spent the weekend praying that I could see that I was on the right path. God took that prayer and opened my eyes.
God showed me that I am surrounded by amazing people. From the students, to the professors, to the faculty. God showed me that I am at a place meant to allow me to flourish. I’m being academically challenged while having the room to be me.
Not even a month went by when I hit a brick wall pretty hard. I had an unfortunate experience. I began to doubt again. I wasn’t sure how that fit into the picture. Plus I was still hanging on to the signs that God wanted me here. However, throughout that experience, God placed people even closer.
Through this experience, I have realized that I am loved here at Perkins. People want me to succeed. The “Perkins Hug” as I call it. I’ve been wrapped into the arms of all those around me.
Now it’s been two months, and I am beyond sure that this is where I am meant to be. God’s plan for me includes being here at Perkins. It’s a wonderful feeling to be back in the known and not lost in the unknown.
I am another step closer to reaching my goals. It has not been a perfect journey in the slightest, but it has been a journey in the arms of our savior and I couldn’t ask for a better journey.
So, friends, that is where I am.
One step closer to the calling I’m discerning daily.
I believe that God heals. Isaiah 53:5 writes prophetically about Jesus, the Messiah who would redeem all of humanity, and notes that “He was beaten so we could be whole; He was whipped so we could be healed.” This passage coupled with the numerous healings Jesus and the apostles did, as well as a few healings I’ve seen personally, solidifies this belief.
But what happens when God doesn’t answer prayer? What happens when we don’t see the healing that we desperately seek? Is God still a God of healing?
On May 23, 2016, my family began to explore these questions when my mom was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. I was working on campus at Messiah College for the summer, with few friends to confide in, and I was mad. I was mad at God. I was having some difficulties with my faith at the time, and I didn’t know what to do. After an hour of talking with God, yelling at Him and crying to Him, God reminded me of a verse from the book of John: “In this world you will face many troubles. But take heart, for I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). I had a choice: to either give up hope and turn from God, or to turn to Him and cling to the hope of this promise. Choosing to trust God, as I had in years prior, our family clung to His promises and prayed for Mom’s healing.
Mom started chemotherapy and was discouraged for the first month and a half. However, she found that living in fear was not only a hopeless position to have, but physically damaging for her health. When we are afraid, our body has natural responses: our heart rate increases causing our blood pressure to go up, our breathing becomes heavier, and adrenaline starts flowing through the body. While these symptoms of fear are typically used for a fight-or-flight scenario, when battling cancer it actually weakens the body and gives the cancer more strength. Mom put her hope in Jesus instead, and we saw her rapidly improve thanks to a lack of fear and the many prayers that were sent her way. By the end of August, three months after the initial diagnosis, her health was where most patients would hope to be six to nine months into chemotherapy. Mom was able to go back to work at our church in September.
We were grateful for God’s providence, and even during this time of better health, Mom continued to seek God for complete healing in her body. She declared Scriptures over herself, read various books about healing, and spent a lot of time in prayer. Our church was also very supportive during this time, in ways we had never seen our church work before – providing meals for our family, sending people to our home every night to pray, and even doing things that we hadn’t thought about, like yard work.
However, our time of rejoicing was short. Near Christmas, Mom had another scan that showed the cancer had grown. We were disappointed, but Mom chose to be thankful for the healing work that God had done, knowing that the growth was small compared to where her journey had begun. We recognized that cancer was not just a physical battle, but a spiritual one as well, as any sickness or disease is. However, we also knew Who held victory over sin, death, and disease, and we continued to trust Jesus.
The Spring of 2017 was a fairly consistent season with little change in Mom’s condition. For the most part, she was feeling well with the occasional bout of symptoms with each chemo treatment. In this strange season of seeking health for Mom, my parents went on a retreat together as they did every year. During that retreat, they felt God was saying something kind of odd: to make plans for the summer and to not change them. So Mom and Dad took that to heart and made their plans for the summer: they planned to help with a summer camp in June, attend a conference in DC in July, and visit missionaries in Thailand in August.
In May, a full year since Mom was diagnosed, she received bad news. The cancer was growing again – and we saw similar symptoms to what happened the year prior: the cancer in her liver was sending funny signals to the kidneys, and the kidneys were essentially telling her body that she was not retaining enough water. Thus, her body started to balloon with excess water weight, so much that she looked pregnant and had swollen feet and legs.
Despite these symptoms and the difficulties they presented, she did not fear and fully trusted God. Even though she was sick, she held onto what God told her to do and did not change anything. She helped out with camp in June and delighted in ministering to the campers and other counselors. She attended the conference in DC in July and enjoyed her stay, holding firmly to faith. Several of the other conference guests would approach Mom and, seeing her ballooned belly, ask “Are you expecting?” Mom would smile and say, “Yes, but I’m not expecting a baby. I’m expecting a miracle”, and would proceed to tell them her story. At the same time, she quietly made preparations in the scenario that healing would not occur – organizing her files, making sure people knew where things were, and having people at the church take on responsibilities she could not do as easily in her weakened state.
The closer the day to leave for Thailand came, the worse Mom’s condition became. Family, friends, and doctors asked her if she really wanted to go, but Mom was adamant: “God said not to change anything. I’m going on that plane.”
Mom passed away in a hospital in Japan after the plane stopped for a layover there. She passed in perfect peace, as if God’s Spirit had enveloped her in His love. Her story ended with her repeating a single phrase while on her deathbed:
“Just trust Jesus.”
There are many cliché things that can be said – “she was healed in heaven”, or “she received her healing differently than we thought”, which is true. However, it doesn’t help the heart ache of losing someone you loved. It doesn’t help to overcome the pain, the longing to see her and hear her say “I love you”, things that over a year later I am still wrestling with.
What it does do is beg a question: does God really want to heal?
Even now, I say yes.
Mom’s testimony of faith was to trust Jesus with everything. Jesus healed everywhere He went, and He delighted in restoring identity and wholeness into those around Him. Jesus also says that God hears our prayers, and desires to answer them, for a good Father will always have compassion on His child, and gives good gifts to His children.
However, I recognize that God is not the only unseen power. I think a better way to understand the world is to recognize the battle behind this reality. Life, both physical and spiritual, is often a battle, and sometimes, people die in battle. In mom’s case, she died valiantly and will full confidence in Christ. I am glad to know that I can take her words to heart and hold the same bold confidence in Christ and His power.
Besides, if she was able to fully trust Jesus in the midst of sickness and death, why should I not trust Him while I still have health and life?
Micah Tyler’s “Even Then” has really been helping me through the past few weeks! If you’ve heard it before, take a moment and really listen to those lyrics. If this is your first time listening, let the words wash over you.