Friday, March 29, 2013

Happy Anniversary, New life.

I walked into her office, spoke with her for no more than two minutes, then walked out.

It was a simple transaction, that spring 2011 day, but it had great implications. I walked into the building as a soon-to-be graduate less than three months away from starting graduate school. I walked out as a soon-to-be graduate with not a clue of what was next. Ever so politely, I had withdrawn myself from Physical Therapy school.

I should have known it was coming. That fall I had nearly changed my major as a senior, feeling stretched and pulled in so many directions and not being sure which way was up. Not that anything is wrong with Athletic Training or Physical Therapy, but Christ was grabbing more of my affections and stirring plans for my life that I would have never given for myself. I was learning and growing and changing. I was not the same person I was when I stepped foot on the campus. Thus, trying to conform to the original plan was just not working.

“In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” [Proverbs 16:9]

Now, two years later, I look out my window at the acacia trees and the sandy, rocky soil and the mountains in the distance. I breathe in the fresh air and feel the warmth and enjoy the wind. I draw my attention inside and notice the tall pile of compositions I still need to grade and think about each one of the lives that are represented by the grammatically-struggling words on those pages. Those lives that have worked their way ever so easily into my heart.

This is my life. I live in Kenya.

With a few of my students on a recent trip

This was not my plan. My plan never gave a second thought to the vast land known as Africa. My plans preferred to stay in America, where I would find a nice job, a nice husband, and settle down into a nice house. But my plans centered around ME. What I wanted, what I desired. Sure, I wanted to honor God in all of that, but I had it a bit backwards. I would pick my path, and then God could bless me in what I had chosen. He was coming second.

I certainly don’t have it all figured out, but I have learned firsthand that when I seek God first, He gives me new desires--His desires. And His desires don’t center around catering to my wants, but rather around bringing Him glory and seeing his life-changing Name declared throughout the whole of this world. Hence, my life here in the middle of the African desert.

And isn’t that the way it should be? The God who made the universe and allows our lungs to breathe in the air He provides shouldn’t be an after-thought in our lives.

“Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” [Jonah 2:8]

This weekend, many will honor the sacrifice that God the Father made in sending His Son to die for us, and the sacrifice that God the Son made in actually enduring that death, His Father’s judgment for all of mankind’s sins. But, can we really stop for a minute and actually think about that? God loves us with such a crazy, scandalous love that He allowed His Son to be separated from Himself and murdered. Jesus paid the punishment that our sins deserve. God loves you personally, intimately. He desires for all to know Him and experience this lavish grace and love. To experience abundant life as he directs and as He plans, for surely His plans are better than ours. Do you know Him in this way?

“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all-- how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? [Romans 8:32]

So, this weekend, I am also celebrating how two years ago, God loved me enough to flip my plans upside down and start me on this new journey. I have hardly ever known what is coming next, but the knowledge that He is leading is plenty for me. I pray that this weekend also finds you rejoicing in Him, and in His plans for your life. Happy Easter, dear friends.

My math class, working on an exam

Saturday, March 9, 2013

My feet are dirty

This past weekend, we had the privilege of visiting Ngurunit, the nearby hometown of a secondary school teacher. After a bumpy, dusty one-hour drive, we arrived in this beautiful, mountainous town. For a few days, we walked around, enjoyed the company of old and new friends, and spent lazy evenings underneath the star-laden sky.

Walking through Ngurunit

It didn't take long for me to notice a simple difference between Korr and Ngurunit though. The sand and dirt that we walked on in Ngurunit had a greater affinity for sticking to my feet than back in Korr. The first afternoon, I looked down at my feet, impressed by the tan I was quickly getting. I soon realized that I was easily fooled as this “tan” was actually a thin, solid layer of dust.

There was also water in Ngurunit; water that you could swim in. The water was quite refreshing on those hot, African afternoons, and it was nice having the water clean my feet. But as we would leave the water and start back home, I would take about three steps before my feet were dirty again. In fact, my wet feet now exacerbated the problem. If dirt can cling easily to a dry foot, you can imagine how it took advantage of some damp ones.

Local children sliding down the rocks into the water

But let’s be serious. This isn’t a problem that is limited to Ngurunit. I rely on my feet each day to transport me through the hot, windy desert in Korr. And at the end of the day, well, they are in need of a good cleaning. They are calloused. Sweaty. Dusty. Just plain dirty.

The other day, as I contemplated this unfortunate by-product of my life, my mind jumped to John 13, a story in the Bible that talks about dirty feet. If you are not familiar with it, I encourage you to check out the whole story. Here’s a glimpse.

“After that, he [Jesus] poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” [John 13:5]

Washing feet was a job saved for servants, and rightly so. It wasn’t exactly the most glamorous job. Servants would have to get down on the ground and proceed to touch filthy, smelly feet. Feet that perhaps hadn’t been cleaned in several days. They would use their hands, which they used to eat and drink and clothe themselves, to wipe the grime off of strangers’ feet.

Now with that thought in mind, let’s ponder this story. Jesus, the Son of God, was eating dinner with his closest friends. You can almost hear the gasps in the room as He stood up and walked toward a pitcher and basin. Jesus was their teacher, their leader, their God. He was the last person who should perform such a demeaning task.

But in order to show them the “full extent of his love” [verse 1], Jesus knelt on the floor, and began to wash his disciples’ feet. Full of compassion. Full of humility. Full of love.

Today, I look down at my dirty feet, and close my eyes. I imagine a scene similar to the one portrayed in John 13, except that now Jesus isn’t washing his disciples’ feet. He’s washing mine. The very same Jesus who sits at the right hand of God is sitting at my feet. He looks me tenderly in the eyes, and wipes the dirt from my feet. And by doing so, he is expressing the magnitude of his love. This isn’t a task fit for him, but He cannot help but show the depth of his love for me. So the God of the universe takes my dirty feet and cleans them.

Take a moment to picture Christ doing the same thing for you. Because He has.

Feet that Jesus himself has cleaned

And once Jesus had performed this simple but incredibly powerful act, He gave his disciples a charge.

“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” [John 13:14-15]

We don’t live in a culture where washing feet is needed, but we are certainly to serve others the way Christ showed us. You know that man with the bad attitude? He really needs someone to listen to him. You know that woman who everyone gossips about? She could use someone to stick up for her. You know that young person who seems to make all the wrong choices? They would truly benefit from having a godly role model in their life.

We are all given different opportunities to love and to serve those around us. What are yours? How will you take hold of them today? This week? This year? May Christ's example be our guide as we seek to truly love others.