Tuesday, April 27, 2010

How am I?

So many have asked. Thank you.

I am doing well. Still, very much adjusting. I mentioned that to someone this weekend and their response was, "Still?! Haven't you been back for a really long time?"

Four months is 1/4 of the time I was away...maybe I'll never feel "adjusted." But yeah. I feel like I've not been back long at all.

Business is building. Doing well. The last few weeks, VERY well. Hairstyling is a very roller coaster-y job. Some weeks are slammed, some are incredibly slow. I've recently been slammed. Praise God.

I am in need of a car, so am saving saving saving those pennies- but lots of pennies are coming in! I've been able to build some good relationships that I'm hoping will continue to grow into Gospel opportunities.

The family I live with is wonderful. They have re-arranged their lives and schedules joyfully and with great enthusiasm to loan me a car every day of the week if I need one. This is no small thing. Their willingness to be inconvenienced is not only making my business possible, but it's making living in the STATES possible. That is no exaggeration.

I would love your prayers for a good car. :)

These are the two areas I feel like I've "settled in" quite a bit: at home and with my job. Every other area the jury is still out on. Relationships, how to serve the local church, mentoring and being discipled, evangelism...

I'll never have all of these "figured out"...but a rhythm will begin to form at some point. Who am I to be building friendships with? How exactly can I serve the teen girls at Metro? Who should I be pouring into? etc. etc. Lots of question marks. But its wonderful!

97% of this season is joyous, beautiful, glorious, and genuinely just enjoying life. 3% is difficult and challenging at times. Those times are few and far between. And those few and far between times are always rich with grace. God is faithful.

Thank you for your prayers.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Battle Continues...

Self pity is my enemy. (Well, one of them anyways.) It's a tool that Satan wants to destroy me with. He lies to me. And He knows where I am weak and am most likely to buy into His lies.

I fight back with, "It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter. Stop thinking about it because it doesn't matter."

...because it doesn't. It doesn't matter that it's hard to transition culturally. Christ traveled not from one place on earth to another...but from The Sinless Place to The Place full of Sin. He didn't just leave friends knowing He'd return to a different relationship...He left His Father. Knowing He'd be separated from Him and things would never be as they once were. I need to stop taking my emotional temperature.

I was not put on this earth for me. To have my needs met. To have my relational cravings fed by people. I was not put here to be pursued by others. To have a "normal life." (no one has a normal life, by the way.) It just doesn't matter. It doesn't matter how many years I feel like I've been "transitioning" for. One home or country to the next. Christ had no where to lay His head. He gave His life away...living for others...and then died. In my place. In your place, if you're a Believer. For our sin.

He didn't even die for His own sin...but other people's...because He didn't have any. Man. He just gave, gave, gave, gave and never received.

When I think about this, I consider how He regularly left being with others to enjoy the presence of God. Fellowship with His Father. It seems this was His secret.

I think if I did that more...this battle wouldn't rage so strongly. If I stopped looking at earthly things like Colossians 3 talks about...then the battle to not surrender joy would be more consistently victorious.

I find great comfort and peace in my Perfect Saviour. Who had more reason to "feel sorry for Himself" than I ever will...and yet- He rejected it. He embraced humility and service. He gave away until there was nothing left to give-- because He gave it all.

Oh, LORD, thank you that you see me as Christ is. Thank you for the Gospel. Help me embrace this transition...and use it: force it to do good unto me. Molding me and shaping me to look like Jesus....

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Kingdom of God: mono-cultural

When the point was made yesterday during the service by Danny Jones, that there are no "different cultures" in the Gospel; the Kingdom of God is mono-cultural...my head began to spin.

What? What does that mean? How does that relate to what I'm processing and how I'm transitioning? Huh?

And then it hit me.

We try to add our own culture to the Gospel. We need to get our culture OFF OF the Gospel. Stop tainting it.

The Gospel, and those adopted into the family of God have ONE culture: living a life with Scripture as our authority. Christ is supreme. This should never change. In this we are united.

Certainly I think there is room for application to vary in different lives/cultures. Like I mentioned in a previous post, "giving grace to those who hear" is opposite in America and Wales. In sarcasm, I build relationally with the Brit...but tear down the American.

I'm still not sure I understand all of this really...but I'm enjoying the thinking so far. Sometimes it really does my head in- but that's what I love about it. God is so much bigger than I can imagine...

Friday, April 16, 2010

Culturally confused

It's so funny how this transition is working itself out...

Some days it feels like I never left Orlando and there's just an odd "gap" in my memory and relationships...

And other days I couldn't feel more misunderstood by the culture here: its as though I turned into a Brit while away.

A wise man told me before I came back- that this transition back into my "original" culture would require much humility. I am finding the fight against my pride to be challenging- so challenging that at times, it leaves me silent. Afraid to speak.

I can't expect others to understand my experiences or perspective. That's ridiculous! I don't understand theirs! I can't communicate in words for others to comprehend what its like to live in another culture and be challenged by the Gospel with an international mindset. That would be impossible. I can't describe verbally what the last few years have looked like for me...or even really what it is I've learned...

...but there is One who does know. One who has understood. One who has been with me each and every single step of the way: my Saviour. All the way does He lead me. Each home, country, relationship, trial, conversation, lesson learned...He is there. Guiding my every step. And He's not about to stop now.

This is something sweet to enjoy: not a relational frustration to try to "fix." No, there is One who was more mis-understood than I will ever know. The author and perfecter of my faith. This is not about me, or my perspective, or my comfort...

its about Him. and His glory...for the WORLD to see.

And it makes me yearn for heaven all the more: for no country really feels like home anymore :)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Evangelism in America: Welsh Style.

It is fair to say, I am still culturally confused.

About 3 weeks ago we had a church-wide outreach. I ended up in the evangelism group. Mission: to go to local laundromats with quarters and pay for people's laundry and share the Gospel. Awesome idea.

Note: People need to actually be in the laundromats for this to be effective.

So we took our baggies of quarters and headed to a local park instead. Personally, I wanted to offer people quarters for a moment of their time, but that's not the direction we went...

As conversations began and ended I couldn't help but chuckle. There were times, when other Christian Americans (duh, I'm in America) were speaking that I felt so uncomfortable. Not uncomfortable because of the Gospel: uncomfortable with the presentation. So forward. So direct. Interrupting people's day. I began to notice that my approach (the British approach) was very very different.

Just in case you're not tracking with me, let me explain what I mean.

American approach: The moment we introduced ourselves and said that we were walking around telling people about Jesus, I shriveled inside. Really?! Just walk up to people, interrupt them, impose upon them your name (as if they care) and carry on yacking their ear off about something they couldn't care less about?! Yet, I was more uncomfortable than those we were talking to. You see, they also: are Americans. (I know, you're shocked.) It's not offensive or invasive in this culture to "impose" upon someone your name. Or start talking about yourself. People here are friendly. Sometimes, overly so. We're all up in each other's business and space: constantly offering our opinion about everything...

British style: One of the few conversations I initiated went like so: I passed an elderly woman and her husband walking. I turned around, noticed her cross necklace and commented as I kept walking that it was beautiful, where did she get it? We both started slowing down to a stop to talk. She got it in Italy. She's Italian. Well, I LOVE Italy, so there we go: a cultural conversation began. As she continued on, I brought the conversation back to the necklace: "So, does that have any sentimental value, or significance for you? The cross, I mean...?" Turns out, she's Catholic. And in a matter of moments we are discussing the death of Jesus Christ, His atonement for sin, and the glorious and dumbfounding truth that He has established and maintains our right standing with God. The Gospel was being preached.

In every conversation I had throughout the day- whether I began it, or commented here and there, I found myself using "Assembly sayings." The words and phrases the GAP Team used time and again to explain the Gospel in simple terms after the sketches we did in assemblies. Things like,

"God took all His anger for all the bad stuff we've done, and put it on Jesus. He punished Him as though JESUS did all that wrong. And then He took the good stuff that Jesus did, and gave us all of His goodness."

I smiled inside thinking of the big cardboard Whale we used that ate Taige in the Jonah sketch. Or the "Gospel smack-down" my character gave in the Christmas assembly. Rack, Shack, and Benny in the fiery furnace...or unforgettable "and with the swoop of His shining axe" line from Easter. Wow. Easter a year ago; crazy.

Every person I passed, I commented on the weather. That, is totally British. Except instead of moaning about it being dreary and dark and horrid, I was gloriously declaring the beauty of the blue skies and tremendous warmth! Others didn't seem quite as amazed or enthused as I was. Trust me, the weather here rocks.

I left being amazed at the "training" I received in Wales that I didn't even really notice. The pastors did such a good job helping us transition- it must've been so awkward for them in the beginning. I couldn't believe how British I'd become in just a year and a half.

Oh, cultures. In every way shape and form, our culture affects us. How we think and act. How we communicate and dialog. Neither the British nor American approach is right or wrong...but, as I discussed with Ivy the other night on the phone, the American approach when it comes to evangelism, does not translate in the British culture...but the British approach can very much translate in the American culture.

It was so strange to have every person we talked to profess to be a Christian. It is the exact opposite in Wales. Church was something they'd never been in except for a weekend at Granny's once when they were 4...and it was boring.

So, as much as I love my country, as of now while I'm still getting used to this invasive culture :) , I resolve to go about things the roundabout nonchalant way. Right now, it seems I know it best. Not mentioning my name until the end of a conversation. Acting like dialogging with someone is an accident. Speaking of the weather constantly. This, over time, will probably wear off. (But I vow to never stop using "Cheers.")

Yet, in this "resolve," I must take caution. For Paul warns the Corinthians (and we do well to heed the same caution) that we are not to preach with lofty speech or words of eloquent wisdom...lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

The POWER of the Gospel is not affected by the cultural approach or format one chooses. The POWER of God IS the Gospel itself. The Gospel is the power of God for salvation. We must not lose sight or grip on that: for only He can save. Both the British and the American.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Personal Retreat

Tomorrow morning I will be enjoying Florida sunshine, my Bible, Starbucks, the gift of prayer, and enjoyment in grace for this particular season of my life. I will also be begging for wisdom and asking God for direction for the next few months- whilst enjoying the promise that He guides my every step...and promises to bestow wisdom when we ask. (Which awesome-ly means that I can, with confidence, make decisions that have "wisdom.")

With a coffee in one hand, my Bible in the other, and the Holy Spirit inside of me, I have set my day aside to prayerfully consider how to prioritize my time in this next season so as to make the best use of it.

What Home Group should I be involved in? Who are the primary relationships to invest in right now? Do I have a healthy balance of work and rest? How am I committed to grow in Biblical femininity? What are the priorities for right now? How can I prepare to guard my heart for temptations I see around the corner?

In all honesty, I plan to leave my time with few (if any) answers. Yet having asked the questions and prayed about them, I trust it will help in the decisions to be made over the coming weeks.

Before heading back to the States for my "crash landing" as I like to call it, I purposed to give it three months to sort of stumble along; move in, get business of some kind going, say hello to my friends and church family members, etc...then, I'd begin to be a little bit more intentional about things. As one who is prone to over-analyze, I refused to analyze much...especially given that there was hardly enough time for any sort of "pattern" to form.

Believe it or not, today marks exactly three months from my "move-back" date to Orlando. I can't believe it. Seems like yesterday I was in Wales. Also seems like I never left Florida.

I had no idea how much God changed my heart, my perspective, the way I think about Scripture, and my understanding of grace while I was in Wales. In fact, I learn more every day of the work He did overseas and in a "strange" culture. A culture that I now miss dearly. My life has been radically transformed by a year across the Atlantic.

I am adjusting every day still. Culturally, relationally, financially...if you can put "ally" at the end: I'm adjusting to it. But this adjustment is not difficult; in fact, this is possibly one of the most wonderful, enjoyable, faith building seasons I've ever had. God is up to much.

If you happen to read this blogpost on April 8th, will you please pray for me? That God would fill my heart with faith and my mind with peace. That the Gospel would be more beautiful to me- Jesus Christ more treasured. That I would have wisdom and be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. After all, this is all for His glory anyway.