Tuesday, March 21, 2017

How to Know Who You Really Are



I stand in front of 500 women. I speak words which sing in my soul. I am filled with overflowing passion as I talk about the elements of story and how God redeems it all.

Less than one month later, I am laying, sedated beyond recognition, in a white-walled mental ward.

How can my story tease me so? How can God stir dreams only to stand idly by while they are crushed? And yet, how can the magnificence of His love break through it all to hold me with tender hands?

When I place my thumb to glide along the ream of my life's pages, there are so many things I would not have written so. But I still bear in deepest of deep the hope which stands firm on the one thing I can't live without. 

For there is a pearl of greatest price. It's the one we sell all to find. And sometimes when we think we are holding onto God, we are holding onto us, our stories. And so in the hardest of ways, this fallen world barrels in and tells us things. For all the pain, we learn in the core of who we are whose we really are.

There is no learning the truth about ourselves without first learning the truth of Him.

He is the altogether lovely One. He is the warmth of embrace in the dark, cold night. He is the One who covers us in his shelter when our stories explode. He is the One reaching in, ever offering life, His life. He is the one giving pieces of His life for our mangled parts until we are all His. He is the One.

And it is here as we come to know who He is, we come to know who we really are. 

I John 4:15-16 says:

 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

We believe in Jesus, the One who gave His life for us. Through Him we learn that God IS love. In turn we come to live in God. We. Come. To. Live. In. God. We become like Him more and more and are perfected. This is the journey of knowing who we really are.

And yet, there is a day when I stand in front of women from many countries and speak my heart, ready to see the redemption of theirs and my story. And that day runs into sleepless days and nights and suddenly I've lost it all (or what I then think is 'all'). Short weeks later I am in the back of a 747 headed to the other side of the ocean. All that took many years to build lies behind me like so much rubble. All my life, who I am, seems to lie empty on the fragile cupped form of a seashell. The tide has drawn it away.

This day comes and goes and who in heaven and earth am I? Can it even be known? How, how do I make sense of a life which holds me captive against my will? How, again, tell me please, do I know who I really am?
 
There is no making sense all smooth and pretty. No

Yet I know that I know that I know in Him, ever still, is the treasure of who I am. I am being known and perfected in the myriad layers of myself. But still are the parts, sometimes like so thick a layer, which are grueling to endure their ripping away. It begs the question 'why must it be so?' 

Some days I don't have an answer. Other times my understanding stretches the span of sky and sea and earth to another world for which I am being made ready. And still other times, I just rest in all knowing arms as I live the in-between.

And so here again, gazing into eyes of love, of perfection, of God, I am found. I have the privilege, often greatest in the pain, to rest in the truth that I reflect His beauty. It is confounding, stilling, gorgeous and compelling. Yet, it is the journey of all true faith in Jesus.

The answers are few when I look at the shattering days before I left Budapest. It is still a great beauty lost to me and my family. I know it was the the ripped, tearing and pulling away of so much that seemed good. 

But who I really am, and who He is, is somehow yet enough. Even an abundance of enough. For I am yet the dreamer who believes what is best is still ahead.

And beloved, held in the unshakable hands of God, is the treasure of who you really are. The iridescence of a pearl, worth everything to find.



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Friday, March 10, 2017

When You Are Torn Apart {Guest Post at SheLoves}



As the sunlight filters its glistening beams across the too-full room in the ICU, I awake. To my right, head bowed, hands bent and clasped, is the psychiatrist who loves Jesus. She lifts her head, smiles and says in a gentle voice, “Good morning, Abigail. I have been praying for you.”

I am in a state hospital in Budapest, Hungary. I have lived in this city the last three years. There are many tubes in me whose purposes I do not know. It is still a mystery why I am in this part of the hospital. Most likely I reacted badly to the load of sedatives shot into my leg my first day here.

No matter. But yes, it matters. The glass has shattered. The shards have pierced. The blood has flowed.

My life will never be the same.

Join me in reading the rest of this dear-to-my-heart piece at SheLoves
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Friday, February 24, 2017

When I Failed At Missions

 

The whisper of summer breeze caresses my face as I perch on the concrete steps of New Creation Lutheran Church. This has become a daily meeting hour. After dinner, my fellow team members and I linger outside with the neighborhood kids. They’ll pop wheelies, zig-zag on skateboards or just sit and chat. Some days the girls and I chase bubbles. Some days we all get wet to abate the haze of summer.

It is fun. It is life. It is Gospel. I never want to leave.

My home, this summer, is a two-story brick church on West Tioga Street. It’s located in an area of Philadelphia called the Badlands. Here violence is just a block away. We have experienced the good in the people and the bad in crime. One day we return from downtown and find someone attempted to burn down our church.

And yet, here is where I have come to call 'home'.  I smell gasoline mixed with stale smoke and too ripe fruit and it is comforting. I play kickball with fast running neighborhood boys until my lungs scream and love every second of it. I make crazy singing ‘Father Abraham’ in front of a hundred kids and with a gigantic smile. I look in eyes and give hope. For nine weeks I tell little lives of big love. I learn the size of God’s heart through my own. I give everything I have.

It is the summer after my sophomore year of college. My heart is just beginning to beat for God and His kingdom.

Last year I had a 'grace awakening', coming alive to the gospel in ways which made it feel like I had just begun to believe in Jesus. As I then began to think about missions, during my sophomore year, Bart Campolo came to my college's chapel and talked about his ministry in Philadelphia called Kingdomworks. That day, I knew this ministry was for me and a few months later I came to Tioga Street.


Now I am here, full of faith. Unafraid. I am ready for anything. I know God is with me and He loves the city. I vow to dedicate my life to urban ministry.

I hug the tear-stained children on my last day. I promise to write. I promise to visit. I promise to come back.

 A few letters I write. I visit once. I don't come back to stay even for a little while.

In the end, I failed. I left and never came back. Tender hearts would not trust easily again. The pressure of drugs, gangs and despair would weigh heavily and I wouldn’t be there to guide them towards the good...

continue reading at A Life Overseas
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