Saturday, November 21, 2009

The day that changed my life...

Six years ago today was the Friday that Thanksgiving break started. It was my freshman year of college. My best friend and roommate was going to be transferring to another school at semester. Most of my new college friends lived on the opposite side of campus, and I decided to move over there so that I wasn’t completely alone when Tyann left.

I had begun packing my things earlier on in the week, and Friday was the day to move all my belongings across campus. I had one class at 8am and Mom was going to come up after that to help me with the move then take me home for the break because I didn’t have my car in Ames at that time.

So I went to FSHN 187 (Food Sciences and Human Nutrition) and received a phone call from Mom right after class was out:

Mom: “Hey Jackie, Grandpa just called and Grandma’s not feeling well this morning. They’re going to run into the hospital to get checked out, so I’m going to hang out at home just to make sure everything’s okay.”
Me: “No worries, Mom. I have to finish packing my things anyway. Call me when you’re on your way.”

You see, my grandmother had been diagnosed with colon cancer only a short time before this and had just started chemotherapy. She knew there would be side-effects from the chemo, but wanted to go to the doctor anyway to make sure that what she was experiencing was just side-effects.

So I kept on packing. Mom called a few other times throughout the day to let me know how things were going. Around lunchtime she said that Grandma was scared, so Mom was going to go down to the hospital to be with her but reassured me that everything was “fine.” A couple more hours passed, and mom decided that it was just too late to drive up to Ames to help out. No big deal - Tyann and I had been packing and already moving some things over to my new dorm room and she could give me a ride home when we were finished.

Around five o’clock, Dad called. Tyann and I were unloading things in my new room...

Dad: “You need to come home...Grandma’s not doing well.”

We ran to the car. Tyann would drive me to Culver’s in Urbandale to meet my brother, Jeff (he was working there at the time and was going to wait for me to get there to head down to the hospital). We pulled out of the parking lot, out onto Lincoln Way; only minutes had passed when Dad called again.

Dad: “She’s dead.”

Horror struck me. It seemed as though I could literally feel my heart breaking. What could I even say? “I’m on my way. I love you.”

I don’t remember the ride home. I don’t remember if a word was spoken. I don’t even remember crying. All I know is that Tyann knew the pain I was in. She knew how hard this was for me. I remember pulling into the Culver’s parking lot. Jeff was waiting. I hugged my best friend as she said, “I’ll be praying for you.” I grabbed my things and climbed into my brother’s car.

I was dreading getting to the hospital. I didn’t want to see everyone. I didn’t want to see them all crying, hurting. I didn’t want to believe this was real. But it was very real.

When we got to the hospital, I grabbed my purse and stood beside the car for a minute. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I opened up my backpack and grabbed a Bible. I didn’t know why. A friend had given it to me only two weeks prior. All I knew was that once we got into the room with everyone else, I would have to be strong...and I knew there was no way I was that strong.

As we walked into the room, heartache and suffering overwhelmed me. A lot of the time, in situations like this, people’s condolences include, “She’s better off now,” or “She’s not in pain anymore,” or something along those lines. But this was different. No one knew what to say. I remember thinking, “I don’t understand...she was fine yesterday.” It wasn’t even the cancer that took her. It was her heart - the healthiest organ in her body just...stopped. She was fine Thursday and gone Friday, and none of us understood why.

I just sat on the floor with my Bible in my lap. I didn’t know how, but I knew that the Bible I was holding could give me the strength I needed. I didn’t know most of the words contained in the book, but I knew that they were powerful. I didn’t know where to turn, so I sat on the floor looking at the cover trying to understand. And, it was there, on the floor of the hospital room mourning a loss that I understood and felt for the first time the overwhelming, comforting love of Christ.

My knowledge of the Bible was limited, but what I did know was that I was dearly loved by God. He may have taken my grandmother before any of us were ready for her to go, but in that I realized that I needed something more than myself. I had to be strong, but I was so weak. I didn’t know God personally, I just knew Him as Creator and Governor, but I also knew that He was much more than that. I knew that He was strong, and I knew that I needed to be close to Him.

I didn’t bow down on my knees and recite any scripted prayer asking Jesus into my heart. I sat on a cold hospital room floor with a Bible in my lap and said, “God, I need you.”

It’s been six years, and it’s amazing to me what God has done in my life. I now understand that He loves me and knows me and cares for me. I now understand that whole “personal relationship” thing - that He longs for me and wants me to know Him and live for Him. I now understand the simplistic complexity of the cross of Christ:
Simplistic in that Christ died for me. I was a sinner condemned to hell, but God sent his Son to take my sins upon himself and die on a cross in my place SO THAT I would not spend eternity in hell but instead in heaven with Him.
Complex in that it seems completely absurd that the God of this universe would go through all that suffering for me.

I get it now. What was once a mystery to me now makes sense. I had heard about this “Gospel,” but I never understood it, and God used the unforeseeable death of my grandmother to reveal this mystery to me, to show me His love, to draw me into His strong arms.

I still see her other people. When I’m at the grocery store or in the mall - I see people who remind me of her. I almost always take a double-take, excitedly saying her name in my head, sort of like when you see a friend somewhere unexpected. It only takes a moment for me to remember that day in November. And, while my heart hurts because I never got to say goodbye, my spirit rejoices in the life I now have in Christ.

Friday, October 9, 2009

I'm not a slow reader, I'm a ponderer.

About a month ago I started reading this book. It’s a short read, but it’s taken a while...and not because I’m a slow reader. I’m the type of person who can’t move on from something until I fully grasp it. So I’ve been pondering...thinking about this book (which at this point is really just the first chapter) and what the author is communicating. What is this saying to me? Why has it taken me a month to get through the first twenty pages?

The book is called Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World. Now, “worldliness” is not a new word for me. I didn’t need to go to my favorite website ( to figure this one out. The author (C.J. Mahaney) went straight to 1 John 2:15, which reads, “Do not love the world or anything in the world.” He went here to describe the concept of worldliness.

I’ve read this verse before, so I’ll save my detailed journey of self-discovery that happened for me at this time and get straight to the point. When I think about my heart and the concept of “loving the world,” I would definitely not categorize myself as a worldly person. I would say that falling in love with the things of this world is not really a struggle for me. But when I read more into this chapter, I realized that the “world” we are not to love is not the same world I was thinking about. As Mahaney explained it, “The world we’re not to love is the organized system of human civilization that is actively hostile to God and alienated from God.”

*deep breath*

hmm. My world just came full-circle. In my last blog, I wrote about being different...from the world; staying away from the sin that brings on God’s wrath; not living like everyone this world. And the lightbulb comes on. So I may not be in love with this world...but I am so much like it. Does that make me worldly? Absolutely.

I think back to the example I used in my last post: being different in college. I was living with and among people who loved this world. I saw worldliness in class, in the dorms, at football games. Being surrounded by the world, it was easy to be different from the world. And now I’m in full-time ministry. I love what I do. I work with an amazing staff in an amazing facility with a church who loves God and seeks to bring Him glory. I couldn’t ask for anything better. But in these past few weeks as I’ve been pondering the first twenty pages of this book, I’ve noticed something about me that has changed. I have become this world I live in.

When I pray through Psalm 139:23-24, I see the world in me.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
My heart, my attitude, my thoughts...can be so much like this world. So I find myself in this fascinating dichotomy: when I am in the world it is easy for me to be different; when I am not in the world (and within the safe walls of my church), I become more like it. So...

I cling to His Word. It’s the only tangible thing I have in this world to keep me safe from it.
I draw near to my Father. He is my protector and my Savior and will guide my days.
I stay aware of the world outside these doors... so that I can remain far from it and my heart may be pure.

Worldliness. It’s not possessions or careers or social structures. It’s our attitude toward the God of this universe, our Creator, our Lover. It’s living a life that emphasizes who we are versus who He is. It’s living and thinking and acting like the people who love self instead of living and thinking and acting to bring Him glory.

Worldliness. My heart...can be summed up in a song by Vicky Beeching:
Search me Oh God
Search me and find
Any way in me that does not reflect Your purity
Refine me Oh God
In the fire of Your gaze
That I might be holy in all of my ways
Take me deeper Lord
Draw me closer Lord…

Give me a heart after Your own heart
Give me a mind that is pure and pleasing to You
Fill me with love
With Your power and Your joy
That this world might see You in me

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I want to be different.

Over the last few months I have been studying the book of Colossians. As I've been going through the summer, one main idea from my study has stood out to me. It comes from Colossians 3:5-10…

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”

In studying through this passage, I, like most other people, started at the beginning. In verse five, Paul lists some sins that we are to "put to death." But it was verse six that put me back in my chair: "Because of these, the wrath of God is coming." This was nothing new to me; I have known that our sin put Jesus on the cross and that He will return again with his full judgment, but for some reason, verse six stopped me this time. Why would Paul write this to the Colossians? This was not the church in Galatia who had deserted the Gospel that saved them. This was the church in Colossae. This was the church to whom Paul said, "We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints." (Colossians 1:3-4) So why would Paul warn them against God's wrath if they were already saved from it?

My investigation took me to Romans where I read more about God's judgment and wrath. In chapters one and two, Paul addresses God's judgment against the "godlessness and wickedness of men" and the "wrath they are storing up for themselves for the day of God's wrath." There were people in this world then who knew the life-saving grace of God AND the wrath their sin would bring them, yet they continued to do the very things that Paul said in Colossians will bring his wrath. And there are people in this world now who live their lives doing the very same things. It was here that I had a flashback to college...

Going to a state university, I was surrounded by the very things listed in Colossians 3:5&8 and as a new believer, I knew I had to stay far from those things. It meant saying no to a lot of friends. It meant not going out every night. It meant being left out of conversations on Monday because I missed the weekend festivities. It was hard, and sometimes it hurt, but I knew it’s what I needed to do. I had just come to know the saving faith of Christ, and I wanted to tell the world...unfortunately, the world wouldn’t listen. I learned quickly that the people around me didn’t want to hear to what I had to say about Jesus or church or living a godly life, but they caught on to the fact that I didn’t talk the same way they did. They saw that I never came to class looking like I’d been out all night. They realized that they never saw me at their parties or bars. They noticed that I never came to practice still sick from the night before. Eventually, they started asking questions. Oh, the opportunities God gave me to talk to friends about why they didn’t see me at the party or why I wouldn’t be joining them for Friday After Class at the bars or why I never spoke some of their favorite colorful words. I learned quickly that the best way to make a difference for Christ was to actually be different.

So how does all of this relate to my investigation through Colossians?

John MacArthur noted in his commentary that Paul is not saying that if they do these things listed they will suffer the wrath of God. Instead, Paul is reminding the church of the things that do bring on the wrath of God and warning them against that sin. If you read on in chapter 3, you’ll see that Paul reminds them: “You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived,” but now, “you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” My translation: you are now different! Paul is not warning them about losing their salvation; he’s reminding them not to walk in the ways they once did. We have been transformed by the life-saving grace of our Heavenly Father...we need to show it.

MacArthur said it very simply: "The children of God would certainly not want to act like the children of wrath." We should be different...we should want to be different. This is what has been on my heart all summer, this is what I’ve been dwelling on and preaching to my friends: In order to make a difference for Christ, I need to be different.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

how you

It's official...we're bloggers!

Nathan's been encouraging me lately to start a blog. He seems to think that I have a lot to say and that I should share it with others. Let's just hope the same thing doesn't happen here that happened when I created a Twitter account... He told me I should do so because I'm funny and people would enjoy reading my tweets. I agreed, created a Twitter account, and haven't had a humorous moment since. So here I am...the girl with a lot to say...and I've been lounging on our couch for the last twenty-five minutes trying to figure out what to write for my first post. Maybe this means I will no longer have anything to say...maybe this will be my first and last post...maybe this was all part of his plan...